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tv   U.S. Entry in to World War I  CSPAN  November 13, 2016 4:30pm-6:01pm EST

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elected as the next u.s. president, melania trump becomes our nation's second foreign-born first lady. learn about the influence of presidential spouses from the c-span book "first ladies." it is of look at the influence of every provincial spouse in american history, a companion to the tv series and features interviews with 54 of the ladyns leading first historians, biographies of many first ladies, and archival photographs from each of their lives. "first ladies" for by public affairs is available or ever you buy books and now available in paperback. -- wherever you buy books. announcer: a professor talks about events leading up to the american entry into world war i and some common misperceptions he sees in conventional views of the great war. g is an author of the
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book. the symposium hosted this event. it is 1.5 hours. host: michael neiberg is with the world -- war college. he got his masters and doctorate at carnegie mellon university, with that growth in social, history, heamerican is pushed widely on the theme of war in the world, especially on the theme of the two war worlds. was one published by harvard university press in 2011, which the wall street journal said was one of the five best books ever written about the war. published "the blood of -- the blood of men."
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this month, oxford university press published the history of the american response to the great war of 1914 until 1917. please welcome dr. michael neibe rg. [applause] dr. neiberg: well, i want to thank him. i do work at the war college. these sold us a manager of that is i'm supposed to tell you that the sole thing you are going to hear from me tonight will be just for me and not from the war college or anyone in the chai -- chain of command. so we got that out of the way. it is a great pleasure to be here and to talk to all of you here today. largerlk is based on a project, based on a book that jerry mentioned. looking at the american responses of the war in europe from when it began in 1914 until the u.s. entry in 1917, and this
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is a subject i am afraid we as a community of historians have not treated very well. we have even look at it exclusively from woodrow wilson and his close group of advisers, or we have taken some half-truths from then and mix them in with half-truths from the 1960's and shook it up and made a history out of it, but as i hope to show you here, the real history is far more complex and far more interesting. it isn't that what the rest of the u.s. is doing outside of washington, d.c., and wilson's circle of advisers. -- it is about what the rest of the u.s. is doing. and why does it all matter? i want to start with this image, which is from november 1914, " life" magazine. i apologize about the quality. the library was not excited about my idea to razor it out and glue it back in. i would like you to take a look at both the name of this map, a
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map of europe for permanent peace, and i would like you to look at a couple of details. the image on the left, the image on the top is from belgium. is frome on the bottom the great french cathedral that the germans had shelled in the fall of 1913. and i want you to take a look at the map. notice about it? there is no germany on this map. if you notice, france goes all of the way to vienna. a new poland is created. -- hungaryn hungrier you one- i want to show important theme, which is the american people as a whole were pro-allies from the start. now, that doesn't mean they wanted to get involved in the war. that does not mean they wanted to see american foreign-policy tilt one way or another, but where their sympathies were was
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quite clear, and i will talk about that in a bit. but then, it was white clear that people thought this war was going to be short and that this war would not cause them to make great changes to the way that they do things, but as i will show you here, events will prove that is a false assumption. and i want to dispel one mess right away, and that was that the american people were bystanders and did not pay attention to what was going on. that is patently false. they knew that the events going on were monumental in their scale and scope. they also knew would happen in europe which surely affect them on a political, economic, and social level. this was the greatest news story of the age, the greatest many said since 1865. nor did the american people react exactly the way woodrow wilson them to come in a famous speech, asking americans to be strictly neutral in thought and in deed. wilson himself did not follow that guidance.
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most favored in the allies, seeing the germans especially as the aggressors in this war and the ones who started an unnecessary war from a rather small cause. they blamed the german government, not the german people. they warned systems. governments, they argued, not war, an argument that americans still hold true to this day. they called for a regime change well before that phrase became part of the political lexicon. still, until 1917, most americans hoped to keep their country out of the fighting, but that did not keep most americans from giving their time and their money and sometimes their lives to the allied cause, especially to france, a point to which i will return in just a bit. it also meant that the united states had no problem with woodrow wilson's economic policies, which tended to favor the allies dramatically. wilson's definition of neutrality maximized american profits while tying us to the
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allies for economic and moral reasons. it also made for many americans enemies of germans in their eyes. to dos really what i want tonight. i want to take you on a little journey. a north carolina newspaper editor who was a firm backer of president wilson. wilson rewarded him by naming him the ambassador to great britain, technically the ambassador to the court. in 1913. when the war broke out in 1914, this letter was written to the president. now, he said, i thank heaven for the atlantic ocean. thank god we are out of it. wrotever a year later, he another letter to wilson, in which he said, in germany wins, and monroe doctrine will be shot through. greatll have to have a army and navy. please remit or, in 1915, this was considered a bad thing. it meant you were going to have to spend a lot of money on something that you did not used to have to spend money on. winsuppose if england
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question what we shall have merely an academic dispute with her. it is a matter of life or death for english-speaking civilizations, and he felt so strongly about this that he left england, québec to the united states, to the white house, wilson would not see him, so he went down to the house just down the shore on the jersey coast and sat on the front porch until woodrow wilson showed up. he was not the head of ambassadors in europe, including the american ambassador to germany, so essentially, what i want to do is take you through this journey. from 1914, what americans can say thank god it is 70 else's wouldm, to 1915, or i argue a few months after that, a few months later than that -- thank god it is somebody else's problem. this is the journey i want to take you on. i want to start by introducing you to someone you may not have heard of, and i had not heard of
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her, but in 1914, she was one of the most famous people in the united states, later to be called the american agatha christie, a bestseller rider in the united states. she was up with a chance in the spring of 1915 to go to the western front and be the first woman allowed into the trenches. she was at a cocktail party here in new york city. in front of the entire cocktail hery, her husband forbade from going. she turned to her husband and said, i do not intend to let the biggest thing of my life go by, and by the time the party was over, he had agreed to let her go on the condition that a giant life insurance policy be taken out on her and that there is a sum per dispatch, a remarkable figure. in some ways, her journey from pittsburgh, pennsylvania, through new york, to london, to berlin, to belgium, into the trenches and back home, to
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provide the way americans were going to view the war for many months. first, she went to europe with some pro-allied sympathies, but she went hoping to condemn both sides in the dispatches she planned to send back to "the saturday evening post," but the more she saw, the more she blamed the germans, and the more she believed the british and french were fighting on the side of the right, the side of the democracy, the side of the weak. and like most american journalists operating in europe warned americans not to believe what the british media was reporting. instead, she said, believe what we american journalists can prove. leave what we saw with our own eyes. what we saw is bad enough. it is not necessary to believe the stories the british are trying to tell out of belgium. believe what we saw with our own eyes. on thathe sought early
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although the united states had interest to see britain and france succeed in this war, american interests and british and french interests did not overlap. therefore, if the united states were to get involved in the war, it would have to be for american reasons, not to bail out the british or the french. and forth, by the time of the sinking of the lusitania, she, like most americans, wanted to see the german army thoroughly defeated, preferably by the the british, and the russians, with the united states defeating them from the outside. this is a page from a wartime diary. no, that is not a page from the wartime diary. that is a page of the wartime diary. she came back a greater celebrity, in march 1915, much more famous, much wealthier, and just before the lusitania sinking. for her and for millions of americans, the great sinking of the lusitania it was not whether it would pull america into the war, almost nobody argued for
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what withuestion was the lusitania now force the united states to do. lusitaniay that the ushered in, that the war would not be short and that the united states would be unable to stay out of it was a great question of the age. we react to a war that is no longer merely europe's war changes do weat as americans need to make? do we need to change our business practices? do we need to build a bigger navy? biggereed to build a army customer do we need to change the nature? and larger questions over which the united states has a troll, how much longer will this war last? who will win it? can the war bring positive change, as the end of the civil war brought the end of slavery? have aerica responsibility to act on the side of the right as opposed to the side of the rock, and it would come as no prize to the
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people in this room that americans did not agree. they certainly did not follow their president. in the wake of the lusitania, attitudes towards germany grew much harsher, and not just because of the lusitania. this is a political cartoon from 1915, and you can see the image here. , ais the kaiser with a sword germane with blood, while he is also wearing an fes, and it says "allah with us." the ottoman empire would not have done what it did had the , andns not been supporting armenia drew tremendous sympathy in the united states. a christian population living inside a muslim empire, trapped in between the audio and -- the audit empire and the russian empire. -- ottomant empire
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empire and the russian empire. day, especially in new york city. there were sabotaged campaigns factoriesn american breathe air is attempted assassination of jpmorgan by a arranged citizen who had no connection to the german government. it was a bomb planted in the capital building by that same man. those who know the story of jersey city once the other was a took sets of piers that munitions overseas. knowns blew that pier up, as the black tom explosion, where liberty park stands. if you go to the back of liberty piers are still partly there, and there was a sign to tell people what happened. and then expelling two german
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diplomats, declaring them persona non grata. allegations that german officials were trying to buy american newspapers and even trying to rig american elections. came forward with a plot that german agents had approached him to use the newspaper as a mouthpiece for german goals worldwide, and his response was i am an american and more of american parentage. for the first time, it he history that his german and his american mentality were in conflict with one another. he started writing articles and withdrew from an article he was supposed to write about nietzsche. there was entry in mexico. there was the believe that the invasion of the southern united states could never have happened had germany not been behind it.
