April 6, 1917: U.S. officially enters WWI by declaring war on Germany
When World War I started in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson promised United States citizens that the country would not enter the war. He pledged neutrality to the war, but this ultimately changed through intense complications against Germany. On April 6, 1917, the U.S. House of Representatives officially voted for America to enter WWI. But what led to this decision?
Sinking our ships
President Wilson vowed to stay out of the war, but things changed when Great Britain, one of America’s closest trading partners, had severe arguments against Germany. Tension soon arose between America and Germany, and Germany sunk several U.S. ships traveling to Britain. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning.
In February 1915, Germany declared unrestricted warfare against all ships that entered the war zone around Britain. One month later, Germany sunk the William P. Frye, a private U.S. vessel. This unforgivable action angered Wilson and he considered what he could do next, but he didn’t have much time to react.
Changing public opinion
On May 7, 1915, the British-owned Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by the German government, killing 1,198 passengers, including 128 Americans. The U.S. promised the ocean liner was not carrying munitions, and Germany pledged to keep passengers safe before sinking unarmed vessels. But they didn’t keep this promise.
In November, Germany sunk an Italian ocean liner, again without proper warning, and killed 272 passengers, including 27 Americans. At this point, there was no turning back. With the frequent attacks, public opinion in the United States turned against Germany and many supported Wilson’s thoughts to enter the war.
Entering the war
In 1917, Germany became determined to win the war and sunk more American liners. On February 22, U.S. Congress passed a $250 million arms appropriations bill to prepare the U.S. for the war. In late March, Germany sunk four more American merchant ships and Wilson called for an official declaration of war against Germany.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved the declaration by a vote of 373 to 50 and the U.S. officially entered WWI. On June 26, 14,000 U.S. troops arrived in France to fight in one of the bloodiest and most devastating wars in history.