Monday, July 31, 2017

July 1917

It's July 1917, three years since another July spun the world into global war.  A major Russian offensive ends in defeat, retreat, and massive demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd, forcing a change in the revolutionary government.  A political upheaval in Germany leads to the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann.  King George V visits the British Army on the Western Front.  While he is there German bombers attack London; when he returns he changes the name of the Royal Family.  In the Near East, Arab tribes led by Lawrence of Arabia capture the important Red Sea port of Aqaba.  Winston Churchill rejoins the British Cabinet as Minister of Munitions.  The British Army begins another major offensive at Ypres.  An American Army battalion marches through Paris and visits Lafayette's tomb.  A large convoy of American troops arrives safely in France after a crossing contested by German U-boats.  An accidental explosion sinks a dreadnought at Scapa Flow.  In the United States the Secretary of War sets up a system of press censorship, then backs down in the face of fierce criticism.  General Pershing says he wants a three million man Army by 1919.  Compulsory military service begins as the first numbers are drawn in the draft lottery.  Exports are prohibited without a license.  Race riots explode in East St. Louis.


*****


Government Troops Firing on Demonstrators on the Nevsky Prospect

The month began with a major offensive by the Russian Army in Galicia which, after initial success, was driven back by German counterattacks.  As the Army's morale collapsed and its retreat became a rout, unrest in Petrograd and other major cities intensified.  In spontaneous demonstrations, later joined by the Bolsheviks, workers and soldiers poured into the streets on July 16 (July 3 on the Russian calendar) to protest the the Provisional Government and its continuation of the war.   Two days later General Brusilov was relieved as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, replaced by General Lavr Kornilov, Commander of the Petrograd garrison.  On July 21, Prince Lvov was replaced as Prime Minister by Alexander Kerensky, who continued as Minister of War.  Two days later the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates voted to give Kerensky unlimited powers for the reestablishment of public order.  Kerensky has appealed for public support, sending troops to put down the uprising, which he claims is the work of German agents.  In a statement to the press he said he will "save Russia and Russian unity by blood and iron, if argument and reason, honor and conscience, are not sufficient."  In the ensuing crackdown the Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky has been imprisoned and Vladimir Lenin has fled to Finland.


 Matthias Erzberger

Germany has a new government.  On July 6, Matthias Erzberger, the leader of the Center Party, rose in the Reichstag and made a controversial peace proposal.  Outlining the country's military weakness, he argued that Germany should attempt to make peace on the basis of a renunciation of all territorial ambitions and a return to the pre-war status quo.  When a peace resolution incorporating Erzberger's proposals passed the Reichstag on July 19, Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff threatened to resign, forcing the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann.  The new Chancellor, Georg Michaelis, has refused to consider any peace initiative, saying "I do not consider that a body like the German Reichstag is a fit one to decide about peace and war on its own initiative during the war."  There is little doubt that Hindenburg and Ludendorff are now firmly in control of German war policy.


 
The King on the Western Front

From July 3 to 14, King George V, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, visited British troops on the western front.  Accompanied by General Sir Herbert Plumer, he explored the battlefields where his Army had struggled a year earlier in its offensive on the River Somme.  Then he climbed the heights of Messines Ridge and Vimy Ridge, recently occupied by British forces..


The Royal Family

Anti-German sentiment has been building in Great Britain for some time, and the Royal Family's German name, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, has become something of an embarrassment.  Making matters worse, Gotha bombers began attacking London earlier this year, and while the King was in France the largest raid of the year killed thirty-seven Londoners.  On July 17, shortly after his return to England, the King issued a Royal Proclamation announcing that "We, out of our Royal Will and Authority, do hereby declare and announce that as from the date of this Our Royal Proclamation Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor."  The new name is widely popular.  When the change was announced, the Times stated approvingly that "the King could not have chosen a more appropriate name for his Royal House than that of Windsor, which . . . has been associated longer than any other Royal residence with the fortunes and the lives of the Kings and Queens of England."  At the same time, the King revoked the British titles held by members of the Royal Family who are fighting for Germany.


Major Lawrence in Cairo


Prince Faisal with Lawrence after the Capture of Aqaba

Since October of last year British Army Major T. E. Lawrence has been in the Hejaz, encouraging and advising Arab tribes loyal to Prince Faisal who are in rebellion against Ottoman rule.  On July 6, Arab forces accompanied by Lawrence attacked and seized the Red Sea port of Aqaba, a Turkish stronghold at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba, which marks the eastern boundary of the Sinai Peninsula.  Lawrence then journeyed across the Sinai desert to the Suez Canal and on to the headquarters of the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Cairo.  There he informed General Edmund Allenby in person of the capture of Aqaba and gained commitments for additional British support for the rebelling Arab tribes.  The capture of Aqaba provides the British with a valuable supply port and base of operations in support of Prince Faisal's rebel forces operating against the Turks.
 

