Our story starts on 4 December 1918. This was the day that the American delegation for the Peace Conference left the USA for Europe, among cheering crowds. They left on the "George Washington".
Ironically, the Washington, a very luxurious liner, built for comfort rather than speed, was originally a German ocean liner, interned by the Americans at the beginning of the First World War. Among its passengers were various experts, ambassadors, and President Woodrow Wilson.
He was going to be the first president to come to Europe while in office. Not everybody agreed with him going, some even arguing it might be unconstitutional. Besides, he might dent his authority at home when getting caught up (or even out?) in the nitty-gritty of hammering out peace deals.