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United States History Questions: 1914-1945

The United States joined World War I because it was never completely neutral, maintaining its trade relations with Britain and France despite German protests. Germany, blockaded by Britain’s navy, reacted with submarine warfare against ships bound for Britain. The Lusitania’s sinking in 1915 and the Zimmermann telegram (which tried to induce Mexico into siding with Germany against the United States) in 1916 helped drive the United States to join the Allies in 1917. QUESTION TWO: Prohibition met substantial hostility from the American public, which reacted against the law by violating it on a widespread basis.

The federal government was not able to enforce it well, and local law enforcement agencies were often little help. In addition, organized crime filled the demand for alcohol, further demonstrating the public’s disregard. Prohibition was ineffective and unpopular, and the public treated it with disregard. QUESTION THREE: Hoover tried to solve the problems created by the Depression, but his approach was not sufficiently broad or creative enough to win the public’s confidence. He tried using government spending but did not commit enough funds, and legislation like the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act and the creation of the RFC accomplished little.

As a result, the American public blamed him unfairly for the crisis and considered him uncaring and ineffective, electing Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in 1932 QUESTION FOUR: During the Depression, American diplomacy was isolationist, in response to public sentiment. Roosevelt did not challenge this, letting the Neutrality Act pass in 1935 and staying out of the Spanish Civil War. However, Roosevelt gave Britain assistance in 1940-41 (through Lend-Lease) as public sentiment against Germany gradually increased. Not until Pearl Harbor did American diplomacy finally abandon isolationism.

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