Paper - The First World War in the USA
My research paper deals with the role of the USA in the First
World War (1914-1918). I will try to point out major events
of this period and their influenced economical, political
and social spheres of American life. My research is based
on two primary sources. These are abstracts from Levack’s
“The West: Encounters and transformations” Volume
2. Chapter 24 is devoted to the First World War in the USA:
“the Expectations vs. Reality” (p. 787) and “the
Revolution in the Front Lines” (p. 801). Besides I’ll
focus attention on two illustrations related to the topic:
“Women in the War” and “Role Reversal”.
They impressed me most of all and made me ponder over dangers
and threats of military service, reasons and consequences
of certain changes in it during the war. These four sources
provide detailed information on the topic stated before. I
will analyze the points which I consider to be the most important.
I’ve chosen Gerd Hardach’s book and a newspaper
article “The Unsung Women of World War”. The first
one helps to understand economical problems in America during
the war and after it. The second source is a nice supplement
to the investigated topic of women’s rights. Chosen
sources are close to each other and will give readers a clear
picture of what was before the war and what happened afterwards.
Authors managed to trace connection between past and present
events. It would help to understand errors and misreckoning
of military leaders of the past. On the whole the main point
I’ll try to emphasize is what has changed in the USA
due to certain events and circumstances during the war.
The First World War also known as the Great War caused the
greatest number of victims in comparison with any other military
conflict. People had never known so much violence and aggression
before. The war became business of the whole society, not
only political authorities [Levack, 2000]. It caused revolution
in the fronts. New kinds of weapon and technical equipment
were invented at this time. The role of them became more and
more significant in the course of time.
It is important to point out its purposes, ambitions and real
state of things during the war [Levack, Expectations vs. Reality,
2000]. The First World War gave stimulus to the economic development
of the USA and strengthened its political authority. Unlike
Europe the USA actually was not affected by mass destruction
in the industrial sphere. New York replaced London as a financial
capital of the whole world. US economy rapidly grew, while
its transatlantic rivals competed with each other. His ideas
however never came true because of postwar policy in the USA
as well as in other countries. Historians admit that instead
of military affairs, the USA has chosen policy of “Empire
without tears”: it hold leadership in the world market
and at the same time had very few political duties [http://www.greatwardifferent.com/].
Any war brings pain to a great number of women all over the
world. Many of them become widows, lose contact with relatives
and suffer from violence and threatening. In spite of all
these hazardous obstacles, women show amazing tenacity. The
illustration “Women in the war” [Levack, chapter
24] helps to understand position of women in the war. Many
women joined regular army and fought with praiseworthy bravery
and courage. In case they got injured they were treated like
men. International human right supports all war victims of
any sex. For a long time war was considered to be male business.
But already during the First World War women’s participation
in war affairs became more and more frequent. Women proved
that they could work not only as medical personnel.
During the First World War this tendency was still an innovation
but it soon became a usual thing. In the USA as well as in
many other countries tendency to draw women into the war influenced
the development of emancipation. It accordingly led to unpleasant
consequences. During the war women made first steps to reveal
true sex equality and eliminate ‘home slavery’.
When the war broke out, thousands of women joined army to
keep pace with men. They felt themselves ready to endure sufferings
of military service, although it was hard to get used to it.
And it was twice harder for women. Strict discipline, military
uniform, hard physical training weren’t an easy undertaking.
War left an incurable trace in the mind of every woman. Women
went through postwar psychological rehabilitation harder in
comparison with men. Phenomenon of women in the war is complex
due to peculiarities of female psychology. All those pains
and sorrows which women had to witness were a dreadful contradiction
with their inner nature. The illustration “Women in
the war” made me think over women’s position during
the First World War in particular. I dare say it brought first
revolution changes. ‘Domestic keepers’ turned
into ‘draught horses’. Not all women were willing
to join military service instead of their husbands. Being
deprived of any help, many of them had to work, resigning
themselves to economical necessity.
Before the war relatively well-to-do family could afford hiring
servants. The war however brought radical changes. More and
more women became engaged in high-paid male job. On the other
hand women acquired certain taste to freedom, being no longer
dependant on men. Another illustration called “Role
reversal” [p. 798] is also relative to the position
of women during the war. It is an image of a soldier infantilized
in the arms of a nurse. When I looked at it for the first
time, it occurred to me that in spite of men’s strength,
women possess many important for military affairs qualities.
Women often join army as medical nurses and need to be brave
enough to endure the sight of wounds and blood. They have
to be able to lessen soldiers’ sufferings somehow. The
picture made me think that men also depend on women. Wounded
soldiers need care, tenderness and tranquility. Who would
provide it better than women? Although military service is
undoubtedly male business, women play a considerable role
in it. When American people started thinking like this, women
got more rights and freedoms. And on the other hand men began
to treat them with more respect and care.
