The Sussex Pledge

The Sussex Pledge
Ericka Austad
During the beginning of World War I, Germany
had adopted a policy of unrestricted
submarine warfare, meaning they could
torpedo any armed merchant or military
vessels without warning, but not passenger
WWI German U-boat
Despite the agreement not to sink passenger ships,
on May 7th, 1915, German U-boats sank the
British passenger ship Lusitania, killing 128
After the sinking of the
Lusitania, tensions were
increasing between the United
States and Germany. On March
24, 1916, German U-boats sank
the French passenger ship
Sussex, killing 50 people. The
United States threatened
to sever diplomatic ties
with Germany.
The Sussex
President Woodrow Wilson addressed the U.S. Congress
on April 19, 1917 and stated the unless the German
Empire gave up their policy of unrestricted submarine
warfare, the United States would be forced to sever
diplomatic ties with them. In response, Kaiser Wilhelm
II of Germany issued the Sussex Pledge on May 6, 1917.
The Sussex Pledge
-Passenger ships will no longer
be targeted
-Merchant ships must be
searched for weapons before
they can be sunk
-No ships can be sunk unless the
crew and passengers have been
safely evacuated
Woodrow Wilson
Kaiser Wilhelm II
The Sussex Pledge appeased the United States for
the time being, but on February 1, 1917,
Germany violated the pledge and resumed
unrestricted submarine warfare. The United
States was finally forced to break diplomatic ties
with Germany.
Newspaper Headline, Feb 1, 1917
The pledge was important during the
war because it showed both
German and U.S. reluctance to
engage each other in war.
We know today that the violation of
this pledge is one of the main
reasons the U.S. declared war on
Germany and became active in
World War I.
U.S. participation in World War I
established its position on the
world stage as it assisted the Allied
Powers to a victory over the Central
Powers. It resulted in the loss of
over 100,000 American lives,
though this is comparatively few
when compared with total war
Human Cost of WWI
I find it most interesting that
the United States did not
declare war immediately after
Germany violated the Sussex
Decoded Telegram, 1917
Coded Telegram, 1917
It took the decoding and publishing
of the Zimmerman Telegram in
1917 that proved German
attempts to make an alliance with
Mexico before the United States
finally declared war on Germany.
Works Cited
Call to Freedom, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 2003.
Destroyed Sussex (Cover Photo)
U-boat Diagram
Lusitania Headline
Sussex Picture
Woodrow Wilson Picture
Feb 1, 1917 Headline
Kaiser Wilhelm II Picture
Zimmerman Telegrams
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