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12 Pax Americana? The war's unexpected conclusion in November could not have been more advantageous to the British Empire's geopolitical goals. Nor could the results from the worldwide battlefields have been more surprising. As late as August the British political leadership, believing that the war would not reach a climax in Western Europe until 1919 at the earliest, had favored a conservative Continental military policy designed to further imperial interests. British arms in the outer theaters gave Lloyd George the strong negotiating position he sought. Following the Battle of Megiddo in Palestine in mid-September, Allenby's cavalry pursued the broken enemy, advancing 350 miles in thirty-eight days. In the Mesopotamian theater the British Empire's forces pushed north of Baghdad to Mosul. Meanwhile, Baku was reoccupied and a British position established on the Caspian Sea. With a peace settlement in mind, the War Cabinet urged its eastern generals to secure control of as much Turkish territory as possible before the end of hostilities.1 To the initial discomfort of the Imperial War Cabinet, the BEF also assumed the leading role in the Allied counteroffensives after the Second Battle of the Marne. Lloyd George and most of the Empire statesmen accepted the necessity of defeating the German army to get a durable peace but were determined to husband British manpower. If Foch's position as generalissimo had not protected Haig from London 's political interference, the BEF would not have been given permission to launch its series of successful offensives. On the same day, October 5, that President Wilson told House and Tumulty that Germany 's bid for peace through Washington meant an end to the war, the BEF achieved one of its most dramatic successes, the breaching of the final defenses of the famous Hindenburg Line. Some 35,000 prisoners and 380 guns were taken in a nine-day drive. This victory was only one of the nine successive defeats inflicted upon the German army by the BEF from August 8, the Battle of Amiens, to the last British drive of the war, the Battle of Sambre, November 1-11. During this glorious Hundred Days' Campaign, Haig's forces captured 2,840 guns and 188,700 prisoners. Pax Americana? 207 These victories in both Europe and the Middle East had come without employing a large American force in the British sector. Haig advanced with the support of only two American divisions, organized into a corps. When Pershing refused to replace American casualties (some 13,182 men), Haig had to withdraw this corps from the line on October 20. Although Pershing subsequently promised reinforcements on October 23, he rejected the plea to bring Haig's American Corps up to four divisions. This rationed American assistance to the BEF continued to rankle the prime minister, who told the "X" Committee that with "250,000 men . . . being brought over every month, and British ships alone . . . carrying from 160,000 to 190,000 men a month," it was "preposterous that only 2 divisions were given to the British Army."2 As British arms in September and October surpassed all expectations in Europe and elsewhere, the American First Army between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest proceeded at a crawl with heavy losses. To reach the key German rail communications in the SedanMezieres region, the Americans had to overcome determined defenders manning sophisticated and extensive fortifications along a narrow front. "There was no elbow room," Drum, one of the AEF's most able staff officers, has written. "We had to drive straight through."3 The First Army's staff hoped to exploit the AEF's material and numerical superiority to achieve a breakthrough. Encouraged by the easy American victory at St. Mihiel, AEF planners expected to advance ten miles within the first twenty-four hours of the attack. On September 26 nine divisions, organized into three corps, attacked along a twenty-mile front. Facing these double-strength American divisions were five under-strength German divisions. With only four of the nine American divisions ever having served in the line, however , the AEF's offensive soon faltered. Inexperienced units lost their cohesion when faced with stiff German resistance. American logistics bordered on total collapse. "Whether because of incompetence or inexperience or both," Donald Smythe has asserted, "the First Army was wallowing in an unbelievable logistical snarl. It was as if someone had taken the army's intestines out and dumped them all over the table."4 The First Army tried again...

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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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