Why The United States Entered The War

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

The United States was slow to enter the war, because her people

believed war an evil to be avoided at almost any cost except honor. In

fact, Peace at any price seemed to be the motto of many Americans

even after two years of the World War.

[Illustration: The standard bearers and color guard leading a column of

the Fifth Artillery of the First American Division through Hetzerath,

Germany, on their way to
he Rhine.]

President Wilson declared in a speech at Philadelphia on May 10, 1915,

that there is such a thing as being too proud to fight. He was

severely criticized for his statement, and yet it is very true, and for

more than a generation it had been taught to American boys and girls.

Peace societies had sent lecturers to the public schools to point out

the wickedness of war and the blessings of peace. Prizes had been

offered to high school, normal school, and college students for the

best essays on Peace, How to Maintain the Peace of the World, and

other similar subjects. To get ready for war by enlarging the army and

navy was declared to be the very best way to bring on war. School

reading books made a feature of peace selections, and school histories

were making as little of our national wars as possible. These

teachings and the very air of the land of freedom made people too proud

to fight, if there were any honorable way of avoiding it.

It is said that People judge others by themselves. So Americans,

being peaceful, contented, and not possessed with envy of their

neighbors, supposed all other civilized people were like themselves.

Therefore they could not at first believe that the Germans were

different and looked upon war as a glorious thing, because through it

they might get possession of the wealth and property of others.

Perhaps the Germans, judging other people by themselves, believed that

the French and Russians and English, like the Germans, stood ready to

go to war whenever through it they might gain wealth and territory; but

the Germans did not think this of the people of the United States.

They thought that they were a nation of traders and money-getters in

love with the Almighty Dollar. As events proved, this idea was a fatal

mistake on the part of the Germans.

In entirely different ways, both Americans and Germans were taught that

they were the people above all other peoples in the world. The German

insolently sang Germany above All while the American good-naturedly

boasted his land as the freest, the noblest and best, leading all the

other countries and showing them the way to become greater and better.

The American people, however, did not intend to force their beliefs

upon other nations. But the Germans were led by the idea that German

Kultur would be a blessing for all mankind and that it was their

destiny to conquer and improve all other nations.

Thor stood at the northernmost point of the world.

His hammer flew from his hand.

So far as my hammer this arm has hurled,

All mine are the sea and the land.

And forward flew the giant tool

Over the whole broad earth, to fall

At last in the southernmost pool

To prove that Thor's was all.

Since then 'tis the pleasant German way

By the hammer, lands to win,

And to claim for themselves world-wide sway,

As the Hammer-god's nearest kin.

But the American does not go this far. While he is inclined to believe

himself and his country better than any other people or nation, yet he

is content to let others live in their own way as long as they are

honest and do not interfere with him and his business. He is, to be

sure, desirous of improving them, but by peaceful means, by building

dams and railroads for them, and by giving them schools and sending

them missionaries.

It was difficult therefore for Americans to realize that the Germans

really planned and desired the war in order that they might rule the

world. It took months and even years of war for the majority of

Americans to come to a full realization of this truth. This should be

remembered when the question is asked, not why the United States

entered the war, but why she did not enter it earlier.

Americans are honorable and look upon the breaking of a pledge or an

agreement as a shameful thing. It was almost impossible for them to

believe that a nation, far advanced in science and learning of all

kinds, could look upon a treaty as a scrap of paper and consider its

most solemn promises as not binding when it was to its advantage to

break them. Americans in their homes, their churches, and their

schools had been taught that an honest man is the noblest work of

God. They had heard the old saying that All is fair in love and

war; but they could not think for a moment that a whole nation of men

and women had been taught that lies and treachery and broken promises

were fair because they helped the Fatherland work out its destiny and

rule the world.

They knew that Chancellor Bismarck falsified a telegram to bring on the

war with France in 1870, and they learned to their dismay that

Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg in 1914 declared the treaty with Belgium

only a scrap of paper when Germany wished to cross that country to

strike France. Americans kept learning that Germany's promises to

respect hospitals and hospital ships, stretcher-bearers and the Red

Cross, not to interfere with non-combatants, not to use poison gas, not

to bombard defenseless cities and towns were all scraps of paper.

