Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 1917




Two events in April 1917 foreshadow the superpower alignment of the remainder of the Twentieth Century: the United States enters the Great War, meaning to make the world safe for democracy, and Lenin returns to Russia, intent on leading a Bolshevik revolution.  In Washington, the President's request for a declaration of war is the first order of business for the newly elected 65th Congress.  War is declared, the Navy is mobilized, German ships in American ports are seized, and suspected German spies are detained.  Congress authorizes a $7 billion war loan, most of the proceeds marked for the nations already fighting Germany.  The president issues a proclamation to the American people, telling them they must “speak, act and serve together” in support of the war effort.  British and French emissaries visit the United States to participate in an International War Council.  Both houses of Congress enact draft legislation.  On the Western Front, an Anglo-French offensive is launched under the command of General Robert Nivelle, the new Commander-in-Chief of the French Army.  The Canadians capture Vimy Ridge, but the offensive as a whole is a costly failure, ending with mutinies in the French Army and the replacement of Nivelle by General Philippe Petain.  In a journey facilitated by the German government, Lenin travels from Zurich to Petrograd's Finland Station.  Upon arrival, in what would become known as the April Theses, he calls for the overthrow of Russia's new Provisional Government.


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President Wilson Asks Congress to Declare War Against Germany

Shortly after 8:30 p.m. on April 2, President Woodrow Wilson strode into the chamber of the House of Representatives and addressed a joint session of the newly elected Congress.  The President had asked for the special session almost two weeks earlier and Congress had convened that morning, but the narrowly divided House of Representatives (215 Republicans, 213 Democrats, three Progressives and one Socialist) had taken all day to organize itself, finally electing the Democratic Leader, Champ Clark of Missouri, to another term as speaker.  

The President, after reviewing the history of Germany's submarine warfare and its recent removal of restrictions on submarine attacks on passenger and merchant shipping, accused the German government of "throwing to the wind all scruples of humanity [and] of respect for the understandings that were supposed to underlie the intercourse of the world."  He said he was thinking not of the destruction of property, "immense and serious as that is," but of "the wanton and wholesale destruction of the lives of noncombatants, men, women, and children, engaged in pursuits which have always, even in the darkest periods of modern history, been deemed innocent and legitimate."  For that reason, he said, "[t]he present German submarine warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind."  Therefore, "there is one choice we cannot make.  We will not choose the path of submission . . ."  At this point, as reported by the New York Times, Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward White, a Confederate veteran of the Civil War, "with an expression of joy and thankfulness on his face, dropped the big soft hat he had been holding, raised his hands high in the air, and brought them together with a heartfelt bang; and House, Senate and galleries followed him with a roar like a storm."  The President then continued: ". . . and suffer the most sacred rights of our people to be ignored."

Declaring that "armed neutrality, it now appears, is impracticable," President Wilson asked Congress to declare war: "With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be nothing less than war against the Government and people of the United States . . . "  Again the Chief Justice was on his feet vigorously bringing his hands together over his head.  Behind him, the cheers were led by the President's fellow Democrats, including Kentucky Senator Ollie James, who last year roused the Democratic Convention to comparable heights of passion with his speech praising President Wilson for keeping the country out of war (see the June 1916 installment of this blog).  When the cheering subsided, the President continued: ". . . that it formally accept the status of belligerent which has thus been thrust upon it; and that it take immediate steps not only to put the country in a more thorough state of defense, but also to exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war."  

The President then turned to the practical necessities of the nation's new belligerent status.  It "will involve the utmost practicable co-operation in counsel and action with the Governments now at war with Germany" and "the extension to those Governments of the most liberal financial credits."  And more than financial support would be required: he called for "the immediate addition to the armed forces of the United States . . . of at least 500,000 men [to] be chosen upon the principle of universal liability to service" as well as "adequate credits" to be sustained by "well conceived taxation."

Emphasizing that "we have no quarrel with the German people," the President sought to place the nation's entry into the war upon grounds of humanity and high principle:

"We are glad, now that we see the facts with no veil of false pretense about them, to fight thus for the ultimate peace of the world and for the liberation of its peoples, the German people included; for the rights of nations, great and small, and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of life and of obedience.

"The world must be made safe for democracy.  Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.  We have no selfish ends to serve.  We desire no conquest, no dominion.  We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make.  We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind.  We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them."

The address ended with a stirring plea for unity:

"It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you.  There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us.  It is a fearful thing to lead this great, peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance.

"But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things that we have always held nearest our hearts -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.

