Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

Ludendorff is going to have a very different rep post war.

That said the human cost is going to be seen decades after this war is over. Jesus neither side can maintain these kinds of losses.
Jesus christ, Northern France is gonna be finding skeletons in the farms for a long time.

On the other hand, the first crops grown there are gonna be prodigious.
I'm not sure that crop yields will benefit. Artillery explosives during WW1 tended to have toxic materials inside and would poison the soil.
It was a jokey and pretty niche reference to Plutarch - when Marius killed a whole bunch of germans in northern italy, it is said the crop the next year on those same fields were prodigious.
Part 2-15
…The Austrians scheduled their second offensive of the year for July 26th. Again they targeted the Mincio River, as the Po River was simply too wide to deal with using their limited engineering equipment. Once more they had concentrated their best troops into stormtrooper battalions to lead the assaults, however replacing those lost in their Spring offensive resulted in the best members of their line units being taken out. Their offensive force was about as potent as it had been in the Spring. Opposing them this time were the Italians, rather than the British or French who had withdrawn to France, less well equipped and with far lower morale. It was though that this would be enough to guarantee a victory by Conrad, the Italians had routed at Caporetto, the Tagliamento and the Piave, they would rout at the Mincio too.

However the Italians had learned from their mistakes, and Armando Diaz was not Luigi Cadorna. Diaz realized that he did not have the manpower to hold a continuous front, instead he had his forces set up in a series of strongpoints which would hold up enemy assaults long enough for mobile reserves to arrive. More importantly Diaz had every intent of preempting the Austrians. Thus when he received intelligence from Austrian deserters, mainly of Slavic minorities, that an attack was planned, he took the opportunity to hit first.

At two o’clock on the 26th Italian guns all along the Mincio opened up on their Austrian counterparts, catching them as they were preparing for the Firewall bombardment, often setting off ammo stacked from the bombardment. The heavy guns continued to pound their Austrian counterparts, while after an hour the field artillery switched to hitting the forward trenches, reaping a dreadful toll on the massed assault troops. At dawn the Italian Army Air Corps launched an extremely audacious attack on their Austrian Counterparts, taking off and flying at night they caught their counterparts on the ground at first light, reaping a dreadful toll on the grounded aircraft and seizing air superiority.

Despite the terrible casualties the Italians inflicted by preempting the assault, it went ahead as scheduled. Minor success was achieved and multiple bridgeheads were established across the Mincio. However the Italian mobile reserves were able to rapidly contain them and things became a battle of attrition. Conrad had hopes that his material superiority would eventually prevail.

Diaz was not content to sit back and be slowly slugged to death. Using his Marine Brigade and a hastily organized Brigade of former boatmen he launched an operation on the Po River on the 31st. Infiltrating in the night with small boats, they secured several points where pontoon bridges were erected. By the time the Austrian commanders were aware of the crossing elements of the Italian reserve had already started rolling up the second line divisions garrisoning the Po.

Conrad attempted to pivot his reserves from supporting the attack across the Mincio to smashing the breakthroughs on the Po on the second. However he took too much time and by the fifth when the redeployment was complete the Italians were well established and had reached the Adige in places. Conrad remained confident that he could crush the Italians, however Emperor Karl was not willing to risk the integrity of the front on a chaotic battle that may not be won. Karl ordered Conrad to withdraw behind the Adige and hold there. With the Adige strongly held Austria-Hungary would be in a good position when the peace treaty was negotiated Karl reasoned.

The Austrians had taken 125,000 casualties in the abortive offensive and subsequent counterattack and withdrawal, the Italians had taken 90,000. Worse from the Austrian point of view their losses had been concentrated in the elite assault troops and the ethnically German and Hungarian units, disproportionately effecting the strength of the army. The slow disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Army had truly set in.

