But first my title ! Part One of the war means of course that there were other parts, and Part Two can be considered to be the War conducted from 1917 until cessation in 1918. However, that is an over simplification of what this story is all about. In reality, the war could (and should) have finished in 1916 negating the need for a Part Two, but the Germans, who sought an end before the Allies did in 1916, refused to accept the Allies simple request of undoing the wrongs they had done in Belgium, and so the opportunity of peace was lost.
Before I begin, I want you to remember that the Entente had a commitment towards Belgium to defend her at all costs and we kept that promise after the German's plundered her. America had no commitment to any country, particularly to far off Europe, and so it is reasonable, despite all the accusations of the American's entering the war when it was almost over, that the USA was neutral and desired to stay that way. As it transpired, the only possible harm to the USA was engineered by the devious Germans who tried to get Japan to leave the Entente to join forces with Mexico, who together would attack the USA from the South. The reward for Mexico's cooperation (should they defeat the USA) was the territory of Texas and certain other Southern States. Neither the Japanese nor the Mexicans responded, Japan staying loyal to the Entente and Mexico continuing her neutral policy.
President Woodrow Wilson was a scholar, a lawyer and an altogether shrewd and wise man. He was also a good and fair minded man and far from being a pacifist as were many senior American politicians. He wanted peace for the USA and for all the world. He demonstrated his peaceful intent by not retaliating and committing his "boys'" to take up arms to fight in a far away Continent in the face of gross intimidation from within the USA by German agents rousing American-Germans to acts of sabotage, and by German submarines attacking neutral ships, many American flagged. He committed himself to finding ways to end the war full well knowing, as all mankind knew except for the Central Powers (Germany and her Allies) which of the belligerents had to date, persecuted the war with total sub-human and depraved policies.
Another great American, Henry Ford the motorcar magnate, had set up an American organisation called the Ford Peace Mission, which located to Europe with the aim of encouraging the return to peaceful ways. It didn't last long and the Mission members soon returned to the USA. It failed because Ford attracted pro-German Americans and also profound pacifists fully out of touch with polarised Europeans. Henry Ford himself later considered his erstwhile 'Missionaries' as cranks.
Yet another great man, Andrew Carnegie, had given an endowment for international peace, whose task was to work to discourage war, not just WW1, but all wars. Americans were asking themselves why it wasn't overtly trying to do that. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was very materially restrained. So far back as the beginning of 1915 it had been forced to meet such criticism and had published its reasons for its apparent lack of action. In late 1916, they were again forced to report to the world. They simply stated that the US Government had offered the European belligerents their services as a peace-broker and they, The Endowment, as a private company, could not and should not compete with Governments.
The US had many other peace organisations, but two, the League to Enforce Peace (LTEP) and the World's Court League (WCL) should be mentioned. Both had similar agenda's but the LTEP won the unofficial support of the Government of the USA, the Entente States, and also even Germany. Certainly it was supported by President Wilson and by ex US President Taft. However, LTEP was a pacifist outfit with no agenda to stop the war. The LTEP admitted that no human agency can prevent all wars, any more than a police force, however efficient, can suppress all crime. It aimed, however, at a League of Nations in order to secure peace (for all times) by negotiation; common agreements between countries on economic and territorial matters, and a binding common defence agreement against aggression from countries not signed up to the agreement. Above all else would be a conciliatory council for past sins. After the war (or should I say Part 2 of the war ?) the United Nations proper was set up (as was NATO, SEATO and CENTO much later on) but of these four, only the three in parenthesis were effective, with the UN today being nothing more than a "lame duck."
The British agreed with these principles, closely followed by the Germans on the 9th November 1916, two days before the 11th which would be so significant two years later in 1918.
The British said , in effect, we are too busy with the demands of the war to take part, but hoped that the League (currently formed with neutrals) would find solutions to achieving everlasting peace after this war was over. However formed, the League should have the Forces to enforce peace and thereafter to Police it properly.
