The American Effort


COMPLYING with the editor’s request,

I shall, in the following, research the question, what the United States’ interference meant for the issue of the war; but I am quite aware that, when answering this question, I can do it only from a German point of view, especially from that of the German Headquarter. I can only contribute my opinion to the solution of the problem; but I believe that even this share will be interesting and important to any American who takes some interest in the matter. I am very much interested myself and think it most useful to listen to what foreigners say about the German strategy and — stirred by those critics — to examine carefully and repeatedly what I have done myself.

If both sides would act accordingly, free from passion and prejudice, it might help them to understand and to esteem each other again, to encourage the interchange of views among the leading intellectual classes of both nations, and to reconcile them after the deplorable historical conflict has been brought to a close.

It is my firm belief, and I draw from the very best sources, that before the war a ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement ’ existed between important men in France, England, and the United States. It was directed against the alleged ‘Pan-Germanism Danger’ and bound the United States to interfere in case of a war with Germany and Austria. A German diplomatist states that Wilson came to a like agreement with England in 1913, and that he promised benevolent neutrality and copious supply of arms and ammunition. It stands to reason that this agreement made it much easier to the Entente to decide for the war.

Thus from the very beginning of the war the government of the United States has never been neutral. When, in 1914, before the battle of the Marne, some voices in France were heard who asked for peace, some official representatives of the United States in Europe declared that France had to hold out, because the United States would interfere in any case. The result of the battle of the Marne allowed them to remain aside. The Entente and Russia conceived new hope for Germany’s and Austria’s defeat. Besides, the Entente’s propaganda in the United States had not yet stirred the hatred against Germany. It needed time, and the Entente was to take their measures, or to let things go when they took the right turn. In the meantime the government of the United States gave the Entente every possible support, and thus strengthened their purpose to go on making war. The government agreed to anything that the Entente was pleased to do or to order, and interfered every time when Germany tried to cut England’s thread of life — its commerce. I shall prove it by mentioning a few historical facts which cannot be contradicted.

1. On August 6, 1914, the government of the United States suggested to all the belligerent parties to look on the Declaration of London as being obligatory. Germany agreed on August 19; England gave an evasive reply. America did not protest against it, but withdrew, though knowing that its own legitimate commerce suffered from the English oppression.

2. At the beginning of the war almost all the neutral states stopped their export of war-material. Not so the United States. However, this export did not flourish during the first months. So on the fifteenth of October President Wilson issued an annex to the declaration of neutrality, in which he explained that private people could supply as much ammunition as they were able to. From here begins the sudden growth of the manufacture of ammunition, to which finally, to the benefit of the Entente, almost the whole industry of the United States devoted itself. Thus began the economical relations with the enemies of the Central Powers, which were to be linked tighter by the warloan — even so tight that Germany’s victory was likely to injure the United States.

3. On November 3, 1914, England declared the Northern Sea as theatre of war. Thus Germany was blockaded, though no blockade had been declared. America did not protest and was greatly inconsistent with what it had supported as being international law at the time of the Russo-Japanese war, twenty years ago.

4. When, on February 4, 1915, Germany issued a declaration in which it forbade any of the enemy’s trading vessels to cross the sea round Great Britain and Ireland, on pain of being destroyed immediately, whereas it only warned the neutral ships not to do it, the United States government protested at once in a threatening language. Germany declared that it would have regard for the United States interests.

5. On February 22, 1915, America suggested the following arrangement between Germany and England. England should allow the import of food to certain firms in Germany, which should be charged by the American government with the distribution of the provisions among the civilian population. The German government accepted the proposal, with a slight reservation. The English not only refused it, but even did away with the last remainder of the international law. It took the last step on the way it had gone on since the beginning of the war, in order to cut off Germany entirely from the world, to make it starve, and to destroy its international commerce. On March 11„ 1915, England issued its Order in Council, by which the English navy was allowed to confiscate all goods going to and coming from Germany, as well as goods of German provenance or property. The answering note of the United States was a voluntary agreement with the English measures. It is due to this agreement of the United States that it was possible to starve Germany.

