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never able to employ the steel. The French at Locre and the British at
Voormezeele repulsed every attack, thrusting the enemy back whenever he
gained a footing in advanced positions, and firmly holding every point
around Ypres at the end of the day.

General von Arnim's losses were particularly staggering at Locre, where
he used battalion after battalion in a vain attempt to hold the village,
a key to Mount Rouge. The previous German capture of Mount Kemmel did
the enemy little good, for the Allied artillery kept the crest of the
hill so smothered with shell fire that it was impossible for the Huns to
occupy it in force.

The attack, which was the fourth great battle of Ypres, was the biggest
effort the Germans had made in the Flanders offensive, the enemy
employing thirty fresh battalions of reserves, in addition to the large
number of divisions in position at the beginning of the battle. The
net result was a tremendous setback for the Germans, who paid an awful
price. Next morning the battlefield in front of the defenders' positions
was covered with the bodies of gray-uniformed men.


American units were in action in Picardy, east of Amiens, on April 28,
having reinforced the British and French in that sector, to aid in
keeping the foe from Amiens and Paris. Their baptism of fire in the
direct line of the German offensive made their previous experiences pale
into the insignificance of skirmishes. During the various engagements in
which they participated in the last days of April and the first week of
May they acquitted themselves with great credit.

After a preliminary bombardment of two hours, a heavy German attack
was launched against the Americans in the afternoon of April 30 in the
vicinity of Villers-Bretonneux, and was repulsed with heavy losses to
the enemy, who left dead and wounded on the field, while the American
losses were reported as "rather severe." There was hand-to-hand fighting
all along the line, and the violent struggle lasted for a considerable
time before the enemy was finally thrust back, leaving prisoners in the
American hands. Their French comrades were full of praise for the marked
bravery displayed throughout by the American troops, who were fighting
at one of the most difficult points on the whole battle front.


As a result of the great German offensive movements and territorial
gains in the spring of 1918, there was a tremendous increase in the
military activities of the United States, particularly in rushing troops
to Europe. After the selection of General Foch as generalissimo of the
Allied forces, the American troops in the war zone were brigaded with
the French and British all the way from the North Sea to Switzerland,
and their numbers steadily increased.

In the United States the training of the new National Army, national
guards, and officers in the numerous cantonments and training camps was
intensified and hurried. As fast as the men were brought into condition
they were shipped to France. At first much of the space on the
transports was devoted to supplies and materials for the camps and
depots in France, but as the situation became critical owing to
successful enemy offensives, fewer supplies and more men were sent.
Great Britain lent her ships and the number of transports was largely
increased, so that each month of 1918 showed a greater movement of
troops across the Atlantic.

The troop movement record for the spring and summer months of 1918 was
a wonderful one, in view of the submarine menace. In April, 117,
American troops were successfully transported; in May, 244,345; in
June, 276,382, and in July 300,000, The month of August found more than
1,500,000 Americans in France, England and Italy. This immense number of
men were carried over without the loss of a single eastbound American


On August 5, 1918, plans were announced for increasing the effective
strength of the United States army to 5,000,000 forthwith, by an
extension of the draft age limits and rapid intensive training. Official
statements showed that the armed forces of the United States already
amounted to a total of 3,074,572 men, including 2,570,780 in the army
and 503,792 in the navy. The national army at this date contained
1,400,000 men, the regular army 525,741, the national guard 434,511 and
the reserve corps 210,528. The regular navy had 219,158 men, the marine
corps 58,463, the coast guard 6,605, and the reserve 219,566. On June
of this year 744,865 men reaching the age of 21 since June 5, 1917, were
registered for selective draft purposes.


