Early in the morning of 23rd October 1917 the first shot was fired by an American in World War I. The United States had done its best to keep out of what was primarily a European war (much less “world” than “World War II”) for the best part of three years, but the Allies finally persuaded President Woodrow Wilson to join the war on their side in April 1917. However, it would be another six months before the promise turned to reality.
By the time the war ended the following year, the Americans had mobilised just under two million men, under the overall command of General John Pershing (pictured). They fought in thirteen battles with the loss of 116,000 dead and 200,000 wounded.
Before the United States entered the war it had been in a state of stalemate. After their arrival the tide started to turn in the Allies’ favour. This was probably due less to any particular expertise or fresh ideas that the Americans introduced than to the sheer numbers of extra troops. Despite the widening scope of Army conscription in Britain in 1916-17, the numbers reaching the front were always far less than were needed. Throwing those two million Americans into the fray made all the difference.
© John Welford