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rumors are happy to fuel in order to make it seem like he had pink sponsors. rinehart was a firm believer of what would be known as preparedness, holding up american strength so that the united states would not be dragged into war. the goal was not to make america ready to fight but to make america too strong. woulder words, no one attack us for this movement was led by industrialist and people like roosevelt, who were furious that the government was not doing more, and i can talk more about that in the discussion, if you like. fromhis advertisement 1915, you can see the text, we are prepared, but what you might not be able to see in the bottom left, that circle, that is paul revere with 1775 underneath it. behind the guy on the telephone is the bell telephone system, showing the modern paul reveal warning system, which is an intercontinental telephone line, and it is that there are that reads that the
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bell system is a distinctly american achievement made by americans for america, and it's like as not to be found anywhere in the world. this was partly led, like i said, by people like field or roosevelt, and on the industrial side, it is led by people like a railroad president, powell evans, who feared that if america was not prepared, whoever won this war would -- thethe united state united states next, carved up by european enemies. it was also led by people like mary roberts rinehart, who argued that the united date now had to get ready, whatever that meant. plan, whereby a american employers should still pay their employees who went out to get training. thomas evason created a group to get the nations industry ready to go. charles mayo of the mayo clinic teamed with doctors out of
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pittsburgh for medical preparedness with chapters out of 47 of 48 states. columbia university, the president ordered preparedness done on the faculty. imagine doing this today. he went to the entire faculty and said this is how the army chief staff system is wired. identify where on that system you can be most useful to the in an emergency. he did this in 1916, and every member of columbia faculty responded. this is an idea. it is not the idea to get the united states ready to fight a war but to make the united states so strong that the countries of europe would have to pay attention to what we wanted, and for reasons i would be happy to discuss in the q&a, preparedness only produced half measures. it gave the u.s. a slightly larger navy and a reserve officers training program and a whole lot of parades. but it highlighted the central american problem. knowing that we needed to be prepared but disagreeing about
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how to do it. also highlighted the essential ineffectiveness of government, and this is really what theater roosevelt, what general leonard wood, and others are saying. if the government is -- in preparing us, then others. how, in other words, can we be neutral and safe at the same time? thatas i said, a little of fear, a little of that suspicion, translated to german-americans, the vast majority of them, at least since non-prussian, were and disproportionately catholic. a lot of those same americans came from germany, specifically to get away from the prussian system. german-americans were also and quite proud of the single most assimilated group in the united states among immigrants, and then the pulitzer prize in 1920. it depicted the wheeler family living in the press, whose son
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gives up plans to study in germany because of how were plus he is by the actions of the germans in world war i but never turns his back on the german-americans in his community. suchome the germans are ugly looking people? the folks around here are not ugly looking, asks the housekeeper. he replies, the ugly ones are doing the killing, while those on the homefront are nice, like ours. that they are not vandals. the germans we know, some come here to escape the same thing that has wrecked the old world, and coming to this land of the free, he has followed an ideal as steadily as the fatherland. they are following the false gods of hate and war. the key in other words was not the system -- was not the people but the system under which they lived. in the introductory remarks, you guys talked about a seminar you're going to hold on constitutional law and the changes that went on in the united date during the first
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world war. it is different in wartime been in the years leading up to the war, and we can talk more about that, as well, and an example of this is the most prominent german catholic of chicago gave a number of addresses on this topic. what should german-americans do as this crisis with germany began to build? himself the grandson of a union veteran in the civil war, and when asked about this topic for the next time, he said it seems to me it is rather late in the day to ghastly german-american to prove his patriotism. he did that more than half a century ago, referring back to the american civil war period, and when the decision came close in 1917, should war break out, it was said german-americans would support the united states, of the little drummer boy in the orphan asylum to the aged veteran in the old folks home. some consider themselves german-american.
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dwight eisenhower and pershing prove the case quite effectively. went to beidn't tarred with the brush of disloyalty. they understood a tremendous difference between german-americans born in the u.s. and german-americans born in germany. many other german-americans described to the crisis that was going on as what happens when a wife and a mother disagree. he said wives and mothers disagree a lot. the mother is the one that raised you. the wife is the one who is with you right now. when a wife and a mother disagree, who wins? and his answer was the wife. many others agree. in the 1916 election, they were split, except for the socialist vote in certain cities like milwaukee. in other words, there was no german vote, any more than there was an irish vote. taron tried carefully to
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his rival with being the pro kaiser candidate. is, something very similar going to happen with irish-americans. this is a political cartoon shortly after the easter rising, and the cartoon is called irish patriots, edit has the sultan of the ottoman empire and the with the green and the irish instrument. irish-americans like to say england's difficulty is ireland's opportunity. in other words, whatever is best for england is good for us. cleare lusitania made it that germany was no better as an alternative, and many irish made the argument that ireland, a small, catholic country, was a lot like belgian, another small catholic country run over. the big difference comes with the easter rising, and i can blame it little bit here and can do more in the q&a, if you want to night and 16, a small group
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of irish countries known as the brotherhood, they take over large sections of central dublin and sections of the country in a rebellion against the british. some of you might know the british it down very forcefully and very mildly. from the beginning, the british position is unpopular in the united states. even america's most pro-british spokesperson, theater roosevelt among them, criticized the british, not just for the violent response for the execution of many of those pretty much without trials. however, it proves things to irish-americans. one was that germany was no better as an international sponsor or patron than was great britain. they sponsored part of the easter rising. they took some and landed them in ireland. they promised weapons. they promised support, and in the end, they did nothing in the second was that irish-american leaders especially came to resent the accusations -- the
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disloyalty. the argument went we are irish-american, but we are american. you can count on us not to do it they did in dublin. furthermore, what irish-americans came to realize, although many of them did not like it, is that the best hope for ireland was that the united states and great britain were in the winning coalition of the war, and the reason is that woodrow wilson had begun to speak of self-determination. in other words, the best hope for ireland going forward was and for theto win, united states to be part of that coalition so that woodrow wilson britain to great accept self-determination for ireland. now, as some of you may know, wilson had already determined at that point that the irish were not a nation, that the irish could be what were presented with in the larger british structure. that is something he did not make public until 1919, so irish americans are going to be unhappy.
