Baylor College Medical School

96 Winning The War

96 World War I was a total war, in which the participants channeled all their resources into the war effort. Both sides set up systems to recruit, arm, transport, and supply their armies. Nations imposed universal military conscription, or "the draft." requiring all young men to be ready to fight. Women also played a critical role. As millions of men left to fight, women took over their jobs and kept national economies going.

International law allowed wartime blockades to confiscate contraband, but British blockades kept ships from carrying other supplies, such as food, in and out of Germany. In retaliation, German U-boats torpedoed the British passenger liner Lusitania. Both sides used propaganda to control public opinion, circulating tales of atrocities, some true and others completely made up.

As time passed, war fatigue set in. Long casualty lists, food shortages, and the failure to win led to calls for peace. The morale of both troops and civilians plunged. In Russia, stories of incompetent generals and corruption eroded public confidence and led to revolution.

Until 1917, the United States had been neutral, but in that year it declared war on Germany. Many factors contributed to this decision, including Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare. Also, many Americans supported the Allies because of cultural ties with Britain and sympathy for its fellow democracy, France. By 1918, about two million fresh American soldiers had joined the war-weary Allied troops on the Western Front. In that year, president Wilson also issued his Fourteen Points, his terms for resolving this and future wars. Among the most important was self-determination for peoples in Eastern Europe.

A final showdown on the Western Front began in March 1918. With American troops, the Allies drove back German forces. In September, German generals told the kaiser that the wat could not be won. The kaiser stepped down and the new German government sought an armistice with the Allies. At 11 A.M. on November 11. 1918. the Great War at last cam to an end.


3. Why did women take on new jobs during the war?

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Most able bodied men of fighting age were overseas. The economy at home had to keep going and the war effort had to be supplied. Women did these things.