tv Woodrow Wilson and World War I CSPAN November 11, 2016 10:35pm-11:16pm EST
we visited woodrow's wilsons house. leading the nation through world war i and diplomatic aftermath. he died here three years later. executive director robert leads us through the house and highlights objects that provide a window in world war i as wilson experienced them. the united states sbld the war on april sixth, 1917 as an ally, britain, france and russia. 2 million american soldiers saw combat in france. >> executive director of president woodrow wilson.
>> this allows us to see the way the world was then. this is illusion -- we're very much like, you know, but actually the wilsons lived in the narrow and america fought differently about themselves and america's role in the world when society was very different and the artifacts in this house, i think, opened a door into that world and they'd like to help us do that today by looking at a couple of artifacts. they tell the stories of the american involvement with world war ii. i'm observed all that history is ethics, but -- and this is
very -- the wilsons and we often associate and they're certainly linked. but actually was sunk in may of 1915 and we didn't enter the war until almost two years later in april of 1917. president wilson had to get up every day in those two years and deal with the fact that we were going to be in the war and all the reactions the constituents and other nations of the political figure that is he dealt with. some felt he should have entered the war and others felt strongly that we never should have measured the war and wilson had to navigate that period of time those decisions as our president. >> i think it's fair to say that woodrow wilson is the most consequential president until the time of franklin roosevelt. i say that because he was our
president during this remarkable event in world history. at a flexion point of world history and american history, not only dealing with world war i. but rise of the united states. by 19 money, the united states had the largest economy in the world. but the consequences of that weren't fully appreciated until by the end of world war i as american's role as military power and diplomatic power were understood and acknowledged. he was our president during that entire time who really brought that change in america's role on to before. wilson was a remarkable person to execute this activity, to execute this change. he was a deeply religious person, all of us had war, wilson has a religious man felt we had a duty to do better than to collapse into war every generation. he was a political scientist, founder of the discipline of thought, one of the first
presidents of the american political science association. and so he thought that we could do better. he believed that he could govern ourselves better as a world. and the combination of those two firmly held principles in his mind and as world war i progressed there ought to be a better solution that we result, not only this war, but the wars of the future and even prevent wars in the future. and from that came his idea of a league of nations to which he devoted, not only his political career, but arguably, his life and his place in history. so the artifacts we have in this house can tell us the story of wood row wilson's involvement with world war i if i had to pick one artifact to explain that story, it would be this. and people look sometimes, but they'll recognize immediately that it's an artillery shell casing. this was the casing from the
first shot by american troops in world war i. and there are a couple of things about this. it was fired in october of 1917, general was the commander of the american expeditionary force that you should save this and send it to president wilson as mo men tus. it's interesting that we declared war in april and yet the first shot was fired in october, six months to go from the idea of engaging in world war i to being on the ground. but most remarkable of this -- about this is that not only is the list artillery shell casing, first shot fired by american troops in europe and world war i. it's the first shot fired by american troops in europe, first stop. and in my lifetime, america has always had the army and wood row wilson's life, exact office.
>> and were in europe at the end of world war i. but just the logistics of that are astounding, realize in world war i erupted, the ka b-- and yt today we think of american indisspenceble in politics, but the beginning of world war i, and it was wood rrow wilson who achieved that transition. i heard in my lifetime that the united states doesn't go to war, basically develop a empire or to acquire territory that he go to
war for principal for right. it was wood row wilson who was the first american president to enunciate that proposition. he had gone back 20 years earlier to the beginning, which was about taking over the colonies of dwindlings of spanish empire. wilson thought that going to war was about securing and enduring piece. and so this artillery showcasings here on the mantle, where he had it. i think it's fair to say that it was not a triumphant trophy. it was more reminder to him as the work yet undone. the creation of the league of nations had occurred. he was there nobel peace prize for 1919 it was established as a league of nations. as americans we should always remember, the senate declined to ratify the treaty wilson went on a trip across the country hoping to appeal to the american public
to over ride the will of their senators, but that never happened, the league of nations failed in a series of votes in late 1919 and early 1920. so the united states never joined. interestingly, late in life, i think wilson had a state of grace about this. he told one of his daughters who reported in her memoirs, he said great ideas don't rely on advocates. they have a logic of their own, power of their own. it would be 25 years later that the u.n. was founded. and i think it's fair to say no nation of the world more intent on founding united nations i think of world war ii than the united states. in 1945 when the u.n. charter was signed in san francisco in a way that's the conclusion of the conversation that woodrow wilson had begun in american politics in 1918.
