The Great War - Unit Study
- Friday, August 18, 2006
Both sides had dug an extensive network of deep trenches in the ground. Instead of being a war of attack it was one of defense. Running from the English Channel to Switzerland, the Western Front was nothing more than a line of trenches. Life in the trenches was terrible, many times soldiers were up to their knees in water, and rats, lice, and other vermin were their constant companions. The area between the opposing sides' trenches was known as "no-man's-land" and anyone venturing into that area was mowed down with machine gun fire. In April 1915, the Germans used a new weapon, poison gas (chlorine), and soon both sides were using it, making a gas mask a necessary addition to the soldier's uniform. Tanks were also introduced during World War I.
George M. Cohan's song Over There was sung as the first troops headed to France in the summer of 1917. America's army consisted of 4.8 million men who had either volunteered or been drafted. Preparing the doughboys (nickname used for the Americans soldiers) the government set up military training camps. General John J. Pershing commanded the American Expeditionary Force. Initially the Americans filled up vacancies in the Allied ranks but Pershing envisioned a united American army. His wish was granted in August 1918. Before that, however, on March 1, 1918, Russia signed a peace treaty with Germany. This meant that the German soldiers who had held the Eastern Front were able to be moved to the Western Front in the hopes of crushing the Allies before America could send enough men to oppose them.
Germany's lofty goal of reaching Paris failed at the 2nd Battle of the Marne. On July 15, 1918, the Germans made a concentrated effort to cross the Marne River in the Chateau-Thierry sector. Under the cover of darkness the Germans threw shrapnel and poison gas into America's outnumbered 3rd Division. Many brave men fought fearlessly but none as gallantly as the 38th Regiment. They were called "The Rock of the Marne" because only 3,500 U.S. soldiers held their position against 20,000 Germans! Battles continued in several sectors until August 8, 1918, when the Germans were pushed back from the position they had held for four years. The 1st Battle of the Marne had begun on September 3, 1914, when the seemingly invincible Germans were pushing hard and fast toward Paris. Strangely, however, they had halted at the Marne. The Princess Pat Canadian Regiment said they saw a "man on a white horse" charging toward the German advance. General Gunn, the leader of the Princess Pat Regiment, commanded his soldiers to "follow the man on the white horse." Immediately the Germans began marching the other direction and the Allies went on the offense and drove the Germans back until the 10th of September. Proclaiming Divine Intervention, General Foch of France gave God all the glory for the event. Even the Germans consented that they lost the war when for no apparent reason they retreated at the 1st Battle of the Marne. Such amazing events can only happen by the powerful hand of God. Just as the 1st Battle of the Marne lifted the spirits of the Allies so did the 2nd Battle, and it was the beginning of the end for Germany.
Several more months of fighting took place. The Allies claimed victories at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Battle of the Argonne. Devastated Germany revolted against Kaiser Wilhelm II (called Kaiser Bill in America) and set up a socialistic government. A tired, defeated Germany finally asked for peace. It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that an armistice was at last proclaimed. Joyfully the world welcomed the coming of peace. Although President Wilson wrote "14 Points" that he thought should appear in the final peace treaty the other countries disagreed and the final draft of the Treaty of Versailles put harsh conditions on the German people that made them ripe to follow a World War I veteran, Adolph Hitler, nearly 20 years later.
World War I was called the war to end all wars but it seems a more appropriate title would be the beginning of a century of wars. New technology made it easier to move troops, manufacture weapons, and carry on communications. Of the 65 million men who fought, over 8.5 million died and 21 million were wounded. America alone sacrificed 116,516 of her sons in the war. It is interesting to think what might have occurred if the Allied forces had lost the war. What would have happened when the Nazis took control of Germany? There would have been no one to stop the horrors that lead up to World War II if Europe had been under German control. In 1918 the world did not know of the coming storm; they only welcomed the glorious peace that had been purchased at a high price.
Recently on Resources
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content