Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

Part 1-1
  • Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

    A TL by RamscoopRaider

    Part I: The Great War


    …Muhamed Mehmedbašić, perhaps the most infamous name in modern history. The one man who more than anything ended the golden age of the Long Nineteenth Century and brought on the horrors of the Twentieth. To be clear there were other assassins, five of them in fact. But Mehmedbašić was the first, and had his bomb missed it is unlikely in the extreme that the other killers would have been able to assassinate the Archduke once on guard.

    To be clear Mehmedbašić and the killers did not act alone. They were members of a revolutionary organization known as the Black Hand. An organization that was effectively run by the Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence one Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, one of the key figures behind the 1903 May Coup where the Serbian Royal Family and top government officials were slain for being insufficiently nationalistic. One can say that Dimitrijević bore the greater responsibility as the coup he organized pushed Serbia in a direction contrary to that of its recently elected government, and thus put Mehmedbašić in his position.

    However, at the end of the day it was Mehmedbašić who threw the bomb that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Duchess Sophie, Governor General Oskar Potiorek and Lieutenant Colonel Count Franz von Harrach, and thus ended a century of peace, progress and prosperity, ushering in decades of hell…


    -Excerpt from A Popular History of the 20th Century, Scholastic American Press: Philadelphia, 1980






    …The Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand did not have to spark a general European War, much less a global one. Had Europe reacted as they had to the May Coup, with a general diplomatic isolation of Serbia, rather than quibble over the terms of the July Ultimatum, it was likely Serbia would have backed down and accepted the terms as offered. Had Russia not given Serbia support, despite Serbia rejecting their advice, it would have remained an isolated Austro-Serbian war, had it occurred at all. Had the French not given unconditional assurances to the Russians, even in the case of Serbia being found in the wrong, it is probable the Russians would not have threatened war with Austria-Hungary.

    Even at this point the war could have remained a mere European War, as the Balkan Wars had, or the Russo-Turkish or Franco-Prussian Wars, if on a larger scale, had two things not occurred. The Belgians refusing the Germans passage based on a mistaken estimate of the German Siege artillery was the first and guaranteed that the front would bog down into years in the trenches with all the mass bloodletting that entailed.

    Secondly was the decision by the United Kingdom to go to war over a scrap of paper. That the government of the time had reasons for it was true, distraction from the ongoing crisis in Ireland and leave the United Kingdom friendless and isolated in Europe. That the war would have been only a temporary fix that would cause tensions to fester in Ireland should have been obvious even then. Furthermore, it was known to the Asquith Cabinet that the resulting war would be long and costly; thus, any victory would of necessity be pyrrhic and leave both sides desperate for friends themselves. Without British Imperial resources it is unlikely the Entente would have lasted past 1916, making for a shorter and much less costly war that would not have laid the groundwork for the destruction of the British Empire nor set the stage for so many horrors to come...


    -Excerpt from A New Unofficial History of WWI, Sydney University Press: Sydney, 2010



    …Orthodox history since the 1950’s primarily places the blame for the First World War upon Serbia, and to a somewhat lesser degree Russia and France, with Britain blamed for transforming it from a European War to a World War. Austria-Hungary is portrayed as a justifiably aggrieved partner and Germany as a loyal ally with questionable decision making. This viewpoint actively minimizes the evidence that substantial elements in both Austria-Hungary and Germany were actively seeking war, that the Dual Monarchy never seriously considered not going to war with Serbia and that Germany was fully willing to start a general European war.

    This paper does not set out to absolve the Entente of any blame for the emergence of the First World War, what this paper does intend is to allocate the responsibility in a more unbiased manner. This paper will further show how biases stemming from later periods have influenced Orthodox Historians to take the viewpoints they have…


    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXX, University of California Press: Berkley, 2020



    …The assassination of Franz Ferdinand is one of the more famous assassinations and an example of what this book calls a mixed success. Franz Ferdinand was killed because it was feared that if he took the throne, he would reform Austria-Hungary in a way that would accommodate its South Slavic ethnicities better. As the Black Hand and Serbian government wanted the South Slavs to revolt against Austria-Hungary and join a South Slavic state, Serbian dominated naturally, killing him would avoid this. In that they succeeded at their primary goal, Franz Ferdinand never got the chance to reform the Austro-Hungarian state.

    One the other hand they almost totally screwed things up. By using a bomb, they made the death of the Archduke, who was wearing a bullet resistant silk vest, more likely. But at the same time, it increased collateral damage, while killing the Governor General of Bosnia certainly advanced their cause, killing the Archduke’s Wife, especially in such a graphic manner, vastly increased the backlash to the assassination. That backlash increased the chances of Serbia being rendered unable to take leadership of a South Slavic State, and very nearly did. As the plotters could not have predicted anything beyond Austria-Hungary is likely to go to war to avenge the death of the heir to their throne, using such a messy method was probably not the optimal choice…


    -Excerpt from A History of Assassination, American Youth Press, New York, 2001



    …The Average American over the course of their education spends about two months on the World War One, a month in high school and a month in middle school. Those who go to college for a bachelors degree will generally spend two weeks on it in addition to that. Most of this is, understandably devoted to American entry and participation in the war, with minimal time devoted towards the rest of the conflict.

    About the rest of the war what the average American more or less knows is this. That a Serbian backed terrorist bombed Archduke Ferdinand’s Limo on June 28th, 1914, killing him, his wife and two other guys. Austria attacked Serbia in revenge, Serbia ran to Russia for help, Austria ran to Germany and Russia ran to France. Then Germany goes through Belgium to attack France, bringing in Britain, the Turks join in because the British stole their Battleships, the Italians get bribed to fight the Austrians and everybody is killing each other in trenches until the US is forced to join in come 1917. A massive semi accurate oversimplification at best. I am going to try and accurately fill in the rest of the picture so whoever reading this will not sound like a total ignoramus if they talk about World War One to a foreigner…

    …Serbia, despite very probably starting this whole mess was totally unprepared for fighting a European Great Power in 1914. They had little artillery, even less ammunition for it and could not even equip their soldiers with actual boots. That their most experienced commander from the Balkan Wars, Marshal Radomir Putnik, was in Austria-Hungary at the time and interned was merely icing on the cake.

    Despite this they launched the first major attack. The Austrians while enormously angry with the Serbs for the whole assassination of their crown prince thing, were pragmatic enough to realize that defending against Russia took priority over revenge and limited themselves to bombardments, skirmishes and a slow advance. The Serbians however were under enormous pressure by the Russians and French to attack the Austro-Hungarians and tie down troops that would otherwise be transferred to fight Russia.

    By August 25th, the Serbians could no longer resist the pressure and their 1st and 2nd armies attacked the Austrian 5th Army in an attempt to stop the 2nd Army being transferred to the front against Russia in Galicia. It was a failure in all regards, it burnt up their artillery ammunition reserves, did not manage to significantly damage 5th Army and did nothing to 2nd army’s withdrawal timetable. On September Archduke Eugene in command of the Austrian troops launched a counterattack with his 6th Army that smashed the Serbian 3rd Army and forced it to withdraw. Serbian reluctance to retreat led to their 2nd and 1st armies suffering severe casualties before being forced to withdraw into the hills by September 11th.

    The situation then deteriorated into the sort of trench warfare that WWI was famous for. The Austrians having actual waterproof boots for their men and sufficient artillery ammunition did much better. On November 2nd, the Austrians then launched another attack, the Serbians stubbornly resisted but were driven back. By November 15th Belgrade was threatened and elements of the Army wanted to abandon it, but no one had the political clout to convince the government of that. Thus, the Serbs were forced to fight the Austrians head on without the supplies or ammunition to do so. They lasted 10 days before they were forced to withdraw and abandon Belgrade. The Austrians entered the city on the 30th of November and paused to let their supply lines catch up. At this point the Serbs finally received artillery ammunition from the French but they were in no position to do anything with it.

    This situation would last through the winter when one key factor changed. Bulgaria, who as mentioned in previous chapters lost land to Serbia not long ago, decided to throw its lot in with the Central Powers following the victory at the Masurian Lakes in February 1915. They promised Bulgaria slightly over half of Serbia, as well as security guarantees against Romania and Greece and a war loan. The Entente offered certain territorial gains if Bulgaria remained neutral, but that required Serbian and Greek cooperation, which did not look to be forthcoming, as well as an Entente victory over the Ottomans.

    On April 12th, the Bulgarians declared war and attacked with two field Armies into Southern Serbia. This near instantly cut the Serbian line of supply and forced them to withdraw to the Kosovo Plain to avoid encirclement. The Bulgarians pursued enthusiastically, the Austrians with caution as not to divert resources from the upcoming Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive. By June 1st the Serbians had withdrawn to Kosovo and were left with three choices, seek terms, fight to the death or withdraw over the Korab mountains and fight from exile.

    The Serbians chose the latter and over two months they marched over the mountains into the anarchy of northern Albania, before reaching the Adriatic and hopefully waiting Entente ships with supplies. During this period, the Montenegrin Army fought a brief rearguard action to cover the Serbian retreat, before surrendering to the Austrians. Over 50,000 Serbs died on the march to the sea, from disease, hunger, bandit attacks and pursuing Central Powers forces. Still more died when on arrival at the coast there were no supplies or ships waiting for several weeks. Eventually supplies and ships would be sent and 150,000 Serbs, mostly soldiers were evacuated, primarily to the Greek island of Corfu that was occupied by the Entente. These soldiers would later serve on the…


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




    Well my first attempt at a TL up to the standards of Post 1900 rather than ASB. Updates will hopefully be on Sundays but I make no promises, Tomorrows Pen still has priority
     
    Part 1-2
  • …Popular History views Italian Entry into the First World War as a mercenary nation selling its services to the highest bidder in defiance of its commitments to its alliances. Professional Historians will begrudgingly admit that the Triple Alliance was defensive in nature and that Italy was under no obligation to enter the war with the Central Powers. Likewise, if pressed they will admit that it was Austria-Hungary that had failed to consult Italy in regards to actions they will take in the Balkans as required by the Triple Alliance, with Italy finding out about the declaration of war on Serbia from the Newspapers rather than diplomacy. Furthermore, Austria-Hungary did not compensate Italy for its annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1909 as required by the Treaty. Despite this the majority of anglophone historians will present Italy as in the wrong during this period. While it cannot be argued that Italy’s choices proved catastrophic over the long-term orthodox historiography is too rooted in Post WWII biases to be truly objective.

    Certainly, any historian must admit that Italy’s actions appear of a mercenary bent. Prime Minister Salandra and Foreign Minister Sonnino solicited offers for both sides and chose to pursue the Entente offers that promised them more. That Italy was dependent both on British finance and imports of British coal merely made them more confident in their decision. After the fall of Przemysl to the Russians Salandra and Sonnino became convinced that Entente victory was imminent, with the Russians soon to launch a major offensive into Hungary. Therefore, over the month of April a treaty was negotiated in London.

    This preliminary treaty was much less favorable to Italy than the one eventually signed. Italy was promised Tyrol to the Brenner Pass, the Austrian Littoral minus Fiume and Veglia, Northern Dalmatia and most islands save Arbe and Brazza, parts of Carinola and Carinthia, Valona and unspecified Territory in Africa and near Adalia in Anatolia. Furthermore, Italy would have a Protectorate over Albania and control over the Dodacanese confirmed. Serbia would receive Dalmatia between Krka and Ston, the Sabbioncella Penninsula, Split and Brazza, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Syrmia Backa and part of Albania. Montenegro would receive Dalmatia between Budva and Ston, Ragusa, the Bay of Kotor and part of Albania. Greece would receive an unspecified part of Albania.

    Salandra wanted more than this, he had originally asked for all of Dalmatia and Albania but was opposed by the Russians. Using the recent Bulgarian entry into the war as an excuse he decided not to sign the treaty at that moment. At the time, a majority of the Italian parliament was against joining the war and Salandra was nearly forced out by former prime minister Giovanni Giolitti. For the moment Italian entry into the war was halted.

    On May 2nd, the Germans and Austrians launched the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive and forced the Russians back all along the front. This, along with continued bad news on the Serbian front, resulted in a feeling of desperation among the Entente, who a distraction for Austria-Hungary as fast as possible. It also served to shock a number of pro neutrality Italian parliamentarians, with Russia and Serbia seemingly in full rout it looked quite possible that the Central Powers would win the war by the end of summer. That opened the possibility of Italy finding herself facing off against them alone after the conclusion of the war, given the extant hostility with Austria-Hungary. This prospect was to some Italian politicians more terrifying than joining the war now, even if Italy was badly unprepared for war and would face heavy losses.

    Salandra thus found himself with the whip hand in negotiations with the Entente and sent Sonnino to London for a second round of negotiations. Very quickly Italy started gaining more concessions. Fiume and Veglia were the first, followed by Arbe, Brazza and Solta. Greece was quickly denied a share of Albania, soon followed by Serbia and Montenegro. The Austro-Hungarian Navy would be turned over to Italy, save the riverine forces that would go to Serbia. Italy was given more than vague promises regarding Adalia and was even offered Cyprus. This satisfied Sonnino and Salandra, but they decided to keep playing hardball on the off chance that more would be offered. The Entente negotiators were taken in by this and became desperate for what else to offer.

    Russia, worried about the postwar fate of the Balkans, was against handing Italy the area between Zara and Fiume or denying any Dalmatian territory from Serbia and Montenegro. France possessed Nice and Savoy which had been Italian until 55 years ago, as well as Corsica which was also considered part of “Unredeemed Italy”, however France was adamant on not giving up any of its own national territory. Britain also had a piece of “Unredeemed Italy” in Malta but felt that too strategically valuable to give up at any cost. There was a consensus to confirm that Italy would receive Trans-Juba and the Jaghbub Oasis, as well as territory in the Sahara from France, but that was not thought enough to convince the Italians. With a reluctance to give the Italians any potentially strategic or profitable colonies elsewhere there was believed to be little more possible to entice Italians to join, with that being more needed than ever. Then two junior staffers, from the French and British delegations respectively came up with separate out of the box proposals.

    The French staffer noticed that as part of their attempt to save the Serbian Army the Island of Corfu was to be seized by the French. Corfu had for centuries been owned by Venice and was seen by many as part of “Unredeemed Italy”. Turning it over to the Italians would be something they could do as a fait accompli. The British staffer suggested that rather than promise territory they promise aid in acquiring territory. The Italians had infamously been defeated at Adowa in 1896 during their attempt to conquer Ethiopia. Giving them a free hand to redress this at a later date would cost the Entente nothing, and even promises of material and financial support could be dealt with later when the war was won. The Russians did not like either proposal but given their situation they felt like there was no choice but to accept.

    On May 28th the Treaty of London was signed in secret, committing Italy to war within a month in exchange for the aforementioned concessions. On June 2nd Italy left the Triple Alliance. An attempt by Giolitti to depose Salandra was narrowly thwarted and war was declared on June 28th. Italy had entered the war…


    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXVIII, University of California Press: Berkley, 2018




    …The Gallipoli Campaign is a campaign of WWI that is usually forgotten by most people, the exceptions being Australians and New Zealanders. With the entry of the Ottoman Empire into WWI Sea routes to the Russian Empire were closed. The Trans-Siberian Railway was not yet complete, and its completion hindered by the loss of a key shipment to German commerce raiders, and Archangel on the White Sea was only useable during summer months. Given that Russian industrial production was not sufficient to equip its massive army on its own, this proved a problem.

    First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had the solution. A naval attack to force the Dardanelles and knock the Ottomans out of the war, or at the very least distract them. This was combined with a preexisting plan by Lord Kitchener to conduct a landing at Alexandretta and cut the Ottoman railway system in half, a plan scuttled by the French who thought that was there sphere of influence. The initial plan called for it to be a primarily naval affair, using mostly obsolete warships and the army to provide a mere occupying force.