They discovered even the naturalization papers which Germans in America

took out in order to become American citizens were lies sworn to, for

the German who declared his loyalty to his new mother country was still

held by Germany as owing his first fealty and duty to her. It must be

said, however, that many Germans who became naturalized in the United

States did not agree with these secret orders of their Fatherland; but

many others did, and the rulers of Germany encouraged such deception.

It was many months after the beginning of the World War before the

large body of American citizens would believe that the German nation

and the German people made a business of lies and deception, and

considered such a business just and proper when in the service of the

Fatherland. But when Germany--after having promised the United States

on May 4, 1916, that merchant ships would not be sunk without warning

or without giving the crews and passengers an opportunity for

safety--on January 31, 1917, informed Washington that she was not going

to keep her promise and told the German people that she had only made

it in order to get time to build a great submarine fleet which would

bring England to her knees in three months--then the American people

saw Germany as she was and in her shame.

Of all the peoples of the earth, the Americans are probably the most

sympathetic and helpful to the weak and the afflicted. They are the

most merciful, striving to be kind not only to people but even to

animals. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children,

another for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the numberless

Bands of Mercy show the feeling of the people of America toward the

helpless. Americans supposed that other people were like them in this

respect. They knew of the German pensions to the widows and to the

aged, and they supposed that the efficient and enlightened Germans were

among the merciful and sympathetic to the weak and dependent. The

people of the United States knew, of course, of the Zabern incident

where two German soldiers held a crippled Alsatian cobbler while a

German officer slashed his face with his sword for laughing at

him,--they knew that the German army officers were haughty and

overbearing, but they thought this came from their training and was not

a part of the German character. Americans had read the Kaiser's

directions to the German soldiers going to China during the Boxer

uprising to Show no mercy! Take no prisoners! Use such frightfulness

that a Chinaman will never dare look at a German again. Make a name

for yourselves as the Hun did long ago. But the Americans, or most of

them, did not believe that in the twentieth century a nation classified

among the civilized nations could or would adopt Frightfulness as a

policy. But when they read of the devastation of Belgium and northern

France; of the destruction of Louvain; of whole villages of innocent

men, women, and children being wiped out; of the horrible crimes of the

sinking of the Lusitania, the Falaba, and the Laconia; of the

execution of Edith Cavell; of the carrying off into slavery, or worse

than slavery, of the able-bodied women and men from the conquered

territory--when Americans learned these horrors one after another, they

at last were forced to acknowledge that, like the brutal Assyrian kings

who sought to terrify their enemies into submission by standing as

conquerors upon pyramids of the slain, the modern Huns sought mastery

by Frightfulness.

When most Americans came to realize that Germany was fighting a war to

conquer the world, first Russia and France, then England, and then the

United States--for she had written Mexico that if she would attack the

United States, Germany and Mexico would make war and peace

together--when they came to know the German nature and the idea of the

Germans, that Might makes Right and that truth, honesty, and square

dealing like mercy, pity, and love are only words of weaklings; that

they were a nation of liars and falsifiers and the most brutal of all

people of recorded history; when, added to this, the Americans realized

that for over two years France and England had really been fighting for

everything for which the United States stood and which her people held

dear, for her very life and liberty, then America almost as one man

declared for war.

Meanwhile Germany had declined to recognize the laws of nations which

allowed America to sell munitions to the Allies. She had scattered

spies through the United States to destroy property and create labor

troubles. She had challenged the right of peaceful Americans to travel

on the high seas. She had sunk the Lusitania with a loss of one

hundred twenty-four American lives; the Sussex, the Laconia with a

loss of eight Americans, the Vigilancia with five, the City of

Memphis, the Illinois, the Healdton, and others. She had tried to

unite Mexico and Japan against us.

Not until then, after the American people had become fully aware of the

German character and purposes, did Congress on April 6, 1917, declare a

state of war existed between Germany and the United States. On that

day the outcome of the war was decided. Through her hideous

selfishness, her stupidity, and her brutality, Germany, after having

spent nearly fifty years in preparation, lost her opportunity for world

dominion. The resources and the fighting power of what she looked upon

as a nation of cowardly, money-loving merchants decided the conflict.