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April 6 – United States Enters World War I

April 6, 1917

It has been over 100 years since the United States entered World War I. Do you know the steps that led up to this decision?

After more than two and a half years of President Woodrow Wilson’s efforts to keep the United States out of World War I, the American entry to the war finally happened on April 6, 1917. At the beginning of the war, American public opinion reflected that of the president. On the other hand, American opinion had been more negative toward Germany than any other European country even before the war had broken out. Until 1917, Wilson made minimal preparations for a land war and kept the Army on a small peacetime footing despite increasing demands for enhanced preparedness. He did expand the Navy however.

In 1917, with Russia experiencing political upheaval due to widespread disillusionment over the war and with Britain and France low on credit, Germany appeared to have the upper hand in Europe. At the same time, Germany’s ally the Ottoman Empire was clinging stubbornly to its possessions in the Middle East. That same year, Germany decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare against any vessel approaching British waters in an attempt to starve Britain even though they knew this would almost certainly bring the United States into the war. Germany also made a secret offer to assist Mexico in regaining territories lost in the Mexican-American War in the encoded Zimmerman Telegram, which was intercepted by British intelligence. Publication of this telegram outraged Americans just as German U-boats began sinking American merchant ships in the North Atlantic.

Not long after, Wilson asked for Congress for “a war to end all wars” that “would make the world safe for democracy,” and Congress voted to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917. On December 7, 1917, the United States declared war on Austria-Hungary. United States troops began arriving on the Western Front in large numbers in 1918.

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