The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918

By David French | Go to book overview

10
The Campaign of 1919

By December 1917 the War Cabinet had agreed that they could not defeat the Germans in 1918 and that it would be wiser not to attempt to do so until 1919. Between March and August 1918 the offensives which the Germans launched in the west confirmed the wisdom of their conclusion and persuaded some ministers that the war might not even be won until 1920. The imminent possibility of defeat in the west encouraged them to take steps to hasten the arrival of the AEF in France and to persuade the Americans and Japanese to intervene in Russia to recreate the eastern front. The receding possibility of an early Entente victory also induced them to lay greater emphasis on non-military means to weaken the Central Powers. And their fear that Britain might be about to pass the peak of its power within the alliance encouraged them to prepare a plan of campaign for 1919 which would minimize Britain's manpower losses and maximize its territorial and political gains from the war.

In January 1918 there were only 58,000 American infantry and machine-gunners in France.1 The Americans were not deliberately withholding their troops from the front line. They were intent on deploying a large army in France, but they were determined that it must be an American army capable of operating independently of British or French control. Neither the President nor his senior advisers, who included House, Pershing, and General Bliss, the American military representative at the Supreme War Council, were prepared to discard America's political influence over the European allies by surrendering control of the US army to their partners.2 Consequently, many of the first waves of American troops who landed in France were non-combatants who had been

____________________
1
PRO CAB 23/5/WC319: War Cabinet, 9 Jan. 1918.
2
D. R. Beaver, Newton D. Baker and the American War Effort, 1917- 1919 ( Lincoln, Nebr., 1966), 118-20.

-236-

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