6. Eight months after the Order in Council had taken effect, in November, 1915, America protested against the unlawful and indefensible ‘alleged blockade,’but England answered at the end of April, 1916, that a country could be blockaded only when its geographical situation allowed it. As it was impossible to blockade Germany, it ought to be allowed to use the naval forces in some other way to Germany’s defeat, in the way which the Order in Council adopted. Up to February, 1917, when America cut off all the connections with Germany, that is to say, during ten months, America did not answer the English note and put up with the English practice, though consequently even the European neutrals could not get food enough for nourishing their own population in the usual way. Thus the American government has made good their own words: ‘to admit it would be to assume an attitude of unneutrality toward the present enemies of Great Britain, which would be obviously inconsistent with the solemn obligations of this government.’ The American government was unneutral according to their own statement.

7. As to what regards Germany, the American government always insisted on the old rules of sea-law being strictly obeyed, even then when the Congress itself disapproved with the government’s view, as it happened on the question of the armed trade-vessels. From the beginning the government declared the use of the submarine boats illegal, and forced Germany to give up the U-boat war by communicating an ultimatum, which almost was a declaration of war. This ultimatum was sent at a time when — as it was stated at the Conference in Washington — the U-boat war was able to secure Germany’s victory, as England’s means of defense had not yet been sufficiently developed. I believe that this was the first time the United States rescued the Entente.

It was a small step only from the encouragement and furtherance of one of the belligerent parties to the beginning of real hostilities against the other.

Long before the war with the United States broke out, the German Headquarter was quite aware that the United States government would not allow the Germans to be victorious over the Entente; that they would take up arms in their favor, as soon as the possibility of the Entente’s defeat should arise. To-day the American people, with few exceptions, will admit that this opinion has proved correct. Mr. Tumulty’s (the important private secretary of Mr. Wilson) book, Woodrow Wilson as I Know Him, gives new proofs. At last President Wilson himself states that the United States would have taken part in the war even wit bout the aggravated U-boat war. His attempt to negotiate peace in the winter of 1916-17 was only a method of making the American people ready to follow his politics. No wonder that under those circumstances Germany’s enemies scornfully refused the German peace proposal.

The political, military, and economical situation of the Central Powers at the end of the winter of 1916-17 was such that one could not hope any longer to win the war by military operations on the continent alone. Nothing else was left to be done, but to use Germany’s naval forces for the unrestricted U-boat war in certain parts of the sea, to weaken and to shatter the enemy’s economical life, and to destroy their conditions of life. This method made a success possible, and therefore it was to be tried. Besides, one was justified to hope that the U-boat war would make it more difficult to provide the enemy’s armies with implements of war, and would relieve our own lines which were pressed hard. One had to put up with the fact that probably it would give the American government the welcome pretext for taking up arms by the side of the Entente, as — as I said before — was to be expected sooner or later. Thus the unrestricted U-boat war did not mean challenging unscrupulously and haughtily a neutral power. It was the late, but probably not too late, unrestricted use of a weapon which seemed to show the only way how Germany might maintain its position in that struggle for its life.

I hope that to-day this clear and simple exposition will meet an unpassionate judgment and understanding, even among the American people; they may remember how their government behaved from the beginning of the war; what its intention was; and, finally, they may bear in mind that the United States did not declare war immediately after the beginning of the unrestricted U-boat war, at the beginning of February, 1917, but after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, and after the great success of the U-boat war, when, at the end of March, Admiral Sims reported that Germany’s victory was possible. At this time the American people had been influenced enough to follow the government to the war.


The question is, whether the German Headquarter was justified in believing that the unrestricted U-boat war would exercise a decisive influence, in case that America should augment the number and the strength of the enemy.

