Friday, March 31, 2017

March 1917



It's March 1917, the last month of neutrality for the United States and the last month of his reign for the Tsar of All the Russias.  In the United States, publication of the Zimmermann Telegram triggers a political firestorm.  Pacifists and isolationists at first denounce it as a forgery perpetrated by Great Britain, but Zimmermann himself acknowledges authorship and American public opinion begins to swing in favor of war.  The House of Representatives passes the Armed Ships Bill, and seventy-five senators sign a manifesto in support, but a filibuster prevents it from coming to a vote.  President Wilson denounces the filibusterers as “a little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own,” and orders that merchant ships be armed anyway.  The Senate adopts its first rule limiting debate.  Three American merchant ships are sunk by German submarines; twelve Americans die.  The Federal Reserve Board revises its advice to member banks: loans to the Allies are now encouraged.  The Cabinet unanimously recommends declaring war on Germany, and President Wilson calls Congress into special session.  In Russia, Army mutinies and demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd force Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate; he is taken into custody and replaced by a Provisional Government.  Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky set out for Russia, Lenin from Switzerland and Trotsky from New York.  In Mesopotamia, the British Army occupies Baghdad.  Alexandre Ribot succeeds Aristide Briand as Prime Minister of France.  The inventor of the Zeppelin dies.


*****


New York Times, March 1

The publication of the Zimmermann Telegram in the March 1 editions of American newspapers caused a sensation. Before the day was out Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman William F. Stone (Dem., Mo.), reflecting the skepticism of a number of isolationist senators, asked whether the British government was the source of the telegram, and the Senate adopted a resolution asking the President to provide any further information in its possession "if not incompatible with the public interest."  Later that day, President Wilson replied by forwarding, with his approval, a statement from Secretary of State Lansing.  The statement advised the Senate "that the Government is is possession of evidence which establishes the fact that the note referred to is authentic, and that it is in the possession of the Government of the United States, and that the evidence was procured by the Government during the present week, but that it is, in my opinion, incompatible with the public interest to send to the Senate at the present time any further information in possession of the Government of the United States relative to the note mentioned in the resolution of the Senate."


The Zimmermann Telegram: Its Intent . . .


 . . . and Effect

The statement that the President and Secretary of State were confident of the telegram's authenticity but were unable to say why only fueled public skepticism.  Another day of rumors and speculative theories swirled through Washington and around the country until the morning of March 3 (afternoon in Berlin) when Foreign Minister Zimmermann, in response to a question by a reporter from the German Overseas News Agency, explained that while "Germany expected and wished to remain on terms of friendship with the United States, ... we had prepared measures of defense in case the United States declared war against Germany."  He said "I fail to see how such a 'plot' is inspired by unfriendliness on our part.  It would mean nothing but that we would use means universally admitted in war, in case the United States declared war."  

Zimmermann's admission that the telegram was genuine has embarrassed American isolationists and accelerated the move toward an American declaration of war.  Ironically, its effect has been most pronounced in those parts of the country where until now isolationist sentiment has been strongest, the southwest and west, areas now directly threatened by Germany's overtures to Mexico and Japan.


Senator LaFollette

On the day the Zimmermann Telegram appeared in the newspapers, the House of Representatives passed the Armed Ships Bill by a vote of 403-13.  A proposed amendment to prohibit armed ships from carrying munitions or citizens of belligerent nations was defeated by the much closer but still decisive vote of 293-125.  In the Senate, with no rules limiting debate, it was a different story.  Senator Robert LaFollette objected to immediate consideration of the bill and led a filibuster that continued until the Sixty-fourth Congress expired at noon on March 4.  During the debate, seventy-five senators (forty-five Democrats and thirty Republicans) signed a manifesto supporting the bill, but the bill was never brought to a vote.  On the morning of the fourth, Democrats achieved a measure of revenge by holding the floor with Vice-president Marshall's assistance until the Congress expired, thereby preventing LaFollette from having the last word. 

Until the Sixty-fourth Congress and President Wilson's first term expired, the President remained in the President's Room at the Capitol ready to sign last-minute legislation.  At noon, he rose from his desk and took the oath of office administered by Chief Justice White. Then he returned to the White House and issued a statement denouncing the senators who had prevented a vote on the Armed Ships Bill "in a situation unparalleled in the history of the country."  He said that in "a crisis fraught with more subtle and far-reaching possibilities of national danger than any other the Government has known within the whole history of its international relations, the Congress has been unable to act either to safeguard the country or to vindicate the elementary rights of its citizens."  The Senate is "the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action.  A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible."

The President's statement concluded with the assertion that "the only remedy is that the rules of the Senate be so altered that it can act."  On March 8, the Senate followed the President's advice.  In a specially called session of the new Congress, it ended its long tradition of unlimited debate.  By a vote of 76-3 it adopted a new rule allowing a petition by sixteen senators to force a cloture vote.  A two-thirds vote of the Senate can then bring debate to an end, each senator being allowed to speak for one additional hour.  To prevent endless roll calls, no amendments may be proposed without unanimous consent.