H.M.S. Vanguard

On the night of July 9 in the Royal Navy's anchorage in Scapa flow, a mysterious explosion destroyed the dreadnought battleship H.M.S. Vanguard, a veteran of the Battle of Jutland. The ship sank almost instantly, killing over 800 British sailors.


Churchill Speaking at Chelmsford Last September

Winston Churchill, the former First Lord of the Admiralty, was excluded from the coalition government formed by Prime Minister Asquith in May 1915 as the failure of the Dardanelles campaign was becoming apparent.  Churchill served in the minor Cabinet position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster until November 1915, when he resigned from the Cabinet to join the Army on the Western Front.  He commanded a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers near Ploegsteert until March 1916, when he returned to Westminster and resumed his seat in Parliament as an opposition back-bencher while defending his conduct of the Dardanelles campaign and participating in the proceedings of the Dardanelles Committee of Enquiry.  The new Prime Minister David Lloyd George is an admirer of Churchill's, and on July 17 of this year, despite the opposition of several other members of the Government, he brought Churchill into the Cabinet as Minister of Munitions, the post formerly held by Lloyd George himself.  As British constitutional practice requires when a member of Parliament joins the cabinet, Churchill returned to his constituency to seek reelection, and on July 29 the electors of Dundee returned him to Parliament.  He will take his seat on the Government bench on August 1.  As part of the same Cabinet reorganization, Sir Eric Campbell Geddes will replace Sir Edward Carson as First Lord of the Admiralty and Edwin Samuel Montagu will become Secretary of State for India, the post held until recently by Austen Chamberlain.


General Gough

On the last day of July, following a two-week artillery barrage that surpassed in intensity even the one that preceded last year's Somme offensive, an Allied army under the command of British General Sir Hubert Gough launched another offensive in the Ypres Salient.  The objective is the capture of the important railway junction at Roulers.  The attack, strongly advocated by General Sir Douglas Haig, was finally approved by the British War Policy Committee despite opposition from French Generals Foch and Petain and serious reservations voiced by the Prime Minister and shared by the new Minister of Munitions, Winston Churchill.



Pershing at Lafayette's Tomb

The first American troops to arrive in Europe are about to commence training.  A battalion was in Paris on July 4, and all Paris turned out to greet them in an Independence Day parade celebrating American entry into the war.  American flags flew from public buildings, hotels, residences, taxicabs and carts, and American flag pins decorated horses' bridles and pedestrians' lapels.  The Republican Guard Band executed a field reveille beneath General Pershing's windows at 8:00 a.m. and accompanied him through throngs of spectators to the Invalides, where American troops were drawn up with a detachment of French Territorials at the Court of Honor.  In the chapel before the tomb of Napoleon President Poincare presented Pershing with American flags and banners.  The Americans then passed in review before Poincare, Marshal Joffre and other dignitaries to the strains of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the "Marseillaise" and shouts of "Vive les Americains! Vive Pershing! and Vivent les Etats Unis!"  The parade continued across the Alexander III Bridge to the Place de la Concorde, then down the Rue de Rivoli past the Tuileries Gardens to the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette at Picpus Cemetery, near the Place de la Nation.  In a brief ceremony Lt. Col. Charles E. Stanton of the General's staff delivered a speech that ended as he turned to the tomb and announced "Lafayette, we are here!"


 
 Secretary Daniels

On July 3 Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels announced "with the joy of a great relief . . . the safe arrival in France of every fighting man and every fighting ship."  He revealed that the transports carrying American troops and supplies had been twice attacked by German submarines, which had been beaten off by the U.S. Naval escorts.  One of the U-boats was reported sunk and the other damaged and possibly destroyed.

In a proclamation dated July 9, exercising powers granted under the Espionage Act, President Wilson forbade all exports of food, fuel and war supplies without a license issued by the Exports Council, the agency he created last month by executive order.  The proclamation took effect July 15.


Secretary of War Baker

On the Fourth of July, news organizations in the United States learned of an order of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker that all dispatches from correspondents in France to news organizations in the United States were to be diverted to the War Department before being delivered to their addressees.  The Associated Press was informed that a dispatch sent from France was in the possession of the Committee on Public Information, of which George Creel is the Chairman, and that the Associated Press could have it if it sent for it.  Upon further inquiry, it was learned that any cable addressed to an American newspaper would be sent to the War Department and turned over to the Creel Committee which would have men on duty capable of promptly reviewing and censoring the dispatch.  Remarkably, the War Department assumed this authority despite the decision of Congress in considering the Espionage Act to deny the President the censorship power he had requested on the ground that it would violate the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press.  The reaction to the War Department's order in Congress and the press was immediate. A three-column headline at the top of the front page of the next day's New York Times read "Baker Seizes News Dispatches, Ignoring Congress and Constitution."  That day Mr. Creel presided over a meeting of the Committee on Public Information at which Secretary Baker, Secretary of the Navy Daniels and Secretary of State Robert Lansing were also present.  After the meeting it was announced that the emergency on account of which the order had been issued (presumably the arrival of American troops in France) having passed, the order would be revoked.