The Italians had full rebuilt the morale which had been shattered at Caporetto, no longer seeing an inevitable defeat they had every intention seeing the war through to the end. The cities of Mantua and Verona had been liberated along with a great deal of territory, substantially more than any Entente offensive on the Western front had. Diaz was urged by many to continue the offensive and keep pushing the Austrians back, liberating Venice, Padua, Vicenza and more. However Diaz recognized the brittleness of his Army, which was still suffering from the disaster of the prior year. When he hit them again, he wanted to be sure his army would not disintegrate doing it…

…The Entente victories in August of 1918 showed many neutrals that a Central Powers victory was not inevitable. In Greece in particular it was to prove influential. The Pro Entente Venizelos had barely been able to hang on to a degree of power against the opposition of the pro-neutrality King, at the risk of bringing the country close to civil war. In August 1918 Venizelos saw an opportunity and spoke to the King. Venizelos was able to argue that if the Central Powers collapsed, like he though they might, Greece would have a narrow window to achieve some of its long-term geopolitical goals. By declaring war at the last minute on the Ottomans, and only them, the Greeks could get a seat at the victors table and seize ethnically Greek Ottoman territories that they had coveted for generations. The Germans and Austrians would be too busy to do anything about it and the Romanians and Bulgarians would find more value in a friendly Greece as a conduit for negotiating a separate peace with the Entente.

While the King disliked Venizelos he liked the prospect of a civil war even less. The idea of being able to expand his kingdom was also an appealing one, as was the idea of being able to claim the title of Emperor of Byzantium, which was possible if they could pull it off. However the king was adamant that this should only occur if the Germans and Austrians were on the verge of defeat and the Romanians and Bulgarians were neutral in the matter. Venizelos agreed wholeheartedly on that matter.

In September 1918 the Greek General Staff began plans for a war with the Ottomans while the Greek foreign ministry worked on opening back channel communications with the Entente, the Romanians and Bulgarians…

-Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004

Got distracted, update written early but posted late
well, damn. I was hoping that the Central powers got out of this without being dismembered because the allies didn't have the juice to force anything so harsh on them, but with neutrals joining in...

Maybe they will.
well, damn. I was hoping that the Central powers got out of this without being dismembered because the allies didn't have the juice to force anything so harsh on them, but with neutrals joining in...

Maybe they will.
I was hoping for the same.
Part 2-16
…On August 29th Ludendorff launched his peace offensive against the French. Attacking South of St. Mihiel on both banks of the Meuse Luddendorf hoped to threaten French lines of communication in Lorraine and either force them into a decisive battle or a large-scale withdrawal.

Unlike previous offensives the French were prepared. Aerial reconnaissance had detected the buildup of forces, even if they did not have the precise start time the French were well aware an offensive was coming. They had prepared defenses in the same model the British had in Flanders, a series of outposts for the first three miles to slow and channel attacks, with a mainline of resistance behind it. Guns were preregistered on the German artillery positions and the French reserves were in position to counter any breakthroughs.

When the Firewall bombardment began at 3:30 French heavy artillery quickly began countering the German guns, while lighter artillery swept the assault trenches and killed the packed troops en masse. Even with the casualties and the poor effectiveness of the bombardment the assault was launched as scheduled at 5:00. Despite the lack of stormtroopers and the ineffectiveness of the bombardment the assault made greater progress than Hagen, the French being less inclined that the British to fight to the last cartridge. By the end of the day the Germans had reached the mainline of resistance and breached it in a number of places.

Foch committed his reserves during the night and a vicious battle of attrition ensued over control of the mainline of resistance, with the French attempting to retake it while the Germans tried to push to the next defensive line a further four miles back. For a week the back and forth continued, with the Germans eventually forcing the French back to the second defensive line.

Ludendorff wanted to press on but General Gallwitz, the Army Group commander, informed him that any assault on the line would be doomed to failure, too many casualties had been suffered and the frontline divisions were a shadow of their former selves. Incurring any serious losses would leave them vulnerable to a counterattack. Ludendorff was skeptical, but after inspectors determined that Gallwitz was if anything understating the precariousness of his position decided to redeploy reserves from the north to continue the assault.

An armor heavy British counterattack in Flanders on the 7th, simultaneous with a corps level American assault on the Marne denied those plans as those reserves were needed elsewhere. Ludendorff suffered a brief breakdown on the night of the 8th as he came to grips with the possibility that the war could no longer be won. There were not enough German reserves available to conduct another large-scale offensive on the French. Bulgaria and Romania showed no signs of being willing to send troops to the meatgrinder of the Western Front, the Austrians were having issues of their own and the Ottomans needed German reinforcements themselves. Any plan to bleed the French to death and end the war that way could not occur. On the 10th Ludendorff called off any future offensive actions by Army Group Gallwitz.

The Germans had suffered 90,000 casualties and inflicted roughly 100,000 on the French and captured about 100 square miles of French territory. In exchange they had used up most of their reserves and had come no closer to winning the war.

