Why did France get involved in the First World War

Background current

The entry of the USA into the First World War marked an important turning point for the course of the war. For the USA itself, entering the war marked a key step towards its role as a world power.

In 1917, in his speech to Congress, US President Woodrow Wilson campaigned to declare war on the German Reich. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

On April 2, 1917, US President Woodrow Wilson appeared before the US Congress with a request: The MPs should agree to the war participation of American troops in Europe. We have to defend freedom and protect democracies, he called to the MPs. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives approved by a majority. Four days later, on April 6, the United States finally declared war on the German Reich.

Willingness to be impartial

For a long time the United States stayed out of the battles of the First World War. When war broke out in Europe in July 1914, the country on the other side of the Atlantic declared itself neutral. The trigger for the First World War was an assassination attempt on the Habsburg heir to the throne and his wife on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. What happened on and behind the political stage in Europe as a result of the attack is known as the "July Crisis". The events strained the alliance constellation that existed in Europe at that time between the Triple Entente from France, Russia and Great Britain on the one hand and the Triple Alliance from the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Italy on the other.

The US government did not want to be drawn into the war, and at the beginning of the war the majority of the US population also rejected the participation of American troops. The Entente powers were supported by the USA with economic aid and arms deliveries.

Change of mood

Decisive for the increasingly critical attitude of the United States towards the German Reich was on the one hand the invasion of German troops into neutral Belgium in August 1914. On the other hand, in May 1915 a German submarine sank the British luxury steamer "Lusitania". 128 men, women and children from the United States were also killed in the attack.
On May 7, 1915, the British passenger ship RMS Lusitania was shot at by a German submarine and the ship sank off the Irish coast. 128 US citizens were also killed. Two years later the USA entered the world war, the sinking of the "Lusitania" was considered one of the triggers. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

In February 1917, Woodrow Wilson broke off diplomatic relations with the German Reich. A few days earlier, the Germans had declared the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. The mood in the American population shifted further when a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the Mexican government became public. In it, the German Empire proposed to Mexico an alliance in the event that the USA entered the war. The dispatch provoked the United States, which the US government perceived as interference in American-Mexican relations. The series of these events ultimately led to the USA entering the war on April 6, 1917.

Turning point in the course of the war and 14-point plan

By the end of the war in 1918, the USA sent around two million soldiers to Europe. American engagement is seen as a key factor in Allied victory. With the "Fourteen Points" President Wilson defined his war goals and ideas of a peaceful post-war order in January 1918, over which a League of Nations should watch. In November 1918 the German Reich declared its surrender. The United States advanced economically after the World War: In the post-war period, the United States became the world's largest creditor country and an important trading power.


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