U.S. Entry into World War I

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Woodrow Wilson delivered his now-famous War Message to Congress on April 4, 1917. Four days later, Congress declared war and the United States became a formal partner in the war to end all wars. As the Wilson administration was to discover, however, declaring war and making war were two very different propositions. The former required only an abstract statement of ideals and justifications and a two-thirds Congressional majority; the latter required the massive mobilization of virtually every sector of American society - military, industrial, and economic, as well as public opinion. The Wilson administration sought to accomplish this daunting task in two concomitant and interdependent fashions. First, it undertook an unprecedented…show more content…
America’s spirit of volunteerism was in many ways the product of a carefully constructed government propaganda machine that underlay each of its wartime measures. The centerpiece of the government’s propaganda campaign was the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a federal agency established just one week after Wilson’s declaration of war. The CPI’s objective was to convince the American public of the “absolute justice of America’s cause [and] the absolute selflessness of America’s aims” (Woodrow Wilson, as quoted in Zeiger, 79). To be sure, the converse of this was also true; the objective was not only to glamorize U.S. efforts, but to demonize the enemy, as a slew of racialized, highly derogatory anti-German propaganda made clear. To this end, the CPI made full use of the burgeoning fields of professional advertising and public relations, creating and distributing posters, pamphlets, billboards and slogans for agencies like the Fuel Administration, the USRA, and the Selective Service System and programs like the Liberty Loan drive. Hoover made perhaps the most extensive use of CPI propaganda for his Food Administration. Posters with catchy slogans like “Wheatless days in America make sleepless nights in Germany,” and “If U fast U beat U boats,” drove home the government’s message: every American was a soldier in this war and only by doing one’s part could the United States fend off German aggression and make the world safe for democracy. Other CPI
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