    On February 19th, the British and French began attacking the outer works of the Dardanelles, a place they had briefly bombarded on November 3rd before they had declared war on the Ottomans. By February 25th, the outlying forts had been reduced and the entrance to the Dardanelles cleared of mines, with a minor landing to spike the guns of destroyed fortresses. Then, however progress slowed as Ottoman mobile guns stymied minesweeping efforts. A large-scale push to rectify this on March 18th resulted in the loss of 3 British and 2 French Pre-Dreadnought battleships to mines. There were calls to push on, as those vessels were obsolete and fully expendable, but the Admiral on the scene and First Sea Lord Fisher were adamant that pure naval power alone could not settle this. A full-scale landing would be necessary.

    Even before the attack itself went in on April 25th it was clear that there would be issues. To support the naval operations the British and French had seized several Greek islands for bases, that were soon used for landing practice. Many units were unloaded there, then diverted to Alexandria in Egypt to be loaded onto the transports that they would land in. Intelligence was poor to nonexistent and was at some points relying on tourist guides for information. The Ottomans were vastly underestimated after their defeats by the Italians and Balkan League in the previous years and hard fighting was not expected.

    When the landing occurred on April 25th, at what is now Anzac Cove and Cape Helles the Ottomans were prepared. Having 4 weeks they built roads, made boats, dug trenches, laid mines and wire and trained their troops. The landings themselves proved costly, with heavy casualties being inflicted on both. Naval support proved less effective than hoped, as did air support. Diversionary landings on the Asiatic shore proved to be unconvincing.

    The landing at what is now Anzac cove was conducted by forces from the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC Despite initial success, the lack of maps and coordination let a Turkish counterattack take back the high ground overlooking the beaches by the end of the day, forcing the Anzacs into a small perimeter. Despite later efforts to break out they would remain trapped in the perimeter until evacuation.

    The landing at Cape Helles proved somewhat more successful in that it was not immediately bottled up. However, the main landings at V&W beaches were immediately stymied, the subordinate landings at X, Y and S beaches were not. A lack of planning and communication led for the forces landed there not to exploit their position, as they had been told to wait for troops from V&W, despite in some cases having literally no opposition. As such Ottoman counterattacks were able to contain them for the first day, with Y beach being evacuated in the night.

    On the 26th and 27th the Entente and Ottoman forces clashed at Cape Helles, with the Ottomans being gradually pushed back, but inflicting heavy losses. A major attack on the 28th failed due to bad coordination leading to Entente troops being separated and outflanked, with the troops sent back to their starting line. A Major set piece battle was launched on May 5th and lasted to the 8th, pushing the Ottomans back but not defeating them and ending when the Entente ran out of ammunition. An Ottoman attempt to eliminate the Anzac landing on the 19th ended in disaster despite a 2.5 to 1 advantage in numbers and led to a brief truce to bury the dead. At sea a Turkish destroyer bagged a British pre Dreadnought on May 12th, and a German U-Boat bagged a Pre Dreadnought and a Battlecruiser on the 24th, precautions to prevent a repeat severely limited Entente naval power.

    A final major Entente attack occurred on June 4th and failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough. The situation then dissolved into a Western Front style stalemate for six weeks when things changed. With Serbia captured the railway lines from Germany and Austria to the Ottoman Empire were reopened. The Germans were able to rearm the Ottomans with heavy artillery to match the Entente, while the Austrians sent surplus artillery units of their own to join the fighting. It was clear that material attrition would no longer favor the Entente, therefore maneuver would have to be tried.

    On August 9th, a landing was launched at Sulva Bay to support a breakout from Anzac Cove. Conducted in darkness confusion was rampant and most of the landing forces became lost, taking until daylight to reorient themselves, suffering heavily in the process. The commander of the landing, Lt. General Stopford was old and lethargic and let his chief of staff dominate him, said chief of staff’s experiences on the Western front had predisposed him to excessive caution. Despite an advance to the high ground overlooking the bay being possible after the troops reorganized themselves, Stopford decided to consolidate his position instead of advancing. After two days General Hamilton in command of the theater ordered Stopford to advance. The nighttime advance ran into Ottoman reinforcements and was halted. Hamilton then conducted an attritional battle to unite the Anzac and Sulva landings until the 22nd when he called it off.

    With the French planning a fall campaign on the Western front, they were disinclined to send more reinforcements. Furthermore, with Serbia fully out of the war and the Eastern Front winding down for the year, the Germans and Austrians could reinforce at will. There were calls to abandon the campaign as early as September 15th. Hamilton feared what that would do for British prestige, but he was replaced on October 1st, his replacement Charles Monro immediately suggested evacuation, and following a tour by Lord Kitchener he recommended it to the Cabinet in early November, and it was set by November 10th.

    The evacuation started on November 20th, with full evacuation by the 28th. On the 23rd the Ottomans learned of it and with German and Austrian assistance launched full scale assaults. The evacuation went into overdrive and naval artillery was used to cover the evacuation. Despite this the Entente suffered 20,000 casualties during the evacuation, and had to leave behind huge quantities of munitions, animals and other supplies to be captured, despite efforts to destroy such.

    In all the Entente suffered 315,000 casualties, and the Ottomans 240,000. The campaign had caused the resignations of Winston Churchill and Jackie Fisher in May. It had lost 7 Battleships and a Battlecruiser, all for no gain. If not for the fact that this was the first large scale combat for Australia and New Zealand forces this would be totally forgotten in the popular mind. However, for them April 25th is considered a day of mourning to remember all those who lost their lives in war…



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


    Not my best work I will admit but oh well, at least I am inspired to write this and it isn't that short. Anyways a response to questions about the POD
    In my opinion Austrian performance on the Serbian theater is due primarily to the commander there. OTL it went to a man who lobbied the Emperor for the position, then wanted to win a victory by the Emperor's birthday. A man who was desperate to avenge Franz Ferdinand for personal reasons, having been responsible for security, warned of it being lacking, refused to bring in more soldiers as guards due to a lack of dress uniforms, denied the possibility of more assassins and forgot to tell the drivers of a change in routes leading to Princip getting his shot at the Archduke. A man who was in the car with the Archduke, a man who Princip wanted to kill rather than Sophie, a man who the assassins had originally been recruited to kill, a man named Oskar Potiorek

    He died in paragraph 3 of the timeline. The man who in OTL replaced him instead leads the Serbian campaign, as had been proposed in 1909, and is generally considered to have been fairly competent in OTL WWI. Someone who will not screw things up for personal reasons
     
    Part 1-3
  • …Every schoolchild knows why the US entered WWI; President Wilson screwed things up. Honor Roll students will explain further, Wilson convinced the Germans that the United States would enter the War on the Entente side, therefore the Germans launched unrestricted submarine attacks and to try to ally with Mexico. While not wholly inaccurate it does not tell the whole truth either. Like modern orthodox historiography it tends to be overly generous to the Germans of the period…

    …In truth American public opinion started off sympathetic to the Central Powers. The gruesome imagery from the bombing of the Archduke’s limousine, as well as the collateral damage when assassin Nedeljko Čabrinović blew himself up to avoid capture made an impression on the American people through newspapers.

    This sympathy was not to last. German actions in Belgium, motivated by a desire to avoid attacks on their rear area by irregular troops known as franc-tireurs, as seen in the Franco-Prussian War, proved fodder for Entente Propaganda. The British had cut off direct German communications with America via their control of undersea cables leaving their narrative to become dominant. Accounts of rape, murder, arson, looting and torture filled the British press, each more lurid that the last, and almost all aimed at an American audience. While some incidents assuredly did happen, such as the burning of Louvain, the vast majority were found in the 1920’s to be fabrications of Entente propaganda, but this was not known at the time.

    Cases like that of Edith Cavell, a British Nurse who was executed for aiding 200 Entente soldiers in escaping Belgium and returning to the fight, were publicized and lionized, even when a postwar British investigation would later regard the verdict in her case as legally correct. Another case was that of a Canadian soldier supposedly found crucified by the Germans at the battle of Ypres, of which the only evidence is of contradictory eyewitness accounts. All these and more seeped into the American psyche and shifted public sympathy against the Central Powers…

    …At sea, the Germans began a policy of attacking Entente merchant vessels without warning in a declared area around the British Isles in February. While not true Unrestricted submarine warfare as would later be seen, it was different that the cruiser rules of previous conflicts that were championed by Britain and elements in the US Government; rules intended for sailing ships in the 18th century, not submarines in the 20th . Incidents involving the vessels Falaba, Cushing and Gulflight, along with the sinking of the Liner Lapland with the 500 dead including 30 Americans, caused Wilson to respond forcefully to the Germans, as Americans were dying and a neutral American vessel, the Gulflight, had been torpedoed. Germany apologized for the Gulflight incident, and the U-Boat in question was found by the British to have behaved as under cruiser rules, with the attack partly due to the British escort, though this was not published at the time.

    US response to the situation was a forceful protest aimed solely at Germany. US Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan was vigorously opposed to this, believing that Americans were traveling at their own risk and that the German apology for the Gulflight incident was sufficient. In June he was forced to resign and replaced by Robert Lansing, upon whose advice Wilson based his response. While Lansing in private believed that the logical and fair response to be an embargo of military goods against both sides, but Lansing thought that would harm the US Economy which was selling so much to the Entente. Lansing would shape much of what Wilson actually did over the next few years with regards to the Great War…

    …Perhaps the biggest part of the issue was the incompetence of the German Diplomacy. The German Embassy in the United States, after the first few months of the war, devoted the majority of its clandestine efforts to sabotage, rather than propaganda. Arms were bought and an attempt was made to ship them to revolutionaries in India. A Factory, Bridge and Merchant ship were blown up in early 1915. A plot was made to divert phenol from explosive manufacturing, which incidentally helped permanently associate Bayer with Aspirin. Finally, in July 1916 there was the infamous Black Tom explosion which injured hundreds and damaged the Statue of Liberty. There was even a plot to recruit an army of 600,000 cowboys to attack Canada; it is telling that more time was spent discussing whether cowboy outfits counted as uniforms rather than the practicality of the plan. Of course, besides sabotage the German embassy staff was up to other things, a photo of the ambassador with two scantily dressed ladies surfaced in late 1916, and at least one staffer was found to have somehow contracted syphilis.

    When German officials did comment, these often did not help. Rather than apologizing or downplaying their actions, the Germans attempted to justify them in legalistic or nationalistic terms. German propaganda aimed at neutrals was often simply that aimed at a domestic audience with certain points downplayed or ignored, thus was less effective than possible. The slogan “work, order, duty,” did not resonate nearly as well with Americans as with Germans, especially when compared with the Entente’s “liberty, equality, fraternity”. Events that could have made useful propaganda, such as the French execution of two German nurses in a mirror of the Edith Cavell case, were purposefully ignored.

    In all during the key early phases of the war the Germans proved lousy at manipulating American PR…


    -Excerpt from Why did they do THAT!?! Historical Madness in Context: Volume III, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015



    …The Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive began on May 1st, 1915 and ended on June 20th. It was launched to relieve pressure on Austria-Hungary before Italian intervention. With the Western Front quiet the Germans thought that they could employ their reserves in the east without issue. August von Mackensen was placed at the head of the newly formed German 11th Army and Austrian 4th, with the Austrian Second and Third to attack in support in the Carpathians. German heavy artillery supported by airborne spotters allowed them to silence Russian guns while the light artillery supported the advance. Attacking on a 25 mile front the Germans quickly broke through and they and the Austrians began a broad front advance.

    Russian attempts to stop this proved catastrophic, two divisions were annihilated without any word getting back to headquarters. Other formations were sent in with limited equipment, with some soldiers only having clubs, in a desperate attempt to stem the tide. This did not work and by May 8th the Germans and Austrians had achieved all their objectives. A further objective of the San river was achieved on May 16th. The Germans and Austrians then paused to sort out logistics before launching the next attack on June 10th. The target was Lemberg, the Galacian capital, and Mackensen’s forces took it on the 20th, after the Russians had abandoned it on the 19th. The Russians had taken 350,000 casualties, a quarter million of which were captured, while the Central Powers had taken substantially less than half that.

    At this point Conrad and Hindenburg proposed a grand encirclement to surround and destroy the Russian Armies in Poland. This was refused by Von Falkenhayn on grounds of logistics. Instead a broad front offensive would be launched to push the Russian back.

    On July 10th, this offensive was launched. Despite heavy casualties to certain units, by day 4 the Germans and Austrians had advanced 100 miles in some places and forced the Russians to start a general retreat. This quickly became the Russian Great Retreat. By early August Congress Poland had fallen. In mid-September when the Central Powers had to halt due to exhaustion, the front ran on a line of Riga-Jakobstadt-Duenaburg-Baranovichi-Pinsk-Dubno-Ternopil.

    Following ineffectual Russian counter attacks a smaller attack by Mackensen’s Army group in the South was launched in October. When they stopped at the end of the Month the from exhaustion and to avoid the onset of winter the front was pushed back to Pinsk-Rovno-Proskurov-Kamenets Podolski.

    In total the Russians suffered 1.7 Million casualties in the Great retreat, of which over a million were captured. The Central Powers suffered about 450,000 in comparison. Vast amounts of irreplaceable equipment was lost and Russian morale was shattered. Any lesser country would have been destroyed, and the Central Powers even asked the Danes to host a Peace Conference. But Russia remained in the war, Czar Nicholas would not make a separate peace and chose to sack Grand Duke Nicholas and lead the Army himself…


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





    Okay author's note. Just to be clear part I of this update is from an in universe perspective. I am not trying to downplay or deny German atrocities in Belgium, which OTL were considerable if not to the extent WWI British propaganda would have you believe. This is from an in universe POV, and even in OTL during the 20's German behavior in Belgium was in anglophone sources often dismissed as pure fabrication, and this did not change until new research at original documents occurred in the late 20th century, suffice to say the historiography is different ITTL

    Also given the local reopening my church is reschuduling a lot of cancelled events, and spreading them out over more sessions, which may impact my update schedule for this TL
     
    Part 1-4
  • …Representatives from the major Entente Powers, Britain, France, Italy and Russia, met at French headquarters in Chantilly to coordinate actions with each other. The First Conference in July 1915 provided nothing of note. The Second in December led to a guarantee that in the event of an attack on one power, the others would launch relief offensives. Furthermore, General Joffre in command of the French proposed that a combined series of offensives be launched simultaneously in 1916. This would prevent the Central Powers from transferring troops between fronts and defeating the offensives in detail.

    No agreement was made at the time exactly when to start this coordinated attack. This led to the assault being preempted by the German attack on Verdun. In 6 days, the Germans advanced up to 10 kilometers in places, threatening the French defensive lines and taking Forts Douaumount and Vaux. Further attacks continued to push the French back and inflict heavy casualties.

    On March 12th, another conference emerged, specifying a date of May 15th to June 1st for the beginning of the attacks, with a lesser Russian attack starting on March 18th. That attack, an offensive at Lake Naroch proved a disaster with over 100,000 Russians lost over two weeks for less than a fifth that many German losses. A similar attack by the Italians on the Isonzo River met with similar if smaller results, as the previous 4 battles had shown the area was lousy for offensive fighting.

    None of the Entente powers had been able to make the May 15th deadline, however the Austrians almost did. Launching from South Tyrol on May 17th the Austrian offensive was aimed to take Venice and cut off the Italian armies attacking on the Isonzo. While initially successful the Italians were able to contain it in three weeks and further push the Austrians back slightly when circumstances elsewhere resulted in the withdrawal of troops. Still the attack caused the Italian government to fall and shook Italian morale.

    Of the Entente offensives the first was performed by the Russians and became known as the Brusilov Offensive, after the commanding officer of the Russian Southwestern Front. Brusilov was probably the most competent of the Russian generals of the period, having performed very well in 1914 and early 1915 against the Austrians. Brusilov was intelligent enough to be able to make the most of his limited resources. He had limited artillery ammunition, so he would only perform a short sharp preparatory bombardment and otherwise husband his ammunition for interdiction of key targets. Without the ability to totally degrade defenses he would need to have specialists breach holes in the front for the rest of the army to follow. Without any guarantee of reinforcements, he brought up his reserves to the front and had them dig concealing entrenchments to be able to take part in the early waves of combat without being detected by the Austrians. Finally, without a decisive advantage in numbers to allow him to prevent any counterattacks from containing his breakthroughs, he decided to launch a broad front attack to make any breakthrough too large to contain.

    Brusilov’s Offensive started on June 7th and quickly achieved limited success. Two of Four Russian armies managed breakthroughs and the Austrians were forced to withdraw. The Austrians had taken huge losses, including 100,000 prisoners, and were forced to withdraw to the lines as of September 1915. By June 20th reserves and transfers from the Italian front had stabilized the lines.

    A second major Russian offensive was launched in the North by General Evert against the Germans on June 20th. This rapidly turned into Lake Naroch but on a larger scale over the coming weeks. The failure of this offensive and the containment of Brusilov’s along with the slow German push forward at Verdun and continued Italian impotence proved of diplomatic import.

    Brusilov was able to renew his offensive in late July, however the Austrians gave significant ground before him and did not suffer major losses. The reason for this became apparent on August 14th when Romania declared war on Russia. The Romanian Army was able to attack north and get behind the Russians, Ninth Army was nearly destroyed, while Seventh Army was mauled. The Russians were forced back to their start lines, and then some by mid-October. The Russians had inflicted about 500,000 dead and wounded with 150,000 more captured. In exchange they had lost 700,000 dead and wounded of their own, along with 200,000 prisoners and a good deal of ground and heavy equipment.

    Of course, while this was going on the Germans continued to slowly grind forward at Verdun and the Anglo-French started their own Offensive on the Somme on July 10th …



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



    As I warned church has interfered, so update is short next week should be better, crosses fingers
     
    Part 1-5
  • … The Somme Offensive had originated as a decisive war winning effort. Originally it was supposed to be a purely British affair in Flanders to drive the Germans from the Belgian coast and eliminate the U-Boat bases there, with the pressure of it along with other simultaneous offensives combining to overwhelm the Central Powers. This was soon changed to an offensive at the joining of the British and French lines in Picardy to better allow the French to participate.

    The German offensive at Verdun on February 22nd soon forced a change. The Germans were able to gain significant amounts of ground on the east bank of the Meuse during February, and offensive on the west bank secured those gains in March. To protect the city the French were forced into costly counterattacks into the teeth of German artillery attacking from three sides. The Somme was thus downgraded from a potential decisive blow to a means of relieving the pressure on Verdun.

    The Germans learned of the attack from a group of Irish deserters several weeks before it happened. As such they were prepared, fortifications were expanded and 3 sets of trench lines were built, a lightly manned frontline, a strongly held second line, and a reserve line, built with zig zags to contain shrapnel. Despite this the Germans did not take things as seriously as they should have, and did not reinforce as heavily as they could have, as General Von Falkenhayn wanted to save troops for Verdun and a counteroffensive to occur once the Somme Offensive was halted.

    On July 1st 16 British and 15 French divisions attacked 15 German divisions. At 7:20 in the morning, after a weeklong preparatory bombardment the first of 19 mines exploded. When the final mine went off at 7:30 and the bombardment ended the attack went over the top. The French and British XIII and XV Corps had great success, with only one minor objective unachieved by XV corps. The rest of the British were not so lucky and while some temporary success was achieved, most was eliminated by German counterattacks in the afternoon. The British had taken 71,000 casualties, 27,000 fatal, while the French had taken 10,000 and the Germans 15,000. For the British Army it was their worst day ever until this point.

    The Offensive then bogged down into a grinding attrition match as the Entente slowly pushed forwards. On July 25th, the German Sixth Army to the north launched a counter offensive at Arras, which while achieving limited success on the first day, bogged down as well. By the end of August, the Arras offensive was abandoned by the Germans, and Verdun became a defensive operation to prevent a failure on the Somme.

    Fighting continued intermittently all three fronts until December. The first tanks showed up on the Somme front in September but had no effect. No power had achieved their goal, Germany had not needed to transfer forces from the East until after the critical moments there. Meanwhile the French Army had not been destroyed at Verdun, thanks to the Noria system of troop rotation over 85% of the French Army had rotated through the battle there, preventing a collapse of the French Army. This hindered German plans to butcher a hasty British relief offensive and splinter the Entente.

    All together the major battles of 1916 in the west were highly costly to all sides, the Germans took 840,000 casualties, the French 630,000 and the British 460,000. With the Western Entente better able to replace these losses than the Germans 1916 had only avoided being a disaster by victories in the East. As such General von Falkenhayn, the German Chief of staff was replaced with Von Hindenburg.

    Von Hindenburg, and his assistant Ludendorff, advocated for an Eastern strategy for 1917 to end that front, before a decisive Western offensive in 1918. Their decisions in pursuing such an offensive would prove counterproductive…


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



    Somewhat short but I had to work this morning, lucky to have an update
     
    Part 1-6
  • …Now one may be wondering that if WWI started in Late July 1914, but the United States only joined in April 1917, what was the US doing during that time rather than fighting in the war?

    For the most part this was a continuation of the progressive era that had begun in the 1890’s. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was established and the Federal Reserve opened. The first national law on Opioids was passed in late 1914. A law on Child labor was passed in 1916, but later found unconstitutional. The 40-hour work week was introduced in 1916, and the first woman was elected to Congress that same year.

    However, one could argue that despite the name the Progressive era was anything but. The infamous lynching’s of Leo Frank and Jesse Washington occurred in 1915 and 1916 respectively, along with many other such crimes. The Second Ku Klux Klan was founded on November 27th in 1915 at Stone Mountain. An attempt to give women the vote failed in the House in 1915. An attempt to demonstrate by striking workers turned deadly in Everett Washington in November 1916…

    …The United States would occupy the island of Santo Domingo, including Haiti and the Dominican republic starting in May 1916.

    Perhaps the most memorable event of the period was the intervention in Mexico, the US had previously occupied Veracruz from May to November 1914 in response to a previous incident in Tampico during the Mexican Revolution. This occupation had led to the fall of Mexican President Victoriano Huerta and the rise of Venustiano Carranza. Carranza however led but one faction of many in Mexico at the time. Pancho Villa, one of his rivals, angry that Carranza had been recognized by the United States, took his anger out on the United States.

    After several minor raids and massacres Villa attacked Columbus New Mexico on March 9th, 1916, which was garrisoned by US troops. Despite the town being looted and burned the outnumbered Americans were able to drive off the attackers with heavy losses.

    Outraged by this President Wilson ordered a punitive expedition to capture Villa. 6 days later 10,000 men under General Pershing crossed the border in pursuit of Villa. They caught up with Villa on the 30th and a small US cavalry force routed his main body, inflicting heavy casualties on Villa’s force and wounding the man himself.

    US forces continued South into Mexico after the fleeing Villa and his men. In Mid-April they would fight several skirmishes with troops loyal to Carranza which would inflict a pause on operations as Pershing secured his supply lines. National Guard troops were called up in June to secure the borders following several raids on Texas by Villa’s men. Minor skirmishing continued with forces loyal to Villa and to a lesser degree Carranza into August.

    Then it was learned that Villa had finally expired from the wounds he suffered on March 30th. Pershing was ordered to withdraw, having succeeded in his mission. US troops left Mexico by the end of October though both Regulars and the National Guard remained on the border until the United States entered the war and beyond.

    The expedition had provided combat valuable experience for the United States going into the war, though far less than was obviously needed…

    …American preparations for the war were not nearly as extensive as we can say were needed with hindsight. The Preparedness movement, led by former president Theodore Roosevelt and General Leonard Wood, advocated for a larger military. The movement was viewed as a threat by Woodrow Wilson, due to its republican leadership, who opposed it for most of 1915. When Wilson changed his mind the opposition, he fostered was too strong to overcome, Congress would not pass any major military expansions and he was forced to replace his pro preparedness Secretary of war Lindley Garrison with anti-preparedness Newton Baker. Eventually watered-down military expansion bills would be passed in June and July 1916, too late to be of very much use for the coming war…


    -Excerpt from What Happened When? Overlooked Times in History, Part V, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2011


    Still short but am busy at the church, also put off doing my taxes way too long
     
    Part 1-7
  • #80 The Battle of Cleaver Bank, June 7th, 1916


    Dogger Bank had through the timidity of von Ingenhol failed to isolate and destroy a portion of the British fleet. He was sacked and replaced by Admiral von Pohl, who was then replaced in January 1916 by the more aggressive Scheer. Scheer wanted to try again to isolate and destroy a portion of the British fleet and attempted to do so in early April, his raid on Lowestoft had not made contact with the British fleet and resulted in mine damage to the Battlecruisers SMS Moltke and SMS Von der Tann. He wished to try again when repairs were completed in late May; however, weather conditions forced the battle to be delayed to make use of aerial recon. Finally, in the early hours of June 7th the German fleet of 16 Dreadnought Battleships, 5 Battlecruisers, 6 Predreadnought Battleships, 11 cruisers and 61 destroyers left Wilhelmshaven. The goal was to raid the town of Sunderland to draw the British out. To aid in this 20 U-Boats were waiting at sea to ambush British forces and several minefields had been laid.

    British cryptographers had intercepted German radio traffic and patrols noticed the increased submarine activity. The Admiralty was aware that the Germans were likely to attempt something in the North Sea. Admiral Jellicoe in command of the Grand Fleet was worried that the Germans were attempting to enter the Baltic or break out into the Atlantic and ordered his fleet to wait off Denmark to ambush the Germans. The Grand Fleet of 24 Dreadnought Battleships, 3 Battlecruisers, 8 Armored Cruisers, 12 Light Cruisers and 50 Destroyers left port shortly before the Germans did. The Battlecruiser fleet of 4 Fast Battleships, 6 Battlecruisers, 14 Light cruisers, 27 destroyers and a seaplane carrier left port slightly after the Germans did.

    Both fleets made it thought the German minefields and submarine patrols without incident during the morning. Shortly after noon a U-Boat made an unsuccessful attack on HMS Orion and forced the Grand Fleet to start antisubmarine measures. Around 1:00 word from air patrols reached Jellicoe and Beatty, the commander of the Battlecruisers, that the Germans were going to raid Britain again. They were caught out of position to intercept them short of the coast and raced Southwest to cut them off from home.

    The German battlecruisers reached Sunderland in the early afternoon and spent forty-five minutes shelling the town before turning around and steaming southeast for home.

    About an hour after turning for home the British and German forces spotted each other. Admiral von Hipper in charge of the German Battlecruisers ordered his ships to head south to where the Battleships were hiding. Admiral Beatty then made a series of mistakes, he ordered his battlecruisers to move at maximum speed, leaving his fast battleships behind, failed to reorganize his formation from cruising to fighting quick enough, and waited to open fire rather than use the longer range of his guns. Both squadrons thus opened fire at the same time, sailing in parallel lines to the south, with the British to the East of the Germans. The British had 6 capital ships, 4 with 13.5” guns, two with 12” while the Germans had 5, 3 with 11” and 2 with 12” guns, though the German ships were much better armored.

    The first hit of the engagement was scored by the Germans, with an 11” hit on HMS Lion. That was soon followed by a British hit on SMS Von der Tann, but despite the numbers favoring the British the Germans scored more hits. 15 minutes into the exchange HMS Queen Mary was penetrated in her forward turret by an 11” shell the Battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz. With turret safety measures ordered disabled by Beatty to increase firing rate to prevent another German escape as at Dogger Bank, this hit set off the ready ammunition, the explosion from which travelled down into the magazine, dooming the ship. The odds were now even.

    Forty-five minutes into the exchange the Queen Elizabeth class Fast Battleships had entered range and opened fire. The 15” shellfire changed the calculus in Hipper’s mind, however he was getting close to the Battleships and only had to hold a little longer. The loss of HMS Indomitable to an 11” salvo from SMS Moltke changed the calculus once more in the German favor. The 15” shells from the Battleships were gradually growing more accurate as the range closed, but guns on the British battlecruisers were being silenced.

    An hour into the “Run to the Southeast” the situation changed in two ways in short order, Scheer’s battleships arrived, and HMS Lion blew up. Ten minutes after the Scheer sighted the Battlecruiser action the German battleships opened fire. About halfway through this period HMS Lion was hit by a combined 12” salvo from SMS Lützow and SMS Derfflinger. The shells penetrated her forward magazines and caused a detonation. Either Beatty had not noticed the German battleships, or simply not had time to signal before the ship was lost, either way the Battlecruisers were left leadership at a critical juncture and charged towards the German Battleships for several minutes before Admiral de Beauvior-Brock aboard HMS Princess Royal turned them around.

    British command devolved onto Admiral Evans-Thomas with the fast Battleships. In order to save the remaining Battlecruisers, he ordered his four battleships to charge the Germans to buy time to break contact. For 15 minutes the remaining British battlecruisers were heavily pounded, though remarkably none was lost. Then the battleships were able to interpose themselves and the British began the “Run to the Northeast”.

    For a half hour the British raced northeast, four battleships engaging sixteen, with the addition of Hipper’s five Battlecruisers and the 6 Predreadnoughts left behind. Evans-Thomas’s ships were heavily pounded, particularly HMS Valiant in the rear of the formation, but gave as good as they got and inflicted heavy damage to the German Battlecruisers. Twenty-five minutes into the engagement a fire started by a 12” round from SMS Kronprinz reached a 6” magazine on HMS Barham, the local crew were just too slow to react and the magazine brewed up, setting off the other 6” magazines in a sympathetic detonation, and soon reaching the 15” magazines.

    This loss should have doomed the British formation, however five minutes later three more Battlecruisers arrived on the scene. The vanguard of the Grand Fleet had arrived. Scheer concluded that if more battlecruisers were present then the battleships of the Grand Fleet his Zeppelin support indicated they were in company with could not be far behind. In accordance with his instructions from the Kaiser not to risk his fleet in a full-scale battle with the Grand Fleet he turned his fleet east-southeast to return to port. The British reinforcements declined to immediately pursue the Germans, given the sheer damage the Battlecruiser Fleet had taken the three fresh Battlecruisers and their old armored cruiser counterparts would be heavily outmatched against enemy battleships. This fire most probably delivered the final blows that led to the loss of SMS Von der Tann to progressive flooding during the night.

    Jellicoe’s battleships entered sight of their German counterparts after about an hour, and gunnery range a half hour after that. There was about an hour of daylight left and the British pounded the Germans from extreme range. The battleships of the Grand Fleet proved more accurate than their Battlecruiser counterparts and scored multiple hits on the fleeing Germans. Covered by the Battleships the fresh battlecruisers under Admiral Pakenham engaged their German counterparts alongside the older armored cruisers and added on to the damage they suffered.

    To break contact Scheer ordered his torpedo boats into action to distract the British. They quickly became engaged in a confused melee between the battleship formations that nonetheless covered the German withdrawal. In one of the final exchanges of fire a long range 15” shot from HMS Revenge crippled SMS Schlesien, knocking one of her screws. In a vain attempt to protect her doomed division mate SMS Schleswig-Holstein was torpedoed by British destroyers and lost, while SMS Schlesien was finished by gunfire from HMS Ajax in the last major gunnery action of the night.

    Destroyers, cruisers, and torpedo boats continued to clash through the night, with the British losing the armored cruiser HMS Shannon to a friendly torpedo in the confusion, however the German heavies had managed to escape. German losses had been, once SMS Von der Tann finished sinking, a battlecruiser, two predreadnought battleships, four light cruisers and eight torpedo boats, with four battlecruisers and four dreadnought battleships damaged to the point of not being combat worthy. SMS Lützow was still under repair into 1917.

