World War I

Start Free Trial

How did the U.S. participation and Wilson's Fourteen Points affect World War I's course and outcome?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While you cannot exactly know what would have happened if the United States had not entered the war, one can make guesses. U.S. loans to the Allies were vital to the war as early as 1915. US. entry into the war in 1917 was important in maintaining the morale of the Allies especially France. U.S. forces were quite vital in the Allied offensives in the summer and fall of 1917.

That said, even with Russia out of the war, German civilians were suffering in late 1917 and early 1918. The British blockade of the North Sea was starting to impact German food supplies. 1917 and 1918 were bad crop years for Germany and many living under the rule of the Central Powers were starting to agitate for an end of the war. There were already strong leftist movements in German and Austria-Hungary calling for an end to the war. American involvement helped to end the war in 1918, but I am not sure that it was vital towards ensuring an Allied victory, as one can argue both sides.

Wilson's Fourteen Points created new nations in Poland, the Baltic States, and Yugoslavia based on people's rights of self-governance. Wilson called for limits of armaments and an end to secret treaties. These led to the limits on naval power brought about by naval conferences in Washington. Wilson also created the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. The League was ultimately powerless as the U.S. did not join and it had no power to correct states who disobeyed its mandates. The limits on armaments were flouted by Japan, Italy, and Germany before WWII. Wilson's calls for self-determination went unheeded in colonial possessions and would lead to nationalist movements in French Indochina where the U.S. would find itself engaged fifty years later.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The participation of the United States in World War I was a very important event. World War I had been going on for over two years when the United States entered the war. When the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies, it was a decisive factor. The American troops were fresh because we didn’t join the war until April 1917. Our rested troops were a big asset for the Allies. We also brought needed supplies to the Allies. While we don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t enter the war, we do know the Americans provided a big boost for the Allies.

President Wilson’s Fourteen Points reflected what we wanted to see in the peace treaty ending the war. President Wilson wanted to create an organization that would hopefully prevent future wars. The League of Nations was created as a result of this treaty. President Wilson also wanted to see people being ruled by their own ethnic group. Many countries were created based on this concept of self-determination. The Fourteen Points were important because it served as a discussion point for some of the terms of the Versailles Treaty.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Of course, we can never know for certain how World War I would have turned out if the United States had not become involved.  We cannot go back and do the war over to see what would have happened.  However, we can speculate about how the US affected the war.  The most common speculation on the part of historians is that the entry of the US into the war tipped the war in the Allied Powers’ favor and made the war end sooner than it might otherwise have ended.

This does not mean that the Americans were necessarily better soldiers than those who had already been fighting in the war.  What it does mean is that the two sides were very evenly matched before the US entered the war.  They had been deadlocked in a massive stalemate on the Western Front.  The Germans were wearing down, but they still definitely had a chance to win the war.  Then the US entered and the German army soon lost the war.  If the Germans were having a hard time defeating the French and the British, there was no way they could beat the French, the British, and a huge new army of Americans with lots of equipment.

WWI was largely a stalemate until the US entered the war.  Its large population and many resources tipped the balance and allowed the Allied Powers to win the war soon after the US entered.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial