In itself it is an extremely powerful word that evokes feeling within every person who has either lived through it or learned about it. Every time a nation enters a war there are those who side with the government’s choice, and those who side against it. I grew up listening to my parent’s stories about living through the Vietnam War, one of the most controversial in U.S. history. They told me about how they would huddle as a family around their televisions watching the draft and dreading that their older brothers, fathers, or neighbors would be called to service. Even if these men did not agree with Congress’s decision, they were required to serve their country in a war they had no say in. But what if they did have a say?
The year was 1916 and World War 1 raged on in Europe. At this time the United States was technically neutral, though the U.S.A’s heavy involvement as a supplier of war materials to the Allied powers lead the nation to believe that they would soon enter the war. In response to their feeling that war was inevitable, a group of Nebraska residents began to gather petition signatures. The petition eventually culminated in a constitutional amendment proposal being sent to Congress. What did this proposed amendment say, you ask? The Nebraskians proposed that before war could be declared by Congress a national referendum would have to be enacted. In addition to the national vote, anyone who voted in favor of war would have been required to voluntarily register to serve in the United States Army. Unfortunately, the proposed amendment did not make it far in Congress.
On April 6th 1917 the United States declared war on Germany. Approximately 2 million Americans served in the American Expeditionary Force fighting alongside soldiers from other Allied Power nations. In total ~117,000 Americans lost their lives during World War 1, ~53,000 to combat and ~63,000 to the influenza epidemic of 1918. The average age of a soldier in the United States Army was 24 years old, and this generation of young soldiers and civilians who came of age during World War 1 was deemed “The Lost Generation”. After losing their husbands, brothers, sons, and friends and living through the ravages of war many were left disoriented, confused, wandering, and directionless. Perhaps this fate is what those in Nebraska feared and were trying to prevent. As various other wars have plagued the U.S.A as time went on, similar amendment proposals to the one in 1916 have found their way into Congress. None have been successful thus far, but as technology advances and more and more citizens move away from the idea of boots-on-the-ground-and-in-the-trenches war perhaps one will pass in the future. Only time will tell.
Sources/Where to Head to Learn More:
Failed Amendment Would Have Put War to National Vote, Forced Those Who Voted ‘Yes’ to Enlist by Nick Wing
How the Lost Generation Works by Jill Jaracz
War Loses (USA) by Carol R. Byerly
They Answered the Call: Military Service in the United States Army During World War 1 1917-1919 by Mitchell Yockelson
World War 1: Summary, Causes, & Facts by History.com Editors
World War 1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I