greatwar-1914: The War as of Summer 1918: The…


The War as of Summer 1918: The Tide Turns

The Entente’s advance to victory began in August 1918, as the tide turned irrevocably against the Kaiser and his armies. The Germans had almost made it back to Paris’s doorstep after their great advance in the spring, but they had taken irreplaceable casualties doing it. The battle-hardened core of the German army lay dead between Arras and the Marne. The Kaiserschalcht – the Kaiser’s battle, the great gamble to end the war with one overwhelming blow before the Americans arrived in Europe – had failed. Ludendorff had thrown the dice and lost.

The battered Allies halted their retreat and fought another battle to save Paris at the Marne. They had stopped the Germans there in 1914, and now they stopped them there again. Used tactical lessons learned after hard years of war, the French led the way and threw back the Germans. And the Americans, who had finally arrived in numbers on the Western Front, added their weight and their spirit to the defense.

No one knew the end of the war would come in 1918, however. At Versailles Allied leaders gathered under their new Generalissimo, Ferdinand Foch, to discuss plans for 1919, when millions of Americans would spearhead a final campaign into Germany. The Allied armies had reached a point of both tactical and technological superiority over their foes. Legions of airplanes and tanks could now accompany their assaults. British and French gunners had mastered complicated plans of barrage and counter-battery fire, while the infantrymen had created fire-and-maneuver tactics that modern armies teach today. It was too much for the war-weary, starving Germans, and when the Allies began their 1918 counter-attack, they would realize they did not have to wait until 1919. They could win the war now.

Meanwhile, while the war in the West reached its climax, new wars began in the East. Chaos emanated out of Russia. There the Bolshevik revolution was in peril, as an Allied-backed force of Czechoslovaks reached the Volga River and put Moscow in peril. A loose coalition of anti-Bolshevik Russian groups and warlords was taking shape behind the lines, composed of monarchists, liberals, and socialists who opposed Lenin’s dictatorship. The “Reds” in Moscow labelled these counterrevolutionary foes a “White army.” In Finland, middle-class Whites with German help had prevented a Bolshevik-style uprising in their new nation. But calls for revolution swept across other nations, too. In the tottering Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, and throughout Europe and the Middle East, subject nationalities drew on both Bolshevik and American rhetoric to call for freedom from oppressors, be they landlords or emperors.