The Germans also referred to what should happen at the end of the war, and went on to state that the horrors of war and peaceful understanding were to be avoided/encouraged respectively, written almost as though they were the innocent party of the last two years of horrendous losses of life and property. They stressed that they would cooperate fully (and honestly) in the examination of every endeavour. They went on to say that if the war went their way as victors, it would create political conditions which would benefit all mankind in all nations both small developing and great nations. Then it will be possible to realise the principles of justice and free development on land and of the freedom of the seas.
The Germans secretly endeavoured to use their written reply to obtain a mediation of the neutrals in favour of a German peace, and President Wilson was the one Ruler of all those neutrals who could best serve her end.
The US, now the home of the League (and other neutrals) were supremely anxious that the war should end immediately, now, in 1916.
Germany believed that as long as the war stopped immediately, as suggested, she wouldn't concern herself overmuch with the detail of the settlement.
On the 12th December 1916, Germany forwarded her note to the US and other neutral States stating that she and her three allies would forthwith enter into peace negotiations. She claimed that her aims were not to shatter or annihilate her adversaries, pointing out that she was ahead in the military and economic senses and ready to continue the war which had been forced upon her, to the bitter end if necessary. Further, she wanted to avoid more bloodshed and to that end the tragedies of war. She concluded by saying that if the war should continue, she (and her Allies) were resolved to continue to a victorious end, disclaiming the responsibility therefore before humanity and history.
The German note was sent by the US President to the Governments of ten nations without comment. Days later, (20th December) President Wilson sent a 'peace note' to all belligerents , which, because of the nearness of Christmas, did not fail to secure a deeply sympathetic reception.
The note suggested that all warring nations should withdraw and that differences should be aired so as to avoid a reoccurrence. The President himself would be happy to serve or even take the initiative in the accomplishment of his suggestion.
The President's note was immediately followed by a semi-official statement by the US Secretary of State, Mr Lansing, which was potential dynamite ! He said that his statement was prompted by a feeling of the US Government that the US "was drawing to the verge of war", that the American people should know that, and that the US needed to know the intentions of the belligerents.
It shocked the world, and in parts adversely, so much so, that shortly afterwards, a new statement was issued assuring the world of America's continuing neutrality.
The President's 'Christmasy' note, so sympathetically received, was short lived because re-read in conjunction with the two contradictory statements from Mr Lansing, it caused total bewilderment, shocking not only Europeans but Americans alike.
The President had in fact made a gaffe unparalleled in Government circles, albeit unwittingly. In his note asking the belligerents to lay down their arms he had assumed or implied that the Germans plus her Allies and the British/French Entente , were "on a level playing field" as regards to the way they had prosecuted the war. It was the German and Austrians in particular who had played the treacherous violation of Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro, and the unprovoked invasions and occupation of the territories of other European States of France and Russia: the cruel savagery of the Arms of their Forces, unparalleled even in the history of profoundest barbarism , which has massacred, in cold blood, the peoples of occupied territories, and ruthlessly devastated their lands and homes: the callous criminality of the illegal maritime and aerial operations of Germany involving horrible death to hosts of helpless innocent non-combatants women and children were now, apparently, as nothing to the President of the United States.
The Presidents note, read and re-read over and over again by the Allies, caused disappointment and resentment by the British and French peoples towards the US. The Allies were not guilty of such crimes whereas the Germans manifestly were.
As the Allies discussed the President's gaffe, the Germans, on December 17, hastened her reply to it. She did not state her peace terms but suggested a meeting of belligerent States to be held in a neutral country.
On December 30th 1916, the Allies replied to the original proposal for peace, and in the meantime, the popular resentment against the US President was gradually disappearing. In hindsight, it was thought that a man seeking to broker peace would hardly alienate either side by being provocative. Diplomacy was his aim and becoming of the President of the United States. He and his country were exonerated from any blame of apparently "painting each side with the same brush."
