The First World War broke out in the month of July 1914 and went on up to the year 1918. The main rivals in this war were Russian Empire, United Kingdom and France against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The United States of America prima facie was not a party in the said war; rather it took a neutral position initially. This submission seeks to bring out and explain reasons that caused the United States of America to move from neutrality to become an active participant in World War One. The war was caused by long standing conflicts among the European Super powers over diplomatic and colonial issues. These conflicts had gone over a decade preceding the break out of the war. It can also be argued that the formation of political and military alliances and treaties within the European continent could have catapulted the war; in addition to economic factors. The war initially and as illustrated above was basically a European Affair.
The then President of the United States of America, Woodraw Wilson made an announcement that the United States of America would take a neutral position when the First World War broke out. He also urged citizens to support his policy to take a neutral stand. His significant reason for keeping off the war at first was that the World War One was a European affair and he strongly hoped that the United States of America could continue trading with both divides of the nations at war. Despite the spirit of the United States of America to remain a neutral party, President Wilson’s hand was being forced to join the war. First, the British declared a naval blockade against Germany. The blockade involved seizing ships and searching them for food and other valuables. It so happened that American ships were also caught up in the seizures and they lost a lot of goods to the British. Even though the seizure of the ships did not adversely affect the economy of the United States of America, President Wilson protested and announced that such an act as a violation of rights and freedoms of a neutral state in the war. Britain paid for the goods that had been taken from the American ships.
In response to Britain’s naval Blockade, Germany launched a submarine attack on Britain. The submarine warfare was not only targeted at the British ships but all and any other ships believed to be providing support to Britain and the allied nations. The instructions were to sink the ships. This meant that American ships, both passenger and cargo were caught up in the cross fire and were sunk. To add salt to the injury, British Intelligence intercepted a telegram sent to Mexico by German foreign affairs officer, Alfred Zimmermann, instructing his ambassador to make generous offers to the Mexican Government to invade and attack the United States of America and try to reclaim some of the land it had lost to the United States of America. This was in February 1917.
The telegram message by Alfred Zimmermann was published in the Front pages of America Newspapers and the mood of the citizens pointed to solidarity in war. This was a clear indication that the United States of America was joining World War One. On the 2nd of April 1917, President Wilson requested congress to declare war and war was declared within 4 days. The United States of America then sent their troops to Europe and became an active Participant in World War One.
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the bid to protect its interests, caused the United States of America to move from neutrality to an active participant in World War one. These interests included protecting and preventing more of their ships from being looted and sunk, protecting their land from being reclaimed by the Mexicans, protecting their borders, and preventing attacks on their soil. It can also be argued that the United States of America wanted to also send a message to the other nations at war not to interfere with their interests.
Knight, Peter. Conspiracy Theories in American History: An Encyclopedia. New York: ABC-CLIO, 2009.
Truman , Harry . Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Years of Trial and Hope. New York: Double-day & Co. , 1956.