The March 5 Inauguration Ceremony

Because March 4 fell on a Sunday, the inauguration ceremony was held the next day. With war on the horizon, the ceremony was a sober, low-key affair compared to previous inaugurations, and was followed by a parade that was only about half the length of the one four years ago.  Policemen, soldiers, and Secret Service agents were everywhere in evidence to an extent not seen since President Lincoln's inaugurations, which took place in similar circumstances.  The President said "we stand firm in armed neutrality" although "we may be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself."  Although "the tragical events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world, . . . we are not the less Americans on that account.  We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred . . . the principles of a liberated mankind."  Those principles are: that "all nations are equally interested in the peace of the world and in the political stability of free peoples"; that "the essential principle of peace is the actual equality of nations in all matters of right or privilege"; that "peace cannot securely or justly rest upon an armed balance of power"; that "governments derive all their just powers from the consent of the governed"; that "the seas should be equally free and safe for the use of all peoples"; that "national armaments should be limited to the necessities of national order and domestic safety"; and that each nation must ensure "that all influences proceeding from its own citizens meant to encourage or assist revolution in other states should be sternly and effectively suppressed and prevented."

It was a cold, windy day, and it is doubtful that anyone, even those closest to the speaker's stand, could hear the president's words as he spoke.  This has been true to some extent of almost all inaugurations, with a recent exception in 1909 when a blizzard forced President Taft's ceremony indoors, but it was made worse this year by the persistent wind which carried the president's words away.



Attorney General Gregory

Throughout the armed ships debate, Secretary of State Lansing urged President Wilson to order the arming of American merchant ships without waiting for Congressional action, but the President hesitated to do so because of a statute enacted in 1819 to deal with defense against pirates, which prohibits American ships from engaging in hostile action against ships of nations with which the United States is not at war.  On March 9, having been advised by Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory that the 1819 statute did not apply, President Wilson ordered the Secretary of the Navy to furnish arms to American merchant ships at once for defense against submarine attacks, and advised foreign governments accordingly. 


 President Wilson and His Cabinet

On the day he ordered the arming of merchant ships, the President issued a call for Congress to convene in a special session on April 16.  Joseph P. Tumulty, the President's secretary, stated that the special session was deemed necessary to deal with matters that, due to the filibuster at the end of the last Congress, remain unaddressed.  In addition, the President wanted Congress to be available to provide support in any international crises that might arise as a result of the measures being taken in defense of merchant shipping.

These plans have since been overtaken by events.  Over the weekend of March 17-18, three American merchant ships were sunk by German submarines.  Fifteen seamen died, including six Americans.  At a two-hour meeting on Tuesday, March 20, the Cabinet unanimously recommended a declaration of war against Germany.  The next morning President Wilson called Congress, already summoned to a special session on April 16, to convene two weeks earlier on April 2 "to receive a communication concerning grave matters of national policy which should be taken immediately under consideration."  The President held additional Cabinet meetings on Friday, March 23, and Tuesday, March 27.  Although he has not made any further public statement on the subject, it is widely expected that when he addresses Congress on April 2 he will ask for a declaration of war. 


The Federal Reserve Board

Last November the Federal Reserve Board issued advice to member banks cautioning them against extending further unsecured loans to the Allies.  On March 8, influenced no doubt by the drastic deterioration in relations between the United States and Germany since then, the Board issued a statement to “correct a misapprehension” about its earlier advice.  It now states that it regards loans to the Allies as “a very important, natural and proper means of settling the balances created in our favor by our large export trade."  Observing that "there are times when such loans should be encouraged as an essential means of maintaining and protecting our foreign trade,” the Board "deems it desirable and in the public interest to remove any misconception that may be left in the minds of those who read the [November statement]." The Board states that "Since [November] the country's gold reserve has been further materially strengthened, and provides a broad basis for additional credit."  The Board therefore considers that "banks may perform a useful service in facilitating the distribution of investments and in carrying out this process they may, with advantage, invest a reasonable amount of their resources in foreign securities."



Former President Roosevelt

Former President Roosevelt hopes that in the event of war he will be called upon to lead American troops into battle.  Not wanting to jeopardize his chances, he did not make any immediate public statement in response to the news of the Zimmermann Telegram.  He had another opportunity to air his views, however, when he responded on March 4 to an invitation from the Congress of Forums, a pacifist group, to debate former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan on the issue of preparedness.  Roosevelt declined, saying he "regards it as a waste of time to debate nondebatable subjects."  Debating such a subject would, he continued, "be precisely on a par with debating the undesirability of monogamous marriage or the morality of abolishing patriotism or the advantage of the reintroduction of slavery or the right of judges to accept bribes from suitors or the duty of submission to the divine right of kings, or the propriety of action such as that of Benedict Arnold."

On Monday March 19  the former president fired another salvo after the weekend sinking of three American steamships.  In a statement issued from his home in Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt called on Americans to "wage war on Germany with all our energy and courage, and regain the right to look the whole world in the eye without flinching."  He said that news of the sinkings "makes it imperative that every self-respecting American should speak out and demand that we hit hard and effectively, in return.  Words are wasted upon Germany.  What we need is effective and thorough-going action."  Breaking diplomatic relations was "eminently proper," he said, but doing so was "an empty gesture, unless it was followed by vigorous and efficient action."  Instead, for seven weeks "we have done nothing.  We have not even prepared."


*****


Mikhail Rodzianko

Revolution in Russia has brought an end to the 300 year-old Romanov Dynasty.  As demonstrations in Petrograd on March 8 (February 23 by the Russian calendar) grew into major food riots, Tsar Nicholas II was at Army headquarters (Stavka) in Mogilev, hundreds of miles away.  By March 10 most of Petrograd was on strike, and the Council of Ministers sent a cable to the Tsar informing him of the unrest and asking him to return to the Capital.  All but one of the ministers (Alexander Protopopov, who as Minister of the Interior was responsible for domestic order) offered their resignations.  Nicholas's response was to cable the Military Governor of Petrograd to "make these disorders stop immediately."  On March 11 matters escalated: two hundred people were shot dead on the streets of Petrograd, and soldiers began to refuse to fire on civilians.  Mikhail Rodzianko, the President of the Duma, sent a cable to Nicholas telling him that the troops were joining the revolution and imploring him to appoint someone trusted by the people to run the government.  Nicholas responded by suspending the Duma.  


