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The United States had to enter the war to stand up for what was right, even though President Wilson wanted to stay clear out of European affairs, which corresponded with his foreign policies and beliefs. Author Christine M. Kreiser stated in the article “The Enemy Within” between the months of September and June, the Spanish flu swept through America killing 675,000, however this epidemic was not just apparent in America, but all over the world with the death toll summing up to about 40 million. The men and woman who were our nurses, young factory workers, and soldiers were swept up by this flu, and immobilized completely.
Not only were the Americans on our soil getting affected but also the brave men on the frontlines in Europe. The United States entered the war with relish, German U-boats were sinking American ships, and killing American citizens in an effort to cut off American supplies going into Europe. America at this point, was already heavily connected with The Allies (Britain and France) , and the U. S. had a large investment in the Allies, if their side didn’t win the war, then the U. S. economy would suffer. However their wasn’t just one single problem for America; their was the Great War and the influenza.
The government made it apparent which one they prioritized. There were debates of quarantining off places for the safety of the public, but that would risk a decline of war bond sales, there was also a law that issued everyone to wear gauze masks to help in stop spreading the terrible disease. However there was also the Sedition Acts of 1918, which was an extension of the Espionage Act of 1917. In a nutshell this act limited out liberties, mainly freedom of speech, in referring to the war negatively , but these standards were only for in times of war.
The attack of the disease within did not stop Wilson from sending troops to Europe, even though the men were just as sick as the civilians, further more spreading the disease across continents. The United States was insinuating into World War I to protect democracy, despite the flu terrorizing our cities, even if that meant for the importance of our foreign policy to outweigh the domestic. To secure national safety all public gathering places were closed down, including churches. Although that helped the flu from spreading, it wouldn’t slow the flu down much.
The “Inquirer” in 1918 tried to unsuccessfully quiet the public panic saying “… Do not even discuss influenza… Worry is useless”. The government wanted to comfort the public so their war support wouldn’t waver, but their carefree attitude wouldn’t stop the flu. In “The Enemy Within” the author says that gauze masks were required to be worn when out in public at all times, but this mandate didn’t fly well with he public. This policy didn’t stick for a long period of time with the population, they were first worn religiously, but the American people soon recognized that the masks were inconvenient and discomforting.
Even the government officials in charge who ordered this law were seen publicly not wearing the gauze masks. The flu was so bad that ‘the average lifespan in America during 1918 was decreased by ten years. The most frightening thing about this flu was that it affected 15-34 year olds, which were able bodied men and women. “…. Medical science for four and one-half years devoted itself to putting men on the firing line and keeping them there. Now it must turn with its whole might to combating the greatest enemy of all–infectious disease,” (12/28/1918)
There was talk of quarantine throughout the major cities in America. In the article “The Enemy Within” the author stated that the flu was seen in Commonwealth Pier, a naval base in Boston. The flu was spread rapidly throughout the sailors living there, yet the armed forces were still sent out to New Orleans, and various other places, only further spreading this new flu. The death rate was so high that one nurse in St. Lois said “There was a man lying on a stretcher waiting for the fellow on the bed to die… ” (The Enemy Within pg. 4) There weren’t even enough caskets in supply to help bury all who had died, all the Navy could do was wrap them up in sheets with some sort of identification card secured on the deceased man. A small sum of sailors came to Philadelphia, and shortly after there was an outbreak of 600 cases on influenza. Soon after the flu, which was in the naval camp bases, spread to the public at large. The doctors of Philadelphia called for a quarantine to happen before the largest parade in the city occurred, but public health official ignored these warnings.
The article states exactly that “A quarantine would only cause panic, and the city would most certainly not meet it’s quota of war bond sales. ” Therefore the city officials cared more about the “war bond sales” that they might be losing then the citizens’ state of health at that moment in time. The state of Germany at the time when the United States entered the war was very desperate, the English military had already blockaded them of from receiving supplies, and he German people thought they had no other choice but to sink any aiding ships transporting goods to Europe.
Their attacks ended up killing anyone on board of the ships going to aid Europe. The United States was at that point neutral in the war, and the German U-Boat Campaign violated their neutral rights as a country. This is what particularly drove the United States into war: the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, off the coast of Ireland, where 1000 + lives were lost, but among them were 128 Americans. Wilson though that the fight against Germany and the threat to what was fair outweighed the fact that we were already fighting a war against the flu.
The sinking of the Lusitania was the last straw that broke the camels back. Even the German Captain Lieutenant Schwieger, who ordered the attack on the RMS Lusitania, was appalled by his action, noting in his personal journal the day he sunk the Lusitania, “It looks as if the ship will stay afloat only for a very short time. [I gave order to] dive to 25 metres and leave the area seawards. I couldn’t have fired another torpedo into this mass of humans desperately trying to save themselves”.
The Great War itself killed less than the flu epidemic in 1918, in logical terms, you would have to reason that the flu was more important than sending troops to fight in the war. After that America declared war on Germany. “The Great War, with its mass movements of men in armies and aboard ships, probably aided in its rapid diffusion and attack. The origins of the deadly flu disease were unknown but widely speculated upon. Some of the allies thought of the epidemic as a biological warfare tool of the Germans. There was a belief that the Germans somehow brought the flu to America as some sort of new chemical warfare, Kreiser states that Bayer aspirin, which was under a German patent, was taken off the markets, just in case they were laced with something more sinister. The war and the influenza ended, and without celebration of victory, but this win also left a bitter taste in Americans’ mouths. William Maxwell even goes as far as to say that “I realized for the first time and forever, that we were not safe.
We were not beyond harm….. From then on there was a great sadness that had not existed before. ”. The Enemy Within illustrated that during the time period of 1918, when America entered WWI, the government put great importance on the external safety and affairs of the world, and put the people at home on the back burner, America went to fight in the war instead of taking care of internal safety, and putting research into stopping the flu.
The great threat was not, per say the Axis powers, but the influenza outbreak of 1918, witch had the dangerous risk of a quarantine in our nations greatest and most populated cities, and the soldiers in our nation getting sick themselves, and still getting shipped over seas to fight. Instead author Kreiser argues that the government was more concerned about the sale of war bonds, and the popularity of the war, even passing the Sedition Acts, which outlawed any bad talking of this war, in the media and in the mail, our citizens even having to wear protective gauze masks as a measure of security.
The implication of the Sedition Acts of 1918, the shortage of coffins in our nation used to bury the dead, and the life expectancy dropping ten years are key evidence that foreign policy took precedence over domestic in this case. The death toll alone was reason to be hesitant before entering a war, but the government clearly wasn’t too concerned for it’s citizens. We didn’t follow Moral Diplomacy very well at this time, which stated staying out of foreign affairs, militarily. Instead e went into war, which was very against Wilson’s morals. The article “The Enemy Within” which was published, December 2006, Kreiser argues that the enemy is not Germany, but the influenza, and that being said; the health of the people should be valued over going into a war, mainly for financial reasons. The author states facts about the flu and how it affected the people greatly and their ability to function as a whole society and country and manufacture supplies and do industry.