Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Clémenceau Chronology

Material and Photos from the MUSÉE CLÉMENCEAU, Paris

28 September 1841
Born in Mouilleron en Pareds, in France’s Vendee region

Medical studies in Nantes and then Paris
Opposition to Napoléon III

1852–1870 Second Empire

Departure to the United States–Marries Mary Plummer

1865–U.S. Civil War ends

Mayor of Paris’s 18th district–City councilman and then President of the Paris municipal council, Paris deputy

On 18 January 1871, King William I of Prussia is proclaimed Emperor of Germany at Versailles and armistice is signed with the German invader a week later. Georges Clémenceau, mayor of Montmartre and a Paris deputy, refuses to accept the annexation of Alsace and Moselle and resigns from the National Assembly. In March 1871 he welcomes the patriotic uprising in Paris, without officially joining the Commune. Again elected deputy for Paris’s 18th district in 1876, Clémenceau breaks with Gambetta and the rest of the government shortly after the republican success in 1877, judging them too cautious in their approach to reform. He campaigns alongside Victor Hugo for amnesty for the Communards.

Reelected as deputy on a radical program in 1881, he becomes opposition leader for the extreme left and fights for his vision of a strong and united republic for all citizens. Actively opposed to colonialization, Clémenceau draws on his eloquence in parliament to bring down successive minsters, including Jules Ferry, his main adversary.

The Third Republic (1870–1940)–Paris Commune (spring 1871)

Edouard Manet paints two portraits of Clémenceau

Founds La Justice newspaper

Deputy for Var
Political debate with Jules Ferry on colonialization and the concept of the "inferior race"

Clémenceau the duelist also fights with words, and his tongue is as feared as his sword or pistol. His parliamentary eloquence- intense, concise, and devastating, a weapon unleashed triumphantly against successive cabinets that earns him the nickname "destroyer of ministries." Notably, Clemenceau’s violent attacks on Jules Ferry’s colonial policy that was founded on the superiority of the white race cause Ferry’s fall in 1885. His words have remained famous: "Superior races, inferior races, that’s easy to say...The Hindus an inferior race? With their great refined civilization emerged from the mists of time…The Chinese an inferior race? Their origins unknown but seemingly from the dawn of ages..."

Resumes contact with Monet thanks to Gustave Geffroy

Panama scandal

Loses election in Var
Clémenceau dedicates himself to journalism and writing

Alfred Dreyfus is convicted

Clémenceau sells Asian art collections to raise money

Publishes an article on Monet’s cathedrals in 1895 in La Justice and speaks at the Goncourt banquet

Moves to rue Franklin

"J’accuse" is published in l’Aurore

Clémenceau is a central player from 1897 onward in the rehabilitation of Captain Dreyfus, who had been unjustly convicted by a military tribunal for spying. Alongside Jean Jaurès and other writers and intellectuals, he fights tirelessly to overturn the judgement. In January 1898, he gives the famous title of "J’accuse" to Emile Zola’s decisive l’Aurore diatribe against the Army General Staff. Clémenceau would produce no less than 665 articles in various publications until truth and justice prevails. In 1908 and just a few years after Zola’s death, Clémenceau as head of the government arranges for Zola’s ashes to be moved to the Pantheon.

Clémenceau’s play, The Veil of Happiness, is staged at Théâtre de la Renaissance

Elected senator for Var in 1902, Clémenceau becomes interior minister and president of the Council

Clémenceau is chosen by President Armand Fallières to form a new government and he succeeds Sarrien in October 1906.

Miners’ strike–Wine workers protest in the south

Auguste Rodin works on a bust of Clémenceau

Founds newspaper l’Homme Libre (The Free Man), which becomes L’Homme Enchaîné (The Chained Man) in 1914

2 August—World War I begins

Numerous visits to the front

Minister of War and president of the Council–Rents house at Bélébat

In November 1917, at the height of France’s national distress, President Raymond Poincaré calls on Clémenceau to form the government. Serving both as president of the Council and Minister of War until his withdrawal in early 1920, Clémenceau exhibits an iron will and undisputed authority. He imposes the union of Allied forces under the sole command of Ferdinand Foch, announces the armistice in the National Assembly on 11 November 1918 and is the main French architect of the Treaty of Versailles negotiated with British prime minister Lloyd George and the American president Woodrow Wilson. Clémenceau would later write about this period in his posthumous work, Grandeur and Misery of Victory.

Armistice, Treaty of Versailles (1919)

Travels in Asia as far as Indonesia and lecture tour in the United States

Versailles Treaty application problems

Near the End
Final works

Meets Marguerite Baldensperger, his last love, and writes Démosthène at her request.

Inaugurates the "Water Lilies" installation at l’Orangerie a few months after Claude Monet’s death

Late in life, his longstanding friendship deepens with Claude Monet. Clémenceau is an untiring supporter and encourages Monet’s "Water Lilies" donation and installation at the l’Orangerie museum. "When the water garden lilies transport us from the liquid plain to the travelling clouds of infinite space, we leave the earth and its sky to experience fully the supreme harmony of thing."

24 November 1929—Georges Clémenceau dies at rue Franklin

Source:  The Musée Clémenceau Website

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Best Unknown General of the War?

