The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson: American War Aims in World War I

By David M. Esposito | Go to book overview
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They claimed that another army would only clog the overburdened railroad system, American soldiers would not be needed. House wrote Wilson on March 19 that his friends in the French and British governments did not look with favor on the prospect of America building a large army but wanted to recruit U.S. volunteers directly into their own armies. House argued that the U.S. should constitute itself as a vast reservoir for the Allies. Although he claimed that it was their idea, it was his own, and he opposed the creation of an independent AEF.34

Ambassador Page in England found British leaders as divided as their French colleagues over the idea of an American army coming to France. He noted that there was a minority in England that did not want any American involvement at all but that most British leaders wanted U.S. naval assistance and financial credit. Some generals wanted an AEF, no matter how small, to raise Allied morale. Contemporary British Cabinet documents now available confirm Page's analysis. British leaders wanted some kind of American commitment, argued about priorities, deprecated the effectiveness of U.S. troops, and doubted that they could arrive in time to change the outcome of the war. While Americans debated sending few or many troops to Europe, Franco-British leaders seemed to be debating whether to accept few or none.35

In a curious way, Franco-British opinion of American military capabilities seemed to validate German strategic assumptions. When German admirals and generals prevailed on the kaiser to resume the submarine campaign back in January, they had all agreed that American entry would not alter the balance of forces and that U.S. troops would never set foot in Europe.36 Unfortunately for all the military experts, European and American, who concurred that America could not intervene effectively in the war, one man disagreed. President Woodrow Wilson was determined to send an AEF to Europe.

William Wiseman to Foreign Office, December 16, 1916, Box 4, Sir William Wiseman Papers, Yale University Library Archives.
House diary, January 11, 1917, House Papers.
House to Wilson, January 15, 1917. Later in the month, House told Wilson that Germany had reverted to control by the militarists.


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