>> another artifact that's remarkable, i would like people to come to the house to see how we have. relating to world war i is this sculpture. this was a gift to woodrow wilson from a young artist. he was philippine artist in his 20s who was studying in the united states and had a day job, most of my artist friends had when he was young. in one of his regular patrons, he was the secretary to the first lady. and the artist had done this project as a art project, as a grad student and told the woman who was associated with the white house that he had done this in 1919, inspired by president wilson to bring peace to the world. it has the word tax enscribed here which means peace in spanish. and i've read they're coming to white house with this statute under his arm wrapped in a
towel. in those days, one didn't encounter the secret service and he was announced and went into t oval office where he spent some time and presented this -- and we know that wilson lived in this house. he had this sculpture here or on a shelf in his library to the years to keep us here. the story is amazing it doesn't end there, wilson introduced to bernard in the summer recognize as some arts patron. also supporter of president wilson and helped support him in getting an education in rome, eventually a phd there and then going back to the philippines where he became one of the great artists. so it's interesting to me that our president had a role in the career of philippine artist who went on to live until the 1970s, 198 1980s and had an impact beyond
the own country. it's an amazing work just the draping of the gown, the figure of the woman and the child looking off into the distance, presumably, looking for peace, standing on a rock, under which you can see chains on a crown and world war i helmet. so very -- symbolism, but also favorite peace of president wilson. president wilson passed away in this house, actually, in this room in 1924. his widow influenced lived here until remarkably 1961. >> over the bed. by italian artist. he was busy in new york city.
he was favored piece and he had it hanging over his bed in the white house and then over his bed here on p r the bed here which the pillow case has been woerch into the like of president wilson which is a little unusual, but the story explained it. during world war i, the united states occupied germany during the war and that substance of flower. -- and and plans to leave present wilson and likeness of wilson torgt exactly.
it's an amazing example of what they'll limited in the materials they're available and yet they have a skill and they want to exercise that skill. >> this is the drawing room in the house. and this home tells so many stories. every room has stories, but one of the important stories is the high regard with which the american president was held there are many gifts which are acknowledgment of the important role and breathe at the end of world war i and securing the peace and establishing the league. today we think so much more of world war ii than world war i.
it's closer to us in time, my own father was in the navy and world war ii. it also about 18 million people died in world war i. about 60 million, 65 million people died in world war ii. but for the contemporaries of world war i, there had never been a cataclysm on the scale that they were enduring. it's hard for us, i think, today to put ourselves back in the minds and passions of people in the early 20th century and realize what a tragedy world war i was to them and how hopeless things seemed in the middle of that war from november of 1917 to november of 1918. so into that, president wilson brought the united states. and not only did american troops lead to a decisive victory for the parties, the allies at the
end of the war, but his enunciation, we may remember what his 14 points said, among other things, was that this war could be terminated, could be ended on principal. it didn't have to be a fight to the death. this was an innovation coming from an important leader of an important country. additionally, it can be seen as a response to the revolution in russia which had occurred two or three months early in 1917. the 14 points announced in january of 1918. so wilson was basically saying, we can maintain the western europe and the world that we all know. we can still have the forms of government that we're comfortable with and we can end this war without a fight to the death. and it would take another better part of a year, another nine or ten months, until the german empire accepted wilson's 14 points as the basis for peace and the date of that acceptance
was known as armastice day. today it's called veterans day. we still honor it as a national holiday even 100 years later. so in that time, wilson was the world leader who was bringing the hope for peace to the world. when he went to europe to negotiate the versailles treaty at the end of world war one, he ended up staying for six months. some will say to me, well, it was hard to travel in those days. it wasn't that hard. it took him ten days in an american war ship to go across the atlantic. but there was nothing more important in that day than ending the war. while he was there, he had time to visit four countries. paris, france, so he was in france, he visited italy, belgium and great britain. while in italy, he went there and met with the pope, with pope benedict xiv. it's such a fine mosaic that if you think from a distance it's an oil painting.
scholars of art realize it's a details from painting by a renaissance italian painter. this was a work, a gift of the pope presented to president wilson as a way to wish him well in bringing peace to the world at the paris peace conference. here is another amazingly beautiful work of art. this is a painting called les perance. one of the consequences of world war i was that the ottoman empire, which had governed what we think of today as the middle east asia, turkey and that region, the ottoman empire collapsed and in that transition, the armenian people
suffered grievously. who was our president? well, it was woodrow wilson. in that time, he responded to that crisis by sending food aid to armenia. it's one of the first examples of international humanitarian relief. the armenian people are very grateful. a group of armenian women touring the united states were here in 1917 just after we declared war, and presented this painting to president wilson. the artist's wife who is among the women, it depicts their niece who is wearing traditional armenian costume and holding the armenian national flower which symbolizes hope and thus the title of the work "in hope" in french.
