By Leon Schmidt Jr. and Gary Blum
Special to the City Times
One hundred years ago this week, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked congress to declare war on the German Empire.
Four days later, on April 6, 1917, congress voted overwhelmingly to do so. That war, what we know today as the first world war had been raging in Europe since early August of 1914.
The war pitted the German Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire against France, Great Britain, and the Russian Empire. In Western Europe, the war had been fought to a blood standstill by the end of 1914 along a line of trenches 1,547 miles long. The trenches extended from the fields of Flanders in Belgium to the English Channel all the way to Switzerland. In the year 1916 alone, the Germany Army on one side and the British and French armies on the other side had suffered a combined total of 2,000,000 casualties. The war was also raging in Eastern Europe between the German Army and the Austro-Hungarian Army on one side and the Russian Army on the other side. That battle also experienced large numbers of casualties.
The war was also fought in the Middle East, Southern Europe, Africa, and on the oceans.
In America, there was much disagreement about whether we should stay out of the war or not. Former President Teddy Roosevelt was a strong proponent for getting into the war against Germany.
After Germany set loose its’ submarines in unrestricted warfare against shops traveling between the United States and Europe, and after Germany tried to get Mexico to go to war against the United States, the people of the United States were finally fed up and agreed with President Wilson to declare war on Germany and “make the world safe for democracy”.
In 1917, the United States only had 145,000 soldiers in the Army. By 1918, American troops were landing in France at a rate of 10,000 per day. By the end of the war there were 2,000,000 American soldiers in France.
By the end of the war, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire no longer existed. World War I created the world we have all been living in all of our lives. Even World War II was created by the forces unleashed by World War I.
For America, it all started 100 years ago this week.
The American Legion was organized in Paris, France by the American Expeditionary Forces on March 16, 1919, and was made into law by United States Congress on Sept. 16, 1919.
Wisconsin Rapids Post 9 was chartered on July 9, 1919.