    While the Germans managed to return home almost without incident, the same fate did not befall the British. HMS Colossus was torpedoed by a U-Boat and forced to limp home for repairs. The attack on HMS Colossus would doom HMS Valiant, as to avoid attack by U-Boats she was ordered to steam at flank speed, which exacerbated the severe damage she had taken and forced her to take on additional water. The flooding finally grew too much and she was abandoned in the early hours of the morning on the 8th. HMS Inflexible, while she survived both the battle and the run home would never see war service again. The final British loss of the day was the light cruiser HMS Caroline, which struck a German mine within sight of land.

    In all the British had lost three battlecruisers, two fast battleships, an armored cruiser, two light cruisers and eight destroyers, and had three battlecruisers, two fast battleships and two other battleships severely damaged, with one battlecruiser never to recommission following a dockyard mishap. In all counting the Inflexible the British lost 195,500 tons of shipping, compared to 75,000 tons for the Germans. Casualties were less lopsided with 8,000 British dead to 3300 German.

    The battle would not achieve the goals Scheer had set out, to weaken the British Fleet so that the High Seas fleet could face it on equal terms. By the time the High Seas Fleet would again leave port the British would have commissioned four new Battlecruisers and two new battleships, all with 15” guns, though the battleships were slow and the battlecruisers poorly armored and with only six and four guns. The High Seas fleet would in that time add three new 15” battleships and a 12” battlecruiser, but this would not alter the balance of power enough, as it was still ten battlecruisers to five and thirty two dreadnought battleships to nineteen. Furthermore, by that point the United States had entered the war, meaning the British could be reinforced by an additional fourteen American dreadnought battleships. The battle was despite being strategically indecisive, tactically the greatest defeat the Royal Navy had suffered since arguably the 17th Century and would suffer until the Second World War.

    The name Cleaver Bank, rather than a more accurate Dogger Bank, came from a mistake by German wireless. An edited summary of the battle was given as part of a press announcement, however with a well-known battle of Dogger Bank having already occurred the year prior the broadcaster noted the mention of cleaver bank in the summary and changed things for the English broadcasts. These broadcasts were the first news of the battle to reach the Entente nations, as well as the Americas, and the name spread far and wide before the official British announcement about the battle occurred.


    -Excerpt from 101 Great Naval Battles, American Youth Press, New York 2010





    Okay here is the update that was supposed to be last weeks, actually happened because someone else volunteered to video that first communion. This is actually going to replace this week's as I don't think I will be able to make things up. I'll admit it's not the best *Jutland out there, and definitely not the most plausible, but I have a place I want to take this TL and setting up WWII early, and no time, need or inclination to game things out or go into great detail. Should get into part II by the end of August if not earlier
     
    Part 1-8
  • …When the Entente military leadership met again in January 1917 the mood was much different than in the previous years. Rather than trying to win the war outright in the year’s campaign it was instead a desperate attempt to avoid losing the war. Russia had taken enormous casualties in the previous fall in the failed Brusilov offensive and the counterattacks that followed. The ability of the Russians to resist major Central Powers offensives was in doubt, it was feared one good blow by the Germans could knock them out. This would render the situation in the West impossible, therefore it could not be allowed.

    To prevent that the Entente would launch major offensives as soon as possible to tie down Central Powers troops and give time for the Russians to recover. Attacks would be conducted by the British and French on the Western front at the Aisne river with a number of diversionary attacks before the main offensive. The Italians would launch their own offensive on the Isonzo, and the British would launch a middle eastern campaign against the Ottomans, to prevent them from attacking the Russians.

    The goals for this offensive were again preceded by other events. In order to build a reserve on the Western Front and avoid diversion of troops for their eastern campaign Hindenburg and Ludendorff had ordered a withdrawal to a shorter, better located line in the west. This Hindenburg, or Siegfried Line as it was sometimes known at the time, could be manned by fewer divisions. The gap between the lines would be devastated so that the entente would have to rebuild transportation infrastructure before they could launch an offensive. The withdrawal, codenamed Alberich, occurred over late February and early March and occurred without incident, successfully delaying the Entente offensive by several weeks.

    The other incident was the February Revolution. The war had been hard on Russia’s economy, something amplified by mismanagement from above. The stress of sustaining a massive army and replacing equally massive losses was too much for Russia’s backward economy to deal with. This was exacerbated by poor management from the Czar and his ministers, made worse when he left for the front and the Czarina took over, with her even worse choices of ministers, rows with the Duma and awful advice from her confidant Rasputin, before his assassination.

    In February 1917, early February by the Julian calendar still used by Russia, mid-February by everyone else’s, things came to a head. Imminent famine, high casualties, inflation, corruption, stagnant wages and more contributed to a series of strikes and protests in St. Petersburg. This led to clashes between protesters/strikers and the police/gendarmes trying to disperse them. The Army was called out when lesser measures failed to suppress the disturbances, and quickly tore itself apart with mutiny. The disturbances then began spreading to other cities. The Czar attempted to return and restore order but was foiled by strikers. He then made the decision to abdicate, first in favor of his son, then his brother, who refused. The centuries old monarchy was ended, replaced by a provisional government of the former Duma, all within a matter of weeks.

    These events while preempting the 1917 offensive did not stop them. The first preliminary offensives started on April 1st with the main offensive to start on the 16th. The early offensives made limited tactical success before the main offensive, taking certain key points close to the front.

    The Main offensive turned out differently. German aerial reconnaissance had detected the preparations by the Entente and were able to pre site their guns against Entente targets. This let the outnumbered German artillery stymie its Entente counterpart. Despite this the early phases of the offensive were successful, albeit with high casualties. A segment of the Hindenburg line was even captured. However, by the end of April the offensive had like most others bogged down and was achieve much lesser gains for much higher casualties.

    The casualties of offensive, along with poor conditions in General reached a breaking point. Continuing efforts to drive the offensive on, driven by a desperate need to save the Russians, caused the first Mutinies to occur on May 1st. These early mutinies were independent and focused on a desire for better conditions, more leave and such. They were dealt with, but the dam had broken. By May 7th more mutinies were breaking out, these focused on stopping the offensive. They were suppressed brutally as French High Command was terrified by the prospect of Russia falling, reinforced by what were obviously preliminary attacks by the Central Powers on the Eastern front.

    This suppression engendered more hatred and rebelliousness and by May 16th the offensive had effectively stopped. It was officially called off on the 20th, as the French Army High Command negotiated with the mutineers. The mutineer’s demands were simple, no offensives until the Americans arrived en masse, better conditions, more leave. French high command was willing to support the latter but not the former, the Americans would not be present in numbers for another 12 months, Russia might not last the Summer. For a few days there was an impasse, then the Germans counterattacked.

    The Mutiny had hampered coordination between units of the French army. While most of the mutinous units were willing to fight on the defensive the ability to coordinate between other units and supporting arms was almost nonexistent. What few units did refuse to fight opened holes in the French lines that left other units exposed to flanking and forced to withdraw, surrender, or be destroyed. In order to prevent a potential catastrophe, the French High Command sacked General Nivelle and agreed to the Mutineers demand that there be no more offensives until the Americans arrived. They were eventually able to stabilize the lines back at the starting position, having made no gains in the French sector.

    For the rest of 1917, the burden of the Western front would lie solely on British shoulders. The British portion of the offensive had made gains, but their casualties too were heavy, especially during the hasty attacks to distract the Germans during the mutiny. They would have no chance to recover as the threat to the Russians remained. Further offensives would need to be launched to keep the pressure off Russia. Plans for British attacks in Flanders were quickly made…



    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
     
    Part 1-9
  • …The primary catalysts for US entry were as previously mentioned the German resumption of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram. The reason why the Germans did such stupid things, as most believe was Wilson’s fault. While that is partially true it does in fact ignore there were internal German reasons for doing what they did….

    …To begin with the German leadership, most relevantly Hindenburg and Ludendorff, believed both that American entry to the war was nothing to be feared, and that American entry into the war was inevitable. For both of these reasons Wilson shares part of the blame.

    For the former, the United States army was very small by European standards. Preparedness advocates had proposed to both double the standing Army and to provide a trained reserve that could rapidly expand it in times of war. Wilson had been an opponent of preparedness in 1915 and early 1916 before changing his tune and adopting a watered down form, that produced even more watered down bills in the summer of 1916, that were only just beginning to take effect in early 1917.

    This meant that the German High Command could discount the United States Army as a factor, it was too small and unprepared to be a significant factor before late 1918 or even 1919 they believed. With their thoughts that the decisive campaigns would be in 1917 and 1918, the United States Army could thus be discounted. This estimate would be in error; however, it was the belief that the German High Command was operating under when it made the fatal decisions of late 1916 and early 1917. Had Wilson supported preparedness in 1915 the United States military would have been in the process of visibly expanding when the Germans made the fateful decisions and that may have made them reconsider if the United States could meaningfully intervene in 1917…

    …Part of the reason that the Germans underestimated the United States was the contempt that Woodrow Wilson was held in. Wilson had downplayed actions by German saboteurs in the United States, such as the Black Tom explosion, and did not take a hardline against them. This was perceived as personal weakness by the German High Command. This was compounded by Wilson’s efforts to serve as a broker for a peace deal to end the World War, which led him to be seen as naïve and ineffectual. This contempt for Wilson spread into contempt for the United States in general and impacted German decision making in that way…

    …While the Germans could arguably be justified in discounting the United States Army, they were in error in discounting the economic and industrial potential of the United States. They wanted to engage in Unrestricted Submarine Warfare to cut off supplies to the Entente but did not realize the nature of the economic relationship between the Entente and the United States. This is arguably due to set of ideological blinders particular to the Prussian military tradition that the German high command was thoroughly stepped in. This took the form of a focus on Operations and Tactics to an extant which overshadowed other military disciplines, such as strategy and logistics, something visible in both World War One and World War Two.

    In a way this made sense, Prussia was a relatively small and poor country, its only way to defeat the much larger ones it had to face was to win quickly and decisively on the battlefield. This produced a flexible and responsive command structure that provided many victories and a doctrine that was the precursor to today’s mission-based tactics. It did however produce a neglect of logistics and to a lesser extent strategy. For 18th century Prussia this was manageable, logistic demands were less and strategy was not so divorced from operations as it would later become. For 19th century Prussia this emphasis had again worked out well when it was actually followed by the Prussians rather than used against them. Early 20th Century was something else entirely and faced an entirely different situation.

    Thus, while German High Command thought that Unrestricted Submarine Warfare would be useful in constricting Entente supplies before the decisive campaigns, they did not realize that American Entry into the war would improve the Entente supply situation. The Entente had been steadily increasing their purchases of American goods and raw materials as American production ramped up. By the end of 1916 they were feeling a credit crunch and the Federal Reserve had warned against making any loans to the Entente that were not properly secured with collateral, which the Entente was running short of. If the situation did not change the Entente would have had to both cut back on their purchases and take more desperate measures to finance them. War with the United States gave them access to unlimited amounts of American credit free from the need for collateral and let them massively expand their purchases from the US…

    …Furthermore, Unrestricted Submarine Warfare was not actually necessary to achieve their goals of constricting Entente Supplies. The increases in sinking that had been attributed to Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, were in fact due to announcements of that practice corresponding with a massive surge in U-Boats on commerce raiding patrols. In fact, well over 90% of ships sunk during the Unrestricted Submarine warfare period were sunk under Cruiser Rules. The limitation for German U-Boats was not finding enough targets to sink but running out of torpedoes.

    The unnecessary provocation of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare, and such incidents as a U-Boat stinking ships while surrounded by American warships which could not legally engage, aroused anger in the American population. Had the Germans simply surged the number of U-Boats on commerce patrol, with some concessions to avoid American waters, would have almost accomplished the same results without angering the Americans nearly as much…

    …That the Germans believed war with the United States was inevitable was again partially the fault of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson has personal sympathies with the United Kingdom and France, and his public speeches showed that. He was far more ready to condemn Germany than either Britain or France, and more willing to sweep what the Anglo-French did under the rug. He ignored his state department making a number of minor but Pro-Entente moves, like demanding copies of all diplomatic messages sent from US radio towers, when only the Germans were sending such messages from them.

    Much of the American political establishment held similar views to Wilson, Francophile, and Anglophile they sympathized far more with the Entente. Many of them were quite outspoken in their professions of support in the Entente and a number were outright advocating for war with Germany as early as 1915.

    What the Germans did not realize was how much opposition to the war there was. The lower socioeconomic rungs of society were particularly outspoken against the idea of a war. A general rule of thumb was that the more spelling and grammar errors a letter to the editor of a newspaper contained, the more likely it was to be an antiwar one. They were quite clear that it was they who would be expected to fight and die in the trenches and before the provocations of 1917 wanted no part of hit.

    There was significant opposition to the war at higher income strata as well. Whether out of genuine belief or self interest quite a number of Americans opposed the idea of joining the war, including quite wealthy ones such as Henry Ford. Yet the Germans did not realize how much influence this group had in a country as democratic as the US. They saw the coastal elite being generally pro war and thought the coastal elite would drag the rest of the country after them, overinflating their influence over the country to match that of the less democratic states they were more used to dealing with…

    …The Zimmerman note was a particular bit of foolishness that showed the ignorance and incompetence of the German Foreign office. The note offered Mexico a return of territories lost in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo if it joined the Central powers, assuming the United States had previously joined the Entente and the Central Powers ultimately won the war, and financial support during the war.

    The Mexicans were smart enough to have never even considered the note. They were in a civil war, and their army was in no shape to fight the United States. Furthermore they were well aware that Germany was in Europe, trapped behind the Royal Navy and had no real way to bring the war to the United States, thus any chance of the United States agreeing to significant loss of territory was a pipe dream. Thirdly Mexico did not want to acquire a huge amount of land filled with restive Anglos that would need pacific and invite another war with the Americans. Fourth Germany had not delivered gold Mexico had requested in 1916 to start a national bank, and their promises of money were thus suspect. Finally, such a war would be a diplomatic disaster as it would give support to opposing factions in the Civil War and would end its friendship with the South American ABC powers it relied on as a counterbalance to the US.

    That the German foreign office did not realize this and sent the telegram, over a route known to be insecure and in an old code at that, was foolish. That the German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman publicly admitted it was genuine was arguably even worse. Denying it may have forced the British to reveal that they were spying on American diplomatic communications, and would continue to do so for another 25 years, and mitigated some of the blowback from the incident…



    -Excerpt from Why did they do THAT!?! Historical Madness in Context: Volume III, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015




    Today's update heavily delayed, one week due to Isaias, two weeks probably due to Eversource getting some petty retaliation against the First Selectman here. Anyways I think I will finish off Part I next week
     
    Part 1-10
  • …It is possible that no president elected in 1917 could have prevented war given the circumstances that prevailed in early 1917. The outrage generated by the Zimmerman note certainly made Americans furious with Germany. The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, with the sinking of five American ships in a week during March, was a further provocation that could not be ignored. Combined with earlier provocations this would have made most presidents declare war.

    Wilson did go above and beyond in convincing the American public to enter the war. This can be explained by his sense of moral outrage at what the Germans were doing, that it seemed to personally offend him that the Germans had ignored his offers to mediate a peace and escalated provocations despite warnings. Wilson was able to convince an increasingly moralist public to share his moral outrage. The same public that would soon be convinced to ban “the demon drink” for the betterment of the United States was convinced to declare war on Germany to “make the world safe for democracy”. As with Prohibition Americans would soon come to regret their decision when it turned to do the opposite of what the wanted.

    Whatever they would later believe in March of 1917 the American public was convinced that they needed to join WWI. On April 4th Congress voted to declare war on Germany, passing in the Senate by 80 to 8 and in the house by 348 to 75 in the House of Representatives. America had entered the war and one of the greatest tragedies in American, and indeed World, History had begun…


    -Excerpt from Why did they do THAT!?! Historical Madness in Context: Volume III, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015



    …American Entry had come none too soon for the Entente. The British, acting as purchasing agents for the rest of the Entente had run out of ability to raise dollars using their current approaches and were overdrawing their accounts with J.P. Morgan by tens of millions a week. Only J.P. Morgan’s unwavering personal commitment to the Entente kept the money flowing. Yet even his vast personal reserves could not last forever and the Entente was looking at some very hard choices.

