U.S. Enters WWI: Part Two

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11017

Ever had someone tell you, "Mind your own business"? That's fine until someone punches you in the nose! Learn how and why countries enter wars, and how public opinion changes, using WWI as an example!


United States, World

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever tried to stay neutral when your friends or siblings are having an argument?
  • If yes, what was your reason for not taking sides?
  • In the end, did you maintain your neutrality?
  • If you were not able to stay neutral, what was it that caused you to get involved?

For three years, the United States tried to stay neutral during one of the deadliest wars the world has known.

By May of 1915, with Woodrow Wilson as President, America had not yet entered World War I. However, during the course of the next two years, there were two main events that caused the United States to declare war on Germany and join the allied forces in the battle.

German submarines (U-boats) were crucial to the war effort, and by the end of the war, they had killed more than 14,000 people. However, in 1915, the Germans pledged not to sink unarmed ships.

They broke their pledge when they sunk the Lusitania, a British passenger ship.

Watch the beginning of Sinking of the Lusitania & the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive I THE GREAT WAR - Week 41 to get more information about the sinking. While viewing, listen for the answers to these two questions:

  • Why was the captain of the Lusitania encouraged to travel in a zigzag pattern?
  • How many people died when the Lusitania sank?

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The death of 128 American passengers aboard the Lusitania caused a shift in public opinion. Despite the response of the American public, President Wilson continued to urge neutrality. After he won re-election, an event took place that finally pushed him to ask Congress for a war declaration.

Print the Zimmermann Note Questions  found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Read and answer the questions in the Zimmermann Note Questions to learn more about this event.

Print Zimmermann Note Answers (Downloadable Resources) to check your work.

Ironically, President Wilson won re-election on the motto, "He kept us out of war." Yet, the events that took place that led to American involvement made neutrality an increasingly difficult position to maintain.

  • Do you agree or disagree with President Wilson's decision to join the war efforts against Germany?

Continue on to the Got It? section to examine public opinion about the war.

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