USA In WWI

pardus

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This is from a highjack in another thread...

0699 said:
Great article. The only thing I disagree with is the number of times we've saved the world's ass. He says twice; WW2 & the Cold War. I see it as THREE times; the good guys would've lost WW1 too if it weren't for us.



pardus762 said:
Hmm, not sure I agree with that statement, the US's involvement was minimal on the battlefield.*

*that's not to negate the contribution and sacrifice by the US forces there at all!


0699 said:
Arsenal of Democracy, my friend.

From what I have read (and I will confess to not being as well read on The Great War as I am on other wars) many of the battles won by the Allies during the German's Spring Offensive and the Hundred Days Offensive were due to having fresh American troops available.

Back at you, I'm not downplaying the impact of the other Allies during any of these wars, just reinforcing the original posting about American intentions vis-a-vis foreign involvement.



After reviewing some material, it is clear the first two posts in this discussion by myself and my esteemed colleague are both overly simplified and not accurate of the history we are talking about.
 

pardus

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The Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918

Prelude

When looking back on the 20th Century, people generally think of World War II as the most significant conflict of our time. And while this is not under much debate, it has greatly overshadowed another conflict that still has repercussions to this day.

That conflict was World War I. It was a war unlike any other, a slaughter that was on a scale unimaginable to this day. The conflict had eradicated an entire generation of European men and devastated the land for decades.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the world was in a period of prosperity. Military alliances began to stretch across the globe as the empires of Europe vied with each other for power. Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia all helped to spark the fire for a war that would end all. The United States at this time was also expanding into a new world.

The frontier of the old west was gone, and new lands lay beyond the borders of our country. Especially in Asia, where China was a theatre for much of the military action for both the United Sates and Europe in the beginning of the 20th Century.

Then, an incident in the city of Sarajevo changed the world forever. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie touched off hostilities between Serbia and Austria-Hungary. Each one was throwing accusations at the other trying to place blame for the incident.

Then Russia got involved on the side of Serbia, and Germany came in to Austria-Hungary’s corner. Things thus began to spin out of control as more an more countries began to be drawn into the fray. In the afternoon of August 4th, 1914, before anyone really knew what was happening, the first German soldier crossed into Belgium.

By the beginning of 1918, both the Allied and German powers were on their last mile of endurance. When Russia fell into a revolution, Germany was freed from the strain of a two front war. The German High Commander, Erich Ludendorff, shifted the relieved forces to the Western Front.

Germany now had some thirty-five divisions poised for one grand offensive pointed toward Paris.

Using new tactics, and the experience afforded to veterans of a long war, the German Army made massive gains that had not been achieved since 1914. The French Armies were now in full retreat across the Allied lines and headed toward Paris and away from the German juggernaut.

The only thing that stood in Germany’s way was the American Expeditionary Forces at Belleau Wood. The German advanced was checked by the Marines and soldiers at Belleau Wood, allowing time for the French forces to reform. The Americans sounded the bugle call that would bring the French Army back on its feet.

During the summer of 1918, the Allies were back on their game as the French and British Forces quickly patched up their wounds and remade a new line that was now getting dangerously close to Paris. The first order of business was to snub out the St. Mihiel salient that was poking out like an angry thorn into the side of the Allied line.

This fell squarely into the Americans sandbox as they went into their first real front line action. By September of 1918, the Allied line finally regained some of its territory that it had lost to the German advance earlier in the year.

Decisive Victory

Though the Allies didn’t know it, Germany was now in the corner. Everything was much the same as it was a year ago, with one vital exception. There was a whole new Army on the southern flank of the Western Front. The American 1st Army was under General Pershing and now the Allies felt it was time to make good on its new numerical superiority.

Using several ruses to deceive the Germans into thinking the offensive would head toward Metz in the north, the US 1st Army began to form in the area between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest.