it shows the role of america in bringing humanitarian relief. and being a player, if you will, on the humanitarian stage. these, i'll point out these gold, hand painted plates are three of 15 plates that were a gift to president wilson from the king and queen of belgium who wilson visited when he was in europe and they reciprocated by coming to the united states in the fall of 1919. this was the first trip to america by reigning morn ark -- monarchs from europe. because of travel and because of the role of america in the world, british kings and queens, french kings and queens had not visited the united states. but the belgium king came to the united states and presented president wilson with 15 plates in a lacquered velvet lined box with a shelf for each plate.
wilson had, about a month before, suffered the stroke that devastated his health and presidency. but one could hardly say to european monarchs, it's not a convenient time to come. so wilson had an audience with him. he was actually in bed recuperating from the stroke. edith wilson, the first lady, took the king and queen on a tour of the white house. before they left, they returned to wilson's bed and found him with a magnifying glass looking at the plates and wilson quickly realized each plate depicted a building that had been destroyed in world war i. so these plates really were a reflection of the damage that had been done in europe and a thank you to wilson for bringing the war to a conclusion and for re-establishing the normal society that would lead to the rebuilding of europe following world war i. when president wilson went to paris for the paris peace conference, he became the first american president to go to europe while in office.
while he was in europe, he went to great britain and was actually at a reception hosted by the king and queen of england at buckingham palace. wilson then became, if you think about it for a molt, the first american approximated to meet the king and queen. these are the photographs which were presented to wilson. they're in silver frames with their initials on them. these are their official portraits and both are autographed by the american family. these are queen elizabeth's grandparents. and i think if you look closely, she bears quite a resemblance to her grandmother, queen mary. here outside the library is a statue that deserves note. woodrow and edith wilson are both supporters of the american red cross. this is one way the united states was involved in world war
i even before we declared war and became involved militarily. the red cross did great work in world war i, and was supported by many americans, including prominently the president and first lady. this sculpture was based on a popular poster of the time. it's called the greatest mother in the world and depicts a red cross nurse kneeling and cradling in her arms what you might initially think is a baby, but actually it's a small soldier which has been grievously wounded. it's an amazingly empathetic work. i can imagine why the american public was so taken by this you work, the idea of the nurses tending to those soldiers who were wounded in this war that was sweeping europe and much of the rest of the world.
must have spoken to the impulse of americans to do right, to do well. this was presented to president wilson, we think, by the artist sometime during world war i. here in woodrow wilson's library, we have a whole range of artifacts that tell the story. this cabinet is full of gifts and mementos of wilson's president today. but maybe the most amazing and the one that relates most clearly to world war i is this pin and pin stand. the pen is the pen that woodrow wilson used to sign the declaration of war in april 1917. the way this would have worked, wilson earlier that week had given a speech before a joint session of congress. the house voted, the senate vote and had they brought him the declaration of war three or four days later. and he and his wife, edith, were having lunch and it's like,
where is the pen? this is an era before ball point pens. edith said, oh, here, use mine. it's a pearl handled pen. it sits on a stand that has a whole story of its own. if you look closely, it's a walrus tusk that's been carved in the shape of a walrus with inlaid gold and it was a gift from the inuit tribes in alaska to president wilson. this is before alaska was a state, when it was a territory of the united states. over here is a statue that was a gift to the first lady, edith wilson from the city of rome. i mentioned earlier president wilson was the first american president to go to europe while in office. and interestingly, edith wilson was the first first lady to go to europe, while in office, if
you want to think of it that way. she had to answer questions about how does a first lady conduct herself? how does she dress? all the sorts of formalt ies. so when the wilsons visited italy, president wilson was in roam was given honorary citizenship by the city of rome, but edith was given this statue, which for those who are aware of the history of italy would know this is the statue of romulus and remus, and on it are the initials that stand for the senate and the people of rome. it's a very touching gift and the fits into the theme of that era. edith's accompanying president wilson raised questions in people's minds of what role were women to have in our society. it would be about that same time, during the wilson
administration that the 19th amendment was finally confirmed and that women received the federal constitutional right to vote in the united states. in her own way, edyth was forging a path for women that continues to this day of the first lady accompanying the president on state visits and having a formal role. this is a radio microphone from the 1920s. it was from this room that president wilson made the first nationwide radio broadcast on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of armistice day, november 11th, 1923. and it was a microphone like this that wilson used to give a four-minute speech on this occasion. he was quite anxious about it, spent the day fretting and napping off and on. no one had ever spoken on radio like this before. at that point, having endured a stroke and still somewhat recovering, he was somewhat
infeebled. a person who still smoke as much as wilson still felt some anxiety about going on radio. so he gave his speech at about 8:00 this evening. it was very well received, so we have this microphone here to commemorate that great event. he used the occasion to appeal to the american people to reconsider the united states rejection of the league of nations. the united states never did join the league of nations. and wilson at this time appealed to americans remembering that it was consistent with the principals of our nation's founding and also consistent with the sacrifices made by our troops in world war i that we join the league of nations. wilson was to pass away about three months later in this house. so it was really his last public address. and so, really, to his last days, wilson was appealing to america to really conclude world war i by joining the league of
nations, a final step that we never took. we're now on the first floor in what president wilson called the dugout. he was a big fan of baseball which became popular in america when he was a teenager. this was the room where his secretary would do correspondence and whatnot. but one of the world war i related artifact that we have here is of this and people often ask what is that. it's wool. but before it's been woven into clothing. the story here is that as the united states got more and more involved in world war i, the white house decided they ought to free the workmen who were otherwise doing mowing and landscaping, free them to support the war effort. so the wilsons got a flock of six or eight sheep and by the end of war became 12 sheep or more.