Meanwhile giant strides were taken in the American program of
shipbuilding to offset the ravages of submarine warfare. The U.S.
Shipping Board was reorganized and galvanized into a high state of
efficiency. Under the leadership of Charles M. Schwab, director-general
of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, and Edward M. Hurley, chairman of
the board, the work in the shipyards on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts,
and on the Great Lakes, was speeded up until ships were being built at
the rate of 5,000,000 tons a year. In the first three weeks of July,
1918, twenty-three ships of 122,721 deadweight tons were completed,
making a total of 223 new vessels built under the direction of the board
up to that time, the aggregate tonnage being 1,415,022 tons. On July
alone eighty-two vessels were launched, their splash being "heard around
the world."

With the increased tonnage being put out by the British, French, and
Italian shipyards, and the output of neutral countries friendly to the
Allies, this practically put an end to the submarine peril. In addition
the United States requisitioned seventy-seven Dutch ships with an
aggregate tonnage of about 600,000, while arrangements were made with
Sweden for about 400,000 tons of shipping and contracts were let for the
building of a considerable number of ships in Japanese shipyards.

The knowledge that there were over a million American troops facing the
enemy on the battle fronts in Europe came as a decided shock to the
German army and people, who were forced to realize the failure of their
submarine campaign.


After the American forces in France had their first serious encounter
with the Germans on April 20 at Seicheprey, a village near Renners
forest, which they recovered from the enemy in a gallant counter-attack,
the fighting was of a more or less local character throughout the rest
of the month and in May, with varying fortunes.

On May 27 the Germans began another great offensive, taking the Chemin
des Dames from the French and crossing the Aisne. On the following
day they crossed the Vesle river at Fismes. But on this day also the
Americans won their first notable victory, by capturing the village of
Cantigny and taking 200 prisoners. The United States marines added to
their laurels in this fight and held the position firmly against many
subsequent counter-attacks.

Continuing their drive toward Paris, the Germans occupied Soissons on
May 29, Fère-en-Tardenois May 30, and next day reached Chateau Thierry
and other points on the Marne, where they were halted by the French.

In the early days of June several towns and villages fell to the
Germans, but the French by counter-attacks recaptured Longpont, Corcy,
and some other places. On June 6 American marines by a spirited attack
gained two miles on a two and a half mile front, taking Hill 142 near
Torcy and entering Torcy itself. The following day, with French aid,
they completed the capture of Vilny, Belleau, and important heights
nearby. In another battle northwest of Chateau Thierry the Americans
advanced nearly two and a half miles on a six-mile front, taking about
300 prisoners.

These battles confirmed the impression that the American troops as
fighters were equal to their allies.


On June 9 the Germans began the fourth phase of their offensive, planned
by their high command to enforce peace. They attacked between Montdidier
and the Oise, advancing about four miles and taking several villages. On
the next day they claimed the capture of 8,000 French. The same day the
American marines took the greater part of Belleau Wood. On June 11 they
completed the capture of Belleau Wood, taking 300 prisoners, machine
guns and mortars. The French at the same time defeated the Germans
between Rubescourt and St. Maur, taking 1,000 prisoners. Other battles
followed on the 12th and 13th, but on the 14th the latest German
offensive was pronounced a costly failure.

From this time to the end of the month the fighting was of a less
serious character, though the Americans in the Belleau and Vaux region
gave the Germans no rest, attacking them continually and taking
prisoners at will.


America's Independence day, 1918, was officially celebrated in England,
France, and Italy, as well as in the United States, making it a truly
historic occasion. On that day Americans assisted the Australians in
taking Hamel with many prisoners. On the 8th and 9th the French advanced
in the region of Longpont and northwest of Compiègne, taking Castel and
other strong points near the west bank of the Avre river. July 14, the
French national holiday, was generally observed in America and by the
American soldiers in France. Then, on July 15, the Germans began the
fifth and disastrous last phase of the offensive which they started in
the spring, on March 21.


But Italy meanwhile had scored a great success against the Austrians.
French and British regiments, with some Americans, were helping to hold
the Italian line when, on June 15, the Austrians, driven by their German
masters, began an offensive along a 100-mile front, crossing the Piave
river in several places. For two days they continued violent attacks,
penetrating to within 20 miles of Venice, at Capo Silo. Then the
Italians, British, and French counter-attacked with great vigor and soon
turned the Austrian offensive into a great rout, killing thousands,
taking other thousands prisoner, and capturing a vast amount of war
material, including many of the Austrian heavy-caliber guns. The entire
Austrian, plan to advance into the rich Italian plains, where they hoped
to find great stores of food for their hungry soldiers, resulted in
miserable failure.

The defeat increased the discontent in Austria-Hungary and added to the
bad feeling entertained towards Germany. Peace feelers were thrown out
by Austrian statesmen, but the continued influence of German militarism
prevented them from receiving serious attention by the Allies.


When the German divisions of the Crown Prince of Prussia began their
last desperate offensive on July 15, they attacked from Chateau Thierry
on the west to Massiges, along a 65-mile front, crossing the Marne at
several places.

East and west of Reims the battle raged, with the Allies holding
strongly everywhere and the Germans suffering heavy losses. The enemy
aimed at Chalons and Epernay and hoped by turning the French flank at
Reims to capture the cathedral city without a direct assault upon its
formidable defenses. General Gouraud, the hero of Gallipoli, was in
command of the French forces on the right, while General Mangin and
General de Goutte held the left. Most of the Americans taking part in
the battle were under the command of these noted generals, and strong
Italian and British forces were with General Gouraud's army. The French
constituted about 70 per cent of the Allies engaged.


In a single day the German offensive was effectually blocked at the
Marne. Despite the enemy's utmost efforts he could make no further

Then Foch, the great French strategist and Allied generalissimo, struck
the blow for which he had patiently bided his time!

Apparently having advance information of the German plans, or perhaps
surmising them, General Foch had been preparing a surprise for the Crown
Prince. In the forest of Villers-Cotterets on the German right flank,
he had quietly massed large forces, including some of the best French
regiments, together with the foreign legion, Moroccan and other crack
troops, and many Americans. Everything possible had been done to keep
these troop movements secret from the enemy.

On Thursday morning, July 18, 1918, a heavy attack was launched in force
at the Germans under General von Boehm all along the line from Chateau
Thierry on the Marne to the Aisne river northwest of Soissons.

The Germans were taken completely by surprise, and town after town was
captured from them with comparatively slight resistance. When the first
shock of surprise was over, their resistance stiffened, but the Allies
continued to advance. Mounted cavalry were once more used to assist the
infantry in the open, while tanks in large numbers were used to clear
out enemy machine-gun nests.

The American troops, fighting side by side with the French, did their
work in a manner to excite the admiration of their allies, and acquitted
themselves like veterans. Thousands of prisoners were taken, with large
numbers of heavy guns and great stores of ammunition, besides thousands
of machine guns, many of which were turned against the enemy. The
strategy of General Foch received world-wide applause. His master stroke
met with immediate success.

By the 20th of July Soissons was threatened by the Allies. The Germans,
finding themselves caught in a dangerous salient and attacked fiercely
on both flanks, hurriedly retreated to the north bank of the Marne and
were rapidly pressed back farther. Their condition was critical and the
German Crown Prince was obliged to call for assistance from Crown Prince
Rupprecht of Bavaria, commanding in the north. Taking advantage of this,
the British and French in the north made frequent attacks, gaining
ground and taking prisoners at numerous points.

For ten days the Allies continued their victorious progress on both
sides of the Soissons-Reims salient, the Germans continuing to retire
under strong pressure. They were forced back to the Oureq river, then
to the Vesle, where they made a determined stand. Fère-en-Tardenois and
Fismes fell into the hands of the victorious French and Americans, the
latter gaining a notable victory in the occupation of Fismes over the
vaunted Prussian guards, who had been brought up to endeavor to stay
their progress. The first week of August saw most of the Reims salient
wiped out by the German retreat, while rear-guard actions were being
fought along the Vesle as the Germans sought defensive positions farther
in the rear.

