WHAT was America's part in the Great War?
The second battle of the Marne was the turning point of the war. It took from the Germans the initiative, which they had had almost uninterruptedly from shortly after the close of the first battle of the Marne, the summer of 1914, four years before.
From then on, the rôles of the Germans and the Allies were reversed.
From then on, the Germans were on the defensive ---wondering where the next blow against them was to be struck, wondering whether they could stop it---as the Allies had been doing prior to this second battle of the Marne.
From then on, the Allies, carefully marshaling their forces, struck blow after blow where they thought they would do the most damage to, and were least expected by, the anxious Germans.
As a result of these constant attacks by the Belgian, French and American armies in a series of battles---all parts of the greatest battle in history, the "battle of France"---the Germans were driven back step by step, until with revolution at home, their emperor in flight, their war-weary armies asked for the armistice which brought victory and peace.
Was the part we played a vital one in causing this to happen? What part did our military leader in Europe, General Pershing, his army of 2,000,000 fighting men, our navy, and our government and our people scattered over the broad reaches of this vast country, play in bringing victory, which hovered so long over the standards of the German legions, before finally coming to rest on those of the Allies?
Major-General James G. Harbord was the first chief of staff of the American Expeditionary Force. The time he held this position was the anxious year of preparation for the arrival in France of, and the building up of, the American Expeditionary Force. This was the year during which the attitude of the Allies changed from reasonable confidence to despair. As a consequence General Harbord knew the facts back of the situation at that time.
At the end of this time, as the result of persistent entreaty on his part, General Pershing finally reluctantly consented to relieve him as chief of staff and gave him a command at the front. He commanded the Marine Brigade at Belleau Wood. He commanded the Second Division in the Soissons fight during the second battle of the Marne. He showed the same ability as a leader of men under fire on European battle-fields as that which he had previously displayed on Philippine ones in winning his high standing in our army.
Recently, I asked him if he would sum up for me the effect on the final stages of the war of the arrival of the American reenforcement, which reached a total of 1,000,000 officers and soldiers in July and 2,000,000 in October, 1918.
In the decisive way which characterizes him, the general said:
"Our first nine months in Europe showed us the Germans were more than holding their own. They were preparing an attack which the Allies were afraid they might not succeed in stopping. They thus had the initiative, or were on the offensive, while the Allies were on the defensive.
"This superiority on their part was due to two things. First, they had a single man in command, Marshal Hindenburg, with an able lieutenant, Ludendorff. Second, when Russia dropped out of the war, the transfer of the German troops from the Russian front to France gave Hindenburg the superiority of means, that is the reserves, necessary to attack.
"The first great blow struck by Hindenburg, that of March 20, 1918, by its disastrous results finally persuaded the Allies to put one man in command. The man chosen was the brilliant General Foch.
"General Foch had long seen the necessity for, and advocated the formation of, a central reserve, to be used to counter-attack the Germans in their weakest spot, once they were well launched in a full-fledged attack.
"Subsequent events proved the then General Foch to be correct in his plans.
"However, he could not have carried them out except for two things.
"The first was the constantly increasing strength of the American forces, which gave him the superiority of means, or reserves, essential.
"The second was General Pershing's clear idea, from the beginning, that only by refusing to allow American troops to be used as replacements in the Allied armies could he prevent their strength from being dissipated in the poor strategy which obtained up to the time of General Foch's appointment to supreme command.
"Had he not insisted upon this, the strength of the first million would not have been available to give General Foch the superiority of means, which was the decisive factor in the second battle of the Marne, the turning point of the war.
"The constant addition in American strength, which finally brought it to 2,000,000 meant a corresponding increase in General Foch's superiority of means, and, therefore, in the results which he could produce."
The final year of the war divides itself into four distinct phases.
The first was the period in which the Allies waited for Hindenburg and Ludendorff to begin their offensive.
The second, from March 20 to July 18, was one in which the three great blows of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, planned to bring German victory, were struck.
The third, from July 18 to September 1, was one in which the Allies, by a series of offensives, drove back the Germans, but without expecting to obtain victory before the summer of 1919.
The fourth was from September 1 to the Armistice, November 11, in which, as the result of much greater successes than they had expected in the third period, Marshal Foch decided that victory could be quickly obtained by a great final combined effort, using to the uttermost all the available forces of the Allies.