Prince Georgy Lvov

The next day the Petrograd garrisons mutinied and joined the revolution, some soldiers shooting their own officers, and the Council of Ministers adjourned and submitted to the authority of the Duma.  The Duma, ignoring the Tsar's suspension order, announced it would form a government to include a separate "Soviet" representing soldiers and workers.  Because Rodzianko was unacceptable to the Soviet, Prince Georgy Lvov was named Prime Minister.  Pavel Miliukov, the leader of the Cadet Party, was named Foreign Minister and Alexander Kerensky, the leader of the Soviet, was named Minister of Justice.  That night in Mogilev, Nicholas decided to return to Tsarskoe Selo, his residence outside Petrograd. 


 Nicholas at Tsarskoe Selo After His Abdication

It was too late.  En route to Tsarskoe Selo, the Tsar's train was halted by revolutionary soldiers and diverted to Pskov, where he was informed that revolutionary forces were in command of the entire garrison of Petrograd and Tsarskoe Selo.  General Mikhail Alexeyev, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Imperial Army, canvassed the opinion of other generals including Generals Brusilov, Sakharov, and the Tsar's uncle Grand Duke Nicholas, and advised the Tsar that it was their unanimous opinion that he must abdicate.  He did so on March 15 (March 2 by the Russian calendar).  After bidding goodbye to his army at Mogilev, he returned to Tsarskoe Selo where he was placed under arrest.


Grand Duke Mikhail

Tsar Nicholas first abdicated in favor of his son Alexis, the next in line to the throne.  Then, deciding that he was unwilling to leave his young son behind as he sought asylum in another country, he abdicated on his son's behalf in favor of his brother Grand Duke Mikhail, the second in line.  Mikhail, however, aware of the Duma's fragile grip on power and fearing that the Petrograd streets would not accept him as Tsar, announced that he would refuse the throne and accept it later only if invited to do so by a constituent assembly.  Supreme power in Russia thus passed to the Provisional Government, which has announced its intention to continue the war.  Foreign Minister Miliukov has asked British Ambassador Buchanan whether Great Britain would be willing to grant asylum to the former Tsar.  


Lenin in Switzerland Last Year

Vladimir Lenin, a Russian revolutionary and leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democrats, has been in self-imposed exile since 1907.  When war broke out in 1914, Lenin moved to Switzerland.  After this month's abdication of the Tsar and the announcement by the Provisional Government that it would continue to prosecute the war, Lenin persuaded the German government to allow him, his wife, and a number of his followers to travel by train across Germany to the Baltic coast on the first leg of a journey back to Russia.  

Another Russian Socialist, Leon Trotsky, was in New York when he learned of the Tsar's abdication.  He is also trying to get back to Russia, but he has farther to go, and his journey is complicated by the fact that, unlike Lenin's journey by rail across Germany which is being facilitated by the German government, he has to cross the British-controlled North Atlantic.  Trotsky departed New York aboard a Norwegian steamer on March 27, but his ship was intercepted by the British and detained in Halifax, where he remains at months' end.


*****


British Troops Entering Baghdad

The British march toward Baghdad last year ended in humiliation when 12,000 British and Indian troops surrendered to the Turks at Kut al Amara (see the April 1916 installment of this blog).  Last month British troops finally succeeded in driving the Turkish Army from Kut al Amara, and on March 11 they occupied Baghdad after the Turks withdrew.


*****


Alexandre Ribot

French Prime Minister Aristide Briand and his cabinet resigned on March 17, following their inability to find a candidate to replace the Minister of War, General Hubert Lyautey, who was forced to resign.  The new Prime Minister is Alexandre Ribot, the Minister of Finance and a former Prime Minister.  M. Ribot resolved to "wage with the utmost vigor and to a victorious end the terrible war into which we were drawn by inexcusable aggression."  By month's end, the War Ministry was filled by Paul Painleve. This is the fourth French government since the war began.


*****


Count Zeppelin In One of His Airships

Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin died of pneumonia in Charlottenburg on March 8.  He became interested in the development of an airship as an officer in the Wurttemberg Army.  After his retirement from military service in 1891, he devoted all of his energies and his considerable fortune to developing the airship that bears his name.  After a successful flight in 1908, Kaiser Wilhelm hailed him as "the conqueror of the air."  In 1914 the Kaiser proclaimed him "the greatest German of the twentieth century," and conferred on him the Order of the Black Eagle, the highest honor at his command.  Since the outbreak of war in 1914, Zeppelins have engaged in naval patrols and conducted numerous raids on military and civilian targets in France and Great Britain.