To begin with, it could never be Germany’s intention to defeat England physically, as it was out of reach on its islands; but it was intended to weaken its military and economical forces to such an extent that it should prefer to give up the idea of defeating Germany and agree to a peace on conditions which were acceptable and unoffensive to both parties. One hoped that the unrestricted U-boat war would be effective enough during a certain space of time, which would be too short for the Americans to form considerable bodies, and to throw them on the European continent, and to influence the issue of the war; though one was aware that they would strain every nerve in developing their, on the peace footing, small army. The German Headquarter reckoned that it would take a year to form an army of a million of soldiers. As to the question, how long it would take to carry such an army to France, it relied on the opinion and the calculations of those experts who were chiefly qualified for answering this question — the Admiralty Staff. If their calculation was right, then America was unable to interfere with arms pretty soon, and the danger was not so threatening.

I was justified in hoping for a peace which might have been acceptable to all the belligerent parties. To be short, from the beginning I did not make light of the importance and efficiency of the American military support of the Entente; but I thought I was not mistaken in believing that the support would not arrive soon enough, and, consequently, would not come into full effect. If this idea proved wrong, one must submit to it because of Wilson’s firm intention of interfering. In any case the situation was such that one could only win the war as long as the United States were not interfering, with all their forces, in time to relieve the Entente.

The U-boat war did not completely fulfill the great hopes which had been raised, partly on account of the means of defense, which England had developed and which the United States supplied. England’s vital interests had not been hit so hard nor so quickly that, before the United States interfered, it would have been forced to show itself ready to discuss such conditions of peace, which would have been acceptable to Germany. On the other hand, the United States’ accession to the coalition gave a strong impulse to the nations and armies, and strengthened their morale and mood, which, after the failure of the Aisne offensive, had deeply sunk. It is known how the French were cheered up by the arrival of the first. American troops. Ideas of peace, which, in the summer of 1917, seemed to have seized even the statesmen of the Entente, were put aside definitely.

Thus the approaching interference of the American troops became always more threatening. However, after the successful actions of 1917, the German Headquarter believed to have time enough to beat on the continent the two strongest enemies, France and England, so decisively that America’s forces would arrive too late. Therefore the Headquarter resolved — and it was no easy decision — to begin the offensive on the Western theatre of war in the earliest spring of 1918, and called together all the available troops from the other seats of war.

The statesmen of the Entente seemed to look at things from the same point of view, for it is known that, in the winter of 1917-18, they suggested to the United States to send their forces quicker to the front, and asked for a quicker coöperation, even at the expense of the drill. General Pershing described the situation as follows: ‘The Allies are weakened very much, and we must help them till in 1918; the next year it may be too late. I am very doubtful whether they can maintain themselves till 1919, if we do not help them copiously in 1918.’

One of the main reasons for the early beginning of the offensive was the uneasiness about the future enemy. In the winter of 1917-18 the German General Staff had made up a calculation, according to which, before spring, the American troops in France might reach the number of fifteen divisions, the greatest part of which, however, would only be fit for quiet parts of the battleline and could replace there EnglishFrench divisions. This calculation may have been too favorable, and this number may not have been attained by the end of March, 1918. Further the memoir says: ‘Recruits, armament, and equipment of the American troops are good. The drill is not yet perfect. But the first body which was sent to the battle-line fought well against a German attack. We must expect the American soldier to become a considerable opponent, when his drill and experience have grown.’