"To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured.

"God helping her, she can do no other." 


 Senator Hitchcock

The Senate went first.  Senator William Stone of Missouri is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, but because he opposed the war resolution the Committee entrusted its management on the Senate floor to the second ranking Democrat, Senator Gilbert Hitchcock of Nebraska.  Senator Hitchcock is a recent and reluctant convert to the pro-war position.  He was considered a pacifist until recently when he decided, near the end of the last Congress, to support the President's armed neutrality legislation.

After the President's address, many senators were eager to vote immediately to show Congress's unhesitating support for the President's action, but to do so would have required a suspension of Senate rules by unanimous consent.  Senator LaFollette objected, requiring that debate on the resolution be postponed twenty-four hours.  The Democratic leadership then moved to adjourn until 10:00 a.m. April 4 and announced that when it reconvened the Senate would remain in session and consider no other business until the war resolution was voted on.  The debate that began the morning of April 4 lasted into the evening and occasionally turned rancorous (Senator George Norris of Nebraska charged that the war was being fought to protect bankers and millionaires and that "we are about to put the dollar sign on the American flag"; Senator James Reed of Missouri replied that Norris's comments were "almost treason"), but at 11:11 p.m. the Senate finally passed the war resolution by a vote of 82 to 6.  The six no votes were cast by three Republicans (Senators LaFollette and Norris and Senator Asle Gronna of North Dakota) and three Democrats (Senator Stone and Senators James Vardaman of Mississippi and Harry Lane of Oregon), all six of whom were members of the "little group of willful men" denounced last month by President Wilson.  



Representative Rankin

The House of Representatives began debate on the war resolution at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, April 5.  Again debate continued all day and into the night.  The roll call began at 2:45 Friday morning and concluded at 3:12.  The resolution passed by a vote of 373-50.  There was never any doubt about the outcome; the only drama was provided by Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana and the first woman ever to sit in Congress.  Miss Rankin was elected last fall as one of two representatives from her state, which gave women the right to vote in 1914.  When President Wilson addressed Congress on April 2, therefore, the moment was historic for two reasons: Congress was asked to join the World War, and it was the first meeting of Congress ever to include a woman (the President nevertheless addressed his audience as the "Gentlemen of the Congress").  The first time the roll was called for a vote on the war resolution, Miss Rankin remained silent.  After the roll call ended, her name was called again and after a pause she stood and responded "I want to stand by my country, but I cannot vote for war.  I vote no."


President Wilson Signing the War Proclamation

On the morning of Friday, April 6, the resolution declaring war on Germany was returned to the Senate with the approval of the House of Representatives.  The Senate reconvened at noon, and Vice-president Marshall signed the war resolution as President of the Senate at 12:14.  It was taken directly to the White House, where the President was having lunch with Mrs. Wilson and his cousin Miss Helen Woodrow Bones.  They interrupted their lunch and went to the usher's room where President Wilson sat at a small table and signed the declaration at 1:18 pm.  Immediately afterward, he signed a Proclamation, prepared in advance and signed by Secretary of State Lansing, notifying the nation and the world that the United States was at war with Germany.  Rudolph Forster, the executive clerk to the President, then went to the executive offices where he announced the signing to the waiting reporters.  The message was flashed by semaphore to the Navy Department across the street and from there by wireless to Naval stations and ships around the world.  At the same time, the War Department notified Army post commanders in the United States and insular possessions by telegraph.  German ships in American harbors have been seized and suspected German spies placed under arrest.  A seven billion dollar war loan has been authorized by Congress, about five billion dollars of which will go to the Entente nations that have been at war with Germany for years and are in immediate need of financial support.  Following the President's advice to rely as much as possible on taxation rather than borrowing, House and Senate leaders have tentatively agreed to raise fifty percent of the war's expenses in the new fiscal year beginning July 1 by imposing new taxes and increasing existing ones.  To address the nation's vastly increased manpower needs, an Army Bill supported by the White House was introduced on April 9 that included a provision imposing the first compulsory military service since the Civil War.

The compulsory service provision met initial resistance in Congress.  On April 10, the day after the Army Bill was introduced, former President Theodore Roosevelt called on President Wilson at the White House, offering to lend his support to the Army Bill and requesting that he be authorized to recruit and lead a division of volunteers.  Later that day he made the same case in meetings with Secretary Baker and the chairmen of the House and Senate Military Affairs Committees.  On April 13 Baker responded in a letter in which he declined Roosevelt's offer, saying he could not consent to sending American troops to Europe without "the most thorough training" under "the most professional and experienced officers available."  Whatever "sentimental value would attach" to his presence in France, Baker thought there were "doubtless other ways in which that value could be contributed apart from a military expedition."  