However the assault was not necessarily a complete strategic failure for the Germans. The casualties the French suffered, in particular the casualties among their infantry were impossible for them to replace. With the French having so far drawn down their rifle strength to increase artillery and machine gun strength the high infantry losses from the peace offensive rendered over a dozen French divisions incapable of combat. The French, who were already having to look at disbanding divisions to keep up with day-to-day losses, would have to disband even more. The ability of the French to conduct an independent offensive against Germany was crippled by the Friedensturm, with the attendant consequences at the Peace Table. Ludendorff would later claim this as a secondary goal of the offensive, however there is no evidence that he thought that at the time…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014
I'm wondering how badly the French population is going to be crippled by this war. Or for that matter the Germans, and too a lesser degree the British and Italians.
At this point, I'm not sure I see WWII being *possible* no matter how pissed off Germany may end up being (if indeed they do end up being royally pissed off), given the losses.
At this point, I'm not sure I see WWII being *possible* no matter how pissed off Germany may end up being (if indeed they do end up being royally pissed off), given the losses.
Right now German military casualties aren't actually much if any higher than OTL early September 1918. In terms of civilian starvation casualties they are actually lower due to Romanian Grain, Greece as a blockade leaker and having more time to get resource extraction in the east going. Depending on how long into 1919 the war lasts German losses will take longer to recover from, but so will Anglo-French losses which by now are significantly higher than OTL
Right now German military casualties aren't actually much if any higher than OTL early September 1918. In terms of civilian starvation casualties they are actually lower due to Romanian Grain, Greece as a blockade leaker and having more time to get resource extraction in the east going. Depending on how long into 1919 the war lasts German losses will take longer to recover from, but so will Anglo-French losses which by now are significantly higher than OTL
Hm. Okay. I must have misremembered WWI german casualty numbers then. Fair enough.
Part 2-17
…By the end of September 1918 the danger of defeat was over for the Entente. However the Entente’s troubles were not nearly over. In Britain the losses on the Western front necessitated the expansion of Conscription to Ireland in order to make up shortfalls in manpower. The majority of Irishmen were opposed to this matter, with the war having postponed the implementation of Home Rule the majority was not well disposed to London at all. In order to implement conscription the British were forced to implement Home Rule at the same time.

This dual approach backfired. The implementation of conscription alienated many of the more moderate home rulers and drove them into the arms of the nationalists such as Sinn Fein. To compensate the Home Rulers increasingly advocated against conscription as well. The Unionists, who were already skeptical began to view their political opponents as increasingly traitorous and grew disdainful of a political solution.

Given the widespread opposition to conscription in order to enforce it the British were required to divert troops intended from the Western front in order to enforce it. The presence of increasing amounts of British troops over the fall left tensions at just short of a boil. The question was whether they would boil over before or after the Irish Parliamentary elections in November…

…Conscription troubles existed elsewhere in the British Empire. Australia rejected conscription in a Third Referendum in the summer of 1918 by a margin of nearly 60%. With almost 40% of their eligible male population having already volunteered for service the Australians were finding it hard to replace their losses.

In Canada opposition to conscription had peaked with the Easter Riots in Quebec, however it continued at a lesser pace. The intensity of opposition had dropped, but what was once confined to francophones was increasingly spreading to anglophones. Despite this Canadian conscripts were reaching the front in increasing numbers…

…The last major German assault of the war was launched on September 28th. Using reserves from Army Group Albrecht, the only one so far unengaged this season, Ludendorff launched a limited attack on an exposed French Corps in the Vosges. Over the course of three days the French Corps was mauled and nearly destroyed for moderate German losses.

Ludendorff intended to repeat this small scale limited offensive pattern against second rate French units on the quiet part of the front as part of his new policy of attriting the French to push back the inevitable Entente offensive and weaken them at the peace table. A costly but successful American counterattack near Epernay on October 3rd forced Ludendorff to divert the reserves further north instead…

…With the success of the offensive at Epernay General Pershing wanted a larger scale offensive on the Germans. The Entente was unwilling to do so. The French had but a few troops to spare given the huge casualties they had suffered. The British, despite having to divert troops to enforce conscription in Ireland, had more troops available. They were not however interested in attacking the Germans. Rather the British were interested in “knocking away the props” as they saw it, no decisive result could be achieved against the Germans before spring of 1919, while a decisive result could be achieved against the Ottomans much sooner. The French supported the British in this matter.

