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Source: (consider it) Thread: The Great War
Gramps49
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I am watching a (American) PBS documentary on World War I. I have only completed the first part of a three-part series. I have three takeaways from the first part.

1) For the US, there was never such a thing as neutrality. As the war began, bankers like JP Morgan invested heavily in the Allies. We sold all our war materials to the Allies, the Central Powers were embargoed externally by the English and French navies and internally by American pressure. We actually were so invested in the Allies we had to make sure they won.

2) England manipulated our entry into the war. It cut all the cables out of Europe, the only transatlantic cable operating into the US originated in London. In fact, the documentary made the strong suggestion that England deliberately refused to escort the Lusitania as it entered English waters as a way of drawing us into the fight. (If so, that would have been a war crime, IMHO.)

3) It was the first time the US actually came together as a nation united for a common cause once we did enter the fight. At the beginning of the war, our military forces were that of what we would call a third world nation. We were still recovering from our civil war. The regional differences were quite great. As we came together, though, we had rural boys and city boys from the four corners of the country fighting in the same units. Our forces actually became nationalized.

Other takeaways about the mechanization of the war as well.

Previously, I had learned that if it were not for WWI the United States common language now would not have been English but German.

Since this is the 100th anniversary of the War, more or less, how is your country remembering the War to end Wars.

[ 13. April 2017, 16:25: Message edited by: Gramps49 ]

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
I am watching a (American) PBS documentary on World War I. I have only completed the first part of a three-part series. I have three takeaways from the first part.

1) For the US, there was never such a thing as neutrality.

This was the result of about half a century of what we would now refer to as "social engineering". At the end of the U.S. Civil War American attitudes towards the British were either neutral or vaguely resentful of the former colonial overlord. "Tweaking John Bull" was still a mildly effective political move in the mid-nineteenth century. There followed what was essentially a national "courtship", largely consisting of social and business contacts. (Think Rhodes Scholarship, a program designed to have the American elite fondly reminisce about their time in Oxford.) By the time the Great War broke out there was no chance the U.S. would ever take sides against the British. The question wasn't which side the American would take, but whether they'd join active hostilities and, if so, when.

quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
3) It was the first time the US actually came together as a nation united for a common cause once we did enter the fight. At the beginning of the war, our military forces were that of what we would call a third world nation. We were still recovering from our civil war. The regional differences were quite great. As we came together, though, we had rural boys and city boys from the four corners of the country fighting in the same units. Our forces actually became nationalized.

Well, white American forces became nationalized. National unity usually ends at the color line in the U.S.

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rolyn
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Sounds like there may have been more than a little bit of anti-British rhetoric in that documentary.

AIUI America was well and truly sitting on a fence watching things unravel in Europe during 1914. Apparently financial backing from the US alternated between being for Germany or the Allies because it was by no means certain who was going to win.
That isn't to detract from the clear fact of Britain's gratefulness that America did finally commit and help drive Germany back into it's borders.... on both occasions.

The way the centenary is being marked here in the UK gives, (me anyway), the feeling that the sense of tragedy and waste following the Great War never really left us. Some may say much of that is down to it being fought so badly.

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Al Eluia

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quote:
Originally posted by Gramps49:
3) It was the first time the US actually came together as a nation united for a common cause once we did enter the fight.

There was a lot of dissent, which the Wilson Administration did a great deal to suppress, to the point of jailing people who criticized the war not only in public, but IIRC even in private conversations.

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Stetson
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Gramps wrote:

quote:
At the beginning of the war, our military forces were that of what we would call a third world nation. We were still recovering from our civil war.
So the US was still in the middle of its recovery when they beat the Spanish Empire in a war and grabbed major chunks of its territory?
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Brenda Clough
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I think it would be fair to call Spain at that period half-hard opposition.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Stetson:
Gramps wrote:
quote:
At the beginning of the war, our military forces were that of what we would call a third world nation. We were still recovering from our civil war.
So the US was still in the middle of its recovery when they beat the Spanish Empire in a war and grabbed major chunks of its territory?
I'd say the analysis is right but the attributed cause is wrong. In 1916 the U.S. had ~179,000 active duty military personnel, or about 0.18% of total U.S. population. This is a very small number for a large nation, but the reasons can't be attribute to the Civil War. The relatively small size of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century American military was the result of deliberate policy choices, not a destructive war.

  • There ceased to be a discernible "frontier" in the west around 1890, alleviating the need for a military to patrol that frontier.
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  • America's ocean-sized moats made them indifferent to any potential threat on another continent.
    -
  • The American military of the day had the ability to ramp up very quickly, both through the draft and by nationalizing various national guard and state militia groups. In 1897 the U.S. military had ~44,000 active duty personnel (0.06% of the U.S. population). By 1898, when it was fighting the aforementioned Spanish-American War, that number had swollen to 236,000 (0.32% of the U.S. population). The same dynamic can be seen in the Great War when the U.S. military had swollen to ~2.9 million personnel (2.81% of the U.S. population).
    -
  • The drawdown after the U.S. Civil War took place in two tiers; the first in 1866 after hostilities had ceased and the second around 1877 when Reconstruction ended. At that point the U.S. decided that a military of ~0.06%-0.07% of total U.S. population was about right, particularly the newly re-admitted southern states who still resented military rule during Reconstruction.