Secretary Baker Draws the First Draft Number

General Pershing has estimated that the American war effort will require a one million man Army by 1918 and three million by 1919.  The new selective service law is the principal means of achieving those goals.  The draft began on July 20 with a ceremonial drawing of the first numbers in the Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.  The lottery was organized and supervised by Provost Marshal General Enoch Crowder and Adjutant General Henry P. McCain.  At 9:32 a.m. Secretary of War Baker gave a brief speech, then after being blindfolded inserted his hand into a glass bowl filled with numbers written on slips of paper.  He drew number 258, meaning that registrants assigned that number in each of the 4,557 Selective Service Registration Districts will be among the first to be notified to report for duty.  Other dignitaries followed, and the drawing of numbers continued until the early morning hours.  In all over ten thousand numbers were drawn.


An East St. Louis Mob Stopping a Streetcar

Race riots broke out in East St. Louis, Illinois on July 2, fueled mainly by white residents' anger about importation of Negro laborers from the South, who are believed to be taking jobs away from white workers, sometimes as strikebreakers.  Thousands of white men rampaged through the Negro sections of the city, dragging passengers off streetcars, setting buildings afire and shooting or hanging residents as they tried to flee.  Hundreds of Negroes were given refuge at City Hall and the Police Station, and hundreds of the ringleaders were arrested and detained.  The state militia was called out and military rule was proclaimed that evening.  Before the riots were brought under control, dozens of men, mostly Negroes, had been killed and many more injured.  The federal government played no role in restoring order.  Although staff lawyers in the Department of Justice concluded that there was sufficient basis for federal intervention under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Federal Penal Code, Attorney General Gregory told President Wilson on July 27 that "no facts have been presented to us that would justify" any federal action.


*****



July 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, August and September 1917
New York Times, July 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
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
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
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
Edward J. Renehan Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
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
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Friday, June 30, 2017

June 1917



In June 1917, the United States is coming to grips with its new status as a belligerent power.  President Wilson signs the Espionage Act, which makes it unlawful to interfere with military or naval operations and gives the Postmaster General broad authority to refuse to deliver material he judges to be in violation.  The President issues an order creating an Export Council with power to control all exports from the United States.  Mandatory registration for the draft begins.  General Pershing arrives in Europe, where he confers with his counterparts in London and Paris; shortly thereafter the first American Army units arrive in France.  The first issue of Liberty Bonds sells out quickly.  A commission headed by former Secretary of State Elihu Root arrives in Russia as anarchists march in the streets of Petrograd and Lenin calls for an end to the war.  The provisional government, responding to an overture from the Central Powers, states that it will not enter into a separate peace.  Former President Roosevelt announces that two of his four sons have gone to France and that the others will follow shortly.  The British Army in Flanders attacks and occupies Messines Ridge.  Gotha bombers attack London.  King Constantine of Greece abdicates, clearing the way for Greece to enter the war on the side of the Allies.

*****


The Espionage Act -- An Opposing View

President Wilson signed the Espionage Act into law on June 15.  A provision authorizing the President to impose press censorship was strongly supported by the President but was removed from the bill in conference.  The legislation as passed still imposes unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties.  It is now unlawful to "willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies" or to "incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States," or to "willfully obstruct . . . the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States," or to "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States," to "display the flag of any foreign enemy," or to "urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production."  Nor may Americans "advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of [those] acts or things" or "by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war," or "oppose the cause of the United States therein."  In addition to imposing criminal penalties for violations, the Act authorizes the Postmaster General to refuse to mail any publication he judges to violate any provision of the Act or to advocate treason, insurrection or forcible resistance to any American law.


Secretary of Commerce William C. Redfield

Using authority conferred by the Espionage Act, President Wilson signed an executive order on June 22 creating an Exports Council comprised of the Secretaries of State, Agriculture and Commerce to "formulate, for the consideration and approval of the president, policies and make recommendations necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act" and authorizing the Secretary of Commerce to grant or refuse export licenses in accordance with instructions issued by the President.  The order provides that the Council will also include the Food Administrator, although the legislation creating the Food Administration is still pending in Congress. Herbert C. Hoover, who since the outbreak of war has organized and administered the distribution of vast quantities of food to occupied Belgium and northern France, is expected to fill the new position and is already attending Council meetings.


