- 19 Feb 2017 04:18
The USA was essential to victory in WWI----but not as essential as France, Britain (and Empire), or Russia. Metropolitan France (i.e. not counting the nations of the French empire) lost over a million dead in battle. According to Martin Gilbert, in his history of the 20th century, the USA actually lost fewer dead in battle than Canada did in WWI, with Canada taking about 50,000 dead and the USA about 48,000. At the time, the USA had perhaps twelve times as many people as Canada. The losses taken by Britain and Russia were also huge, on the order of France's losses, although Britain's were somewhat less. The USA was conscious of their having taken far fewer losses than their "associated" powers, and after the war, bundled the losses that their army in Europe took from the Spanish influenza with their war losses---which is why figures significantly higher than 48,000 are often quoted in histories.
The USA's participation was still essential to the victory, however. During the war, before 1917, Britain and France needed to buy both food (their farmers were in the army) and military and military-related supplies in abundance. The USA made a great deal of money selling to them. It was a great time to be an American farmer, the last really good time until the end of the Great Depression decades in the future. Farm prices soared.
Also, the effect of American participation on German morale was huge in 1918. They only had to fight enough to let the Germans know that they weren't a hopelessly un-military people, and the Germans could do the math: the USA had as many people as Britain + France and 1918 was their effective 1914. After their 1918 offensives had been absorbed by the Entente + USA, the Germans knew that they were done. Other factors, such as the tank, which was a better innovation than Hutier tactics, as they did not require a limitless supply of experienced soldiers, but were products of factories----were important. The Germans themselves made the British blockade more effective by not organizing their own food supply as well as they could. They counted on a short war in 1914, and did not work to keep their agricultural land productive in the war. Also, they had control of Ukraine in 1918. Organizing it for agricultural production for Germany would have been a lot more relevant to Germany's good at the time than anything the strosstruppen could have accomplished.
I remember reading decades ago that the average American soldier in WWI was allocated about 4000 calories of food a day---while the German soldier in 1918 had to make do with about 1800. That was the fault of the vaunted German General Staff, which saw war too much in Napoleonic terms. They also failed to see the significance of the tank. They had the technical capacity to make them in numbers, and they had designs offered to them by inventors, but they just didn't see it.
I have to take issue with the word "for" in the topic subject. You might not have meant it in an offensive way, but sometimes Americans tend to regard their interventions in European wars as colossal acts of disinterested charity. Clemenceau of France strongly objected to this tendency of American thought at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. The gist of his famous objection was that it was the persistence of German aggression that brought the USA into the war, not anything uniquely idealistic.
Of course, it is also true that neither Britain, nor France, nor Russia fought Germany for the sake of the USA.