The progressive era through the great depression had many turning points none more important than World War I (WWI) and Black Tuesday. These two events had tremendous impacts not only on US politics, economy, society and culture; they impacted them globally as well. Without these particular historical events the American/global landscape would be exceedingly different. Some believe WWI started a chain reaction that would lead to the Great Depression and eventually World War II.
There were a few notable events that lead to the outbreak of war in Europe. “World War I erupted out of conflicts between rival powers in Europe, largely based on the competition for colonial empires that had been building in the past decades” (Schultz, 2011, p. 360). The two major players attempting to build their empires abroad were Germany and Britain, and to many onlookers, the tension was building towards confrontation. It was these tensions that lead to alliances being formed. France and Russia would join England in what would be called the Allied Powers, while Germany made allegiances with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Turkey creating the Central Powers. Although these decisions were stepping stones leading to war, the straw that broke the camels back was the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand. “This event set off a chain reaction in Europe’s military alliances. Austria declared war on Serbia, which prompted Russia to help the Serbians, which led Germany to declare war on Russia and France, which triggered England to declare war on Germany” (Schultz, 2011, p. 361).
News of the carnage that was taking place in France disturbed many Americans forcing them to create as much distance between them and the on-going war efforts in “the European War”. The American sentiment at the time was one of impartiality. President Wilson won re-election by basing his campaign on the fact the he kept the US out of the conflict. Although President Wilson (and the rest of the US) had no intention of entering into the war, he would eventually succumb to the economic benefit of aiding the warring countries. President Wilson attempted to trade neutrally between the Allied and Central Powers, but both sides realized they needed to keep the other from trading with the US. It was this realization that drove the Germans to sink England’s Lusitania, which was occasionally used to transport war materials. “More than 1,000 civilians were killed, including 128 Americans” (Schultz, 2011, p. 362). Even though the sinking of the Lusitania prompted outrage among Americans, this was not the deciding factor for the US to enter the war.
The US would finally be prompted to enter WWI and fight along with the Allied powers when the British intercepted the Zimmerman note that was bound for Mexico. The Zimmerman note promised German support for a Mexican invasion of the US. Germany was trying to persuade Mexico to invade the US in an attempt to reclaim New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. “The United States did not officially enter World War I until President Wilson asked for and received a declaration of war on Germany from the U.S. Congress in April 1917” (Garrett, 2009, p. 717). The Presidents request detailed the objections with the Central Powers and that the proposed war effort was for a moral cause. Many Americans had accepted the fact that the US needed to be involved in the war, but there were just as many opposed to it. It was at this time the government decided to change the public opinion by forming the Committee on Public Information. This group was responsible for creating and distributing millions of pieces of war propaganda. This propaganda depicted the German war massacres and advocated Americans to buy into the war efforts. According to Gan,
“Many wars fought by the United States have been possible only because the mass media provide the public with lies that paint opponents as