A BELLIGERENT MILITARY (Illustration) Famous Historical Events World History Disasters World War I

Germany disregards Belgium’s neutrality as it overruns the country at the start of World War I.  This image depicts the Belgian town of Diksmude during the early months of World War I. By the end of the war, Diksmude was essentially obliterated. Click on the image for a better view.


James W. Gerard, the United States ambassador to Germany in 1914, was at the center of the diplomatic world in Europe. He heard from all sides as potential combatants lined up. He had access to newspaper accounts wherein Germany disclaimed responsibility when war broke out in late July, 1914.

As ambassador when Lusitania sank, Gerard had access to Kaiser Wilhelm II. His recollections provide a fascinating, first-hand account.

Did the Kaiser (the link takes you to his royal palace at Potsdam) approve of the Lusitania sinking? He told the American ambassador he did not. (Gerard did not believe him.)

Did the Kaiser agree with the "ruthless submarine war" engaged in by his navy? He said not. But many of his powerful military men thought otherwise. And those powerful military leaders were unafraid of American involvement in the war.

Gerard relates what he knew at the time:

The military, of course, absolutely despised America and claimed that America could do no more harm than it was doing then to Germany; and that possibly the war preparations of America might cut down the amount of the munitions available for export to the enemies of the Empire. As to anything that America could do in a military way, the Navy and the Army were unanimous in saying that as a military or naval factor the United States might be considered as less than nothing.

The Kaiser, who did not share his military's view of America, had responded to President Wilson's offer to mediate BEFORE Germany and Britain commenced hostilities against each other. Wilhelm II gave Gerard a handwritten letter for Wilson. The German leader wanted his communiqué published. On the advice of an unnamed source close to the Kaiser, however, Gerard withheld the letter from the press. (This link takes you to a text version).

It is an extraordinary document, signed by Wilhelm II. Among other things, it discusses:

Belgian neutrality which had to be violated by Germany on strategical grounds...

What happened in Belgium, of course, was the key to all-out, all-inclusive war. And it was one of the significant events which caused Americans to turn against Germany.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: May 19, 2016

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"A BELLIGERENT MILITARY" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2004. Feb 17, 2020.
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