Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, April 6, 2017

America's Road to War, 6 April 1917: The United States Declares War on Imperial Germany

On 4 April the Senate held a daylong debate, then voted 82 to 6, with eight abstentions, for war. The House voted 373 to 50 on 6 April, Good Friday. The joint war resolution was rushed to the White House; Woodrow Wilson interrupted his lunch and came to the office of the usher, Ike Hoover. "Stand by me, Edith," he said to his wife. She handed him a gold fountain pen, a gift he had given her, to sign the document. 

Immediately afterward, a signal was passed to a junior naval officer, who  had been instructed by Assistant Secretary Franklin Delano Roosevelt to stand in readiness. Now the young man rushed outside and with his arms semaphored to a figure standing in a window of the adjacent State, War and Navy building, who then ordered that wireless messages be sent to all the ships at sea: the United States of America was at war.

This is the document the president had just signed.

Joint Resolution Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.

Whereas the Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America; Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress Assembled, that the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

Speaker of the House of Representatives

Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate

Approved, April 6, 1917

Tomorrow: What Next?

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