However, the reply of the Allies to Germany herself could not fail to deal with these issues. The first document dealt with Belgium, and was signed in alphabetical order by ten nations of the Entente which summed up with irresistible reason the fearful wrong that Germany had done to the violated Belgium people. It concluded that whilst peace was desirable and would be welcomed, it was only possible on one condition, and unless that condition was first granted by Germany, no common basis could exist upon which any practicable exchange of views could take place. Let Germany face and dispose of this essential fact, the condition that she should grant complete restitution and reparations of and from the violated and occupied States and territories, and give, moreover, sufficient assurances of the impossibility of further warfare on her part. That condition agreed to, the Allies were prepared to negotiate for peace.
Now, in the new year of 1917, came a flurry of worldwide diplomatic activity with many speeches delivered by Rulers and Statesmen of the belligerent Powers.
The joint proclamation of the Kaiser and the Emperor Charles I of Austria, was all telling, disappointing but fully expected. It said "The Governments of the Entente are henceforth responsible for the blood to be shed. Our armies will force them to a peace that they have refused when offered to them."
The response of the Entente to the note from President Wilson was designed to belittle the German/Austrian proclamation to which Germany responded by sending a second letter refusing to discuss the origins of the war.
The President received the Allies note on the 10th January 1917. The next day, Lloyd George sent a second note to Germany. The Kaiser complained that the Allies had rejected his offers of peace. "But" said the British Minister "the Allies rejected nothing inasmuch as nothing has been offered to them. The Allies all earnestly desire peace, but war is preferable to Prussian domination in Europe. Though victory may be difficult, yet the defeat of the Allies is now impossible. The best guarantee of peace in the future will be the alliance of nations to punish the first who shall disturb the peace."
As well as Germany making good the carnage, Turkey, a nation so foreign to Western civilisation must be thrown out of Europe back into Asia.
The Allies made it clear that they had no intention of destroying the German and Austrian Empires or their political systems, but just to drive these nations back behind their own territorial borders and rid Europe of their brutal greed.
n the US, the Allies reply was warmly welcomed, but had no striking effect on the Government. One reason for the warmth was that the Allies asked nothing of the USA; no sacrifices, just a listening ear.
In Germany, the Allies note fell as a bombshell, filling the country with surprise, consternation and with an extreme resentment of the Allies. The Berlin press delivered itself over to an instant campaign of almost unrestrained fury. The Kaiser well voiced this feeling in an address of the 13th January 1917 in which, in raging periods, he announced that " a consuming indignation and a holy anger" would now redouble the effort of Germany, and encourage her to every sacrifice. The Germans responded by calling for all out warfare regardless of the USA and other neutrals protests, whose only wish is for the destruction of Germany. "The War" exclaimed a German newspaper, has now no other reason and end than the legitimate defence of a nation in peril of death: German victories are the only road to peace."
n America, there was a sizeable group of politicians who accused the President of being pro Allies and thus anti Germany, and politicians were fraught, many hoping against all the odds that America would not get involved as a combatant.
The old President, Teddy Roosevelt (after whom the proverbial and ubiquitous teddy bear is named) was very active in getting President Wilson to see that by "turning a blind eye" to Germany's flouting of international law, was akin to condoning her actions which sent a cryptic message to the so called free-world. International crimes must be punished by International sources which required a 'police' chief.
Whilst all this in-fighting was going on in the US, Germany embarked upon a new form of piracy whereby instead of sinking neutral ships, they would be arrested and turned into armed merchant ship raiders. If this were not bad enough, on the 31st January 1917, the German/American relations were destined to receive, at the hand of Germany and Austria themselves, a shock, by a method far more illegal and drastic than one of mere piracy. So severe as almost immediately to dislocate them entirely. By a joint note from these two countries (Germany and Austria) formal notice was given to America that as from February 1st 1917, every ship, neutral or not, met by vessels of Germany and her Allies, in the waters of England, France and Italy would be torpedoed without warning, unless on a certain specified narrow route along which neutral vessels were allowed to pass, the USA being permitted, by this route, to communicate with England by the port of Falmouth. The Germans initiated a programme of unrestricted submarine warfare, their reply to the Allies refusal to accept a German-made peace.
