Why did the U.S. declare war on Germany in WWI?

President Wilson asking Congress to declare war on Germany, April 2, 1917
(Photo: public domain)

World War I was one of the most devastating armed conflicts in modern history; nearly ten million soldiers and just as many civilians lost their lives. It changed the world forever and shaped the twentieth century. It marked the twilight of the British and French colonial empires, and signaled the emergence of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Poland as new sovereign states; brought about the end of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman monarchies; and propelled the United States of America to the status of global power. The U.S. entered the war in its third year in 1917, but why did it officially declare war on the Central Powers, Germany in particular?
 
While remaining neutral until 1917, the United States has supplied war material and provided financial support to the Allied Powers. President Woodrow Wilson requested the Congress to declare war on Germany on April 2, 1917. His request was based on two main reasons which also pushed U.S. public opinion in support of entering the war.
 
Firstly, Germany has broken its earlier promise to suspend its unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean and has resumed to attack Allied and neutral merchant and passenger ships. This led not only to the loss of American lives but jeopardized trade at sea, too. The Germans believed that the unrestricted submarine offensive would shortly lead to the capitulation of Great Britain long before the U.S. would enter the war.

A photo taken from a German U-boat about the sinking of the American tanker steamer "Illinois", March 18, 1917
(Photo: Imperial War Museums)

Secondly, Germany intended to draw Mexico into the war against the U.S. A telegram sent by German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Ambassador accredited to Mexico promised German help to the Mexican Government in retaking territory lost during the Mexican-American War. In return, the Germans asked for mutual support from the Mexicans in the war. On January 19, 1917, the telegram was intercepted by the British naval intelligence and shared with President Wilson on February 24. The American press published the story a couple of days later.
 
Four days after Wilson’s request made on April 2, 1917, Congress declared war on Germany as an "Associated Power" of the Allies. From there on, the United States Navy provided convoy escorts. From the initial 300,000 soldiers of the Army stationed in the U.S., the number of American soldiers just in Europe reached around 2 million by the end of the war in November 1918.

A caricature about the Zimmermann Telegram
(Photo: public domain)

On the occasion of the 110th anniversary of the breakout of World War I, we will launch our first WWI tour at the end of August this year. On this 12-day tour, we are going to walk the hallowed grounds of France and Belgium, where the bloodiest battles took place, and the outcome of this devastating war was decided. We will pay special attention to the sites dedicated to the American contribution to the Allied efforts. The deployment of new weapons, such as machine guns tanks and combat gases, brought violence to an unprecedented level. Soldiers had begun to protect themselves by digging trenches and fortifying their positions on all fronts leading to nearly impenetrable lines of defense and a war of attrition. We are going to explore these weapons and strategies on the former battlefields. By the end of the tour, you will understand also how the consequences of the closing of the „war to end all wars” led to World War II. If you have any questions about this or our other tours, please contact our travel consultants at info@beachesofnormandy.com or by calling our toll-free number: +1 855-473-1999.

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Watch the teaser of our WWI tour!
(Video: YouTube)

Victory in Europe Day promotion

10% discount on all tours

A V-E Day celebration in Toronto on May 8, 1945.
(Photo: City of Toronto Archives)

On May 8, we will celebrate the 79th anniversary of V-E Day, standing for Victory in Europe Day, marking the date of the formal unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in World War II. On this occasion, we are offering all our tours with a 10% discount if you book and pay in full until May 8, 2024. Note that this offer applies only in case of new bookings, and it can be combined with selected special offers. If you have any questions related to this promotion or our tours, please contact our travel consultants at info@beachesofnormandy.com or by calling our toll-free number: +1 855-473-1999.

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