nationalism: devotion to a national or ethnic identity, including the desire for independence from rule by foreign countries
militarism: a policy of glorifying military power and military ideas and values
28.7 A New Kind of Warfare
By September 1914, six million soldiers were on the march across Europe. On Germany’s Eastern Front, German troops fought Russians. On the Western Front, German forces advanced quickly before being stopped by French and British troops at the Marne River, about 40 miles outside Paris.
With neither army able to advance, both sides dug long, narrow ditches called trenches to protect their soldiers. A new kind of warfare was beginning.
Trench Warfare For the next three years, the war in the west was fought from two parallel lines of trenches. Men ate, slept, fought, and died in these miserable ditches. Eventually, the lines of trenches stretched for 600 miles across France.
Each side protected its front trench with barbed wire and booby traps. Between the opposing trenches lay a deadly “no-man’s land.” Attacking soldiers came under intense fire from the men in the trenches. Thousands upon thousands of soldiers died trying to advance their line of trenches a few yards.
The trenches were wretched places, infested with rats, lice, and disease. “We are not leading the life of men at all,” wrote an American who had volunteered to fight with the British forces, “but that of animals, living in holes in the ground, and only showing outside to fight and to feed.”
New Weapons New weapons added to the horror of trench warfare. “We never got anywhere near the Germans,” one English corporal remembered. “The machine-guns were just mowing the top of the trenches.” These new machine guns fired hundreds of bullets a minute. By the end of 1914, the French had lost 300,000 men. Germany lost more than 130,000 soldiers in a single battle.
The next spring, a green cloud floated over the Allied lines. Soldiers gasped and died, their throats and noses burning. The Germans had invented poison gas. Soon both sides were using chemical weapons.
The armies’ new technology and strategies were effective for defense, but not for decisive attack. At one point, the British tried for six months to
During World War I, a new kind of war called trench warfare began. Hundreds of miles of trenches, like this trench for British soldiers, provided protection for infantrymen and allowed supplies and reinforcements to be safely delivered to the front.
advance their lines. They gained only five miles, and lost 420,000 men. “The deadlock here is permanent,” wrote an American volunteer.
War at Sea To supply soldiers in the trenches with food, ammunition, and other supplies, the warring nations bought goods from neutral countries. Each side tried to cut off the flow of supplies to its enemy.
Most trade, especially with the United States, was by sea. Britain had the world’s greatest fleet and numerous ocean ports. Germany had a strong navy, but its only access to the ocean was through the North Sea. To close German ports, Britain mined the North Sea. This blockade stopped most of the neutral shipping and kept the German fleet bottled up in harbors for most of the war.
Unable to use its surface ships, the German navy tried to blockade Britain using submarines, called U-boats (for “underwater boats”). Fearing that the British would try to disguise their ships as neutrals, Germany announced that it might sink vessels flying the flags of neutral countries. Because submarines on the surface were easy targets for enemy fire, German submarines began sinking vessels on sight, instead of rising to the surface to give warning, as was traditional.
Germany Sinks the Lusitania The German embassy in the United States placed newspaper ads warning passengers not to sail to Britain, and specifically not to take the Lusitania, a British luxury liner. On May 7, 1915, six days after leaving New York, the Lusitania neared the coast of Ireland. Suddenly a ship’s lookout shouted, “Torpedo coming on the starboard side!” Within moments, the ship exploded and quickly sank, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans.
Americans were outraged. One newspaper called the German attack “wholesale murder.” When President Wilson protested, Germany said that the Lusitania had been carrying arms. Still, Germany apologized and offered to pay for damages. Hoping to keep the United States out of the war, Germany also promised not to attack merchant and passenger ships without warning in the future.
Protected by this promise, U.S. manufacturers increased their trade with the Allies. Trade with Allied countries swelled to $3.2 billion in 1916, while trade with the Central Powers dropped to $1 million. Americans weren’t fighting in the war, but they had definitely taken sides.
The American public was furious when a U-boat sank the Lusitania, which the Germans suspected of carrying weapons to the Allies. Germany apologized and promised to stop sinking passenger ships without warning. However, Germany broke its promise and continued its attacks.
28.8 To Make the World Safe for Democracy
After the sinking of the Lusitania, Wilson decided that the United States needed to prepare in case war became necessary. He worked with Congress to get money to improve the army and navy. Still, neither Wilson nor the country wanted war. In 1916, Wilson won reelection under the slogan, “He Kept Us out of War.”
Wilson also tried to start peace talks. But European leaders, having lost so many soldiers, rejected Wilson’s call for “peace without victory.”
