The Great Warexternal image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTl7JZZG85oeHh8KhA2zdWSE7E9f8ITopCiZFC9MFJokQqL0u0mJQ

World War 1 was the world's first experience of total war. Starting after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary demanded that the Serbian assassins be brought to justice. Serbia had ties to Russia, and to protect itself, Austria-Hungary allied itself with Germany, in case Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary Austria, unhappy with Serbia's answer to their demands declared war on July 28 1914. In response, Russia started to mobilize it's army, and Germany, viewing this as an act of war, declared war on Russia. France, who had a treaty with Russia, declared war on Germany and Austria on August 3rd. Germany then invaded Belgium, who was allied with Britain, to open up a quick path to Paris, causing the British to declare war on Germany and Austria. After a month, Europe was at war. (1).

Initially, America had a non-intervention policy. Even after German submarines sunk the //Lusitania// in 1915, President Wilson demanded that Germany stop sinking passenger ships, but wouldn't commit to the war effort even though 128 Americans were aboard the ship.

Propaganda Overview

Propaganda is the use of various media to influence public opinion by presenting selective information, or lying by omission. Magazines, television, radio, internet and such things have all become instruments propaganda and political warfare. Due to specifics and situational factors the exact definition of propaganda is elusive, but Garth Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell, authors of the book Propaganda and Persuasion (page 7) define propaganda as "the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognition, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist."

Propaganda and how it was used in WWI

The main use of propaganda in WW1 was mostly, at the start, to enlist able bodied men to join the fight for their nation. As the war progressed, it shifted to war bonds just as much as recruitment. Propaganda was the governments method of using pictures and the press to champion and garner support for the war effort. Aside from the large and obviously needed recruitment portion, American propaganda also showcased the need for workers to create ships and other weapons of war. Although propaganda was used far before WW1, critics called it an industrial era, combining the aggressive passions of nationalism and revolution with machine aged scales of mass production and distribution. (2) In all wars, there is the need for men and women to fight. Most of American propaganda was based on recruitment and enlisting, and these types of posters continued for the duration of the war. America also needed ships and weapons, and people to manufacture them. Job posters were created so that people at home could do their part for the war effort. No war lasts long without funds, so the U.S. government was quick to create public interest in buying war bonds. By asking civilians to "do their part" it brought the entire nation in on the war effort, so that the public could see that the soldiers weren't the only ones fighting in this war, by buying war bonds and taking up jobs in factories the home front was backbone of the war effort. Other types of propaganda portrayed America's enemies as evil and sinister, one poster showed a gorilla, representing Germany, holding a young women hostage, and below the picture "enlist" is written in bold font. The poster portrays Europe as being defenseless, and at the mercy of an malevolent power , it shows a need for Americans to come to the rescue. Propaganda was also used after the war, to discourage the employment of Germans in British factories. Making the enemy look like the epitome of evil was a base for propaganda. British newspapers published false stories of German soldiers giving children hand grenades, raping women, and committing other horrible crimes.

American anti-Germany propaganda.
American anti-Germany propaganda.
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German propaganda depicting Britain's fall
German propaganda depicting Britain's fall

American reluctance

Even though America produced more propaganda than any other allied country, they weren't the first to fight. President Wilson tried to keep America out of the conflicts in Europe. He campaigned under the label "He kept us out of war!" While America was neutral, it's policies favored the Allies. At the outbreak of War, Wilson urged the public to be impartial, but he and his advisers were incapable of doing so themselves. This "rooting for the allies" bade it impossible for the United States to have real neutrality. Wilson made discrimination on behalf of the allies and intensified American economic involvement with them. The sinking of the Lusitania was called a criminal action, and Wilson demanded that Germany pay reparations, but it still didn't spur war for America immediately. Before Christmas in 1916, Wilson asked both sides to state peace terms, and went before congress to analyze the consequences of a crushing defeat, and that a lasting peace must be "peace without victory." This didn't sit well with the Allies, who thought America was thoroughly with them. Wilson tried to hold to a neutral course by sealing himself off from the arguments and indictments of partisans from either alliance. When Wilson learned about the newest German Submarine campaign, he believed that Germany had made a final choice between war and peace. The president had to manifest his unyielding opposition of the U-boat, by breaking relations with Germany. Further deterioration of relations with Germany arose with the publication of the Zimmermann Telegram. Arthur Zimmermann's telegram to the German ambassador to Mexico proposed a German-Mexican-Japanese alliance in case of war. This indicated that Germany was preferring war with the U.S. than the abandonment of the U-boat campaign. Wilson asked Congress to arm U.S. ships. During his second term in office, and after the sinking of the Lusitania, the President once again weighed his options. In the end, he emerged, satisfied that the right and rational course was war. (3)

War's Reality


Although the United States originally planned on maintaining a neutral position to the Great War, by 1917 Germany had began unrestricted submarine warfare against the U.S and along with the publication of the "Zimmerman Note" the United States was forced into war, on the side of The Allies. Soon propaganda posters lined the streets,back alleys and eclipsed storefront windows, urging young
men to enlist and promising valor and adventure in the armed forces. By the summer of 1918 the U.S was shipping 10,000 new troops every day to the war in France, on the western front.
Upon arrival though, it quickly became evident that there was little valor or adventure to be found in the trenches. The western front was trapped in the vice grip of stalemate, long days in bad weather,fighting over a wasteland,
the opposing army sent volleys of soldiers to charge the opposing trenches only to be repelled by enemy fire. The trenches were dirty, and men would become sleep deprived and paranoid, they had to keeps their heads down as to not become the targets of enemy snipers. Disease spread quickly through the unhygienic conditions of trenches, but things were only made worse with the introduction of mustard gas and Chemical warfare, that could cause internal bleeding, vomiting and blistering skin along with horrific burns, the gas could set into the trenches and stay potent for weeks.Contrary to the images of glory and victory that was shown in most propaganda, the fronts of war were horrible
places. Deadlocks were
common and thousands of men would die trying to advance the trenches just a bit further.


Propaganda's influence was mostly on the young men. With slogans such as "Britons, Your country needs you!" and "Take up the sword of justice!" young men were easily swayed to the front lines. Other targets were women at home, to grow and keep victory gardens, and those unfit for active duty to participate in the war effort by getting jobs in war plants.


Sheffield, G. D. "War on the Western Front." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2011. < front trenches&hl=en&ei=E01VTe-PM4T48AaauIn-Bg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CFUQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=western front trenches&f=false>.

Ellis, John. "Eye-deep in Hell: Trench Warfare in ..." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2011. < warfare&hl=en&ei=vU1VTc7cA4P58AaD2KjdBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CDUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

Overview of the war: (1)

Propaganda in the industrial era (2)

America's reluctance to join the war (3) (Murphy, Donald J. America's Entry into World War I. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 2004. Print.)