*****


March 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, April and May 1917
New York Times, March 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Paul Jankowski, Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War
Keith Jeffery, 1916: A Global History
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, The Somme
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram   
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 1917



In February 1917 the World War comes to the doorstep of the United States.  Following Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, President Wilson severs diplomatic relations with Germany but stops short of declaring war.  Announcing the diplomatic break to a joint session of Congress, he adheres to a policy of “armed neutrality” and declares that the United States will not go to war in the absence of an “overt act.”  As the submarine threat causes American shipping to grind to a halt, President Wilson proposes legislation authorizing the arming of merchant ships.  The month ends with another major step toward American belligerency as Great Britain, which has intercepted and decoded the Zimmermann Telegram, delivers it to the American Government and President Wilson releases it to the press.  German submarines torpedo and sink two British ocean liners, taking the lives of two Americans.  In Mesopotamia, the British Army drives the Turks out of Kut-Al-Amara.  German forces in France begin a withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line.  Mata Hari is arrested in Paris.

*****


February 3: President Wilson Addressing Congress

Germany's announcement on the last day of January that it was resuming unrestricted submarine warfare has dominated the American political scene this month.   Only last month President Wilson in an address to the Senate advocated "peace without victory."  The German announcement less than two weeks later forced a reversal of American policy.  On February 3, the President told a joint session of Congress that diplomatic relations with Germany had been severed.  He reminded the Congress that after the attack on the British channel steamer Sussex last year the United States had threatened to break diplomatic relations unless Germany abandoned "its present methods of submarine warfare against passenger and freight carrying vessels," and that Germany in response had pledged that "in accordance with the general principles of visit and search and destruction of merchant vessels recognized by international law, such vessels, both within and without the area declared a naval war zone, shall not be sunk without warning and without saving human lives, unless these ships attempt to escape or offer resistance."  Germany added that "neutrals cannot expect that Germany [will] restrict the use of an effective weapon if her enemy is permitted to continue to apply at will methods of warfare violating the rules of international law."  The United States in its reply welcomed the German pledge but said it assumed Germany did not intend to imply that its pledge was "in any way contingent upon the course or result of diplomatic negotiations between the United States and any other belligerent government," and that the United States "cannot for a moment entertain, much less discuss," such a suggestion.  "Responsibility in such matters," it said, "is single, not joint, absolute, not relative."  The German government made no further reply prior to its January 31 note withdrawing its pledge altogether.

President Wilson told Congress that the January 31 note, which "suddenly and without prior intimation of any kind deliberately withdraws the solemn assurance [of the Sussex pledge]," leaves "no alternative consistent with the dignity and honor of the United States" but for it to do what it said it would do last year if Germany failed to abandon "the methods of submarine warfare which it was then employing and to which it now purposes again to resort."  He said the Secretary of State had been instructed to withdraw the American Ambassador in Berlin and to hand the German ambassador his passports.  The President added, however, that despite this "sudden and deplorable renunciation of its assurances, ... I refuse to believe that it is the intention of the German Government to do in fact what they have warned us they will feel at liberty to do," adding that "only actual overt acts on their part can make me believe it even now."  If that confidence proves unfounded, the President said he would "take the liberty of coming again before the Congress to ask that authority be given to me to use any means that may be necessary for the protection of our seamen and our people in the prosecution of their peaceful and legitimate errands on the high seas."

 

Count Tarnowsky von Tarnow

In a remarkable example of poor timing, the new Ambassador sent by Austria-Hungary to replace the expelled Ambassador Konstantin Dumba arrived in the United States on February 1 and learned of the German note only when he arrived.  The new Ambassador-designate, Count Tarnowsky von Tarnow, appeared at the State Department to present his ambassadorial credentials the day after President Wilson's address to Congress, and was told that the Secretary was unable to receive him.  Shortly thereafter a note from Austria-Hungary arrived at the State Department announcing that, as an ally of Germany, it would adhere to the new German submarine policy.  At month's end diplomatic relations between the United States and Austria-Hungary remain unbroken and Count Tarnow remains in the United States, but he has not been officially received as his country's Ambassador.  In Vienna, Joseph C. Grew continues in his post as American Ambassador to Austria-Hungary.


Philip Franklin

Unwilling to be on the receiving end of an "overt act," American shipowners have cancelled all sailings, bringing American overseas commerce to a virtual halt.  On February 7, Secretary of State Lansing advised shipowners that while the government "cannot give advice to private persons as to whether their merchant vessels should sail on a voyage to European ports by which they would be compelled to pass through the [war zone], [it] asserts that the rights of American vessels to traverse all parts of the high seas are the same now as they were prior to the issuance of the German declaration, and that a neutral merchant vessel may, if its owners believe that it is liable to be unlawfully attacked, take any measures to prevent or resist such attacks."  Permission for merchant ships to arm themselves, however, is small comfort.  The Navy has declined to provide arms to civilian ships on the ground that to do so would be inconsistent with American neutrality, and Mr. Philip A. S. Franklin, president of the International Mercantile Marine Company, spoke for many shipowners when he said that he knows of no store in New York where 6-inch guns are on sale.


RMS Laconia Departing New York


A few days after President Wilson's address to Congress, a German submarine torpedoed and sank a British liner, SS Californian, in the Western Approaches en route to Glasgow.  One American was on board, but was not among the forty-one passengers and crew who died.  Another attack on a passenger liner took place on February 25 off the coast of Ireland when a German submarine attacked and sank the Cunard liner RMS Laconia.  Most of the Laconia's passengers were able to get into lifeboats, where they were picked up by a passing steamer and taken to Queenstown.  Four Americans died, however, including Mrs. Mary Hoy and her daughter Elizabeth, friends of Mrs. Wilson.  The next day the president was back in Congress asking for the passage of legislation authorizing the arming of American merchant and passenger ships.  News of the Laconia's sinking arrived in the House chamber just as the president arrived.  He did not mention the Laconia in his address, but told Congress that no "overt act" of the kind he had referred to on February 3 had occurred.


