Why did the United States abandon its neutrality and enter World War 1 in 1917?

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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There were several reasons that the U.S. abandoned "splendid isolation" and entered the first World War.

One reason was moralistic. The U.S. saw itself as a beacon of freedom and democracy, two characterisitcs they felt Germany and its allies were at odds with. The attacks on Belgium, France and other nations stood in stark contrast to American ideals, so Wilson demanded that American enter the war and, "make the world safe for democracy"

Another reason which was more pragmatic was war loans. The U.S. had loaned Britain, France and their allies lots of money which, if they lost, might not be recouped. For this reason, the banking industry pressured the Wilson administration to enter the war in order to protect U.S. loans.

Still another compelling reason was the recent attacks by U-Boats on U.S. shipping. When Germany began using submarines to sink Atlantic shipping, the Americans were outraged since their ships were being targeted as well. The sinking of the Lusitania in 1917 was the final straw and probably the most compelling reason that the U.S. entered the war.

Finally, there was the issue of the Zimmerman Note. This was a diplomatic offer between Mexico and Germany where the Germans offered to help Mexico in a war with the U.S. which they hoped would detract from intervention by the U.S.

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