USA declare was on Germany 100 years ago!

Discussion in 'World War I' started by The Basket, Apr 8, 2017.

  1. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    So what do you think of this?
    Why? Unrestricted sub warfare? Zimmerman telegram? Lusitania?
    This this new development sink the Germans?
    My view is that the Americans were totally unprepared for war even in 1917 and so short term it means not much. Long term is different howevr.
     
  2. XBe02Drvr

    XBe02Drvr Active Member

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    #2 XBe02Drvr, Apr 13, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
    I think no single one of the causes you mentioned was by itself responsible, but a combination of them all led to an increasing public perception of a "kinder, gentler," more sympathetic (to American values) civilization under attack by a more brutal, less civilised barbaric horde.
    Young, headstrong, earnest, newly powerful America, an adolescent on the world stage, needed to flex her muscles, set the world to rights, and vanquish the villains. "Let's see, we managed to whip Mexico, then them Injuns, then Spain, with one hand tied behind us, so these Krauts, or Huns, or Boches, or whatchamacall'ems shouldn't be any trouble at all!" The unreadiness for modern warfare is never really apparent until the war is underway.
    Cheers,
    Wes
     
  3. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Check out the thread:
    A Victorious Luftstreitkräfte-Imperial German Aviation Development After WW1
     
  4. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    The first German unrestricted submarine warfare campaign almost brought USA into war but the resumption 100 years ago was certainly a calculated gamble to get results before USA entry into the shooting war.

    The USA was unprepared and was actually militarily poor and so, as proved, would need at least a year to get its act together. So the collapse of Russia and freeing up the Eastern front and knowing the weakness of USA gave the Germans a year before American troops will be available.
     
  5. Sir Percy Ware-Armitage

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  6. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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  7. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Fryatt story is fascinating.up my alley as far as naval history is concerned.
    Cant believe the Germans shot him! Although more shockingly Churchill was said to have said that captured u boat crew can be killed. I will have to research that!
     
  8. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    As I read it (it was covered in a newspaper years ago) Fryatt was shot because his behaviour undermined the ethos behind restricted submarine warfare, both sides have to play the game or it will end in unrestricted warfare.
     
