Why did the USA enter the First world war?

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Alexander Phillips                24/10/02

Why did the USA enter the war?

At first the public opinion of Americans was firmly set on neutrality. The majority of people had little or no concerns of the affairs of the rest of the world – why should America interfere with the conflicts of other nations? Americans supported a policy of isolationism, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson was re-elected in 1916 on the grounds that he had kept them out of the war. The president also knew only too well that many Americans were unsympathetic towards Britain. There were German Americans who routed for a German victory, whilst Irish Americans disliked British rule over Ireland. On top of this, the Jewish Russians who had fled from the hated Tsar of their home country did not want to fight on the side of those from whom they had fled, hence they were eager for Germans to defeat Russia. Wilson commented on this to the German Ambassador, claiming if they did not remain neutral their mixed populations would wage war on each other. At the outbreak of the war in 1914, Wilson advocated a policy of ‘determined neutrality’.

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        In May 1915, the Germans sank the ‘Lusitania’, a British ship. Of the 1198 passengers who died, 128 of these were American. This aroused great anger in Americans, and further attacks followed as in June the German government announced passenger ships would be sunk without warning. The sinking of the Lusitania was used in British propaganda to remind the US citizens of the lives that had been lost due to Germany, hence they should join the war to defeat them.

        The Germans decided to return to the policy of unrestricted submarine attacks on shipping in January 1917. The Submarines were ...

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