World War One Propaganda

Lesson 1, Topic 5
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World War One Propaganda

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Directions: Before you start, listen to part of a talk in a US history class.

*Vocabulary is sometimes provided in written form when it may be unfamiliar to the student but essential for understanding the lecture

Woodrow Wilson
George Bellows

World War One Propaganda - Transcript

On the eve of World War One, the U.S. government under President Woodrow Wilson opposed any involvement in international military conflicts. But as the war continued in Europe and as some of the powers in the war began to target commerce and travel across the Atlantic Ocean, it became clear that the United States would not be able to maintain its position of neutrality. Still, the American public was of mixed opinion; many resisted the idea of American intervention and American lives lost, no matter how bad the circumstances.

In 1918, artist George Bellows created a series of paintings intended to strengthen public support for the war effort. His paintings depicted German war atrocities in detail, from children run through with bayonets to torturers happily resting while their victims suffered. One image shows Germans unloading sick or disabled labor camp prisoners from a boxcar. These paintings were typical for anti-German propaganda at the time. The U.S. government-sponsored much of this propaganda out of concern that many American immigrants sympathized with the Central powers and would not support the U.S. war effort.

In the end, it appears that some of this propaganda paid off; America officially announced its involvement on the sides of the British and French in April 1917 and would eventually send over two million American soldiers to join in the war effort.