World War I and the Department - Department History - Office of the Historian

World War I and the Department

“War, Neutrality, and Humanitarian Relief: The Expansion of U.S. Diplomatic Activity during the Great War, 1914–1917” describes how Department of State personnel, especially those serving in Europe, responded to the unprecedented challenges they faced as they attempted to protect U.S. citizens, facilitate humanitarian relief efforts, and represent the interests of belligerent states in enemy territory during the period of U.S. neutrality (August 1914–April 1917). This publication builds upon “Views From the Embassy: The Role of the U.S. Diplomatic Community in France, 1914,” produced in 2014. The material in these publications differ substantially from documentation printed in the Foreign Relations of the United States volumes covering World War I, which focus upon high policy decisions and matters of international law rather than on-the-ground operations. The Office of the Historian wishes to thank Archivist David A. Langbart of the National Archives and Records Administration Textual Archives Services Division for his exceptional assistance in locating documents as well as sharing his expertise about Department procedures, operations, and personnel during the era covered by these studies. Readers may access Foreign Relations of the United States volumes, such as the 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917 Supplemental volumes, and the Lansing Papers Volume I and Volume II, through the Office of the Historian website.

To mark the 2014 centenary of the First World War, the Office of the Historian and U.S. Embassy France produced a study about the role of the U.S. diplomatic corps stationed in France during 1914–1918. In contrast to the well known record of U.S. actions after the nation entered the war in April 1917, the stories of U.S. diplomats, consuls, and their family members—particularly during the early months of the crisis (August-December 1914)—were long forgotten, overshadowed by subsequent events of the tumultuous twentieth century. By researching U.S. Government and Government of France records, memoirs, personal papers, and newspaper archives, this study presents a fascinating account of how actions spearheaded by U.S. diplomats—and American citizens—significantly strengthened Franco-American relations in unique, unparalleled ways.

We invite you to read "Views From the Embassy: The Role of the U.S. Diplomatic Community in France, 1914" (PDF, 818 KB), which complements U.S. Embassy France’s WWI Centennial page. Readers may view full copies of several documents referenced in “Views From the Embassy” through links on the Embassy’s WWI Interactive Timeline.

The Office of the Historian is grateful to the following institutions that provided assistance for this project: The American Hospital in Paris; The American Chamber of Commerce in Paris; Columbia Center for Oral History Collection, Columbia University (Reminiscences of DeWitt Clinton Poole Jr.); Harvard University Archives, Harvard University (Robert & Mildred Bliss Papers); Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University (William H. Hunt Papers); The Sheridan Libraries Special Collections, The Johns Hopkins University (John Work Garrett Papers); Western Reserve Historical Society (Myron T. Herrick Papers); Bibliothèque nationale de France; National Archives of France (Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Service historique de la défense; U.S. Library of Congress; and the U.S. National Archives (Archives of the Department of State).