The attack was to be directed against the lines on both sides of St.-Quentin. This sector had been chosen, partly from tactical reasons, but chiefly because the ground allowed an attack at any season of the year; an attack through the wet plain of the Lys would have obliged us to wait till the middle of April. Considering America’s interference, I did not think that opportune; not because I thought it possible that by that time considerable American forces might have taken part in the battle; but they would have been able to relicve expcrienced troops of the Entente and, by this means, to augment considerably their defensive force. Besides, I bore in mind from the beginning that the first big attack would perhaps not attain its aim — to defeat the English army; another attack against the French would have been necessary. A series of blows, with pauses between them, might have become necessary. Therefore, the first blow could not begin too soon. It began on March 21, on both sides of St .-Quentin,

Things took a turn which I certainly had not wanted, but which I had foreseen as possible. In two attacks, following each other with short interval, on both sides of St.-Quentin and at Armentières, the English army was severely beaten and terribly shaken; but in the last minute both parts were saved from complete defeat by French troops. If, immediately after this second attack, which was carried on in Flanders from April 9 to April 17, the German Headquarter had struck a third blow on the French part of the front line, I am sure that the situation on the theatre of war would have been altered considerably in favor of Germany, and that the American troops, not sufficiently drilled for war in the open country, would have been shattered in the big whirlpool. But the Germans had not enough troops for an immediately following third blow, partly because the victorious troops had exerted themselves to the uttermost, and had suffered considerable losses, partly because the influx of the new levy from home slackened more and more.

Thus precious time was lost in restoring the worn-out divisions. This unavoidable loss of time was most welcome to the enemies. They were able to recover, to carry fresh troops to the battle-line, and to hold them ready for further defensive actions. It would not have been possible, if the American bodies had not been arriving at shorter and shorter intervals, carrying with them enormous quantities of all kinds of implements of war. The ships needed were procured by a regardless policy, which did not recoil even from using force with the neutrals.

I was aware that the difficulty of deciding the war, before the American support became effective, grew more and more. Nevertheless, I adhered to this intention, knowing that only our initiative and the best use of the available time could bring us success. By the end of May, the German army was strong enough to raise its arm for the third big stroke. This time it was directed against the French line at the Chemin-des-Dames. Originally this action only aimed at forcing the French to draw away their reserves from Flanders; but it developed quickly to a surprisingly big tactical success against more than forty French divisions.

It is known that on the second of June a distressed appeal, signed by Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando, and sanctioned by Foch, was sent to the President of the United States, saying that the danger was imminent that the war might be lost, if the inferiority in number of the Allies should not be compensated, as quickly as possible, by the American troops. America released the Entente from this calamity, and rescued t hem from breaking down. The 2d and 3d American divisions were hurriedly carried to the front, filled up the gap of the French, who retired hastily from the Marne at Château-Thierry, and raised their morale, which had sunk deep. It is fascinating to read the dramatic account of the Frenchman, Pierrefeu, describing what an almost supernatural impression that splendid youth from across the sea, those beardless boys of twenty, abounding in vigor and health, completely newly equipped, made on the emaciated, hollow-eyed French in their torn and threadbare uniforms. Both divisions stopped the German advance by their brave and sacrificing behavior, as the Germans were exhausted themselves and inferior in number. Already before that, at Cantigny, opposite Montdidier, the 1st American division gave the first proof of being fit for offensive actions.

Henceforth the American troops, formed in divisions of their own,— though there were not yet many,— were used at the most important parts of the battlefield in an active and offensive way. The German Headquarter had to reckon with this new and disagreeable fact.


Besides, another fact was thrown into relief. It was the effect which the enemy’s propaganda exercised on the spirit of the German army and of the nation, which suffered hard from the illegal blockade, this effect having considerably grown since the United States joined the coalition. This propaganda must not be undervalued, if one wants to judge correctly the importance of the United States’ intervention. The available space does not allow me to dive into the matter.

In consequence of the failure, right at the beginning of the last German attack at the Marne and near Reims, in the middle of July, 1918, I have been often reproached with having misunderstood the situation, overvalued the effectiveness of the German army, undervalued that of the enemy. I did not shut my eyes to the growing difficulties which were to be overcome, nor did it escape me that time worked more and more in favor of the enemy. The English had had time enough, during four quiet months, to rally their badly struck divisions, the more as the French and Belgians took charge of parts of their front line. Besides, according to what the prisoners said, the difficulties in procuring the new levy seemed removed. The especially well-trained and well-composed Australian and Canadian troops had suffered little in the past battles. From Palestine and Italy, four English divisions, two from each country, were said to have been carried to the Western theatre of war. Since the middle of June, the fighting and skirmishing at the front of the group of Crown Prince Rupprecht, between the Channel and the Somme, increased constantly — a sign that new strength ran through the veins of the English army.

Nor was it possible to argue that the resistance of the French army was growing weak on account of the losses which the May-June attack of the German army had undoubtedly inflicted on them. I was aware, too, that the French had one year’s levy of recruits more than Germany; that the population of North Africa was a big reservoir of men; and that the Allies were able to withdraw more and more of their own troops from the front, the more the Americans took charge of parts of the front line. After April alarming news arrived about the number of troops and the rate at which they crossed the ocean. It was calculated that more than half a million crossed in May and June. On the first of July, the General Staff reckoned the number of the Americans who were in France as more than a million — 600,000 of them being fighting troops. The number of the divisions was thought to be twentytwo in the middle of July, and they comprised twice as many infantrymen as the German divisions. It may be that the calculation of the German General Staff did not come up to the real numbers, because one could not get. reliable information about the extent of increase and rate of the transports. Wherever the American soldier appeared, he fought unskillfully, but bravely, and in full control of his fresh nerves. The question was whether the new divisions which had not yet been used, would be equal to the picked troops, and whether the American officers would acquire the tactical and technical knowledge which they needed, in order to lead their troops in big wholly American units, especially in the war in open country.

The German army could no longer reckon on any reinforcements. It was impossible to withdraw such troops as were fit for an offensive from the other theatres of war; the levy from home slackened more and more; it chiefly consisted in returning slightly wounded and recovered men; partly it was to be taken from the transport columns, from the commissariat and other not-fighting units. The strength of the battalions sank down to 500 men, and less. Finally, it was evident that the dissolution of the German army, caused by the enemy’s propaganda and the spread of revolutionary ideas, was going on. Altogether, I was fully aware that the spirit and the efficiency of the army was no longer the same as it had been at the beginning of the offensive in spring.

However, I still firmly believe that there was no reason to doubt the efficiency of a weapon which had become notchy, but not blunt, as long as one succeeded in hiding one’s own intentions, plans, and actions,— as one did in the past, — and in attacking by surprise the weak point of the enemy’s line, which had been attacked several times successfully in the past. I valued so highly the advantage which the initiative had hitherto brought, that in my opinion it made up for the actual disproportion of the two opponents in number and quality. As yet, nothing was decided; things were kept in balance. It depended on the issue of the battle, which scale would be weighed down. After the failure, I was reproached that the German method of attacking had lost its spell, because the enemy had had time enough to make out new means of organizing its defense. It is true, as far as it regards the result of the attack in July, but only because the chief principle did not work. The enemy could not be kept in the dark about the time and the area of the attack, nor about the plans, partly on account of treachery. The task was very difficult , but not indissoluble. The action had been prepared with the same precaution and thoroughness as ever. The German troops were not lacking in bravery, nor in tenacity. But, to be successful, they needed something which the leader had no influence on, but with which he cannot dispense — good luck. More than once fortune smiled upon me; but in the decisive moment of the war it left me alone and favored the enemy. When stating that, it is not my intention to disparage the enemy’s merit.

I have written so copiously about this question because it is my opinion that a German victory at the Marne and near Reims, even in July, 1918, would have been able to change the situation entirely in favor of Germany. A difficult and unthankful business would have devolved upon the Americans: to support their Allies at any place, in order to keep them afloat. A systematic use of the reinforcements they brought would have been impossible. Ideas of peace, which dwelt in the hearts of the Entente, would have spread. But as things developed after the failure of the German attack, the Americans had the advantage of keeping their units together in the attacks they prepared, and of playing an important part in the decisive battles.