General von Bothmer on Right in 1916

One candidate for this honor would certainly be Generaloberst Felix Graf von Bothmer (1852–1937). He was a veteran of the Franco-Prussian war who had served for 40 years with the Bavarian Army before the Great War broke out. Inactive after 1910, von Bothmer was recalled to service when war was declared but did not serve actively until December 1914 due to a leg injury. After a brief tour in Flanders, he was shifted to the Eastern Front where he seems to have defeated numerically superior Russian forces whenever he encountered them. 

His successes included the defense of the Carpathian passes, actions along the Dniester and Gnila-Lipa Rivers, and victories in his zone of responsibility during both the Brusilov and Kerensky offensives. He was awarded the Pour le Mérite for his victories in 1917. At the end of the war he was charged with organizing the defenses of Bavaria against an Allied invasion. He retired soon after the Armistice. Later,  although an anti-Nazi, he was given a state funeral by the German government in 1937 contrary to the family's wishes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Thomas-Morse Scout

The Thomas-Morse Scout became the favorite single-seat training airplane for U.S. pilots during World War I. The Scout first appeared with an order for 100 S4Bs in the summer of 1917. The U.S. Army Air Service later purchased nearly 500 of a slightly modified version, the S4C. Dubbed the "Tommy" by its pilots, the plane had a long and varied career.

Tommies flew at practically every pursuit flying school in the United States during 1918. After the war ended, the Air Service sold them as surplus to civilian flying schools, sportsman pilots, and ex-Army fliers. Some were still being used in the mid-1930s for WWI aviation movies filmed in Hollywood.

It was designed by Benjamin Douglas Thomas (no relation to the company owners), who also assisted with the design of the Curtiss JN-4 Jenny. The Scout was a trim little single-seat, biplane that was originally powered by a 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape 9-B rotary engine, but beginning with the 52d aircraft, the engine was replaced with the more reliable 80 hp (60 kW) Le Rhône C-9. The first flight was in June 1917 and it attained a speed of 95 mph (153 km/h). The first order was for six prototypes, with 100 improved S-4Bs ordered on 3 October 1917 and an additional 25 aircraft ordered for Britain. 

US Navy S-5 Seaplane

It could be easily converted into a seaplane and was given the US Navy designation S-5. It was identical to the S-4B, but the top speed was reduced to 90 mph (145 km/h).  It was tested at the Naval Air Station at Diner Key, off Miami, Florida, and six S-5s with floats were ordered for the U.S. Navy.

On 18 January 1918 the U.S. War Department placed an order for 400 improved S-4C models. Instead of using cables for the ailerons, the C model used a torque tube system, the ailerons and elevators were reduced in area, and provisions were made for a .30 caliber Marlin machine gun, synchronized to fire through the propeller, although not all aircraft were delivered that way. A total of 447 S-4Cs were built.

Sources:  USAF National Museum,, Wikipedia

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tomlinson Prize 2017 Co-Winner: Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I

The World War One Historical Association (WW1HA) annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., prize for 2017 for the best work of history in English on World War One has been awarded to two exceptional historians: Robert Gerwarth for his The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); and Richard Faulkner for Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I (University Press of Kansas).
Last week we presented our review of Mr.Gerwarth's The Vanquished.  Today we are publishing our review of Pershing's Crusaders, first presented in ROADS TO THE GREAT WAR on 15 August 2017.

Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I

by Richard S. Faulkner
University Press of Kansas, 2017

If you want to know almost everything there is to know about the varied backgrounds, feelings, and experiences of the men who were drafted and served in the American Expeditionary Force from 1917 to 1919, then this is the book for you. Richard Faulkner has produced a nearly 800-page volume, with copious notes and detailed index, that is virtually encyclopedic in scope. Thus the 24 chapters of Pershing's Crusaders take us in detailed yet readable narrative from the earliest days of recruitment to final homecomings. After finishing the book I had to agree that the author has done exactly what he set out to do, namely "present a more holistic and detailed exploration of the many facets of the doughboys' lives and attitudes than has been given in previous accounts" (p. 5).

Not surprisingly, a recurrent theme throughout is the extent to which the military and the country were unprepared to fight in a world war. The situation necessitated an explosion of haste, often with unfortunate results. Although not everyone was enthusiastic about the war, millions of men eagerly reported to draft boards and were processed to training camps that were being rapidly constructed. It was impossible to organize these men and train them all without some pitfalls. Medical exams were cursory and resulted sometimes in passing unfit recruits for training. The most startling example given by Faulkner is of the recruit who was sent on to training camp where he was found to have only one hand. As in Britain in 1914, many recruits trained in their own clothes, uniforms being in initial short supply. Training was often, as the author puts it, "wildly uneven and woefully incomplete" (p. 326). Sometimes this resulted in green young soldiers finding themselves at the front without having fired their rifles, let alone being prepared for the smells, sounds, and sights of trench warfare.

From beginning to end, Faulkner provides statistics on every aspect of the war, the fruit of his having combed through thousands of letters, memoirs, documents, and reports of the American Expeditionary Forces. For example, the recruiting process garnered a great deal of information about America's youth: the weight of the average inductee was 141.54 pounds, his chest measured about 34.7 inches, and his average height ran around 67.5 inches. (Texans were on average an inch taller than the rest.) We find out how many of these soldiers and sailors were drowned on their way to Europe and how many were never to return.

Doughboy experience, from fighting to drinking to venereal disease to relationships with chaplains and the British and French soldiers, all is covered with intriguing statistics in this book. It's interesting to find that the Doughboys had little respect for their French or British comrades (excepting the Scots) but liked the ANZACS and Canadians. On the other hand, the British Tommy tended to "look with contempt on the striplings who had come in to win the war" (p. 291), and the French could be quite impatient with the newcomers—"One Frenchman told his American charges that their failure to grasp trigonometry left him dumbfounded that they held commissions in artillery" (p.287).