Inevitably, this has become an issue in the Congressional consideration of the Army Bill.  On April 23, Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio offered an amendment to the Senate Bill providing for the enlistment of four divisions of volunteers, with the stated intention of providing a means for Roosevelt to realize his ambition of leading American troops to Europe.  Hiram Johnson, newly elected to the Senate from California, made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on April 28 in which he hailed Roosevelt as "the clarion voice that first demanded preparedness in this land" and implored Wilson to "send this man of dynamic force, of ability, of virility, and of red-blooded courage, typifying the American nation, over to France, there to bear aloft the American flag for world democracy."  Harding's amendment was included in the Senate version of the Army Bill, which will now be considered by a conference committee.

The United States is at war against Germany only.  In his address to Congress, President Wilson explained that he had "said nothing of the Governments allied with the Imperial Government of Germany because they have not made war upon us or challenged us to defend our right and our honor."  On April 8, in response to the declaration of war against its ally, Austria-Hungary severed diplomatic relations with the United States.  The Ottoman Empire followed suit on April 20.



 General Funston in San Francisco

Major General Frederick Funston, who made his reputation in the Philippine insurrection that followed the Spanish-American War and as commander of the Presidio at the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, was commanding officer of the Army's Southern Department during the punitive expedition in Mexico that began last year and ended in January.  He was tentatively slated to lead the American Expeditionary Force to Europe if the United States entered the war, but in February he died suddenly of a heart attack in San Antonio.  It now appears that Major General John J. Pershing, Funston's subordinate who led the punitive expedition, will get the assignment.


George Creel

Attorney General Gregory has drafted and submitted to Congress a proposed Espionage Bill, which among other things would impose censorship on the press.  The Bill has the strong support of President Wilson, but is meeting resistance in Congress, where members of both parties are criticizing the censorship provision as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of the press.  In addition to blocking unfavorable publicity, the President is interested in promoting the government's side of the news.  On April 13 he signed an executive order establishing the Committee on Public Information.  The order appointed George Creel, a journalist who assisted in the President's 1916 reelection campaign, as the Committee's civilian chairman and authorized the Secretaries of State, War and Navy to detail officers to work with the Committee.  On April 15 the President issued a statement telling Americans "the things we must do, and do well, besides fighting -- the things without which mere fighting would be useless."  Telling Americans they must "speak, act and serve together," he urged increased production of everything from ships to backyard gardens.

In his war message to Congress, President Wilson spoke of "the millions of men and women of German birth and native sympathy who live among us and share our life," most of whom are "as true and loyal Americans as if they had never known any other fealty or allegiance."  Nevertheless, "if there should be disloyalty, it will be dealt with with a firm hand of stern repression."  On April 16 he issued a proclamation quoting the legal definition of treason and specifying acts that have been held to be treasonous.  The proclamation emphasizes that the laws against treason apply equally to citizens and resident aliens, and that any such person who has knowledge of the commission of treasonous activity and fails to report it is guilty of misprision of treason.  The President further "proclaims and warns" that all persons committing such acts will be "vigorously prosecuted."   
 

 Balfour at Union Station, Greeted by Spring-Rice (left) and Lansing

High Commissioners from Great Britain and France have arrived in the United States to confer in an International War Council with American military and political leaders.  Arthur Balfour, a former British Prime Minister and First Lord of the Admiralty, replaced Sir Edward Grey as Foreign Minister in December.  He arrived at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station shortly after 3:00 p.m. on April 22, where he was greeted  by Secretary of State Robert Lansing and British Ambassador Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice.  His journey took him from Great Britain by way of Canada; his route and itinerary were secret, but alert observers in New York had noticed an unscheduled train pass through the Pennsylvania Station at 8:45 that morning.  Despite the lack of publicity, his arrival in Washington was greeted by cheering throngs as his motor car carried him from Union Station along Massachusetts Avenue to Sixteenth Street and north to the Franklin MacVeagh residence where he and his delegation will reside while in Washington.


