Q. 79: Who Was President During World War One?

President Woodrow Wilson

To pass the US citizenship test, you will have to answer 10 of a possible 100 questions. The following question is from the USCIS test.

Who was President during World War One?

Answer:

(Woodrow) Wilson.

The following is a full explanation of the USCIS question:

Who Was President During World War I?

Woodrow Wilson ran for president as someone that would keep the United States out of the war in Europe. He wanted to help achieve a peace deal, didn’t want American soldiers fighting, and wanted to keep America neutral.

However, the war was much longer and more deadly than expected. Countries used new tactics such as poison gas, aerial bombardments, and submarine attacks, and the number of casualties was enormous. 

What was formerly seen as the rules of war disappeared because of the intensity of the conflict and due to the new technology used. Eventually, the escalation pulled the United States into the war. Woodrow Wilson introduced a military draft and United Sates fought until the end. 

Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Campaign

Woodrow Wilson only narrowly won the Democratic presidential nomination. Most of the people in the Democratic Party favored Governor Judson Harmon of Ohio. However, Wilson was able to get the nomination against the odds.

Wilson was a progressive, so he was against monopolies and wanted stronger antitrust laws. He also wanted the Philippines to be an independent country, income taxes, a one-term limit for all presidents, and reduced tariffs. 

Woodrow Wilson also advocated for an eight-hour workday, a social security system, and an easier way to amend the constitution. These were controversial rather than moderate policies. He first won the Democratic nomination and then the presidency by promising change. 

Wilson’s Second Term

Even in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson sought to avoid becoming embroiled in the European conflict. His campaign for his second term pointed out that he kept America out of the war. 

Wilson pushed progressive issues – women’s suffrage, improving conditions in prisons, and child labor laws. However, a few tragedies would change everyone’s mind about the conflict. 

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

Originally, there were are a lot of restrictions on how submarines could be used in warfare, but the war escalated, and these restrictions not entirely adhered. Since the German Navy was trapped in their ports by the larger British Navy, they relied on submarines to attack allied ships. The Germans considered all ships, including merchant ships, to be fair targets to attack.

This policy of unrestricted submarine warfare may have cost Germany the war. The torpedoing of the ocean liner Lusitania, which killed over 100 Americans and more than 1000 people, outraged the American public. While they temporarily abandoned the policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, they returned to it in 1917. 

The last straw was the Zimmermann telegram, a coded message from Germany to Mexico, suggesting they should declare war on the United States and take back the territories they lost in the 1840s war. They also wanted Mexico to help convince Japan to ally with Germany. This was enough that the United States declared war on April 6, 1917. 

Making the World Safe for Democracy

President Woodrow Wilson saw the First World War as a war between democracy and authoritarianism. Germans saw themselves as fighting for tradition and monarchy. The war was a fight between old and new ways of thinking as well as a struggle for power.

Wilson had to act fast. Germany was not clearly losing the war in 1917, and they made a huge push to end the war before American troops could arrive. This final offensive was massive and involved new tactics that could sometimes break through trenches. Russia was defeated, and Britain and France had taken enormous losses.

Congress had no problem passing a declaration of war after the Zimmerman telegram. Many recruitment posters and other propaganda were produced, and many volunteers joined the army. Wilson spoke about a future world where democracy would flourish and small nations would have a say in international affairs. 

The Fourteen Points

Woodrow Wilson spoke before Congress about how he wanted the world to change after the Great War. He talked about creating a League of Nations that would ensure international justice and minimize future wars. He gave a list of fourteen points about how the world should work in the near future:

1) Diplomacy should be done openly, not by secret treaties between countries that don’t tell other countries about their deals.

2) People should be able to trade freely across the seas, including in wartime.

3) Trade conditions should be equal.

4) Countries should partly disarm instead of stockpile weapons. 

5) Colonial claims should be adjusted and should take the interests of the native people seriously.

6) Germany and other central powers must leave Russia. Russians must be allowed to rule themselves. 

7) Belgian independence must be fully restored, central powers must leave Belgium.

8) Germany must leave France. The provinces that France lost to Germany in the 1871 war must be returned to France.

9) Italian borders must be changed to reflect real lines between nationalities.

10) Austria-Hungary must be free to develop itself along its own lines.

11) Change the borders in the Balkan region, creating a few new countries.

12) The Ottoman Empire should be replaced by an independent Turkish state that no longer rules over other people. 

13) Poland must be an independent country and have free access to the sea. 

14) A general association of nations (which became the League of Nations after the war) should guarantee the political independence and territory of other large and small nations.

America in World War One

As terrific as the final German offensive was, it was not enough to defeat France before the American force could arrive. 1.3 million Americans volunteered, and 4,791,172 Americans fought in the war. Soldiers from Great Britain and France were sick of the war and glad to see Americans arrive. 

American soldiers arrived at a rate of 10,000 per day, and Germany could no longer train many new soldiers. The Americans won battles at Cantigny, Chateau-Thierry, and Belleau Wood. They defeated the final German offensive in the spring of 1918, then participated heavily in the final Allied offensive during the fall of that year.

While Germany had been in a strong position even at the start of 1918, so many powerful nations opposed them that they had to surrender. The had to accept blame for the war, pay a compensation to the countries they fought, lose the French provinces they took in the 1800s, and minimize their armed forces. The conflict was not truly over, and the war’s unfinished business led to World War II. 

American Losses in the War

While American losses in World War I were higher than in Korea, Vietnam, or more recent wars, they were lower than in World War II, which was less severe for the United States than the Civil War. About 116,000 American soldiers died. It was the third deadliest war in American History. 

Woodrow Wilson After the War

President Wilson succeeded in creating the League of Nations after the war, but did not manage to convince people to adopt his fourteen points. Many disliked the creation of the League of Nations because it would require the United States to enter more wars in the future.

In 1919, Thomas Woodrow Wilson suffered from a massive stroke that left him unable to function. He gradually recovered his mind, but was partially paralyzed. Women got the vote in 1920, which was always one of Wilson’s goals. 

In 1921, Republican candidate Warren Harding became president. This meant that the United States did not join the League of Nations. Wilson died in 1924, having achieved many things while in the White House, even if people did not adopt his plan for world peace. 

The United Nations Was More Successful Than the League of Nations

While the League of Nations was mostly unsuccessful if it failed to stop World War II, it was replaced by the stronger United Nations after the Second World War. The League of Nations may not have been a success, but its idea was.

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