"Damn them. Are they never coming in?" The "they" in the title of this episode refers to the Americans. This in the Spring of 1918. The US had declared war on Germany months earlier, yet there were only one or two divisions in France, none playing an active role in the aid of the exhausted French and the thinning British ranks.
Everyone seemed surprised at the delay, since America had been producing weapons for sale overseas for several years. But a military force had to be built from scratch and it took time. Finally the US Army and Marines began to arrive in strength and the spirit of the Allies was rejuvenated. The Americans in the Allied Expeditionary Force were no small matter. In a few months a million of them would be in France to fight in the second battle of the Marne. The Germans were aware of this and planned an attack that would finally force peace, victory being no longer in sight for them.
Not mentioned in this episode is the effect of bringing together so many Americans, many of them farmers, from so many different parts of the country. Travel was difficult and many people died at a spot near where they had lived. Immunity was a regional or local matter and the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 sickened and killed many of the troops before spreading to the general population.
The American troops faced their first real combat at Belleau Wood. Michael Redgrave's narration leaves us with the impression that they were full of fight and did well. Pershing was determined not to simply feed his men into the pepper grinder as the Europeans had. Other sources are more critical. The inexperienced American leaders committed the same tactical errors that the European combatants had in 1914 -- running pell mell across open fields and so forth.
There were also disagreements between the generals of the various Allied nations. Foch and Haig had jointly planned a crushing attack on the German lines and had included American troops in an Australian unit. General John Joseph ("Blackjack") Pershing objected. No American was to fight under a foreign flag. His counterparts argued: No Americans, no attack. Pershing yielded, fortunately, and by the summer was commanding his troops under their own flag. Pershing was quite a guy, stiff and demanding. He'd fought in the Spanish-American War, against the Moros in the Philippines, and had chased Pancho Villa into Mexico. An entirely new rank was created for him, General of the Armies.
The German attack sputtered out in the summer of 1918 and the Allies prepared to launch theirs. The stagnant Western front had chewed up men like a bunch of grapes dropped into a kitchen blender. With the arrival of the Americans and the continued depletion of the Germans, the Allies now had hopes, although all previous hopes had turned into nothing.
0 of 0 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this