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there are few woodrow wilson markers in ireland. i was just in the czech republic. it are a lot in the czech republic. there are few in ireland. it is a little more complex, but there is some similarity, and i wanted to close with his quotation from an irish-american actor. living here in new york city, when asked about his loyalty, he said, i am a new yorker. i would assume issued an irishman as a german if he threatened new york city. you guys laughed, but the other places i have had this discussion, there was no laughter. now, i told you about american fears coming close, fears on the rise, and i want to show you the image i use most often, the i could have chosen others. this is another "life" magazine, this one from 1916. february 1916. notice how early it is. you will notice a few things on this map. i absolutely love it. most of the united states is pressure.
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and some areas, like where boise, idaho, is, there are the two diplomats that were declared persona non grata. totsburgh -- i want you notice a couple of things on that map. mexico is identified here as the province of mexico with a capital. this is, of course, playing on ,hose fears that poncho via what we would today call the failed state of mexico, german inspired. orworse still german funded worse still part of a german-mexican alliance. i would like you to also notice that florida is also named differently here. this was a major american fear. one of the things during preparedness, the united states begins to arm and fortify puerto rico, and the united states
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purchases the islands from denmark to become the united states virgin islands. the member, 1914 is opened. the united states is worried about it. by west coast is known another name, and this is the american reservation. anybody who is a psychologist can play on that one. california. this is exactly the fear that was brought up a year earlier, that what could happen to the united states is it could be torn apart, cut up into its various constituent pieces. the ocean has a name, the gulf of mexico, and the when i have not talked about yet, if you can please pan out yet, my favorite part, if you can show this imagery of calgary, canada is referred to as barbarians. now, in case there are any canadians in the room, i do not think they were referring to canada here. what they are referring to is
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the possibility is if there is enough pressure, and that pressure is about to come, and the battles we will focus on in the near future, if the british and french are under a enough pressure, they might give up parts of their north american possessions in order to get out of the war, and anybody who knows anything about 18 entry or 19th century history, this is the great powers treatment of north america, so the fear is not so much that the canadians are going to turn into barbarians, like the rangers are hosting summit here tomorrow, so maybe, or sunday, but the fear is if the british are under a enough pressure -- were member, canada is under the british empire. what they might do is say to the germans in the peace treaty, we will give you a halifax. we will give you the port city on the west side near vancouver. we will give you toronto. we'll give you whatever you want, just get us out of this.
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the french similarly, still have possessions, guadeloupe and martinique in the caribbean. it's possible, that what the americans could face, in other words, is a future, where there is an alliance between germany, mexico, and japan. remember, these fears will come back in a couple of months, when the zimmermann telegram proves this isn't just paranoia, while, at the same time, britain and france are trading parts of their north american possessions as the price of getting out of the war. two things to note about that. one, obviously, this is a strategic outcome that's unacceptable to the united states. even if it doesn't go nearly as far as this. and two, the conclusion that many people reached, neutrality has now made u.s. less safe, not more. we may have done the right thing in staying out of this war, but we're now in a more dangerous situation than we were when we started. this is certainly the conclusion of mary roberts rinehart and the conclusion of theodore roosevelt. the point is, the united states can lose this war even if, or maybe especially if it does nothing. and again, note the date here.
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it's just a couple of months after that statement that page made to president wilson about this being an existential threat to the united states. economics is also a huge factor. this one is from the "chicago tribune." you'll recognize new york city there, the docks of new york city appear in this image as magnets pulling the hard currency of europe over to this side of the world. over to this side of the atlantic observation and you can see the american banker is bringing pounds, marks, rubles and franks while e.u. banks look exasperated. economics is an enormous factor. in 1914, the united states economy was in recession. the war brings us out of the recession almost immediately. everybody everywhere is making money. everybody everywhere is making money. new york city especially was booming.
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locomotive works in philadelphia signed a deal for $127 million with the russians. any stone ammunition company, also in philadelphia, signed deals to sell the british and french two million shells and 50 million rifle cartridges. they also got a fat contract from the pennsylvania national guard, preparedness movement. with those contracts, of course, came jobs and salaries, after years of hard times. european goods, things that americans used to buy overseas, luxury goods, thing like eyeglasses, pencils, bibles, that americans used to buy from europeans, we now bought from manufacturers here at home. even the wheelers way out in nebraska, in one of ours, are making money on wheat prices going up.everybody is making money record profits for pig farmers, record profits for camera salesman. american per capital income for 1914 was 1,164 and going down. in 1916, it was 1,868 and going
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up. with this success, there you can see, oh, sorry, sorry. a slide that i also like to show, some americans were not comfortable with all of this money. some americans thought that this put american in a very bad moral position, that is, we're making money off the tragedy that's going on in europe. some americans donated part of that money, a symbolic part of that money, to the people they saw suffering. this is an ad from the pittsburgh press, i picked this one because it's a day to raise money for the serbians, at the amusement park that i grew up going to so i thought it was kind of interesting. the ivy league then, the big football conference, about donating all the profits from its 1915 football season to charity. they said no but they agreed to pass around buckets that people could throw change into. but americans gave enormous sums of money.
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almost all of it went to serbia, poland and france and belgium, of course. john, the great philadelphia industrialist, called for raising $100 million for belgium alone. philadelphia alone raised enough money to buy two entire field hospitals for the french army. in just three hours, philadelphia's jewish community raised a quarter of a million dollars for relief of jews in poland. enormous sums of money going overseas for charity. i'll come back to this in a second. i want to quote mary one more time. she described pittsburgh as fattening on catastrophe and one newspaper in iowa ran this headline. have we a right to our present prosperity? in other words, can america profit from a war? can america profit from the suffering of others? what kind of nation does it make us? as you might be able to imagine the british and germans for their own reasons were both
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highly critical of the united states. for making money off of a war that the americans wanted britain to win and german being critical because of the united states industrial and financial systems are essentially working for the benefit of the germans. when i was over in france, i found a wonderful, wonderful quotation where a french senior officer referred to the united states as our great neutral ally. and that's for reasons, as i said, both practicality, money, and morality. most american trades overseas, over the atlantic ocean 1914 to 1917 required british ships, british credit and british insurance. some americans gave more than money. this is a group that were volunteer americans, some quite wealthy, not all of them wealthy but many quite wealthy, who left their comfortable lives here in the united states, went to france and first joined the french foreign legion and then joined a volunteer fire squadron, that would fly in the french army.
