A History of the Great War, 1914-1918

By C. R. M. F. Cruttwell | Go to book overview

XXII THE GREAT SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN AND THE ENTRY OF AMERICA INTO THE WAR

I

THE political and military situation at the end of 1916 has already been described. The reply of the Entente to Wilson's peace note naturally convinced the German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg that the two sides stood in absolute divergence, and that no prospect existed of ending the war by negotiation. At the same time General Head-quarters were equally clear that the war could not be won by military action alone. The Chancellor was categorically informed of this conviction.

It was inevitable that the naval and military authorities should again press with the utmost vehemence for the adoption of a ruthless submarine war, which the Chancellor had so energetically and successfully combated in February 1916. This time Bethmann-Hollweg surrendered, though with the deepest forebodings and searching of heart. The evidence given before the Committee of Inquiry after the war reveals in the fullest and most interesting way the arguments brought forward and the motives actuating those who were responsible for this most fatal decision.1 Feeling in Germany had been whipped up to such a pitch of intensity that the decision was practically inevitable. Its consequences were bound to be a matter of speculation, and it was generally agreed that Germany was playing her last card. 'If', said Helfferich, the Secretary of State, 'it is not trumps, Germany is lost for centuries.' Moreover, it was urged that the decision could not possibly be postponed since the detailed memoranda brought forward insisted that barely sufficient time remained to bring England to her knees before the next

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1
See Official German Documents relating to the World War, vols. i and ii, published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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