The American Army in the Great War

The American Army in the Great War - Lecture: I. The...

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Lecture: The American Army in the Great War I. Prepared For War? A. It is perhaps an unavoidable aspect of memory that the farther we move in time from an event, the less we distinguish that event’s salient characteristics. And if two events of a similar nature occur close together human beings are likely to confuse the two. B. In remembering the two world wars, Americans are prone to believe that their great industrial powerhouse was the “Arsenal of democracy” in both wars. It was not the case. C. The US was woefully unprepared for each conflict; only the great oceans saved us from calamity. In the Second World War, the time that those oceans bought us allowed us to swamp our adversaries with the production of our factories and farms. D. But in the First World War, while we helped our allies with food and money, our soldiers fought largely with French and British weapons, especially tanks and artillery. E. In 1918, as the war went on in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower was in charge of training the American tank crews that would fight in France. To begin with, he had no tanks. The trainees drove a few old trucks around and pretended they were tanks. Later, Eisenhower got a couple of old French tanks with which to practice. F. Some facts as to un-preparedness: 1. In 1917 the US Army consisted of only about 5,000 officers and 120,000 enlisted men. In 1916 at the battle of the Somme the French and British had lost 620,000 dead and wounded. Obviously, the US was not prepared for such a war. 2. But perhaps a comparison of artillery shells is most enlightening. In April 1917 one German Army Group fired 7 trainloads of shells each day that required 26,000 horses to move them from the train depot to the guns on the front. The Americans could fire all of the shells in the country in nine hours. II. Choosing a commander…
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A. To command the AEF Wilson chose the relatively junior John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. A graduate of West Point in 1886, Pershing’s career to this point had been as promising as any officer in the Army. B. In 1916 Pershing was chosen to capture the Mexican bandit, murderer and revolutionary Pancho Villa. Pershing’s pursuit of Villa all over northern Mexico was not successful, but thoughtful observers believed he had conducted the campaign with skill and courage. He had made his name. The next year Wilson chose him to lead the AEF. C. On May 28, 1917 a ship named the Baltic sailed from New York. The weather was ominously gray and heavy, a steady rain beating the decks. General Pershing and his staff were on their way to France. Gradually, far too gradually for the Allies, his army began arriving behind him in the fall and winter of 1917/18. III.
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The American Army in the Great War - Lecture: I. The...

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