James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Showing posts for "World War I"

Lessons from the U.S. Entry Into World War I

by James M. Lindsay
U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Division stand in formation in 1917 (Reuters)

Today I had the good luck to talk with three distinguished historians, John Milton Cooper, Jennifer Keene, and Jay Winik about the U.S. decision to enter World War I. All three shared sharp insights into the consequences and lessons of America’s participation in “the Great War.” Read more »

Remembering America’s Entry into the Great War

by James M. Lindsay
D.C. War Memorial (REUTERS/Gary Cameron )

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of Congress declaring war on Germany, thereby thrusting the United States into the Great War, or what we know today as World War I. The vote was a major turning point in U.S. history. For more than a century, Americans had steered clear of Europe’s political affairs. They had been good students of George Washington, who said “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world,” and of Thomas Jefferson, who recommended “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations-entangling alliances with none.” Suddenly, however, American boys were headed “over there.” Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Sinking of the Lusitania

by James M. Lindsay
sinking of the Lusitania The RMS Lusitania comes into port. (Library of Congress)

Asking “what if” is a popular parlor game. Seldom, however, do we ever get an answer, and certainly not almost immediately. King George V of Britain is a rare exception. On the morning of May 7, 1915 in the midst of discussing Germany with a visiting American envoy, Colonel Edward M. House, he asked, “Suppose they should sink the Lusitania, with American passengers on board?” Within hours he had his answer. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Britain Declares War, the United States Declares Neutrality

by James M. Lindsay
British Soldiers Trenches World War I British soldiers wait in the trenches on the western front during World War I. (Courtesy Reuters)

The banner headline in the New York Times summarizing the events of August 4, 1914 told readers everything they needed to know: “England Declares War on Germany; British Ship Sunk; French Ships Defeat German, Belgium Attacked; 17,000,000 Men Engaged in Great War of Eight Nations; Great English and German Navies About to Grapple; Rival Warships Off This Port as Lusitania Sails.” In short, Britain had come off the sidelines to fight with France and Russia against Germany and Austria. Now, for the first time since the Battle of Waterloo ninety-nine years earlier, all of Europe was at war. Read more »

TWE Remembers: Top Ten World War I Films

by James M. Lindsay
World War I The African Queen Likenesses of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, in character in their roles in the movie "The African Queen," at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Los Angeles. (Courtesy The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

World War I has provided source material for gripping novels and powerful poetry. It also has provided source material for some great movies. Here are my ten favorites in alphabetical order. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Assassination of Jean Jaurès

by James M. Lindsay
Jean Jaures Cafe du Croissant A sign at the Cafe du Croissant in Paris marks where Jean Jaures was assassinated in 1914.

Yesterday’s post noted that the 1916 Black Tom explosion raises a great “what if” question: would Woodrow Wilson have lost his bid for re-election that fall if Americans had known that German saboteurs had blown up Black Tom? Here’s another “what if”: would World War I have followed a different course had Jean Jaurès, the leader of the French Socialist Party in the Chamber of Deputies, not been assassinated on July 31, 1914? Read more »

TWE Remembers: World War I Poetry

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Cemetery Soldier A French officer stands near a cemetery for soldiers killed on the front lines of World War I at Saint-Jean-sur-Tourbe on the Champagne front, December 1916. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree.” Most Americans know the opening lines of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. What they probably don’t know is that Kilmer was a war hero—the French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for bravery—or that he was killed by a German sniper at the Second Battle of the Marne on July 30, 1918. Sadly, Kilmer was far from the only accomplished poet to die while serving during the Great War. Rupert Brooke, John McCrae, Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorely, and Edward Thomas were among the poets who did not live to see the war’s end. Read more »

TWE Remembers: The Black Tom Explosion

by James M. Lindsay
Black Tom Explosion Workers sort shells at Black Tom. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

The explosion at the Black Tom munitions depot in Jersey City, New Jersey at 2:08 a.m. on Sunday, July 30, 1916 was massive. It generated shockwaves equivalent to a 5.5 magnitude earthquake, blowing out tens of thousands of windows across the harbor in Manhattan. People as far away as Maryland reported being jolted awake. Because of the late hour the death toll was remarkably low; fewer than ten people were killed. Authorities quickly chalked the explosion up to lax safety procedures by the depot’s owner, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and its operator, the National Dock and Storage Company. Had they known the actual culprit, the United States might have entered World War I eight months sooner than it did—and the outcome of the 1916 presidential election might have been very different. Read more »

TWE Remembers: World War I Novels

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Soldiers Trenches French soldiers aim an anti-aircraft machine gun from the trenches during World War I. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I recommended several great books on the origins of World War I. I’m a history buff, so books about what world leaders said and did are my thing. But friends who prefer novels to histories tell me that “fiction reveals truths that reality obscures.” So in that spirit, here are recommendations for novels about World War I. But be warned. These are mostly books about the war’s brutality and senselessness, not its glories and heroics. Read more »

TWE Remembers: World War I Histories

by James M. Lindsay
World War I Books French General Emile Eugene Belin visits the front line near Arras, Northern France. (Collection Odette Carrez/Courtesy Reuters)

You can learn a lot about the origins, events, and consequences of World War I by surfing the Internet. But if you really want to understand why the Great War happened, you should read serious histories on the subject. The problem is that historians have turned out more than 25,000 books and articles on World War I. So where should you start? Here are some recommendations. Read more »