By the time I finished this book I felt there was little left to know about the various experiences of the American soldiers in the Great War. This includes their interactions with YMCA, Knights of Columbus, and other civilian volunteer groups plus the impressive array of educational opportunities offered to our soldiers in France. Faulkner also provides the sad details of racism, wounds, death, mutilation—including the legend of a "basket case"—and the impact of the influenza epidemic on the army. And true to his statistical style, the author reminds us that 4,452 members of the AEF are still missing today (p. 598).

Additionally, many soldiers (although not all of them) suffered keen disappointment at getting to France but never coming close to combat. Some 546,000 troops were assigned to non-combat duties with the Services of Supply and another 173,008 worked in other noncombatant jobs behind the lines (p. 351). Moreover, about "half of the soldiers mobilized for the war, some two million men, never made it closer to France than Camp Upton, New York" (p. 606). Nevertheless, in one way or another WWI inevitably changed millions of Americans. As one West Virginia Doughboy admitted on his return home, "I am out of the army, but I have a feeling it will be a long time before the army is out of me" (p. 633). This book is not only a fascinating read but also a seminal volume to keep as a reference and a reminder of how things were for Pershing's Doughboys.

David F. Beer

A full listing of the past Tomlinson Prize winners can be found here:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Western Front: May 2018

In May,  I led a 10-day tour of the Western Front.  Our theme combined the Ludendorff Offensives with the British 100 Days, so we were all over the place.  Here are 10 photos by our lead photographer David Gaddis.  This is what it looks like 100 years after fact.

We were one of the first groups to visit Mark IV Tank Deborah's
new museum at Flesquieres

Plateau Californie on the Chemin des Dames — Launch point for
Germany's May BLÜCHER Offensive

British Memorial, Soissons

A War Horse at Flanders Field Museum

Your Editor at Moreuil Wood,
 Where Lt. Gordon Flowerdew of the Canadian Cavalry Earned the VC

Australian Memorial,  Villers-Bretonneux
The group found the new Monash Centre (positioned behind the tower) somewhat disappointing—very techie and the accessing needs improvement. However, some of the displays were exciting and spectacular.

58th Division Memorial, Chipilly.  U.S. units participated in this action.

The Group at the Famous Pillbox on Hill 60, Ypres

A Bunker Atop Mt. Kemmel, South of Ypres

On 8 May, everywhere we stopped there were commemorations of VE Day. 
This one was in Péronne.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Recommended: World War I Commemorative Brochures from the U.S. Army Center for Military History

The Army has released four volumes in their new series of WWI brochures that will eventually cover the entire war.  Here's one of the covers. The works are very informative and well illustrated, using Signal Corps photos and official U.S. Army artwork from the war. They  can be downloaded as PDF documents from the address below.  Currently available are the works covering up through Cantigny and operations around Château-Thierry.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Remembering a Veteran, Ensign Logan C. Ramsey, USN

Ramsey During
World War II
Fresh out of Annapolis, newly commissioned Ensign Logan C. Ramsey, USN, served in WWI on the battleship USS Texas, part of the American squadron assigned to the Grand Fleet.  Ramsey and his crewmates were present at the surrender of the High Seas Fleet on 21 November 1918. Today, the Texas is the last surviving dreadnought of the Great War. 

Young Ensign Ramsey, himself, had a future date with history. As a duty officer on 7 December 1941 Lt. Commander Ramsey would be the author of on one of the most famous war messages in American history—"Air raid Pearl Harbor, this is no drill." He retired from the Navy as a rear admiral in 1949 after commanding an escort carrier and holding high staff positions in WWII.

Photo: National Naval Museum, Pensacola Florida

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Consequences of Mobilizing Germany's Youth for War

Commentary by Bryan Ganaway from a review of Youth in the Fatherless Land: War Pedagogy, Nationalism, and Authority in Germany, 1914–1918. By Andrew Donson, 2010

Before 1914 Imperial Germany used education to regulate and control children to a greater degree than France, England, and the United States. This included nearly fifty thousand officials whose sole job was to mobilize patriotic youth via extracurricular activities. However, plenty of teachers wanted to reform the regimented curriculum in an effort to cultivate critical thinkers rather than manufacture chauvinists.

When war began in 1914, the government worked hard to remake the curriculum and institute "war pedagogy" to mobilize children behind the state. This included a document by Theobald Ziegler entitled "Ten Commandments of War Pedagogy." Commandment seven reads as follows: "Thou shalt speak of battles in history class and be happy" (p. 244). In the short run, the new curriculum succeeded in mobilizing youth across diverse segments of society (male and female, middle-class and working-class, Protestant and Catholic, German and non-German) behind the monarchy. Over the long run, however, [End Page 164] war pedagogy functioned in quite a different way. Implemented by progressive teachers who saw it as a way to finally enact their reform program, it provided a framework for free essay writing, critical discussion in class, and individualized reading programs. In other words, the instructors told children to support the war, but also to think about it regularly.