    It was clear that they could not continue purchasing at their previous rates, so purchases would have to be scaled down to the most essential items. Furthermore, Italy and Russia would be cut off in order to maximize the amount going to Britain and France. It was clear that this would have a deleterious effect on the war effort, and especially the commitment of Italy and Russia, but such could not be helped. Further desperate measures would likely have to be taken in the future, mortgaging of assets previously untouchable, greater currency manipulation, possibly sale of colonies.

    American entry changed all that. While the American treasury was at first extremely skeptical of Entente needs, they were convinced to start giving unsecured loans to the Entente by the end of May. This not only kept the Entente solvent and buying American goods but allowed a massive increase in borrowing, to date the Entente had borrowed two billion dollars from the United States, by the end of the war that was almost fourteen billion dollars.

    Furthermore, US entry into the war allowed for greater government control over the economy. This proved important in 1917 as the wheat harvest proved bad, without government intervention it was unlikely that the US would have exported significant quantities of grain that year…

    …Morally American entry in the war proved key to keeping morale up after the various disasters the Entente suffered. Most critically it let the French deal with the mutinies as quickly as they did…


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



    …Functional POD: The point where reality in a Counterfactual Timeline noticeably differs from the Original Timeline. This is invoked when an author wants to explore the consequences of changing a particular event, but that event is not one which easily lends itself to being changed by a single directly related point…


    -Excerpt from Dictionary of Science Fiction Terms, Gate Publishing, Atlanta, 2013



    …American entry into WWI itself as a functional POD is relatively rare compared to earlier functional PODs that prevent the possibility of American entry in the first place, or PODs that make America better prepared when it does enter, or even POD’s that make it enter earlier.

    The logical reasons for America not to enter are of course an absence of provocations from the Zimmerman note and the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, which involves changing the state of mind of German High Command and foreign ministry in 1916. While it is commonly assumed simply not having Wilson as president in 1917 is enough, analysis of probable alternatives indicate most would have reacted to those provocations much as Wilson had, though said provocations occurring can arguably be laid at Wilson’s feet.

    Assuming those provocations are avoided we can state the most probable course of action as thus. Without America in the war the British are forced to cut off supplies to Russia and Italy due to a lack of dollars to buy them. This probably means that the Russian provisional government leaves the war in early summer, and the Italian front collapses in fall of 1917 and is forced to leave the war. Without the US the Spring offensive then knocks France from the war by the end of the summer of 1918. Britain will bow to the inevitable within a few months as the blockade can no longer be enforced and any chance of victory is nill. Probable result is a modest gain by Germany in the west, in order to procure a status quo ante bellum in the colonies and substantial gains in the East.

    It is hard to see how this would not lead to a better world. The United States would avoid its six digits of dead and the more troublesome social aspects of the war. All powers would have less debt and fewer dead and wounded soldiers. Fewer neutral and Central Powers civilians would have been starved by the British Blockade. Germany as a victor would prevent a future General European War that could spiral into a world war, a defeated France and Italy are too weak to challenge the status quo, Austria-Hungary is bound at the hip to Germany, Russia is shorn of her western territories and Britain will not act without a continental ally. Without a Second World War…

    …In all a much better world was lost due to Wilson’s folly…


    -Excerpt from Sideways: An Examination of Common Divergences in Counterfactual History, Gate Publishing, Atlanta, 2016



    This Concludes Part I of Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars


    Part II: Wilson’s Folly will begin next week



    That last part is assuming nothing untoward happens
     
    Part 2-1
  • Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

    A TL by RamscoopRaider

    Part II: Wilson’s folly

    The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name...We must be impartial in thought as well as in action-Woodrow Wilson, August 19th 1914

    There is a price which is too great to pay for peace, and that price can be put in one word. One cannot pay the price of self-respect-Woodrow Wilson, February 1st 1916

    The supreme test of the nation has come. We must all speak, act, and serve together- Woodrow Wilson, April 15th 1917

    FOLLY, n. That "gift and faculty divine" whose creative and controlling energy inspires Man's mind, guides his actions and adorns his life-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

    A fool who knows his foolishness is wise at least to that extent, but a fool who thinks himself wise is a fool indeed-Siddhartha Gautama, the Dhammapada

    The first Degree of Folly, is to conceit one’s self wise; the second to profess it; the third to despise Counsel-Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

    For fools rush in where angels fear to tread-Alexander Pope, an Essay on Criticism




    …The Great war began as most American Wars to date had, with the United States completely unprepared for a war. The United States Army was small and lacking in modern equipment, it would require the absorption of hundreds of thousands of new recruits merely to deploy its existing formations, let alone newly raised ones. The Navy was better off, having adequate manpower for its existing ships, but its strength was only near adequate in Battleships and submarines, having invested most of its peacetime construction funds in the former as their long building times would prevent rush building during war. Still they would need a crash building program of escorts to deal with the demands of the war and their veteran crews be dispersed to crew hordes of auxiliaries and armed merchantmen. Despite this the Navy was able to play an important role almost from the beginning of the war, even the small number of escorts it had being enough to allow the Entente to start running convoys in the North Atlantic. The Army was not so lucky and would not have significant combat formations in place until October.

    American entry was immediately decisive on the economic front, within eight weeks the Entente’s financial difficulties were solved by a flood of American loans unshackled from the constraints of collateral or security. The blockade, which had until this point leaked considerably became almost airtight as the United States was able to stop blockade runners before they left port, rather than having to run them down in the North Sea. The promise of postwar American loans was perhaps the only thing that prevented the ruling Socialist Revolutionary party in Russia from starting negotiations with the Germans in early summer of 1917, according to certain exiled politicians in the aftermath of the war…

    …American entry proved absolutely critical in the terms of Entente morale. It was American entry that allowed the French to deal with their mutinies before they weakened the frontline against the Germans. One could imagine that something similar may have eventually happened with the British had they continued their headlong attacks without American entry. Certainly, the morale boost of American entry was necessary for the Italians, who by far had the greatest number of executions for discipline issues, one can only imagine what may have happened in the fall of 1917 otherwise. And of course, one must not forget the Russians, without the morale boost of American entry the infamous July Days may have come in June, or even May…

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



    …Woodrow Wilson is usually placed at or near the bottom of lists of American Presidents by most orthodox historians. Primarily this is due to his being president when the United States entered World War One, though in recent years criticism of his civil rights record has been an increasing part of the ranking. His good decisions, such as his reforms of the civil service are forgotten. While the latter certainly cannot be denied the former cannot be solely considered his fault.

    The Orthodox argument was that Wilson was uniquely responsible for dragging the United States into the war, which goes with the popular view of the war as “Wilson’s Folly”. That he was seen as personally week, for not responding forcefully enough to German provocations led them to take the strength United States in contempt. That he did not do nearly enough to strengthen the United States, further driving the Germans to see the United States as weak. Finally, his Anglophilia led the Germans to believe that the United States would inevitably enter the war, thus there was no reason to avoid provocations of the United States.

    This view ignores the fact that the Germans had an equal or greater say in the matter. That they had the ultimate choice in whether the United States would enter the war or not. They made the choice to give the United States provocations that could not be ignored. This choice can be shown to be far more a product of their biases, errors and incompetence than anything that Wilson did. A similar argument is made about the events of the following decades being his responsibility, again however others had a much greater say in things turning out as they did.

    This view also places Wilson as uniquely terrible. This excludes the role many of his subordinates had in creating the situation in question, such as Robert Lansing, where at most he was guilty of inadequate supervision. Wilson’s relevant personal views were not as far outside of the mainstream of the American elite as one would be led to believe by orthodox history.

    In short, this paper intends to show that while Wilson was certainly a subpar President he was not in the same category as James Buchanan, where he is often placed...


    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXIX, University of California Press: Berkley, 2019


    …While Dragutin Dimitrijević, better known as Apis, had earned lasting infamy with the killing of Alexander I of Serbia, and worldwide infamy with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand it was the assassination of Peter I and Crown Prince Alexander, as well as the surrounding events that earned Apis and the Black Hand their place as the most legendary group of Assassins in history.

    Unlike the other two regicides Apis was responsible for this one was not a carefully planned action but rather an act of desperation. Apis had been considered a political liability for some time by the Serbian government in exile, especially the regent Crown Prince Alexander, as his presence made the Entente seriously uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the clique of ultranationalist military officers that surrounded him made him very difficult to remove. In 1917 Political pressure from their Entente allies grew to deal with them as secret negotiations with the Central Powers indicated that a guarantee of no Serbian agitation in Austria-Hungary was necessary. The Serbian government in exile could not resist this pressure for long and in May of 1917 the Regency council, based in Entente occupied Albania, began planning to quietly arrest Apis and his associates.

    This news was leaked to Apis before it could be implemented. Apis and his associates viewed this as a betrayal of the Serbian people by the Serbian Government. Apis decided that they had to kill the regency council, blame the Austrians and take control of the government to prevent such a betrayal from taking place. To do so he had Gavrilo Princip, one of the backup assassins for Franz Ferdinand, deliver a bomb inside a briefcase into a meeting of the regency council where the King was present on June 1st. Princip eagerly volunteered for the task once explained to him, despite knowing it was a suicide mission.

    What Apis did not know was the topic of the meeting, which was in fact the arrest of himself and his associates. As such when Princip walked into the meeting and blew himself up, taking with him the majority of the regency council, including the crown Prince and the King, Apis and his associates were already being arrested.

    It is here that Apis truly became a legend, as he escaped while being dragged to an impromptu prison from his quarters. Following his escape, he was never seen again, and his body never found. This is why he often appears so often as a villain in fiction, this sense of mystery…


    -Excerpt from A History of Assassination, American Youth Press, New York, 2001


    …The Valona coup while not successful induced a great deal of confusion among the Serbian government and military. Conflicting stories, about it being a domestic coup or an Austrian bombing circulated. The Serbian military quickly edged into a so called royalist and so-called nationalist faction, the former believed it was a coup, while the latter insisted there was no coup. Formations jockeyed for position and a minor degree of fighting broke out.

    To prevent the situation from deteriorating the Italians were forced to deploy additional troops to Albania to both keep the Serbs separated and to fill in for units that had left the lines until the situation could be resolved. As it was only the relative passivity of the Bulgarians prevented a setback in the Albanian front before the Italians arrived in force in late June. The diversion of troops would prove important later when…


    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
     
    Part 2-2
  • …The reason why the new Russian government continued to wage an obviously unwinnable war has bedeviled people for decades. Surely it would have been better for them to make peace than to keep fighting to the breaking point and let the communists take over. With hindsight the obvious choice is to make peace and accept whatever losses are necessary in order to avoid civil war and communist takeover. This view overlooks two important facts about the provisional government.

    The first was that it was in fact a semi-democratic body. The second was that its constituency wanted to continue the war. But the Russian people were totally against continuing the war, that is why the Czar was overthrown and the provisional government was as well, you say. That was not actually the case in anything accept communist propaganda. In truth the Russian people as a whole were quite opposed to any kind of peace with Germany, this was why the Communists cancelled plans for an election of a constituent assembly in November as they were quite certain to lose. Later on they found the best way to rally the Russian people was with nationalism, one figure was quoted as saying “who knew there were so many patriots in Russia?”.

    But if the Russians were for continuing the war why did the Revolutions happen? That can be explained by the fact that while the Russian people as a whole were for continuing the war, certain groups within the Russian Empire were not. Most importantly the urban populations of St. Petersburg, Moscow and to a lesser extent the other Russian cities. The war had disrupted life greatly in the urban centers, causing shortages of food, disruptions to employment and more direct exposure to Czarist incompetence. As such St. Petersburg, like Paris in the French Revolution, was able to be the tail that wagged the dog, an urban minority that was able to steer the country in a direction opposite the wishes of the rural majority.

    The other group opposed to the war was the common soldiery. They were the ones who dealt with the worst conditions, were poorly equipped and saw defeat after defeat shatter their morale, with brutal and incompetent officers making the situation worse. While the urban population of St. Petersburg drove the Revolution it was their dissatisfaction that allowed it to move forward…

    …One must be honest and state that the Provisional government did consider opening negotiations with the Germans if they were not given a guarantee of American loans, both during the war and after. That is not to say that the negotiations would have gone anywhere as the Provisional government was not prepared to make peace in Spring 1917, certainly not on any terms the Germans might have offered then, it was merely a threat to get those loans that they so desperately needed. In this way it was similar to the promises of peace they mad in the early days to quiet down the St. Petersburg mobs which they had no intention of following through on. Furthermore, actually talking to the Germans would have caused much dissension in the ranks and possibly brought down the government. So the Provisional Government was never actually seriously considering leaving the war…


    -Excerpt from Why did they do THAT!?! Historical Madness in Context: Volume III, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015


    …After the February revolution a provisional government was put into place in Russia led by the state Duma. The new government remained committed to continuing the war, as they viewed living up to the nation’s commitments essential to the future of the Russian state. However, they were realistic about their military situation. 1916 had shown that even a supremely well-prepared offensive against the Germans or Austrians was likely to end badly, and the Russian army was in even worse shape in 1917than in 1916. However, they needed to do something both to show their commitment to the war to the rest of the Entente and to rebuild the deficient morale.

    Minister of War Alexander Kerensky proposed a solution. They would stand on the defensive against the Germans and Austrians, while transferring additional forces and supplies to fight the Ottomans. The Russian Army had performed very well against the Ottomans in previous years campaigns, and the forces in the Caucuses had the highest morale in the Russian Army. With reinforcements and supplies victories were guaranteed and examples could be used to restore the morale of the Russian Army so that in 1918 they would be able to restore the offensive, with the help of greater supplies from the new railroad from Murmansk.

    The plan relied on the British, French and Italians playing their parts to keep the Germans and Austrians from launching major offensives that could damage the Russian Army. The British and Italians were able to live up to their commitments, thanks to the mutinies the French were not. Despite this the offensive went on as planned, as no other option had been seen launching on June 30th.

    Russian forces quickly overwhelmed the Ottomans, still reeling from the defeats of 1916 and by July 10th had captured the port of Ordu and pushed the Ottomans back all along the front, despite the best efforts of Mustafa Kemal, the Ottoman’s finest general. The Kerensky offensive had achieved its goals.

    However, this victory was overshadowed by new from elsewhere on the front. After the losses of 1916 and with the fresh Romanian army to consider the decision had been made to focus attention on the southern portion of the front. Thus the North was left neglected in the faint hope the Anglo-French would cause enough trouble for the Germans to not launch major offensives.

    This was not to be and on July 2nd the Germans launched a major push for Riga. Using tactics developed by the Russians for the Brusilov offensive, but perfected by officers like Branchmüller and Hutier, the Germans rapidly broke through the front. On July 14th they were at the gates of Riga.

    This pressed the governing coalition sorely and the Kadet Party left the government on July 15th, leaving only moderate left Socialists in the government. This prompted Prime Minister Georgy Lvov to resign effective the 20th.

    Demonstrations started on the 16th by soldiers from local units, soon joined by sailors and factory workers. They called upon the Soviets to seize power from the useless provisional government and to use the power they had. Elements of the Bolshevik party supported these moves, however the party leadership was opposed to openly taking power at this time. Attempts by demonstrators to convince Lenin to intervene had failed.

    On the 17th Riga fell to the advancing Germans, though the defending forces managed to pull back and avoid heavy losses. Alexander Kerensky, then the favorite to replace Lvov was blamed for the loss and placed out of the running. This delayed the response of the government for two days. During that time period Lenin was finally convinced of the need to take charge and on the 19th started speaking out and leading the demonstrators.

