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A Brief History of the American_British Alliance

I’m not a particular fan of Twitter. I guess I don’t like counting characters.

One of the things I do like is the incredible array of historical pictures one can find there through your follows.

This one below popped up in my feed today.

King George V decorates an American Doughboy, WW1

King George V decorates an American Doughboy, WW1

The picture symbolizes (to me anyway) the alliance the US and Great Britain have had since World War 1.

Many people may think it was always that way since both countries speak the same language and our systems of government have similarities. But that’s not really the case.

The US fought two wars against Great Britain (Revolutionary War and War of 1812) and nearly a third during the American Civil War. During the Civil War the Confederacy sought European help from Great Britain and France. The upper classes in Great Britain favored a divided US on the basis of a united US was too big of a trade rival. A number of instances resulted in saber-rattling and Great Britain actually reinforced the garrison of Canada either to invade the US in case of war or to defend Canada should northern forces invade it.

Cooler heads prevailed, the Confederacy lost their bid for independence and the US and Great Britain remained at peace but not exactly close friends.

In fact when the US did join the fighting in World War 1 General Pershing (commanding US forces) announced upon arrival in France, “Lafayette we are here” thus alluding to the more historical alliance between the US and France during the Revolutionary War.

American troops in London awaiting deployment to France. http://www.famhist.us/2011/03/28/wwiamerican-troops-in-london/

American troops in London awaiting deployment to France. http://www.famhist.us/2011/03/28/wwiamerican-troops-in-london/

Things were changing as symbolized by the picture. For the most part American forces served along side the French but it was British propaganda that propelled the US into the war.

Unrestricted submarine warfare that disrupted US shipping to Britain and France was the material cause of our involvement in the first war but the British has prepared the ground well with their depictions of the “hun” and the rape of Belgium as well as making hay out of the sinking of British ships that carried Americans. The US newspapers as a whole favored the British probably for more reasons than I just stated.

On the other hand Germany had no such propaganda machine active in the US probably because of the problem of common language. In fact, the Germans were somewhat clumsy even as they became desperate.

In 1917 the Germans offered a proposition to Mexico known as the Zimmermann note. The proposal was for Mexico to join the Central Powers in the event that the US join the Allied powers, a real possibility at the time. The note promised a restoration of the lands lost to Mexico during the Mexican War of 1847-48, The Mexicans wisely did not bite but when it became known the Germans were “scheming” Americans were outraged and by April, 1917 the US was all in.

War fever seized the US and the only reluctance to join in came from German-speaking communities in Milwaukee, St. Louis and Cincinnati and other communities that had significant German populations. The reluctance did not come from a sense of loyalty to the Kaiser but a reluctance to fight against one’s own relatives (at least that was true in my family)

The US was not prepared for war (we rarely are) and as a result much equipment came from France and Great Britain. The picture of the doughboy above is evidence as he has a distinct British appearance. His helmet is British and his rifle appears to be a British Enfield rather than our own Springfield which were in short supply.

Most historians believe that at the conclusion of WW1 the US emerged as a major contender on the world stage-a super power in the making, although it would take another world war to make that clear.

In the inter-war years it seems the alliance between the US and Great Britain grew, the old distrusts finally forgotten. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and Britain declared war President Roosevelt was unabashedly and actively pro-British (clearly a good thing given the horrors of Nazism).

Within a short period of time the US turned over 50 WW1 vintage destroyers to the Royal Navy to help ensure that Britain would not succumb to the WW2 version of unrestricted submarine warfare. Our own Navy helped escort convoys at least part way to Britain. A German submarine sunk an American destroyer (Reuben James incident) and the US nearly declared war on Germany months before Pearl Harbor.

During WW2 American planes, tanks, trucks, and all types of war material known as lend-lease flooded Britain and the Soviet Union in the war against Hitler. The alliance between the US and Britain would endure after the war as allies in the Cold War as both countries stationed large armies in W. Germany to stare down the Soviet bear.

It also worth pointing out that out of all our allies it has been Great Britain that has provided the most troops to Desert Shield, Desert Storm and the War in Afghanistan.

And it all began in WW1 when the two countries made common cause.

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