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The United States and World War I

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Mohammad Mian

On April 6th, 1917, the United States of America entered the First World War in support of the Allied powers, most notable of whom were Russia, Britain, and France.[1] America's declaration of war on the Central Powers, led by Germany and Austria-Hungary, was largely due to the indiscriminate targeting of America's passenger and merchant vessels by German submarines.[2] In early 1917, British intelligence notified the President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, of an intercepted German telegram which encouraged Mexico to invade the United States.[3] The intercepted telegram convinced Wilson of the threat posed to the United States by Germany, and he declared war on Germany in April 1917.[4] After the United States' entrance into the First World War, various American news organizations published articles in support of the war effort, often stressing the nation's vital role in any foreseeable allied military and naval offensives. One such news organization was The New York Times.

On December 31st, 1917, the New York Times published "Allies Rely on Us for Decisive Aid", which was authored by Charles H. Grasty. Grasty's article stressed the importance of the United States to any future successful Allied operations against Germany on the Western front.[5] Furthermore, Grasty contended that a positive outcome for the Allies in the war could only to be achieved once the American navy defeated German submarines in the Atlantic.[6] Thus, he argued in favour of America's role in the war, as he considered any future Allied success to be dependent on the might of the United States' army and navy.[7] Consequently, Grasty's publication reflected the predominant view among America's leading politicians in 1917 and 1918 that the First World War was a conflict to which the United States' leadership on the Western front and in the Atlantic was vital.[8] His ability to precisely identify and address the major weaknesses of the Allies, as well as the use of subheadings to effectively organize his thoughts and ideas, were the strengths of the article. However, a bias in favour of the United States' leadership in the war, and an inability to contextualize the military situation of the Allies at the beginning of 1918, were the primary shortcomings of Grasty's article.

"Allies Rely on Us for Decisive Aid" reflected the predominant view among American politicians in 1917 and 1918 that Allied victory in the First World War would solely depend on the decisiveness of the United States' military and naval leadership in the war. In the article, Grasty stated "A year ago Europe was bitter against President Wilson for utterance then wrongly construed as friendly to Germany. Today Europe looks to him for leadership and even now awaits word from Washington as to whether and how to proceed towards unity of control.[9]" He stressed the importance of America's leadership to the Allied war effort, as the European belligerents were now turning to the United States for advice and guidance.[10] Similarly, he argued "Every calculation includes America as the chief factor. Unless there should come peace by negotiation, America's military resources in men, material, money and moral support will settle the war if it is to be settled by whipping Germany.[11]" This particular passage reflected Grasty's view that an Allied victory in the war could only be achieved with American leadership, as he considered the United States' military and economy to be the factor which would lead to a decisive end to the war in favour of the Allies.[12] Thus, the article reflected the belief that the United's states had a vital role to play in the First World War, which prevailed among many of America's leading politicians, most notable of whom was former President Theodore Roosevelt.[13] The confidence in America's wartime leadership displayed by Grasty allowed him to precisely identify the weaknesses of the Allies in the First World War throughout his article.

Grasty's discussion of the Allies' weaknesses was a strength of his article, as doing so lent credibility to his claim that the America's participation in the war would turn the tide in favour of the allies. Accord to Grasty, two of the major weaknesses of the Allied powers were their inability to counter the German submarine threat, as well as their inability to quell internal dissension in Russia.[14] The German submarines, known as U-Boats, attacked and destroyed Allied vessels.[15] Regarding the veracity of German submarine warfare, Grasty stated

The Prime Minister having definitely and wisely abandoned his over-optimistic policy, the public is beginning to realize how deadly serious is the submarine situation… It can not be stated often or too emphatically that the war depends primarily on the success or failure of the submarine operation, and that what has already been accomplished against the U-Boat [By the U.S.] is important chiefly for what it promises in future accomplishment.[16]

In this passage, Grasty referred to the failure of the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, to realize the seriousness of the German submarine attacks on allied shipping.[17] He went on to stress the importance of the United States to the submarine operations and war effort. By addressing the failure of the European Allies to counter the German submarine threat, Grasty was attempting to portray them as being incapable of winning the without the United States.

Another weakness of the allies touched upon by Grasty was the internal dissension within Russia. Although Grasty did not mention the Russian Revolution, his article implied that Russia was engulfed in great turmoil

Allied Europe closes the books and balances its year by a net loss on the operating side and a net gain in assets by so much as America is better than Russia as a fighting ally…The Allies knew a year ago was a huge mine, with the fuse lighted to blow them up, but nobody flew to the rescue with man-fashion strenuousity… Perhaps the Allies will drift again as they did about Russia.[18]

Ultimately, he was right about Russia, as the Communist revolution in 1917 led to the nation's departure from the war and surrender with signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.[19] By downplaying Russia's importance to the Allies, Grasty sought to portray the United States as a nation which would change the Allies' fortunes in the war. Aside from discussing the weaknesses of the Allies in his article, Grasty's effective use of subheadings to organize his thoughts and ideas was another strength of his article.