At 5:30 on the afternoon of September 26th, the American 1st Army jumped off with the French holding their flanks. Following a rolling barrage of artillery fire, the US 1st Army crashed through the German defences. The US 3rd Corps pushed its way into the Germans second defensive line but the 5th Corps got stopped at Montfaucon during the first day.

The Germans rushed six divisions into the line to try to plug the hold. By the end of the day, the US Army had not gotten very far, but in the overall theatre of war, it didn’t need to.

Up in the north, the British Armies under General Plumer were now beginning their own push into German territory. Due to the deteriorating situation that the Americans had produced, they had recaptured the Passchendaele Ridge which they so bloodily lost the year before.

To Erich Ludendorff, the situation was turning from bad to worse. He now found himself trying to plug all the holes in the line and with no forces left to plug them with. By October 6th, three British Armies smashed their way to the Hindenburg line, the last German line of defence, but they were to spent to make past it. At around the same time, General Pershing took his most veteran divisions and squeezed out Montfaucon and tried to restart the offensive.

General Pershing now had to get through the Argonne forest to get to the breakout which the Allies wanted and needed. However, the Germans threw a brick wall in the way of the American advance in the Argonne Forest. The 77th Division took a heavy toll in the Argonne Forest and now the Germans threw everything they had left into holding the US 1st Army back. The 28th Division was having a better day and instead went down the Aire Valley and captured Varennes.

The Germans had nothing left in reserve now to strengthen the line, and now the Allies were putting more and more pressure into the battle. Feeling instead of knowing that this time, the end was near.

Time was now working on the side of the Allies, for every day the Germans tried to hold their line, more and more Allied Divisions were going into the fray. Erich Ludendorff, now reported to the Kaiser that it was now lost and to sue for peace. The British Armies, now backed by the French were banging on the front door and the Americans were about to crash through the back door.

By the beginning of November, the American 1st Army was still blocked by the Argonne Forest which was being held staunchly by the Germans, even though everywhere else the line was finally buckling to the Allied onslaught.

At 11:00 AM on November 11th, the battle ended with the signing of the cease fire and the Armistice. The US 1st Army by that point had bludgeoned its way around the Argonne Forest and made its way to the Hindenburg line and was about to open another operation toward Metz.

Aftermath

What was the effect of the US involvement during this campaign? Well, it was drawn down to simple numbers and the fact that the Germans couldn’t be everywhere at once. The Americans began the first of several advances that first pushed back, then broke the German line in the Western front. What the Allies were trying to achieve in over four years of brutal trench warfare, the Americans had done in only two months.

The American Army had become the anvil to the Allied hammer blow in the Western Front. By the end of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, there were 1.3 millions American troops on French soil that were in the front or heading to it.

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles was the beginning of another chapter of world history. A chapter of irony, blood and sorrow. A chapter of paths forgotten, and the price of treading down such paths. Paths, made of fire.





http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/pathoffire.htm
 

pardus

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The only thing that stood in Germany’s way was the American Expeditionary Forces at Belleau Wood. The German advanced was checked by the Marines and soldiers at Belleau Wood, allowing time for the French forces to reform.

This I believe was the single most important battle the Americans were involved in during the war.
 

0699

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Good post. What started out as a smart-ass comment by yours truly actually brought up a good point. :)

I think the main reason the Americans had the impact on the 1918 battlefield that we did had little to do with our fighting skill and was more so due to the fact that we were fresh. Where other Allied nations were tapping the bottom of their manpower pools, the US was putting our best & brightest into the lines (much as happened in WW2; the true cream of the US military didn't enter Europe until late in 1944).

As was said in the other post, this isn't to downplay what the other Allied nations did, just point out the advantage of having a reserve of fresh troops.

And I agree with Pardus, BW was the most important battle Americans participated in during WW1. Especially the part of the battle in which the Marines fought. :) For those that don't know it, BW is where the Marines were supposedly given the name "Devil Dogs" by the Germans. I don't know how reliable the story is, but when I was at BW in 1999 I drank from "Devil Dog Fountain" on the battlefield which is supposed to guarantee that a Marine will do 20 years in the Corps. Must be true; I retired at 23... :D
 

pardus

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Unfortunately the US forces suffered from poor training due to belligerence on the part of Pershing (IIRC) and his refusal to listen to and thereby learn the hard won lessons from the French and British who had by this time pretty much perfected modern warfare as we know it today (The French being the leaders of this*).

So the American fighting man fought with exceptional bravery (which is a recurring theme throughout history), but with poor skills which sadly meant greater loss of life and less effectual performance operationally.



*It was the French who lead the Allied forces in WWI, they took the brunt of the fighting, were technically better and were the numerically superior (western) Allied force during WWI. :2c:
 

pardus

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Unfortunately the US forces suffered from poor training due to belligerence on the part of Pershing (IIRC) and his refusal to listen to and thereby learn the hard won lessons from the French and British who had by this time pretty much perfected modern warfare as we know it today (The French being the leaders of this*).

So the American fighting man fought with exceptional bravery (which is a recurring theme throughout history), but with poor skills which sadly meant greater loss of life and less effectual performance operationally.




United States

Total mobilized forces: 4,734,991

Killed or died: 116,516

Wounded: 204,002

Prisoners/MIA -

Total casualties: 320,518

This was all in just 6 months of fighting.
 

AWP

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the true cream of the US military didn't enter Europe until late in 1944.


I disagree with this one statement, but that's for another thread I suppose.

One factor that is often overlooked by the West is the Eastern fronts in both wars. If Germany doesn't fight a two-front war then I'm thinking the history books would be very different.

Oddly, in WWI the US had to buy or borrow aircraft from England and France, but in WWII it was the other way around (to a point with England). It was that WWI experience that planted the seeds for Hap Arnold's expansion and modernization of the USAAF when he took over in the 30's.
 

pardus

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I disagree with this one statement, but that's for another thread I suppose.

One factor that is often overlooked by the West is the Eastern fronts in both wars. If Germany doesn't fight a two-front war then I'm thinking the history books would be very different.

Oddly, in WWI the US had to buy or borrow aircraft from England and France, but in WWII it was the other way around (to a point with England). It was that WWI experience that planted the seeds for Hap Arnold's expansion and modernization of the USAAF when he took over in the 30's.

Yep, there was no way we would've won either war without Russia to soak up most of the energy/resources of the German war machine.
 

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Q: Who invented Blitzgrieg?

A: Sir John Monash, an Australian.

And I know you don't believe it.
 

0699

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I disagree with this one statement, but that's for another thread I suppose.

My statement regarding "the true cream of the US military didn't enter Europe until late in 1944" is based on my reading of "Citizen Soldiers" by Stephen Ambrose, specifically pgs 274 & 275. I know he has been discredited in many ways, but I believe his statements about the ASTP program are true. Because many of the brightest draftees (based on testing) were placed in college upon being drafted, then placed on AD as the war went on, the US was in the unique position of putting our "cream" in the front lines in 1944 & 45, while other nations were having difficulties replacing their dead & wounded.

Also, while the Eastern Front was the largest battlefield of WWII and the Russians did "soak up most of the energy/resources of the German war machine", American Lend-Lease gave them many of the logistics support to do so.

My thoughts on this subject are in no way intended to down play what other Allied nations did in either WW1 or WW2, just to point out that America 1) had the industrial might to supply much of the logistical effort once they got up to full capacity and 2) American forces (for whatever reason) were fresh to the battlefield (with both good and bad effects) when the other countries were getting pretty worn down.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend_Lease
 

pardus

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Queens Cadet, that's a bold statement.
My info has it that the Frogs and Krauts were ahead of the rest of us in this.
He does sound like a great commander!

0699, the really important thing that was supplied to the Soviets were trucks, they weren't desperate for too much else IIRC
 

AWP

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My statement regarding "the true cream of the US military didn't enter Europe until late in 1944" is based on my reading of "Citizen Soldiers" by Stephen Ambrose, specifically pgs 274 & 275. I know he has been discredited in many ways, but I believe his statements about the ASTP program are true. Because many of the brightest draftees (based on testing) were placed in college upon being drafted, then placed on AD as the war went on, the US was in the unique position of putting our "cream" in the front lines in 1944 & 45, while other nations were having difficulties replacing their dead & wounded.

I see the ASTP program as the opposite. Their training was minimal, nothing like the units that went ashore at D-Day or shortly after, or even some of the units involved in Italy. Smart? You bet they were, but they weren't as prepared as earlier units. Their casualties had to be higher as a result of their less than ideal training.

And to echo Pardus somewhat, the two things the Soviets desperately needed were trucks and aircraft. By the end of the war their aircraft production was much improved (though not as good as the Allies), but the army that marched on Berlin was supplied by Studebaker.
 

QC

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Queens Cadet, that's a bold statement.
My info has it that the Frogs and Krauts were ahead of the rest of us in this.
He does sound like a great commander!

http://www.awm.gov.au/1918/people/genmonash.asp

the true role of infantry was not to expend itself upon heroic physical effort, not to wither away under merciless machine-gun fire, not to impale itself on hostile bayonets, but on the contrary, to advance under the maximum possible protection of the maximum possible array of mechanical resources, in the form of guns, machine-guns, tanks, mortars and aeroplanes; to advance with as little impediment as possible; to be relieved as far as possible of the obligation to fight their way forward.


After the first stoush the German boffins started to think about what went wrong and how to improve on the loss.
 

AWP

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I don't know when the quote by General Sir John Monash was written but Germans had used blitzkrieg-style tactics at Caporetto in 1917. Instead of tanks they used heavily-armed yet mobile groups of stormtroopers to act in that role. So I'm not sure if the general's writing influenced the Germans, if the Germans influenced him, or they operated in a vacuum drawing similar conclusions as a result of the stalemate of WWI.
 

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Yes interesting, I think Monash was the first to use all the tools, air, artillery,tanks and infantry together in a combined effort.
 

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It was a war unlike any other, a slaughter that was on a scale unimaginable to this day. The conflict had eradicated an entire generation of European men and devastated the land for decades.
The Military Channel has a great series on WWI, especially because it uses films taken at the time. Due to the extreme loss of life it is to me a very depressing show.

Oddly, in WWI the US had to buy or borrow aircraft from England and France,
Good point, FF, I had forgotten about that. When I was a kid I actually got to meet and talk to a WWI fighter pilot. I will ask my dad, who knew him, if he remembers what type of aircraft the Colonel flew...

Thanks for this reminder of the great war. So much of what is going on today in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East has been shaped by the outcome of World War 1.
 

0699

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I see the ASTP program as the opposite. Their training was minimal, nothing like the units that went ashore at D-Day or shortly after, or even some of the units involved in Italy. Smart? You bet they were, but they weren't as prepared as earlier units. Their casualties had to be higher as a result of their less than ideal training.

And to echo Pardus somewhat, the two things the Soviets desperately needed were trucks and aircraft. By the end of the war their aircraft production was much improved (though not as good as the Allies), but the army that marched on Berlin was supplied by Studebaker.

I think we've devolved into talking in circles here... :)

Or maybe we're defining "cream" differently. I'm not implying that the ASTP soldiers were the best-trained, most-motivated, rock'em-sock'em soldiers we had fighting in WWII. All I'm saying is that in 1944/45, while other countries were struggling to fill out their units, America had a large pool of young men that still hadn't entered the fight. This infusion of fresh blood (and the stripping of troops from support units) enabled the US to keep up its front line numbers when other nations were struggling to do the same. That's all I'm saying...

As for the Lend-Lease support, I agree with you. That's why my original statement said "America 1) had the industrial might to supply much of the logistical effort once they got up to full capacity". From what I've read, the Soviets thought very little of American armor and greatly prefered their own.
 
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