    Attempts by the provisional government to entail local military forces to intervene proved fruitless, local units either remained in the barracks or joined the demonstrators. Armories, utilities, bridges, railway stations and other pieces of infrastructure were being seized by the demonstrators, slowly tightening their control over the city. The Provisional government felt they had to act now or control would be lost and ordered General Lazar Kornilov to bring reinforcements from the front and crush the demonstrations.

    Kornilov had already been gathering troops since the protest started, partly due to his desire to create a more unified government and end the dual power system between the Soviets and the Provisional Government, partly due to the urging of Alfred Knox, the British military attaché. Kornilov immediately acted upon receipt of orders, and along with some British troops in Russian uniform, attempted to advance on St. Petersburg.

    As his progress was impeded by striking railway and telegraph workers in sympathy with the demonstrators Kornilov took drastic measures to keep moving. Striking workers were made to return to work under threat of immediate execution, a threat carried out more than once on the 21st. Attempts by workers to impede his progress by absenteeism on the 22nd were met with threats of execution of workers families. This was counterproductive and on the 23rd Kornilov was killed when his train was derailed by railway workers. Without Kornilov the attempt to put down the revolt disintegrated as soldiers dispersed and officers squabbled over command.

    Buoyed by the failure of Kornilov pro-Soviet and pro-Bolshevik demonstrations spread rapidly to other cities across Russia, followed by the seizure of the cities. The Russian civil war had begun…


    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
     
    Part 2-3
  • …With Russia falling into civil war the German decision to ship Lenin there in the early part of the year was vindicated. With the Eastern front now a passive holding action, Hindenburg and Ludendorff turned to their next target, Italy. If the Italians could be driven from the war a major part of the pressure on Austria-Hungary would be gone and the Dual-Monarchy could partially demobilize and provide greater economic contributions to the German war effort. Even if the Italians were not outright driven from the war a major defeat could leave them incapable of significant offensive action. Such a defeat would also allow the occupation and exploitation of a significant quantity of Italian territory for the Central Powers war effort, and possibly divert Anglo-French troops to stiffen the wavering Italians. It would thus be a useful precursor to a knockout blow on the Western Front in Spring of 1918.

    The Italians had attacked the Austrians in the tenth battle of the Isonzo in late Spring, and launched the eleventh in midsummer, slightly pushing back the Austrians and inflicting a great deal of casualties on both sides. The pressure of the still ongoing Eleventh battle convinced Conrad to agree to allow the Germans to take the lead.

    German specialists in chemical and mountain warfare were sent to reconnoiter the area, choosing a quiet area around the town of Caporetto, Karfreit in some sources, as the location for the planned assault. A thrust by nine Austrian and nine German divisions would split the Italian Second Army, then hook behind and encircle the Italian Third Army. Other formations would launch attacks of opportunity if the Italians diverted troops to try to contain the breakthrough.

    The attack was timed for October 1st, to give the Austrians four weeks to recover from the Eleventh Battle of the Isonszo. Italian aircraft were able to notice the buildup of German and Austrian troops for an offensive, as a result General Cadorna ordered defenses constructed to halt the coming attack.

    Bad weather delayed the attack two days, but on the night of October 3rd there was no wind and a heavy mist over the front. With perfect conditions the Germans launched a heavy and abnormally effective gas attack. This was followed up by a short sharp bombardment and the detonation of a pair of mines. This provided the cover for stormtroopers to infiltrate strong points and quickly take them out. By 8:00 in the morning the Germans had broken through and were advancing almost unopposed through the valley road. By the end of the day they had penetrated almost 20 miles into the Italian lines.

    Attempted counterattacks on the Fourth proved unable to stem the Germans and Austrians and the Second Army started the process of disintegration. Its commander Luigi Capello asked to withdraw on the 5th, however Cadorna still thought the situation could be salvaged. By the 6th, with the Austrians advancing in other parts of the front as well, he realized that it could not be and ordered a withdrawal behind the Tagliamento river. By that point it was too late, Second Army was in the process of disintegration and Third Army was not far behind.

    Italian morale had, after the Russians, been the lowest of any of the great powers. Luigi Cadorna was infamous as a martinet who was detested by his troops for being overly harsh. To maintain discipline the Italian Army had as many military executions as the rest of the European great powers put together and it was rumored that Cadorna had reintroduced decimation for defeated units. He was liked no better by the officers, having sacked over 800 officers above the rank of Captain during his time in command. As such the Italian soldier, and indeed many officers, often felt no pressing need to die for his country, and would surrender in situations where his counterparts in other nations would keep fighting. This proved the Italian Achilles heel during the Caporetto campaign.

    The Italians started crossing the Tagliamento on the 7th and took three days to cross. A large portion proved unable to do so and were trapped and captured by the Germans. By the time the Germans and Austrians crossed the river on the 10th Second Army had essentially disintegrated and Third was heavily damaged. The Austro-Germans could not follow up their success immediately as the rapid advance had overwhelmed their logistics, given time for the Italians to withdraw behind the Piave River.

    The British and French sent further troops to reinforce the Italians, however they urged the Italians to withdraw further, to the Adige if not the Mincio and Po Rivers. This would mean sacrificing Venice and Padua, as well as Verona in the latter case.

    On October 23rd the Austrians and Germans began their assault on the Piave line, specifically targeting the Third Italian Army. Already shaken by the enormous casualties it had taken in the earlier battles the Army broke. Fourth Army was forced to withdraw to protect it’s flank and Venice was cut off, with the garrison and many citizens to be evacuated by the Italian Navy. By the end of the Month the Italians were in full rout.

    The Anglo-French force on the Mincio advanced to the Adige and on November 5th checked the Austro-German advance and saved First and Fourth Armies from destruction. The Austrians had managed to cross the Adige in the South on November 10th and the Entente forces were able to withdraw behind the Mincio and Po rivers for the Winter.

    The Italians had suffered 30,000 dead, 50,000 wounded and an incredible 400,000 captured, along with 350,000 stragglers and 75,000 deserters. An estimated half of the Italian army simply ceased to exist in a recognizable form, though the stragglers would be reconstituted over the winter. The Germans and Austrians suffered about 90,000 casualties between them, and the Anglo-French 10,000. Over 4,000 artillery pieces, 5,000 machine guns and 2500 mortars were captured by the Central Powers, along with a vast quantity of supplies. It was in many ways a disaster worse than the loss of Russia and despite the entry of the United States into the war, many were privately convinced it meant that the war was lost...

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
     
    Part 2-4
  • …American Contributions to the war during 1917 were limited. Partly this can be explained by the small size of the army and the nature of it. The United States Army was smaller than that of Belgium’s before the war started. It was also scattered over a wide geographic area, with many small detachments all over the Western United States, with more troops in the Philippines, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean. It would take time for the United States to pull together full-sized formations to send to Europe, with the 1st Infantry division not arriving on the front lines until October 24th. By year’s end only four combat ready American divisions were in France, one regular army, two national guard and one composite Army/Marine division.

    This can also be explained by a lack of shipping. German U-Boats caused significant losses in shipping that had to be made good. Furthermore, an oil shortage resulted in many ships having to carry oil in their double bottoms, which cut into their transport capacity. This shipping crunch, along with a shortage of American built weaponry forced the American Expeditionary Force to use a great deal of Entente weaponry. Even as constraints in shipping weight were reduced constraints in shipping bulk remained into 1919 forcing the US to take measures to conserve shipping volume. Vessels belonging to Germany that had been sitting in port in the US were seized to partially make up the difference, leading to such incidents as the United States Navy having a USS Kaiser Wilhelm II in commission while at war with her namesake’s government.

    The Navy was able to contribute more immediately, with convoy escort duty starting within a matter of months and US destroyer squadrons were stationed in France and Britain by mid-summer. The first American combat loss was the loss of the destroyer Fanning to U-Boats on September 20th. This was quickly followed by the first US kill on October 1st by the Destroyers Cassin and Cummings.

    The Battleships would take longer to arrive, with Battleship Division Nine arriving in Scapa Flow on December 1st, with the Battleships, New York, Texas, Florida and Wyoming, the British having requested coal fired battleships to conserve oil, forcing the American’s to leave the newer, more powerful battleships of the Nevada and Pennsylvania classes home. The Battleships were not considered combat ready by the British, due to all but the flagship New York having been stripped of experienced gun crews to man smaller vessels. It would take months of gunnery practice, as well as learning British practices before they could join the grand fleet…


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


    …The Italian campaign had gone as well as the German High Command had realistically expected. Better in some ways as they were considering the need to retreat behind the Adige to consolidate their logistics until the Entente obliged them by retreating instead. Italy had not been knocked out of the war, but it was in the process of rebuilding a shattered army and would not be performing any land-based offensives for a long time.

    There were arguments that another attack should be launched. These were overruled given the previous attacks had already stretched Austro-German logistics to the breaking point, and that any future attacks would be against the French, British and Americans, not the Italians who had broken so easily.

    Proposals for a counterattack at Passchendaele were also mooted. The 220,000 casualties they had taken there from July to October had severely weakened the army in Flanders and it needed time to rest and refit. Until then German reserves were needed in Flanders in case the Entente resumed the attacks they abandoned mid-October.

    A November assault by the British at Cambrai, making extensive use of tanks contributed to this decision. While the Germans had been able to counterattack and reverse most of the British gains the attack revealed a weakness in their defenses. Skillful use of tanks, with proper coordination from infantry, artillery and airpower, let attacks achieve a measure of success without extensive preparations that would provide warning to the defenders. Large reserves were needed to counterattack such breakthroughs.

    Cambrai further illustrated to the German high command that they were on a time limit. Entente material superiority was growing, and the tank was turning from a curiosity to a real weapon. Combined with American divisions starting to appear on the frontlines this made it clear time no longer favored them. The 1918 Offensive would have to be decisive and everything reserved for it…

    …For the Entente the Italian campaign made a bad situation worse. It forced the British to call off the Passchendaele offensive after they had suffered 260,000 casualties, but before they could actually take the Passchendaele Ridge or break the German Army in Flanders. It also forced a reevaluation of the Entente Strategy.

    Previously the Entente had been determined to beat Germany by knocking away the props. The Italians would defeat the Austrians, the Serbs, Italians and expeditionary forces from other powers would defeat the Bulgarians in Albania, while Franco-British colonial forces defeated the Ottomans. Without the support of their allies the Germans would not be able to maintain the front in France and would have to sue for peace.

    The Italian campaign suddenly made putting any pressure on Austria-Hungary or Bulgaria impossible. The collapse of the front and near destruction of the Italian Army prevented any pressure being applied on the Austrians there. Furthermore, the Italians had to withdraw significant amounts of troops from Albania, leaving the position there as a small pocket around Valona and reducing any pressure on the Bulgarians.

    The campaign against the Ottomans would continue, as it was perhaps the only place the war was going well for the Entente and good news was necessary to keep morale up. Otherwise the war would have to be won in France. Limited Anglo-American assaults in 1918 would occur to build morale and occupy jumping off points for a decisive offensive in 1919 that would make use of the incredible material superiority that the Entente was building. If that failed the Entente could take solace in the fact that only the Americans could really continue the war into 1920 without collapse, thus their victory could then be assured, even if that would be a ghastly alternative.

    This would of course require that the Entente survive the German offensive that was sure to come in 1918…


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


    Things happened, update got posted later than usual
     
    Part 2-5
  • …Following the failure of Kornilov to crush St. Petersburg the Provisional Government fled the city. They attempted to reach Moscow by railroad and were stopped by striking workers. They then attempted to reach the city by road, avoiding the cities of Veliky Novgorod and Tver for fear of being intercepted by Bolsheviks, a fear that proved to be false. This put them effectively out of communication for ten days and let the Bolsheviks control the starting narrative. As such Moscow had been overtaken by revolution before they arrived with the local officials and troops not taking decisive action without orders.

    The Provisional government then compounded their mistakes by taken the opportunity to flee west along the Trans-Siberian railway, rather than attempting to establish themselves in one of the cities to the south that were still loyal. As such establishment of a secure seat of government took over two weeks until they arrived in Omsk and decided the situation there was sufficiently secure. This lack of leadership at a key moment let the Bolsheviks take over the center of the Russian Rail and Telegraph networks without organized opposition and made the task of attempting to coordinate against the Bolsheviks almost impossible.

    This lack of leadership led to local generals taking the initiative to try to form their own resistance blocks, to varying degrees of success, even crushing or dispersing a few Bolshevik uprisings near the front. However, they were unable to stop the slow disintegration of the Russian Army that had started to occur. Desertion, already rife exploded. A few more popular commanders were able to do better than others, and certain units with high morale such as the infamous Battalions of Death or of specific ethnic composition, such as Armenian volunteer units, did not suffer much at all. The combat power of the Russian Army was rapidly eroding.

    Despite this the Provisional Government still controlled more than enough force to crush the Bolsheviks two weeks after the failure of Kornilov. At a command level this force was fragmented, and control had to be reasserted, a difficult task from Omsk when the telegraph lines from Moscow were unusable. It took two weeks for some semblance of control and coordination to be established and two more for a counter assault to be organized.

    By that point the Bolsheviks controlled the territory between St. Petersburg and Moscow, the oblasts around Moscow, with pockets in the surrounding Oblasts. Bolshevik revolts elsewhere had been crushed by central authority, as in Minsk, or by local forces such as in Kiev, or simply contained as in Finland, Volgagrad and the Caucuses. The Bolsheviks were rapidly trying to organize some semblance of a military force to defend their territory, not helped by their ideological issues making military discipline difficult. They were outnumbered and substantially outgunned by forces loyal to the provisional government.

    In the first offensives during September the Provisional government achieved a good deal of success, dispersing Bolshevik forces at a number of locations and retaking territory. With these victories the disintegration of the Russian Army accelerated. Opportunities for desertion increased and casualties were primarily concentrated among officers, NCO’s and the most loyal soldiers. As Government forces garrisoned retaken territory, they were exposed to increasing amounts of Bolshevik propaganda.

    The first signs of trouble occurred two weeks into the reconquest when some of the government columns began bogging down. This was ignored as others were still making considerable progress. Yet one by one the other columns began bogging down as well. By the third week of October only two columns were moving forward at any speed, one to Moscow and another at st. Petersburg.

    The St. Petersburg column met heavy resistance from the soldiers and sailors that had defected from the Bolsheviks. It was able to bulge their lines considerably, before being driven back by a counterattack from the armored cars that had been hastily assembled at the Putilov Works and captured from Kornilov. The retreat turned into a rout and the neighboring columns were forced to withdraw as well.

    The Moscow column suffered a different fate. Victorious on the field it was ultimately torn apart by mutiny within as the harsh measures that allowed them to reach the gates of Moscow proved too much. The soldiers mutinied, executed their officers and defected to the Bolsheviks. With the failure of that column the neighboring columns were again forced to withdraw.

    Things settled down into a stalemate for several weeks as the Provisional government tried to find the manpower and supplies to get their troops moving again. Such was not forthcoming in the continual disintegration of the Russian military, and at the end of October a retreat was ordered to consolidate and try again. This proved the final straw for the cohesion of the Russian forces, and they shattered on the retreat. Only the most dedicated managed to withdraw to their start lines, with the rest either deserting or going over to the Bolsheviks.

    The Bolsheviks took advantage of the confusion and occupied the territory the government withdrew from, and even expanding further than they had before. Other groups joined them, anarchists in the Ukraine, ethnic nationalists in the Baltics and Caucuses, religious rebels in Central Asia and just plain madmen in Siberia. The Provisional government itself remained united, by the subordinates it depended on began to splinter into pieces as their control effectively began to run no further than the borders of Omsk…


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



    …the most significant development of the fall of 1917, aside from the Caporetto offensive was the publication of the Russian Diplomatic archives by the Bolsheviks. The publication revealed the details of all the secret treaties and negotiations that had occurred before and during the war. Most importantly the Treaty of London bringing Italy into the war and the agreements to partition the Ottoman Empire.

