AS WORLD War I raged in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson's re-election campaign theme in 1916 was “He kept us out of war.” In fact, the United States had already entered the war because American industry had converted in large part to a wartime economy in order to provide Europe with the necessities of war. Initially, the Wilson administration used the incentive of huge profits to encourage American industries to provide the war materials needed in Europe.

While many Americans saw the war effort as a way to help save the world for democracy without giving up its cherished position of neutrality, profiteers and other opportunists viewed World War I as a time of huge profits and unchecked greed. Scholars have estimated that military spending during World ...

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