February 6, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

Germany’s announcement of her intent to stifle British shipping was again front page news.

American economic policy from the outset of the war was that it was in the national interest to continue trading with all parties as it was prior to the start of the war. To remain neutral, meant that America could not pick and choose with whom it would trade. A neutral nation cannot impose an embargo on one side and continue trade with the other and retain its neutral status. Further, any boycott or embargo, either overt or covert would cripple the economy.

Great Britain’ naval superiority gave it the capability of imposing an effective blockade on Germany. The results of the blockade meant that trade with England and France more than tripled between 1914 and 1916, while trade with Germany was cut by over ninety percent.

This disparity prompted the expanded submarine warfare by the Germans. Inevitably it would affect American shipping and would be a determining factor in this country’s decision to go to war in 1917.

Count Von Bernstorff Makes Statement Tell’s Nations Attitude on Subject

Expert Believes Germany Has Fleet of Submarines Ready

It is probable that Germany has ready a small fleet of super-submarines with which to conduct its new warfare against British and possibly neutral merchantmen.

The first class naval powers began constructing these craft last year. while details of the individual designs are withheld, the general type is understood to be modeled after the two Fiat-San Giorgio-Laucata super-submarines in the Italian navy, the specifications of which have been privately communicated to the various countries.

* * * *
Each super-submarine has 24 officers and men, double the number employed on smaller submarines. They can carry enough food for a month’s cruise.

The following picture shows one of the super-submarines that was beached in England after the war:

German U Boat Ashore near Hastings, 1918.

Compare this submarine with the much smaller submarine, the U-20, the submarine that would sink the Lusitania in May of 1915:

On the editorial page, the paper comes out against increasing spending on armaments:

There are various reasons why the United States should not contract the disease of large armaments. It is a contagious disease and one with which the news of the present day infects certain classes of our citizens, says Isaac Sharpless, president of Haverford college, in a recent address.

These classes are composed of (1) those who are connected with the army or navy, who give their time and scientific knowledge to the study of the past and future of war; (2) those who directly, or at second-hand, expect to profit commercially by a war or an armed peace, and (3) those honest patriots who really believe the various stories of expected attacks upon our national integrity or prosperity induced by the hate or avarice of other nations.

The first class is happily small, due to our peaceful traditions. Its members are, however, active and, in proportion to their numbers, influential. They have developed their subject into one of considerable interest and scientific expansion. They are intelligent and mostly sincere and patriotic. The second class need have little consideration. They are, as many Americans, after business profits, and if the preaching of the doctrines of war pays they will use their great influence upon public opinion, through the press, to fill their private coffers. There are more of them in the aggregate than one generally recognizes.

The third class is made up of men who are open to conviction and will ultimately determine the question.

The editor proceeds to argue that no power will be able to threaten this country for decades to come. Preparing now, and incurring a great cost would be self-defeating as the weapons developed would be obsolete by the time they would be needed. The editor argues that “these considerations might induce us goat least postpone our great expenditures till the lessons and results of the present war are more clearly seen.

The editor also argues that we are in the position of a disinterested mediator and peacemaker among the warring nations. “We must approach the issue,” the editor argues, “with clean hands and free from the suspicion of ulterior motives. We must say to them in a voice which they will respect, that we have nothing to gain from them . . . [and] we have made no preparations to grasp anything for ourselves.”

Compare this editorial with President Eisenhower’s farewell speech delivered some fifty five years later:

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America’s adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

* * * *
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research — these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs — balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage — balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

* * * *

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.


About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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