Chapter 33 ~ The War to end the War ~ 1917 – 1918
I. War by Act of Germany
On January 22, 1917, Woodrow Wilson made one final, futile attempt to avert war, delivering a moving address
that declared that only “peace without victory” would be lasting.
Germany responded by shocking the world, announcing that it would not be engaging in unrestricted warfare,
which meant that its U-boats would now be firing on armed and unarmed ships in the war zone.
Wilson asked Congress for the authority to arm merchant ships, but a band of Midwestern senators tried to block
Then, the Zimmerman note was intercepted and published on March 1, 1917.
Written by German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmerman, it secretly proposed an alliance between Germany
and Mexico, and if the Central Powers won, Mexico could recover Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona from the
The Germans also began to make good on their threats, sinking numerous ships, while in Russia, a revolution
toppled the tsarist regime.
On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked for Congress to declare war, which it did four days later; Wilson had
lost his gamble.
II. Wilsonian Idealism Enthroned
Many people still didn’t want to enter into war, for America had prided itself in isolationism for decades, and
now, Wilson was entangling America in a distant war.
Six senators and 50 representatives, including the first Congresswoman, Jeanette Ranking, voted against war.
To gain enthusiasm for the war, Wilson came up with the idea of America entering the war to “make the world
safe for democracy.”
This idealistic motto worked brilliantly, but with the new American zeal came the loss of Wilson’s earlier
motto, “peace without victory.”
III. Fourteen Potent Wilsonian Points
On January 8, 1917, Wilson delivered his Fourteen Points Address to Congress.
The Fourteen Points were a set of idealistic goals for peace:
No more secret treaties.
Freedom of the seas was to be maintained.
iii. A removal of economic barriers among nations.
iv. Reduction of armament burdens.
Adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of natives and colonizers.
vi. Other points included: “self-determination,” or independence for oppressed minority groups, and a League of
Nations, an international organization that would keep the peace and settle world disputes.
IV. Creel Manipulates Minds
The Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, was created to “sell” the war to those people who
were against it and gain support for it.
The Creel organization sent out an army of 75,000 men to deliver speeches in favor of the war, showered
millions of pamphlets containing the most potent “Wilsonisms” upon the world, splashed posters and
billboards that had emotional appeals, and showed anti-German movies like The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin.