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Old 05-21-2012, 01:51 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
453 posts, read 346,388 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nolefan34 View Post
The Allies were NOT considered to be winning in 1917. It was a stalemate. The French Army basically quit fighting and was on the verge of collapse. In fact, in 1918 the Germans had the upper hand when they launched their spring offensive of 1918. They did so because they knew U.S. troops were coming and would soon be in Europe in large numbers. If not for the U.S., the Germans would have had a major numbers advantage and likely would have held out another few years.

The French Mutinies were in May/June - well over a month after the US declared war. The Russian Revolution had happened - about a fortnight before the DoW - but it was not yet clear that it would lead to a military collapse. Indeed, many on the Allied side (and in America) were fantasising about "free" Russians fighting better than they had under the Tsar.

As far as most people could see, Germany had barely made it through the "annus horribilis" of 1916, and 1917 was likely to be worse. The British army would by then be seasoned soldiers, not the greenhorns who had fought on the Somme, while Russia's munitions industry was finally getting its act together and supplying its army adequately. As for France, if she wan't getting any stronger she wasn't obviously weakening either.

This, of course,was why Germany gambled on Unrestricted u-boat warfare and the Zimmermann Note. As far as she could see, there was little choice. If the u-boats succeeded, she would win the war in 1917; if not, she seemed doomed to lose it in 1917. It was the converse of Balfour's famous question "Can the army win the war before the navy loses it?" This was why the Germans were no longer deterred by the likelihood of provoking America into war. As far as they could see, America could not bring any real force to bear before 1918, and by then the war would be over - one way or the other.

Hence Wilson's decision for war. From the look of things, it had only months to run, and staying neutral to the end would probably mean exclusion from the peace settlement. OTOH, if the war ended in 1917 America's military contribution would have been tiny and her casualties negligible. Even the financial contribution was likely to be modest. In fact there seemed to be virtually no downside.

Of course, the calculations turned out wrong, and within weeks of the DoW everything was going pearshape. The Allies' financial problems turned out to be far worse than anyone in Washington had realised, and the US had to cough up billions, while the collapse of Russia and the military decline of France meant that her military role would also have to be vastly greater than expected. The prolongation of the war through 1918 meant that Allied food shortges required meatless etc days for Americans. But Wilson had no inkling of any of this when he decided on war. He went to Congress on April 2 in the belief that he was joining the winning side in a war that would probably soon be over.

Iirc, Wilson did talk later of a need not to let Germany win, but that was just a classic case of "Hindsight is always 20/20". In April 1917 he wasn't worrying about a German victory because he was not expecting one.
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:19 AM
 
13,591 posts, read 17,043,342 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nolefan34 View Post
The Allies were NOT considered to be winning in 1917. It was a stalemate. The French Army basically quit fighting and was on the verge of collapse. In fact, in 1918 the Germans had the upper hand when they launched their spring offensive of 1918. They did so because they knew U.S. troops were coming and would soon be in Europe in large numbers. If not for the U.S., the Germans would have had a major numbers advantage and likely would have held out another few years.
Mikestone8's response was well done and spot on. The other thing you need to look at is the planning and reasoning behind why the Germans launched the 1918 Spring Offensive. No less then Ludendorff admitted that Germany had no chance to hold out any longer in a war of attrition, US entry or no US entry, they were pretty much spent. They simply lacked the manpower to continue to replace losses and maintain their numerical advantage. On top of that the food situation in Germany was becoming acute.

They made the decision based on that as well as the reality of US entry into the war, which meant the Allies would be getting continually stronger, while the Germans got continually weaker. The offensive ultimately became their last attempt to force a brokered peace that would leave them in possession of some of their gains from the war. While the operation meant with limited success, it ended up just leaving the Germans spent and overstretched and ripe for a counter-attack that became the Hundred Days Offensive and sealed Germany's fate.
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Old 05-21-2012, 02:00 PM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
453 posts, read 346,388 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
Mikestone8's response was well done and spot on. The other thing you need to look at is the planning and reasoning behind why the Germans launched the 1918 Spring Offensive. No less then Ludendorff admitted that Germany had no chance to hold out any longer in a war of attrition, US entry or no US entry, they were pretty much spent.

Thanks for the compliment, but I wouldn't go quite that far.

France by 1917 was increasingly dependent on British loans, which in turn were made possible by American loans to Britain. By the end of 1916 the latter were drying up due to exhaustion of the available collateral (no unsecured loans were rainsed while America was neutral so without US entry, France would probably have had to droip out by the end of 1917. This would have left GB effectively fighting alone, but much more exhausted than when the same situation arose in 1940. So US intervention was crucial, though more for financial than milkitary reasons.

But this, as I indicated in my last post, is very much the wisdom of hindsight. Washington was slow to accept the desperate financial straits Britain was in (the Treasury suspected a scam to make "Uncle Sucker" pay for GB's war effort as well as his own) and Balfour had to cross the Pond in May virtually with a begging bowl in his hand, before unsecured loans became available. So this too was appreciated only after US intervention, and was not a cause of it.
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Old 05-21-2012, 02:42 PM
 
13,591 posts, read 17,043,342 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikestone8 View Post
Thanks for the compliment, but I wouldn't go quite that far.

France by 1917 was increasingly dependent on British loans, which in turn were made possible by American loans to Britain. By the end of 1916 the latter were drying up due to exhaustion of the available collateral (no unsecured loans were rainsed while America was neutral so without US entry, France would probably have had to droip out by the end of 1917. This would have left GB effectively fighting alone, but much more exhausted than when the same situation arose in 1940. So US intervention was crucial, though more for financial than milkitary reasons.

But this, as I indicated in my last post, is very much the wisdom of hindsight. Washington was slow to accept the desperate financial straits Britain was in (the Treasury suspected a scam to make "Uncle Sucker" pay for GB's war effort as well as his own) and Balfour had to cross the Pond in May virtually with a begging bowl in his hand, before unsecured loans became available. So this too was appreciated only after US intervention, and was not a cause of it.
I was aware of the desperate financial situation, I believe GB was into JP Morgan for something like $360 to $400 million in the red and was adding $75 million a week to finance purchases of US goods and war material. While Britain had enough collateral, gold and capital to support their own needs, they could no longer support the needs of all of their allies for the much longer. The cost of the war had simply gotten too large to be handled on the private equity/banking markets.

It begs the question though, since the British/French issue was ultimately one of money/credit, as well as getting the supplies past the U-boats, was that not ultimately easier to overcome sans US intervention then the issues that were beginning to plague Germany in terms of food (which they had no other source of) and manpower (which they were no longer able to replace losses)?

Page's (US ambassador to Britain) letter to Wilson ultimately openly begged for US intervention because he saw no way to fix the financial issue without making the US a belligerent. Essentially, an open credit line with the US financing the Entente's war effort would have been seen as an open declaration of war by the German's. However, I imagine as dire the straits were for the Entente financially and how dependent they were on US goods, a solution not involving American entry into the war could have been found. Germany had no way out of her predicament and dwindling resources.
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Old 05-21-2012, 03:54 PM
 
3,037 posts, read 4,306,523 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
Mikestone8's response was well done and spot on. The other thing you need to look at is the planning and reasoning behind why the Germans launched the 1918 Spring Offensive. No less then Ludendorff admitted that Germany had no chance to hold out any longer in a war of attrition, US entry or no US entry, they were pretty much spent. They simply lacked the manpower to continue to replace losses and maintain their numerical advantage. On top of that the food situation in Germany was becoming acute.

They made the decision based on that as well as the reality of US entry into the war, which meant the Allies would be getting continually stronger, while the Germans got continually weaker. The offensive ultimately became their last attempt to force a brokered peace that would leave them in possession of some of their gains from the war. While the operation meant with limited success, it ended up just leaving the Germans spent and overstretched and ripe for a counter-attack that became the Hundred Days Offensive and sealed Germany's fate.
NJGoat and Mike,

My whole point was that the U.S. troops entering the war was decisive for the Allies. Prior to that point, the French Army was spent and had no chance at achieving a decisive breakthrough on the battlefield. They may have been hoping for the Germans to starve to death, but that's it. During the Spring 1918 Offensive, the Germans were able to transfer 1 million extra troops to the Western front giving them a huge numbers advantage. While the Spring offensive did not work ultimately, the Allies only managed (with U.S. assistance) to turn them back to the original starting front lines. It was the sheer manpower of ever-increasing numbers of fresh U.S. troops that was the difference in allowing the Allies to exploit the Germans being overstretched.

Had the U.S. not entered the war, who knows what would have happened. But one thing I'm sure we can agree on is that if the Allies won, it would have taken longer for them to win.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:04 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
8,937 posts, read 3,747,400 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PullMyFinger View Post
If you ever doubt that God and Satan exist, just read about and think about these wars. There is a struggle between good and evil every single day on the Earth. It's right there for all to see but people just don't believe it.

What other explanation can there be? You don't see animals doing this to each other. If not for human beings imagine how peaceful and beautiful the planet would be.
Good and evil is relative. God is always on Our side, and never on Their side.

World War I came about as a result of many complex changes all reaching an unforseen confluence.

Some, but not all are:
- The decay of some European monarchies
- The decay of some empires
- Major instability in some of the Balkan nations
- Major advances in military technology that had not been tested in war
- Treaty disagreements and conflicts
- A long period of peace throughout Europe
- Rapidly changing social conditions throughout Europe

When the war broke out, none of the opposing sides believed it would last for more than 6 months at most.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:29 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
8,937 posts, read 3,747,400 times
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Originally Posted by nightbird47 View Post
What is so awful is they had done it seventeen or more times with the identical result, and a good military mind should know there is a point you quit wasting resources, which would be your men. When they had to be forced to go at the point of certain death it should have been a wakeup call that it was not going to work and had become a dark, macabre ritual.

It would be the same as if in WW2 the allies had done repeated small *doomed* beach landings just to show they were trying.
This was one of the reasons why military weaponry advanced so quickly. Each of the assaults was different, but all relied on whatever new technological advance reached the battlefield at the time.

Barbed wire was the first. It was cheap and easy to string, and all the open ground between the trenches became a tangled mass of wire, easily snagging the men and slowing them down. The open spaces that weren't strung with wire were mined; the lack of wire became passages to mine fields or where artillery and machine guns were concentrated.

Tanks were developed as a way to break a path through the barbed wire jungles. Aircraft were a way to leap over the trenches from above. Long range artillery was an attempt to open up the zones between trenches. Rapid fire cannonry was the same.

They didn't all come along at one time. Each assault included the next thing, down to flamethrowers and poison gas. And all opposing forces had equal weaponry. The short intervals between each technological development was never long enough to give one side or the other a lasting advantage.

The trench network was so lengthy and fortified there simply were very few areas where it could be flanked. There was no way to fly in airborne troops to attack from the rear as there were in World War II. All the areas where flanking movements were possible were where artillery was most concentrated.

The stalemate was so equal and so complex that each new measure had an immediate counter measure.
The problem was the frontal assaults did work to some extent. There was always a new piece of ground that was gained, but the assaults never were so successful that they overwhelmed the other side, so the new ground that was gained was most often lost in the next assault.

The tactics and strategies of World War II- mass bombing from the air, rapid armored vehicles, mechanized support, paratroopers, and cross-service and combined service operations using combinations of aircraft, navies, and armies at the same time for one objective, all came about from the deadly stalemate of World War I. Before then, each service was much more restricted to either land or sea engagements.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:42 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
8,937 posts, read 3,747,400 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nolefan34 View Post
NJGoat and Mike,

My whole point was that the U.S. troops entering the war was decisive for the Allies. Prior to that point, the French Army was spent and had no chance at achieving a decisive breakthrough on the battlefield. They may have been hoping for the Germans to starve to death, but that's it. During the Spring 1918 Offensive, the Germans were able to transfer 1 million extra troops to the Western front giving them a huge numbers advantage. While the Spring offensive did not work ultimately, the Allies only managed (with U.S. assistance) to turn them back to the original starting front lines. It was the sheer manpower of ever-increasing numbers of fresh U.S. troops that was the difference in allowing the Allies to exploit the Germans being overstretched.

Had the U.S. not entered the war, who knows what would have happened. But one thing I'm sure we can agree on is that if the Allies won, it would have taken longer for them to win.
I agree that the entrance of the U.S. stopped the war, but I'm not at all sure the Allies would have won otherwise. Both sides had become implacable, and it's just as possible that the war could have gone on for as long as another year. By that time, all sides would have become totally exhausted and expended, so a truce would have been declared.

All wars are won by the willingness to keep fighting by one side over the other. In many wars, one side soon decides the conflict is not worth the cost and gives up, but all sides of World War I were in it to the end, and that's the essential reason it became so bloody. National pride is a very stubborn thing.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:47 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
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Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
Considering the number of texts that have been published about the Civil War or WW2, it is surprising the Tuchman's "The Guns of August" is still the considered a benchmark.
No surprise. Tuchmann's work is simply the best and most concise account of the factors that led to the war. She was a remarkably good historian and writer, and that combination is very rare.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:56 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
8,937 posts, read 3,747,400 times
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Originally Posted by Dd714 View Post
That was my first thought when I read the first page of posts. Everyone thinks of WWI as this trench warfare scenario. It was actually very fluid on other fronts, including the ocean and parts of Africa and Asia.

But it is a fascinating war in terms of the introduction of technologies. Also in terms of casualties (not facinating as much as horrible), where almost an entire generation of Europeans were wiped out. The first time in history in which the forces (not just individual troops or divisions) of several nations (Russia and France) were so exhausted and fought-out that it's troops basically refused to fight anymore.

Someone mentioned France not surrendoring, which is true. But by 1917 they were basically done as a cohesive fighting force. They were used up (although they had a comeback of sorts with the arrival of US troops in 1918).
It had happened before in Europe, but not for 400 years. Wars of attrition were the scourge of Europe, and happened at least once a century after the breakup of the Roman Empire. Some cultures (tribes, allied tribes or kingdoms) that were once powerful disappeared totally, completely absorbed by the winners or other cultures.
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