Registering for the Draft in New York

The Manpower Bill passed last month imposed the first draft law since the Civil War.  On June 5, pursuant to a proclamation issued by President Wilson, some 10 million men between the ages of 21 and 30 registered at their local post offices for what is termed "selective service."  From that number, it is estimated that approximately 600,000 will be inducted into the armed forces.  The President's proclamation, like the law upon which it was based, avoids the term "draft," emphasizing that "the whole nation must be a team, in which each man must play the part for which he is best fitted."  Therefore "each man shall be classified for service in the place to which it shall best serve the general good to call him. . . . It is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling; it is, rather, selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass."

The proclamation makes clear, however, that registration is anything but optional.  It states that "the day here named is the time upon which all shall present themselves for assignment to their tasks" and is to be observed as "a great day of patriotic devotion and obligation, when the duty shall lie upon every man . . . to see to it that the name of every male person of the designated ages is written on these lists of honor."  Mandatory or voluntary, every effort is being made to marshal the support and cooperation of the public.  The Committee on Public Information has seen to it that newspapers are provided with stories emphasizing the patriotic nature of universal registration.  Despite initial resistance from some southerners, the new law will be applied without regard to race, though Negro soldiers will continue to be assigned to separate units.  The nationwide obligation to register is also being hailed as a symbol of sectional reunification as the Civil War recedes in the nation's memory.  On Registration Day President Wilson sounded that theme in an address to a group of Confederate veterans, calling it "a day of reunion, a day of noble memories, a day of dedication, a day of renewal of the spirit which has made America great among the peoples of the world."


A Liberty Bond

The subscription for the first issue of Liberty Bonds closed on June 15.  Exceeding the government's most optimistic forecasts, the $2 billion issue was oversubscribed by approximately $800,000.  That afternoon Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo issued a statement calling the success of the issue "a genuine triumph for democracy"and "the unmistakable expression of America's determination to carry this war for the protection of American rights and the re-establishment of peace and liberty throughout the world to a swift and successful conclusion."


General Pershing and the Duke of Connaught (left) in Liverpool

General Pershing arrived in Great Britain aboard the steamship Baltic on June 8.  He was greeted at Liverpool by Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, King George V's uncle, who until last year served as Governor-General of Canada.  The next day, General Pershing was received by the King at Buckingham Palace, where the King declared that it has been the dream of his life to see the two great English-speaking nations more closely united. The same day, Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour arrived back in London after his visit to the United States.  He told waiting newspaper correspondents that "we had an entirely successful trip and enjoyed every minute of it.  I was never more royally treated in my life."  Due to the increasing danger of submarine attacks since Germany's resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in February, the transatlantic journeys of both General Pershing and Mr. Balfour were shrouded in secrecy.  There was no news of either until both men were safely ashore in the United Kingdom.  During the eleven days it took General Pershing to cross the Atlantic, German U-boats sank fifteen ships in the waters around Great Britain.


 
 General Pershing at Boulogne

At ten o'clock on the morning of June 13, General Pershing stepped ashore at the French port of Boulogne after a short ferry ride across the English Channel.  As the New York Times reported, "It was the first time in history that an American soldier had landed on the European continent with sword in hand for the purpose of using it against an enemy."  Among the officials waiting on the pier was French General Jean-Baptiste Dumas, commander of the northern region, whose first words were "I salute the United States of America, which has now become united to the United States of Europe."  After a drive through Boulogne, General Pershing and his staff boarded a special train for Paris.  Speaking to French newspaper correspondents in his private car, Pershing said the reception "has impressed us greatly.  It means that from the present moment our aims are the same."  Talking separately with American reporters, he said the arrival of the advance guard of the American Army "makes us realize the full importance of American participation.  America has entered the war with the fullest intention of doing her share, no matter how great or how small that share may be.  Our allies can depend on that."

Towns along the route to Paris had been advised of the Americans' arrival, and the station platforms were lined with cheering crowds.  In Paris, French troops were deployed on the platforms of the Gare du Nord.  Among those greeting the Americans were Marshal Joffre, former Prime Minister Viviani, Minister of War Painleve, General Foch, and U.S. Ambassador William G. Sharp.  Tens of thousands of Parisians waving American flags and crying "Vive l'Amerique!" cheered the Americans as they rode through Paris to the Hotel Crillon, where Pershing and his staff will make their headquarters (click to play):




*****



Two weeks after General Pershing's arrival, the first contingents of the U.S. Army arrived in France.  Some 14,000 infantry troops landed at St. Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of Brittany on June 26 and 27 after passing unscathed through the submarine zone.  The first American arrivals are all seasoned Regular Army troops, coming from service on the Mexican border, Haiti and Santo Domingo.  They will be assigned to the newly organized First Expeditionary Division under the command of Major General William Sibert.