The first phase was from January 1 to March 20. This was a period of anxiety on the part of the Allies as to where Hindenburg and Ludendorff would strike, with the German army reenforced by the masses brought from the Russian front. However, despite this anxiety, they failed to take the steps necessary to prepare an adequate defense against the expected blow. They did not create the central reserve, long advocated by General Foch, much less did they put one man in command of their armies.
The second period was from March 20 to July 18. In it anxiety turned almost to black despair. The first of the Hindenburg-Ludendorff great blows, begun on March 20 against the British, created such a desperate situation that finally the Allies agreed to put one man in command, the then General Foch. In May, came the second great Hindenburg-Ludendorff blow, this time against the French.
General Foch in command knew what he wanted to do, but he did not have the means. In other words, he did not have the troops to form a central reserve with which to strike the Germans at the very moment when, flushed with victory, their guard was down, and their weak right flank, stretching from Château-Thierry on the Marne to near Soissons on the Aisne, was open to successful attack.
On July 15, came the third of the great, smashing blows of Hindenburg and Ludendorff.
Could the troops in front of it hold?
Would General Foch have his central reserve, with which to strike the flank of this third great step of the Germans on their road to victory?
The third period was from July 18 to September 1. In this period the Allies, having for the first time stopped a full-fledged Hindenburg-Ludendorff assault, took the offensive and kept it. However, they did not yet envision victory before probably the summer of 1919. The absolute stopping of the attacking Germans by Gouraud's army on the dusty chalk plains of Champagne, the 15th of July, so far removed the danger of a great German success, despite the continued advance of their troops southeast of Rheims and south of the Marne, that it freed for other use a considerable number of reserves.
Thus, for the first time, General Foch had the means to form his reserve, and strike the blow on the German flank which he had long planned. His blow on their weak right flank, from Soissons on the north to Château-Thierry, twenty-five miles south, begun July 18, was so successful from the beginning that by July 24 he assembled at his headquarters at Bombon General Haig, commanding the British forces, General Pétain, commanding the French forces, and General Pershing, commanding the American ones.
General Foch had become convinced that at last he had the superiority of means---that is, more combat troops than the Germans---and that, therefore, the time had come for the Allies to pass from the defensive to the offensive.
Marshal Haig had been unwilling to contribute more than a few divisions to the general reserve prior to July 15, because he expected that the third Hindenburg-Ludendorff attack would be against him instead of against the French---as it was. His fear was not without justification, because when Hindenburg gave the order on July 16 to stop the German troops from bleeding to death against General Gouraud's defensive campaign, he intended to make a fourth attack, this time against the British under Marshal Haig. In fact, the orders had been given to start the preparations.
However, General Foch's counter-attack, beginning July 18, had been so vigorously pushed that the Germans, in their endeavor to stop it not only had used up all the reserves of the German Crown Prince, commanding the army attacked, but also had drawn upon the reserves of the Crown Prince of Bavaria, who was preparing to attack the British. They had drawn so heavily upon the reserves of the Crown Prince of Bavaria that his attack on the British had to be called off.
General Foch not only had obtained information of this from captured German documents, but also had learned that the Germans were finding it difficult to replace their killed, wounded, and prisoners lost in the second battle of the Marne.
On the Allied side, the Belgian and British armies, having done no fighting for two months, were fresh. What was more important, was that America's first million soldiers, who had arrived in France by this time, were being added to at the rate of a quarter-million, or more, a month. Therefore, he told the assembled commanders-in-chief:
"The Allied Armies have arrived at the turning of the road: In the midst of battle, they have again seized the initiative; their forces permit them to hold it; the principles of war command them to take it.
"The moment has come to quit the general defensive imposed by numerical inferiority, and to pass to the offensive." (31)
The program he laid out was an offensive, a continuation of the counter-attack begun July 18, then still going on, to free the railway from Paris along the Marne east, the cutting of which by the second German offensive in May had seriously interfered with the movement of troops and supplies of the French and American troops just east of Paris;
A second offensive to free the railroad from Paris to Amiens, the cutting of which by the first great German offensive in March had seriously interfered with the movement of troops and supplies for the French and British armies north of Paris;
A third offensive to wipe out the Saint-Mihiel salient, which, made by German attacks the fall of 1914, had ever since seriously interfered with the movement of troops and supplies in the region of Verdun and in northern Lorraine;
A fourth offensive to drive back the Germans from Amiens north to the Belgian frontier, where their first offensive in 1918 had put them in a position seriously interfering with the communications of the Belgian, French, and British troops in the north with the main Allied forces to the south.