There is no doubt that the government worked hard to mobilize youth in school and via massive, state-sponsored volunteer programs. Popular juvenile war literature and movies also supported these initiatives. By 1916, however, the dreadful mismanagement of the home front by the military led to severe shortages of food, coal, and clothing that completely undermined "war pedagogy" and caused at least some youth to question their teachers and the state. Over one million urban children had to be taken out of school and sent to farms so they could eat. Many of their teachers (not to mention their fathers) had long since been conscripted, and this weakened both the schools and the family as institutions designed to maintain order. The result was an increase in independence for many youth. From the perspective of parents this led to a rise in impertinence, sexual experimentation, and crime. Starving urban teachers lost enthusiasm for "war pedagogy," and the most mobilized youth drifted to the right or left fringes of the political spectrum in search of an alternative to the government in Berlin.

"When the soldiers go marching through the town"

For all its undoubted military success, the regime in Berlin criminally mismanaged the home front, and this thwarted its efforts to indoctrinate youth. As the war situation worsened, youth slowly moved away from the government (both on the left and on the right), showing the limits of state authority even in time of war. The author reminds us that many of the early Nazis were from the birth cohort of 1900–1908. Similarly, some of the most die-hard Communists reached political consciousness in Social Democratic youth organizations during the war. 

Photos: Europeanan Blog

Thursday, June 21, 2018

General Jack Pershing: War Booster Rooster

During World War I, auctions were held across Iowa to raise money for the Red Cross Nursing Corps. Mark Dunkerson of Fontanelle had nothing to offer except a spare rooster, and the farmer who bought him decided that he was too mean to take home. The other bidders found that hilarious, and the rooster was auctioned again and again, each time being returned to the auctioneer.

A Pre-Stuffed General Jack Pershing and
Auctioneer D. R. "Casey" Jones

By the end of the war "General Jack Pershing" (named in honor of America's top general) had crisscrossed the state and raised $40,000, and was allowed to live out his retirement unmolested. He was eventually stuffed and put on display in the Iowa State Historical Museum at 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines. His success inspired the more elaborate exploits of King Neptune the Pig in World War II.

In 2001, Jack Pershing was again put up for auction, this time to raise money for the Red Cross September 11th Disaster Relief Fund. His stuffed carcass brought in over $1,800, and was then returned to its glass case, more loved by Iowa than ever.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Captain of the Emden Reflects on the German Naval Disasters of 1914

Crew of SMS Emden Abandoning Their Beached Ship

Captain Karl von Müller of the Cruiser SMS Emden, was taken prisoner after his ship was defeated and by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney and subsequently beached in the Battle of Cocos, 9 November 1914.  A prisoner of war for the duration, he wrote this letter to his parents sometime in the late stages of the struggle. His father was a retired colonel in the Prussian Army.

Captain Karl von Müller
"And so, dearest mother and father, I near the end of my story. Only Dresden got away from the carnage off the Falklands. This lone ship of our proud East Asiatic Squadron remained afloat. But Admiral Sturdee's avengers eventually caught up with her too, sending her down to join Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Nürnberg, and Leipzig at the bottom of the ocean. Of ships' companies of 2,800 officers and men that had sailed from Valparaiso into history in November 1914, less than 500 lived to tell their tales. Most of these were from Dresden. The large part of her crew was able to abandon ship and thus avoid a cruel death at sea.

The same could not be said for SMS Karlsruhe, whose magazines exploded mysteriously in Barbados. She met her end five days before we did—if Graf Spee had made it to the Caribbean he would have searched for her in vain.

And what of those of us who had sailed west into the Indian Ocean? Most men of the Emden never saw home again either. Mücke and Lauterbach were among the lucky ones, but they made their own luck. My first officer and fifty men of the landing party on Cocos Island commandeered a schooner and, after many harrowing adventures in the Indian Ocean, made landfall in Arabia. From there they went to Istanbul, and eventually back to the Fatherland. Lauterbach and the crew of our collier Exford were captured by the British and imprisoned in Singapore with the crew of our first collier, Markomannia, and those aboard Pontoporos. The big man led a daring prison break, however, and, like Mücke, returned home.

Most of my crew was not so fortunate. The Battle of the Cocos Islands killed or wounded 208 men. Only 117 of us were uninjured when the British brought us to our POW cells on Malta. We all suffered terribly from the guilt that the survivors of wars always feel.

Admiral Graf von Spee
Yes, our war was tragic, but after it ended for me, Graf Spee and his sons, and 2,500 sailors from the squadron who did not survive, things got worse, much worse—it is with good reason that they are calling it the 'Great War.' More than ten million soldiers will die before it is all over. Prisoners have not been taken. Unthinkable atrocities have been committed against civilians: hostages have been shot, innocents hung as assassins or spies, passenger liners sunk without warning, and whole peoples uprooted and driven mercilessly to their deaths—Jews, Poles, Greeks, and Armenians. And, as you know better than I, hundreds of thousands are dying of starvation and disease in Germany and Austria-Hungary during these years of Great Britain's merciless hunger blockade. There is no honor in this war. I am ashamed for humanity.

My parents, I fear for our times. The Great War has cut down the Russian monarchy, and it will fell both of our allied empires too. Later they may be reestablished and united, but it will surely happen under the evil banner of nationalistic fanatics who will trigger another great war that will scourge Europe and the world and inflict far higher human cost. And when that second great world war comes to an end the terrible weapons it will surely spawn—weapons much worse than our already terrible killing machines—will certainly grip the entire world in fear. And what if terrorists like those that killed Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 acquire these weapons of truly mass destruction? There will never be peace in our time. Alas, we played our role in starting all of this in 1914—we were so naïve and unexpecting. But all of us in every country opened this terrorizing Pandora's Box. All of this happened under the teary eyes of God."

