It Happened Here: Yakima County gets ready to fight as World War I is declared

Published: 9 April 2023

By Donald W. Meyers
via the Yakima Herald-Republic newspaper (WA) web site


A photograph of Curtiss Gilbert taken during his World War I service and various medals and his dog tag is photographed at Gilbert Orchards in Yakima, Wash., Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (SHAWN GUST/Yakima Herald-Republic)

When the U.S. Congress voted to declare war on Germany and join World War I, Yakima County quickly moved to a war footing.

Military recruiters, who prior to the April 6, 1917, declaration were struggling to meet quotas, found their offices nearly overrun with people who wanted to sign up to fight in what had been billed as “The War to End All Wars.”

By the time the United States entered what was then called “The Great War,” the fighting had raged for nearly four years, with the theater of war extending across Europe and spilling into the Middle East and parts of Africa.

By the time America joined the conflict, millions of French, British, German, Russian, Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers had already been lost in a seemingly endless war of attrition that saw the introduction of machine guns, poison gas and airplanes to the battlefield.

The U.S. had tried to stay out of the war, viewing it as a European problem, while lending Britain and France money to keep going in the fight.

But President Woodrow Wilson, who had run his 1916 campaign on his efforts to keep the United States out of the fray, sought Congress’ war declaration after Germans resumed unrestricted submarine attacks on shipping, as well as learning of an intercepted German message urging Mexico to declare war on the United States to keep Americans from sending troops to Europe.

In return for keeping Americans occupied at home, the Germans promised the Mexican government it could reclaim Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, which it had lost in the Mexican American War. While the Mexican government refused to ally with Germany, it was a casus belli for Wilson.

Even before the overwhelming vote in Congress to declare war — 50 House members and six senators objected —Yakima County was gearing up for a possible fight.

Read the entire article on the Yakima Herald-Republic web site.

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