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The War to End All Wars

The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I

Edward M. Coffman
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    The War to End All Wars
    Book Description:

    The War to End All Wars is considered by many to be the best single account of America's participation in World War I. Covering famous battles, the birth of the air force, naval engagements, the War Department, and experiences of the troops, this indispensable volume is again available in paperback for students and general readers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4643-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vi-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. List of Maps
    (pp. xv-xv)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xvi-2)
  7. Prologue
    (pp. 3-4)

    “Vive les Americains!” The shouts rang out in competition with the marching airs of an army band. Parisians, perhaps a million in all, crowded the streets and pressed against the gendarme lines. Many of the women wore black and, except for some soldiers on leave, there was a notable absence of young men in the throng.

    The focus of this enthusiasm on July 4, 1917, was the first contingent of the American Expeditionary Forces to appear in Paris. The Sixteenth Infantry’s second battalion had arrived the day before from the port of St. Nazaire, and now they were showing the...

  8. I The Coming of the War
    (pp. 5-19)

    The war that these Americans were entering amidst so much celebration was the disastrous culmination of a century of diplomatic maneuvering. European nations in playing the game of power had worked themselves into increasingly inflexible positions. Threats and counterthreats, advances and retreats in diplomacy and propaganda, had sustained the combustible situation during the first years of the twentieth century. The assassination of the Hapsburg heir in Sarajevo in 1914 broke the suspense and supplied the necessary momentum for catastrophe.

    By the spring of 1917, the belligerents had settled into a pattern of war that was quite rigid in nature and...

  9. II The Army Girds for Action
    (pp. 20-53)

    Before the United States could wage war on the scale demanded by the belligerents on the Western Front, it would have to expand greatly its military force and reorganize its military structure. During the formative period, which continued into the early months of 1918, delays, mistakes, and confusion hampered the developing war effort; yet, progress was made. Less than three months after the President made his appeal for war, the Secretary of War commented on the early stages of this progress: “Our preparations here in the United States seem to be getting forward fairly well although, of course, the size...

  10. III “...War Isn’t All Brass Buttons and Cheering”
    (pp. 54-85)

    While it is impossible to reproduce the state of mind of the men who waged war in 1917 and 1918, perhaps a few specific details can provide a glimpse here and there of what it was like to be young and at war a half-century ago. Besides, there are concrete answers to some questions. How did the army secure officers? What was the state of training of the emergency army? What part did Negroes play in the war? How were conscientious objectors treated? Were welfare agencies important? How bad was the flu epidemic? And there is more to the answers...

  11. IV The Navy Does Its Share
    (pp. 86-120)

    The extent of the American participation in World War I hinged on the control of the Atlantic Ocean. While the 3000 miles of sea that separated America from her Allies alone presented a logistical challenge in developing and maintaining a large transportation service, the German submarines in the spring of 1917 made the sea an apparently insurmountable obstacle. The thoughts of British naval officers who sadly plotted on their secret Admiralty charts the effects of the U-boat blockade confirmed the expectations of their German counterparts. Before the Americans could make a contribution large enough to gain the balance of victory,...

  12. V Pershing Builds an Army
    (pp. 121-158)

    By June 1918 the Americans had laid the foundation of a great army in France and had won their first battle. It was an arduous, complex task for General Pershing and his staff to delineate strategy and to develop the logistical base. Meantime, the men who would carry out these plans were arriving, becoming acquainted with the French, and learning the techniques of war. By April I, 1918, four of the American divisions were ready for combat. When one considers the state of military affairs in the United States in April 1917, the achievements of the year represent an impressive...

  13. VI A Divided Effort: War Department and GHQ
    (pp. 159-186)

    The American war effort entered a new phase in the spring of 1918. By that time the foundation of the war-making structure was in place, and new and greatly expanded old organizations were beginning to function more smoothly under men who were able to rise to the demands of the emergency. As Bernard M. Baruch commented, “Our war effort was jelling at the time.”

    During the last eight months of the war, the nation approached the crest of its war potential. The success of the German spring offensives made this imperative and, with the Allied counterattacks, the developing expectations of...

  14. VII The Romance and Reality of the Air War
    (pp. 187-211)

    “The only interest and romance in this war was in the air.” Although Brigadier General William Mitchell, who made that statement, was certainly prejudiced, it is true that no other aspect of World War I so captured the public imagination. Even after a half-century, this popularity is reflected by the enthusiasts in the Society of World War I Aero Historians and the whimsical homage the cartoon character “Snoopy” regularly gives to the fliers of 1917–18. The romance and the horror was in the skies of France where it was man against man, a personal war. But before American men...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. VIII “They Are Putting New Life into the Game.”
    (pp. 212-261)

    During the summer of 1918, for the first time, large numbers of Americans fought the Germans. Initially, they helped blunt German offensives, but, after July 18, they were on the attack. Nine divisions saw action in the provinces of Aisne and Marne during this period, and, in August, two corps, under American commanders, occupied adjoining sectors. In these battles, however, it was the French who set the time, named the place, and gave overall direction to the Americans.

    On the Western Front, the numerical balance shifted in favor of the Allies as hundreds of thousands of Americans crossed the Atlantic....

  17. IX The AEF Comes of Age
    (pp. 262-298)

    With the formation of the First Army and its success at St. Mihiel, Pershing's dream of an independent American army came true. Until then, the battle story of the AEF was one of individual units from company level to corps fighting with the Allies. The organization of this army and its conduct in battle required talents other than raw courage as young, trained professional officers demonstrated their capacities for staff work. Even after an American army entered the field, Pershing contributed divisions to reinforce Allied ranks. Two of these remained with the British throughout the war while others came and...

  18. X The Final Blow
    (pp. 299-356)

    The Meuse-Argonne campaign was the culmination of the American effort. It began with a gamble, continued through days of bloody, hammering attacks, and ended with a spectacular breakthrough. More than a million Americans participated in this battle, and for most of them it was their introduction to warfare. Their inexperience and that of their officers compounded the losses caused by a stubborn and skillful German defense. It was 1926 before the War Department published a final tabulation—26,277 dead and 95,786 wounded.

    When Pershing agreed to commit his army to the offensive between the Meuse and the Argonne Forest, he...

  19. XI The Stacking of the Arms
    (pp. 357-364)

    While Woodrow Wilson met with Allied leaders at the Versailles Peace Conference, the military forces which gave him that opportunity adjusted to peace. After the Armistice, men who had spent nineteen months developing and maintaining the huge force of 4,800,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines had to consider the complex task of demobilizing most of those men, terminating business contracts, and disposing of the surplus camps, bases, and war materiel. It was 1923 before the last troops left Germany. Despite the plethora of statistics and conjectures, what the war experience meant to Americans is immeasurable in exact terms.

    Men returned to...

  20. Essay on Sources
    (pp. 365-396)

    I found the papers of many of the wartime leaders in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress. The important Newton D. Baker Papers contain the wartime correspondence, including the frequent exchanges with President Wilson, and many postwar letters in which Baker comments on his experiences in the war. Tasker H. Bliss was a detailed letter writer. His papers are essential to an understanding of the early days of the war in the War Department and of the events of 1918 as seen from the vantage point of the Supreme War Council. Hugh L. Scott was not as thoughtful...

  21. Index
    (pp. 397-412)