100 Years Ago: The Momentous Month of March 1917

One hundred years ago, America, and I dare say the world, experienced one of the most event-filled months, ever. It began with the release of the infamous Zimmermann Note, just three days before Woodrow Wilson was sworn in for his second term as president of the United States. Then in mid-month, the shocking news that Tsar Nicholas II had abdicated his throne sent heads spinning. Just a few days later (not coincidentally, in my opinion) President Wilson decided it was time to take the nation to war and called for a special session to address the U.S. Congress. By 6 April, when the United States officially declared war, everyone understood the course of history had changed, but by how much? MH

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Artist Soldiers: U.S. Army Artists of the Great War
Opening 6 April 1917 at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC. Details

National Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry in World War I
Thursday — 6 April 2017, National World War One Museum; Kansas City, MO. (Article Below)

Remembering America's Entry into the Great War
Thursday — 6 April 2017, 6 p.m. at San Francisco's Marines Memorial Club. Now being organized by the World War One Historical Association. Check back for details. We will post them as they become available

Wilson Re-elected

We stand firm in armed neutrality since it seems that in no other way we can demonstrate what it is we insist upon and cannot forget. We may even be drawn on, by circumstances, not by our own purpose or desire, to a more active assertion of our rights as we see them and a more immediate association with the great struggle itself. But nothing will alter our thought or our purpose. They are too clear to be obscured. They are too deeply rooted in the principles of our national life to be altered.

We desire neither conquest nor advantage. We wish nothing that can be had only at the cost of another people. We always professed unselfish purpose and we covet the opportunity to prove our professions are sincere.

Woodrow Wilson, Second Inaugural Address,
4 March 1917

Poster of the Month

Blue Cross Fund for Wounded Horses, Great Britain
Selected for the National WWI Museum's "Posters as Munitions" Exhibit (DETAILS).
Nominate Your Favorite Poster (HERE).

Opening of Unrestricted U-boat Warfare

Commencing on 1 February 1917, the unrestricted use of submarines by the German navy had two immediate effects — The Allies suffered devastating losses and America quickly joined the war. Here are some articles about those early months of the new strategy.

Background on U-boat Warfare and the British Blockade

Germany's Announcement of 31 January 1917

British Intelligence and German U-boat Warfare (pdf)
Extensive Statistics and Analysis of the Sinkings

Early Efforts at Anti-Submarine Warfare

Woodrow Wilson and the German U-boat Campaign (pdf)

America's Entry

Getting the American Expeditionary Force to France

Defeating the U-boat (pdf)

Can You Name This WWI Nurse?
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Hint: She did not survive the war.

If you can name this World War I veteran, we will send you a free issue of our monthly subscription magazine, OVER THE TOP. Email your answers HERE.

U.S. Centennial Organizations & Resources

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Let's Never Forget Them

America is finally building a magnificent memorial in our nation's capital to honor those who served the nation in the First World War. A beautiful design has been selected, but its $49-million-dollar cost has not yet been met and a major fund raising effort is being mounted. Those of us who remember their sacrifice and want it never to be forgotten must step up now. On behalf of our staff and the readers of all our publications, I have recently donated 10% of all the revenues we have received from our 2017 renewals for our prime revenue producer, OVER THE TOP magazine. Donations can be made online using credit cards or PayPal. Please contribute whatever you can afford. I believe that a push from our grass roots level is essential for getting the memorial built in time for the centennial of the Armistice in 2018.

  • Your contribution is tax deductible.

  • It will be matched dollar for dollar by the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, doubling your contribution.

  • The donation can be made in memory of an individual or group and can be specified for the new memorial or for general use during the Centennial Commemorations.

  • Here is the web page where you can make your contribution:

  • Detail from the Winning Designer's Submittal

    6 April 2017 — Commemorating America's Entry to the War

    Evening Taps at the National World War One Museum

    On 2 April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Germany and the Central Powers. The approaching 6 April 2017 will mark 100 years since the United States Congress approved his request to enter the First World War. The national observance of the momentous event will be held at the National World War One Museum and Memorial at Kansas City, MO.

    The national ceremony, "In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace: Centennial Commemoration of the U.S. Entry in World War I," will be held at the Museum on April 2017. Invited attendees include the President of the United States, Congressional leadership, Cabinet members; state governors, U.S. military leaders, veteran organizations, representatives from U.S. military legacy units that trace their history back to World War I, descendants of significant American WWI figures, and other organizations, dignitaries, and VIPs. International invitees include the Heads of State of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the United Kingdom, and all other nations whose people were involved in the Great War.