 Chairman Flood

Immediately after the president's address, Chairman Henry D. Flood of the House Armed Services Committee introduced a bill in the House of Representatives granting the president the requested authority to arm civilian ships.  Following a conference the next day between the President and Secretary Lansing, the White House let it be known that the president now regards the attack on the Laconia as a "clear-cut" case of violation of international law and an "overt act" of the kind he had warned against.  Rather than go back to Congress immediately, however, he has decided to await Congress's action on the Armed Ships Bill.  There is no doubt of the bill's passage in the House, but the Senate is another matter.  The bill has broad bipartisan support, but the Sixty-fourth Congress will expire on March 4, and the Senate has no rules for limiting debate.  It is possible and quite likely, therefore, that a few opponents of the bill will force the debate to continue until the Congress expires, requiring the president to call a special session of the new Congress to consider the bill.



 The Zimmermann Telegram

Another startling development coincided with the debate on the Armed Ships Bill when the American government learned of the Zimmermann Telegram.  German Foreign Minister Zimmermann had sent the telegram to the German Ambassador in Mexico City by way of Ambassador von Bernstorff in Washington, taking advantage of an agreement by the State Department to allow the German Embassy to transmit encoded messages, supposedly in the pursuit of a peaceful settlement.  Far from pursuing peace, the Zimmermann Telegram proposed that, in the event of war between the United States and Germany, Mexico join an alliance with Germany in which Mexico would make war against the United States.  Zimmermann offered generous financial assistance and an "understanding on [Germany's] part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona."  He also sought to take advantage of long-strained Japanese-American relations by suggesting that Mexico act as mediator to make peace between Germany and Japan and persuade Japan to join the war against the United States.

British Naval Intelligence had intercepted and decoded the Zimmermann Telegram and delivered it on February 23 to American Ambassador Walter Hines Page in London.  Page forwarded it to the State Department, which in order to conceal the British Government's role waited to disclose it until it obtained a copy of the encoded telegram from Western Union.  On February 28 President Wilson, who was shocked by Zimmermann's audacious proposal and personally offended by the German Embassy's abuse of the privilege of transmitting encoded messages, released the telegram and its decoded content to the press.

As February draws to a close, Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare is disrupting international merchant and passenger traffic, the Armed Ships Bill is being debated in Congress, and both the Sixty-fourth Congress and President Wilson's first term are about to expire.  The sudden disclosure of the Zimmermann Telegram seems certain to take the escalating tension and turmoil in American politics to a new level.


President Roosevelt and His Sons in 1907

Since at least as long ago as the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, former President Roosevelt has been heaping scorn on President Wilson for his failure to take sides in the World War.  This month, to no one's surprise, he enthusiastically endorsed President Wilson's decision to break off diplomatic relations with Germany.  The Colonel has long anticipated the day when America would enter the war, and he hopes to lead troops into combat as he did in the Spanish-American War.  On the day President Wilson addressed Congress, Roosevelt issued a statement that he would "in every way support the president in all that he does to uphold the honor of the United States and to safeguard the lives of American citizens."  He added that he had written to the War Department "asking permission to raise a division if war is declared and there is a call for volunteers.  In such an event I and my four sons will go."


Operation Alberich (The Hindenburg Line is the Broken Line to the Right)

On the Western Front this month, the German Army began Operation Alberich, a withdrawal from much of the Somme battlefield that was the scene of bitter struggle for most of last year.  The Germans will occupy positions along the newly constructed and strongly fortified "Hindenburg Line."  In addition to strengthening the German defenses, this will straighten the German front, shortening its length by several miles and enabling the German Army to release as many as thirteen divisions for redeployment.  As they withdraw, the Germans are carrying out a "scorched earth" policy, razing villages, destroying railroads and bridges, poisoning wells, and planting mines and booby traps.  They are removing over 100,000 French civilians from the area and transporting them to other areas of occupied France for forced labor.  Elderly Frenchmen, women and children are being left behind with subsistence rations.



General Maude

Kut Al Amara, situated on a bend of the Tigris River south of Baghdad, was the scene of a humiliating defeat for the British Army last year, as an Anglo-Indian force surrendered to the Turks after a siege of over four months and were force-marched to captivity in Anatolia.  Thousands died along the way or in the prisons to which they were taken.  On February 24 another Anglo-Indian force, this one commanded by General Frederick Stanley Maude, recaptured Kut.  Over a thousand Turkish prisoners were taken but most of the Turkish garrison escaped and withdrew upriver.


Mata Hari

Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, a citizen of the neutral Netherlands, is a well-known exotic dancer and courtesan who goes by the name Mata Hari, a name she assumed while living in the Dutch East Indies.  She was arrested in Paris on February 13, accused of spying for Germany.




February 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, March and April 1917
New York Times, February and March 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Paul Jankowski, Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War
Keith Jeffery, 1916: A Global History
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, The Somme
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram   
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 1917



It's January 1917.  As a New Year dawns, a global war of unprecedented scope and destruction is at the top of the political agenda in every major country, belligerent or neutral.  Great Britain, ruler of a world-wide empire, has a new Prime Minister.  Russia, a major Entente power, is in political turmoil following the murder of Grigori Rasputin, a confidant of the royal family, by monarchists who feared his influence.  Russia’s offensive against Austria-Hungary has ended in stalemate, as have the German siege of Verdun and the Anglo-French attack on the Somme.  Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, whose nephew's murder two and a half years ago led to the outbreak of the war, has died; the new emperor is his grand-nephew Charles.  The United States, the largest and most important of the neutral nations, has just elected Woodrow Wilson to a second term under the slogan “He kept us out of war.”  One of his first acts after the election was to asked the warring powers to state their war aims, asserting that the two sides' stated objectives "are virtually the same."  Germany has proposed a peace conference to be held in a neutral country, but has declined to state its position in advance, leading the Entente nations to denounce its proposal as a “sham.”  German military leaders, increasingly in the ascendant, are pressing for a resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare.

