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100 years ago in Spokane: As U.S. breaks ties with Germany, armed patrols begin guarding armory

The U.S. broke off all diplomatic ties with Germany, a step that was just short of a declaration of war, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Feb. 3, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
The U.S. broke off all diplomatic ties with Germany, a step that was just short of a declaration of war, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Feb. 3, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The U.S. broke off all diplomatic ties with Germany, a step that was just short of a declaration of war.

The import of this news was reflected in the size of the Spokane Daily Chronicle’s headline, which covered the upper quarter of the front page.

The story below explained the seriousness of the situation in no uncertain terms.

“The danger that war may follow is accentuated by the diplomatic history of the world. Modern times show no instance of a diplomatic break between two first-class powers that was not been followed by hostilities.”

Germany had been at war with rival European powers since 1914. Tensions with the U.S. had risen to the breaking point over Germany’s U-boat attacks on neutral shipping, including American shipping.

President Woodrow Wilson, in his address to Congress, said Germany had destroyed American ships and lives “in this willful prosecution of the ruthless naval program.”

Wilson’s words, said a wire correspondent, “may carry the country into the world conflict, not for aggression and not for power; only for law and humanity.”

In Spokane, the repercussions were immediate. Armed patrols began guarding the Spokane Armory and no one was permitted to enter without military authority. These precautions also were being followed at other armories around the country, to protect against “internal uprising.” The U.S. contained many German immigrants and citizens of German descent.

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