Will we, his children, ever learn?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Co-Winner of the 2017 Tomlinson Prize: The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End

The World War One Historical Association (WW1HA) annual Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr., prize for 2017 for the best work of history in English on World War One has been awarded to two exceptional historians: Robert Gerwarth for his The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); and Richard Faulkner for Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I (University Press of Kansas).
This week we present our review of The Vanquished, first presented in ROADS TO THE GREAT WAR on 8 August 2017.  Next week we will present our review of Mr. Faulkner's award-winning volume.

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End

by Robert Gerwarth
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

On 11 November 1918, at precisely 11:00 a.m., all of the guns on the Western Front fell silent. For the first time in four years of horrific war, every cannon, rifle, machine gun ceased, according to the provisions of a just-signed armistice. Apparently, soldiers experienced the sudden silence as something like the onset of divine mercy. Men wept openly, overcome by the quiet and shattering arrival of peace.

Paris, 11 November 1918—Not the End

Many people take this astonishing moment as the end of World War I, with some good reason. Hostilities did end in France. Soon after a semblance of liberal democracy began to spread, abetted by American president Wilson's idealism. Yet Robert Gerwath's The Vanquished shows that the war did not end on that date. In fact, several wars continued, and several others sprang into terrible life, wrecking havoc largely among the many peoples whose nations lost in the war. World War I did not so much end as fall apart, stagger along, and mutate. For those living in Riga, Kiev, Smyrna, or many other places in eastern, central, and southeastern Europe in 1919, there was no peace, only continuous violence (4).

More than 4 million people died of violence right after WWI, in revolts, civil wars, invasions, and coups (7). So much for "peace."

This isn't a question of pedantic detail. Instead, paying attention to what happened alongside and right after the Armistice of Compiègne honors the enormous struggles that also occurred, while shedding light on subsequent events, including the rise of fascism and WWII.

This is rich and complex history, so I'll summarize all too quickly.

In eastern Europe, the Russian revolutions of 1917 (the fall of the tsar, the Bolshevik revolt, the construction of a Soviet state) gave way to a spectacular civil war, which included a war with Poland, an attempted invasion of Germany, and invasion by multiple other nations (including the United States, Britain, France, and Japan), only ending in 1922. Newly independent Baltic states experienced revolts and invasions, like the Latvian War for Independence (1918–1920). Newly independent Finland fought an intense civil war in 1918, killing 1 percent of its population. (As a visitor to that country, I can testify that that war's impact is still a living thing in the 21st century.) Bulgarians revolted against their state, which led to a reign of terror against its putative supporters. Hungary had a Soviet-style state in 1918, which was overwhelmed by its neighbors in still more fighting.

Soldiers from the defeated German empire formed independent groups (Freikorps) to fight in these wars, and also at home, since Germany itself went through at least one revolution, plus a series of revolts and attempted coups. For instance, left-wingers created a Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1918, which lasted until demolished by Freikorps and others in 1919.

Farther east, European powers dismantled the Ottoman Empire, which led to a bitter war primarily between Greece and newly formed Turkey, along with newly formed Armenia and victorious France

Western Europe fared better than the aforementioned central and eastern Europe, but still endured further strife. Spain underwent "three Bolshevik years" of revolts and instability, culminating in a dictatorship. Ireland fought for independence from Britain, then lunged into civil war. Across the Atlantic the United States spasmed into a Red Scare, with multiple civil liberty violations and acts of violence.

Another victor, Italy, experienced postwar unrest which grew into "what seemed increasingly like an open civil war...About 3,000 people were killed in Italy between 1919 and 1922" (161). What ended that was Mussolini's March on Rome and the birth of the first fascist state in 1922.

In fact, Gerwarth argues, WWI only ended in 1923, giving way to a far too brief period of peace broken up once more in 1939 (16, 248).

What drove all of this horror and chaos? To begin with, nationalism continued to chew up European borders, as relatively recent nationalist feelings ran up against older delineations of empire. WWI's victors, while containing national republics of various sorts, were also intercontinental empires, and fought to balance these contradictions. Moreover, the successful Soviet revolution of 1917 inspired workers' uprisings around the world, along with anticommunist movements; this is, after all, the start of the longest struggle of the 20th century, the Cold War.

Furthermore, the victors were a mess. The Vanquished shreds the reputation of the Treaty of Versailles or, more to the point, the character of its signatories, who managed the epic hypocrisy of mouthing slogans of national self-determination while engaging in historical land grabs and meting out harsh, eventually self-defeating terms to the defeated Central Powers. That much is well known. Gerwarth goes further, showing that the Versailles leaders added incompetence to hypocrisy, gradually losing control of the European area situation. Violence and sharp politics on the ground undid the victors' achievements and plans repeatedly. Wilson's dream of spreading democracy actually backfired, with dictatorships on the rise, not retreat, by the mid-1920s (245).

Versailles, 28 June 1919—Not the End

Along the way terrible precedents were set, and old ones renewed. WWI began with strong efforts to avoid killing civilians (Entente/Allied propaganda would overstate German atrocities), but the post-1918 conflicts blurred the civilian-soldier boundary thoroughly. Irregular forces of many kinds would take to the streets, setting up a matrix for fascism's rise. And ethnic cleansing became a serious policy tool, especially with the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 2 million people across the Aegean.