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georgiaboy
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For a careful and well-documented analysis for events leading up to the entry of the US into the Great War, I highly recommend Barbara Tuchman's 'The Zimmerman Telegram,' which relates in detail the machinations in Congress vis-a-vis President Wilson, leading me to the conclusion that Pres W was a stuck-up prig, convinced of the invincible rightness of his refusal to join the Allies.

Incredible as it seems today, at that time Congress adjourned in March and didn't return to DC until October(?). Ah, the good ole days!

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rolyn
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The cynical view would of course be that it was in America's interest to see a former World superpower embroiled in a gruelling, resource sapping war of attrition.
Not sure if the course of history would have been much changed by an earlier US entry on the side of the Allied forces. Probably the same end result but with an even greater death toll dished out by the Germany's massed produced version of the Maxim machine gun.

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Pangolin Guerre
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Gramps49 wrote:

Previously, I had learned that if it were not for WWI the United States common language now would not have been English but German.

PG answers:
Well, no. There was a proposal in 1794 to translate federal laws into German. This has often been misinterpreted as German becoming the official language of the US, which would not have been the case. My understanding is that the US has no official language, not earlier and not now. As to the post-WWI period, it's true that public use of German was severely restricted from 1917 into the 1920s on a state by state basis, and again after 1941, and that Germans were the single largest ethnic group, but to say that German would be the American common tongue were it not for WWI is dangerous counterfactual history that ignores a century's worth of historical contingencies. As they say in Quebec, "Si, si, si. Si ma tante avait des couilles, elle serait mon oncle."*

*If, if, if. If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

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Gramps49
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Technically, the United States as a nation does not have an official language, but at least 12 individual states have designated English as the official language.

From what I have read, the most common languages in the US are English, Spanish, German, and then it is a polyglot.

I would say in my community it is actually English, Chinese, Arabic, then Spanish. Very little German.

Going to other comments: while there was an effort to fund the Central Powers among the American Germans, it did not get much traction, since the World Banking system went through, you guessed it, London.

There was actually a Black National Guard Unit that was formed in NYC just before the US entered the war. Many Blacks actually saw the war as a way to advance in American Culture, but we still did not have a fully integrated military until the 1950's. The documentary, though, does talk about a number of blacks who emigrated to France to join their foreign legion before the US entered. Some of them were involved in the fighting of Verdun.

I misspoke about the US still recovering from the civil war. I was not referring to the military. We always had a tradition of having a small military. What I meant was the old regional attitudes leading up to the War Between the States were still very raw. Someone could even argue they are still raw, but not like it was 100 years ago.

Posts: 2030 | From: Pullman WA | Registered: Apr 2011  |  IP: Logged
Gramps49
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Another point I want to make about the American Military, up until WWI, any time we went to war, we relied upon the contritions of individual states for the war. You go to any US Civil War battleground you will see all the state militias that were involved in the battle. Even the Spanish-American war relied on individual state militias. In WWI, though, you saw the first real cohesive
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mousethief

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Re. military: Teddy Roosevelt's Great White Fleet rebuilt our navy, didn't it?

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by georgiaboy:
For a careful and well-documented analysis for events leading up to the entry of the US into the Great War, I highly recommend Barbara Tuchman's 'The Zimmerman Telegram,' which relates in detail the machinations in Congress vis-a-vis President Wilson, leading me to the conclusion that Pres W was a stuck-up prig, convinced of the invincible rightness of his refusal to join the Allies.

For an account that is less detailed about the minutae but more focused on the overall sweep of history that WWI presaged, "The Deluge" (Adam Tooze) is recommended.
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Garden Hermit
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War, or 'Defence', is always good for Business. In the UK today we call it Aerospace, but its basically armaments for others to kill themselves.
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no prophet's flag is set so...

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quote:
Originally posted by georgiaboy:
For a careful and well-documented analysis for events leading up to the entry of the US into the Great War, I highly recommend Barbara Tuchman's 'The Zimmerman Telegram,' which relates in detail the machinations in Congress vis-a-vis President Wilson, leading me to the conclusion that Pres W was a stuck-up prig, convinced of the invincible rightness of his refusal to join the Allies.

I would recommend
Tuchman's 'The Proud Tower' is a broader account of the fin de siécle (end of era) which WW1 was for the 19th century.

WW1 destroyed completely my French family with one survivor on German side who family was killed again with 2 survivors in the WW2 repeat. Where in both wars, my mother's family could fight my father's. Tuchman's point in!part is that WW1 was a civil war among Victoria's inbred children. And leads to the conclusion that all our wars are civil wars among members of thr human family.

Do we learn anything? Where have all the flowers gone, Peter, Paul and Mary?

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Garden Hermit:
War, or 'Defence', is always good for Business. In the UK today we call it Aerospace, but its basically armaments for others to kill themselves.

Even if it isn't good for the national economy. Defence spending is a government and often monopolistic thing and any government could create far more jobs spending that amount in other sectors.

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