Grasty's use of subheadings in his article effectively organized his thoughts and ideas. The four subheadings used by Grasty were "Two Vital Questions", "Shipping Squeeze to Be Severe", "The Western Front", and "All's Looking to America".[20] Under each of these subheadings, Grasty discussed a different subject. Under "Two Vital Questions" for example, Grasty discussed the major issues facing the Allies, such as the internal dissension in Russia and the threat posed by the Submarines to the Allied war effort.[21] He then went on to discuss the impact of German submarine attacks on Allied shipping under "Shipping Squeeze to Be Severe".[22] Finally, he discussed the situation on the Western front under "The Western Front", and concluded by mentioning the importance of American leadership to the Allies under "All's Looking to America.[23] Grasty's use of subheadings allowed readers to gain a thorough understanding of the document, as his ideas were well organized. Despite the excellent organization, the article was biased in favour of American leadership during the war, and it lacked adequate historical context.

Throughout his article, Grasty was biased in favour of America's leadership in the First World War. He often downplayed the Allied command by placing an emphasis on their mistakes, such as Lloyd George's failure to deal with the threat of German submarine warfare.[24] At the conclusion of the article, he stated "America is looked to deal with every large phase of preparation with the same far-seeing and whole seeing that had just been shown in taking over the railroads-an action applauded in every quarter here as showing President Wilson's firm and enlightened will to win. And, finally, America is expected to profit by her own and the Allied blundering.[25]" Grasty's conclusion was evidence of his bias in favour of America's leadership as he considered America to be in charge of Allied preparations, all the while the remaining Allies were blunderers. Another weakness of Grasty's article was his failure to contextualize historical information.

Grasty failed to provide a historical context for some of the events discussed in his article. The most notable event which he failed to contextualize was the Russian Revolution. Although Grasty referred to Russia as "a huge mine, with the fuse lighted to blow them up", he did not elaborate on the events which engulfed the nation.[26] Had Grasty discussed a few notable details of the Russian Revolution, his article would have had more historical substance. Another historical detail which Gratsy failed to contextualize was the submarine warfare of the Germans. While he did discuss the German submarine operations, Gratsy failed to mention why and how they were destructive to the Allied war effort. Furthermore, he also did not mention any statistics regarding the amount of Allied ships lost to the German submarines. Overall, the lack of historical contextualization decreased the quality of Grasty's article.

Charles H. Grasty's "Allies Rely on Us for Decisive Aid" expressed the dominating political opinion in the United States during the final two years of the First World War that American leadership would propel the Allies to victory. Both the mention of Allied weaknesses and the use of subheadings to thoroughly organize his ideas were the strengths of his article. Unfortunately, the article was hindered by Grasty's bias in favour of American leadership during the First World War and his inability to adequately contextualize relevant historical events.

Bibliography

Primary Source

Grasty, Charles H. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid." The New York Times (London), January 31,

1917. Accessed January 1, 2017. <http://search.proquest.com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/hnpnewyorktimes/docview/100044453/fulltextPDF/1B966D33181C4774PQ/1?accountid=14771.>

Secondary Source

Wilmott, Hedley Paul. World War I. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2009.


[1] Hedley Paul Wilmott. World War I. (London: Dorling Kindersley, 2009), 196, 199.

[2] Ibid, 200.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 196.

[5] Charles H. Grasty. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid.", The New York Times, January 31, 1917, 1, 3.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Charles H. Grasty. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid.", 1.

[10] Ibid, 1.

[11] Ibid, 3.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Hedley Paul Wilmott. World War I., 198.

[14] Charles H. Grasty. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid.", The New York Times, 1.

[15] Hedley Paul Wilmott. World War I, 183, 197, 198, 200.

[16] Charles H. Grasty. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid.", The New York Times, 1.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Hedley Paul Wilmott. World War I, 250, 251.

[20] Charles H. Grasty. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid.", The New York Times, 1, 3.

[21] Ibid, 1.

[22] Ibid, 1, 3.

[23] Ibid, 3.

[24] Ibid, 1.

[25] Ibid, 3.

[26] Charles H. Grasty. "Allies Rely On Us For Decisve Aid.", 1.


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