Historical Society meeting dedicated to anniversary of WWI
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.
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.