The German invasion of Belgium was a military campaign that began on 4 August 1914. Earlier, on 24 July, the Belgian government had announced that if war came it would uphold its historic neutrality.

German Invasion of Belgium

Allied governments won an important public relations victory in America with propaganda alleging widespread atrocities committed by German soldiers against Belgian civilians. Children with their hands cut off, babies tossed from bayonet to bayonet, nuns violated, corpses made into margarine—these were just some of the gruesome tales coming out of wartorn Europe. Americans on the scene, however, could not verify these stories. American reporters who had followed the German army insisted that they had seen nothing at all that would lend credence to the lurid tales making their way to the United States. Clarence Darrow, the lawyer who would become known for his work in the Scopes trial of 1925, offered to pay $1,000 (roughly $17,000 in 2004 dollars) to anyone who could show him a Belgian boy whose hands had been cut off by a German soldier. No one took him up on it. (After the war it was well established that the Belgian atrocities were largely fabricated, but the lies did their damage.)


Although Americans still favored staying out of the war, many had absorbed the message of Allied propaganda that Germany was evil incarnate and needed to be crushed for the sake of civilization.

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