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10 A New Strategic Landscape During Germany's two powerful offensives against the BEF in March and April, the bludgeoned British front had bent but not collapsed. But it was a near thing, and there was anxiety in London over the alliance's ability to withstand further German attacks. During the lull between the second and third German offensives, the British leadership addressed future military prospects. The catalyst for this discussion was a paper by Leo Amery titled "Future Military Policy." If the Central Powers defeated Italy and France, Amery asserted, Britain and the United States would have to "concentrate our whole military effort on the East, confining our operations in Europe to action by sea and air." Even if Ludendorff's campaign ultimately failed, eastern operations still offered the Allies their only realistic opportunity to "take the strategical initiative" before 1920, when a great American army would be assembled in Western Europe. Amery proposed a two-pronged strategy for the next eighteen months: an attack on Turkey in Palestine and Mesopotamia, and "the salvage of Great Russia from Vladivostok and Archangel."1 Sir Henry Wilson looked to 1919 rather than 1920 when he talked with the prime minister on May 27 about future military policy. The next few months were to be anxious ones, Wilson contended, but by the end of September the West might be relatively secure. The Allies could then build their forces toward a "tremendous and crushing blow." But this would take many months, and Sir Henry expressed opposition to engaging in "operations of the Passchendaele type" during the interim. He professed to favor a forward policy in one of the outlying theaters during the time-consuming military buildup in the West.2 The increased flow of American troops across the Atlantic encouraged Lloyd George to believe that any "tremendous and crushing blow" against the German army would largely be delivered by Yanks rather than Tommies. During the meeting of the War Cabinet that immediately followed his conversation with General Wilson, he placed the "greatest importance" on America's "having an army available and ready for operations in 1919." When the CIGS was asked how much 168 Trial by Friendship U.S. manpower Foch believed necessary for victory in 1919, Wilson shocked those present with his answer: one hundred American divisions . When augmented by proportionate corps and army troops, replacements and supply units, one hundred American divisions could equal as many as 5,000,000 men, an enormous army that would dwarf the combined Allied forces on the western front. How was this possible , a puzzled Lloyd George wanted to know. Present arrangements, the prime minister noted, called for forty-two American divisions to be in France by June 1919, of which twenty-eight would be combatant divisions and fourteen replacement divisions.3 On May 27, the same day that Lloyd George and Wilson discussed future military policy, Ludendorff wrenched the British back to the present with his third offensive, this time against the French along the Chemin des Dames. His purpose was to lure British reserves southward to rescue the French. He then planned to finish off the British army in either June or July. On the first day of the battle, German shock troops swept forward thirteen miles. After three days their advance covered thirty miles. On the fourth day, May 30, German forces reached the Marne River. With the Germans within fifty miles of Paris, Sir Henry Wilson noted in his diary: "I find it difficult to realize that there is a possibility, perhaps a probability, of the French Army being beaten. What could this mean? The destruction of our Army in France? In Italy? In Salonica? What of Palestine and Mesopotamia, India, Siberia & the Sea? What of Archangel & America?"4 The Supreme War Council reassembled at Versailles on June 1-2. Paris was in a state of great agitation. As the noise of the big guns to the east drew closer, hundreds of thousands of Parisians fled. Bliss requisitioned trucks and prepared to abandon his offices at Versailles if necessary. "Our plans are all made in case we should have to leave and in that event we will probably go to Tours," he wrote his wife. "A few days more will probably decide."5 Tempers were on edge, especially within the French delegation, which emotionally criticized the British as well as the Americans: the former (who had suffered some 350,000 casualties since March 21) because they would not promise to maintain fifty...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813158457
Related ISBN
9780813118338
MARC Record
OCLC
654772526
Pages
286
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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