There are many good things to approve of in this book. Gerwarth writes clearly and at times with passion, nicely organizing a great deal of complexity into clarity. He relies on a rich range of sources. At a smaller level, I was pleased to see Gerwarth accurately refer to the Sykes-Picot agreement as Sykes-Picot-Sazonov (57).

There are some weaknesses, however. The biggest is neglecting the Spanish influenza, which ravaged the world at precisely this time, and killed a mind-boggling 50 million or so people. On the political side, I wanted to learn more about colonial lands as they took up nationalism against victorious empires, from India to Vietnam. And, with Richard Fulton, I also wanted more on the post-Ottoman Middle East.

These, I confess, are complaints of greed based on a book that does so much so well. Strongly recommended.

Bryan Alexander 

A full listing of the past Tomlinson prize winners can be found here:

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ludendorff: Foch's Opponent in 1918

As He Seemed to Famed Correspondent Hamilton Fyfe at War's End

Ludendorff's "Gamble" in the West

Erich von Ludendorff
Ludendorff was a "Westerner." He declared the war must be won or lost in France and Flanders. The Westerners had their way and failed at Verdun, also giving Brusilov the chance to pull off a successful offensive against the Austrians. That summer a German officer was sent to Bukarest to offer the Rumanians inducements to throw in their lot with the Central Powers. He told his intimates that it had been decided to try no more in the west. "Neither side can break through there," he said, and it was known that he was repeating Hindenburg's view.

But after Russia had been put out of the war the hopes of Ludendorff and his faction revived. Now, they said, we are in a different position. We have no longer to meet attacks from the east. We can concentrate all our strength on the Western front and nothing can stop us. So the March offensive was prepared, Hindenburg looking on doubtfully, Ludendorff assuring everybody that he was about to bring the war to an end with "a German peace."

It was in September, 1916, that he had taken over the duties of First Quartermaster- General, under Hindenburg, installed as Chief of Staff, to the puppet Emperor — "puppet" I mean so far as his title of Commander-in-Chief was concerned. He had quickly made his heavy hand felt. It was he who had at first declared unrestricted U-boat warfare inadvisable ; it was he who later gave the word for it to begin. Nothing was done without consulting him. In the popular mind he ranked as Hindenburg's equal, and by degrees the legend grew that it was really Ludendorff and not Hindenburg who was "the man behind the throne."

Such was his great position in the spring of this year when he and his seven assistants laid the plans for the attack upon the British Fourth and Fifth Armies. At first the result seemed to justify his confidence. He was a gambler who had staked everything upon one throw, and it looked as if he had won. But from the early days of the vast struggle Ludendorff felt that things had not gone too well for him. I could read in his Army Orders, which I used to see in France, an anxiety, a striving to do better, an impatience against officers who did not spare their men sufficiently and men who failed to hold positions long enough.

"According to Plan"

He must have been feeling pretty hopeless during June, after his advance had come to a standstill, but he was to have a Field-Marshal's baton all the same. The Emperor went to Headquarters in July with the baton in his trunk, but before he had time to present it Foch struck his blow at the unguarded German right flank. That was the beginning of the end of Ludendorff's greatness. He put a bold face on, assured interviewers that all would be well, told the German public in his official despatches that all the retirements were "according to plan." The phrase became a joke in Germany. 

When he replied to the appeal for help sent by the Burgomaster of Vienna, the note of despair sounded in his tone. "Germany cannot do more than she has done," he telegraphed. In September he began to break down. He could not sleep. He began to hint at retirement. But so long as there was any chance of the German Army recovering he was kept in his command. Only when peace was demanded with menaces and the old order in Germany had come down with a run did the unhappy Ludendorff get his orders to go.

After the first week of the Battle of St. Quentin [Michael] he said : "A great battle has been fought and a victory has been gained. Nobody however, can foresee what will be the result of it." Even with his capacity for taking "a long-range view of every contingency," as a German newspaper once put it, he can hardly have foreseen that the result would be his dismissal and disgrace.

Source: The War Illustrated, "Men and Cities of the War: General Ludendorff," 9 November 1918

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Foch on Gaining Victory in 1918

Foch at Compiègne

As recorded by Marshal Foch's aide Major Charles Bugnet, after his assignment began following the Armistice.

You see how matters stood when I assumed the command of the Allied Armies in 1918? The Germans attacked at the point of juncture between the British armies and our own. The line was dented; one Ally could only see the Channel, the other the capital. They said to me: "There are the Channel ports and Paris. Which are you going to defend, the ports or Paris?"


"But if you have to let one or the other go?"

I shall let nothing go.

"But if you really have to? "

I shall hold on and defend both: nothing shall be let go...There is nothing to be let go...I did not let anything go! What was to be done? We could not afford to lose a yard of ground, and, above all, it was necessary to maintain liaison with the Allies. To do that, the first thing to do was to hold the enemy and to stand fast.

There was only one method of doing this— to reorganize, cost what it might, in the positions which we held and with our feeble resources. Only after that could we think of reliefs. Then we must also counterattack in order to break down offensives...But even this is insufficient; we must conquer, that is to say, attack. To do that, we must have reserves. After that, to build them up.

Haig and Foch
Above all lose no time. "You tell me that you have no men. You have. Their numbers are insufficient? Believe me, go on!" It is with the survivors that battles are won.  Obviously, an undertaking cannot be commenced with no resources, but it is concluded with none left. You know, victorious armies have always been ragged and dirty!

