The American Army in the European Conflict
by The Macmillan Company. 1919. 8vo, 436 pp. With illustrations and maps. $3.00.. New York:
THIS volume is not a mere chronicle of what the combat divisions of the American Army accomplished in the European conflict. The authors are two French officers who were attached to General Pershing’s staff; hence their chief professional interest centred round the field operations of the American Expeditionary Force. But they also utilized the opportunity to make themselves familiar with the organization and activities of the various non-combatant services, including the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A.; so that the book gives a comprehensive survey of our whole overseas military programme as it passed in review before the eyes of two skilled observers. For this reason it has far more interest and significance than any volume dealing solely with the operations and tactics of the army could possibly have.
This does not mean, of course, that the work of the combat divisions, either before or during the great offensive, is at all neglected. The activities of the American troops during the spring and summer of 1918, in the splendid pincers-stroke at St. Mihiel, and through the sustained offensive between the Meuse and the Argonne, are all outlined in a way which proves the authors to be thoroughly familiar, not only with the tactical problems involved, but with the details of every military operation. This narration forms the backbone of the book, and it is a story which no American need ever blush to read.
But in many ways the most informing chapters of the volume are those dealing with the great organizations which stood behind the army, supplying it with food and munitions, keeping its ranks filled with replacements, caring for its sick and wounded, and maintaining its lines of communication. The supply-trains of the American Army on the Western front did not start from Bordeaux or St. Nazaire. They started from Kansas City or Chicago. The American lines of communication were the longest that any army has ever had to maintain. Hence the great interest and value of the material which these two french officers have incorporated in their volume, so far as it relates to the ‘services of the rear,’ an expression which, for some inexplicable reason, the authors have preferred to our official designation ‘service of supply.’
The tone of the book is sympathetic throughout. The authors were profoundly impressed by the immensity and power of America’s effort in the great emergency; it is not surprising that they occasionally make their pages glow with an effulgence of praise which may not be altogether deserved. Nor have they wholly resisted the temptation to hurl more statistics at the reader than the occasion calls for. Nevertheless, the volume is much above the average of war books both in substance and in style; so much so that the French Ministry of Public Instruction has put the original edition on the list of prescribed reading in the public schools of France. The authors have been their own translators, on the whole with remarkably good results. W. B. M.