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  • Episode 30: America and World War I

  • Hi I’m John Green, this is Crash Course U.S. history and today were finally going

  • to make the military history buffs happy. That’s right, today were going to talk

  • about how the United States with its superior technology, innovative tactics and remarkable

  • generalship turned the tide of World War I. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Finally. I’ve been

  • waiting for months to learn about tanks and airplanes and Ernest Hemingway.

  • Well that’s a shame, Me from the Past, because I was kidding about this being an episode

  • full of military details. But I do promise that we will mention Ernest Hemingway. And

  • in a few weeks I will tell you about how he liberated the martinis of Paris.

  • intro Americans were only involved in the Great

  • War for 19 months and, compared with the other belligerents, we didn’t do much fighting.

  • Still, the war had profound effects on America at home, on its place in the world and it

  • also resulted in an amazing number of war memorials right here in Indianapolis.

  • So, The Great War, which lasted from 1914 until 1918, and featured a lot of men with

  • hats and rifles, cost the lives of an estimated 10 million soldiers.

  • Also the whole thing was kind of horrible and pointless, unless you love art and literature

  • about how horrible and pointless World War I was in which case, it was a real bonanza.

  • So, when the war broke out, America remained neutral, because we were a little bit isolationist

  • owing to the fact that we were led, of course, by President Wilson.

  • But many Americans sided with the British because by 1914 we’d pretty much forgotten

  • about all the bad parts of British rule, like all that tea and monarchy. Plus, theyre

  • so easy to talk to with their English. But there were a significant number of Progressives

  • who worried that involvement in the war would get in the way of social reforms at home.

  • In fact, Wilson courted these groups in the 1916 presidential campaign running on the

  • sloganHe kept us out of War.” And will continue to keep us out of war until we reelect

  • him and then he gets us into war. But, for that slogan to make sense, there

  • had to have been some way in which war was avoided, which brings me to one of the classic

  • errors made by American history students. What? I haven’t even said anything yet.

  • But you were about to, Me From the Past, because if I had asked you what event led the U.S.

  • to enter World War I, you would have surely told me that it was the sinking of the cruise

  • ship Lusitania by German submarines. 124 American passengers died when the ship,

  • which had been carrying arms and also guns, was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland.

  • Even though Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan had warned Americans not to travel on

  • British, French, or German ships, Wilson refused to ban such travel because, you know: freedom.

  • Bryan promptly resigned. So how do I know it wasn’t the immediate

  • cause of our involvement in the war? Because the United States declared war on Germany

  • and the Central powers on April 2, 1917, almost two years after the sinking of the Lusitania.

  • So why did the United States declare war for only the fourth time in its history? Was it

  • the Germansdecision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in early 1917? Was it the

  • interception and publication of the Zimmerman Telegram in which the German Foreign Secretary

  • promised to help Mexico get back California if they joined Germany in a war against the

  • U.S? Or was it the fall of the Tsarist regime in

  • Russia, which made Wilson’s claims that he wanted to fight to make the world safe

  • for democracy a bit more plausible? Yes, yes, and yes. Also there was our inclination

  • to help Britain, to whom we had loaned a $2 billion. That’s the thing about wars. They

  • never start for easy, simple reasons like Lusitania sinkings. Stupid truth, always resisting

  • simplicity. Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document?

  • The rules here are simple. I guess the author of the mystery document.

  • I’m either right or I get shocked I. [or possiblyone”] Open covenants

  • of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings

  • of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

  • II. [I’m starting to think these are Roman numerals] Absolute freedom of navigation upon

  • the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may

  • be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international

  • covenants III. The removal, so far as possible, of all

  • economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all

  • the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for it’s maintenance.

  • [And] XIV. [I’m going to guess we skipped some.] A general association of nations must

  • be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of

  • political independence and territorial integrity of great and small states alike.

  • Stan, thank you for throwing me a softball. That’s my favorite kind of ball. Other than

  • you, Wilson. With its mention of self-determination, freedom

  • of the seas, open diplomacy, and liberal use of Roman numerals, I know it is Woodrow Wilson’s

  • Fourteen Points. Our second consecutive Woodrow Wilson week and my second consecutive non-shock.

  • Given all of his quasi-imperialism, there’s something a little bit ideologically inconsistent

  • about Wilson, but his Fourteen Points are pretty admirable as a statement of purpose.