 
 Joffre at the French Embassy

Two days later, a former passenger liner commanded by a French admiral and carrying the French High Commissioners arrived in the United States.  The liner was greeted off the East Coast by a flotilla of U.S Navy destroyers and escorted into Hampton Roads, where its passengers were transferred to the Presidential Yacht Mayflower for a journey up the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River to Washington.  The delegation was led by Rene Viviani, the former Premier and now Vice Premier and Minister of Justice, and Marshal Joseph Joffre, until recently the Commander in Chief of the French Armies.  The Mayflower arrived shortly after noon April 25 at the Washington Navy Yard, where the visitors were greeted by Secretary of State Lansing and the Marine Band.  As they left the Navy Yard and motored toward the French Embassy, they were cheered by crowds at least as enthusiastic as those that had greeted the arrival of the British delegation three days earlier.  Among the most visible greeters was the tall Mr. Balfour, who stood in his motor car on Sixteenth Street and exchanged bows and salutes with the French delegates as they passed by. 

*****


General Nivelle

On the day America declared war, French President Raymond Poincare was meeting in his railroad car in the forest of Compiegne with Paul Painleve, the new Minister of War, and General Robert Nivelle, the new Commander in Chief of the French Armies who had replaced General (now Field Marshal) Joffre in December.  At the meeting, Nivelle insisted on final approval of a major offensive he had planned to drive the Germans from the Chemin des Dames.  As the offensive was being planned, German forces withdrew to shorter and better fortified lines and brought in reinforcements in anticipation of the attack.  For that reason and others, including the United States' anticipated involvement in the war, Painleve argued that the offensive should be cancelled or postponed, but Nivelle insisted on going ahead and threatened to resign if his plan was not approved.  Nivelle's resignation threatened to bring down the government, so President Poincare, who had the final decision, authorized Nivelle to proceed with the offensive.  


 The Western Front and the Battle of Arras

The offensive began three days later, on Easter Monday (April 9), with an attack by British forces on Arras, on the left of the Allied line, designed in part to draw German forces away from the forthcoming French attack on the Chemin des Dames.  After three days of hard fighting, the Canadian Corps succeeded in driving the Germans from Vimy Ridge, on the north end of the battle line.  The British units to the south succeeded in advancing only as far as the Hindenburg Line, newly occupied by the German Army after last month's strategic withdrawal.

General Petain

On April 16, the French began their attack on the Chemin des Dames.  The plan required the French to attack from (sometimes across) the River Aisne and uphill through woods to high ground occupied by German forces dug into strong positions.  Most of the German fortifications were on the reverse slope, increasing the difficulty of both artillery and infantry attack. Three days later, no gains having been achieved, Painleve urged Nivelle to suspend further attacks.  Although Nivelle had promised to call off the offensive if a breakthrough was not achieved within forty-eight hours, he insisted on continuing.  Munitions were running low and the French Army's morale was severely weakened, leading to the outbreak of mutinies.  Finally, President Poincare on April 25 ordered Nivelle to cease the attacks, and on April 28 he removed Nivelle as commander in chief.  His replacement is General Philippe Petain.



Lenin Addressing the Conference of Soviets

On April 9, having secured the German Government's cooperation, Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin left Zurich, Switzerland on a train bound for the Baltic coast, where he boarded a ferry to Sweden.  After a journey across Sweden by rail, another ferry trip across the Gulf of Bothnia, and another rail journey across Finland, he arrived on April 16 at Petrograd's Finland Station where he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.  The next day, in an address to the All-Russian Conference of Soviets, he called for the overthrow of the Provisional Government, the abolition of the police, army and bureaucracy, and an immediate end to the war.  Although their name suggests otherwise, the Bolsheviks actually account for a minority even of the Soviet, which in turn is a minority in the Provisional Government, most of which is made up of liberal members of the Duma.  Even among the Bolsheviks, moreover, Lenin appears to speak for only a few, and his April 17 speech to the Conference of Soviets was not well received.

The Provisional Government is not particularly concerned.  On April 19, in a speech to British and French workingmen in Petrograd, Foreign Minister Miliukov said Russia's allies need have no fear that she will desert the alliance or weaken her resistance to their common enemies.  He asked them to "announce to your countrymen that free Russia has become doubly strong through democratization, and that she will overlook all sufferings which war entails; that despite the revolution . . . Russia will continue the crusade for annihilation of German militarism with the greatest intensity." 

In another development of potential importance to the ongoing Russian revolution, Leon Trotsky's detention in Halifax ended on April 29 after Foreign Minister Miliukov requested that Canada release him.  Trotsky has resumed his journey across the Atlantic to Russia.


*****


April 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, May and June 1917
New York Times, April 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 IV: The Stricken World 1916-1922
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
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
G.J. Meyer, The World Remade: America in World War I
Michael S. Neiberg, The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America
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

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