5 Things You Didn't Know About World War I

On April 6, 1917, America formally entered World War I after the U.S. Congress voted to declare war on Germany. Here are five interesting facts you probably didn't know about the war to end all wars...


Spanish Flu Caused Many of the Deaths During World War I The Spanish Flu spread like wildfire through trenches along Europe’s Western Front and U.S. military camps. It was reported that between September and November 1918, between 20 and 40 percent of those in the U.S. Navy and Army were sickened by the Spanish flu.  Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war than did enemy weapons.

Three of the Main Leaders During the War Were Cousins King George V of Great Britain, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were all cousins, and all were descended from England’s King George II. Unfortunately, the first two cousins were fighting on the opposite side of Kaiser Wilhelm, who was King George’s first cousin and a third cousin to the tsar. Although they did not at first believe that Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination would lead to a war, it did, and the rest is history.


Americans Became Anti-German Because of the War German was commonly spoken in the United States before World War I due to mass emigration from Germany to Pennsylvania during the 1680s. But many states banned speaking German in public during World War I after war was declared. The language was removed from many school curriculums too. The sentiment against Germans even extended to foods when potatoes that were fried were renamed American fries and kraut was called liberty cabbage. Alsatian was the new name for German shepherds and the dachshund renamed the liberty pup or badger dog.

A Homing Pigeon Saved 194 Men’s Lives  Over 200,000 homing pigeons were used during the war to deliver messages for the U.S. military, and Cher Ami (Dear Friend) was one of the birds trained to do just that. At the Battle of Argonne, France, American soldiers, stranded behind enemy lines without any ammunition or supplies, sent Cher Ami and two other pigeons out with a message detailing their location and asking that the shelling by Allied forces be stopped because about 300 of them had been killed by friendly fire. Two of the pigeons were killed, but Cher Ami, despite losing a leg, an eye and being shot in the chest, delivered her message after flying 25 miles. She is credited with saving almost two hundred men.

World War I Led to the Rise of Adolf Hitler When the war ended in 1918, Germany was ordered to pay 269 billion marks in reparations, which was equal to about 100,000 tons of gold. Although the amount for reparations was lowered later, Germany found itself deeply in debt with high inflation and massive unemployment. The Nazi Party saw this as a way to blame the Allies for their troubles, and Adolf Hitler, after seizing power, built a strong army and started World War II instead.