America Enters the War The Germans soon risked war with the United States again. Even though U-boats were sinking 50 to 100 British merchant ships per month, enough were getting through to keep the Allies going. Desperate to prevent an Allied victory, the Germans decided to cut off British supplies before their own ran out. In February 1917, Germany resumed sinking merchant ships from other countries without warning.
In March, U-boats torpedoed three U.S. merchant ships, killing many Americans. In fact, these ships had been carrying weapons to the Allies. The Germans knew that this attack might bring the United States into the war, but they hoped to win before America was ready to fight.
It was a fatal mistake. Addressing a special session of Congress, Wilson urged a declaration of war. America would fight alongside the Allies, he said, not just to protect neutral shipping, but because “the world must be made safe for democracy.”
Congress greeted Wilson’s speech with applause. Later, Wilson reflected, “My message today was a message of death for our young men. How strange it seems to applaud that.”
In the photograph below, Woodrow Wilson appears before Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Germany. Although Wilson tried to avoid war, continued U-boat attacks on merchant ships gave him no choice.
Americans Prepare to Fight On April 6, 1917, Congress declared war. The Allies rejoiced, hoping for American supplies—and soldiers. Allied ships were sinking faster than they could be replaced. To get U.S. supplies delivered safely, convoys of American warships started escorting cargo vessels, protecting them from attack. American destroyers also helped the British navy assault U-boats. These strategies dramatically reduced shipping losses.
When the United States entered the war, it had only 200,000 soldiers, and most of those had limited training. Congress quickly authorized a national draft. Soon, 3 million men were drafted. Another 2 million volunteered.
Fighting and Winning American troops who sailed overseas were called the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). As they began arriving in Europe in June 1917, AEF soldiers soon learned from the Allies about trench warfare. The American commander, General John J. Pershing, hated these terrible conditions for soldiers. He also realized that trench warfare wasn’t winning the war. He worked on a plan for driving the Germans out of the trenches and forcing them to retreat into open country.
Meanwhile, Russia had dropped out of the war. With millions of soldiers dead and starvation spreading across the country, Russians had revolted against their ruler, the czar. Russia’s new government made peace with the Germans. This enabled Germany to bring soldiers back from the east, swelling their western forces to 3,500,000 men.
The German forces rushed to capture Paris before large numbers of Americans could arrive from overseas. They pushed quickly through the village of Chateau-Thierry and a nearby forest called Belleau Wood. They were within 50 miles of Paris when Americans reinforced the exhausted French. Gradually, American machine guns and artillery enabled the Allies to push the Germans back.
By the summer of 1918, more than a million Americans were in Europe. Pershing set his Allied offensive into motion. His plan took ad-vantage of several offensive capabilities that had been developed during the war. Tanks could advance through trenches. Airplanes could deliver machine-gun fire and drop bombs. Carefully coordinating huge numbers of soldiers, tanks, airplanes, and artillery, the Allies forced the weakened Germans back to their own border.
To avoid the invasion of their own country, German leaders agreed to an armistice, or cease-fire. On November 11, 1918, for the first time in four years, the guns were silenced.
The costs of the war horrified the world. More than 9 million people had died. Entering the war late, the United States lost 116,000 lives. Throughout the warring nations, people mourned the loss of so many of their young men.
To recruit the necessary men for an army to send to Europe, the United States resorted to the draft. All men between the ages of 18 and 45 had to register. Within a few months, the army grew from 200,000 men to over 4 million.
28.9 The Struggle for Peace
Less than two months after the fighting ended in Europe, President Wilson traveled to Paris to take part in peace talks. He was cheered by huge crowds. The United States had saved the French from endless war. And many Europeans welcomed Wilson’s eagerness to prevent future wars.
Fourteen Points for World Peace Months earlier, Wilson had presented to Congress a 14-point proposal for a postwar agreement. The first five points aimed to prevent conflict. Nations were asked to avoid secret treaties, to practice free trade, and to reduce their weapon supplies. Wilson asked that new borders be drawn based on self-determination, or the will of the people in each area.
Points 6 through 13 described new boundaries for many European countries. Finally, the ambitious fourteenth point called for nations to join a general association of countries to protect each other’s independence. With this League of Nations, Wilson believed, the world could achieve a lasting peace.
Germany had surrendered, believing that Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” would be the basis for a fair and just peace. But after years of fighting and dreadful losses, some Allied leaders weren’t satisfied with a just peace.
The Treaty of Versailles On January 18, 1919, delegates from dozens of countries assembled at a gorgeous French palace outside Paris called Versailles. In addition to Wilson, three Allied leaders dominated the treaty talks. They were David Lloyd George of England, Georges Clemenceau of France, and Vittorio Orlando of Italy.
