Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

NGA in History - Defining Moments

U.S. Enters World War I

On April 2, 1917, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson appeared before Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Germany. “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty,” he said. Four days later, following votes by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the United States formally entered World War I as an associated power in support of France, Great Britain, and Russia.

The U.S. entry into WWI stimulated advances in technology of aerial reconnaissance. The marriage of the airplane and the camera, developed in the field, became arguably the most effective intelligence resource of the conflict. Similarly, the increase in sophistication of photographic interpretation and analysis, as well as more effective cartography, led to a surge in geographic intelligence for the warfighters and policymakers of the time. The static nature of the Western Front gave high importance to repeated aerial photography of the same areas. These photographs gave photo interpreters the ability to look for change, which could indicate a coming offensive, a withdrawal or a re-supply. These inventions and advancements laid the groundwork for the development of today’s geospatial intelligence.

Associated Document(s)