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   Chapter 29 AMERICANS TURN WAR'S TIDE

Kelly Miller's History of the World War for Human Rights By Kelly Miller Characters: 14529

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Brilliant American Fighting Stops Hun Advance-French and British Inspired-Famous Marines Lead in Picturesque Attack-Halt Germans at Chateau-Thierry-Used Open Style Fighting-Thousands of Germans Slain-United States Troops in Siberia-New Conscription Bill Passed-Allied Successes on All Fronts.

All history contains no greater story of bravery and heroism than that which echoed around the world concerning the exploits of the American soldiery in France as the war entered its fifth year.

Casting aside all precedent, ignoring the practices which had been developed by the English, French and German commands during four years of stubborn fighting, a little force of Americans-barely a handful, led by the picturesque Marines-brought the Huns to a standstill in their drive upon Paris and turned the tide of war.

Once again history repeated itself, for the Germans were turned back at the beautiful river Marne, where the brave Americans and heroic French smashed their lines. The spectacular event in which the Americans participated was a mere incident of the great conflict raging across France, but the story must ever be one of the outstanding features of the war because of the effect it produced upon the whole situation.

In the struggle against the Huns the Belgian army had been reduced to its lowest ebb; the manpower of France and England had been sapped by constant call for reserves, and the Allied forces, while resisting and fighting heroically, were without reserves to draw upon to effect a decisive blow when the opportunity presented.

The German hordes had swept forward with hammer-like blows toward Paris in what was a continuation of the giant offensive started in March. The second movement was launched under the personal command of the German Crown Prince on May 27, and was directed against four divisions of the British troops and the Sixth French Army. Concentration was on a front stretching from Soissons to Rheims, a distance of about 30 miles.

The Huns were driving on the entire front, but the Crown Prince with crack troops was to have the honor for which he had long been striving-that of crossing the famous Marne and taking Paris. His troops had reached the river between Dormans and Chateau-Thierry at the very spot where the Third German Army had swept across the stream on August 25, 1914. Paris was less than 50 miles away.

Here and there at other points the Germans had been held by the French and English, but as part of the strategy of the French command the enemy had been permitted to advance at this point through lines which would cost him a terrible toll of lives. The French meantime were concentrating on the enemy's flank with the hope of breaking through and pocketing part of the Crown Prince's advancing forces.

Whatever the intent, the Germans were resisting the efforts to stop them. The question was, where would the advance end? The answer was furnished by America.

The enemy had attempted to broaden his Marne salient and had stretched as far south as Chateau-Thierry. It is supposed his purpose was to compel General Foch to meet shock with shock by throwing in his reserve forces, since the German advance had then almost reached shelling distance of Paris.

But the German command had not taken the Americans into their calculations, for here the Prussians met Uncle Sam's fighting men and their French supports and were smashed and thrown back.

Fighting in their own way, in the open, against superior forces, the Marines and troops of the National American Army fought their way to victory, routing the enemy and wresting from them positions absolutely necessary to their further advance.

Immense forces of Germans had been thrown into the fray when the American division, to which the Marines were attached, was ordered into the breach. The bulk of the forces, called to help halt the Huns, were hours away from the fighting front and were being brought up for the purpose of holding a secondary position where they would take up the fighting when the French fell back.

They had captured Cantigny after elaborate preparations under the direction of the French, but here there were no preparations. The American commanders wanted to attack the advancing enemy. The Allied leaders doubted the ability of the Americans to stop the Boche in open combat.

The American commanders pleaded to make war in their own way. Doubting, yet hopeful, the Allied commanders gave consent. The Americans were moved into position. There was no time for rest and they came forward under forced draft, so to speak. Infantry, machine gun companies and artillery swung into position and faced the enemy which aimed a blow at the line where it was supported by the French on the left.

The Boche hordes swarmed across fields. The American gunners raked them with hell's fire. The reputation of the Americans as sharpshooters and marksmen was sustained. Under the most stressful circumstances and while the French observers stood amazed, the Americans took careful aim and shot as though at rifle practice. Every possible shot was made to tell.

The Germans wavered, then halted under the withering fire of machine guns and rifle. On again they came, only to again be repulsed. The ground was strewn with their dead and wounded. Then they began to break and to crawl back to safer positions.

The enemy had been stopped but not driven. They had fallen back to strong positions, the names of which must go down in history as scenes of terrific fighting-Bouresches and Bois de Belleau-the latter a wooded, rocky parcel of land on which German machine guns were hidden-hundreds of them-while more than a thousand of the enemy's best men were concealed in the thicket and underbrush and in the rocky fissures.

The Americans drove into the wood and charged the stronghold. Sacrifice! Yes, hundreds of brave young Americans died fighting, but not in vain. American artillery swept the woods; little companies of men charged the enemy machine-gun nests, silencing the guns and killing the operators or taking them prisoners. There was no going forward in mass formation under barrage or protecting curtain of fire, but out in the open the Marines and infantrymen rushed on facing terrific fire.

Bois de Belleau was cleared of the Boche. Bouresches fell to the Americans. The capture of the town was a repetition of the taking of the first position. Machine guns protected the town everywhere. In cellar windows, doorways and on roofs the Germans had set up their weapons. But it was the old story-no hail of shot could stop the Americans. Almost without sleep, unable to bring up supplies, the Americans had fought four days with only canned foodstuffs to sustain them.

Stories of the fights are reminiscent of those in which American troops engaged the Indians on the plains in the frontier days. Indeed American Indians-children of the famous old Sioux and Chippewa tribes of Red Men-acted as scouts for Uncle Sam in many of his troops' activities in France, and the methods of the old Indian fighters proved too much for the Germans.