  9. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Following the sinking of an unarmed French boat, the Sussex, in the English Channel in March 1916, Wilson threatened to sever diplomatic relations with Germany unless the German Government refrained from attacking all passenger ships and allowed the crews of enemy merchant vessels to abandon their ships prior to any attack. On May 4, 1916, the German Government accepted these terms and conditions in what came to be known as the “Sussex pledge.”
    By January 1917, however, the situation in Germany had changed. During a wartime conference that month, representatives from the German Navy convinced the military leadership and Kaiser Wilhelm II that a resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare could help defeat Great Britain within five months. German policymakers argued that they could violate the “Sussex pledge” since the United States could no longer be considered a neutral party after supplying munitions and financial assistance to the Allies. Germany also believed that the United States had jeopardized its neutrality by acquiescing to the Allied blockade of Germany.
    German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg protested this decision, believing that resuming submarine warfare would draw the United States into the war on behalf of the Allies. This, he argued, would lead to the defeat of Germany. Despite these warnings, the German Government decided to resume unrestricted submarine attacks on all Allied and neutral shipping within prescribed war zones, reckoning that German submarines would end the war long before the first U.S. troopships landed in Europe. Accordingly, on January 31, 1917, German Ambassador to the United States Count Johann von Bernstorff presented U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing a note declaring Germany’s intention to restart unrestricted submarine warfare the following day.
    President Wilson responded by going before Congress on February 3 to announce that he had severed diplomatic relations with Germany. However, he refrained from asking for a declaration of war because he doubted that the U.S. public would support him unless he provided ample proof that Germany intended to attack U.S. ships without warning. Wilson left open the possibility of negotiating with Germany if its submarines refrained from attacking U.S. shipping. Nevertheless, throughout February and March 1917, German submarines targeted and sank several U.S. ships, resulting in the deaths of numerous U.S. seamen and citizens.
    On February 26, Wilson asked Congress for the authority to arm U.S. merchant ships with U.S. naval personnel and equipment. While the measure would probably have passed in a vote, several anti-war Senators led a successful filibuster that consumed the remainder of the congressional session. As a result of this setback, President Wilson decided to arm U.S. merchant ships by executive order, citing an old anti-piracy law that gave him the authority to do so.
    While Wilson weighed his options regarding the submarine issue, he also had to address the question of Germany’s attempts to cement a secret alliance with Mexico. On January 19, 1917, British naval intelligence intercepted and decrypted a telegram sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Ambassador in Mexico City. The “Zimmermann Telegram” promised the Mexican Government that Germany would help Mexico recover the territory it had ceded to the United States following the Mexican-American War. In return for this assistance, Germany asked for Mexican support in the war.
    Initially, the British had not shared the news of the Zimmermann Telegram with U.S. officials because they did not want the Germans to discover that British code breakers had cracked the German code. However, following Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February, the British decided to use the note to help sway U.S. official and public opinion in favor of joining the war. The British finally forwarded the intercepted telegram to President Wilson on February 24. The U.S. press carried the story the following week.
    Despite the shocking news of the Zimmermann Telegram, Wilson still hesitated asking for a declaration of war. He waited until March 20 before convening a Cabinet meeting to broach the matter—almost a month after he had first seen the telegram. The precise reasons for Wilson’s decision to choose war in 1917 remain the subject of debate among historians, especially in light of his efforts to avoid war in 1915 after the sinking of the British passenger liners Lusitania and Arabic, which had led to the deaths of 131 U.S. citizens.
    However, by 1917, the continued submarine attacks on U.S. merchant and passenger ships, and the “Zimmermann Telegram’s” implied threat of a German attack on the United States, swayed U.S. public opinion in support of a declaration of war. Furthermore, international law stipulated that the placing of U.S. naval personnel on civilian ships to protect them from German submarines already constituted an act of war against Germany. Finally, the Germans, by their actions, had demonstrated that they had no interest in seeking a peaceful end to the conflict. These reasons all contributed to President Wilson’s decision to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. They also encouraged Congress to grant Wilson’s request and formally declare war on Germany.
     
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  10. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war against Germany. Wilson cited Germany’s violation of its pledge to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, as well as its attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance against the United States, as his reasons for declaring war. On April 4, 1917, the U.S. Senate voted in support of the measure to declare war on Germany. The House concurred two days later. The United States later declared war on German ally Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917

    These are the basic facts, but how did US-German relations degrade to the point that Germany felt compelled to hatch Machiavellian and dangerous schemes with US neighbours and declare unrestricted submarine warfare against US (and all) shipping within the declared area. this latter point is an interesting point of comparison. During the early part of WWII Nazi Germany rapidly introduced a program of unrestricted warfare on the high seas with both surface units and submarines and importantly such warfare was not limited to a declared area, it was a worldwide blockade on everybody (including allies to Nazi Germany), yet hardly raised a wimper from anybody. What had changed between 1917 and 1940? I think it goes to national attitudes and standards for moral behaviour in war.

    The resumption of unrestricted U-Boat attacks was a calculated risk by the Germans, they relied on the assumption the Americans would not risk war over the issue, or if they did, the U-Boats would force the allies to the peace table before the US forces would have any real effect. they were very nearly right. German prospects for success were improved with the sudden collapse of imperial Russia and the renewed offensive on the western front. but counters to the new german tactics were eventually found and the shortages of munitions, and manpower for the german army began to take hold from July 1918 on. By November the german army was broken and in full retreat, with the prospect of a very real occupation of the whole of Germany sometime in 1919. the more perceptive Allied leaders like Pershing knew this to be a necessary pre-requisite and the pursuit of an unconditional surrender not just a luxury. but an absolute necessity to avoid Germans coming to the false belief that as a nation they were in a position of equality with the victorious allies, and that somehow they had been robbed of victory by some sort of unspecified treachery.
     
