FOCH: Supreme Allied Commander in the Great War

Article excerpt

FOCH: Supreme Allied Commander in the Great War, Michael S. Neiberg, Brassey's, Washington, D.C., 2003, 125 pages, $12.95.

In the spring of 1918, at a moment of extreme crisis, Ferdinand Foch took over command of the Allied armies on the Western Front. Foch's leadership and indomitable will helped the Allies weather the German onslaught, and by the end of that same year, he directed the Allied counteroffensives that turned the tide and brought victory to the Allied cause. Yet Foch remains a little-known figure to many American students of military history. We tend to recall him primarily as one of the advocates of offensive spirit who contributed to the bloodbath that engulfed the French offensives of 1914.

Single-mindedly aggressive, Foch was one of the few generals in modern history to show skill in leading a coalition war effort. For this reason and because of the central role Foch played in the war's final campaigns, Michael Neiberg's concise biography is a welcome addition to military history.

Neiberg emphasizes three aspects of Foch's character and behavior: his devout Catholic faith, his fiery patriotism, and his enduring commitment to political neutrality. Before World War I, Foch's religious convictions limited his career prospects. The fact that his brother was a prominent Jesuit priest caused Foch to lose an instructor job at the Ecole Superieur de Guerre, and later to be passed over for army chief of staff. …