The prisoners captured by the Allies in their drive up to that time
numbered more than 35,000 and more than 700 heavy guns also fell into
their possession, with immense quantities of ammunition and stores. The
Germans, however, succeeded in destroying many of the ammunition dumps
and vast supplies which had been stored in the salient for their
expected drive on Paris.

As they retired the Germans burned many of the occupied French villages,
pursuing their usual policy. As many as forty fires were observed on the
horizon at one time as the Allies advanced.

Soissons was retaken on August 2, and the valley of the Crise was
crossed by the Allies, who dominated the plains in the German rear with
their big guns.

The German losses in the great battle and retreat from the Marne were
variously estimated at from 120,000 to 200,000. General von Boehm
avoided a first-class disaster, but his defeat was a serious one and had
far-reaching moral consequences among the enemy.

It was estimated that from the beginning of their offensive in March,
the German armies lost more than 1,000,000 men in killed, wounded and
prisoners. The Austrians in their ill-fated offensive of 1918 lost more
than 250,000 men.


On August 6 General Ferdinand Foch, commander-in-chief of the Allied
forces, was elevated by the French council of ministers to the rank of a
Marshal of France. In presenting his name Premier Clemenceau said:

"At the hour when the enemy, by a formidable offensive, counted on
snatching the decision and imposing a German peace upon us, General
Foch and his admirable troops vanquished him. Paris is not in danger,
Soissons and Chateau Thierry have been reconquered, and more than
villages have been delivered. The glorious Allied armies have thrown the
enemy from the banks of the Marne to the Aisne."


The American troops covered themselves with glory at many points in the
Allied drive, notably in the hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of
Fismes on August 4, when they captured that German base. The fighting
was said to have been the bitterest of the whole war, the Prussian
guards asking no quarter and being bayoneted or clubbed to death as they
stood by their machine guns.


On the Amiens front, in Picardy, the British Fourth Army, under General
Rawlinson, and the French First Army, under General Debentry, stormed
the German positions on August 8 on a front of over 20 miles, capturing
14,000 prisoners and 150 guns, and making an advance of over seven


Before the Germans had time to recover from the surprise of Marshal
Foch's attack on the Marne, and while they were still retreating to
the Vesle, the Allies delivered another heavy blow, this time on the
Albert-Montdidier front in Picardy. Here the British and French suddenly
attacked in force on the morning of August 8, stormed the enemy
positions along a thirty-mile front and on the first day of the attack
penetrated to a depth of seven miles.

For several days the enemy retreated, closely pursued by allied cavalry
and tanks, which for the first time fought in a combination that proved
irresistible. The tanks used were of a new small variety, known as
"whippets," which rapidly wiped out the machine-gun nests with which the
enemy sought to stem the tide of the victorious onrush. Some American
troops fought with the British in their advance and gained high praise
from the Allied commanders.

By August 15 the total number of prisoners captured by the British
Fourth Army, under General Rawlinson, was 21,844. In the same period of
one week the prisoners taken by the French First Army amounted to 8,500,
making a total of 30,344 Germans captured in the operations of the
Allied armies on the Montdidier-Albert front, besides 700 heavy guns,
quantities of machine guns, and other important spoils of war.

North of the Somme, between Albert and Arras, the Germans continued to
fall back to the old Hindenburg line, where there were strong defensive
positions, with the British and French keeping in close touch with
their retreat. On August 15 they had definitely given up the towns of
Beaumont-Hamel, Serre, Bucquoy, and Puisieux-au-Mont, and at several
points had crossed the Ancre river.

Field Marshal Haig announced that the proportion of German losses to
those of the Allies in the Picardy offensive were greater than at any
other period of the war. The total Allied casualties were not as large
as the number of Germans taken prisoner.


One important result of the British drive was that Amiens, the "dead
city of Picardy," began to come to life again. Its population of
150,000, including 40,000 refugees, had fled before the German offensive
in March, 1918, but the former inhabitants began to return when the
menace of the invader disappeared, as the invader himself was chased
back toward the Somme. A service of thanks to the Allied arms was held
in the Great Cathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens, August 15. Despite the
damage from German guns and bombs, the cathedral retained the title of
the most beautiful in all France.

