Wawro (History/Univ. of North Texas; A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire, 2014, etc.) takes a deeper look at the American soldiers who rescued Europe in 1918.
Many historians believe that World War I wasn’t really won; it was just interrupted until 1936, when it roared back to life. As forewarned in 1919, without an American presence in Europe, Germany would take over Europe’s coastline and prevent another rescue. In 1918, the French, Italians, and English were running out of manpower. The French army was down to old men and teenagers, and their credit was exhausted. They were desperate for soldiers as a strategical reserve against Germany—and America could provide soldiers. When Gen. John Pershing finally brought the Doughboys to Europe, they were untrained and ignorant of modern trench warfare, and they lacked the necessary equipment. They arrived without engineers, signalers, tanks, artillery, machine guns, or planes—all to be shipped later. Pershing swore that America would not serve except under his leadership, but his army was ineffective. He did release a dozen battalions of “colored” soldiers to the French; they were fully incorporated as combat troops and highly praised. Eventually, he agreed to help the Allies, but not too much. The first American battle took place at Cantigny in May 1918, a full year after the U.S. declared war. German Gen. Erich Ludendorff knew the American army could tip the scales, and he did all in his power to finish off the Allies before their arrival. Unfortunately for the Americans, the artillery was late, and the tanks, even with George Patton in charge, were still too new and unreliable. Still, as Wawro ably demonstrates, the American reserves were crucial to the war’s outcome: “The Doughboys won the war by surrounding the German army in France and Belgium and compelling its surrender.”
An interesting look at America’s claims about World War I, the truth and folly therein, and the unfinished work they left behind after the armistice was (eventually) signed.