The Root Mission to Russia

As the mission led by former Secretary of State Elihu Root was on en route to Russia, President Wilson laid the groundwork with a personal message to the provisional government.  In a message sent June 9, he outlined the objectives and ideals of the United States in the war and firmly opposed any suggestion of a separate peace.  He told the Russians "We are fighting for the liberty, the self-government and the undictated development of all peoples, and every feature of the settlement that concludes this war must be conceived and executed for that purpose."  "The day has come," he said, "to conquer or submit.  If the forces of autocracy can divide us, they can overcome us; if we stand together, victory is certain and the liberty which victory will secure."


The Root Commission at the Council of Ministers

The Root Commission reached Vladivostok on the Pacific coast of Russia on June 3, then sped across Russia by rail, arriving in Petrograd on June 13.  Two days later they attended the Council of Ministers, where Root told the Russians "news of Russia's new-found freedom brought to America universal satisfaction and joy."  He said that "from all the land sympathy and hope went out to the new sister in the circle of democracies."  He told the Council that in Russia America sees "no party, no class, but great Russia as a whole, one mighty striving, aspiring democracy."  He assured them that the people of the United States "are going to fight and have already begun to fight for your freedom equally with our own," and asked them "to fight for our freedom equally with yours."  Replying to Root's address, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko said: "The Russian people consider the war inevitable, and will continue it.  The Russians have no imperialistic wishes.  We know that you have none.  We shall fight together to secure liberty, freedom, and happiness for all the world."

Opposition to the war is mounting in the streets of Petrograd.  At a June 17 meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, the Socialist Radical Nikolai Lenin delivered a long and impassioned speech attacking the Provisional Government.  He denounced the proposal of Minister of War Kerensky, recently approved by the Duma, for a renewed offensive, calling it a betrayal of the interests of international socialism.  In his reply, Kerensky said Lenin had misinterpreted Marxism and that his position was one that would be embraced by the German General Staff.  Kerensky concluded his speech with an account of his recent visit to the front and a defense of his actions in office that was greeted with prolonged applause from everyone present except Lenin and his followers.



 Theodore Jr. and Archie Roosevelt

In a speech delivered at a Red Cross event in Oyster Bay on June 24, former President Theodore Roosevelt told the crowd that two of his sons had already gone to France and that "the others are to follow."  The two who have gone are Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., his eldest son, and Captain Archibald Roosevelt, his third.  Both left New York on June 20 aboard the French steamship Chicago and will be attached to General Pershing's headquarters.  Both of them were members of the original Plattsburg training camp in 1915, and both have been active in the National Guard.  Roosevelt's second son Kermit, doubtful that American troops will see combat soon, is seeking a commission in the British armed service.  Quentin, his youngest son, is in flight training for the Air Service in Mineola, New York.


 The Battle of Messines Ridge

Messines Ridge, on the southern edge of the Ypres salient, commands a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside, and until this month was occupied by German troops.  For months British troops under the command of General Sir Herbert Plumer have been digging tunnels up to half a mile in length extending under the German positions on the Ridge and packing them with explosives.  On May 7 the mines were detonated, creating an enormous explosion that was felt as far away as southern England.  A massive artillery barrage followed by an infantry advance resulted in thousands of German soldiers killed or taken prisoner.  The British gained possession of the ridge, but failed to fully exploit their breakthrough.  On June 19 the British commander General Sir Douglas Haig traveled to Westminster where after several days of contentious meetings he obtained cabinet approval of his plan for a major offensive beginning the end of July.



A Gotha Bomber on the Ground

The most destructive air raid of the war on London, the fourth within three weeks, was conducted by German Gotha bombers on June 13, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths and serious injuries.  Eighteen children were among the dead when a bomb struck a primary school in the East End.



The New King of Greece

King Constantine of Greece, who has steadfastly resisted the pro-Entente advice of his prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, finally yielded to the demands of the Prime Minister and the Entente nations on June 12, abdicating in favor of his second son Prince Alexander.  The demand that he relinquish the throne included the demand that his eldest son Prince George, who shares his father's political views, also be excluded from power.  King Constantine and Prince George have left Greece for Switzerland; it is expected that King Alexander will adopt the pro-Entente stance of the Prime Minister.

*****


June 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, July and August 1917
New York Times, June 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
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
Ann Hagedorn, Savage Peace, Hope and Fear in America, 1919
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
Edward J. Renehan Jr., The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War
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
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 1917




It's May 1917, and the United States has just entered the Great War.  Visiting Allied war leaders ask President Wilson for an immediate commitment of American troops.  General Pershing is named commander of the American Expeditionary Force and departs for Europe.  The United States enacts the first draft law since the Civil War.  Included is a provision authorizing the president to organize volunteer divisions such as the one former President Roosevelt wants to lead, but the President says he will not exercise that authority.  Americans are asked to subscribe to a “Liberty Loan” to finance the war effort.  President Wilson urges press censorship, but a bill giving the president censorship authority fails to pass Congress.  The Allies confront the Central Powers in the Balkans; Italy launches another attack against Austro-Hungarian forces on the Isonzo.  United States Navy warships arrive in Great Britain to assist the British with convoy escort and other duties.