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the guy that founded sit the guy holding the lion cub there. these guys had two lions cubs, whiskey and soda. his name is billy. his father was the president of the pennsylvania railroad. then the largest corporation in america. he had one of the first privately owned airplanes in the united states. this group, the lafayette is going to go on to compile a tremendous war record, a tremendous combat record. and p.r. people on both side of the ocean were quite quick to pick up on it. a great p.r. tool, showing the linkages between their two countries. theodore roosevelt gave them money. the vanderbilts gave them money. they hosted lavish parties. they weren't under anybody's command. the french didn't want to tell them what to do and they weren't part of the american force yet. i have theory that this is where the fighter pilot mystique comes from.
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they could do anything they wanted, they flew in the bath robes because they didn't like the uniforms. they threw enormous parties in paris. at the same time, they had a tremendous combat record. trained when foreign dignitaries would come to visit to knock the foreign dignitary down and growl and just when the foreign dignitary was just scared enough, whiskey or soda would look them on the forehead. and this is the memorial that is just west of paris, in a place -- it's unfortunately not that easy to get to. it was in bad shape, why is it jumping here? thank you. it was in pretty bad shape. the french government paid to clean it up and to do a lot with it. this is the memorial they built. some of you may know this nurses and doctors came from 47 of the 48 american states to serve in france. there was a charity group, a granddaughter of grant and a daughter of grover cleveland, two american presidents, went
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over to care for the blind. the blinded french veterans. j.p. morgan's daughter, ann morgan, began a tremendous life of philanthropy helping out the french. she bought a little chateau, which still stands as a monument to franco-american friendship. other writers and famous people were there. people who weren't famous were there. the important point is there is no equivalent to this, to the central powers. i can't find any documentary records, the only thing i can really find are two doctors who went and served in the austrian army and one of them, his papers are in kansas city. i'm not here to make a political statement, i'll here because people are suffering and i took an oath which is very different from the folks at lafayette are saying. they are saying i'm ready to die for france and give my life for france and there were people who did give their life for france including several people that are in this photograph. joyce, of course, dying symbolically on july 14, 1916, in the service of the french army.
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this is mary roberts rinehart again. i think no one captured what was going on in march of 1917 better than did mary roberts rinehart. in late february, 1917, after germany declared it would resume unrestricted submarine warfare and after the zimmermann came out, german asking mexico to create a german-mexican japanese alliance and if war begins asking mexico to invade the american southwest to get back everything that it had lost in the mexican american war in 1846-1848. that's serious stuff. and i can tell the story of that because it's brilliant if you want me to. the point is all of that was out there. and it still wasn't clear what president wilson was going to do. he said, i'll go to the white house and skin him alive.
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said theodore roosevelt. political partisanship is not new, guys. mary roberts rinehart sat down in late february, gets published in march, and she wrote this piece for the "saturday evening post." wilson's declaration of war speech is a perfect distillation of what was going on but i think mary roberts rinehart is even better. what i want to focus on is that penultimate, the paragraph that begins brit and france, the main theme that she wrote is if the united states gets involved in this war we can't allow substitutions like we did in the american civil war. she had two teenage boys. she knew what that meant. she knew it was likely that they would fight. and she wrote, on that theme, if in this war we allow the few to fight for us, then as a nation we have died and our ideals have died with us. though we win, if we all have not borne this burden alike then do we all lose? but she also wrote, reason the united states had to get involved in this war was that britain and france shared parts
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of the american ideal, our democratic heritage came from them. since 1914, she wrote, british an french have been fighting for the ideal on which my country was founded. under the domination of the prussians, germany threatened those values because it had broken loose something terrible. something that must be killed, or the world dies. there are no higher stakes than that. and whether this looks good from a hundred years or not it's undoubted, unquestioned, that this is the way most americans felt in 1917. the united states in her view had no alternative. a war she had seen with her own eyes. a war for which she knew the united states people were not prepared. a war for which she knew the american government was not prepared. and a war that she knew the united states still had not developed strategic goals for. i want to end this with a little new york city touch.
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not too far from here is times square. and the statue that sits in times square, that's on the top left, he wrote his most famous song, in fact, until the 1950s, until elvis came along, the most famous recorded song in american history, as he was coming from new rochelle, new york, to grand central stadium, where i went to escape a rainstorm, song he wrote was "over there." he wrote it the day after the american entry into the war in 1917. there are two versions for how he wrote the song but the one he wrote on the train is a little better. supposedly, he went to the ring announcer at madison square garden, sang the song for them and the ring announcer said, george, that's your hit. it's symbolic of two things to me. first, the change from 1917 to 1915, when, as some of you know, a very popular song in the united states was a song called "i didn't raise my boy to be a soldier." it was a controversial song from the start. theodore roosevelt, in the way
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only theodore roosevelt could have, another new york city guy, he said anybody that doesn't like -- that likes that song would also like a song that would say, ?i didn't raise my girl to be a mother." however, after the sinking of the lusitania and after the preparedness movement, even the song's writer backed away. he said i didn't suggest that song to suggest moral equivalence. i didn't mean for anything to be read as anti-war or anti-preparedness. the second thing i find interesting is that there were four very popular recorded versions of "over there" in 1917. this song was written by a long term american, george m. cohen, and famous versions were sung from a jewish american singer in illinois. by the great italian opera singer, and billy murray, an irish american singer out of
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philadelphia. now, that's important to me because it shows the unity of americans going into the first world war, that there were these different versions to appeal to different communities. by the way, this is making money off this stuff and you'll notice there is no african-american singer of this song which suggests, of course, segregated army that's going to go and fight the war to make the world safer for democracy. it also shows how far the united states and the american people were willing to go to guarantee their safety in 1917. and i want to finish with this thought and then i'll be happy to open it up to q&a. in my view what the american people were doing in april 1917, was preventing the threat that germany posed to their homes. stopping things like the black tom explosion, stopping things like the threat that that map showed, stopping things like the zimmermann telegram, from getting in the way. why is that important? we will celebrate, we will commemorate the end of the first world war here in a couple of weeks on november 11. that's the day the armistice was
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signed when ferdinand negotiated an end to the fighting. that's the day we pick. on november 12, 1918, already came the calls from the united states to bring the troops home and the war, stop the spending, get back to normalcy. in other words, we don't commemorate june 28, 1919, which is the day the treaty of versailles is signed. why that matters and why i think what i think the book, and the evidence in the book suggests, what the american people thought they were doing in april 1917 was stopping the threat to the united states. they did not think they were following woodrow wilson on the journey that would lead him to the treaty. thank you and i'll be happy to take any questions you might have. [applause] we've got a bunch. there is a microphone coming around. >> i would just like to point out that there was also, at this time, starting in about 1915, a very lively invasion of american
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literature. >> absolutely. >> i have read a fair amount of it and it's all, and i mean, all anti-german. >> all of it. all of it. either it specifies the germans or it hints very carefully around it. in fact, there are three of them that i bought aimed at teenagers, young adult fiction. the last one is called the defense of pittsburgh which is why i had to buy it being that's where i'm from and it reads just like that movie "red dawn." it's up to us, defending against the germans. >> i have volume two, which is the defense of brooklyn. >> there you go. >> so you guys failed so we had to bail you out. i'm just kidding, i would never say that to a guy from brooklyn. thank you, michael. >> there was an oversight, pointed out, poland is not exist until 1980. it had been off the map. if they came to the united states, they would be the largest population group. it wasn't german americans. >> that's correct.