    The ceremony will be outside, weather permitting, on a stage to be erected on the east side of the Liberty Memorial mall. It will feature guests reading selections from speeches, journalism, literature and poetry of the time about the U.S. decision to enter the war. It will also include flyovers by U.S. and French military aircraft.

    Complementary events will be held around the country. We will try to provide a comprehensive list of such gatherings in the April edition of the Trip-Wire. Please plan to attend if one of these events is taking place near you.

    The Best World War One "Freebie" — Ever!

    The Meuse-Argonne Campaign:
    One of Dozens of Helpful Maps in the Guide

    The American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) was created in 1923 to manage the country's overseas World War I cemeteries and memorials, part of the agency's work included the writing and publishing of American Armies and Battlefields in Europe: A History, Guide and Reference Book.

    A massive undertaking at the time, this nearly 600-page book was first published in 1927 to commemorate America's involvement in World War I. Originally titled A Guide to the American Battle Fields in Europe, the book served as a guide for Americans traveling overseas to visit World War I battle sites, cemeteries and memorials.

    By 1938, the book was expanded with additional research to serve as a history of the American Expeditionary Forces' accomplishments. Among the contributing authors was Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was assigned to ABMC by the Army in the 1920s. [He was the in-house expert on the St. Mihiel Offense, the exact area his armies would be fighting in during the fall of 1944.]

    If you have interest in following the Centennial of America's experience in the Great War, this is utterly essential for you. Thanks to the Virginia Tech Office of Digital Imagery and the ABMC this fantastic book is available for free downloading here.

    1 March 1917
    The Zimmermann Telegram Made Public in the United States

    Political Cartoonists Had a Field Day with the Telegram

    Between 1914 and the spring of 1917, the European nations engaged in a conflict that became known as World War I. While armies moved across the face of Europe, the United States remained neutral. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson was elected president for a second term, largely because of the slogan "He kept us out of war." Events in early 1917 would change that hope. In frustration over the effective British naval blockade, in February Germany broke its pledge to limit submarine warfare. In response to the breaking of the Sussex Pledge, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Germany.

    It was "Arthur" Not "Alfred"

    In January of 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German foreign minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause. This message helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history. The telegram had such an impact on American opinion that, according to David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers, "No other single cryptanalysis has had such enormous consequences." It is his opinion that "never before or since has so much turned upon the solution of a secret message."

    In an effort to protect their intelligence from detection and to capitalize on growing anti-German sentiment in the United States, the British waited until 24 February to present the telegram to Woodrow Wilson. The American press published news of the telegram on 1 March. On 6 April 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies.

    The Decoded Message

    Source: U.S. National Archives

    Our 2017 & 2018 Centennial Battlefield Tours
    Now Accepting Bookings For All Tours


    Flanders 1917 Campaign

    8 – 15 May 2017: The Memorable 1917 Battles of Flanders Fields

    Includes: Vimy Ridge, Messines, and Passchendaele

    Price — $3,490 (dbl occupancy, sgl supp avail)

    The full brochure covering the trip and registration details can now be downloaded


    Caporetto and the Italian Front

    25 July – 4 August 2017: The Most Important Battle of the Italian Front

    Includes: The Eleven Battles of the Isonzo, Caporetto 1917, Monte Grappa, and Vittorio Veneto. We will also follow the advance of the American Doughboys sent to the Italian Front.

    Reduced Price — $3,950 (dbl occupancy, sgl supp avail)

    The full brochure covering the trip and registration details can now be downloaded



    Kaiser's Offensives &
    the British Army's 100 Days

    6 – 14 May 2018: Study of Germany's Last Effort to win the War and the British Victory offensive.

    Includes: German advances in the Somme, Flanders and the Marne Sectors, the Black Day of the German Army, the St. Quentin Canal, and the pursuit to Mons.

    Reduced Price — $3,450 (dbl occupancy, sgl supp avail)

    The full brochure covering the trip and registration details can now be downloaded


    AEF: Pershing's Doughboys Centennial

    7 – 17 August 2018: Comprehensive Study of the American Expeditionary Force

    Includes: All major battles, memorials, cemeteries, and service sites of your family members.

    Price — $3,750 (dbl occupancy, sgl supp avail)

    The full brochure covering the trip and registration details can now be downloaded

    Click on Title to Access Story
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    Did Aspirin Exacerbate the Spanish Flu Symptoms?

    New Photos of WWI Subs and U-boats

    The Heritage of Verdun

    New Biography of Irish Rebel Countess Markievicz

    Life Magazine Photos of the Yanks in WWI

    Max Hastings on Why We Mourn Rather Than Celebrate the Russian Revolution

    Thanks to each and every one of you who has contributed material for this issue. Until our next issue, your editor, Mike Hanlon.
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    Content © Michael E. Hanlon