    The cynical and mercenary nature of the treaties appalled the American public. That the Entente was willing to carve territory from a neutral power and encourage the subjugation of another to gain Italy’s favor seemed to put to lie the idea that the war was fought for the rights of neutrals. The nature of secret agreements formed between nations without the knowledge or consent of the nation’s people offended the democratic sensibilities of the American populace.

    Hellenophiles were appalled by the decision to give Corcyra from neutral Greece to Italy. In Greece itself newly reelected Prime Minister Venizelos had just recently outmaneuvered the king with regards to neutrality and had been planning to join the Entente. This revelation killed any chance of that happening and shifted Greece’s neutrality from pro-Entente to almost pro-Central Powers overnight.

    The idea of giving Italy both a blank check and a free hand in Ethiopia offended many. It was too similar to the blank check given by Germany to Austria that helped start this whole mess to the comfort of many. Ethiopia’s status as one of only two independent African nations had African Americans appalled at the decision to sacrifice it to Italy, and its status as a Christian nation appalled certain white groups as well.

    In general, the revelations of the Fall of 1917 started the process of souring the opinions of many Americans on their Entente Allies, despite the best effort of the propogandists both in America and abroad…


    -Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014
     
    Part 2-6
  • …German planning for the Spring Offensive began in November of 1917. The Germans had realized that there was no way for them to win a prolonged war of attrition with the Americans in the war, war production was not increasing as fast as it should, and the Italians failing to leave the war. With attrition not an option victory would have to come through an operational masterstroke.

    General Ludendorff proposed an operation to provide that. The goal of the operation was to break through British lines on the Somme, hook around and cut the British lines of communication. The BEF would thus be cut off and able to be destroyed at the Germans leisure, without the BEF the French could not cover the front alone and sufficient American troops were not available to do so. The French would be forced to sue for peace or be destroyed in place and the war would be won.

    Ludendorff was unwittingly helped by an Entente decision to increase the area of the front covered by the BEF relative to the French. The British high command resisted, but the French were desperate, and they were overruled by Lloyd-George. This expansion, along with the casualties the British suffered in the previous year, forced the British to reorganize their infantry into triangular divisions, with 9 battalions, as opposed to rectangular divisions with 12. The British in order to preserve seniority had the oldest battalions retained, which caused organizational chaos as newer divisions lost most of their battalions which had to be replaced by battalions from other divisions.

    Events in Russia would further aid Ludendorff…


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


    …With the immediate threat to Bolshevik power removed at the end of October Lenin and All Russian Congress of Soviets released a decree on peace. There he called for an immediate beginning of negotiations by all powers for a just peace without annexations or indemnities. No power took up this offer for a general peace conference, but the Central Powers indicated that they were willing to talk with the Bolsheviks.

    Negotiations began in early November and seemed to start well. The German negotiators indicated that they were willing to accept in principle the no annexations or indemnities principle, so long as the Entente unanimously pledged to do the same and had no intention to annex territories by force. The Bolsheviks were ecstatic at the seeming success of their principles and were prepared to sign an immediate peace on these terms.

    Then the German delegation realized that the Bolsheviks had misinterpreted their position. The Germans had no desire to annex territories but based on the principle of self determination the Societs espoused the Polish and some of the Baltic territories occupied by the Germans would become independent states. This came as a total shock to the Soviet negotiators who viewed this as annexations of territory in violation of their principles, and they demanded a recess of two weeks.

    In this recess the Soviet leadership decided that such a peace agreement could not be agreed to. Agreeing to it would alienate their political allies in the Left-SRs and minor socialist parties. It was instead decided that they would stall until Revolutions broke out in the Central Powers, then conduct negotiations with the new revolutionary governments. Leon Trotsky, the Soviet foreign minister was thus sent to head a new delegation and stall.

    Likewise, the German government was furious. The Austrians, Ottomans and Romanians were demanding that they be allowed to annex territory, and Hindenburg and Ludendorff wanted a much larger buffer in Poland and the Baltics for the next war. Foreign minister Kuhlmann was given strict instructions to ensure Germany got the territories it wanted and their allies were not left out.

    On November 27th the delegations met again. Within a week it was clear to them that the Soviets were stalling. On December 7th they gave the Soviets an ultimatum, accept the terms of the loss of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Bessarabia and Galicia or else. They had two weeks to make up their minds.

    Trotsky returned to St. Petersburg and advocated for simply declaring peace with the Central Powers and transferring their forces against the Provisional Government. The most extreme left members of the Central Committee believed that the Central Powers were on the verge of revolution and that they should continue the war until that happened. Finally, Lenin, in a rare burst of pure pragmatism, wanted to sign a treaty now and avoid having to sign a more damaging treaty after a few weeks of humiliating military defeats. Trotsky’s views won out and a position of “no war, no peace” would be the basis for future negotiations beginning on the 21st.


    On the 27th, after having time to recover from the Christmas celebrations, the central Powers launched an offensive all along the front. The Bolsheviks, having transferred their forces elsewhere, were unable to resist. The Central Powers advanced 150 miles in a week. German forces advanced within 150 miles of St. Petersburg and forced the Soviets to move their capital to Moscow.


    On January 8th the Central Powers stopped and released another ultimatum. They added Estonia, Belorussia, Finland and all of the Ukraine to the list of territory the Soviets had to cede, as well as Erdehan, Batum and Kars to the Ottomans. This time only seven days would be provided to decide. The Bolsheviks stalled until the eleventh hour but announced they would sign just before the deadline on the 15th, after a heated debate and a Central Committee decision of 7-3-4.

    On the 17th the Treaty was signed in the Fortress of Brest-Litovsk. A quarter of Russian population and industry was ceded to the Central Powers, as well as ninety percent of Russian coal mines. The Central Powers quickly advanced to occupy this new territory and set up puppet governments, a task that took weeks.

    The signing of the treaty caused the Bolsheviks to lose their allies in the Left-SRs and other socialist parties, as well as costing them a great deal of popular support. They lost control of many outlying territories and were forced to withdraw, giving opposition to them a chance to consolidate. Only the lack of control and complete discreditation of the provisional government prevented this from becoming a complete disaster for them.

    In the Caucuses the governments of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan refused to recognize the treaty and formed a provisional union to resist the Ottomans.

    The largest effect though was that with the cessation of hostilities the Central Powers could transfer forces to the Western Front. A total of 50 German and 10 Austrian Divisions were transferred West by the start of the Spring Offensive…


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


    …In the year and a half following Cleaver Bank the Germans added the Bayern class Battleships Bayern, Baden and Sachsen with 8 38cm guns and the Derfflinger class Battlecruiser Hindenburg with 8 30.5cm guns, which more than made up for the loss of Von der Tann. A fourth battleship, Württemburg would be added in June 1918, with the 35cm armed Mackensen class battlecruisers Mackensen and Graf Spee scheduled to follow in November 1918 and February 1919 respectively. Eight light cruisers with 15cm guns had been added to replace those four lost from Cleaver Bank, with three more expected in 1918 and four more in 1919. The High Seas fleet was stronger than it had ever been.

    The needs of the war had weighed heavily on them. To free up resources for U-Boats the decision had been made not to lay down any additional light cruisers or capital ships of the Ersatz-Yorck type and to suspend construction on Prinz Eitel Friedrich, Fürst Bismarck and Ersatz-Yorck, who would not be ready in time to do any good for the war effort. Work on further capital ships and cruisers would be limited to paper studies for the aftermath of the war.

    Its rival, the Royal Navy was also stronger. Britain had added two 15” Battleships, Resolution and Ramilles of the Revenge class to replace the two Battleships it had lost, ships that were arguably inferior. The 14” Chilean Battleship Almirante Cochrane was purchased and would be completed in late spring 1919. The 15” armed battlecruisers Repulse and Renown, formerly Revenge class battleships, had been completed, along with two 15” armed Large Light Cruisers of the Courageous class, Courageous and Glorious, their half-sister Furious, ordered as a fast monitor with two 18” was rearmed under construction with 4 15” guns like her half siblings and been commissioned as well, replacing the three battlecruisers launched and the unrepaired Inflexible. Four Battlecruisers Hood, Anson, Howe and Rodney, with 8 15” guns each, would be ready in late 1919 and early 1920. Nine 6” armed light cruisers replaced the two that had been lost, with 5 coming in 1918 and 8 in 1919. The British were further helped by the entry of the Americans into the war, 6 battleships were able to reinforce the Grand Fleet and offset the relative gain made by HSF in battleships.

    However the need to replace capital ships had hurt British construction of supporting units, the cruisers of the Hawkins class were suspended in early 1917, two destroyer leaders were cancelled, a proposed aircraft carrier conversion of the Italian liner Conte Rosso was never performed, the two Gorgon class Monitors were suspended, and 13 large submarines of the K, Modified K and M class were cancelled or suspended…

    …By early 1918 the Kaiserliche Marine had learned of the planned Spring Offensive by the Army. The Navy had ridden high from the victory at Cleaver Bank in 1916, but later victories by the Army had overshadowed that. If the coming offensive won the war, as most believed would happen, then the Army’s reputation would be untouchable. The KM, looking at their future was thus concerned for their budgets, which had been high prewar thanks to public esteem, the Kaiser’s support, and the desire by the Prussian Aristocracy to keep the Army small enough they could dominate it. With a parsimonious postwar period expected, the Navy would need to do something to ensure they got the budget they wanted. The U-Boats and small units were doing vital work, but they were not particularly visible in the public consciousness, something bigger was needed.

    The Spring Offensive offered them the chance to do that. While the KM could not directly support it, they could do so indirectly. A mass sortie by the HSF to cover a Battlecruiser raid on the English coast would provide a distraction to the British at the moment of decision. If they could repeat Cleaver Bank and chew up the British Battlecruisers and give the U-Boats a shot at the Grand Fleet, that would be ideal. If not, they would still provide a distraction to the British government and military at a time when they could ill afford it and amplify the moral blow of the Army’s victories on land.

    The idea was proposed to the Kaiser in February and he was enthusiastic about the idea. The HSF would sortie at the same time the Army launched its grand offensive…


    -Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007
     
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    Part 2-7
  • …1917 was a chaotic year for the American War effort. The United States was unprepared for the magnitude of the commitment it embarked on. The vast industrial potential of the United States was poorly managed by a government that had not planned for this effort, nor had experience in doing so for over half a century.

    Vast numbers of contracts were let out to massively expand war production, often to companies that had no relevant experience or were already at full capacity. Building the capacity to fill those contracts would take time and money. However the latter was in short supply as the government primarily followed the contracting practices of the day where payment would be mostly provided on delivery. This meant that companies had to borrow money to start or expand production, at a time when the markets for lending were almost tapped out by the war and many other companies were doing so. This imposed unnecessary delays on the expansion of the war effort.

    This was made worse by mismanagement of the national transportation system. The massive expansion of construction placed massive amounts of extra demand on the American railroad system. Coordination was almost nonexistent and thousands of loaded railcars of raw materials and finished goods sat idle, jamming up railway yards all along the eastern seaboard for months. This too contributed to the American war production being far below what it could have been…

    …American troops began arriving in force in the fall of 1917. Even before then clashes had begun between the Entente and American leadership over their deployment. The British and French were united in their urging that the American troops going to France should be dispersed and fight under their command. It was desired that the American forces be broken up and the Americans used as individual replacements in their formations to bring them up to strength. This was flatly refused both by General Pershing and President Wilson.

    The French, recognizing the difficulties of integrating Anglophone Americans into their Francophone units, were quickly willing to compromise by suggesting that American units be integrated into theirs, companies into battalions, battalions into regiments or regiments into divisions. The British were more stubborn in their desires. Both sides argued that the Americans were unprepared for a modern war and needed to be directed by experienced leadership. Both applied pressures to force the Americans to accept their suggestions.

    The American leadership, political and military, as well as the American public, viewed this as an attempt to use American doughboys as cannon fodder. The public was outraged and the papers demanded that Wilson hold firm in his insistence on an independent American Expeditionary Force. Anglo-French entreaties to send more riflemen and fewer support troops over, at a time when they were both reducing the number of riflemen in their forces in favor of increased numbers of artillery and rear area troops, merely confirmed this view. Wilson stayed adamant in one of his unequivocally good decisions, American forces would fight under American command.

    The French realized relatively quickly that Wilson and Pershing would not be swayed at the time and decided to bide their time. The British were more stubborn and insisted that since many of those troops were coming over on British ships, that some, if not all should be under their command and control. Wilson then threatened British access to American credit and suggested that if they did not find room for American troops, Wilson would make room by stopping some of their orders in the US. The British were forced to back down and grudgingly accepted that the Americans would be an independent force. As a compromise some American formations would be attached to British and French forces on a temporary training basis…

    The creation of a separate American Expeditionary Force command complicated the command structure on the Western Front. Already there had been considerable difficulties between the separate French and British command structures. With the addition of a third, American, command structure this was made worse. It was soon determined that the ad hoc nature of previous international military coordination was insufficient and on November 7th 1917 a Supreme War Council was formed. Proposals were made to have a combined reserve, a joint general staff and a supreme commander, but due to the actions of Lloyd George, Marshal Haig and General Petain delayed that until after the start of the German Spring Offensive…

    …Ludendorff planned on his Spring Offensive to open with an assault on the British near St. Quentin. He would hit the British with 76 divisions, against 29 British divisions, at the seam between the 5th and 3rd British armies. His goal was to punch a hole in the British lines so that they could be outflanked and forced to withdraw to the Channel Ports or be destroyed. If the first offensive did not work, then follow up offensives would follow to achieve that goal. The opening attack was codenamed Michael, after the Archangel, and would begin on March 23rd…


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



    …The Austrians were pressured to launch their own offensive against the Italians concurrently with the German attack in Flanders. Conrad did not wish to do so, too much of the Austrian Army’s bridging equipment was being used to supply their forces in their current positions. He did not believe that the Austrian Army would be ready to attack until June, when sufficient bridging equipment would be available. However German pressure proved too great for Kaiser Karl to bear and Conrad was ordered to launch his attack on the 23rd of March, to coincide with the German one.

    The shortage of equipment forced Conrad to plan his assault on the narrower Mincio River against the British and French, rather than across the wider Po against the still recovering Italians. Furthermore he would be restricted in the number of places he could attack by the lack of bridging equipment…

    …The Middle Eastern Theater proven the only military bright spot for the Entente during 1917. Baghdad had fallen to the British in early March. In late March Gaza had fallen to the British as well. From then a stalemate lasted until August. Then the insistence of Enver Pasha on withdrawing troops facing the British to reinforce the Caucuses after the Kerensky offensive provided an opportunity. In late September the British launched an assault at Kuj and shattered the weakened Ottoman defensive lines.

    British cavalry turned the retreat into a rout and inflicted 20,000 casualties on the Ottomans. In mid to late October the Ottomans attempted to stop the British in the Judean Hills. The Ottomans managed to hold out until November 1st, but suffered 10,000 more casualties and ultimately lost. Jerusalem fell on November 10th. This was the most significant British victory so far and proved a balm to morale that had suffered heavily.

    Ottoman attempts to retake Jerusalem were fought off in December to minor losses on both sides. In January Allenby furthered advanced north, capturing Jericho and the Jordan valley from the Ottomans. After capturing the Tell Asur hill in February Allenby launched at attack on Amman, which established bridgeheads but ultimately failed to take the town. Instead of launching a second attack Allenby instead attacked to the north and unhinged the Ottoman position around Mt. Gilboa, capturing the Jezreel Valley in mid-March. This caused the Ottoman commander in the theater to be sacked and replaced with the German Erich von Falkenhayn, who had arrived with German reinforcements.

