Saturday, February 4, 2017

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

As we step back one century again for Seekriegback Saturday, we are entering a momentous month in world history.
"The Homing Pigeon" by William "Jack" Farr in New York Evening Herald, January 28, 1917
When last we checked in, proposals to bring World War I to an end were shriveling up like the leaves of a Christmas poinsettia. The U.S. wanted a return to the status quo ante, plus a League of Nations to replace the complicated web of alliances that had obliged one European nation after another to declare war on the others for reasons that had nothing to do with the assassination of an Austro-Hungarian archduke. Germany wanted instead to ratify its gains on the battlefield, while the Entente of Russia, France and Great Britain preferred to punish Germany for its belligerence.
"The World's Two Great Comedians" by Lluis Bagaria for El Sol, Madrid, January, 1917
Since talk of peace was going nowhere, the German government declared "unrestricted submarine warfare" on February 1, 1917: a resumption of its U-boat blockade of Great Britain. The Kaiser warned that ships from any country, including neutral nations, would be attacked and sunk without warning anywhere within hundreds of miles of the British and French coasts.
"Well, Count, We Did Our Best" by W. A. Rogers in New York World, February, 1917
The British had a naval blockade of Germany, too, which as we've shown before, rankled those Americans who wished only to have transatlantic commerce and communications continue unimpeded regardless of European hostilities. The operative difference to U.S. public opinion now was that the Entente powers had not sunk any ships with Americans on them, operating under what were called prize or cruiser rules. Under these rules, British forces would board ships and place their crews in "a place of safety" before sinking the ship, unless the ship displayed "a persistent refusal to stop."

"The Last Straw" by Robert W. "Sat" Satterfield in Cleveland News, Ohio, February, 1917
As John Darling notes below, the German announcement was made with the full realization that the U.S. would be brought into the war because of it.
"Nobody But Himself to Blame" by Jay N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, February, 1917

Europe's war had been raging at a stalemate for over two years, but, save for some very old veterans of the Civil War, Americans' only experience with war was of the relatively quick and easy victory over Spain twenty years earlier.
"And When It Falls 'Twill Fall on Him" by William Hanny in St. Joseph News Press, February 2, 1917
Even at Hearst's newspapers, resistance against the move toward war was waning. Here's Harry Murphy's cartoon on the day unrestricted submarine warfare was announced...
"I Feel Safer on My Own Side" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, February 1, 1917
...and five days later, as ships were being dispatched to Davy Jones's locker:
"I Want Real Preparedness" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, February 6, 1917
From this point on, jingoism fills the inkwells of nearly every cartoonist in America. The only ones still advocating against U.S. entry into the war were the socialists at The Masses.
"Peace Only with Honor" by Boardman Robinson in The Masses, February, 1917

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