Today I am going to be writing about the 28th President of the U.S.; T. Woodrow Wilson, and the war that the massive war that the world was in during that time. It was known as “The Great War” or “The War to End all Wars”. We know it today as WWI. It was a conflict that lasted 4 years and involved 32 countries across the globe. Many new innovations and inventions were made and put to quick use, including the fighter plane and the armored tank. Though these innovations and inventions were truly amazing and useful, they caused many many more people to be killed.
Thomas Woodrow Wilson:
Thomas W. Wilson was born on December 28th, 1856. He grew up in Virginia, where his father Joseph was a preacher. During the Civil War, Wilson’s father served as chaplain for the Confederate army for a while and his family helped take care of wounded soldiers.
Wilson graduated from Princeton and then went on to study for a year at University of Virginia School of Law. He decided to finish his law studies at home, however, where he did just that. Then he set up his own law practice. It only lasted a year though, because Wilson found the little tasks of a lawyer somewhat monotonous. From that point, he went on to study Political Science and History. Wilson entered John Hopkins University and graduated three years later with a Ph.d.
In 1885, Woodrow married a girl named Ellen Axson and the couple had three children.
After serving as a teacher, writing some political science publications, and becoming President of Princeton, Wilson started getting into politics. He was a Democrat.
Woodrow Wilson was elected as the Governor of New Jersey in 1911 and served until 1913. Wilson ran in the 1912 election for President of the United States and he won with the governor of Indiana, Thomas R. Marshall as his vice president.
While in office, Wilson promoted segregation, lowered tariffs, and pushed for the Federal Trade Commission Act. Wilson ran for re-election in 1916 with the campaign slogan of “He kept us out of the War”. By this time, WWI had started and Wilson had managed to keep the U.S. out of it. He was re-elected, but as it turns out…
The United States Enters the War
Staying out of the war wouldn’t last, however, because Prussia (now called Germany) declared that they were going to be starting unrestricted submarine warfare. That meant that they would basically torpedo any ship that they wanted to without any warning (it didn’t matter if it had innocent civilians on it or not). Another thing that pushed America into the war was that a telegraph had been intercepted from the Germans to the Mexicans. They were trying to convince Mexico to join the war and attack the U.S. since they were already bordering it. The upside for Mexico would be that they would get all of the lands back that they had lost to the U.S. in the Spanish-American war. When President Wilson read the telegram, he decided that the best thing to do was to join the war on the side of the Allied Forces. Congress agreed, so the U.S. was now a figure in the first world-wide war. It angered a lot of Americans that the U.S. joined, because “He kept us out of the war” right? Well, maybe not.
Thousands of our men and boys were sent overseas to fight in the war against Germany and Austro-Hungary. They were down in the trenches and driving tanks across enemy territory; flying scouting planes and marching along dusty roads.
Speaking of scouting planes and tanks, let’s talk about new war machinery. Innovations were made on guns, transportation vehicles, and strategies.
Tanks were first invented by the British in 1915. They were metal-plated vehicles with tracks so that they could drive across trenches and rough terrain instead of having to go around it. They had machine guns mounted on them, so they could fire on the enemy from inside a metal shell.
Another thing that was becoming a more popular weapon was poison gasses. They would be sprayed over the enemy. The problem was, gas masks could be made. This was countered by stronger gas. Then stronger masks, then stronger gas. It was an ongoing game; try to make gas and masks stronger than the enemy’s. You had to make it strong enough to penetrate and keep from penetrating. Though this did kill men, it wasn’t as deadly as other tactics. It gave a lot of men life-long injuries and problems though.
It was during the first world war that fighter planes were put in to use. Airplanes had become really successful only 12 years before and at the time they were only used in war for scouting. A Frenchman by the name of Roland Garros changed all of that when he had the idea of mounting a machine gun on a plane. But, there was a problem. It had to fire through the propeller, but the machine gun wasn’t timed with it, so metal plates were attached to the propeller to deflect the rounds that hit it. This worked, but it definitely wasn’t the most efficient design. Unfortunately, Garros went down behind enemy lines and his plane was confiscated. It was inspected and the machine gun was spotted. The Germans thought “What a great idea!” and so they found a man that could work on airplanes and told him “You have 48 hours to present us a working replica of this”. He not only did what they told him to, but he synchronized the propeller and machine gun so it fired between the blades of the prop. He took the plane on a test-fly and proved that it worked. This new technology was immediately implemented.
Any pilot that downed more than five planes earned the nickname of “Ace”, but there was one pilot that shot down more than anyone. He was a German soldier by the name of Manfred von Richthofen, but he was known best by the name of “The Red Baron”. He had the amazing record of 80 kills. His plane was red, that’s why he was known as the red baron.
Since I don’t have time to go into the details of all of the battles in WWI, I’ll just give you an overview of a couple of the most important battles.
The battle of Liege was the first battle of the war. It was in Belgium. That shocked a lot of nations and caused Great Britain to join the war. The reason it shocked people was because Belgium was a neutral country. Germany invaded Belgium so that they could get a clearer path to France, thus the Battle of Liege. Great Britain figured that if Germany disregarded the neutral state of Belgium, they would probably disregard the neutral state of Britain also, so Great Britain joined France and the Allies against Germany and Austro-Hungary. The battle of Liege was a siege and concluded with Germany capturing Liege.
The next battle that we are going to talk about is the battle of Tannenberg. It was on the eastern front and was fought by the Germans and the Russian 2nd army. The Germans basically annihilated the Russian 2nd army. They captured 92 thousand men and killed or wounded 78,000. Only roughly 10,000 were able to escape the battlefield. Only two weeks later, the Germans decimated the Russian 1st army also. This essentially put Russia on the bench for the rest of the war.
The Battle of Marne was fought on the western front by allies France and Britain against Germany. It was the last stand to keep the Germans out of Paris. The Germans were planning to cut off the French army and encircle it, then attack Paris. Thankfully, the allies were victorious and able to keep the Germans away from Paris.
The bloodiest battle of the war was at Verdun. Verdun was a French fort on the border and was a crucial point for the Allies to keep. It was actually a 9-month long siege instead of just one battle. The Allied forces were eventually the victors.
During the Siege of Verdun, the United States joined the war. Ever since the war had begun, the U.S. had been supplying the Allied forces with munition and supplies. That was very unusual at the time, because if you are a “neutral” nation, then you shouldn’t technically be supplying an army with war supplies. The U.S. had massive artillery factories and they could produce basically whatever the Allies needed. Once they officially declared war on Germany, they not only supplied ammunition, guns, trucks, iron, and steel to the allies, but they now supplied manpower also.
The last battle in the war was the battle of Amiens. The allies were on the offensive this time, and they managed to absolutely crush Germany forces and put them on the run. This battle led to the end of the war and the treaty of Versailles.
Thankfully the war was over and peace was made. Europe could start the process of reconstruction and the many holes in families could be honored. It seems the world bounced back extremely fast, because it was ready for WWII in just 21 years.
Wikipedia. “Woodrow Wilson.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson.
“The Rise of the Fighter Plane.” Eyewitness History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/fokker.htm. Fighter Planes, History