  • Most of them deal specifically with colonial possessions, and were pretty much ignored,

  • but I suppose if we have learned anything, it’s that in American history, it’s the

  • thought that counts. [Libertage]

  • America’s primary contribution to the Entente powers winning the war was economic as we

  • sent all sorts of arms and moneyover there.” Troops didn’t arrive until the spring of

  • 1918 and eventually over 1 million American doughboys served under General John J. Pershing.

  • Not all of these people saw combat. They were much more likely to die of flu than bullet

  • wounds, but their sheer numbers were enough to force the defeat of the exhausted Germans.

  • And now, as promised, I will mention Ernest Hemingway. He served as an ambulance driver,

  • which gave him a close up view of death and misery and led to his membership in the so

  • called Lost Generation of writers who lived in Paris in the 1920s and tried to make sense

  • of everything. Turns out, it’s pretty hard to make sense

  • of and youre just going to end up with a lot of six-toed cats and then eventually

  • suicide. Okay, so I said earlier than a lot of American

  • Progressives were anti-war, but certainly not all of them. Like, according to Randolph

  • Bourne, “War is the health of the state.” And for progressives like him, “the war

  • offered the possibility of reforming American society along scientific lines, instilling

  • a sense of national unity and self-sacrifice, and expanding social justice.” Let’s go

  • to the ThoughtBubble. World War I made the national government much

  • more powerful than it had ever been. Like, in May of 1917, Congress passed the selective

  • service act, which required 24 million men to register for the draft and eventually increased

  • the size of the army from 120,000 to 5 million. The government also commandeered control of

  • much of the economy to get the country ready to fight, creating new agencies to regulate

  • industry, transportation, labor relations, and agriculture.

  • The War Industries Board took charge of all elements of wartime production setting quotas

  • and prices and establishing standardized specification for almost everything, even down to the color

  • of shoes. The Railroad Administration administered transportation, and the Fuel Agency rationed

  • coal and oil. This regulation sometimes brought about some

  • of the progressivesgoals. Like, the War Labor Board, for instance, pushed for a minimum

  • wage, eight hour days and the rights of workers to form unions.

  • Wages rose substantially in the era, working conditions improved and union membership skyrocketed.

  • But then so did taxes, and the wealthiest Americans ended up on the hook for 60% of

  • their income. Also, in World War I as never before, the

  • government used its power to shape public opinion. In 1917 the Wilson administration

  • created the Committee on Public Information, which only sounds like it’s from an Orwell

  • novel. Headed by George Creel, the CPI’s team created

  • a wave of propaganda to get Americans to support the war, printing pamphlets, making posters

  • and advertising in swanky motion pictures. The best known strategies were the speeches

  • of 75,000 four minute men, who in that amount of time delivered messages of support for

  • the war in theaters, schools, and other public venues.

  • The key concepts in the CPI propaganda effort were democracy and freedom. “Creel believed

  • that the war would accelerate movement towards solving theage old problems of poverty,

  • inequality, oppression, and unhappiness,” because, obviously, war is the most effective

  • antidepressant. Thanks, Thoughtbubble. So the aforementioned

  • Randolph Bourne might have had good things so say about war, but he was also correct

  • when he suggested that the war would encourage and empower theleast democratic forces

  • in American life.” World War I may have been a war to make the

  • world safe for democracy but according to one historianthe war inaugurated the most

  • intense repression of civil liberties the nation has ever known.”

  • War suppressing civil liberties, eh? I’m glad those days have passed.

  • Speaking of the repression of civil liberties, the NSA is about to start watching this video

  • because I’m about to use the wordespionage.” The Espionage act of 1917 prohibited spying,

  • interfering with the draft andfalse statementsthat might impede military success.

  • Even more troubling was the Sedition Act passed in 1918, which criminalized statements that

  • were intended to castcontempt, scorn or disreputeon our form of government or

  • that advocated interference with the war effort. So basically these laws made it a crime to

  • criticize either the war or the government. In fact, Eugene Debs, the Socialist who ran

  • for president in 1912, was one of those convicted for giving an anti-war speech. He was sentenced

  • to 10 years in prison and he served three of them, but he ran for president from prison

  • and got 900,000 votes. Fortunately, thanks to checks and balances,

  • you can turn to the courts. Unfortunately, they weren’t very helpful.

  • Like in Schenck v. the U.S., the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a guy named Schenck

  • for encouraging people to avoid the draft and ruled that the government can punish critical

  • speech when it presents a “clear and present danger,” to the state and its citizens.