He told the assembled commanders-in-chief that it was not yet possible to foresee just where these offensives would lead the Allied forces; that they, at least, should prepare the way for a further offensive in the fall of sufficient importance to increase the advantages of the Allies, and not give to the Germans a chance to recover..
At the same time he asked each of them to send him a report, showing in detail the strength of their forces by January 1, 1919, and again by April 1, 1919.
In other words, he planned a series of offensives reaching well into 1919.
The fourth period, that from September 26 to the Armistice, was the final and decisive stage of the decisive "battle of France." In it the forces of the Allies were used in unremitting attacks for the purpose of bringing the German army to the point where its leaders, believing the situation hopeless, would demand, as they did, an armistice.
By the end of August, the various offensives outlined by Marshal Foch to Marshal Haig, General Pétain, and General Pershing at Bombon in July, had succeeded so well that Marshal Foch decided the time had come to prepare a final series of offensives which would be decisive. The orders were given, the offensive began September 26 and continued until the Armistice, November 11.
The more the lapse of time brings out the hidden facts of the war, the more their relationship to each other is examined, the more evident it is that from July 15 to July 18, inclusive, was the decisive point of' the war.
The 15th of July on the chalk plains of Champagne, widely, and deeply scarred by four years of warfare, a Hindenburg-Ludendorff attack was stopped, for the first time.
The question then was, could Hindenburg and Ludendorff continue to attack?
Would they have a sufficient superiority of means, that is, sufficient reserves, to keep up their offensives?
That they believed they had is shown by the fact that the offensive southeast of Rheims and across the Marne River, begun July 15 and steadily progressing, was ordered continued, while at the same time an offensive against the British in the north was ordered and prepared.
The question for the then General Foch was, did he have the superiority of means, or the reserves, to take advantage of the situation and attack the Germans?
He had not had them to meet a similar situation in May and June, when after their second successful attack, this time against the French in May, Hindenburg and Ludendorff were preparing for their third assault.
This time he had them. He had them because more than 700,000 American combat troops were in France. Some were immediately under his hand, ready to strike when he gave the order. Others under Marshal Haig's command had freed British. divisions to be given to Foch. Others, under General Pétain, had freed French divisions for the use of General Foch.
Thus, for the first time he had the superiority of means, essential to permit him to make an attack of the kind which he had so clearly envisioned for many months as essential if the Germans were to be stopped.
This attack, begun July 18 and pushed unceasingly, caused the Germans to use up the reserves with which they had intended further offensives, and thus took from them that superiority of means essential to carrying them out. This attack, which produced this decisive result of putting the Germans on the defensive by using up their superiority of means essential for the offensive, or, in other words, their reserve, was largely carried forward by additional American divisions engaging in the combat. At the same time, the steady stream of American troops arriving in France permitted an equally steady relief of veteran French divisions from other parts of the line, freeing them for combat at decisive points.
The steady increase of the million American troops already in France by constantly arriving hundreds of thousands as steadily increased Marshal Foch's superiority of means for the attacks ordered at the Bombon conference July 24.
One of these attacks was wholly carried out by the First American Army, composed of more than half a million Americans and 100,000 French, which attacked and wiped out the Saint-Mihiel salient September 12 to 15.
This constant increase in the superiority of means for the offensive, due to the constantly increasing American force in France, enabled Marshal Foch to advance the final decisive offensive, originally expected sometime in 1919, to the fall of 1918.
In this last decisive attack, the First American Army, the total strength of which was more than 1,000,000 Americans, by its determined and steady drive through the Argonne, played a decisive part in bringing about the Armistice of November 11.
On that day, the American troops in France, including the First Army in the Argonne and the Second Army to its right in the Woëvre, totaled 2,000,000.