They did it vigorously and successfully. At first, they fought in close cooperation, side by side with the other Allies, especially with France. In Foch’s big counter-attack against the German 7th and 1st Army on July 18, which started from the woods of Villers-Cotterets and from the north of it, as well as from the west of Château-Thierry, nine American divisions played the main part and pushed forth far to the east and northeast. Especially their attack to the southwest of Soissons — which was delivered by the 1st and 2d divisions, as far as I remember — was decisive. The more, during the next months, the Americans fought without assistance, the more their tactical and strategical efficiency grew.

In August, yielding to General Pershing’s intense desire, which contradicted the intentions of the Entente’s Headquarter, an American sector was built up, at first between the Moselle and the Meuse. General Pershing became its Commander-in-Chief. As to their outfit of material and their rear communications, they depended much on the help of the Allies, especially of the French. According to General Pershing’s urgent demand, the Americans were charged with a not-too-far-reaching action, which they were to carry out unassisted by the other Allies. It took place on September 12, when the Americans assaulted from the south and the west the German wedge-shaped lines at St.Mihiel. This salient position, resulting from the fighting in open country in September, 1914, had been defended successfully in violent fighting till the summer of 1915, and had then become a decidedly quiet position. It was a fascinating object for an attack. The German leaders were aware of the impossibility of resisting an attack, launched against this position with all the means of modern warfare. In this case, it was planned to withdraw the troops into the chord position in the Woevre plain, which had been prepared for years.

Though the detailed American preparations had been made very skillfully, they did not escape the German attention, who immediately began the preparations for clearing the position and withdrawing into the chord. But these movements themselves were not carried out in time; so that the weak German forces — chiefly Landwehr, some wornout active and reserve divisions, and an Austro-Hungarian division — were obliged to accept the battle against eleven (?) American divisions. One division on the southern part of the front, against which the chief assault was made, broke down; all the others resisted in a praiseworthy way. I believe the Americans would have won a big tactical victory, if they had made the most of their success on the southern front, pushing forward vigorously and unhesitatingly. I doubt whether it would have been possible to hold the chord position. Thus the Germans succeeded in falling back on it, but not without considerable losses.

In the following operations, aiming at a definite decision of the war, General Pershing acted an important part. In the big offensive toward Sedan on both sides of the Argonne forest, which French and Americans made together, the American troops had their main forces between the Meuse and the Argonne. If, in autumn, 1018, it was General Foch’s scheme to encircle the German main forces at the Meuse, near the Belgian-French frontier, or in the inner part of Belgium, it was General Pershing’s task to lead, on the right wing, the decisive attack against the rear communicat ions of the German army in the nort h of France, while the French, advancing in the Champagne, to the west of the Argonne, were to hold in check as strong German forces as possible, and the English were to break through the German line in Flanders.

In the Champagne the Germans noticed in time the imminent big attack, and organized their defense, bet ween the Meuse and the Argonne. After the battle at the St.-Mihiel front had come to an end, the Headquarter of the 5th German Army thought that the American attacks would be carried on to the north of Verdun, on the eastern bank of the Meuse, not on the western. Full justice must be done to the skillful and farsighted way — very much like the way the Germans acted before the beginning of their offensive in spring— in which the Americans hid the extensive preparations for their intended attack between the Meuse and the Argonne, though they were obliged to put off the time of the beginning by several days. They were helped very much by the conformation of the ground, the network of railways and roads, and the weather, which allowed them to replace and reinforce the defensive divisions by offensive troops, which were carried up by motor-vans in the very night before the beginning of the attack, unnoticed by the enemy. Thus, during the night between the 25th and 26th of September, the French defensive divisions were replaced by seven fresh American divisions. Thus a wholly American sector was built — one of nine divisions, which were divided up in three groups, and formed the 1st American Army under General Pershing’s command. During these weeks the trench-war had been fought intensively, and the moral qualities of the troops were raised by orders pointed to what the Americans had done thus far, and tickling their ambition and pride.