Gerd Hardach’s book “The First World War 1914-1918”
contains much information in the form of historic overview.
In order to form steady international relations, the USA has
been looking for various economical opportunities. Historians
often concentrate on the dramatic military events, political
and diplomatic ties. It’s important to remind that Americans
have always been striving to get access to world market. Economy
was the major factor, which gradually formed foreign policy
of the USA. As a result it became an economic leader and greatly
contributed into the world development. Phenomenal economic
growth however existed within the country for a long time
to pass [Marshal, 1992]. Businessmen saved up great sums of
money especially on oil industry.
At the beginning of 1914 the USA was a true economic leader,
providing 1/3 of global productions [Hardach, 1977]. In order
to understand the role of America in World War I better I’d
like to figure out its main points. Germany and Austria declared
war against an alliance of three states – Britain, France
and Russia. The USA however proclaimed neutral policy. I must
admit that it actually reflected the ideas of Adams: free
trade shouldn’t be influenced by politics [Venzon, 1995].
Although trade with Germany almost broke off, the USA still
had firm relations with other states. In 1916 Germany challenged
neutral position of the USA and it was forced to join the
war in 1917. By the year 1918 position of Germany became completely
hopeless. Its armies retreated in the face of inexorably growing
American military power. As a result Germany had to ask for
armistice [Fisher, 1967].
It’s curious to learn that in the postwar years different
political leaders discussed American interference into the
war from different points of view. In 1930s, for instance,
it was considered to be an absolute blunder. Isolationists
admit that weapon tradesmen wanted to get more profit during
the war. That’s why they somehow influenced the government’s
decision to participate in the war. At the same time the US
Congress passed certain laws concerning neutrality. Trade
was supposed to guarantee the shield from war [Hardach, 1977].
Personally I consider that “Empire without tears”
reminds serenity of colonial prosperity under Britain’s
control. Many expectations never came true after the war.
Much has been written about the First World War in the history
books. Different events are being investigated and analyzed
as history still has gaps in it. Due to this fact I took a
newspaper article under the title “The Unsung Women
of World War” as a secondary source [http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/womeninww1/Women_in_WW1.htm].
I think it may shed light on a dark side in the history of
the USA during the war. It tells about women who weren’t
recognized as veterans. 300 women served abroad during the
First World War. I doubt it was the only accident of this
kind in the history. But the matter is that one would never
learn about it from history manuals. Hundreds of women were
sent to France as volunteers. They ought to be not less than
25 years of age. The only exception was those who could speak
French fluently. They were later trained to join armies. But
after the war, their activity was not recognized by the Government,
as the law didn’t allow women to join army. It took
them 60 years to prove they participated in the war at all.
But when their actions were finally recognized there remained
only 70 of those women. Having read the article I couldn’t
help sharing my impressions. Heroic praiseworthy actions remained
unknown. Women sacrificed their lives for the sake of homeland
but faced careless attitude towards their actions. I’ve
chosen this article as an appeal to read about such unknown
heroes just to know about them. Their feat is still omitted
in the history book.
To make a conclusion I’d like to remind that the First
World War caused numerous changes in different spheres of
life. Women’s position has changed during the war. They
gained more freedom and independence. They made first attempts
to gain right to vote. I think that this war was first to
change the status of women to some extent. Nowadays nobody
would doubt that women are absolutely equal with men. On the
other hand I tried to show economical changes in the USA.
Using different sources, mainly Gerd Hardach’s one,
I analyzed past and present place of the USA in the world’s
economy. The First World War also caused changes in the US
society and politics. In the postwar years government passed
more and more laws concerning different aspects of people’s
life. Speaking about casualties, it seems clear that before
the 20th century people have never been engaged in such grave
conflicts. I think everybody understands inanity of wars but
they still take place. Today the majority of western armies
involve women into the military service. The greatest number
of female soldiers belongs to US army (10%).
Brian Levack. 2000. The West: Encounters and Transformations.
The First World War. Volume 2, ch. 24. Pearson Education Press.
Gerd Hardach. 1977. The First World War 1914-1918. History
of the world economy in the 20th century. London: Allen Lane.
Fritz Fischer. 1967. Germany’s Aims in the First World
War. London: Chatto and Windus.
Marshall S. 1992. World War One. Boston: Houghton Miflin.
Ivanyan E. 2004. History of the USA. Moscow University Press.
Martin Gilbert. 1996. The First World War: A Complete History.
New York: Henry Holt.
Venzon A. 1995. The United States in the First World War:
The Great War In Different Light. 2000. Period newspaper and
magazine articles. http://www.greatwardifferent.com/
Pearton Ì. 1984. The knowledgeable state: diplomacy,
war and technology since 1830. University Press of Kansas.
Women in the war - the role of woman in the World War I. 2005.
The Unsung Women of World War One http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/womeninww1/Women_in_WW1.htm