You see, the unified command is only a word. It was tried in 1917 under Nivelle, and it did not work. One must know how to lead the Allies, one does not command them. Some must be treated differently from the others. The English are English, the Americans are another matter, and similarly with the Belgians and Italians. I could not deal with the Allied generals as I did with our own. They also were brave men who were representing the interests of their own country. They saw things in a different light from ourselves. They agreed with reluctance to the unified command; although they loyally accepted the situation, a mere trifle might have upset them and dislocated the whole scheme. I could not give them orders in an imperative manner. One cannot work to a system, especially with them. Anything might have happened. It was necessary to hear their views; otherwise they would have kicked...People only carry out orders which they understand perfectly, and decisions which they have made themselves, or which they have seen made.

Foch and Pershing
Accordingly, when important decisions were involved, I used to see them, or asked them to see me. We talked and discussed questions between ourselves, and, without seeming to do so, I gradually won them over to my point of view. I provided them with a solution, but I did not force it upon them. They were satisfied. I did my best to convince them. Perhaps it was rather a lengthy process, but we always got there. A talk in the morning, another in the evening, for several days if necessary. And, when I had made them see my point, I left them, but with a written note which we had prepared with Weygand's assistance. I gave it to them without appearing to attach much importance to it. This is a summary of my ideas. It agrees with your own in principle. Perhaps you will glance through it; come and see me again and we will go into it together. A few days later they would adopt this decision, made it their own, and became keen on ensuring its success. If handled differently, they would have strained at their chain if I had made them too much aware of it! That is the method which I adopted with [British Commander John] French in 1914, with [Italian Commander Armando] Diaz in 1917, and with the others in 1918. That is the true spirit of the unified command not to give orders, but to make suggestions...They look into the question. At first they are surprised, then they move. Do
you know, I carried them on my shoulders the whole time.

We used to meet Haig twice a week. We met half-way, at Mouchy. That is why, in such circumstances, Weygand was so valuable to me. He was patient. He used to return to them, go into the question again, explain my point of view, and persuade them. Is not that the meaning of Inter-Allied command? One talks, one discusses, one persuades, one does not give orders...One says: "That is what should be done; it is simple; it is only necessary to will it."

Source: OVER THE TOP,  August 2010

Saturday, June 16, 2018

How Progressive Reformers Helped the AEF

Secretary of  War Newton Baker
Was a Noted Progressive
During the war, the War Plans Division of the General Staff distributed a copy of Maj. Gen. David C. Shank's The Management of the American Soldier to all officers responsible for morale, since the book contained "valuable suggestions..., of assistance to those who have charge of the education, recreation and character building of the Army." According to Shank's book, officers should know the names of all men in their companies, treat the soldiers in the same manner they would like to be treated, discipline without nagging, and avoid destroying self-respect by instilling pride. Shank regarded efficiency as the key to the success of any officer and concluded that true efficiency came from managing men as a way of preserving harmony... 

At the start of conflict, the War Department hired a number of well-known Progressive reformers, among them Raymond Fosdick (former settlement worker and New York's commissioner of accounts), Joseph Lee (president of the Playground Association of America), and Joseph Mott (secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association [YMCA]).

Secretary of War Newton D. Baker had previously been a municipal Progressive reformer during his days as mayor of Cleveland. Leading social welfare organizations assisted the military in the socialization of both native-born and foreign-born troops. This included the YMCA, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the Salvation Army, the Playground Association of America, the American Social Hygiene Association, and the American Library Association. The War Department also enlisted the help of the Knights of Columbus and the Jewish Welfare Board to provide for the needs of its Catholic and Jewish soldiers. 

Similar to their work in the civilian societies, the goal of these social welfare organizations was to keep soldiers away from negative influences such as prostitution, alcohol, and gambling and direct them to positive alternatives like sports, music, and reading. As venereal disease quickly spread through the ranks and crippled several divisions in the Allied armies, socializing American soldiers became even more imperative. Adopting a social welfare philosophy resulted in revolutionary changes within the military structure, including innovative training methods that emphasized social, educational, recreational, and character-building activities, all designed to socialize and "morally uplift" the soldiers to create an effective military.

All these factors—Progressive socialization and Americanization, the "management of men," and the new emphasis on morale—came together with the training of foreign-born soldiers during the First World War. The War Department approached the training of immigrant soldiers with a rational pragmatic approach in the "managing of men," and they also adopted social welfare techniques in socializing, Americanizing, and bolstering the morale of these foreign-born men. World War I foreign-born soldiers were part of the largest group of immigrants to arrive in the United States in its history. Between 1880 and 1920, over 23 million people, primarily from southern and eastern Europe, came to the United States. They were alienated from their homelands by severe economic, political, and religious conditions and attracted to America with the promise of economic security and the hope for religious and political freedoms. 

Source:  Americans All! Foreign-Born Soldiers in World War I by Nancy Gentile Ford

Friday, June 15, 2018

100 Years Ago: The Battle of the Piave Opens on the Italian Front

After Italy's Disaster at Caporetto

Once a Battlefield, the Piave River Today

The order to retreat to the Tagliamento River, was issued by Italy's Commando Supremo during the night of 26–27 October. The 2nd and 3rd Armies were to retreat to the so called "Yellow Line" on the Tagliamento and Italian positions in the Carnic and Cadore sectors (held by the Italian IV Army) were to be abandoned. 

However, it is important to remember that only the 2nd Army was destroyed at Caporetto. Much of the Italian Army retreated intact and in fairly good order. The 300,000 men of the 3rd Army and 230,000 men of the 4th Army had good roads available to them and were able to mount an efficient rearguard action. The 90,000 men stationed on the Carnic Alps front were not so lucky. The enemy captured most of them.