but they would munch on the grass and every spring the sheep would be shorn. the wilsons would then divide it into 50 different parcels, one for each state. one for the district of columbia, one for puerto rico and then auctioned to raise money for the american red cross. another artifact in this room is this platter. it's a pewter platter. let me put on my gloves here so i can handle it without staining it. this was a gift to president wilson from the people of belgium. as you can see, it's in horrible condition. that's not because we neglect the platter. it's because it was actually pulled from the rubble of a burned building in belgium.
this was presented to wilson at the end of the negotiations of the paris peace conference, the versailles treaty. in a way, i think this artifact is so poignant and tells the story of the beginning of the war and also the end of the war. so i'd like to read what is inscribed on it here. it says to the imminent president of usa, woodrow wilson. and i'm going to read exactly as it is. i think the person who wrote this probably spoke french as their first language and reasonable not english. it says in remembrance of his visit in belgium, june 1919. this dish has been drawn out of the ruins of hotel dela renaissance grand plus 30 tremond belgium, entirely destroyed by the fire which has
been systematically inflamed in the town by the german soldiers on 4-5 september, 1914. so this is an artifact of the german invasion of belgium that really started world war i. and students of history will remember germany's plan was to sweep through the lowlands of belgium, take paris before anyone could respond and wheel and turn to russia and defeat them. that plan, of course, didn't work because in large part belgium resisted the german invasion. so this fire, september 4th and 5th, was set about a month after germany invaded. i don't remember detail, but they had the german army going through belgium in about a week, not a month. and so the hostility of that time, the violation of the neutrality of belgium, these were very intense issues in
woodrow wilson's time. i think in a way they were presenting this plate to him to demonstrate the passions that were felt during that time, the intensity of the negotiations that he had conducted in versailles. remember there were 16 combatant nations that participated in this world conference. nations including india, japan, who were also involved in the hostilities during that war. they had lost among them 18 million people. think how excruciating these negotiations must have been compared to the international negotiations that we have today over things like climate change or trade treaties. and wilson brought all of those parties together to sign the versailles treaty, to establish the league of nations that he thought was so important to enduring and maintaining peace.
and as someone who thought he knew as a political scientist knew what ought to be done, he brought the treaty back to the united states and there his political opponents weren't of the same view as he. they have a legitimate view. we do debate today the role of america in the world. but wilson, 100 years ago, saw beyond the verizon of history and believed that the world but wilson imagined that the world would need something like the united nations and he founded it in 1919. while the u.n. doesn't work perfectly today, i think it's an amazing legacy of our 28th president to have seen so clearly what the world would need to minimize the risk of war in the future. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs anytime by visiting our website, c-span.org/history. this is a film of president woodrow wilson acknowledging a
crowd outside his washington, d.c. home on the second anniversary of the end of world war i. on november 10th of 1923, the former president delivered a live radio address from inside his home marking armistice day, now known as veterans day. coming up next, an audio recording of president wilson's address, the earliest known recording of a radio broadcast. we're providing a transcript to follow along since the audio is difficult to understand. the ailing former president who speaks very slowly in the recording died a few months later in february of 1924. pictured here is woodrow wilson's coffin being carried can out of his home.
up next on american history tv, a panel of four veterans discuss their lives in the u.s. military and combat experiences. participants include the those from the d-day invasion, from the battle of the bulge, the battle of okinawa, and a fighter pilot with tuskegee air men. this event took place in arlington, virginia, and was part of a conference of the group friends of the world war ii memorial. it's about an hour and a half. >> ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for this panel discussion this morning as we get ready to talk to some of our most treasured american he rose, our veterans of world war ii. and we thank them for joining us this morning. my name is mike hydeck. i'm honored to be here with friends of the world war ii memorial. and the foundation. i'm the morning anchor at wusa channel 9 here in washington, d.c.
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