There can be no doubt that without the American reenforcement, which reached 1,000,000 in the fateful month of July, and 2,000,000 the historical month of November, the brilliant Marshal Foch would not have had that superiority of means which enabled him, first, to rob Hindenburg and Ludendorff of the initiative; second, by unceasing attacks to allow them no chance to recover, and third, to bring the war to a successful conclusion in the fall of 1918.
Had General Pershing permitted our men to be used as replacements for the Allies, the greater part of our first million would have been scattered in their armies. As a consequence of the poor strategy which prevailed prior to Marshal Foch's appointment as commander-in-chief, this strength would have been largely used up, because fed piece by piece into the furnace of war in a succession of small offensives, instead of being saved to be used unitedly in decisive blows under the sound strategy of Marshal Foch.
Had General Pershing not seen as clearly as did General Ludendorff on the other side---though each arrived at the conclusion as the result of his own deductions---that tactics based on open warfare were essential to the carrying out of strategical plans for victory, the American reenforcement would not have been properly trained to meet the job which was theirs.
Had General Pershing not possessed that great determination of character, the characteristic of great generals, he could not have, despite his clearness of tactical and strategical vision, carried forward, day after day---like Grant in the Wilderness and afterward ---despite heavy losses, despite local defeats here and there, the offensive through the Argonne, not only the greatest battle in American military history, but a decisive factor in bringing about the Armistice.
As brilliant as were the plans of Marshal Foch; as clear as was the strategical and tactical vision of General Pershing; as determined as were the characters of both, the accomplishment of the American reenforcement of 2,000,000 would have fallen far below its actual performance, had not the men and officers who composed it fought with the utmost courage, heart, and determination.
Those who belittle the American effort should not forget that the American soldier did not have constantly before him the evidences of the heel of the invader planted in his homeland, as did the French; that he had not believed for a period of years before the war that the enemy's growing commerce and mercantile marine threatened not only the world supremacy but the very heart, even, of his country, as had the British; that he never did believe that a Germany, exhausted by years of fighting----even if victorious---could find, or spare, even if she could find, the sea and land forces necessary to cross the broad Atlantic and successfully invade his nation of 105,000,000 people.
Yet he fought as determinedly as the Briton or the Frenchman. He did so because, while not trouble seekers, our people have deeply seated warlike qualities which quickly come to the surface when war comes.
The majority of the early settlers of this country were of necessity a warlike people, or they could not have maintained themselves along the narrow strip of the Atlantic Coast which was first settled. Had we not been a warlike and determined people, we could not have steadily pushed our way 3,000 miles across this vast continent, driving all opposition before us and securing it, to our uses.
Our history shows that our general lack of preparedness for war is not due to an unwillingness to fight, but to a belief, founded on experience, that when the time comes, our hard-headedness, coupled with our warlike qualities, will enable us to succeed. The fact that after each such experience we have either forgotten or ignored the relatively high price paid for success, as the result of our failure to prepare ahead of time for war, in no way alters this.
Despite this general lack of preparedness, there has always been a small group of citizens who, either as professional soldiers in the regular forces or as civilian soldiers in the military organizations voluntarily maintained by the different states, have kept alive the traditions of the best of our military history, and the practical knowledge of the military methods of the day.
The Military Academy at West Point, the foundation of which was secured by George Washington, and the numerous military schools maintained by the different states, or by private corporations, have furnished fountainheads of military knowledge from which quietly, without attracting any particular attention, year after year, have been graduated men educated to be officers.
The appearance in each of our wars of long lists of officers killed and wounded who were graduates of these institutions proves that the seeds of military knowledge planted in the brains, and loyalty to their country planted in the hearts, of thousands of young men, students each year in these schools, never fail to blossom in the time of their country's need. This even though many years have elapsed.
The national guard, another proof of our warlike qualities, could not exist except for this military enthusiasm of numerous civilians. It has offered to many that opportunity for experience which has given a basic knowledge, in many cases soon turned in war into successful leadership.
Each of our wars has produced men, without previous military education, whose natural military adaptability, coupled with the war experience gained, has enabled them to climb to high military rank. In some cases they have done so in the same war; more often in the next one.
Generals Miles, MacArthur, Chaffee, Young, and a long list of others---whom every veteran of the Civil War or of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection will remember---are typical.
Each of our wars has brought to the surface of public attention military leaders who the test of history shows do not suffer by comparison with those of similar rank of other nations.
