December 8, 1917 – America Declares War on Aus…

December 8, 1917 – America Declares War on Austria-Hungary

Pictured – US involvement in World War One increases.

The United States, despite declaring war on Germany, was not by its own admission a member of the Allies. Instead Wilson insisted that America was merely an associated power. Its declaration of war in April 1917 was on Germany alone for its U-boat depredations.

President Wilson, however, mentioned the need to fight Austria in his state of the Union address in December 1917, accusing the Hapsburgs of being a mere “vassal power” of the Kaiser. Behind the rhetoric, American military planners were worried that American troops might need to be sent to Italy, which would mean fighting the Austrians. The United States never declared war on the Ottoman Empire or Bulgaria, the other two members of the Central Powers.

The motion proved unnecessary as American troops played little role in the fight against the Austrians during the war. It did change life for the thousands of Austro-Hungarian citizens living in the United States, however. Like Germans, they had to register with the government, and harassment sharply increased. But this had less to do with xenophobia than with class – working class Czechs and Poles, especially members of the socialist IWW, were targeted by those who sought to undermine the power of trade unions.