Silencing Lusitania

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The telegram containing these instructions was intercepted by British Naval Intelligence. Over the next few weeks, the United States drifted closer to entering the war. Germany resumed its submarine offensive on February 1, which prompted the U. American public opinion stewed for several weeks.

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On February 24, the British revealed the telegram's contents to American officials. President Wilson realized that the time for equivocation was over and released the text of the note to the press for publication on March 1. The impact on public opinion was immediate and silenced all but the most ardent German supporters.


A declaration of war would follow in a little more than a month. The Zimmermann Telegram by Barbara W. Not so! This gamble failed. Americans paid a cost for this speed.

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Fearing that any dissent represented delay, the government engineered a significant curtailment of civil liberties. The Espionage Act criminalized aiding the enemy and speech that obstructed military recruitment. The other cost came in lives lost. In 18 months, the American army grew from roughly , men to nearly 4. These soldiers trained in stateside camps where over-crowding and record-breaking cold allowed diseases especially the Spanish flu to flourish. By the fall of , half of the 2 million American troops overseas were deployed to the front-lines.

Overall, the American military engaged in six months of heavy combat operations that left nearly 53, men dead.

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Another 63, died, mostly from influenza, over the course of the war. Over , men were wounded.

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What had the American army accomplished in compensation for these losses? Pershing, joined the fighting in the spring of , just as German forces were bearing down on Paris.

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  • The Americans subsequently joined with the French in the incremental summer attacks that slowly pushed the Germans back towards their own border. In the fall of , the Americans took over their own sector and contributed to the multi-pronged, final Allied assault along the entire Western Front with the American-commanded St. American soldiers fought and died until the very last minute of the war. Fighting along the Western Front ended with the Armistice on November 11, , but it took seven more months to negotiate the Versailles Peace Treaty.

    The Americans took pride in helping to defeat Germany, but many soon became disillusioned when the peace settlement failed to meet the high expectations that Wilson had articulated in his wartime messages. The final treaty included a League of Nations, but questions arose over whether America should join. Wilson contended that League mediation of international disputes would make wars unnecessary. Congressional critics feared that the League might take control of U.

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    The impasse resulted in the Senate rejecting the treaty and the United States never joined the League. Participating in World War I altered American society in several ways. The Wilsonian ideals of disarmament, free trade, and spreading democracy animated American foreign policy for decades to come. In the inter-war period, Americans became convinced that their participation in the war had been a mistake.

    Consequently, in the s several neutrality laws restricted loans and arms sales to belligerent nations.