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Early in the American war effort, President Wilson succinctly summarized a major strategic goal of a successful war effort by quipping that “It is not an army that we must shape and train for war, it is an entire nation.”1 Wilson, like the leader of every major belligerent nation, recognized that the Great War was a conflict different than any previous war. While all prior wars affected their nations as sons died and treaties changed political borders, the First World War touched home in ways never experienced before. Especially in the United States, the home front was required to sacrifice consumer goods for the purpose of supporting the war effort like never before. Governments enacted Alien and Sedition Acts designed to squelch domestic conflict and mass media campaigns urged support for fighting troops. Perhaps the most obvious change in American society was the marriage of government and war-based industries. In order to avoid industrial disruption, government policies promised companies healthy profits even after paying raises to workers. The War Industries Board had broad powers and even threatened the mighty Henry Ford with nationalization of his factories if he did not submit to wartime goals.


This is a presentation from the Northern Great Plains History Conference (2014). Posted with permission.

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Kelly Wenig



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