It is estimated that 7000 were killed or wounded by the Americans in this action, and that their prisoners numbered more than 1000. How

privates took command of squads and continued to outbattle the enemy when officers were killed; how lone Americans or small groups of them captured squads of Huns or annihilated them, are common stories of heroism written into the official war records of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, and sealed by medals of honor presented to young Americans or confirmed by official words of commendation.

Let the words of General Pershing in an official order to his troops on August 27, stand as part of the record:

"It fills me with pride to record in General Orders a tribute to the service achievements of the First and Third Corps, comprising the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Twenty-sixth, Twenty-eighth, Thirty-second and Forty-second Divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces.

"You came to the battlefield at a crucial hour for the Allied cause. For almost four years the most formidable army the world has yet seen had pressed its invasion of France and stood threatening its capital. At no time has that army been more powerful and menacing than when, on July 15, it struck again to destroy in one great battle the brave men opposed to it and to enforce its brutal will upon the world and civilization.

"Three days later, in conjunction with our Allies, you counter-attacked. The Allied armies gained a brilliant victory that marks the turning point of the war. You did more than to give the Allies the support to which as a nation our faith was pledged.

"You proved that our altruism, our pacific spirit and our sense of justice have not blunted our virility or our courage.

"You have shown that American initiative and energy are as fit for the tasks of war as for the pursuits of peace. You have justly won unstinted praise from our Allies and the eternal gratitude of our countrymen.

"We have paid for successes with the lives of many of our brave comrades. We shall cherish their memory always and claim for our history and literature their bravery, achievement and sacrifice.

"This order will be read to all organizations at the first assembly formations following its receipt."

Aside from being largely responsible for stopping the Huns once again at the Marne, the exploits of the Americans filled the French and English with confidence, aroused their spirits and gave them renewed hope. Incidentally their efforts and methods made apparent the value of surprise attacks and quick blows in dealing with the stolid Huns.

The Allied commanders, quick to take advantage of the situation, gave the enemy no chance to consolidate their positions. The unified forces of Allies attacked with renewed energy all along the line, and the Huns were forced back with a sweep that astonished the world.

By September 1, the Germans had lost practically all that they had gained in their drive from March 21, and in many places they had been driven back across the famous Hindenburg line, the furthest point of retreat of the Germans in 1914, when they were forced back by General Joffre from the Marne, and dug themselves into pit and trench. Dozens of towns were taken and more than 120,000 prisoners were bagged.

Almost as spectacular in its effect on the minds of the French and English, as was the demonstration of American fighting, was the work accomplished in France in providing for the transportation and care of the incoming troops. Here great docks, storage plants, training camps, aviation schools, motor assembling plants, base hospitals and reclamation establishments and railroads, built in less than a year and still growing, represented an investment of $35,000,000 on the part of the United States Government in August, 1918.

Early in May the number of Americans in France was about 500,000. That this number should have been sent across the ocean within the space of one year after America entered the war was regarded as a distinct achievement, but by September it was officially announced that the number had increased to 1,500,000.

Some of these were sent to the Italian front to help in the drive against the Austrians, and about 15,000 troops from the Philippines were sent by the United States into Siberia to give moral support to the Czecho-Slovaks.

The decision to send troops to Siberia was by agreement with the Japanese, and followed a statement issued by the United States on August 4, in which it was stated that "military action was admissable in Russia only to render such protection and help as possible to the Czecho-Slovaks against armed Austrian and German prisoners who were attacking them, and to steady any efforts at self-government or self-defense in which the Russians themselves may be willing to accept assistance." It was stated that the troops were for guard duty, and under the agreement with Japan, the only other country in a position to act in Siberia, each nation sent a small force to Vladivostok.

The British, French and United States Governments gave recognition to the Czecho-Slovaks as an Allied nation-a geographical, political and military entity-with three armies, one in Siberia, one in Italy and one in France, where they had been fighting with the Allies to crush the Huns. The territory which the Czecho-Slovaks claim as their own to govern independently comprises Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and Slavonika, which lie between and are part of Austria-Hungary and Germany.

With the facilities for handling the troops abroad thoroughly organized and the obvious necessity for furnishing greater manpower to bring about an early defeat of Germany, the United States decided to increase the scope of its conscription and to raise an army of 3,000,000 for immediate service and adopted a new manpower bill which was passed by Congress the last week in August and signed by President Wilson on August 30.

The measure provided for the registration and drafting of all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45 years, allowing for deferred classification of those engaged in essential work or having obligations which made it impossible for them to render active military service.

Not only the Allied successes on the western front, but also those on the Italian front and in the Balkans, where the French, Italians and Greeks in Albania, with a million troops, advanced against the Germans, Austrians and Turks, made apparent the necessity for further concentration of manpower.

While losing ground on the western front and rapidly being forced to the wall, Germany gave another spectacular twist to her military program by carrying the war to America's doors. With her submarines she sank nearly two score of ships, schooners, barges, tugs, and even a lightship, within a few miles of New York, Boston, Norfolk, Charleston and the Delaware Capes.

But while the U-boats were harassing, no effective assaults were made against the ships which carried American troops abroad. In this connection it should never be forgotten in the glamour of war that while America performed wonders in getting her soldiers overseas, England provided most of the ships, and that it was England's Navy which kept the German Navy in check while America's war vessels and destroyers convoyed the troopships and protected them from the submarines.

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