The last war brought to the top General Pershing as commander-in-chief, Generals Liggett and Bullard as army commanders; Summerall, Harbord, Dickman, Hines, Wright, Read, Muir, Menoher, Cronkhite, Haan, Bell, McGlachlin, and several score others, who successfully commanded army corps and infantry divisions in the face of the enemy.
Our Civil War of 1861-65 is a proof of the warlike qualities of our people and their determination to fight to the last rather than abandon a principle believed in. No nation ever passed more successfully through a greater test.
It is only since our accomplishments in the Great War that a number of European military students have discovered our Civil War. They are surprised to find that it was the beginning of warfare as known today because it was the first modern war in which the people on both sides devoted not only the whole of their man-power but also their material resources to the waging of war.
What Europe has been going through since the Great War we went through for many, many years after the Civil War. The South was wrecked. The towns and farmhouses destroyed had to be rebuilt. The agricultural and commercial systems, besides having to recover from almost complete exhaustion, had to be reorganized. The American merchant marine, one of the mainstays of northern prosperity, and then a close second to Great Britain's, had been wiped off the seas. Credit was exhausted and money of little value.
The country was full of wounded men. Hardly a family but mourned its dead left on one of the bloody battle-fields scattered from Pennsylvania to Georgia and from Virginia to Texas.
Our navy, by its destroyers and sub-chasers, and above all by the new ideas and methods which it brought to bear, decisively reenforced the British antisubmarine campaign at a time when the German undersea boats were getting the upper hand.
This, plus the ships produced by our unexampled shipbuilding program, so restored the balance of available tonnage, that enough ships besides our own could be obtained throughout the world, but primarily from Britain, to get half of our army of 4,000,000 to Europe.
Thus largely because of American effort the German plan to use the submarines to prevent an American army from landing in Europe failed.
War declared, there was no hesitancy on the part of our government to accept it, in its fullest sense.
Immediate plans were made, and their execution begun, which would make the whole man-power of the United States, and all its material resources, available to the maximum extent in the minimum period of time.
In other words, the whole weight of the nation was thrown into the war. There was no waste of time or effort through partial efforts, which could not bring about decisive results.
The draft law made available the whole man-power of the country. A building program, to make good our lack of ships to carry a large force to Europe and maintain it there, was immediately put under way. It was done on a larger scale than the world has ever before planned, much less seen. Industrial mobilization was started without delay. It was done on a scale large enough to keep up the supplies we were already furnishing the Allies, and at the same time to provide for the increase in our army, navy, and shipping.
There was no question of "business as usual"; no hanging back for any reason.
From the day we entered the war, until its conclusion, the strong hand of President Wilson, and that of his secretary of war, Mr. Baker, were behind the generals in the field, commanding the army in Europe, and the generals at home bringing the new forces of our army into existence. Neither amateur civilian strategy, nor that based on political consideration rather than military, was permitted. Attempts to undermine General Pershing in Europe, and General March, the chief of staff at home, because they insisted, in spite of great pressure, on sticking to the policies they considered essential for winning the war, were coldly rebuffed.
There was no spectacle in this country of a national house divided against itself---the military vs. the political; the soldier vs. the statesman.
We did no bargaining. We asked neither payment nor favors in return for what we did. We paid for the transport of our troops in British ships at the time when Great Britain most needed help on French battlefields. We paid for everything we used or took in the vast preparations for, and movement of, our army through European ports to the front.
Neither prior to our entry nor during the war did we make any secret treaties promising us territory when the war was won, as did each of the Allies.
At the peace table we took no indemnity---no territory.
It is true we were not adequately prepared when we entered the war.
While it is desirable, as a rule, to avoid comparisons, sometimes they are the only yardstick by which the just measure of a situation can be obtained.
Of the Great Powers actually participating in the war, Great Britain and ourselves were the only two which were not continental European ones but were separated from the Continent by a body of water.
Therefore the first national defense question which each had to consider was that of the navy.
Britain entered the war with the largest navy on the face of the earth. Ours, while smaller, was as strong in proportion to our overseas responsibilities as Britain's.