    Von Falkenhayn pulled back his troops from Amman to Der’a and dug in on a Haifa-Nazareth-Samakh-Der’a line. Against the strengthened defensive line Allenby was forced to pause for reinforcements, ones that would not arrive until fall…

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004
     
    Part 2-8
  • #81 The Third Battle of Dogger Bank, March 23rd, 1918


    Cleaver Bank had by almost any standards been a huge success for the Kaiserliche Marine and they were content to rest on their laurels throughout the rest of 1916 and 1917, rather than risking any of their expensive capital ships in combat once more. By fall of the 1917 that had started to change, the Army had won glory at Riga and Caporetto while the Navy had seemingly done nothing. This did not bode well for the postwar era, when budgets would be tightened compared to the prewar largess. Therefore when the KM learned that the Army was planning a large-scale offensive for the spring they wanted in.

    Obviously, they could not directly contribute in a major way. However by launching a raid on the English coast concurrent with the Offensive, they could provide an additional distraction for the Entente high command and amplify the moral blow of the Army’s attack. If they were lucky, they could even bite off a chunk of the Grand Fleet and destroy it or maul the British Battlecruiser Fleet again like at Cleaver Bank. The Kaiser and Ludendorff agreed with the idea and a sortie was authorized to coincide with the start of the offensive.

    Compared to Cleaver Bank the HSF had added the more powerful Hindenburg to replace the lost Von Der Tann and added the Battleships Bayern, Baden and Sachsen to replace the lost pre dreadnoughts. As a result the HSF was somewhat more powerful.

    Its opposing force had made much bigger changes. The British had added the Battlecruisers Repulse and Renown, as well as the Large Light Cruisers, often considered Light Battlecruisers, Courageous, Glorious and Furious to replace the three lost and one battlecruiser still being repaired. Six American Battleships had joined the Grand Fleet to replace the two lost at Cleaver Bank, though the American ships were slower than those they replaced.

    However the British had done many things to improve the quality of their existing ships. Additional horizontal armor was fitted to the battlecruisers on turret tops and over magazines. Shell stockpiles were evaluated with the worst being discarded to avoid the high rate of shell failure seen at Cleaver Bank, new improved shells were in the works but would not arrive for another month. The shortcuts taken in ammunition handling that led to the loss of Lion, Queen Mary and Indomitable were reversed and additional safeguards put into place to prevent ammunition explosions. The 9-foot rangefinders used by most British capital ships, inferior to the German 3m models, along with 15-foot models equivalent to the German ones, were replaced by 25- and 30-foot models that were superior. The German practice of finding the range using a ladder system was adopted to replace the bracket system, and the British battlecruisers were put through additional gunnery training. Finally the signals procedures were overhauled and better standing orders were put into place. In all the ships of the Royal Navy had gotten far deadlier in the time since Cleaver Bank.

    The first part of the operation to occur was the sorties of the U-Boats, to form a picket line and mine barrier to try to damage the Grand Fleet, which occurred two weeks prior to the sortie. Preparations started in earnest on March 20th and the patterns of radio traffic were intercepted by the British. Quickly noticing that the traffic mirrored that before Cleaver Bank, the British knew something was up and in late afternoon on the 22nd the Grand Fleet went to sea to preempt the Germans. In the night of the 22nd the High Seas Fleet left the Jade Estuary and the battle was set to begin.

    The British reached their positions first, located so that they could intercept a German breakout into the Atlantic, or catch them on their way home from raiding England, with the Battlecruiser fleet positioned south of the Grand Fleet. The Battleships Hercules and Collingwood had been damaged by mines; however they were positioned at the front of the formation due to their obsolescent nature and protected the rest of the Grand Fleet from damage.

    The Germans set off in the early hours of the morning, with the town of Grimsby in mind as their target. Around 12:30 two things happened that would change their plans. First the German Battlecruisers ran into three patrolling British destroyers. The British ships were annihilated, but not before they got off a warning. The second was that a German Zeppelin spotted the Grand Fleet. It was quickly chased off by aircraft flown off from the Battleships, but it was able to report the Grand Fleet far south of where it should have been. Once this information was passed on to Admiral Scheer, he ordered the Battlecruisers under Hipper to withdraw, rather than be potentially cut off by the British, while the Battleships of the HSF turned around and slowly started steaming back to Germany.

    Around 3:30 the British Battlecruisers under Vice Admiral Pakenham caught sight of the Germans. In order from closest to farthest they were Princess Royal, Renown, Repulse, New Zealand, Indefatigable, Courageous, Glorious and Furious, with the less armored ships held back farther. At almost 4:30 the 15” armed British ships opened fire at extreme range, Renown engaging Derfflinger, Repulse Hindenburg, Courageous Seydlitz, Glorious Lützow and Furious Moltke. After about 15 minutes Princess Royal doubled up on Derrflinger, followed shortly by the 30.5cm armed German ships engaging the lead British vessels. After another 10 minutes the remaining ships engaged.

    The British, by virtue of opening fire first and unopposed, found the range first and scored first blood with a 15” hit on Derfflinger. The British scored several more unopposed hits before the first return hit on Repulse from Lützow. The situation was in many ways more similar to the first battle at Dogger Bank, rather than the later battle at Cleaver Bank, with the British clearly having the advantage.

    The exchange of fire continued for almost an hour and the British silenced the German guns one by one. They did not have it all their own way, and Princess Royal lost a turret and a 28cm shell scored a direct hit on New Zealand’s bridge, wiping out her bridge crew in a freak shell hit blamed on her Captain adopting a pagan Maori practice of wearing a “magic” grass skirt to battle by the fleet’s chaplains. In general the Germans were taking two or three hits for every one they received, and the British hits hurt more on average.

    At around 5:45 the Battleships of the HSF appeared on the horizon, having turned back to rescue Hipper’s Battlecruisers. Pakenham continued to chase the fleeing Germans, hoping to possibly deal a finishing blow in the last moments of the engagement. Scheer ordered his battleships to open fire at extreme range, and once the first 38cm shells started landing nearby Pakenham ordered a withdrawal to outside of the German gunnery range to await the arrival of the Grand Fleet, with only a single 38cm hit striking Repulse, doing minimal damage.

    Scheer, once the British battlecruisers turned away, ordered a full speed withdrawal to the German coast, not knowing how far away the Grand fleet was. The Grand Fleet was in hot pursuit but was only overtaking the HSF slowly. It was almost nightfall when they entered visual range, and with darkness coming on and the German home waters increasing close Jellicoe called off the pursuit.

    Overall the British had lost 3 destroyers, had two large light cruisers lightly damaged, one battlecruiser lightly damaged, two moderately damaged and two heavily damaged. In exchange the Germans had three battlecrusiers heavily damaged and two more almost crippled, with Lützow grounding herself near the entry to the Jade Estuary and taking into 1919 to be combat ready again. The lighter units on both sides were unable to significantly engage each other, the range having not closed below 15,000 yards. Near the end of the battle the British cruisers were able to engage their counterparts at long range, using their superior director firing to inflict more damage than they received, resulting in 2 German light cruisers moderately damaged, and two more lightly damaged in exchange for one lightly damaged British cruiser. In total the British suffered 650 casualties to the German 1,200. Rather than provide a victory to amplify the moral blow of the Spring Offensive, the Germans had suffered a reverse that mitigated it.

    The battle proved the British changes made since Cleaver Bank to be effective in more than reversing the disparity in forces. In fact it could have gone substantially better for the British, HMS Tiger and HMAS Australia were both undergoing routine maintenance at the time and were not present. Had either one been present there is a good chance for one of the German battlecruisers to have been lost, most likely Lützow. Furthermore had the new more effective Green Boy shells been ready a month earlier, it would have been likely that Lützow and Derfflinger would have both been lost at a minimum. Had both occurred it is possible that the German Battlecruisers could have been completely annihilated. However the German battlecruisers lived to fight another day.

    The British would commission no more capital ships during the course of the war and would receive no more capital reinforcements from their allies. The Germans by contrast would commission one battleship over the summer and two battlecrusiers at the beginning of the next year, with the HSF reaching its relative peak of strength compared to the Grand Fleet in April 1919…


    -Excerpt from 101 Great Naval Battles, American Youth Press, New York 2010




    For awhile i thought there would not be an update today due to computer issues, but I managed one, a bit rushed, may need to edit it again later for any issues
     
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    Part 2-9
  • …The Austro-Hungarians had rushed to prepare their assault for the same day as the German attack in Flanders. Unlike the meticulous planning for Caporetto with a well prepared assault by well practiced troops at a place of their choosing against an enemy weak point, the attack on the Mincio was a hurried affair. The Austrians had been able to comb their best troops into specialized stromtrooper battalions, in the German model, but otherwise were not particularly prepared for the attack. Rather than hitting a weak point they were attacking a strongly held river line manned by the best troops in the Italian Peninsula, at a number of points limited by their supply of bridging equipment.

    What was worse for them was that the Entente learned of the coming offensive from various deserters from the Slavic regiments of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Not only did they know roughly where it was coming, but down to the hour it was going to occur. The British and French troops holding the Mincio were thus well prepared to deal with the Austrian attack.

    On March 23rd at 3:00 in the Morning Entente guns opened up all along the Mincio front, targeting the forward trenches where the Austro-Hungarian Stormtroopers were forming up. Austrian guns responded, but they were on the back foot and forced to split between silencing enemy guns and performing the preparatory bombardment. Despite the heavy casualties they took the Austrian Stormtroopers launched their assault as scheduled at 3:30, following a curtain of gas and a short, sharp but diminished preparatory barrage.

    They crossed the river in small boats into the teeth of alerted Franco-British Troops with massed machine guns. Despite this the well trained Assault troops were able to secure multiple lodgements over the river, using submachine guns, cut down machine guns, pistols, grenades and flamethrowers to clear enemy trenches. This cost them heavily. However following up with this would require bridges over the Mincio to move in additional forces.

    The Franco-British air superiority allowed them an almost uncontested view of the battlefield. They were quickly able to locate the places where the Austrian Engineers were attempting to throw up temporary bridges and direct heavy guns onto them. Austrian artillery attempted to counter-battery the enemy guns, but lacking aerial reconnaissance and having taken losses from the Entente artillery they were unable to do so. After three days the majority of available Austrian bridging equipment had been destroyed. With the ability to sustain operations across the river gone Conrad called off the assault.

    The Austrians had suffered 30,000 casualties in three days and saw their year long stream of victories broken. What was worse was these losses were concentrated in their best trained and best motivated troops, whose loss would be sorely missed in the coming months. Possibly worse than that was the assault effectively neutralized the Austro-Hungarian Army until summer.

    In contrast the Entente had taken less than 10,000 casualties. The French and British divisions were able to be withdrawn to reinforce the Western Front in a timely manner, making the primary objective of the offensive a failure. Reconstituted Italian divisions replaced the transferred French and British. The pause in operations forced by the attack allowed the Italians to fortify the area and rebuild the shaky morale of their formations.

    By insisting on an attack before the Austrians were ready Ludendorff had unwittingly handed the Entente a victory and quite possibly lost the war. Had Conrad been able to launch a late Spring offensive against the Italians after the Franco-British forces were withdrawn it could have conceivably gone very well for the Austrians. As it was the Italians would have several more months to prepare for the coming storm...


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



    I wanted to do Michael today, but computer issues and having to work on my day off. On the bright side I may squeeze out a couple extra updates this week, thanks to some vacation time, may be an extra update for this on Wednesday depending on how nasty Tuesday is for me and how late I'm stuck at the polling place
     
    Part 2-10
  • …Michel began at 4:30 in the morning with a bombardment on the assault sector followed 5 minutes later by a general bombardment along a 40 mile stretch of British lines. 3.7 million shells were fired in five hours and a coating of gas and smoke covered the front lines. Under this cover stormtroopers equipped with submachine guns, light machine guns, flamethrowers, grenades and cut down artillery pieces infiltrated the British front lines.

    At 9:30 the assault began and the attackers quickly isolated and reduced the frontline strongpoints of the British had established. Thick fog and the cover of smoke and gas aided them in this task even as it deprived them of the air support they had been planned The British had been warned by deserters and their reconnaissance but were unprepared for the sheer scale of the attack and brutal efficiency of the tactics developed by the Russians and perfected by the Germans. A forty-mile breach had been torn in British lines by the end of the day and the 63rd British division had been cut off in the Flesquires Salient.

    General Gough in command of the British forces ordered a fighting retreat to the Somme to allow reinforcements to arrive. Many units were cut off in the forward sections of the British defenses and were unable to do so, some of these surrendered quickly while others fought until the last.

    The second day of the fighting saw the British retreat continue. However the fast-moving nature of the assault saw command and control break down, becoming a battle of platoons, companies and battalions, rather than of regiments, brigades and divisions. A handful of cut off British units again made heroic stands to delay the Germans, while more surrendered. By the end of the day the British had reached and withdrew behind the Somme.

    On the third day the Germans were able to force the Somme, taking advantage of continued low visibility to do so. However they could go no farther, they had marched far and supplies had to be carried over the wasteland of the 1916 Battle of the Somme and the areas devastated in Operation Alberich. Possible worse they were slowed by the capture of British supply depots, filled with food and luxuries that were irresistible to the starving and poorly treated Germans.

    The Fourth day saw minimal movement as German logistics caught up and both sides rebuilt the command and control that had dissolved earlier in the campaign. The biggest development was the surrender of the British 63rd Division in the Flesquires pocket. Haig, the commander of all British forces, was adamant that French reinforcements were necessary and met with his French counterpart Petain.

    Petain promised all the reinforcements he could spare; however his superiors were adamant that Paris could not be risked. If the German advance continued too much, he would fall back to Beauvis to protect Paris. Doing so would leave Haig’s flanks open and force the BEF to withdraw to the channel ports. Haig stated that the British backs were to the wall, and that if Amiens did not hold all could be lost and ordered his subordinates to do all in their power to hold while he lobbied for more aid.

    The next three days saw the British, and newly arrived French reinforcements trade space for time, stubbornly fighting all the while in defense of Amiens and its vital railroad junction. Ground was given on the flanks to shore up the center and tanks and air support used to harry the Germans at every opportunity. Despite that the Germans advanced within 6 miles of Amiens a week into the offensive. It was here Ludendorff made his first fatal mistake.

    Rather than continue to attack towards Amiens on the 30th he ordered an attack on Arras on the northern flank of the assault. The attack was successful after two days, however it and a follow-on attack on the second through fourth of April to the South sapped German strength to take ground that was irrelevant to the goal of the offensive.

    Ludendorff decided to renew the attack on Amiens on the 5th. By that time the British had been reinforced and the going was much tougher for the Germans. They managed to advance two miles in three days before British counterattacks brought them to a halt. Ludendorff attempted minor offensives on the 8th and 9th elsewhere to renew the momentum, but the Entente lines had stabilized and he called off the attacks.

    Here Ludendorff made his second mistake. He did not renew the offensive on Amiens with his massive reserves, nor attempted to use his abundance of heavy artillery to neutralize the railways of the city. Instead he decided to use his forces proximity to Amiens to invite British counterattacks which he would bleed to death.

    Instead Ludendorff planned a new set of offensives, on against the British to threaten Hazebrouk and one against the French. The two attacks would draw off Entente reserves for the decisive attack he would make to break British lines and cut off the BEF in Flanders…

    …Michael and its immediate follow-ons cost the Germans 240,000 casualties. In exchange they had taken 115,000 prisoners, with 90,000 additional British casualties and 80,000 French. 1800 artillery pieces were taken and 250 tanks were captured or destroyed. Almost 1500 square miles of territory were captured.

    However it was ultimately a strategic draw. The Entente could replace the material losses fairly easily, and the Americans would replace the manpower in time. The German losses were concentrated in their elite troops, and the loss of those highly trained and motivated forces hurt the Germans more than simple numbers would indicate…


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




    Okay so bonus update due to my "vacation". Not as good as I'd like, but yesterday was pure hell for me, even if I only had one ballot jam to deal with
     
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