The first month of the New Year marks a decisive turning point in the war, as Germany makes the critical decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. Recognizing that this might draw the United States into the war, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sends a secret telegram to Mexico proposing that it join the war on Germany's side.  Unaware of either Germany's decision or Zimmermann's telegram, President Wilson makes a speech to the Senate advocating "peace without victory" and orders the withdrawal of American troops from Mexico.  When the new German policy is announced at the end of the month, the whole world, and America in particular, holds its breath.

*****


 Count Czernin

Last month Germany responded to President Wilson's request for a statement of "terms on which the war might be concluded" by repeating its proposal for a peace conference without preconditions.  The Entente nations responded to the president's request on January 10.  A joint note delivered to the American ambassador in Paris states that the Allies seek restoration of invaded territories with indemnities, restoration of territories taken by force in the past, liberation of ethnic groups in Austria-Hungary, expulsion of Turkey from Europe, and Polish independence.  The threat to the unity of Austria-Hungary, made explicit by the Allies' response, has motivated that nation to explore the possibility of a compromise peace.  On January 12 Count Ottokar von Czernin, the new emperor's foreign minister, urged the Council of Ministers to look for a way to bring an end to the war.


Admiral von Holtzendorff

As the Allies were responding to President Wilson's request for a statement of war aims, Germany was reacting to their rejection last month of the German proposal for a peace conference without preconditions.  In a secret meeting with his military commanders on January 9 in the Duchy of Pless in Silesia, Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, Chief of the Naval Staff, pressed his argument, made in a memorandum submitted to the Kaiser in December, that Germany could win the war in a matter of months if its Navy was allowed to resume unrestricted submarine warfare.  When Holtzendorff's recommendation was supported by the other military leaders and Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg withdrew his prior opposition, the Kaiser approved the change of policy.  It was decided that the new policy, which revokes Germany's earlier pledges that its submarines would observe "cruiser rules" when intercepting civilian ships at sea, would take effect February 1 and be kept secret until January 31.


Foreign Minister Zimmermann

A few days after the Pless conference, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a secret telegram to the German Embassy in Mexico City for delivery to the government of Venustiano Carranza.  The telegram proposes that, if Germany's new submarine policy causes the United States to enter the war, Mexico join Germany in making war against the United States.  Germany promises to support Mexico's war financially and at the end of the war to ensure that Mexico's "lost territories" (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona) are returned to it.  The telegram also proposes that Mexico persuade Japan to switch sides and wage war against the United States.  Zimmermann is hopeful that his overture will be well received.  Relations between the United States and Mexico have been strained for years.  The two countries almost went to war last June when the American Army's punitive expedition deep into Mexican territory in pursuit of Francisco ("Pancho") Villa and his bandits led to armed conflict with Mexican Army troops.  (See the March, April, May and June 1916 installments of this blog).  U.S.-Japanese relations have also been difficult due to a number of factors including anti-Japanese legislation in California and American resistance to Japanese ambitions in China.



 President Wilson

For the first time in history, an American president went to the Senate chamber this month to address the Senate.  Giving only an hour's notice, President Wilson journeyed to the Capitol on January 22 where he delivered a major foreign policy speech arguing for "the adoption of the doctrine of President Monroe as the doctrine of the world," in which all nations would participate in a "League for Peace" that would be "made secure by the organized major force of mankind."  He argued that the future peace of the world is possible only if  "there is not only a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized common peace."  The way to achieve that goal, he said, is through a "peace without victory."  "Victory," he said, "would mean peace forced upon the loser, a victor's terms imposed upon the vanquished.  It would be accepted in humiliation, under duress, at an intolerable sacrifice, and  would leave a sting, a resentment, a bitter memory, upon which terms of peace would rest, not permanently, but only as upon quicksand.  Only a peace between equals can last ..."

As the President spoke, neither he nor anyone else other than a few high-ranking German officials had any knowledge of the decision the Kaiser had made a few days earlier to resume unrestricted submarine warfare.  The day after his speech, still with no knowledge either of the Kaiser's decision or of Zimmermann's telegram, President Wilson ordered American troops out of Mexico.


Ambassador Bernstorff

On the last day of the month, German Ambassador Johann von Bernstorff delivered a note to the American State Department announcing the new German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.  The new policy, which will become effective February 1, effectively revokes Germany's previous pledges not to attack neutral merchant and passenger ships without warning.  The announcement comes as a surprise and has caused a sensation in Washington and throughout the country.  It is widely expected to lead, if not to war, at least to a rupture in diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany.


