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Although the United States was not one of the countries or causes that contributed to the start of World War I, it was instrumental in the progress of the war at the end and was largely responsible for the war's outcome. The aim of this essay is to address the role of the United States in World War I, as well as the positions that America took before, after, and after the war.
When war broke out in the second half of 1914, the United States declared neutrality in a speech delivered by President Woodrow Wilson, advising Americans to be "impartial in thinking as well as indeed." (Van Ells) Ethnically, a third of American population was of European descent, and the immigrants supported their native countries when the war began. Therefore, during the declaration of neutrality to Congress on August 4th, 1914, President Wilson warned about the fatality of the war if American immigrants participated by supporting their home nations. Wilson said it would be "fatal to our peace of mind and might seriously stand in the way of the proper performance of our duty as the one great nation of peace" (Van Ells).
American neutrality remained firm for two years but got a test as both the Allied and Central powers started using propaganda to sway American public opinion in an attempt to control American trade relations with Europe. The primary reason for the entry of US into the war was a series of events related to international waters. As Germany produced new U-boats to match the British navy, German forces began attacking ships carrying goods of trade between US and Britain in the North Atlantic. For example, in March 1915, Germany sunk Falaba, a British steamer, killing one American. Later in May 1915, two more Americans died when Germany seized Gulfight, an American tanker, and further destroyed more than 90 ships belonging to the US and Britain in 1915 alone (Van Ells). All the while, Wilson adopted diplomacy urging Germany to stop the attacks on American ships. The aggression reached a peak when on January 31st, 1917, Germany declared warfare on all shipping vessels whether neutral or otherwise. Two months after the declaration, Germany sunk four more unarmed American ships and at the same time, a German-Mexican alliance was looming with the aim of acquiring the US states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The developments angered most American patriots who saw the need for war to protect their land and on April 2nd, 1917, Wilson addressed Congress requesting a declaration of war on Germany (Van Ells).
The essential contribution of America to the defeat of Germany and the Central forces was morale. Both sides were exhausted and at the blink of diminishing their military might and the entry of the US in support of the Allies convinced the Germans that they could not win. America shipped troops to Europe in large numbers, and the Germans had no option but to concede for peace even after attempts to sign a private treaty with the US failed. Also, Germany ceded because the economy was in shambles, the population faced a food shortage, and the British and French forces beat the German army. Thus, the US came to give the final push that saw the defeat of Germany leading to the end of the war (Zieger).
The Treaty of Versailles saw the drafting of the "Guilt of War" clause that held Germany responsible for the breakout of the war. The terms of the treaty stipulated that Germany would pay for all damages caused to other nations, and Britain took the opportunity to regain their economic prowess at the expense of Germany. The treaty failed because the allies could not agree on how to handle Germany even as the Germans disputed the "Guilt of War" clause (Hamilton & Herwig).
American industrialization boomed after the war since her economy, industries, and production increased as a necessity for the rebuilding of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. The aftermath of World War 1 solidified the place of America as a superpower. After the war, President Wilson developed the idea of a League of Nations as the path to lasting peace in the world. President Wilson petitioned the American citizens and campaigned for his plan so that the Senate would vote for the formation of the league. The League of Nations was crucial to the treaty that ended the Great War (Zieger).
The break out of World War I was a culmination of the events of the 18th and 19th century in Europe. The entry of the US was as a result of attacks from German forces after a 3-year period of neutrality led by President Woodrow Wilson. Finally, the US interventions led to the end of the war and emergence of America as a world superpower after the war.
Hamilton, Richard F., and Holger H. Herwig. The Origins Of World War I. 1st ed. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
Van Ells, Mark D. America and World War I. 1st ed. Interlink Publishing, 2015. Print.
Zieger, Robert H. America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience. 1st ed. Rowman & Littlefield. Print.
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