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  11. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Fryatt shooting is a very sticky wicket. Legally or morally difficult.
    I find the American entry into the war baffling as many of the criteria was already in place. So why not enter earlier? The strong anti-war sentiment was strong and wasn't Wilson voted in on an anti war ticket?
     
  12. Zippythehog

    Zippythehog Member

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    Parsifal, I think you're right about unrestricted submarine warfare and the expectations of 1940.
    I recall a story from Stokesbury's book, "A Short History of Air Power." He relates that Fokker beat the English to the patent office over a machine gun synchronizer. The British, at first, scrapped their idea as it wasn't proper to pay royalties to an enemy and copywrite infringement just wasn't done!

    These were two different worlds 1916 and 1940.
     
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  13. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    In 1916 Wilson was running for his second term as President. During those first four years Wilson had emerged as a powerful champion of the progressive agenda on the domestic scene and a strong spokesperson for American neutrality in the devastating war in Western Europe. But the President recognized, as many Democrats in the West and South did not, that the United States could be drawn into the war at any moment by the act of some obscure German submarine commander. Hence, while he advocated continued neutrality, he also called for military preparedness, and the apparent tension between those two policies troubled many Democrats, particularly Irish Americans and German Americans. At the Democratic convention in St. Louis, Wilson won on the first ballot, as did his running mate, Vice President Marshall. The platform called for military preparedness, a world association of nations to maintain peace after the war in Europe had ended, Pan-American unity, a ban on child labor, women's suffrage, and prison reform. During the convention, the delegates cheered a new campaign slogan, "He Kept Us Out of War," which world conditions made a hope more than a promise.
    The Republicans nominated Charles Evans Hughes of New York, a moderate Republican whom Taft had appointed to the Supreme Court in 1910. Roosevelt derided Hughes as "a bearded iceberg," but Hughes won the nomination on the third ballot with 949 votes. Former Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana was picked for the second spot on the ticket.
    It seemed certain that the Republican Party would win the election as they stood united behind a single candidate, and the Democrats had won only three presidential elections since 1860. Voters seemed apathetic and weary of progressive reforms, the key accomplishments of the Democratic administration over the last four years. Hughes's foreign policy, moreover, which emphasized a straightforward preparedness program, seemed less muddled than Wilson's call for neutrality and preparedness in the same breath. Critics charged Wilson with wanting the nation both in the war and aloof from it, a utopian stance that seemed unrealistic to many.
    It was a very close election and it wasn’t until the second day, when returns from California and Ohio came in that it became clear that Wilson had squeaked to a narrow victory in both the popular vote and the electoral college. Hughes lost the traditionally Democratic South, the progressive West, and a few key midwestern states with large German American populations that opposed American entry into the war against Germany. Wilson captured the support of labor unions, western women in those few states where they enjoyed suffrage, most ethnic groups who hated the British and resented Roosevelt, and almost all progressives and many socialists. He captured thirty states to Hughes's eighteen. Wilson won 49.4 percent (9,127,695) of the popular vote; Hughes captured 46.2 percent (8,533,507). The electoral college ballot gave Wilson a narrow twenty-three vote margin—277 to 254.
     
  14. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    When Wilson was elected to his second term in 1916 he had truly intended to keep the United States out of World War I. After all he was following George Washington's 124-year precedent of American neutrality in European wars. But Germany’s decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmermann Telegram pushed him over the edge. As a result, just 70 days later, on April 2, 1917, he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.
    On January 31 after the German ambassador in Washington informed the U.S. State Department that his nation would begin unrestricted submarine warfare at midnight. Wilson’s adviser Edward House wrote in his diary the next day. “The President was sad and depressed, he said he felt as if the world had suddenly reversed itself; that after going from east to west, it had begun to go from west to east and that he could not get his balance.”
    Wilson cut off diplomatic relations with Germany, but still refused to believe war was inevitable. “We do not desire any hostile conflict with the Imperial German Government,” he told Congress on February 3. “We are the sincere friends of the German people and earnestly desire to remain at peace with the Government which speaks for them. We shall not believe that they are hostile to us unless and until we are obliged to believe it.”

