Analytical Paper

HISTORY 21: PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENT ANALYSIS: 1917: THE U.S. DECLARATION OF WAR AND AMERICA’S ROLE AS A WORLD POWER In this paper, you will analyze (not simply summarize) the assigned historical document (see attached). The prompt and questions below are intended to guide your analysis of the document: INTRODUCTION: A turning point of World War One had been the entry of the United States in April 1917. Although the United States had supported the Allies financially throughout the war, President Woodrow Wilson (in office, 1913–1921) had been reluctant to send troops. He changed his mind after the Russian Revolution began. Wilson’s decision to join the Allies undeniably tipped the scales. The United States created a, fast and efficient wartime bureaucracy, instituting conscription in May 1917: about ten million men were registered and, by the following year, three hundred thousand soldiers a month were being shipped “over there.” An important cause of the United States’ entry into the war was German (undersea) U–boat. Germany had gambled that unrestricted submarine warfare would cripple Britain’s supply lines and win the war. But by attacking neutral and unarmed American ships, Germany only provoked an opponent it could not afford to fight. Germany correctly suspected that the British were clandestinely receiving war supplies via U.S, passenger ships; and on February 1, 1917, the Kaiser’s ministers announced that they would sink all ships on sight, without warning. The United States primary interest was maintaining the international balance power. For years, U.S. diplomats and military leaders believed that American security depended on the equilibrium of strength in Europe that as long as Britain could prevent any one nation from achieving supremacy on the Continent, the States was safe. But now Germany threatened not only the British navy—which had come to be seen as the shield of American security—but also the international balance of power. In 1918, American involvement stemmed those threats, but the monumental task of establishing peace still lay ahead. The year 1917 was crucial for another reason: it marked the entry of the United States into the war on the side of the Allies. In 1914 the American public firmly opposed intervention in a European war. Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) was reelected president in 1916 because he campaigned on a nonintervention platform. That sentiment soon changed. After the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued neutrality that favored the Allies, and as the war progressed, the United States became increasingly committed economically to an Allied victory. In January 1917, with his country still at peace, Wilson began to enumerate U.S. war aims, and on April 2nd he urged the Congress of the United States to adopt a war resolution. In his ringing war message, Wilson equated German “warfare against commerce” with “warfare against mankind,” intoning that “the world must be made safe for democracy.” Republican senator George W. Norris, arguing for U.S. neutrality by saying “I feel that we are about to put the dollar sign upon the American flag.” That protest was to no avail and on 6 April 1917 the United States declared war against Germany. The U.S. entry proved decisive in breaking the stalemate.

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