On April 25th, 1898, the United States declared war on Spain.
Less than seven months later, a victorious America claimed the
former Spanish colonies of Cuba,
Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine
Islands. To the American diplomat John Hay, the
Spanish-American War was "a splendid little war." It
had been popular, brief and inexpensive - especially in terms
of casualties. But the Spanish-American War marked a change
in America's international role. No longer content within her
own borders, the United States looked overseas.
Europe, power was poised in balance. Germany
longed to become a weltmacht - a world power. Britain struggled
to preserve her empire. Both France and Russia
expanded, and the Balkan states agitated for independence from
Austria. Treaties were signed; alliances were consummated. Now
the actions of any one power would determine the foreign policy
of the others.
early August, 1914, the world was convulsed by war - the first
world war. As Europe's nation-states battled, they awaited the
response of the greatest of the neutral powers - The United
War I engulfed Europe. On the western front, there was constant
carnage, but little movement. Soldiers bled and died to win
a stretch of dirt, which was quickly lost again. Europe seemed
to be deadlocked in a bloodletting frenzy. Halfway across the
world, an officially neutral American was being drawn into the
conflict. On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat sank a British ship
named the Lusitania. 1200 people died, including 128
Americans. Diplomatic relations between Germany and America
slowly decayed until, finally, President Wilson ordered American
merchant ships to be armed. Within days, U-boats opened fire
on American streamers. On April 6, 1917, America declared war
the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, 1918, the guns fell
silent. Germany had surrendered. At the peace conference of
Versailles, the victors constructed a treaty filled with revenge
and retribution. It was a treaty that Germany would not honor.
The dark clouds over Europe had not been dispelled; they were
now gathering for a second global conflict.