Shortly after war broke out Britain began to violate our rights at sea. Later the Germans did the same, but to a much greater extent. As a consequence, in 1916, our Congress voted the appropriations for the construction, beginning immediately, of warships of all classes, which, when completed, would have made us the first naval power. Certainly there is no evidence here of a failure to prepare.
We were not prepared on land when we entered the war. No more was Britain when she entered.
The excuse often advanced for her unpreparedness on land is that no nation has ever maintained both an adequate army and an adequate navy. It happens that this is not in accordance with the facts, because in the period preceding the Great War, Germany, France, Italy, Japan---and Russia, until the Russo-Japanese War robbed her of her navy---maintained both.
However, if the maintenance of a large navy is an adequate excuse for failure to be prepared on land, it applies to this country as well as to Britain.
Britain, while not on the continent of Europe, had been of it from the beginning of her history. Her diplomats for centuries had participated in every European controversy. Her fleet had played a strong part in every general European war. It was always present at the critical point in the constantly recurring crises, when the near breakdown of diplomacy made war imminent. Her troops throughout hundreds of years had again and again fought on the Continent.
What was taking place on the Continent, how it affected Great Britain, was a familiar and constant subject of discussion in her Parliament and also in her press.
The twenty miles of water of the English Channel separated her from the continent of Europe, but not her people from their fellow Europeans.
From the earliest days of our government, our diplomacy has been directed to keeping out of European affairs. It is only when Europe has attempted to interfere in the affairs of the Americas that we have become interested; and then only to keep her from spreading to this hemisphere her own quarrels, jealousies, and rivalries.
Our navy had never participated in a general European war. Outside of single ship encounters by daring American captains in our wars with Britain, and our attack on the Algerian pirate stronghold at Tripoli, our navy had seen no combat in or near European waters.
Our troops had never been in or near Europe.
European affairs, unfortunately for our own good, were only too seldom discussed in our houses of Congress. They were almost ignored by our press.
The Atlantic Ocean, so long and difficult and dangerous a barrier to cross, gave the opportunity to the Europeans who came here to do what they wished: to found a nation different from those in Europe. That new nation was developed for more than 125 years prior to our entry into the war. It is true that many European ideas and institutions were used in its development. However, others were entirely excluded. Also many new ones entirely American came into existence.
The result was not a piece of Europe, separated from it by a twenty-mile-wide water ditch, but a new country---America, separated, in many ways, by as vast a gulf as the deep and broad Atlantic.
The Great War was not a surprise to Europe.
It was to America.
The whole political and military history of Europe, for nearly ten years preceding the war, had been based on preparations for the day when it would break out.
The assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand at Serajevo was not the cause of the war. It was merely the incident which touched off an event for which the causes had long existed. Two preceding crises---one over Morocco and another over the Balkans---just missed having the same effect.
For many years prior to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, British foreign policy had been primarily directed to keeping Russia off the route from England through the Mediterranean to India, and away from the northwestern frontier of that great peninsula with its hundreds of millions of inhabitants.
Allied with Turkey, she fought the Crimean War of 1854-56 for this purpose. She backed Japan in the Russo-Japanese War, in continuance of her persistent policy to weaken Russia. The Japanese destroyed in battle virtually the whole Russian navy, thus removing that threat from Britain's sea lane to India. However, Russia's continued advance into Persia so alarmed Britain that there was talk of war.
Nevertheless, shortly after, in 1907, Britain and Russia patched up their quarrels. German plans for the Berlin-Bagdad Railway, and German intimacy with Turkey, considered a threat to both, brought them together.
In the same way, Britain and France patched up their differences. They had been hereditary enemies and had fought each other since that distant time when the various peoples inhabiting what is today France were beginning to call themselves Frenchmen, and those living in what is today England were commencing to call themselves Englishmen.
The reasons were simple.
France, greatly outnumbered by Germany, feared another Franco-Prussian War, in which she would be overwhelmed by German's superior weight. She had formed an alliance with Russia to counteract this. However, the Russians were a long way off. An understanding with Britain would overcome this.
Britain's policy had always been to maintain a navy equal in strength to the combined strength of the two next Powers. However, the rapid growth of the German navy brought her to the point where she no longer could afford to continue this policy.