More than the French, the Americans thought the success to be dependent on surprise. Their success, which was so much bigger than that of the French, justified their view. The preceding artillery-fire during the night did not last more than three hours. At 5 A.M., the infantry sallied forth from the t renches, which had been dug out for the assault . The main forces advanced in the middle, in the direction of Malancourt— Montfaucon—Nautillois-Cunel Favored by dense mist, and helped by numbers of tanks and an extraordinarily strong artillery, they succeeded in pressing back the German front by five miles, and in taking possession of the first area of entrenchments. But the line which in American maps was drawn as aim of the first day had not been reached. Already in the night, new attacks of wide extent began, and went on up to the evening of the 29th of September; but they did not get on considerably farther than they had come the day before.

In the Argonne, the German lines were withdrawn spontaneously. On September 30 the actions were stopped for several days, probably on account of the big losses and the strain of the troops, perhaps on account of difficulties of supply. On October 4, the Americans resumed their attacks, with fresh forces, after an hour and a half of most vehement fire of artillery. As the action was no longer a surprise, the enemy’s advance at first, in the middle of the last day’s battlefield, was small. But this time the weight of the attack lay more to the west at the Aire, the attack being extended up to the Argonne.

By October 10 the Americans had taken the whole part of the Argonne forest south of the lower part of t he Aire, and advanced in the plain up to the line St.-Fuvin-Brieulles, fighting hard and suffering great losses. In the meantime, beginning at October 8, the attack spread totheeastern bank of the Meuse. But here the Americans, coöperating considerably with French divisions, did not gain much ground to the north. After October 12, the action did not seem to be directed methodically any longer. Shortly after, the heavy battles, which had been carried on with rare pertinacity, slackened for a time.

The Americans’ success did not so much consist in the gain of ground, as the line which was aimed at had not been attained, but in the effect which it exercised on the situation in the Champagne, where the French, during a fortnight, did not get on nearly as well in their hard battles against the German 3d Army. Only in consequence of the American advance in the Argonne and to the east of it, the 3d German Army was obliged to withdraw behind the Aisne and the Aire during the nights between the ninth and the twelfth of October.


The question arises whether it has been wise to extend the American offensive to the right and to the left, as had been done during the operations, or whether it would have been better to keep the forces together and to attack in the same extent straight to the north. If the latter was chosen, one probably would have been able to carry on the attack longer by adding new forces. The German position in the Argonne would have been taken without attacking it, if the American advance in the plain should have continued; the situation in the Champagne would have been influenced indirectly, but not less considerably. But tactical and strategical reasons advised to extend the attack up to the Argonne and to the eastern bank of the Meuse. It was necessary to eliminate the defenders’ very disagreeable outflanking artillery-fire from the eastern border of the Argonne forest, to which the Americans, who advanced over the plain, were exposed. The capture of Châtel and Cornay, due to the pressure in the Argonne, forced the 5th German Army to withdraw its right wing across the Aire, which had the above-mentioned consequence to the neighboring army. Besides, the action on the right bank of the Meuse seemed advisable from a strategical point of view. As the total of the operat ions aimed at seizing the passages of the Meuse, it was of greatest importance to support these actions by advancing at the same time on the other bank of the river.

After a pause of more than two weeks, the Americans, who, in the meantime, had augmented to a group comprising two armies, resumed their offensive from the line Grandpré-Aincreville, in concert with the operations of the Allies. The weight of the attack lay as before on the left bank of the Meuse and, pressing to the north, it was intended to seize the Meuse passages above Sedan. The pressure which at the same time was exercised on the eastern bank, in cooperation with the French, was not as hard. The Germans fought on the western bank mostly in the way of rearguards. Till the truce, the 1st America Army succeeded in establishing roads of bridges at several points on the Meuse, from Brieulles via Dun, up to Mouzon, and in extending them bye-and-bye up to the Chiers brook. Here, too, the Americans most successfully influenced the general situation; by pressing back the opposite German lines in frontal attacks, they forced the German Headquarter to withdraw the German lines from the Aisne, where at the same time they had been assaulted by the French, mostly unsuccessfully. The German report of November 3 displayed this fact.