 Motion Picture Film of Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill

Former President Roosevelt has not been silent during the events of this month.  On January 3 he called on President Wilson to withdraw his note to the belligerent nations requesting a statement of war aims, saying that the note "takes positions so profoundly immoral and misleading that high-minded and right-thinking American citizens ... are in honor bound to protest."  He denounced the President's assertion in the note that the two sides' objectives in the war are "virtually the same," saying that "this is palpably false [and] wickedly false. To say that the Germans, who have trampled Belgium under heel and are at this moment transporting 100,000 Belgians to serve as State slaves in Germany, are fighting for the same things as their hunted victims, the Belgians who have fought only for their country and their hearthstones, and their wives and their children, is not only a falsehood, but a callous and a most immoral falsehood, a thing shocking to every high-minded man who loves the peace of righteousness."  Also this month, in an article in Metropolitan Magazine, Roosevelt attacked the League to Enforce Peace, in which former President Taft and Secretary of War Newton D. Baker are prominent members, and which had welcomed the President's overture.  Roosevelt accused the League of taking the side of Germany, which he said wants to end the war only "so long as it can be ended to her advantage."

President Wilson's call for a "peace without victory" later in the month prompted another strong response from Roosevelt.  On January 28 at Sagamore Hill he told a press delegation that "peace without victory is the natural ideal of the man who is too proud to fight," but that it is "spurned ... by all men fit to call themselves fellow-citizens of Washington and Lincoln."  He said "the Tories of 1776 demanded peace without victory.  The Copperheads of 1864 demanded peace without victory.  These men were Mr. Wilson's spiritual forebears. ... If a righteous war is concluded by a peace without victory, such a peace means the triumph of wrong over right."  He concluded his statement by invoking the biblical prophetess Deborah who, "when Sisera mightily oppressed the children of Israel," cursed the people of Meroz for standing "neutral between the oppressed and oppressor."  He said "President Wilson has earned for this nation the curse of Meroz, for he has not dared to stand on the side of the Lord against the wrongdoings of the mighty."


Admiral Dewey


"Buffalo Bill" Cody

Two famous Americans died this month.  Admiral of the Navy George Dewey died on January 16 at his home in Washington, D.C.  He is the only American naval officer to achieve that rank, which Congress created for him in 1903.  In 1898, as the admiral in command of the U.S. Navy's Asiatic Squadron, he was the victor of the battle of Manila Bay, which destroyed Spain's Pacific Squadron in the first engagement of the Spanish-American War.  The nation also lost William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody, the founder and proprietor of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, an immensely popular show that toured the United States and Europe in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century.  He died on January 10 in Denver, Colorado.

*****

Billy Murray is one of America's favorite entertainers, and Irving Berlin is one of its favorite composers.  Here Billy Murray sings one of 1916's most popular songs, Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano" (click to play):





*****


January 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, February and March 1917
New York Times, January and February 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Fourth Year of the Great War: 1917
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Paul Jankowski, Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War
Keith Jeffery, 1916: A Global History
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, The Somme
Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram   
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I


Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 1916



In December 1916 a new cabinet assumes power in Great Britain.  Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, who has led the government since 1908, is replaced by David Lloyd George, and Arthur Balfour replaces Sir Edward Grey as Foreign Minister.  Germany, in diplomatic notes and in a speech in the Reichstag by Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, offers to open negotiations with the Entente in a neutral country.  A few days later President Wilson sends notes to the belligerent nations asking for their views regarding terms on which the war might be ended.  Germany responds by repeating its offer to negotiate, but refuses to state its terms.  The Allies have not yet replied to the American notes, but reject the German offer as a "sham."  On the Western Front, French forces at Verdun attack the besieging Germans and push them back to positions near the lines from which they began the siege in February.  In the Balkans, German troops occupy Bucharest.  Grigori Rasputin, the influential mystic and religious adviser to the Tsar's family, is murdered in Petrograd.  In Greece a civil war rages between the king and his government. 


*****

Britain's New Prime Minister

A new coalition government has taken power in Great Britain.  Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had formed a War Committee that included Secretary of State for War David Lloyd George and First Lord of the Admiralty Arthur Balfour.  When Lloyd George insisted, with Balfour's support, on the chairmanship of the Committee, Asquith forced the issue by demanding the resignation of his cabinet with the objective of forming a new government.  Instead, Asquith himself was forced to resign and a new government was formed with Lloyd George as Prime Minister.  Balfour is the new Foreign Minister, replacing Sir Edward Grey, now raised to the peerage as Viscount Grey of Fallodon.  Sir Edward Carson, previously Leader of the Opposition, has joined the government as First Lord of the Admiralty.  The new Prime Minister has appointed a War Cabinet to make decisions on important matters relating to the conduct of the war.  The members are Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Lord President of the Council; Andrew Bonar Law, Chancellor of the Exchequer; Arthur Henderson, the Leader of the Labour Party; and Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner.  Lord Milner, who was the Governor of Cape Colony and High Commissioner for South Africa during the Boer War, has been added to the War Cabinet to take advantage of his experience in leading a civil government during wartime.


 Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg Addressing the Reichstag

German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg rose in a special session of the Reichstag on December 12 to announce that Germany was offering to negotiate an end to the war.  Simultaneous notes were delivered to ambassadors representing neutral powers, including the United States, for transmission to Germany's enemies.  They make no specific proposals, but simply offer "to enter forthwith into peace negotiations."  Germany is willing to do so, the notes say, "[i]n spite of our consciousness of our military and economic strength and our readiness to continue the war (which has been forced upon us) to the bitter end, if necessary."  They say "Germany and her allies ... gave proof of their unconquerable strength," gaining "gigantic advantages over our adversaries superior in number and war material."  Germany and its allies "have been obliged to take up arms to defend justice and the liberty of national evolution."  If their peace proposal is rejected, they "are resolved to continue to a victorious end, but they disclaim responsibility for this before humanity and history."  Addressing German troops the next day, the Kaiser assured them that he was proposing negotiations only because "we are the absolute conquerors."