The German representatives were not allowed to speak. This was a clue to the Allies’ anger and their determination to punish Germany and remove it as a future threat. They created a treaty that forced Germany to disband almost all of its armed forces, give up its colonies, and surrender territory in Europe. In addition, they called on Germany to pay reparations, or money to make up for damages and war deaths. The amount of these reparations was later set at $33 billion.
President Wilson opposed such harsh treatment of Germany. However, he eventually accepted the Allied leaders’ demands for punishment in order to win their support for his Fourteen Points.
The Allies rejected some of Wilson’s points, including freedom of the seas. But the peace conference did create new national boundaries in
This painting shows the signing of the peace treaty that ended World War I at the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. The treaty dealt harshly with Germany and planted the seeds of hatred that would lead to World War II.
reparations debts imposed on a defeated nation to pay for the harm done during a war
Europe based on self-determination. Most important to Wilson, the Treaty of Versailles established a League of Nations. Wilson thought that this agreement would make the peace treaty successful. The League of Nations, he believed, could fix any problems created by the treaty.
Struggling for Senate Ratification Wilson needed the approval of two thirds of the U.S. Senate to ratify the peace treaty. He quickly ran into opposition, especially to the League of Nations. Some senators worried that other countries would force American soldiers to fight in international conflicts. They argued that only Congress had the Constitutional power to send Americans to war. Many didn’t want the United States involved in messy European problems anyway.
The struggle over the treaty became a fight between political parties. Republicans had a majority in the Senate. They felt that Wilson, a Democrat, had made his Fourteen Points a political issue by not appointing any Republicans to his negotiating team.
Anxious to increase public support for the League of Nations, Wilson undertook an intense speaking tour. In 22 days, he toured 29 cities, speaking up to four times a day, with hardly any rest. Finally, he collapsed with severe headaches. He rushed back to Washington, D.C., where he suffered a massive stroke.
Recovering slowly, Wilson was less willing or able to compromise with opposition senators. In March 1920, the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles.
A Return to Isolationism Once again, America was heading toward isolationism. When the League of Nations opened in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States did not participate. In later years, when big crises developed in Europe, the League lacked the power that Wilson hoped it would have.
In Germany, the Treaty of Versailles left a bitter legacy. Germans felt betrayed by the treaty—especially Adolf Hitler, a corporal who had been temporarily blinded by gas during the war. Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s would pose a fresh challenge to American isolationism. Only after a second world war would the United States take on the role of world power that it continues to fill today.
Woodrow Wilson toured the country seeking public support for the League of Nations, which was opposed by Congress. On his tour, he suffered from a massive stroke. He was unable to continue his fight with Congress, and the Senate refused to approve the Treaty of Versailles.
28.10 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about American expansionism and the nation’s involvement in World War I. You used a front-page headline to summarize key information about U.S. foreign policy from the late 1800s to 1920.
America’s first great expansion after the Civil War was the purchase of Alaska. The United States also expanded westward by taking over the Midway Islands in the Pacific and annexing Hawaii.
As a result of the Spanish-American War, the United States gained two new possessions—Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Although the United States did not take over Cuba, it did keep the right to send troops to the island and to maintain naval bases there.
In Central America, the United States encouraged revolution in Panama, and then purchased a strip of land from the new country in order to build the Panama Canal. The United States maintained its control over the Canal Zone for the rest of the 20th century.
By the time World War I broke out, the United States was becoming a world power. America remained neutral until late in the war, and then entered the conflict on the side of the Allied Powers. President Wilson described the war as a fight to make the world safe for democracy.
Americans helped to win the war, but Wilson was unable to get all of his peace plan adopted. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the peace treaty, preventing the United States from joining the League of Nations. In Europe, the harsh terms imposed by the victorious Allies caused great bitterness in Germany.
Meanwhile, the United States turned back toward isolationism. After World War II, however, America would remain engaged in world affairs.
Other big changes were also in store for Americans. In the final chapter of this book, you will explore some of these changes.
Does this political cartoon support or oppose U.S. expansion?
Linking Past to Present
In Philadelphia, the past and the present sit side by side.
What significant events occurred in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago?
Do those events and the ideas they promoted still matter today?
Imagine that you were a 13-year-old living in the United States in 1914. How different would your life be, compared to your life today? Consider these facts. In 1914, you would be one of 99 million people in 48 states. Half of all Americans live on farms. Three out of four end their education in the eighth grade. Very few people own cars. If you want to make a telephone call, you have to dial an operator to place the call for you. If you want to travel from New York to California, you have to go by train. The trip will take five days. Nobody has ever seen a television or a computer.