The disagreements reached the highest levels as Wilson, Lloyd-George and Clemenceau exchanged angry telegrams. Wilson, and the American political establishment of both parties, was convinced, not without reason, the Anglo-French were attempting a blatant landgrab at the expense of the greater war effort. The Anglo-French did little to disprove this view, being willing to allow the Americans to continue to launch limited offensives but doing little to help.

Eventually Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando proposed a compromise. Only the most minimal of attacks would be launched on the Western front, with the limited aim of securing better jumping off points for the decisive offensive of 1919, but the British and French would participate equally. Instead the Americans would transfer a Corps to Italy to join in the Italian fall offensive while the Americans would take over a slightly greater share of the Western front. The compromise was accepted but the argument revealed and deepened the rift between the Entente powers.

It also extended the war by months. The Germans in the fall of 1918 were heavily overextended and in need of reinforcement and reorganization. A major offensive, while unlikely to shatter them would have forced them to take disproportionate casualties and give up great amounts of ground at an inconvenient time. However Germany was given the time they needed to make the war that much more expensive…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014

Somewhat short and not as good/coherent as I wanted but as with my other TL blame Sid (WTF does the AI need 150 battering rams for?)
Part 2-18
…Over the course of early September 1918 Allenby received the first of the reinforcements he had desired since spring. With more forthcoming he determined that he was now ready to launch an assault on the Ottoman lines between Haifa and Dera. Having found an overlooked gap in the hills west of Dera Allenby planned to launch his assault in the west.

Attacking at 4:30 in the morning on the 21st Allenby ripped a massive hole in the Ottoman lines within a matter of hours. Dera had fallen by the end of the 22nd and the Ottoman forces were in full rout. A combination of Allenby’s cavalry and the revolting Arabs organized by Lawrence of Arabia made an enthusiastic pursuit. Damascus fell on September 28th, Beirut on October 4th and Aleppo, the third largest city in the Ottoman Empire on the 20th of October.

The Ottomans however were willing to abandon this territory, the inhabitants were not ethnically Turkish and had proved troublesome. Instead the dug in to defend on the line of the Nur mountains. The Ottomans and the German advisers did not think the line could be held long term, but it would allow them to hold Cicilia for longer and to fortify the Cicilian Gates. Ideally by that point the forces they had sent to the Caucuses over the summer as part of the Army of Islam would have defeated the Armenians and secured Baku, and thus be available as reinforcements for holding the Entente out of Anatolia.

In November the Entente forces were considering how to break through the Ottoman lines without a costly frontal assault through the mountains in winter. An amphibious attack on Alexandretta was proposed to seize the Cicilian gates and cut off the Ottoman forces in the Nur Mountains. Such an assault was believed to be too much like Gallipoli and given the enemy troop densities in the area, too likely to fail.

As a diversion the threat of one proved satisfactory. On December 11th a large force of merchant ships was assembled in Egypt and loaded with newly arrived troops. The Ottomans were well aware of the gathering and transferred reserves to Cicilia to stop it. When the fleet sailed on the 14th they went on alert, one that redoubled when it arrived on the 18th. When the accompanying old battleships, armored cruisers and monitors began a fierce bombardment the next day they were quite certain that an invasion was underway.

They were thus taken by surprise when a hastily trained force of Ghurka’s, freed up by the conclusion of the Mesopotamian campaign and fall of Mosul in early November attacked the Nur Mountain line. Infiltrating at night with special equipment to move over terrain too difficult for other troops the Gurkhas took the defending Ottomans by surprise and made a number of holes in the Ottoman lines. Distracted by the bombardment they believed this was the diversion and did not commit reserves to counterattacking.

By the next day, with their defenses in the mountains disintegrating and no invasion in sight the Ottomans, or rather their German advisers realized they had been fooled. In order to avoid being destroyed the Ottomans withdrew to the Cicilian Gates, leaving the fertile plain of Cicilia to the British forces for minimum casualties.

Some of the assembled ships stayed to unload reinforcements and supplies for Allenby’s Army. A portion, hidden in the shuffle by some fancy sailing, broke off and headed out to sea. On the 30th elements of the French Army landed and seized the city of Antalya which had been denuded of troops to reinforce the Cicilian Gates and the Army of Islam in the Caucuses.

By stopping reinforcements for the Caucuses, to the dismay and protests of Enver Pasha, who was insistent he was near to taking Baku, and stripping garrisons elsewhere the Ottomans were able to assemble forces to bottle up the French landing.

