Rules of War At Sea

World War I
United States Declares War
Section 10.1
Don’t write, Listen
• America declared neutrality in August 1914
• Britain blockaded Germany; Germany’s surface navy was too weak to break
the blockade
• Germany submarines targeted British shipping; also attacked neutral
shipping, passenger ships, and unarmed ships; often without warning
• May 1915, sinking of Lusitania enraged Americans; Wilson protested, but
chose not to ask Congress to declare war
• Germany suspended unrestricted submarine warfare in May 1916
• Early 1917, Germany was suffering from shortages in food and war
materials due to British blockade; decided to resume unrestricted
submarine warfare - estimated it could force Britain from the war in 6
American Neutrality
• American self-image as a nation that left the
troubles of Europe behind
• America’s ethnic diversity created mixed
feelings about supporting the Allies or the
Central Powers
• Strong belief in freedom of seas and rights of
neutrals to trade with all sides of a conflict
• Business opposed the British blockade –
wanted to trade with all sides; made $$$
selling war material to Britain and France –
German submarines threatened this trade
“My Fatherland, My Fatherland, the place so dear
to me;
Our soldiers brave will try to save, our home
across the sea.”
American Neutrality
• Interventionists: favored America
fighting on the side of the Allies
• Isolationists: rejected any American
involvement in the war, including
trading with belligerent powers
• Internationalists: U.S. should play an
active role in the world, but stay out of
the war
Zimmerman Note
• January 1917 – Germany
concerned U.S. might enter war
• German foreign minister sent
coded telegram offering Texas,
Arizona, New Mexico in
exchange for support in war
against the U.S.
• British code breakers
(cryptographers) intercepted
and leaked the telegram
• Z. Note outraged American
population; further eroded
positive feelings towards
History Trivia: One of the
• Despite desire to remain neutral, Wilson approved
advocates for ROTC was
measures to strengthen the military
William Oxley Thompson,
• National Defense Act – 1916: formally created the the president of Ohio
National Guard & Reserve Officers Training Corps State University.
• Naval Appropriations Act – 1916: authorized
construction of large, modern Navy to rival Britain and
• Wilson’s 1916 re-election campaign focused on his
commitment to U.S. neutrality
• February 1917 – Germany authorizes unrestricted
submarine warfare against all shipping
approaching Britain; several U.S. ships are sunk
without warning
• Sinking of unarmed and neutral
shipping caused tension between U.S.
and Germany
• American policy was “freedom of the
seas” – any neutral could trade with
any power
• Germany promised several times not
to sink unarmed ships without
• Decision by Germany to resume
unrestricted submarine warfare in
Feb, 1917 was major factor in U.S.
decision to declare war
“The present German submarine warfare
against commerce is a warfare against
“But armed neutrality, it now appears, is
impracticable. Because submarines are in
effect outlaws when used as the German
submarines have been used against merchant
“The world must be made safe for democracy.
Its peace must be planted upon the tested
foundations of political liberty.”
April, 1917 Woodrow Wilson asked
for and Congress passed the
declaration of war against Germany
• Reminder, Section 10.2 reading guide due next class
• Quiz next class