Part of her fleet had been kept in home waters to watch the German fleet, and France's Atlantic fleet. Part had been kept in the Mediterranean to watch the French Mediterranean fleet and the Italian fleet. Italy was allied with Germany. When the time came that Britain could not maintain her double navy standard, she had to alter this arrangement if her home fleet was to be strong enough to meet the German fleet with chances of success.
An arrangement with France would do so. It was made. France concentrated the whole of her fleet in the Mediterranean. This checkmated Italy's naval strength and freed the British Mediterranean fleet for use as a reenforcement to Britain's home fleet.
Gladstone once said in the British Parliament, "The preservation of Belgium's neutrality is required by British policy as well as morality."
From the time Britain had swept the Dutch navy from the English Channel and the North Sea, arid made them her own, her policy on the continent of Europe had been largely directed to keeping any great Power from occupying Belgium and Holland. This because such occupancy would allow the building of powerful naval bases on these waters, which could be used for operations, first, against Britain's sea power, and, second, for the invasion of Britain.
For many years, France was the great danger. Many a British soldier shed his blood on the soil of the Low Countries to keep the French out. In 1870, at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, Britain secured from Prussia a treaty lasting until after the war, embodying a promise not to pass through Belgium while invading France.
For many years prior to the outbreak of the Great War, the fact that the next time Germany invaded France the right wing of her army would pass through Belgium was openly discussed. This not only among military people, but also in the parliaments and by the press of the different countries.
Thus, the French fear of being overwhelmed by German numbers, and the British fear of the growing strength of the German fleet and of her army's entering Belgium, brought these two countries together.
America had no alliances or agreements with any European Power. None of our national policies or interests was threatened, as far as we could see.
Even Japan, an Asiatic Power, half-way around the world, and much farther away from Europe than ourselves, was more involved in, and much better acquainted with, European international political affairs than were we. She had an alliance with one European Power---England---and was steadily participating in European councils.
Thus when the war broke out in August, 1914, the average American had no idea what it was all about, nor any feeling in the matter.
This was in marked contrast to the mass of Europeans, who had been aching to get at each other's throats for a period of years. Also, they had been preparing to do so.
Nevertheless, we have been accused of being slow to make up our minds finally to enter.
The Belgian atrocities, interference with our seaborne commerce, and, finally, the fight of democracy against autocracy, were the reasons given why we should have entered sooner.
If true, the Belgian atrocities were bad. However, even Lord Roberts, than whom there was never a more patriotic Briton, had hesitated to believe them. In fact, he had warned his countrymen to remember the unfounded charges of British atrocities during the Boer War in South Africa, and go slow in crediting the Belgian ones. Our troops had been accused about the same time, with equal injustice, of atrocities in the Philippines.
The first, and longest, interference with our seaborne commerce was by the British. Some of it had the appearance of being based more on a desire to interfere with a rival's trade than on keeping needed supplies from reaching a blockaded enemy. In any case, methods were used which from the earliest days of our independence we had never previously tolerated.
It was some time before the issue of democracy vs. autocracy emerged clearly from the mass of propaganda with which this country was flooded.
Even then, there were many who wanted to be certain that the Tsar of Russia was fighting for democracy. Less than ten years before, the country's sympathy had gone to Japan in her struggle with Russia, because convinced that Russia's armies were fighting in response to the will of an autocrat and not that of a people.
The very propaganda which flooded the country caused many to hesitate. This for the reason that it frequently seemed to be directed more to robbing American citizens of their birthright than to informing us as to the object for which the combatants were fighting.
This because too much of it was based on racial and religious hatreds, the twin curses of Europe, which a large part of our ancestry came to this country to escape.
This propaganda reached the unjust, and therefore dangerous, point where there was a constantly increasing tendency to judge a man's Americanism on the basis of the blood and religion of his ancestors, and not, regardless of these, on his own willingness, as demonstrated by his own acts, to support the Constitution of the United States both in peace and in war.
Despite this atrocious situation, the evil effects of which are still only too often apparent, our people did not hesitate, when once convinced that Germany intended to continue sinking our ships at sea, and that the Allies were really fighting for democracy.
The whole-hearted way in which they supported the Executive's demand for universal conscription, as the only efficient way of quickly putting the whole manhood of the nation under arms; the way in which, regardless of age or sex or personal interest, the whole nation threw itself into the war, shows our people to be loyal to the backbone, and always ready to go to war to support the principles in which they believe.
