During World War I, ground gained by the Allies against the Germans was measured by mere yards in the face of the terrible reality of 20th-century warfare. At the battle of Verdun, the French lost 350,000 men. At the Somme in 1916, the English lost one million. THE GREAT WAR--1918 chronicles the story of U.S. soldiers in the closing battle of World War I as it was told through the letters and diaries of fighting men. The program also features French and American veterans and nurses who recount their experiences in Meuse Valley, where heavy rains, rutted roads, and a tenacious German foe led to the loss of 120,000 Americans
David McCulloch provides the introduction beginning with 1914 with early part of The Great War (World War I) and moves to build context for the US's entrance into the war in 1917. He claims that this war is the dividing point between the 19th and 20th Centuries. Eighteen million soldiers are killed from August 1914 to November 1918. This was a new kind of war, the slaughter was incredible. The US stayed out of it until April 1917. President Woodrow Wilson campaigned in 1916 with the slogan, "He kept us out of war!" Yet while Americans talked of peace, her economy, especially in food and war goods, made a fortune by selling to the warring nations.
America enters the war. In January 1917, Germany for the third time declared all ships subject to sinking by submarine warfare. US ships sunk. On February 3, US breaks diplomatic ties with Germany. On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asks for declaration of war. General John J. Pershing was sent to France to work with the Allied commanders and to prepare way for the American soldiers who would follow months later. Pershing insisted American men would go into battle when ready and under American command. The French and British commanders were upset with these attitudes. In the US, people were joining the war effort. Hollywood stars urged men to enlist and all Americans to buy "Liberty Bonds" to pay for the war. Americans considered the Germans to be the "Huns" and were against everything German. The military started off with a target of four million recruits - quite a jump above the 100,000 that were in the Army when war was declared.
The US troops began arriving in France in summer, 1917. They are given a great welcome. While Pershing and the American commanders praise the US troops, the French commanders consider them the "Children's Crusade." In Fall 1917, with the collapse of Russia, the Germans move large numbers of men and equipment from the Eastern to the Western Front, opposite the Allied forces. Germany planned an assault to win the war before the Americans were ready. The winter of 1917-18 was one of the coldest on record. People in Germany were beginning to starve. Even men on the front lines on both sides froze to death, were starving and had large numbers of sick due to the weather conditions. As Winter moved towards Spring, the Allies waited for the German attack.
Germany's assault all along the Western Front begins on March 18, 1918. General John Pershing commits US forces to its first full scale fighting. In the first few days, German machine gunners talked about mowing down the Americans as if they were rabbits. The German offensive made great gains, more than any offensive since the opening battles of the War in August 1914. They reached within 45 miles of Paris. The American forces help stop the advance. Thousands died every day, and thousands more are crippled for life. In September, 1918, the Allies began a counter assault with the US forces given a specific objective under their own officers. In the first four days, the Americans suffered 45,000 casualties. Gradually, the Allied effort forced the Germans to begin a gradual retreat. Meanwhile, 25,000 U.S. troops began arriving every day and were moved towards the front. On October 4, another Allied offensive began, this time the Americans moved forward along a 25 mile front. The Americans again suffered heavy losses, and slaughter under German machine guns and artillery. It was during this assault that Sergeant York won the US Medal of Honor.
As the final days of the war approach, the arrangements for the armistice (cease fire) that would the end of the war are negotiated. The armistice began at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." At the end of October 1918, the US joins in another offensive along the Western Front and results in the Allies pushing the Germans back. The fighting continued until the very minute of the cease-fire. Immediately the men on both sides, who moments before had tried to kill one another, became almost like long time friends. Meanwhile, all over Europe the people celebrated. The boys were coming home. In mid-December, 1918, President Wilson arrived in Paris to begin the peace negotiations. What he hoped would happen did not. The Allies, especially the French, British and Italians, demanded harsh terms for Germany. As Narrator Erik Severied said, "the seeds of World War Two were sown" at this conference and in the Treaty of Versailles that was signed in June 1919.
The Great War – 1918
ANSWER the following questions as you watch the video.
What policy did the United States try to follow when World War I began in Europe in 1914?
How did this policy help President Wilson in the election of 1916?
Why did the United States break diplomatic relations with Germany in February of 1917?
Who was chosen to command the American army?
What were liberty bonds?
Why were the Germans able to move large numbers of men to the western front during the fall of 1917?
When did American soldiers face full scale fighting in the war?
How did the Germans view the American soldiers when they first faced them in battle?