Germany sank deeper and deeper into depraved ways and outrageous behaviour. She told herself that at all costs she must blockade England and starve her to death, otherwise she would lose the war: every vessel feeding, supplying or aiding England had to be sunk no matter the cost.
That Germany should dictate to such a proud and powerful neutral nation the route she must take upon the high seas was absurd, in any event, and ultimately they would "shoot themselves in the foot" and be destroyed in the process. Germany claimed that her aim was peace, a speedy peace, on her own lines, a victors peace indeed. She was desperate for peace because of her own internal situation: two years of total war had indeed caused great hardship and the loss of countless thousands of lives.
t this time in Germany (February 1916) Bethmann-Hollweg the German Chancellor naively told the Reichstag that "this new form of submarine warfare will force England to sue for peace within a few weeks; as for the US, that is a country without military Power !
Germany knew that their policy took them ever closer to war with the USA, but to starve England into submission seemingly was worth the risk. Eminent Germans including Count Reventlow, told his nation that the USA would be provoked to arms, and even if that event came about it would be much too late to affect a German victory.
In February 1917, the British navy had mined the Bay of Heligoland, thereby blocking and stopping German submarines from escaping into the Atlantic: a big nail in the German coffin.
The pre-US entry into the war months, were not to the liking of the Reichstag, the Kaiser, the Chancellor or the German Foreign Office, and were conceived by Ludendorff, Chief Staff Officer to Hindenburg in the image of Tirpitz and the German Navy League, with the enthusiastic support of Krupps. The Germans regularly pointed out their innocence, and that they were maligned by a dominant colonial power, proverbially know as the subjugator of many nations, now also seeking to annex Germany and Austria too. Britain was the aggressor, the plunderer, the murderer and not the peace loving nation of Europe.
Bit by bit, Germany pushed the boundaries of human decency and compassion wholly directed against neutral non-combatants seeking to use the seas. She was losing former sympathisers on a daily basis, and more and more the eyes of the people including German eyes, were steadily set upon America and her President.
Ex President Teddy Roosevelt had now raised the temperature, and even German-Americans, hitherto loyal to the Fatherland, now became vocally loyal and patriotic to their adopted home land. The Germans were now seen as high sea murderers and not as brave and proud mariners.
The US press were recalling the war of 1812 (between the US and Britain) as a battle for the freedom of the seas.
Something akin to the climax came on February 4th 1917. President Wilson announced that the US had broken off diplomatic relations with Germany and her Allies. The US nation was delighted with the news as were both Houses of the Government which warmly greeted the President.
The President warned Germany that a state of war would exist if she continued using her submarine fleet to stop access from East Coast US ports to the open sea. In May, the Germans had said that she would so limited her submarine operations as to bring them into accord with the views of America.
However, Germany persisted in its devious endeavour using long out of date treaties and agreements of friendship with the US to add time to her cause. It tried to get the US to "dance to its tune" all the while pushing the US to an inevitable outcome.
More US ships were sunk (the liner California for example) with the loss of American women and children plus other nationals.
At this point, still neutral, the US began gearing up for war and launched a programme for making ships, tanks, aircraft, ammunition and recruiting to train it armed forces. It also put the US economy on a war footing and invited American-Germans to leave the country.
Before the month of March 1917 was over, the cowardly Germans had cold bloodedly destroyed the Cunard Liner Laconia of 18000 tons with the loss of many American lives. The German claimed this to be a just action against the US for the American material support of the Allies.
The US had still not entered the war and it was not known whether she would act independently or as an Ally of the Entente, should she decide to do so.
On the 6th April 1917, the President of the United States of America, declared war against Germany and her Allies coming in on the side of the Entente.
The outcome in now legend and the cowardly Germans were defeated and made to grovel in the mud, making their faces as filthy as their minds, souls and, if they had one, their hearts.
What you sow, you one day will reap. Germany had lost its surface fleet and fought a dirty war using submarines. Exactly the same happened in WW2, and once again, after suffering an unbelievable pain caused by our losses, the German submarine threat was conquered and thousand of heartless German murderers lay on the bottom of the seas.