  • This was when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes introduced the famous exception to free speech,

  • that it is not okay toshout fire in a crowded theater.”

  • Nor apparently is it okay to shout, “We shouldn’t be in this war, I don’t think.

  • Just my opinion.” But, some went even further. The 250,000 strong

  • American Protective League helped the Justice Department identify radicals by harassing

  • people in what were calledslacker raids.” Good thing those stopped before you got to

  • high school, right Me from the Past? Slacker. In Bisbee, Arizona vigilantes went so far

  • to put striking copper miners in boxcars, shipped them out to the middle of the desert

  • and left them there. The war also raised the question of what it

  • meant to be a ‘real American.’ Like, public schoolsAmericanizedimmigrants and

  • sought toimplant in their children, so far as can be done, the Anglo-Saxon conceptions

  • of righteousness, law and order, and popular government.”

  • Many cities sponsored Americanization pageants, especially around the Fourth of July, which

  • the CPI in 1918 re-christenedLoyalty Day”. Hamburgers, a German word, became liberty

  • sandwiches. World War I certainly didn’t create anti-immigrant

  • feeling in the United States, but it was used to justify it.

  • Like, IQ tests, introduced to screen army applicants, were soon used to argue that certain

  • immigrant groups were inferior to white protestants and could never be fully assimilated into

  • the United States. Now, of course, those tests were tremendously

  • biased, but no matter. But, to return to the questions of dissent

  • and free speech, the suppression continued after the war with the 1919 Palmer Raids,

  • for instance, named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer and headed up by a young

  • J. Edgar Hoover. To be fair, someone did try to blow up Palmer.

  • So there was some dissent related to the suppression of dissent.

  • Also, more than 4 million workers engaged in strikes in the United States in 1919 but

  • that didn’t legally justify the arrest of more than 5,000 suspected radicals and labor

  • organizers. Most of them were arrested without warrants

  • and held without charge, sometimes for months. And it’s difficult to imagine that all of

  • this would have happened without the heightened sense of patriotism that always accompanies

  • war. However, there were a handful of good things

  • to come out of the Great War, and not just the stylings of Irving Berlin. Like, students

  • are often taught that the war led directly to the passage of the 19th amendment, although

  • a number of states had actually granted the franchise to women before the war.

  • In Montana, for instance, women didn’t just vote, they held office. Congresswoman Jeannette

  • Rankin voted against the declaration of war in 1917, and was the only member of the House

  • to vote against the declaration of war against Japan in 1941.

  • New opportunities in wartime industry also provided incentives for African Americans

  • to move north, thus beginning the so-called great migration and the growth of black populations

  • in northern cities like Chicago and New York. The biggest gain was in Detroit where between

  • 1910 and 1920 the black population rose from 5,741 to 40,838, a 611% increase.

  • So it’s true that World War I provided some new opportunities for African Americans and

  • women, but if World War I was supposed to be an opportunity for America to impose its

  • progressive ideas on the rest of the world, it failed.

  • The Versailles peace conference where Wilson tried to implement his 14 Points raised hope

  • for a new diplomatic order. But, the results of the treaty made the 14 points look hypocritical.

  • I mean, especially when Britain and France took control of Germany’s former colonies

  • and carved up the Arabian provinces of the Ottoman Empire into new spheres of influence.

  • Wilson’s dream of a League of Nations was realized, but the U.S. never joined it largely

  • because Congress was nervous about giving up its sovereign power to declare war. And

  • disappointment over the outcome of World War I led the U.S. to, for the most part, retreat

  • into isolationism until World War II. And therein lies the ultimate failure of World

  • War I. It’s not calledThe World War,” it’s calledWorld War I,” because then

  • we had to go and have a freaking other one. Well talk about that in a few weeks, but

  • next week we get to talk about suffrage. Yes! We finally did something right. I’ll see

  • you then. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan

  • Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson.

  • The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer, Rosianna Rojas, and myself.

  • And our graphics team is Thought Café. Every week, there’s a new caption for the

  • Libertage. If you’d like to suggest one, you can do so in comments where you can also

  • ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of historians.

  • Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.

  • Stan, can you do some movie magic to get me out of here? Perfect.

Episode 30: America and World War I

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第一次世界大戰中的美國美國曆史速成班 #30 (America in World War I: Crash Course US History #30)

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