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11 Disunity of Command It has often been remarked that America in World War I had almost no strategic role to play in the land war because the principal theater of the war, the western front, had already been well established by the course of military events prior to April 1917. This argument assumes that Anglo-French strategic policy constituted a monolith, which was far from being the case, especially during the last phase of the war. The political leadership of Great Britain and the Dominions, more concerned than their primary war partners about the Turko-German threat to Asia, sought strategic flexibility to meet this menace. The War Cabinet's imperial focus, which threatened to diminish the British commitment to the western front, placed it on a collision course with France, especially with a Frenchman as Allied supreme commander. With Paris and London at sixes and sevens over Foch's growing control of Allied military policy in Western Europe, the Americans held the balance of power. The wide divide between the American "western front" view and the British imperial strategy is abundantly demonstrated by the differing perspectives of Bridges and Bliss. General Tom Bridges, who had returned to Washington in July, vigorously lobbied Baker to increase America's military role in Siberia, arguing that it was essential to an Allied victory. After an especially frustrating encounter with the American secretary of war, Bridges, never one to mince words, charged that advocates of the single-minded "western" approach "must take the responsibility of prolonging the years of war, millions of American casualties, the expenditure of billions of treasure, and in fact the heavy additions to the sum of human misery that we shall hereby incur, as well as a great risk of an inconclusive peace."1 President Wilson in particular was incensed by this tough talk, and the Foreign Office was subsequently warned not to send Bridges to Washington again.2 In opposition to Bridges, Bliss argued that Britain's emphasis on the outer theaters was a political rather than a war-winning strategy. On August 14 he cabled Baker and March that the war could be ended in 1919, but only if the Allies were prevented from shifting the burden of the fighting in Western Europe to the United States, while they 186 Trial by Friendship squandered their military resources elsewhere to guarantee themselves a favorable peace. "If sufficiently favorable military situations are not created on certain secondary theaters by beginning of Autumn next year," he warned Baker, "the Governments of our Allies may be willing to continue through 1920 and at the cost of United States troops and money a war which may possibly be ended with complete success for us by operations on the western front in 1919."3 Following the fourth German offensive of 1918, June 9-13, there was yet another pause, the last such lull in military operations. With hope of a knock-out blow waning, Ludendorff's gamble for total victory took on an even more desperate note. If his next move failed, he knew that his declining numbers would not allow yet another throw of the dice. Ludendorff planned to threaten Paris with an attack around Rheims on July 15 (thereby encouraging Foch to weaken further the British position in Flanders) and then shift his reserves north to drive the BEF into the sea. Foch, as early as June 28, had learned of the German plan to attack the French front and made his preparations accordingly, provoking anxiety in London. Anticipating a great German push at any moment against their forces, the British civilians feared another March 21 disaster . German preparations across no-man's-land suggested (correctly) that Ludendorff ultimately planned to seek a German victory against the British rather than the French. Although Lloyd George's government had survived the destruction of the Fifth Army, it would be down and out if confronted with another military debacle of that magnitude. On July 8 General Wilson told the War Cabinet that "the Germans could now put in a bigger attack than they did on the 21st March." Although British defenses were stronger, the BEF's position "was weaker in the respect that we [are] not in a position to give ground, as was possible on that occasion."4 Foch's placement of Allied reserves in a position to counter any German move against Paris especially concerned the civilians. On July 11 the War Cabinet instructed Lloyd George to remind Clemenceau that...

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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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