A while back, I heard a historian talking about World War II, and he said that the whole thing would never have broken out if the USA had maintained its original isolationist position during World War I. The chain of reasoning went like this:

  • Originally, the United States saw the war as an exclusively European conflict, and stayed out of it.
  • After the Zimmermann Telegram and ongoing German raids on US ships, the USA changed course and declared war.
  • At the time this happened, the war in Europe had gotten bogged down and was essentially reaching a stalemate. American soldiers and materiel managed to turn the tide and turn it into a win for the Allies.
  • Had the USA not entered the war, there would have been no advantage on either side. It would have been recognized as the stalemate it was fairly soon, and the war would have been resolved based on that reality.
  • A different end to the war with no clear victor means no ruinous Treaty of Versailles devastating Germany's economy.
  • No devastated German economy means no rise of the Nazi Party, no World War II, and no Holocaust.

The first two points are historical fact, and the last two are obviously correct, but I'm not so sure about the reasoning that connects them. That's what I'm wondering about: was the fighting in Europe building up to an inevitable stalemate before the USA joined in and tipped the scales? And if so, how likely is it that the political leaders of the nations involved would have been willing to recognize it as such and end the war under less devastating conditions than what actually happened?

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    We normally close questions that depend on hypotheticals & counterfactuals; such is not the province of history. This question seems to be on the boundary between speculation and discussion, so I'll ask for other opinions. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 13 '15 at 0:20
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    @MarkC.Wallace: This seems just on the right side of the line to me. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 13 '15 at 0:32
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    I think the key supposition is that "it would have been recognized as the stalemate it was fairly soon...." that doesn't match history as I understand it. – Mark C. Wallace Dec 13 '15 at 1:09
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    Additionally, what is to say that without USA intervention the Central Powers would not have been able to capitalize in their gains against Russia, making the naval blockade (that played an important role in Germany surrender) useless and forcing France (which had been fighting the whole war with many of its industrial regions in German hands) out of war? Too many suppositions here, I vote for closing it too. – SJuan76 Dec 13 '15 at 1:46
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is hypothetical. – Tyler Durden Dec 13 '15 at 2:33

Err I'm not sure but which American materiel turned the tide in WWI?

I think that Germany made an offensive in 1918 that led to its defeat. American helped with their troops in the counter offensive.

It's hard to rewrite history. Maybe it'd have been different. Maybe not. Maybe it'd been worse.

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  • Are you saying that Germany lost because of the 1918 offensive? Agreed, that both sides were near exhaustion by then, but Great Britain and France weren't cut off from the world, whereas Germany was virtually blockaded from outside support or resources. I'd argue that they would have lost anyway, it was just the matter of time. – taninamdar Dec 13 '15 at 1:02
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    Well, one of the reasons of the 1918 offensive was to use the troops released from the Eastern Front to win the war before the Americans could be fully deployed in France. If there was no American intervention and the Germans could get supplies from the new Eastern territories, there was less need for an offensive in a war in which the defenders usually had a huge advantage. – SJuan76 Dec 13 '15 at 1:55
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    Turkey, Bulgaria and Austria Hungray would still all have collapsed and sued for peace. This would have freed up a lot more resources to concentrate on Germany. – pugsville Dec 13 '15 at 3:38
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    For one thing, the US supplied ammunition and chemicals for making ammunition to the Allies even before they entered the war. The cash spent in this way put them in the US's debt for a long time. – Oldcat Dec 17 '15 at 0:20

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