    Wilson’s critics raged at his inaction. “I don’t believe Wilson will go to war unless Germany literally kicks him into it,” former President Theodore Roosevelt, wrote to U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.
    That kick came on February 23 when the British government delivered a copy of the Zimmermann Telegram to Walter Hines Pace, the American ambassador in London. When Zimmermann’s message arrived from London at the State Department in D.C. on Saturday night, February 24, Acting Secretary of State Frank L. Polk took it directly to the White House. Wilson, Polk recalled later, showed “much indignation.”
    The telegram inflamed American public opinion and turned the nation toward war. Yet even then, the deliberative Wilson was not quite ready
    When Wilson met with his cabinet on March 20, he was still undecided. But two events the previous week had finally pushed him to the point of no return. German U-boats had sunk three more American ships, killing 15 people. And the ongoing turmoil in Russia had forced Nicholas II to abdicate the throne, ending 300 years of Romanov rule. The czar’s abdication had ceded power to a short-lived provisional government created by the Russian legislature. That meant that all of the Allied nations in World War I were now democracies fighting a German-led coalition of autocratic monarchies.

    The cabinet unanimously recommended war. Wilson left without announcing his plans. “President was solemn, very sad!” wrote Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels in his diary.
    Wilson likely made his decision that night. On March 21, he set a date with Congress for a special session on April 2 on “grave matters of national policy.”
     
  15. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    The agreements made were ok for the suits in conference chambers, telling a captain to voluntarily halt his ship and abandon it was a bit of an imposition. There was no guarantee at the time that passengers would survive getting into boats or the the ship wouldnt be sunk straight away.
     
  16. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    A merchant ship isn't a merchant ship if it is trying to ram U-boats. I agree that loss of one's vessel is never good. But war is war and if a sub deliberately attacks the Lusitania and it's found the Lusitania was carrying war material then the sinking can be justified.
    Oddly during ww2 british merchant vessels were advised to wireless any attack. This makes it impossible for a merchant ship to surrender so giving justification for a surface raider to shell without warning.
     
  17. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    But that is the dilemma of all these agreements, if the Lusitania wasnt carrying war material it is still sunk.
     
  18. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    The British used Q ships and advised merchant crews to ram surfaced U-Boats so the Germans could argue with some justification that the Prize rules would be suicidal and that merchant ships are acting as belligerent so can be treated as such. Takes two to tango.
    Was America neutral before the declaration of war? Hmm that is a loaded question! I'm sure from German point of view that USA supported the Triple Entente with guns and loans. And so it was a very wonky neutrality. Although it is clear that the Germans clearly knew the USA would enter the war against them very soon. Although the true capabilities of the USA army was certainly not at it's zenith in 1917
     
  19. pbehn

    pbehn Well-Known Member

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    The rules as they were made sense to those who made them, it is like playing an international rugby game with no referee.
     
  20. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    The trouble is that without either searching a ship or examining the ships cargo manifest a submarine (or surface raider) has no idea if a particular ship is carrying war material or not. In fact a submarine or SR (surface raider) has very little idea of particular ships destination (coastal waters give an indication but open ocean does not) and at times, only a good guess as to the ships identity. WW I periscopes weren't all that good to begin with let alone using an observation position lower than a man sitting in rowboat. One story claims Otto Widdegen didn't even know what class (type) of cruiser he initially torpedoed. He thought it was a light cruiser which is why he fired one torpedo. Once he identified them as armoured cruisers he fired two torpedoes at each of the others (the U-9 only had 4 tubes and a total of 6 torpedoes)
    Once a sub or SR fires on an unidentified ship it is bordering on piracy (and which side of the border is it on?). Are merchant ships allowed to resist pirates?

    Germans were pissed because the Royal Navy could blockade Germany and they couldn't blockade Britain and France but when you pick a fight with the most powerful navy in the world you can't expect much else of a result. Especially considering geography.
     
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