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AMERICA ENTERS THE WAR

By the time the Americans entered the war in April of 1917, the English and the French were desperate for American assistance. The Russian army had suffered crushing defeats since 1916, and in March of 1917 the removal of the tsar from power threw into doubt the entire Russian commitment to the war effort. Without Russia in the war, the Germans could place virtually their entire army in the western front.

The initial American Expeditionary Force that landed in France in June 1917 under the command of General John J. Pershing consisted of 14,500 men; its main psychological effect was to help boost the morale of the Allies, Volunteers were recruited to serve in the army, but a Selective Service Act was passed in May 1917. Those originally drafted were between 21 and 30; this was later extended to ages 17 and 46.

Both women and blacks were in the armed forces during the war. Some 11,500 women served, primarily as nurses and clerks, and over 400,000 blacks served. Black units were kept segregated and almost always had white officers.

American shipping to Europe became increasingly disrupted by German U-boats after the formal American declaration of war. Starting in May 1917, all American shipping to Europe traveled in a convoy system. The navy developed special torpedo boats that were able to destroy submarines. These techniques drastically decreased the damage done by German U-boats and other ships; only two troop transports were sunk from this point onward, and losses suffered by the merchant marine were much less.

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