*****


Lansing (left) with Viviani, Balfour and Joffre at Mount Vernon

High-level delegations from France and Great Britain arrived in the United States last month.  After touring Mount Vernon together and laying a wreath at the tomb of President George Washington, they embarked separately on a round of visits dinners, parades, and visits to other cities. On May 1 the French emissaries, accompanied by Ambassador Jules Jusserand, visited the Senate.  After Vice Premier Viviani's brief address, Marshal Joffre explained apologetically that "I do not speak English," but added, in French, "Vivent les Etats-Unis!" and gave a military salute, inspiring a prolonged ovation.  The next day the French visitors joined President Wilson for luncheon at the White House, and the following day they visited the House of Representatives.  After M. Viviani concluded his remarks, Speaker Clark took Marshal Joffre by the arm as the Marshal stood at attention and saluted.  When the applause subsided, he said, in English, "Thank you."  Then he added "Vive l'Amerique," and the thunderous ovation resumed with shouts of "Vive la France!"  

The French delegation then boarded a train that took them to Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, Illinois, where on May 7 they laid a wreath at the tomb of President Abraham Lincoln.  They arrived in New York City on May 9 and were greeted at the Battery by Joseph H. Choate, the chairman of the Mayor's Committee.  They were driven by automobile to City Hall, where they were welcomed by Mayor Mitchel and other dignitaries in speeches that recalled America's debt to France in the Revolution and expressed admiration for France's role in the World War.  The next day they were given a tour of the City that extended from Prospect Park in Brooklyn, to luncheon at the Hotel Astor, to Columbia University where they were awarded honorary degrees, to Grant's Tomb on the shore of the Hudson River.  Thereafter they retired to the Fifth Avenue residence of Henry C. Frick, their host during their stay in New York, for a small private dinner (fewer than fifty guests).  On May 11, Marshal Joffre and the other military members of the delegation visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, while the civilians stayed in the City to greet Mr. Balfour and the British delegation arriving from Washington.  That evening, rejoined by Marshal Joffre and his entourage, the combined French and British delegations dined at the Waldorf-Astoria.


Balfour Arriving in New York

British Foreign Minister Balfour and his commission arrived in Washington last month three days before the French commissioners.  The day after their arrival Mr. Balfour had a long meeting with President Wilson in the White House, followed by a dinner hosted by the President and Mrs. Wilson for the principal members of the British mission.  After M. Viviani and Marshal Joffre had made their visits to Congress and departed Washington for their journey through the Midwest, Mr. Balfour took his turn on Capitol Hill, visiting the House of Representatives on May 5 and the Senate on May 8.  The British delegation then traveled to New York, arriving the afternoon of May 11.  

New York City's welcome rivaled that given the French commissioners two days earlier.  Debarking from their train in Jersey City, the British commissioners boarded a police boat that carried them to the Battery.  (It was noted that they landed at the very spot where the last British soldier had left New York in 1783).  Following the same route as the French, the British visitors rode up Broadway between cheering crowds and buildings flying the Union Jack to City Hall, where they were welcomed by Mayor Mitchel, Mr. Choate and other dignitaries including J.P. Morgan, Cleveland Dodge, Dudley Field Malone and Bernard Baruch.  That evening they attended the Mayor's Committee's dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.  Attendees included former Presidents Roosevelt and Taft and two former candidates for the presidency, Alton B. Parker and Charles E. Hughes.  When Colonel Roosevelt, who is fluent in French, was seen in earnest conversation with Marshal Joffre, no one doubted that he was making the case for leading American troops to France.  Enthusiastic cheers erupted when Mr. Choate, calling for immediate and vigorous aid to the Allies, cried "Let Teddy go!"  

The next day, Mr. Balfour addressed more than a thousand members and guests of the Chamber of Commerce, telling them that the common cause of Great Britain and the United States represents the fulfillment of his life-long dream that the "English-speaking, freedom-loving branches of the human race should be drawn far closer than in the past."  On Sunday, May 13, Balfour had lunch with Colonel House at his New York City residence, then went to Sagamore Hill where he joined Colonel Roosevelt for high tea.  After returning to Washington, the British mission cancelled plans to visit Chicago in order to spend its remaining time in discussions with American officials regarding shipping and other issues.  On May 18 Balfour held a private meeting with President Wilson, at which it is believed he shared the text of secret treaties between Great Britain and other countries involved in the war including Russia, Italy and Japan.  The following Monday, May 21, President Wilson and Mr. Balfour held a lengthy meeting at the British mission.  Three days later Balfour addressed the National Press Club and paid a farewell call on President Wilson at the White House.  He left the next day for Toronto.