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>> so you didn't american polish american jew. you may correct it if you're so inclined. it's significant because after world war i poland was larger than latvia, estonia and hungary combined, so this was not a minor ethnic group. >> and the polish legion created in 1918 was done on the south side of pittsburgh. but you're right about that. >> here's the question. the beginning thing about world war i sit ended four umpires, germans, austria, hungarian, russia and turkish ottoman. it did not end the french and the british empire. i'm concerned that we may have adopted some british values into the american military system, for example, in 1922, the crest at the military academy, it was reversed. duty honor, country is an interesting motto. it makes more sense if it's the other way around. what good is duty without
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honor. this was prompted by an appeal -- by some captain in d.c. >> i don't know, it's the case of the west point motto. it would be a wonderful thing to take a look at. i don't have a direct answer but it wouldn't surprise me if they went to west point, if they went back and said top to bottom, let's look at everything, are we doing everything the way we want to do it. there is a strong anti-british streak in the american army during world war i. most americans don't like accepting this but the army we modeled and pattern ourselves at the most, the one we wanted to work with the most was actually the french and the australians because they hated the british, too, or disliked them in a cousinly kind of way that we did. at west point there is a statue. at the end of world war i there,
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were tight ties between the academy and france and those things go away in the world war ii but they are very strong in the first. >> are there any parallels with french americans, russian americans, greek minutes, -- greek americans, italian americans, having the same thing, where they are kind of having to prove they are bona fide, that they are americans, too. and second, during the war, there is an official propaganda, with people like -- the committee, i wonder if they are taking any qs from the interwar, or pre-war stuff you've been talking about in terms of that kind of american culture. >> the british and french don't have to prove their loyalty because the goal that britain and france have line up with the goals of the united states. russia is more complicated and i
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didn't talk about it here but the russian revolution is extremely important because it proves to americans that the war might have the positive benefit of bringing democracy to russia. an issue that we're not done with a century later. so, to people that come from eastern europe, hope is, if you can bring democracy to russia, create a poland that makes sense, create a czech that makes sense, get rid of those backward empires the war might have things positive that you could pull away from. just as, of course, americans would argue, the american civil war did and the war, the war of 1898 did. your second question, yes, he's picking up on themes, he's not creating this out of thin air. he's picking up on, you know, destroy this beast. he's picking up on the aristocratic nature. he's picking up on things that
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are out there and i can talk about more of those. >> my question is why is the traditional explanation, i have never heard your point of view before, very interesting, thank you, that it really all hinged on our entry into the war, really all hinged on unrestricted submarine warfare, and in a factual sense, let's say the british had done worse, is there any sense you have that the united states may not have entered the war, absent that. >> i'm a historian. my standard throw away answer is i only discuss counterfactuals with a scott in front of me at a bar because i like to have evidence in front of me to prove a case. what i can say, at the end of 1916 the dominant american view was, we will support the british and french with everything that we've got but this is still not our fight. by february, march, and april of
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1917, that view has radically changed and it's because of the zimmermann telegram, it's because of unrestricted submarine warfare, because of the fears of sabotage, new york city mobilizes before the united states does, before the declaration of war, to guard the bridges and guard the harbors and guard the tunnels that they think are all at threat. the new york national guard buys its own sea planes in order to patrol the airspace over new york city before the u.s. gets involved in the war. so there is this sense, there is this fear that our security is at risk. but until unrestricted submarine warfare and the zimmermann telegram, dominant view is we'll support it, finance it, provide the weapons, do whatever we can do but it's still their fight, not ours. early 1917 changes that. >> i have two questions. first of all -- >> where are you? >> the issue right here. i can't stand. the issue of the recent 30 or 40 years of literature on the
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american intervention in the first world war stresses the fact that one of our weaknesses was the overemphasis on marksmanship, the individual rifleman, tim talks about that. and others do. i was wondering what you have on that and secondly, as you just mentioned earlier, had the black tom explosion out there in new jersey, and you have this whole -- very active espionage network in the united states, that we find out later, in trials in the 1930s, is revealed, because the germans initially sort of tried to separate themselves from it, so i'm wondering what tapes you have on that and related to that, the impetus for the sedition act and espionage act. >> the law enforcement communities here's in the new york-new jersey area, had no doubt that the germans were behind this. had no doubt. they had evidence. there is a wonderful story that would take too long to tell but essentially, old elevated west
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side train that you guys had in new york, german is being tracked by the secret service. he falls asleep on that train. wakes up and realizes he's at the wrong stop, jumps out, a secret service guy grabs his bag and goes out the other side of the car with the documents. they take the documents up to new hampshire which is where wilson is at the time, they open them, wilson proves everything, that the police had believed but couldn't do anything about because of jurisdictional issues, the laws on the books didn't allow the police to do the things they wanted to do. they get the first ever telephone tap in new york city's history to listen in on some germ agents and wilson still as president says i don't want to be involved in this. so he gives the documents to the new york world and the new york world publishes them in full. so there is no doubt among, i would say, vast majority of americans, that somehow germany is behind this. whether it goes all the way to kaiser, to those two diplomats that eventually wilson had to declare persona non grata, there is no doubt germany is behind it even if it takes until the 1930s
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to prove in court. our own mythology says every american boy knows how to shoot a rifle. everybody seriously involved in the defense of this country knew that was ridiculous. so, you had to get to the point where, you would accept the fact you had to train these guys. you had some who were anti-preparedness, who are saying, william jennings bryant was one, if the country faces an emergency, young men will volunteer like they did in 1816 -- in 1861, and then you have professionals coming back and saying this is not the war of 1861, i don't think you know what you're talking about. this isn't that. and one of the things they are concerned about, of course is the very un-martial attitude of most american youth in 1914 and 1915. >> yeah. excellent talk. question first -- i'm not sure if you believe it, but i think you do, but i believe that the zimmermann, without it being
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unencrypted given to the americans, we probably would not give in to the war. we can argue, you can argue that and that's my question, but essentially, the americans did not decrypt it. that was done by the british. >> right. >> and they gave it to edward bell, who was an american spy. >> right. >> and, was there anybody that said in america, let's not release it, was there anybody in britain that said not release it or did everyone realize this would get us into the war? >> everybody realized, that's going to confirm, again, zimmermann telegram doesn't come out of nothing. the zimmermann telegram comes a year after this map. it comes a year after all the invasion literature, all of that stuff that we were talking about, the british are concerned
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if they release the zimmermann telegram the germans will know that the british have broken the code. so they do something really clever and sophisticated. there are, in fact, two zimmermann telegrams. there is the one that goes from germany to -- there is another one that goes from the german delegation in washington to mexico city. they release the second one and the translation from german to spanish changes a couple of words. they are assuming the germans will say, code wasn't broken, mexicans were sloppy with their security. then what happens, zimmermann himself is approached, you didn't really write that stupid telegram, did you? zimmermann was in a press conference and he said, yes, i did, because he knows they are going to find, our right? he knows by that point they are going to find out and he's thinking, okay in this case i can find out what the reaction of mexico and japan will be quickly and mexico and japan both back off, no, we want no part of this game, we're not doing this. so, yeah, there is this wonderful intricate back
