His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety meet­ing ded­i­cated to an­niver­sary of WWI

The Weekly Vista - - Community - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

The Bella Vista His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety ded­i­cated their an­nual meet­ing to an im­por­tant an­niver­sary. In April 1917, the United States en­tered World War One.

First the mem­ber­ship watched as for­mer pres­i­dent Ca­role Harter ac­cepted the sec­ond an­nual statewide Tom Dil­lard Ad­vo­cacy Award for her work at the mu­seum. They also re-elected of­fi­cers in­clud­ing Harter as treasurer, Xyta Lu­cas as pres­i­dent and Vir­ginia Reynolds as vice pres­i­dent.

Re­tired his­tory pro­fes­sor Brian Scott was in­vited to give the pro­gram. A lo­cal col­lec­tor, Car­los Valdez, brought along WWI mem­o­ra­bilia. About 30 peo­ple heard the pro­gram.

When the United States de­clared war on Ger­many, it was the first time the United States sent troops out­side of the Amer­i­cas, he said.

The Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence was ac­tu­ally the na­tion’s first dec­la­ra­tion of war, he said. In fact, in 1776 there was not yet a na­tion to de­clare war since the fight­ing be­gan years be­fore there was a cen­tral gov­ern­ment. Of­ten, a for­mal dec­la­ra­tion of war is made for the sake of al­liances, Scott ex­plained. Dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War, the Amer­i­cans were try­ing to form an al­liance with France.

It was Washington’s Farewell Ad­dress, a doc­u­ment that was prob­a­bly writ­ten by cabi­net mem­ber Alexan­der Hamil­ton, and printed in var­i­ous news­pa­pers, that set the tone for an iso­la­tion­ism that would last for gen­er­a­tions. The Mon­roe Doc­trine was an­other iso­la­tion­ist doc­u­ment — warn­ing Euro­pean pow­ers to stay away — al­though the United States couldn’t ac­tu­ally en­force it.

Woodrow Wil­son was keep­ing with the tra­di­tion of iso­la­tion as the pow­ers in Europe were drawn into the war, Scott said. Even when the Lusi­ta­nia was blown up, killing over 112 Amer­i­cans, Wil­son tried to stay out of the war. But the sink­ing of the Lusi­ta­nia started to change at­ti­tudes in the United States and the coun­try moved closer to war.

In Jan­uary 1917 sub­ma­rine war­fare re­sumed and the United States moved even closer to war, but it was the Zim­mer­man tele­gram that many peo­ple feel was the fi­nal in­cen­tive. The tele­gram of­fered an al­liance be­tween Ger­many and Mex­ico. Mex­ico had just lost most of what is now the south­west United States.

The United States Congress voted to de­clare war on Ger­many on April 6, 1917. On April 7, 1917, the U.S. de­clared war on Aus­tria-Hun­gary.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Car­los Valdez (left), dressed in a French uni­form, brought some of his col­lec­tion of World War I Mem­ber­ilia to the Bella Vista His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum where the an­nual meet­ing in­cluded a talk about the start of the war, 100 years ago next month. Do­cent Tim Wicks (right) is also wear­ing a vin­tage uni­form that be­longs to Valdez.

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