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

Friday, November 26, 2021

Recommended: The Attacks on U. S. Shipping that Precipitated American Entry into World War I by Rodney Carlisle


The Sinking of  the U.S.-Registered Freighter SS Vigilancia — Shown Here During Its Spanish-American War Service—Finally, Tipped the United Sates Over the Brink from Neutrality to War

About a week ago, I recommended a somewhat specialized article, "Historical Approaches to Post-Combat Disorders" by Prof. Edgar Jones of King's College, London.  I thought the paper was fascinating, both comprehensive and densely detailed, that it would be futile and not at all fair to the author to provide only a synopsis or a brief excerpt.  I decided simply to provide a link to the article, to allow readers to download the full piece, so they could print it out and read it at their leisure. There have been no comments about the posting to date, but I have received a few email from readers whom, I guess, are particularly interested in PTSD and related matters.

Anyway, since I sitting on a whole library of such articles on a wide range of topics that I've gather over the past 35 years, I've decided to bring more of these to our readers attention.   Here I'm recommending an detailed analysis of how, step-by-step,  Germany's declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare led to President' Wilson's request that Congress declare war on Imperial Germany.

It was written by Rodney Carlisle formerly of Rutgers University and author or co-author of over 30 history books, including Rough Waters: Sovereignty and the American Merchant Flag.  To start, here  is his abstract of the 25-page article:.

Between 3 February 1917 and America's declaration of war on 6 April 1917, ten United States merchant ships were sunk, nine of them by German submarine. These losses constituted the casus belli for the entry of the United States in the First World War. The loss of three ships in particular seemed to convince Wilson and his cabinet that Germany had declared war on the United States; nonetheless, when he made his presentation to Congress, he interpreted the causes of the war in much broader terms. Details of the ship losses and questions of international law about it itself, as well as Wilson, his cabinet, and Congress' reaction to the events, are all detailed here.

Download the full paper



  1. I down loaded the Jones article on PTSD and found it fascinating. My father was with a base hospital of the AEF in 1917-19. I was a surgeon at Ft. Knox in 1970-72. PTSD was a major problem in each of our tours. Jones' article is a great read! Thank you! Bob Schrock

  2. My father and his brother (my uncle) were Merchant Marine officers in WW2, and I have a particular interest in the origins of war, especailly WW1. Thank you for the present article.