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history. they have got this wonderful juicy piece of intelligence and the british don't want to use it. so fortunately, they come up with this scheme, it's actually a bright idea, to release the second version. and it works. >> recently, i read a farewell to arms by hemingway and the main character seems to encounter a lot of italian american soldiers. how prevalent was that and was it to do with prescription or loyalty? >> i'm so glad you asked that question. italy enters the war about the time of the sinking of the lusitania. as you know, philadelphia and new york, all of these cities had immigrant aid societies that don't exist anymore. their job was to help italians get here, help them assimilate into american culture. 1915, what they do is they change their mission to helping italians with officer commissions and with military service that want to go back and fight the italian army. it helps them to get back to italy. so they are helping tens of thousands of italians get
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back -- get back to italy in order to fight in the italian army. that's where those guys are coming from. the american government is wholly supportive. mostly because of sympathy with the italian american desire to go back and serve for a cause that the united states thinks is the right cause. you're right and it's tens of thousands and those immigrant aid societies immediately switch their mission. our job is now to help those guys get back to italy. i'm glad you asked that question. it's a fascinating footnote. >> thank you for the presentation. you mentioned before, you want to go back and talk a little bit more about the persian -- the pershing expedition and how much it showed the u.s. was unprepared, and the other thing, the map, talk about japan a little bit more because japan technically was still on the british side and was doing things in the pacific against german colonies but still, the u.s. had a great concern about japan so talk
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about those two topics. >> essentially a lot of this is west coast anti-japanese fears and racism that has nothing to do with any strategic worry. that is, no one in 1915 or 1916 is worried about the japanese landing in san francisco. what they are worried about is what they are worried about is fifth colonists. whether they are saying they are worried about it any rate is if , we did go to war, there are all of these japanese americans and we don't know who they are and we don't know how to control them on the database. my guess is it's a reflex of racism much more than it is strategy. the first question, this is what drives the preparedness movement as well. they have the most photographic person in north america in and 1916, they can't find him. the government that we are trying to support, their troops are firing at american troops. and american newspapers are reporting poncho villa is on a hill laughing at how incompetent the american army is.
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so you know, sometimes the preparedness and these parades they would hold would have an anti-german flair and sometimes an anti-mexican flair. and i don't want to get into this too much unless you guys really want me to, but some, kentucky filled in their national guard dispatchment with prisoners. south carolina let them go. this is an example of a main progressive theme that you don't do with something like 48 different states. roosevelt and others are yelling and screaming. the secretary of the army, lily garrison, we have to get rid of the national guard system. we have got to make a federal centralized system. the case upon trivia proves that case -- poncho villa proves that case. it becomes a major sticking point in 1916. it is one of the reasons the preparedness movement does not really do anything. because it stalls in congress because the congress is fought
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-- fighting over global versus control, a classic american problem. >> i once had the occasion to be driving in a car at fort dix and in new jersey, and we came across edith street. but i want to ask you, did the british economic crisis, the financial crisis in 1917 have any effect on americans joining the war? michael neiberg: i don't think the united states that involved in the war to protect jpmorgan investments or economic issues at all. the controversies always came up when jpmorgan or some other financial giant would underwrite a gigantic loan. the question was, should the united states allow this much economic influence into a foreign-policy question? every time it happens, the answer is it's ok.
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, in other words, it's ok to make money. that is what we are going to do here. the economic issue, to me, is really much more of three years of profiting, three years of making money off of this war puts the united states in position to really bring money to the table. that is what happens by 1917. there is nothing to the 1930's charge that is economics that got us in. it complicates the reason, but it is not the primary reason. >> coming from one of the most german states in the country, wisconsin they changed some of , the towns. berlin became new berlin. there was pressure to stop speaking german in certain parts of states. and in other places, that was ridiculous. my father went to a one country schoolhouse where it was required the teacher to teach both german and english. the catechism wasn't taught in german. how widespread was that kind of
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pressure? michael neiberg: it is not actually widespread at all before the entry into the war. once america gets into the work, it is spotty. you can find cases where school districts take german out of the curriculum. but you also find are a lot of german-americans who are arguing this is what you should do. ,there is no point teaching these people german. they need to learn american, they need to learn english, they need to become americans fully. it is not a black and white thing we have depicted it. there are prominent american -- german-americans who are arguing make them american. , get the german language out of them. make them learn english in the schools. if they want to learn german at home, they can learn german at home. that is building before the war , and the war just increases it. it is spotty, depending on where you are when you are. ,i can never find evidence before 1917. >> hi. the war required and unprecedented economic
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mobilization, unprecedented reach of national power and the economic and military spheres. i think many of the things touched very ably upon federal power in terms of preparedness, but to what extent was the reach federal power in terms of mobilizing the country for total sentiment? did that play a role in people for or against the war? michael neiberg: you may or may not know this. i started doing the research for this book. when world war i began, there was no law that prevented a european company or government from selling its stocks in the united states, converting them to gold, and taking the gold out. so as early as mid-july, the early to mid july, the united states is facing a crisis where it could literally run out of gold. ok? an enormous problem, as you can imagine, at a time when the gold standard is still the basis. the united states government took the unbelievably unprecedented step of shutting down every stock market in the
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united states from july until october, 1914. the new york stock exchange closed from july to october 1914. the only reason it was able to reopen is that the congress finally agreed to pass the federal reserve act. that progressive innovation that everybody thought was going to be the end and ruin the united states. or its opponents did. now you have a situation where you need new economic tools to prevent this economic disaster from happening. and the federal reserve act becomes the wedge, i guess, that the wilson administration uses. once the gold crisis is past, and the treasury puts on these in more dress parades -- these enormous parades were they have trucks going down the road with gold to your local bank, if you needed money, you could do it. confidence building measures, because at that time, all money is based on gold. so i don't know which side it
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is, but -- slide it is, but that one. that is another important significance of this. the gold that went that way is now coming this way. after the gold crisis, wilson's reluctance to use economic instruments for all kinds of reasons i can get into if you really want to. he was very reluctant at the paris peace conference after the war as well in a way that harry truman was not. truman was perfectly ready to go to the europeans and say, you need money, we have money, this is how we are going to do it. that was not woodrow wilson's way. in the gold crisis, they did things no american government ever thought about doing. but wilson treads lightly. once the war starts, then you have got to think about things in a different way. it's a complicated question. >> yeah, it sounds like [indiscernible] michael neiberg: well they are, , but they are assuming the private sector will do it. >> same thing at the beginning. michael neiberg: correct. correct. allow jpmorgan to make his loans. it may not be the best thing in the world.
