It might come as a surprise to a few 'dopers who are familiar with me that I have quite a few friends who live in Europe. This weekend one of them visited me and my wife and we got into an interesting discussion over some good scotch and cigars regarding the US in WWI. My friend (who is in all honesty not a big fan of the US…though he likes me and my wife well enough) stunned me with something I’ve never heard before…that much of the slaughter in WWI was the fault of the US!
My friend’s rational was as follows: Many of the most destructive weapons used during WWI including the machine gun, air plane, submarine, barbed wire (and a few more that I don’t now recall…it was a LOT of good scotch) were invented in the US and sold, stolen or simply developed by the Europeans before the war. In addition by the US remaining neutral instead of coming in on one side or the other drew out the slaughter much longer than it had to be…and left it until all sides were exhausted and devastated before we trotted in to finish things off. Also, we didn’t properly support the allies after the war, which lead (somehow…not clear on this point) to WWII…but thats another rant.
My replies were basically that, while its true that several of the inventions mentioned WERE originally invented by American’s (mostly EUROPEAN Americans who immigrated to the US), the US military itself basically ignored all or most of them. They were picked up and developed almost exclusively by the various European powers. In addition, WE didn’t put a gun to the collective heads of the Europeans (heh!) to use the things. Also, IMHO artillery and the rifle were bigger killers on the battlefield…and IIRC it was the Europeans (Germans with the rifle, though not exclusively them, and French with their rapid firing 75 on the artillery side) who developed those…and this leaves out poison gas and other things like mustard gas (which isn’t really a gas but a liquid) that were exclusive to the Europeans (developed first in Germany IIRC).
As for our late entry into the war drawing out the conflict, it wasn’t our fight IMHO…even at the end we had no great stake in the conflict except maybe from a naval perspective.
Anyway, for debate I’d like to ask…what do you think? Is it plausible to blame the US for these inventions? Wouldn’t they just have been invented in other countries (European countries) anyway? For instance, IIRC wasn’t the powered air plane under development in many other countries before the Wrights? Would all or most of these things been invented or adapted anyway? And even if not…is it our fault that they were? Finally, has anyone ever heard this before? I’ve NEVER heard anyone blame us for the slaughter in WWI (though I’ve certainly heard grousing about our late entry in the war before).