World War I and the 1920s
On June 28, 1914, Serbian rebels assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. By the end of August, Europe had plunged into war, as one country after another honored its alliances. The secret treaties that European nations had hoped would provide them with security had linked them together to the extent that the isolated assassination produced war. England, France, and Russia, known as the Allies, faced Germany and Austria-Hungary, known as the Central Powers, in the struggle.
Public opinion in the United States was mixed. Most Americans wanted to stay out of the war, but few could remain neutral in mind as well as deed, as President Woodrow Wilson asked. With over 350,000 residents of German birth or parentage and more than 100,000 of Irish background, Missouri had many citizens who sympathized with the German cause. In the case of the Irish, they hated England with such passion that they leaned toward any nation opposing it. An even larger number of Missourians had cultural ties with the Allies, however, and blamed Germany for the war. Despite these feelings, few Missourians wanted the United States to enter the conflict in 1914.
The belligerents adopted policies that made American neutrality difficult to maintain. Britain controlled the seas and blockaded German and neutral ports in an effort to stop the flow of goods to its opponents. President Wilson contended that neutral ships carrying neu