The Germans exerted pressure on their Bulgarian and Romanian allies to send troops to reinforce the Ottomans. They refused saying the Albanian front and occupation of Russia were taking up all of their troops, something blatantly untrue. However the Germans could not spare the forces to physically compel them to contribute. Furthermore the Germans were ignorant of the discussions going on in Athens involving diplomats from both nations…

-Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
Part 2-19
…The First Corps of the American Expeditionary Force, having had late September and October to rest and refit after heavy combat over the summer was transferred to Italy in early November. Intense deception measures were carried out to maintain the secrecy of the move as it was a key part of Diaz’s plan to force the Adige and move up to the Brenta River, liberating Padua and Vicenza and putting Venice within striking distance.

The Americans were going to be the primary hammer of the assault, elite Italian Arditi, Italian equivalents of the Stormtroopers of the Central Powers, would make breaches and the Italian Army would provide the mass to follow through, however the Americans would be the first to exploit the breaches. Diaz did not yet trust that the majority of his army was ready to sustain the heavy casualties a breakthrough of the Adige line would entail, the all-volunteer Arditi and some of the other elite units involved in the first wave were one thing, however the experiences of Caporetto left deep scars in the regular units of the Italian Army.

On November 1st the Italians launched the first of a serious of distractionary firewall bombardments. Followed up only by the most tentative of infantry probes, they were followed by attempts to aerially direct long range artillery onto the reserves assembled to stop the assaults the Austrians thought were forthcoming. Very quickly the Austrians began to underreact to the bombardments, viewing them as a way for the Italians to try to inflict additional attrition and logistical exhaustion on them.

On November 14th a firewall bombardment was carried out, and the Austrians only mobilized a token response, more concerned about losses in infantry and transport units to long range artillery than the possibility of an assault. As such the Arditi and other units were able to cross the Adige at points identified by local guides and were able to seize lodgments over the River for pioneers to construct pontoon bridges while punching breaches into the Austrian lines. By the end of the day the bridges were up and the Austrians were only just starting to react to what was now obviously a major attack.

The Americans crossed during the night and at first light attacked through the breaches the Arditi had created the previous day. There they met the Austrian reserves in a no holds barred battle of attrition. The Austrians were taken aback by the appearance of the Americans of all people on the front, with the oversized nature of the American units present convincing them that there was a full field army present. After two days of brutal fighting the Emperor again ordered a retreat, better to lose Padua and Vicenza than risk having the front collapse and losing Venice he again reasoned.

The Americans had taken 20,000 casualties in the assault, the Italians 25,000 though disproportionately in their elite units and the Austrians 75,000, a large chunk of which had been captured. The Battle of the Adige was notable in that Diaz had at one point considered an even more ambitious plan to trap and destroy a large portion of the Austrian Army, however he did not feel that the Italian military was ready, especially the specialist assets needed for the plan, they would have to wait until spring to be unleashed…

…By November of 1918 the United States had suffered over 135,000 deaths among its military, more than in every other American war put together, with the exception of the American Civil War. Approximately 60,000 of those deaths were due to disease and accident, mainly the former with the Spanish flu sweeping through the packed army camps with their inadequate hygiene. These casualties fed into the temporarily marginalized narrative that the United States should not have gotten involved in the war.

President Wilson’s heavy handed censorship policies did limit knowledge of the casualty figures and prevented widespread discussion of antiwar positions. By Fall that was starting to break down and it was increasingly known how badly the war was going, and the antiwar views were starting to gain wider spread traction among the population….

…Wilson called for Americans to vote Democrat in the 1918 elections to win the war then win the peace. Wilson’s message did not resonate with the American people. To many blamed his for either getting involved or mismanaging the war and his heavy-handed behavior had won him no friends. Republicans had been able to sell that they would do a better job of both, gaining 6 seats in the senate, 31 seats in the House, one non-voting house delegate and 5 governorships, recapturing both houses of Congress in the process and ending America’s first coalition government.

The resounding defeat of Wilson’s agenda at the polls, including for his postwar plans for a League of Nations was a heavy blow to Wilson. Along with the negative results of the war it proved too much for his constitution. On November 21st Wilson was having a heated argument during a cabinet meeting when he suddenly seized up for a few moments then collapsed, smashing his head against a table. The President of the United States had suffered a stroke and the Republic had just entered a constitutional crisis at one of the worst possible times…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014