During their visit, both the French and the British commissioners impressed on their American hosts the immediate need of the Allies, not only for financial and logistical support, but for American troops in large numbers as soon as they can be supplied.  Last month's failure of the French offensive at the Chemin des Dames and the initial success of Germany's new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare have placed the Allied cause in jeopardy.  As Marshal Joffre said, "We want men, men, men."


Joseph H. Choate (1832-1917)

Joseph H. Choate, the Chairman of the Mayor's Committee that organized and conducted New York City's welcome to the British and French delegations this month, was the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1899 to 1905.  A prominent member of the New York legal community, he participated in several notorious cases and was instrumental in breaking up the Tweed Ring in the 1870's.  Since retiring from diplomatic service he has continued to be active in civic affairs, and followed a strenuous schedule before and during this month's celebrations.  On May 14 he suffered an apparent heart attack at his home on East 63rd Street and died at 11:30 that evening.  Two days earlier, in his last public appearance, he had attended Sunday services with Mr. Balfour at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.


 The Former President at Home

Mr. Choate's plea at the May 11 dinner to "Let Teddy go!" was echoed in Congressional speeches and in the manpower bill passed this month and signed into law by the President on May 18.  The final version of the bill, however, while it authorized the recruitment of a division of volunteers, did not require it, and when President Wilson signed the bill he issued a statement saying "I shall not avail myself, at any rate at the present stage of the war, of the authorization conferred by the act to organize volunteer divisions."

Former French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, the influential French newspaper owner and journalist who served as prime minister from 1906 to 1909, also wants to see Roosevelt in France.  In an open letter to President Wilson in the May 27 edition of his newspaper L'Homme Enchaine, he tells the president "there is in France one name that sums up the beauty of American intervention.  It is the name Roosevelt."  Speaking for the French soldiers, Clemenceau says their hearts beat with joy at the arrival of the Americans, but that "more than one of our 'poilus' asked his comrade 'But where is Roosevelt? I don't see him.'"  He pleads with Wilson, for "the cause of humanity, which is also your cause," to "send them Roosevelt."


 Major MacArthur as a Captain in Veracruz, 1914

The manpower bill requires all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the draft beginning June 5.  Registration is expected to require about five days and to result in a potential pool of draftees of about ten million.  The draft army will be known as the National Army to distinguish it from the Regular Army and the National Guard Army.  Some Regular Army troops are to be sent to Europe without delay.  With the enactment of the draft legislation, Major Douglas MacArthur of the General Staff delivered an announcement to newspapermen at the War Department stating that an expeditionary force of approximately one division of Regular Army troops under the command of Major General John J. Pershing would be sent to France as soon as possible.  The first American combat troops arrived in France on May 26.  On May 28 General Pershing and his staff sailed secretly for Europe aboard the White Star liner Baltic.  The French high command wants to use American troops to augment Allied units on the front lines, but it appears likely that American entry into combat will take place only after their organization and training as American Army units under the American flag.

Support for the draft, while less than unanimous, is widespread, as reflected in the popularity of a new song.  The Peerless Quartet, which in 1915 sang "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier," now sings "America, Here's My Boy" (click to play):




 *****


4 Minute Men

The Senate-House Conference Committee considering an Espionage Bill added, at the urging of President Wilson, a section giving the President authority to censor the press.  The proposal has encountered resistance in Congress on the ground that it infringes freedom of speech and the press, and is opposed by most newspapers and news organizations.  On May 31 the House of Representatives voted on the censorship section separately and defeated it by a vote of 184-144.  The bill has been returned to the Conference Committee with instructions to eliminate that section.  Censorship or no censorship, on May 27 the Committee on Public Information released proposed "regulations for the periodical press of the United States during the war."  The Committee has also initiated a program of "four minute men," volunteers who will give brief speeches at motion picture theaters during the four minutes required to change reels.  The topics will be chosen by the Committee and will address patriotic themes in support of the war effort.


Buy Liberty Bonds!

In his war message, President Wilson said he wanted the United States war effort to be financed by "adequate credits" sustained by "well conceived taxation."  His proposed tax increases have encountered some resistance, but Congress has not been reluctant to authorize borrowing.  U.S. Government bonds, called Liberty Bonds, are now on sale and are being promoted by four minute men as well as celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and the evangelist Billy Sunday.  Large banks and wealthy individuals such as John D. Rockefeller have made large and well-publicized purchases.


