How It Works

Military Monday No.7

Military Monday was all about how important the Russian withdrawal was from the war (If you haven’t read it, check it out here). Today we look at the changes the American involvement caused.

US President Woodrow Wilson
US President Woodrow Wilson

Why did the USA Go to war?
Ever since it began, the US was extremely reluctant to go to war. A young country in the New World, they believed the Old World should be able to sort out its differences by itself. This neutral policy meant that trade and loans were allowed between both sides so (unknown to many) the USA potentially did help Germany as much as it helped Britain in the early stages of the First World War. Britain realised this and created a blockade on naval trade between the two countries. In response, German U boats began to sink British ships in an attempt to end the blockade. The most famous sinking was the Lusitania which killed 128 Americans, but still the US didn’t enter the war.

American troops on the Western Front
American troops on the Western Front

This was all to change after secret plans known as the Zimmerman Telegram were revealed stating that Germany requested Mexico and Japan to attack the US. This along with the sinking of the SS Sussex encouraged the Americans to enter the war on the side of the Triple Entente on the 6 April 1917.

What did they contribute to the allied war effort?

In 1917, the US was not the military juggernaut that it is now. The army only numbered 300,000 and the British and French overestimated the amount of backup they could muster. This doesn’t mean they didn’t help though. An American Expeditionary Force of around 420,000 men were thrown into Europe with their first conflict on the Marne river in May 1918. Supporting and bolstering allied forces, the US troops also helped in the Argonne forest, Saint-Mihiel and many other areas of the Western Front.

How did they alter the outcome of the war?

Approximately 1.2 million Americans served in the war and this influx of troops was important to Germany’s surrender. Without this aid, the allies may have not been able to overcome the Triple Alliance as quickly and the war may have rumbled on for many more years with Germany and its allies perhaps regaining an upper hand.

The declaration of war on Germany and its allies
The declaration of war on Germany and its allies