In the South, laws segregate African Americans from whites. Blacks cannot live in certain neighborhoods or use the same swimming pools as whites. Throughout the country, very few women work outside the home. None of them can vote in a presidential election.
Now think about what life is like in the United States today. There are more than 280 million people in the nation’s 50 states. Most of them live in cities or suburbs. More than 90 percent of young people will finish high school, and half will graduate from college. There are 226 million cars and trucks, and more than 46,000 miles of interstate highways. Commercial jets take passengers across the country in five hours. Nearly every home has a television, and half have at least one computer. People use the Internet every day to connect with individuals and sources of information around the world.
In the 21st century, the nation’s population is more diverse than ever before. Throughout the country, laws forbid segregation and discrimination. Women not only vote, but are elected to Congress and run for president.
These changes, and many more, stem from the eventful years since 1914. In this chapter, you will learn how American society was transformed during these years. Along the way you will meet some of the individuals who helped to shape the world you live in today.
Graphic Organizer: Illustrated Timeline
You will use an illustrated timeline to see the connections between events before and after 1914.
29.2 Many Americans Struggled for Equality
The 20th century was a time of “firsts” for many Americans. Women, African Americans, and religious minorities all improved their social and economic status.
As you have learned, women first won the right to vote in national elections in 1920. Women, however, still strive for full equality with men. For example, women play a larger role in the work force than ever before. One hundred years ago, only 6 percent of American women worked outside the home. By 2002, 61 percent of women had paying jobs. Yet in 2003, women earned only 79 percent as much as men did.
Throughout the century, African Americans struggled to achieve equal rights with whites. In the 1950s, black Americans’ fight for civil rights began to win the hearts and minds of people throughout the nation. On December 1, 1955, a black seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama. She was jailed because of a Jim Crow law that said blacks on a crowded bus had to give their seats to whites. In response, the city’s black community organized a boycott of Birmingham buses. The boycott drew national attention to the injustice of segregation. It also brought nationwide fame to one of its leaders, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
King became one of the most admired leaders of the civil rights movement. In 1963, during a rally called the March on Washington, he gave his eloquent “I have a dream” speech. King’s words and actions helped win support for new laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race. African Americans, however, still face inequalities in social and economic opportunity. For example, blacks are twice as likely as whites to be poor.
Members of religious minorities also gained greater acceptance during the 20th century. The majority religion in America has always been Protestant Christianity. Members of other faiths have often faced prejudice. One sign of changing times was the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic to serve as president. In 2000, Democrat Joseph Lieberman became the first Jew to run for vice president on the ticket of a major party. Still, members of religious minorities sometimes feel the bite of prejudice even today.
More than 200,000 people demonstrated for civil rights during the March on Washington in 1963. The marchers heard Martin Luther King Jr. declare, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
29.3 Education Improves Social and Economic Opportunity
Education has always served several purposes in American life. Americans have looked to schools to teach the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Schools help to integrate the diverse groups that make up American society. Schooling also improves people’s economic opportunities. That has never been more certain than it is today.
Early in the 20th century, schools helped students gain the basic skills needed at the time. Less than 25 percent of youths of high school age went to school beyond the eighth grade. Many rural teens became farmers. Young people in cities could find factory work or other jobs that did not require a high school diploma.
In the 1930s, the United States was hit by a long economic downturn called the Great Depression. Farms and businesses failed across the nation. The lack of opportunity sent many youths back to the classroom. As a result, school attendance grew dramatically. By 1940, 75 percent of young people were enrolled in high school.
Enrollment in colleges and universities mushroomed after World War II. On June 22, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. This law provided funds for military veterans to continue their education. Better known as the GI Bill (“GI” was a nickname for a member of the military), the law helped millions of veterans go to college. With more education, workers increased their earning power.
In the 1960s and 1970s, feminists encouraged women to seek equal opportunity with men. Increasingly, women joined men in seeking the advantages of education. By the 1980s, women college students outnumbered men for the first time in the nation’s history.
As the 21st century began, well over 90 percent of American teens attended high school. About 69 percent graduated. Those young people who dropped out of school had a harder time finding and keeping a job later in life. Because of new technologies, there were fewer jobs for unskilled, uneducated workers. Today, most good-paying jobs require the knowledge and skills gained through high school, vocational training, or college. In 2000, full-time workers with a high school education earned about 30 percent more than workers who never finished high school.
Middle school students like these are more likely to earn high wages and have better jobs if they study hard and stay in school.