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it may tie american policy to british foreign policy, but it is better than the government printing money and doing it that way. that kind of attitude. yes, sir. >> can you explain how the mechanics of declaring the war, you know, how the actions came about? i imagine they ask the congress to declare war? how long the debate, what was the result? michael neiberg: there was so much pressure on wilson, so much of his cabinet members right in -- write in their private letters, if wilson does not take this country to war, i have to resign. that included his son-in-law, the secretary of the treasury. there was tremendous pressure. as i said new york state , mobilizes. new york city mobilizes. places are telling wilson, congress passed a law authorizing wilson to do everything short of war. in other words, basically handing the president a blank
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check. right? what they wanted him to do was come to them and ask for the declaration of war that they very much wanted to give him with a couple of exceptions. so he held a meeting with his cabinet. he asked everybody's opinion around the room. what do you guys think we should do? every single member of the cabinet votes for war in late march. all wilson says is, thank you, gentlemen, i have heard what you have to say, and he walks out of the room. the advisors are writing, if he does not go to war now, i can't be a part of this government. we can't do anything. and then wilson writes -- i am kind of hard on wilson, i came to dislike the guy, but the declaration of war speech that he gave in april is brilliant. i mean, i tell my students at the army war college, it is the single most american thing ever written. it talks about regime change, it talks about going to war against government, not people. it talks about creating a better war -- a better peace out of the war. it talks about creating international linkages. it's beautiful. it's beautiful. that's what congress wanted him to do.
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idol that he could have just walked in and said, hey guys, , let's go, and congress would have voted for it. congress is pushing for him, not the other way around. >> [inaudible] michael neiberg: it is a week from the moment wilson says, i really want to discuss this with my cabinet, until he goes and -- >> [inaudible] michael neiberg: no there is no , voting. there is voting in the congress. there are two senators. you can look it up easily enough. it is a small number vote that vote against the declaration of war. it is very small. >> yeah hi. ,michael neiberg: hi. >> i heard after the revolutionary war, there were a lot of german prussians in the united states, they did not know if they should make the official language english or german and a --, and it was a german voted possibly to make it english. if that was true and we were speaking german, what with the outlook be on the war? michael: benjamin franklin wanted the language to be hebrew because it was a non-european language. [laughter] michael neiberg: a lot of stuff was under discussion.
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we could be speaking yiddish here. mom, if you're watching on c-span, i got that right. you know, i mean, the point for german-americans is assimilation. it is the point that german-american leaders talk about a lot in 1914 to 1917. we might be german-americans, but we are americans first. just like woodrow wilson proudly called himself irish does not mean his loyalty is to scotland. does not mean his loyalty is to the united kingdom. that is the argument that they are making. >> and the lusitania was first, carrying munitions, and that is the reason the germans gave for blowing it up. michael neiberg: nobody in the united states fought that. if an airliner went -- i should say very few people i should , say. if an airliner went down tomorrow with americans on it flying on vacation to rome, if it later came out that there was
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something in the cargo hold that should not have been there, i don't think many americans would say there for everyone on the plane deserved to die. it was the same thing in 1915. it was legal and the people that were traveling with their babies to london could not possibly have known that. yes, it's true. i don't think it matters. >> i see. thank you. the second is that, there was a lot of passion movements that evolved in this country around these issues including henry ford. what motivated that? third question, related to that, is that historians generally , conclude that we had as much reason to support germany as we did -- michael: i think that's -- as we did -- michael neiberg: i think that is wrong. i think that's wrong. i'm sorry. i interrupted your question. >> that was the question. is that true? michael neiberg: the pacifist movement in the u.s., some people are genuine pacifists who can see the horror of what is
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going on in europe. nothing can come of this, it is not worth the cost. there are people who argue that the united states should stay out of it. after the lusitania, after black tom, after all this stuff happens, they dwindle in numbers. so that andrew preston, a brilliant historian, a canadian historian teaching now at cambridge, believes that by the end of 1916, the pacifist movement in the united states is really down to individuals you can spot and name. in other words there is no , national movement, right because they are so out of step. , everybody agrees war is horrible, we get that, but again, staying neutral, staying pacifist has not helped. to your other point, most americans also don't see the german government, the german form of government, german form of society, as what they want to identify with. and again, here is the key difference. the german people the americans
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have no problems with. this will be an issue in the when theeriod too u.s. goes into the occupation zone in the rhine river. they need each other. the aristocratic system germans are running is absolutely anathema to what americans want to do. so wilson's demand at the end of the war, when they begin negotiations over an armistice, wilson's demand is first you have to get rid of the kaiser, get rid of the aristocrats, and you have to put a democratic system in place. i won't negotiate with the system you have. you have got to change the system. most americans are fully supportive of that. it is similar to the end of world war ii. flushing out the whole german system is not something the americans think they need to do. change who is in power. change the nature of the political representation, and you are fine. who's got the mic? yes, sir. >> ok. looking at the amount of
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speaking about what happens with belgians after the german invasion of belgium, looking to 1969, i can't help but feel what an audacity it was -- what's the belgians did in the congo. michael neiberg: in the congo, right, sure. >> 2016, it feels a lot like -- [indiscernible] michael neiberg: that may certainly be true from our perspective a century later, but there was no doubt that in 1914, 1915, the belgians were very sympathetic victims of german aggression. they were people that had to be helped. columbia -- i did some research in colombia. columbia led a movement. the germans burned the belgian university town of luven.
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columbia led the movement to replace every book that was lost. there was deep support for belgium in the united eights. -- united states. you are absolutely right that the nation was a violent horrible, imperialist nation , when it came to africa. but there were innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. and the most famous character who comes out of this who comes to britain not the united states agatha christie's great , detective is a belgian refugee who comes to london. and if you guys know the agatha christie movies and books, anytime anyone describes him as french, he gets very upset. what agatha christie is doing is reminding people what happened to the belgians. >> so it is clear that earlier when the u.s. did not want to go to war, but how much of an advocate were they for peace? were there formal actions by wilson to try to broker peace? did they ever really have any chance at all? michael neiberg: yeah, after he was reelected in 1916 by a razor
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thin margin like 250 votes in california tipped it, in an election that had almost nothing to do with the war nothing to do , with the war, wilson decided to take another shot at it. he went to the european governments, and he said, give me what your war aims are, and more tell me what it is you are fighting for and we will negotiate it. we will serve as the mediators as theodore roosevelt had done to win the first american nobel peace prize. william jennings bryan thought that was what he was trying to do. get the nobel peace prize. the problem is, the germans did not even respond, and the french and british said, if the germans don't respond, we are not going to put our cards on the table. the reality is there was nothing to negotiate. it is a different book that i wrote, but this isn't a war over who controls the coalfields. this was a different kind of conflict there was nothing to . negotiate.
