Declaration of War: The U.S. Enters World War I

  • Declaration of War: The U.S. Enters World War I
Declaration of War: The U.S. Enters World War I

On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed this joint resolution, ending America’s neutral stance on the ongoing global conflict – later deemed a “World War” – and formally declaring war against Imperial German Government.

Nearly three years earlier, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria had been assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. This triggered a series of conflicts that conflated into war across the European continent. The United States, however, sought to remain neutral through a policy of nonintervention.

In early 1917, that policy became unfeasible when Germany began attacking American ships, but President Wilson, who had campaigned on a platform of peace, remained hesitant to enter the fray. The final straw came when Great Britain shared the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram with the United States, revealing that Germany had promised American territory to Mexico in return for attacking the U.S. if it entered the war.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson made a special address before a joint session of Congress asking for a declaration of war against Germany. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of going to war, and on April 6 President Wilson signed this formal war declaration, stating “that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and the people of the United States.”

Click here to download a high-resolution scan of the Joint Resolution of April 6, 1917, from the National Archives Catalog.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I, this document was on display in the “Featured Documents” exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from April 4 through May 3, 2017.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Document” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.

Past Featured Records
  • Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm: “Unbought and Unbossed”
    Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm: “Unbought and Unbossed”

    Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to serve in Congress when she took office in January of 1969. During her seven Congressional terms, “Fighting Shirley” was an outspoken champion for racial and gender equality, and economic justice. To mark the 50th anniversary of Chisholm’s... Read more

  • Live from the Moon
    Live from the Moon

    Watch telecast footage of the 1968 Apollo 8 Mission, the first manned spacecraft to reach the Moon and safely return. This multimedia presentation features photos of the Moon’s surface taken from the spacecraft and an audio recording of the astronauts’ description of the lunar surface.

    On display... Read more

  • Meuse-Argonne Offensive Map
    Meuse-Argonne Offensive Map

    The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest operation of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I and the deadliest military campaign in American history. Fought from September 26 – November 11, 1918, by over a million American soldiers, the Meuse-Argonne operation was part of the final Allied offensive... Read more

  • Alexander Hamilton: An Inspiring Founder
    Alexander Hamilton: An Inspiring Founder

    In celebration of Alexander Hamilton and the Broadway musical inspired by his extraordinary story, the National Archives will showcase original records from the Founder’s life and legacy, paired with related Hamilton lyrics.

    On display in the East Rotunda Gallery through September 18, 2018.

  • Remembering the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Business Information Surveys for the Civil Disturbance Report, June 1968.
    Remembering the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Business Information Surveys for the Civil Disturbance Report, June 1968.

    In a turbulent decade filled with protests and social upheaval, the murder of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, resulted in widespread civil unrest in many American cities, including Washington, DC. The riots resulted in millions of dollars in... Read more