On 1 November, the Italian Army reached the Tagliamento and began winning their first small limited victories. On the Tagliamento, the Italians got a chance to catch their second wind.

At the same time, Austro-German units began running to a series of problems. They were not prepared for such a success, and they became divided on which objectives they should pursue. In the end, they decided to stick to the original plan and the Italian 3rd Army was able to retreat. As bad a Caporetto was for Italy, it could have been much worse. Italian forces completed the deployment on the Piave anchored on the Montello on 12 November. Then the Battle of Monte Grappa began. It would last until mid-December and end with an Italian victory.

Location of the Battlefield

In late October 1917 the Battle of Caporetto not only pushed the Italians onto the plains but forced them back to the river Piave, where the Italian Commando Supremo  managed to organise and establish a new front line, but they needed help to hold on.  While the retreat was still under way, help was heading to Italy from the Western Front, with most of the troops eventually to be deployed around Asiago. A total of six French and five British divisions were sent as well as a Royal Flying Corps brigade.  Americans also arrived, including the 332nd Infantry Regiment, ambulance units, and flyers including Congressman and Major Fiorello LaGuardia. Some of these units would return to France in 1918, but they had played a key role in the Arresto phase of the post-Caporetto action in France. 

The Battle of the Piave, aka the Battle of the Solstice

In early 1918, Germany seemed to be  riding high. Unable to resist Wilhelm's pressure, Emperor Karl pledged a two-pronged attack from Asiago in the north and across the River Piave toward Venice. Karl's promise of a two-pronged offensive flew in the face of warnings that Field Marshal Boroević (his new rank) had sent to the high command since the end of March. Karl and his chief of staff hoped to make Rome negotiate and enlarge their spoils when Germany won the war. Boroević did not believe the Central Powers could win. Instead of wasting its strength on needless offensives, Austria should conserve it to deal with the turmoil that peace would unleash in the empire. 

The bombardment began at 03:00 on 15 June. As at Caporetto, the Austrians aimed to incapacitate the enemy batteries with a pinpoint attack, including gas shells. However, their accuracy was poor, due to Allied control of the skies; many of the shells may have been time expired, and the Italians had been supplied with superior British gas masks.  

Austrian Engineers Bridging the Piave

The morning went well; the Austrians moved 100,000 men across the river under heavy rain. Watching the infantry pour over the pontoons, Jan Triska and his gunners wondered if this time they would reach Venice. Enlarging the bridgeheads proved more difficult. Progress was made on the Montello, where the four divisions pushed forward several kilometers, and around San Donà, near the sea. Elsewhere, the attackers were pinned down near the river. Farther north, Conrad's divisions attacked from Asiago toward Monte Grappa. Slight initial gains could not be held; the Italians had learned how to use the "elastic defence," absorbing enemy thrusts in a deep system of trenches, then counterattacking.

Progress on the second day was no easier. Conrad was in retreat; his batteries—more than a third of all the Habsburg guns in Italy—were out of the fight. Boroević ordered his commanders to hunker down while forces were transferred from the north. Meanwhile the Piave rose again, washing away many of the pontoons. Supplying the bridgeheads across the torrent became even more dangerous. The Austrians were too close to exhaustion and their supplies too uncertain for a sustained battle to run in their favour.

Boroević told the emperor that if the Montello could be secured, it should be the springboard for a new offensive. Securing it would need at least three more divisions, including artillery. If the high command did not intend to renew the offensive from the Montello, it was pointless to retain the bridgeheads; they should be abandoned and all efforts dedicated to strengthening the defenses east of the river. As Karl wondered what to do, the German high command stepped in, ordering a cessation of hostilities so that the Austrians could dispatch their six strongest divisions to the Western Front, for Ludendorff's spring offensives were running out of steam and 250,000 American troops were arriving every month. Karl consulted his commanders in the field, who echoed Boroević's stark choice: either reinforce or withdraw. Then he consulted his chief of the general staff, General Arz von Straussenberg. A new offensive within a few weeks was, they agreed, not a realistic prospect. Their reserves were almost used up; even if enough divisions could be transferred to the Piave from elsewhere—and none could safely be spared from Ukraine or the Balkans—the Italians would match them. It would not be possible to recapture the zest of 15 June without a lengthy recovery.

Italian Defenders

Late on the 20th, Karl ordered the right bank of the Piave to be abandoned. General Goiginger, commanding the corps that had performed so well on the Montello, refused to obey. They had taken 12,000 prisoners and 84 guns; how could they retreat? Eventually he submitted, and the withdrawal began. Both sides were exhausted, and the maneuver was completed without much fighting. The Bosnians and Hungarians on the Montello worked their way back to the river. The last Austrians crossed on 23 June, ending the Battle of the Solstice. The Italians had lost around 10,000 dead, 35,000 wounded, and more than 40,000 prisoners, against 118,000 Habsburg dead, wounded, sick, captured, and missing. Early in July, Third Army units capped the achievement by seizing the swampy delta at the mouth of the Piave, which the Austrians had held since Caporetto.

The rejoicing was widespread and spontaneous. For many soldiers, the Battle of the Solstice cleansed the stain of Caporetto, and the name of the Piave has ever since evoked a glow of fulfillment.

Source:  The White War, by Mark Thompson. Excerpted in OVER THE TOP, October 2010