When I picture to myself the general strategical situation, I am of the opinion that, in this second part of the offensive, the pressure exercised on the right bank of the Meuse could have been much stronger from the beginning. As far as I can see, the 2d American Army had been used very little only. It is an old rule, that, when fighting for the crossing of a river, one has to push forward vigorously on those parts where one has already reached the other bank, in order to help those troops who arc still fighting for the crossing.

I do not know to what degree the American Headquarter was independent of the orders of the Commanderin-Chief of the Allies. The following critique of the general operations in autumn, 1918, only regards the Commander-in-Chief. In my opinion, the dispositions did not correspond with the grand strategical design which Marshal Foch is said to have had drawn. The only possible way to encircle the German main forces in Belgium would have been to make both wings of the Allied front as strong as possible, and to operate with them, from the beginning, in the most effective direction. Therefore, on the right wing, the main attack of the Americans should have been carried on the eastern bank of the Meuse, at least after October 4, and should have been directed straight to the northeast. Between the Meuse and the Argonne a secondary attack would have sufficed to hold the German forces. For the same reasons, on the left wing of the Allies, an attack in the direction of Anvers-Brussels was to be preferred to a mere frontal attack against and over the German Siegfried position.

I certainly hate any ‘paper’ strategy, which always prefers those operations which have the most attractive appearance, without determining whether the actions it requires are tactically practicable. As the situation in the middle of September, 1918, appeared to the Allies, there was little difference between strong and weak points of the German position. In any case, one cannot say that, from the beginning of October, from a tactical point of view, an attack on the eastern bank of the Meuse would have had smaller chances than the same on the western bank. In any case, the design which the Allies’ Commander-in-Chief had chosen did not secure the great strategical aim. The German leader had the reins so firmly in his hand, that the retreat was carried out in perfect order, though with great strain of the troops. What the German Commander-in-Chief would have done, if Marshal Foch had acted as suggested — that is a question which I will not dive into.

When reflecting on the strategical situation in the Western seat of war, at the time of the truce, I shall defer my judgment upon the question whether

— if war had gone on, and without the outbreak of the revolution in Germany

— the Germans would have been able to resist some time in the so-called Anvers—Meuse position; the last success of the American troops, and the impending general attack against Briey—Longwy and in Lorraine, were to be taken into consideration. But even if it was impossible, as our enemies say, the war would be far from being lost, considered from a mere military point of view, as the huge bar of the Rhine and the inner part of Germany gave plenty of opportunities for a long persevering defense.

If one reflects once more on the history of the Great War, one has no doubt that, by the behavior of the United States, the Entente felt encouraged to begin the war and to carry it on, till, at the end, America’s interference in France, and at the same time the growing propaganda, made the Allies win the war.

That being so, I believe the Americans have common sense enough to agree that lucky circumstances favored them greatly. The main part of the American army intervened in the war at a time when they had the great advantage of having their nerves intact, while, on the other hand, Germany’s resistance had considerably slackened after four years of heroic fighting against an overwhelming superiority in number, during a starving blockade, when the German nerves, — unceasingly exposed to terrible experiences, — and the bodies of the constantly dwindling number of combatants, were no longer able to stand the destructive effect of a defense in modern warfare, when no relief from home was brought to the army, and when the enemy’s propaganda and the revolutionary agitation of the Independent Social Democrats had poisoned the beautiful spirit of the German army.

  1. When General Ludendorff was invited to contribute this paper, he was given the choice of leaving the translation to the editor, or of submitting an approved English version. He chose the latter alternative, and it has seemed best to leave the Teutonic sentence-structure in every case where it has not actually obscured the sense. —THE EDITOR.