Why did America lose World War I.
The USA's suppressed war
Many American youngsters think Franz Ferdinand is cool. And by that I mean the music of the pop band of the same name. Kenneth Clarke, director of the Pritzker Military Museum in Chicago, is aware of this. According to Clarke, only a few of them knew that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was also the heir to the Austrian throne whose assassination in Sarajevo resulted in the disaster of World War I and killed 117,000 American soldiers.
"In this war, far more US soldiers lost their lives within a few months than in the ten years of the Vietnam War," commented Washington journalist Michael Mosettig recently on Facebook and drew a sober balance: "We know which war was the forgotten that slipped from our historical memory between the Civil War and World War II. "
Remembering the Vietnam War: Fewer fallen US soldiers than in World War I. But: an estimated one and a half million Vietnamese died in Vietnam
350,000 African-Americans also go to war
Kenneth Clarke wants to change that with his museum in Chicago. "We should use the outbreak of war 100 years ago as an opportunity to tell people more about the 'Great War'," he told Deutsche Welle. And so Clarke wants to use the commemorative year to convey the message: "Hey, this is a historic milestone that deserves your attention. Because knowing about history means not repeating it."
In his museum a small exhibition of propaganda posters marks the beginning. The US government used them to recruit young men for the war. After all, there were more than a million, including 350,000 African-Americans.
German submarine in Lake Michigan
Spectacular, yet almost forgotten, is a World War I attraction that is not far from Clarke's exhibit at the bottom of Lake Michigan. After the war, a captured German submarine was driven up and down the lake on a "victory tour", only to be ceremoniously sunk. "That thing is well preserved in cold water," says Clarke. "It's just waiting to be lifted by someone."
Woodrow Wilson: In 1916 he won re-election with the slogan: "He kept us out of war"
Simon Liang from Chicago is one of the people who heard about the submarine. The 21 year old American studies history. And the First World War brought him the first disappointment of his studies. He wanted to write an essay about the war, but soon gave up in exasperation because he could not find enough reliable information in the USA. "It's hard for us young people to understand this war. Schools are doing what they can, but there are gaps in the education system."
There is more to the world than the US
The "Great War" brought a new worldview to the people in the USA: "There is more in the world than just the United States", according to Liang, many Americans suddenly made it clear to themselves. "From here our field of vision expanded to what we now call a global world economy and the concern arose to understand the world as a whole".
When German torpedoes sank the British "Lusitania" in March 1915, almost 1200 people died, including 128 Americans
The historian and Pulitzer Prize winner David M. Kennedy notes a multiple change of direction in American politics. The USA's entry into the war in 1917, almost three years after the outbreak of World War I, catapulted the country onto the world stage. After German submarines sank the Lusitiania with 128 Americans on board in 1915 and then other American merchant ships fell victim to the "unlimited" German submarine warfare, President Woodrow Wilson gave up his initial neutrality. On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany.
Relapse into isolation
After the Central Powers had been defeated, the US quickly fell back into isolation. This time even deeper and longer than before the war. The historian Kennedy sees reasons for this in Wilson's growing disappointment with the irreconcilable attitude of the European allies towards Germany. And in Wilson's failed initiative for the "League of Nation", a kind of forerunner of the United Nations. The president's own congress had refused to approve it. Kennedy sums it up: "We weren't ready to play a bigger role in the world."
On April 2, 1917, Woodrow Wilson declared a state of war, four days later he declared war on the Central Powers
Hot dogs instead of frankfurter sausages
And in the interior of the USA, too, the view has meanwhile become narrow-minded again. According to the historian Kennedy, many Americans of German descent, for example, suffered "horrific" injustices after the start of the war. Georg Glotzbach's uncle George was a volunteer at the time. There was nothing left for him: "Anyone who didn't fight wasn't worth being a citizen. But they didn't want to shoot their cousins in Germany," said Glotzbach, who lives in the small town of New Ulm not far from Minneapolis in the far north of the USA lives. Open protests and resistance to military service were met with surveillance. The "Committee of Public Safety" sent agents to New Ulm who listened to church services and bar gossip in equal measure.
German words were deleted from street names and foods. Frankfurter sausages were forcibly turned into hot dogs. "My grandfather had a clothes shop," reports Glotzbach. "When the war began, trade with non-Germans almost came to a standstill." Everyone with a German name was put to the test. "It was a very tough time during the war."
The many dead among their own soldiers were also a new and painful experience for the Americans. The last war - it was waged against Mexico - was more than 60 years ago when the First World War entered the world. Around 12,000 American soldiers were killed at that time. In the First World War there should be more than ten times as many.
Fighting under English and French command
In the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, museum guide Robert Dudley uses the numerous exhibits to show that the American army was not prepared for deployment in Europe.
The former colonel and Vietnam veteran reports that the units were initially stationed in "quiet sectors" after they landed in October 1917. "We didn't really fight until March 1918. It was only with the Ludendorff offensive [a series of German offensives in the spring of 1918, led by the chief of the Supreme Army Command, Erich Ludendorff, editor's note] - that we began to fight together with French and British units, initially under their command. "
Wounded American soldiers in France during World War I
Memorial events for all those who fell
America's entry into the war was instrumental in the victory, says Dudley. But the commemoration a hundred years later, he believes, should be shaped by a different spirit: "All soldiers took part to defend their country. The commemorations should not celebrate victory, but be for all soldiers and families who were at war fought for their countries. "
More than 150,000 people visit the Kansas City museum annually. The show does not show the American war perspective, but places different perspectives side by side. Museum representatives work on the World War One Centennial Commission appointed by Congress to organize the commemoration nationwide. What is clear is that it won't really get started until 2017, 100 years after the American entry into the war.
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