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-- different kind of conflict. there was nothing to negotiate. it comes to the realization at the end of 1916. this will happen when one side is exhausted on the other side is less exhausted. we want the winning side to be the british and french. >> there was a treaty of berlin. we did not sign on to versi ailles because of the league of nations. is there any reason we could not have forced that in 1935? we could have, fdr could have said, because that was -- that was enough leverage for us, france and poland interfered with what germany was doing. was fdr not able to summon the will to enforce that treaty? michael neiberg: again, different talk, different book. the debate in the united states is a term that we have misunderstood. the debate in the united states after world war i is whether the u.s. should develop or be a part of these international institutions like wilson wanted,
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the league of nations is one, but not the one he wanted. or whether it wanted to be isolationist. that is the term we have misunderstood. isolationist in the 1920's did not mean ignore europe. it meant interact with europe on a unilateral basis. in other words, we are america, we will deal with the world the way we want to deal with the world. worldl deal with the without these in tangling alliances like george washington wanted us to avoid. that is what henry cabot lodge and others are arguing against the treaty of versailles. that is the objection that they raised, that if you have this international system, then a war between poland and czechoslovakia could drive the united states in to a war that we don't want to fight. the 1930's are far more complicated. i guess what i would say there is a country deeply and depression deeply divided , domestically was in no position to interfere in a productive way. the other thing i might say,
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america's great power has normally been economics. and i am talking about the world war ii. period. that instrument of power just isn't there. yes, ma'am. >> i am surprised you said no one could have known there were armaments on the lusitania. because the germans had taken great pains to take out ads in newspapers warning people. michael neiberg: they did. >> and in fact when the new york public library recently did an exhibit on world war i that , failed to mention that and they got quite a few questions. question -- and i came in late, so forgive me if you addressed this, in reading books on world war i, i have been puzzled to try to understand why germany got so much of the blame when it seemed to me austria had really been the problem because of the way it treated serbia. and i really wonder how much -- but then the latest book i read,
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blamed britain for instigating it through diplomacy diplomats in britain -- russia and france trying to encircle germany. so, i wonder how much of our understanding of world war i is colored by world war ii and the way we read the germans from that point of view. michael neiberg: so the first thing that i would say it is , quite clear, it is painfully obvious, most americans blame germany. the reason is they believe, and is a little -- i will try to do it quickly. if i don't do it well enough, catch me afterward. i will explain it a little more. the shooting of the archduke in june of 1914, nobody cares about. nobody in europe, nobody in the united states. nobody cares about it. germany however took that small diplomatic crisis and encouraged austria to make a world war out of it. to most americans, the crisis is on the danube, and it is a
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diplomatic crisis. i don't believe great britain has any responsibility, nor do i believe france has any responsibility for what happens next. austria decided, for reasons i can get into if you really would like me to to take this small , crisis and escalate it into a major major crisis. , the reason they do is because for the first time in decades, austria-hungary is the victim, not the perpetrator of crises in the balkans. it is an opportunity that will not come again. what did germany do with that opportunity? it claimed it was mobilizing armed forces because russia was coming at them. then it sends them into belgium and france. to most americans, the only explanation for that is that the aristocracy has goals of its own , and it is sending people into this slaughter on the western front and sending europe into a series of slaughters for goals that nobody understands except the german aristocracy.
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the dominant american view is if you get rid of the idiots that are running germany, this problem won't come back. and again it's the same thing we , do in 1945. the problem is not germany. we will let volkswagen go right back to what it is doing. we will take just a small number of people in nuremberg and hang them. we were just need to give them democracy, coca-cola and kroger, and they will be fine. that is the dominant attitude. most americans, and i would concur wholeheartedly, britain and france have nothing to do with this. this war did not begin on the rhine river over the border between germany and france. this war did not begin because france wanted to get out some of the rhine back. france is in the war for the most noble reason of all. another army crossed their border, which is what sustains french more out in 1914 -- does also1914 that it in 1934. i can get into all of this much more if you want. i don't buy this thing about
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britain at all. britain was pursuing its state interest, but the crisis that occurs on the danube, the british say over and over again, it has nothing to do with us, unless either britain or france -- excuse me, either germany or france -- trust me. if either germany or france decides to take over the belgian coastline. the reason britain wants belgian neutral is so nobody else can use it against them, and the reason france moves slowly, one one reason france moves slowly is because the british made it clear they are no happier with france controlling the coastline than they are germany. one side is clearly acting in defense, the other is clearly not. >> is it true that pershing wanted to keep troops on german soil after the war? michael neiberg: he did. >> he said it would delay world war ii by 20 years? michael neiberg: he did not say that. he said he thought it was important to drive home to the germans that they had lost. as good as that argument looks in retrospect, nobody was willing to do it with him, including woodrow wilson.
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nobody was willing, for very sound political reasons to take the victory you got and risk throwing it away by putting an army into germany itself. >> ok one more question. , they had the spanish influenza. michael neiberg: yes. >> in 1918. could that have been germ warfare from germany? michael neiberg: no. we actually now know quite a bit from the spanish influenza. it probably started in kansas, or riley, kansas, probably. >> how influential was hl mencken? we read about him, but that is hindsight. can you give us some other important people behind married roberts rinehart -- mary roberts rinehart who were influential? michael neiberg: pick of the book and look in the index. mary is a good example of these german americans are making the point over and over again, my grandparents were german, but it
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does not meet my loyalty is there. also every journalist is talking about this. -- this is the most important event of their lives. there's a newspaper publisher who owned one of the new york newspapers. they are in the indiana lili library, and we are fascinated by the german-americans negotiating this stuff. theodore roosevelt had a regular column in "the kansas city star," which is great to read because of the nasty things he says about wilson. it is a lot of fun. it actually makes the rhetoric of today's campaign look not all that bad. a lot of americans are writing. i don't know if i can give you too many names off the top of my head, but i tried to quote as many of them in the book as i could. who's got the mic? jacob -- >> yeah the one central power , you don't talk about, the
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turks. it is more about modern concern, for muslim americans, is there anything where they are getting attacked, essentially, as potential enemies, subversives? michael neiberg: not as much because everyone understands the ottoman empire is a diverse must place -- diverse place, much more diverse -- i should not put it that way. americans understand the empire as this incredibly complicated web of people. the armenians elicit quite a bit of sympathy. you know, but for the most part, the ottoman empire is seen as kind of this backward thing that also needs to be modernized. you may know this. at the paris peace conference, the british and french wanted the united states to take over mandates in palestine and wilson absolutely refused to do that. >> professor was there anybody , on the american side who spoke as negatively about the creation of the polish corridor as david lloyd george did in england, who warned about the potential for
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chaos and violence in the -- if these enclaves where germans were left in isolated areas, and what they created in poland? michael neiberg: yeah the peace , conference is another incredibly complicated topic. what they're trying to do is create states that can be -- can really do three things. they can be economically sufficient, in other words, be able to feed themselves and contribute to the economy. they have to be strategically sound, and they have to be able to defend themselves, and they have to be ethnically sound. that is almost impossible to do. things like the polish corridor are created to try to square that circle. i think the best critic is the guy who said almost nothing in public, everything is in private papers. unfortunately the private papers or where i work, and that was an american general who was at the paris peace conference and he tried to warn the american delegation, especially wilson, that what they were doing was never ever going to work, and no
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one wanted to listen to him. because he was giving them bad news. but you can read john maynard keenan, the british economist, who was unbelievably critical of what was going on. he left the paris peace conference and wrote one of the most famous books of the time period. my favorite is william bullitt. the first american ambassador to the soviet union. he left the peace conference early because of the reasons you are articulated. -- you are articulating. he said, i'm going to the south of france to watch the world go to hell. there were plenty of people who could see what was coming. there was no way to envision who could do this. thank you, everybody. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] announcer 1: you are watching
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