Week 3

I have forgotten how to properly tie in my topic to American military history. First and foremost I speak about how technology and an arms race propelled the start of the war. Technology wise, I have forgotten to mention, is that it will be focused on the United States use of advanced technology. Most importantly was the use of aircraft or airplanes during the war. An American invention, airplanes at first were a revolutionary means of scouting and spying on the enemy. Eventually both sides became aware of this tactic and adapted to protect their positions by creating anti air weaponry forcing the airplane to adapt as well. Planes were weaponized and transformed the air into the newest battlefield.

Secondly, I will still continue to discuss foreign politics and alliances but most importantly how the United States faced a difficult stance on whether or not to join the war. The United States being allies at the time and continuously through today with France and England, faced a large pressure form to the two to intervene in the war. I will later in this post explain more. One thing that many do not know is that the United States had also faced strong pressure to join the war from home, but not as a ally of England and France but one of Germany. During the 1910’s and later into the 20’s and 30’s, there was a ever growing immigration of German’s and a continuous expansion of German Americans in the state.

As I continue my research I found two primary sources that have furthered my study of both domestic and international politics, and the arguably revolutionary technology that was used during this era. The first is a newspaper article from The New York Times the day the Lusitania was attacked and sunk by a German U-boat. The Lusitania was a British cruise liner that was comprised of a majority of Americans.  The sinking of the Lusitania back in 1915 is considered the biggest spark into the American involvement of World War 1. As I stated in my focus being on the politics, the United States for the most part refused to have any direct involvement in the war. It was often characterized as “their war” as in Europe’s war. American public opinion was strongly divided for the most par, with most Americans until early 1917 strongly of the opinion that the United States should stay out of the war.  But the United States did not stand on the sidelines when the war erupted in 1914. The states standing as a neutral state, continued to trade with both alliances, specifically France, England and Germany. Great Britain continued to still have a powerful navy and  imposed a blockade on Germany. American trade was no longer permitted. The results of the blockade resulted in trade with England and France more than tripled between 1914 and 1916, while trade with Germany was cut by over ninety percent. It was this situation that prompted submarine warfare by the Germans against Americans at sea. Rules were set that only naval vessels were to be targeted and that merchant and passenger ships were free to travel. Germany continued to attack ships and took focus on the Lusitania in 1915. Opinion changed in response to German actions in Belgium and the Lusitania. German-Americans lost influence and America had to play a role to make the world safe for democracy. This article helps explain the point of American politics. The country was too heavily divided between either going to war or not and whether what side to join, mostly an alliance with the Triple Entente. The United States’ hand was forced and the decision to join the Triple Entente in war was made easier after the sinking of the Lusitania.

The second source is a speech by President Woodrow Wilson. The speech is a powerful statement in response to the devastating attack on the Lusitania. The speech is now known as the “Too Proud to Fight Speech.” Unfortunately I could not find just the speech alone but the link does have the full speech just with some analysis tied in. The speech is primarily known for the line recited by President Wilson, “The example of America must be a special example. The example of America must be the example not merely of peace because it will not fight, but of peace because peace is the healing and elevating influence of the world and strife is not. There is such a thing as a man being so right it does not need to convince others by force that it is right.” What many people do not know is that the speech in its entirety is called Americanism and the Foreign Born. The speech itself does not mention the Lusitania sinking directly, but rather only makes an oblique reference. Still, given the political tensions at the time, everyone who heard or read the speech knew that President Wilson was indeed referring to the Lusitania disaster and the question of whether the United States would go to war over the sinking.


Week 2

As I proposed last week, I wanted to focus on something that related to the politics and the circumstances that lead to the war. To specify what that entails I am going to focus on the alliances and the military technology build up that lead to the war. Primarily these were the two major factors that lead to the breakout of World War I. As a stated in my last post, the assignation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is largely credited for the start of the war but in reality it only just sparked already looming tensions. During the early 1900’s Europe was beginning to divide itself into different alliances that many say attributed to the war’s outbreak in 1914. Countries wold align and if for any reason, such as World War I, a nation was to be attacked by another their allies must either aid in protection or join in retaliation. For the first time the use of air support was available and heavily used. We also bore witness to the use of biological warfare, such as mustard gas, that frankly no one ever thought of before. Countries had stock piled all these weapons and created massive alliances that if any small skirmish was to occur, the entire European continent would be involved in total war.

The early 1900’s lead way to a new type pf warfare. Countries began to align with one another. There were two pivotal alliances that were involved in the war and those will be the two that I focus on. England, France and Russia became allies and formed the Triple Entente, while Germany, Austria and Italy made their coalition, what would be called the Triple Alliance. If for any reason one was to be threatened the rest were required to come to the others aid. When war did eventually break out, Russia came to the aid of Serbia, thus France also came to the aid of Serbia. Belgium was invaded by Germany and in conjunction with their pact and England, the British Crown joined the Belgians. Germany aided Austria but Italy decided to remain neutral and were not loyal to the pact. Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire would shortly join Germany and Austria in battle. The two articles, The Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance 1880-1914: a Collective Goods Approach and The Origins of World War I both state that the aggression during this time was primarily between Germany and France. Conybeare states that the Triple Alliance formation was directed towards France for fear that France would eventually engage in battle with Germany or any of Germany’s allies.

The second influence that propelled the war and maybe the most important factor was the military stock pile is or the arms race. For the first time new technology was being use that previously was unfathomable. The three keys advancements were the creation of tanks, the use of biological warfare such as mustard gas and the ability to use the air as a new battle field. War in Europe was imminent and countries knew it. Germany became known as the largest stock piler of weapons during this time and also was technologically far more advanced than any other country at the time. This military build up made countries weary of war and according to Weede, they maybe even wanted war.


The Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance 1880-1914: a Collective Goods Approach by John A. C. Conybeare, University of Iowa

The Origins of World War I by Samuel R. Williamson, Jr.

Arms Race and Escalation by Erich Weede

Week 1

For my topic I have always been interested in the events that took place during World War 1. I feel that growing up, there was always a significant portion in school devoted to World War II and the politics and atrocities that went along with it. Personally I want to learn more about World War 1 and its events that lead up to the second World War, the Cold War and how wars are fought currently. Obviously World War 1 is an extremely broad topic and has a vast collection of categories, I want to look at the politics and the circumstances that lead to the war.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is largely credited for the start of the war but in reality it was only the spark that ignited an already looming war. The politics behind it fascinate me and being a political science student I am always fascinated in politics but my second love, if not equally my first, is history or more specifically history of wars. I chose this war in particular because of how it shaped the world and transitioned us into a new era. This war was the first war fought since the Industrial Revolution and was preceded by a long period of military build up and tension between European countries. This is still a vague topic and I will begin to become more specific as my research continues.