The city of Paris, at the same time, quietly celebrated the great change
in the situation wrought in one short month. Just four weeks before, on
July 18, the residents of Paris had been awakened by the sounds of such
a cannonade as they never had heard before. It was General Mangin's
counter-preparation against the great German attack which the enemy
believed was to bring him to the gates of Paris. In the meantime the
Germans, who were at the gates of Amiens, Reims, and Compiegne, had been
soundly beaten and outgeneraled at every point, and the initiative had
been forced from them by the military genius of Marshal Foch. The effect
upon the Germans was apparent from the fact that General Hans von Boehm,
the German "retreat specialist" had been appointed to the supreme
command on the Somme front. The German withdrawal north of Albert was
looked upon as the first application of his tactics. It was General von
Boehm and his former command, the German Eighth Army, that stood the
brunt of the Allied pressure in the Marne salient previous to the
retreat of the Huns to the north of the Vesle river, where they were
still standing in the middle of August.


Former Czar Nicholas of Russia was executed by the Bolsheviki in July,
1918, having been held as a prisoner since his dethronement.


Shaded portions of map show territory gained by American and Allied
troops during July and August, 1918. Most of the territory gained by
the Germans in their 1918 offensive was recaptured by the Allies before
September 1, 1918.]



_Personal Accounts of Battle - Gas and Shell Shock - Marines Under
Fire - Americans Can Fight and Yell - Getting to the Front
Under Difficulties - The Big Day Dawns - The Shells Come
Fast - A Funeral at the Front - _Impression of a French Lieutenant -
Keeping the Germans on the Run._

The name of Chateau Thierry will be long remembered in the United
States, for it was there the American fighting quality was for the first
time clearly impressed upon the Germans, to their immense astonishment,
and with far-reaching effect. The German people and the German army had
been told that the United States had no army, navy, or fighting quality;
that the talk of an American army in Europe was "Yankee bluff," and
nothing more; that even if we could raise an army we could not send it
across the ocean, first because we had no ships, second because if we
had ships the submarines of Germany would surely sink them. Yet here at
Chateau Thierry they were confronted by United States troops and soundly

That effect upon the Germans was in itself of tremendous significance;
but the historic effect was greater, and will grow in importance with
the passage of time, for it is a fact, unperceived by onlooking nations
at the moment, that it was the turning point of the war; and that the
turning was accomplished by troops of a nation that hated war and was
supposed to be incapable of military development; and that these troops
had met and whipped the choicest troops of a power that above all things
was military, that had assumed proprietary rights in the art of war, and
believed itself invincible.

Late in February, 1918, General Ludendorff had told a Berlin newspaper
correspondent that on the first of April he would be in Paris. It was
inconceivable to the Germans that with the thorough preparation of a
mighty army for an offensive that by sheer weight of numbers should
drive through an opposition twenty times as strong as that which then
confronted them, they could not with ease push in between the French
and British forces, thrust straight through to Paris (as a spectacular
performance rather than a vital military operation), and then walk over
to the channel ports of France and bring both France and England to a
plea for mercy.

From the 21st of March until along in May, 1918, it looked as though
they might succeed. That is, to anyone unaware of the strategy of
Marshal Foch, who sold terrain by the foot for awful prices in German
lives, and held an unbroken front until such time as American forces
could be brought into action, instead of wearing out his reserves and
weakening his power for an offensive.

Unity of command had been accomplished by that time at the urgent demand
of the United States Government. Foch had saved France and the world at
the first battle of the Marne. Being given supreme authority over all
the allied forces, as soon as the arrival of American troops in great
numbers had been thoroughly established, he was ready; and the offensive

Online LibraryThomas Herbert RussellAmerica's War for Humanity → online text (page 9 of 49)