7th January 1917 – the day Germany lost the war?

imagesBy late 1916 the fighting at the Somme and Verdun was causing the British and French governments to sound out greater and greater loans from Wall Street. The war was costing $75 million a week in US purchases. The Bank of England only had six weeks worth of gold reserves left. But such was the size of investment American capital had made in the British and French war effort that it was looking increasingly difficult for US president Woodrow Wilson to keep the States out of the war. A victory by the Central Powers might well bankrupt the US economy. Wilson hated the war; ‘England has the earth, and Germany wants it.” and so he decided the only way out of the dilemma was to position the US as the impartial peace broker. images-1His message, Peace Without Victory, was received with horror in Paris, London and Berlin. So much had already been sacrificed that the only honourable way out was total victory. Only the German ambassador in Washington Johann von Bernstorff could see this as a god send for the Central Powers and telegrammed Berlin urging acceptance of Wilson’s initiative. By then, however, the Kaiser’s high command was being run by Ludendorff and Hindenburg, architects of Germany’s triumph in the East and saviours of the recent near disaster that had unfolded when Romania had come in on the Allies’ side. As far as Ludendorff and Hindenburg were concerned, the size of the financial investment made by Wall Street in the Allied war effort made it inevitable that the States would sooner or later join the war against Germany. So, on the 7th January 1917 the German High Command ordered out the U-boats. Unrestricted submarine warfare had begun. Wilson’s chance of ending the war was spurned and the world was changed forever. Not only was Germany’s eventual defeat guaranteed but the move presaged the rise of Hitler with Germany stigmatised as an unrequited perpetrator of violence. On 3rd February Congress condoned the severing of diplomatic relations with Berlin and Bismark’s doleful influence on the future of his country was confirmed.

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