Let those Europeans and Americans who have scoffed at the part this country played in the Great War, ask themselves: should the time come when China as well as Japan is a great military Power; and should we have war with one, and the other joined in---would the Londoner and the Parisian, the Leicestershire man, the Northampton man, the Champenois, and the Savoyard send their sons as quickly to die in battle in the Sierra Nevadas in far-off California as the New Yorker, the San Franciscan, the Illinoisan, the Kansan, and the Texan sent theirs to die in battle along the Somme and the Marne?
IN a quiet part of Tokyo, Japan, reached through narrow streets between high yellow bamboo fences over the tops of which hangs the graceful green foliage of the trees inside, is a modest house.
It is that of the great Admiral Togo, the only living admiral who has won a decisive Victory at sea.
In his sitting-room, which is modest---as is everything surrounding the admiral, who is the soul of modesty despite his great achievement and the still enduring gratitude and plaudits of his fellow-countrymen---is a model of the Mikasa.
The Mikasa was his flagship during the Russo-Japanese War. She carried his flag and person on that memorable May day in 1905, when the fate of the Japanese army fighting in Manchuria hung on Admiral Togo's ability to whip Rojestvensky's stronger Russian fleet.
If he failed, that army, comprising the manhood of Japan, was cut off from home; from its source of supply of every kind.
If he failed, an elated Russia would draw freely on her as yet but partially used exhausted military strength to so increase her army in Manchuria that it could crush that of Japan.
Admiral Togo did not fail. He won a great victory. He captured Rojestvensky, and sank or captured all his warships, with the exception of a few which, taking advantage of their speed, the confusion and darkness, escaped.
The Mikasa is to Admiral Togo the outward and visible sign of those soul-trying days and hours of the Russo-Japanese War, which no soldier or sailor, no matter how much fighting he has seen, who has not borne the tense anxieties imposed by the responsibilities of high command can fully appreciate.
The Mikasa was listed by the Washington Arms Conference to be scrapped.
America, out of admiration for Admiral Togo, agreed to make an exception.
The Mikasa still floats today. She is a shrine continuously visited by crowds of patriotic Japanese.
To those Americans who come to pay their respects---and what soldier or sailor would not?---Admiral Togo shows the model of his Mikasa, and expresses his appreciation of America's courtesy to him.
Three years ago, while I was paying my respects, the admiral asked me to tell him of the latest improvements in the Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia hills just across the Potomac from Washington, and overlooking it.
He told how, should he again have the opportunity to visit America, he wished before anything else to visit Arlington. He spoke of the profound impression made on him by this city of American military dead, soldier and sailor, who have carried their country's flag in battles to maintain the principles for which it stands---from the wind-swept, dusty plains of North China and the palm-dotted Philippine Islands in Asia to the historic Marne, Meuse and Moselle rivers in Europe; and in the Americas between, from the snow-covered and bitterly cold country of our northern border to the desolate high plateau of central Mexico and the tropical isles and shores of the Caribbean Sea in the south.
He concluded by stating that no country which took such loving care of its military dead, which so respected and honored them in their last sleep, need fear that the materialism so evident throughout the world today would undermine the really great things in its character.
The unknown soldier and his comrades of the Great War, whose relatives wished them brought home to rest in the soil of the country which gave them birth, and for which they died, are the latest recruits to these glorious legions of American dead.
The unknown soldier---who? Whoever he is, undoubtedly he was typical in his sentiments of his 4,000,000 comrades. Perhaps a boy just entering manhood, from a Middle West farm, born and brought up a thousand miles from the nearest salt water; who never saw the Atlantic until packed into an overcrowded transport; to whom Europe was only a map on a single page of his school geography, a place which George Washington had told us to keep away from; a boy who thrilled to the call to arms and went to fight for his country.
His parents as they sit on the porch of their farmhouse in the evening, looking over the nodding brown and golden sunflowers, at the blood-red sun setting through an endless vista of tall green corn, know that they gave their son for their country.
America asked for nothing material when she entered the war. She took nothing material at the peace table.
She fought for a principle: "Government of the people, by the people, for the people."
By this attitude her dead in Arlington and those in far-off France, who still rest on the battle-field, earned as their epitaph Christ's saying:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
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