Arnold Swanberg, Resident Historian-Last Years of WWI

Arnold Swanberg, Resident Historian, spoke characteristically without notes. On this occasion, his topic concerned the last year(s) of World War I.

1917 was the most decisive year, entailing such events as: The Russian Revolution and army collapse; The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, allowing the German army’s transfer to the western front; the battle-weariness of all combatants. Meanwhile the British under General Allenby had routed the Turks and marched into Jerusalem. This led to the British mandate over Palestine.

President Wilson, who had avoided US participation, had hoped to be the voice of mediation. For a while, German submarine warfare had been conducted in keeping with the rules of warfare. Then came the sinking of the Lusitania and the institution of unrestricted submarine warfare.

In addition, Germany had embarked on a Mexican strategy, hoping to entice Mexico to go to war with the US to gain back the territory it had lost in the southwest. This became known when the British deciphered a cablegram containing the Zimmerman Note which defined the plan. Moreover, Germany asked the Japanese to go to war with the US, the incentive being a Californian port. Overwhelmed by events, Wilson requested and got a declaration of war against Germany.

Events that soon followed: Our non-membership in the League of Nations, the temporary expedient of the income tax, and women’s suffrage.

Comment: It only took 20 years for global carnage to resume.

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