On December 30 the Entente nations rejected the German proposal as a "sham."  Their joint note stated that, unless the German government is willing to furnish a statement of peace terms, its note must be regarded not as a serious proposal but as a "war manoeuvre."  They said they "are determined never to sheath the sword until the military domination of Prussia is wholly and finally destroyed."



President Wilson

The week after the German peace proposal, President Wilson made his own attempt to start peace negotiations.  In a note dated December 18 and delivered to the warring nations on December 20, he asked them to state their "respective views as to the terms on which the war might be concluded," and stated that he was willing "to serve, or even to take the initiative in its accomplishment, in any way that might prove acceptable, but he has no desire to determine the method or the instrumentality ... if only the great object he has in mind be attained."  The President "takes the liberty of calling attention to the fact that the objects, which the statesmen of the belligerents on both sides have in mind in this war, are virtually the same, as stated in general terms to their own people and to the world."  He says he "is not proposing peace; he is not even offering mediation.  He is merely proposing that soundings be taken in order that we may learn, the neutral nations with the belligerent, how near the haven of peace may be for which all mankind longs with an intense and increasing longing."  Recognizing that the Central Powers had made their own proposal for a peace conference only a few days earlier, the American notes include a statement that the president's suggestion is one he "has long had it in mind to offer" and that he is "somewhat embarrassed to offer it at this particular time because it may seem to have been prompted by a desire to play a part in connection with the recent overtures by the Central Powers."  Nevertheless, it was "in no way suggested by them in its origin."

The morning after the American note was released to the press, Secretary of State Lansing issued a surprisingly clumsy statement to the press.  He said the note had been sent because "more and more our own rights are becoming involved" and "we are drawing nearer the verge of war ourselves, and therefore we are entitled to know exactly what each belligerent seeks, in order that we may regulate our conduct in the future."  That afternoon, after hearing from the President, Lansing issued a clarification.  He said "I have learned from several quarters that a wrong impression was made by a statement which I made this morning ... I did not intend to intimate that the Government was considering any change in its policy of neutrality."  The second statement was released in time for both statements to appear in the same edition of American newspapers.

At year's end, the Entente nations have not yet replied to President Wilson's request.  Germany issued a brief reply on December 26, in which it evaded the request for a statement of war aims, instead repeating its proposal for a conference "of the belligerent states at a neutral location," pointedly excluding neutrals such as the United States.  In case the point was missed, the note went on to say that Germany would "be ready with pleasure to collaborate entirely with the United States" in the "exalted" task of preventing future wars, but "only after the end of the present struggle of the nations."


General Nivelle

On December 12 General Robert Nivelle, commander of the French forces at Verdun, replaced General Joseph Joffre as Commander-in-Chief of all French armies on the Western Front.  Three days later, the French mounted an attack on the German forces encircling Verdun and pushed them back almost to the lines they had occupied before beginning the siege ten months ago.  The French captured over 11,000 German soldiers and 115 heavy guns.  On December 26, General Joffre retired and was made a Marshal of France.


General Mackensen Entering Bucharest

Although Germany suffered extensive losses during 1916, particularly at the Somme and Verdun, its boast of military success is not entirely without foundation.  Despite massive attacks by the Entente, the Germans have lost little territory and their casualty counts have been largely matched by those of the Allies.  In the Balkans, Romania's entry into the war has been a failure, as German forces commanded by General August von Mackensen inflicted a series of defeats on the Romanian Army.  On December 6 German troops marched into  Bucharest, led by Mackensen on a white horse.  The German Army now occupies five enemy capitals: Bucharest, Brussels, Warsaw, Belgrade and Cetinje.


 Grigori Rasputin

The session of the Russian Duma that began last month ended on December 29, a day before its scheduled adjournment.  The session began with a violent attack on the government by Professor Pavel Miliukov, leader of the Constitutional Democrat (Kadet) Party, followed by sensational disclosures in speeches by Vladimir Purishkevich and others, charging that Prime Minister Boris Sturmer and Grigori Rasputin, a monk with close ties to the Royal Family and a reputation for sexual and gastronomic excess, were responsible for "dark forces fighting for Germany and attempting to destroy popular unity."  Late that night, Rasputin was the victim of a murder plot conceived and carried out by Purishkevich and others at the highest levels of the Russian nobility.  Prince Felix Yusupov lured Rasputin to his palace where he was joined by Purishkevich, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and possibly others.  The conspirators fed Rasputin cakes and wine laced with large quantities of potassium cyanide and, when those appeared to have no effect, shot him multiple times and threw his body from a bridge into the freezing Nevka River.


Venizelos (center) in Salonika

The dispute between the Greek King Constantine and Prime Minister Venizelos has flared into open warfare, On December 7, pro-Entente forces led by the Prime Minister set up a provisional government in Salonika and declared war on Germany and Bulgaria.  Forces loyal to the the King, who wants Greece to remain neutral, defeated an attempt by Venizelos forces to take control of Athens.

  

December 1916 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, January and February 1917
New York Times, December 1916 and January 1917

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Britain at War Magazine, The Third Year of the Great War: 1916
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
Paul Jankowski, Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War
Keith Jeffery, 1916: A Global History
Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography
John Keegan, The First World War
David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society
Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949
Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War
Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, The Somme
Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram   
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I