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Survey of American Military: WWI

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Published April 21, 2021


Survey of American Military: WWI

The Great War experienced the most military mobilization ever in history since the Seven Years’ War several centuries prior.

The Great War (1914-1918)

The Great War (1914-1918) transcended any previous military conflict ever. The number of troops mobilized during World War I changed the art of war and impacted affected the world in a way unseen throughout military history, at the time.Survey of American Military: WWI

The traditional contenders; were Great Britain, France, Italy, and Russia formed the Allied Powers while Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire led the Central Powers.

However, the United States, for the first time in its military history, fully employed its developing military force in an effort to achieve allied and democratic victory.

Consequently, the enormous impact of the Great War catapulted the United States into the world stage and laid the ground for what would become the greatest military force ever assembled in recorded history.

The Great War mostly developed from naval, military, and economic rivalries that eventually put Europe in turmoil and a state of total war.

Imperialism and Militarism

The United States took no part in either the development or the cause of the war; w. While much effort was put to ease the tension in Europe by the Wilson administration. 

Even though World War I exploded from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on the 28th of June 28, 1914, imperialism, and militarism were the main causes of the war. Survey of American MilitaryFor instance, “No one event or person caused the Great War. There were many factors that contributed to the mobilization of the belligerents.”2

Since most European nations raised very large armies especially Germany, they had to be put use. For instance, “the growth of national armies in the nineteenth century and the competitive arms race, the Anglo-German naval rivalry … the development of techniques of mobilization which, once started, were difficult to stop…”.3

This represents the main cause of the Great War coupled with numerous alliances made in previous years which were called upon. Thus, most European powers were dragged into subsequent warfare.

1. Library of Congress
2. the Great War and the shaping of the 20th Century
3. Arthur Preston, Alex Roland and S. F. Wise P. 231

United States Neutrality 

Initially, the United States stayed neutral and was hesitant to join the European conflict. The Wilson administration intervened on both sides to avoid the bloodshed, nevertheless, he was ignored by the contenders.

The autocratic policies of Germany and its allies sent shock waves across the Atlantic Ocean; t Therefore, the United States gradually prepared for war, strengthened its forces, and established the military draft to swell its forces.

Initially, the American public was against the European war; h. However, much provocation by the Germans ultimately pushed the United States over the edge. For instance, the Zimmerman Telegram served as the last straw in American neutrality during the Great War.

The Zimmerman Telegram, named after German foreign secretary Arthur Zimmerman on 16th January 16, 1917, was a coded letter sent from Germany to lure the Mexican state into a declaration of war against the United States in exchange for financial support and Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

However, the Zimmerman Telegram was initially intercepted, decoded, and strategically made public by Great Britain in the United States.

Thus, the United States declared war on the German Empire; therefore, Mexico publicly rejected the German offered, unable to fight a prolonged war against the might of the United States military and wealth.

The Zimmerman Telegram served as one of the main provocations of war by the Germans against the United States; consequently, the United States declared war on Germany in April of 1917.4 Thus, the United States entered the war on the allied (mostly France and Britain) side.

The German government was confident that American intervention would be swiftly stopped or delayed by their capable submarines and U-boats. Hitherto, the United States, led by President Woodrow Wilson, was still hesitant to join a war thousands of miles away with little effect on the American National Security.

American Involvement

In spite of this, Central Power was mostly led by monarchs: Germany by Emperor Wilhelm II, Austria-Hungary by Charles I of Austria, and the Ottoman Empire by Sultan Mehmed VI, all autocrats. Henceforth, Wilson considered that a Central Power victory represented potential harm to the American democratic ideals.

For instance, “American involvement stemmed from economic self-interest as well as an emotional commitment to support (“Democracy”) (France and Great Britain) against (“autocracy”) (Germany).5

4. The Zimmerman Telegram
5. Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski P. 346

Now that the United States was openly at war with the Central Powers, military action was necessary, however, in a war where troops were mobilized by the millions, “The regular [American] Army numbered 133,111, reinforced by another 185,000 National Guardsmen.

Another 17,000 officers and men had joined one or another of the Federal Reserve forces…”6 Still, the potential to raise a large force was endless due to the large American population and the American wealth. Henceforward, established on May 18th, 1917, the draft ultimately filled the ranks with millions of troops.

Military Growth

World War I served as the drive to the substantial increment increase of the size of the American army, something possibly unnecessary in different circumstances.

American General John Joseph Pershing was in charge of the American developing forces ultimately headed to France in Europe. The importance of the Great War to the development of American military supremacy took place mostly after the war from the effects of the massive military deployment rather than actual American combat engagements.

For instance, “During 1916, the U.S Congress enacted legislation providing for the construction of a navy second to none’ and modern army, but these measures were taken too late permit immediate dispatch of U.S forces to Europe in sufficient numbers to influence the outcome.”7

Thus far, the American military forces expanded in numbers unseen in American military history. The Great War managed to influence the development of the American military and influence for years to come.

While General Pershing struggled to maintain an independent American army during World War I, the American army of post-World War I became one of the most effective in the world.

According to for the Common Defense, the United States men at arms during the Great War numbered closely 5,000,000, up from essentially 400,000 including the national guard.8

The sheer size of the American military capacities coupled with the stalemate in Europe proved decisive. By the time the American soldiers reached the Western Front in Europe, the Allies were desperate.

Both the French and the British were losing men by the millions, the French soldiers ‘mutiny and the Russians were going through a revolution which crippled their ability to fight. Nonetheless, the American arrival turned the tide and helped forced the Germans into an armistice in the Treaty of Versailles on June 28th, 1919.

The Great War served as the bridge to American international influence, even though, the European countries neglected to admit to the American success. Nevertheless, the United States developed the naval convoy to deal with the German U-boats and Submarine effectively.


The United States provided financial as well as military equipment to the engaged nations which expanded the strength of the American voice in Europe.

Ultimately, the sheer size of the American army post-World War I, and the efficiency to mobilized large numbers of troops across the oceans, epitomized throughout the war, but the United States in a position of global strength unseen.

To the development of the American military machine, the Great War, unfortunately, served as the guide from domestic scope to a global sphere.

Would the American army have reached 5,000,000 without World War? Would the American Navy be able to convey naval power across the globe without World War I? It would have been very unlikely considering the United States’ isolationist policies.

6. Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski P.349
7. James C., ed. BRADFORD P.118
8. Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski P.352


TABLE II DEPLOYMENT OF THE ARMY 1918 and 1945 Reported Actual Strengths in Principal Theaters 30 April 1945 accessed 06/03/2012

Allan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski for the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America Sep 7, 1994

Arthur Preston, Alex Roland and S. F. Wise Men in Arms: A History of Warfare and Its Interrelationships with Western Society by Richard Mar 1991

James Bradford Atlas of American Military History Published May 1srt, 2003 Peter Maslowski Allan R. Millett for the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America Published September 7, 1994
John Whiteclay Chambers II the Oxford Companion to American Military History Published April 13, 2000

John Whiteclay II Chambers the Tyranny of Change: America in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920 Published March 1, 2000

Men in Arms: A History of Warfare and Its Interrelationships with Western Society by Richard Arthur Preston, Alex Roland and S. F. Wise Mar 1991

1914-1918 the Great War and the shaping of the 20th Century

James C., ed. BRADFORD Oxford Atlas of American Military History (2003)

The Zimmerman Telegram Accessed 06/24/2012

Library of Congress

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