One of the most devastating conflicts in all of history, the First World War set the stage for the rest of the century and what would include another, even more brutal conflict. These are 25 interesting things you did not know about World War I.
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To increase the size of the U.S. Army during WWI, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which was also known as the conscription or draft, in May 1917. By the end of the war, 2.7 million men were drafted. Another 1.3 million volunteered.
Woodrow Wilson’s campaign slogan for his second term was “He kept us out of war.“ About a month after he took office, the United States declared war on Germany on April 6th 1917.
A Mexican Sneak Attack
In early 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann to Germany’s minister in Mexico. The telegraph encouraged Mexico to invade U.S. territory. The British kept it a secret from the U.S. for more than a month. They wanted to show it to the U.S. at the right time to help draw the U.S into the war on their side.
A Will To Fight
Some Americans disagreed with the United States’ initial refusal to enter WWI and so they joined the French Foreign Legion or the British or Canadian army. A group of U.S. pilots formed the Lafayette Escadrille, which was part of the French air force and became one of the top fighting units on the Western Front.
Spies & Horror
Margaretha Zelle (1876-1917), also known as Mata Hari, was a Dutch exotic dancer accused of being a double agent. Though she always denied being a spy, the French executed her in 1917.
French Second Lieutenant Alfred Joubaire wrote in his diary about WWI just before he died that “Humanity is mad! It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre. What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible! Men are mad!”