Cultural Elite or Political Vanguard? American Volunteers Join the European War, 1914–1917

TitleCultural Elite or Political Vanguard? American Volunteers Join the European War, 1914–1917
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsJansen, Axel
JournalJournal of the Gilded Age & Progressive Era
Volume17
Issue4
Pagination636 - 649
Date Published10/2018
Abstract

This article investigates the motives of American volunteers who volunteered in the war zone in Europe during the American neutrality period (1914-1917). Thousands of American men and women supported the Allies as nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, soldiers, or fighter pilots. Even though they had chosen to support one side in the war, however, even avid and well-connected supporters of the Allies rarely called for U.S. intervention. The absence of a political perspective was tied to peculiar personal motives. Calling for intervention in the war would have turned the fight into a national cause and public duty, reducing the value of a personal decision to go to war. When the United States finally did enter the war in 1917, some volunteers joined the American war effort to support their flag, whereas others abandoned a war they no longer considered interesting. These responses were part of a significant shift in the role of American government.

Short TitleJournal of the Gilded Age & Progressive Era
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