 A Gotha Bomber in Flight

In the Balkans, British, French, Serbian and Italian forces in Salonika faced Bulgarian, German and Austrian troops across the River Struma.  An Allied offensive beginning on May 8 was turned back by heavy artillery fire.  The tenth battle of the Isonzo began with an Italian artillery bombardment on May 10.  By month's end, the Italian Army had made modest advances and captured over 20,000 Austrian prisoners.  German Gotha bombers based in Belgium struck Great Britain on May 25, killing 95 civilians and injuring 192.
 


 Foreign Minister Miliukov

Russia is in turmoil in the wake of the Tsar's abdication as the provisional government struggles to maintain control.  On May 1 (April 18 on the Russian calendar), Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov sent a diplomatic note to the Allied governments promising that Russia would continue vigorous prosecution of the war.  News of the Miliukov note led to violence in the streets of Petrograd and gave impetus to the Bolshevik campaign against the Provisional Government.  On May 9 Chairman Mikhail Rodzianko addressed the Duma, pledging that Russia would "make every sacrifice to bring this war, in concert with our allies, to a complete victory."  Premier Lvov followed with a tribute to the revolution, which he said "every day strengthens our confidence in the creative forces of the Russian people and the greatness of its future."  Minister of War Alexander Guchkov, however, adopted a more pessimistic tone, warning that the military might have been weakened by "duality of power, polyarchy, and anarchy" and that the country was "on the edge of an abyss."  On May 13 General Lavr Kornilov, commander of the Petrograd garrison, resigned rather than comply with an order of the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, also known as the Petrograd Soviet, that he submit his orders to the Council's executive committee for approval. 

In Berlin on May 15, German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg extended an olive branch to Russia, announcing during a debate on war aims that "if Russia wants to prevent further bloodshed and renounces all violent plans of conquest for herself, if she wishes to restore durable relations side by side with us, then surely . . . an agreement aiming exclusively at a mutual understanding could be attained which excludes every thought of oppression and which would leave behind no sting and no discord."  His approach was different to Germany's "western enemies."  While he disavowed "a program of conquest," he refused to give "an assurance which will enable them to continue the war indefinitely without danger of losses to themselves."


Mikhail Tereshchenko

A new coalition government was announced in Petrograd on May 16.  Foreign Minister Miliukov and Minister of War Guchkov have left the cabinet.  Mikhail Tereshchenko is the new foreign minister and Alexander Kerensky is the new minister of war.  The Provisional Government, which now includes representatives of the Petrograd Soviet, issued a statement on May 19 pledging that Russia will "energetically carry into effect the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, beneath the standards by which the great Russian revolution came to birth."  The new government is apparently unimpressed by Bethmann-Hollweg's peace offer in the Reichstag a few days earlier.  Its statement firmly rejects "all thought of a separate peace" and "adopts openly as its aim the re-establishment of a general peace . . . without annexation or indemnities and based on the right of nations to decide their own affairs."


 Trotsky Arriving in Petrograd

Completing his long journey from New York interrupted by a month-long detention in Halifax, Leon Trotsky arrived at Petrograd's Finland Station on May 17.  He has not formally joined forces with Vladimir Lenin's Bolsheviks, but his speeches and statements since his arrival have been generally in line with the positions advocated by Lenin in last month's address to the Conference of Soviets (see the April 1917 installment of this blog).


Elihu Root

The United States government announced on May 11 that a special mission led by former Senator and Secretary of State Elihu Root will be sent to Russia.  Root has been given broad authority to do whatever is necessary to persuade the Russian government and people to continue to prosecute Russia's war against Germany.


 Admiral Sims

It will take several months at least before an American army large enough to make a difference on the battlefields of France can be drafted, trained, equipped, and sent to Europe.  The United States Navy, however, can begin making important contributions much sooner.  Last month Vice Admiral William Sims established a mission in Great Britain to coordinate naval operations between the United States and Great Britain.  The first American warships arrived on May 4, and will assist the Royal Navy in conducting patrols in the North Sea and English Channel.  In addition, the two navies have begun forming convoys of merchant ships with naval escorts in an attempt to minimize losses to submarine attacks.  Since the Germans' resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare on February 1,  Allied shipping has suffered unsustainable losses, over 800 Allied ships having been sunk on their way to great Britain.  Overcoming initial resistance by the British Admiralty, a trial convoy was formed on May 10 at Gibraltar and arrived without loss at the Downs on May 24.  Also on May 24, the first transatlantic convoy departed Hampton Roads bound for Great Britain.


*****


May 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, June and July 1917
New York Times, May 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
United States World War One Centennial Commission, The U.S. Navy Arrives in Europe,  http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/2376-remembering-world-war-i-the-u-s-navy-arrives-in-europe.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

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.


*****


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. 

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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.


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April 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

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

Historical Archive:
Wilson's War Message to Congress, 2 April 1917,  https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Wilson%27s_War_Message_to_Congress

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