How was America before the First World War

  • "I want you / for U.S. Army", recruiting poster, USA, 1917

The USA had declared itself neutral at the beginning of the war, but it supported the Entente with extensive economic aid and supplied war material. US President Woodrow Wilson endeavored to comply with international legal provisions for naval warfare in order to secure the international shipping routes and overseas economic connections of the neutral states. However, the formal protests against the Allied naval blockade had no consequences whatsoever. German-American relations had already deteriorated in 1915 when a German submarine sank the English passenger steamer "Lusitania" and 139 American citizens were among the almost 1,200 victims. With the beginning of the "intensified German submarine war." ‚ÄĚSince the end of February 1916 armed merchant ships of neutral states were treated like enemy warships and attacked without warning.

In a note to the United States on May 6, 1916, the German Reich promised to return to the international rules of naval warfare, but the condition was that Great Britain would at the same time observe international law. Since Great Britain saw no reason to lift the sea blockade imposed on the Central Powers, Germany declared "unrestricted submarine war" on February 1, 1917, referring to the sea blockade, which was contrary to international law. Now the German submarines themselves attacked unarmed merchant ships from neutral countries without warning. Two days later, the US immediately broke off diplomatic relations. At the beginning of April, in line with Wilson's request, Congress declared that the United States considered itself to be at war with Germany because of the submarine war. The formal declaration of war followed on April 6th.

At that time, the United States only had a comparatively small professional army. A powerful mass army had to be set up within a very short time through recruitment. With an urgent gesture, "Uncle Sam" urged his male compatriots to join the army. The entry into the war of the USA with its superior resources changed the balance of power in Europe decisively in favor of the Entente. Around two million US soldiers fought exhausted German troops on the Western Front in the summer of 1918.