AMERICA MOVES TOWARD WAR
Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 presidential election over his Republican opponent Charles Evans Hughes, by stating that the Republicans were the party of war. “He kept us out of war” was the popular slogan of Wilson’s supporters. This was a promise, however, that Wilson could not keep for long. On January 31, 1917, Germany announced a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, stating that any ship from any country attempting to enter the ports of Allied nations would be sunk. Historians believed that the Germans knew that eventually the United States would enter the war; by beginning this policy at this time, the Germans were gambling that they could win the war before the United States was truly involved. On February 3 Wilson officially broke off American diplomat relations and suggested to Congress that American merchant ships be armed.
American public opinion became increasingly enraged when they heard about the Zimmermann Telegram. This was an intercepted message between Arthur Zimmermann, the German foreign ministry, and German officials in Mexico suggesting that when Germany went to war with the United States, the Mexicans should be persuaded to attack the United States. As a reward, the Mexicans would receive Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona after the United States was defeated.
Between March 16 and March 18 three more American ships were sunk by German vessels. On April 2 President Wilson formally asked Congress for a declaration of war; this declaration was enthusiastically passed the following day. Wilson was motivated to declare war by the legitimate danger to American shipping that existed and by his belief that American entry into the war would help to shorten it.