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The American First Army Gears Up – Germany Retreats I THE GREAT WAR – Week 214

Germany took a lot of Western Front territory
in their spring offensives, but since July the Allies have been pushing back bit by bit,
and now Germany is forced to do something German High Command had deemed unthinkable
– this week Germany retreats. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Allies launched the Battle of
the Ailette and the Battle of Bapaume on the Western Front, part of their new strategy
of launching smaller attacks all along the western front that the Germans would be unable
to predict. In Palestine, the Imperial Camel Corps played
a ruse on the Ottomans, in preparation for a coming attack that they would be unable
to predict. In Baku, the small British force wondered
how they would defend the city against an attack that was totally predictable. One such attack came this week. On the 26th, two Ottoman battalions supported
by artillery attacked a British company on Mud Volcano near Baku. The British lost all their officers and 80
men. Two more British companies were thrown in
as reinforcements and the defense held, but the Armenian battalions supposed to be there
failed to turn up. It was looking very shaky for the British
there. It was anything but that for them on the Western
Front, though. On the 26th, they began the Battle of the
Scarpe, east of Arras. Two years ago, this Somme battlefield had
halted the Allies, but not now – the Canadians fought their way right through it. For example, in 1916, Delville Wood had stopped
the Allies for weeks, now it fell in days. British Commander Sir Douglas Haig was really
using his armies very well at this point. The Battle of Albert ended the 29th, but you
can see the Germans got no rest. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th armies were just going
to keep hammering and hammering. On the 30th, Charles Mangin and the French
attacked east of Soissons, pushing the Germans back across the River Aisne. That same day 5 miles to the north the Americans
captured Juvigny. So this week the Germans withdraw 16km on
a 100km front. German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff
rejected an appeal from his commanders to fall back further. This was because he feared a total collapse. Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch would
say of Ludendorff on the 28th (Meyer), “The man could escape now if he would make up his
mind to leave behind his baggage”. At the end of the week, the Germans also begin
evacuating the La Lys sector in Flanders in the north, giving up all the ground they’d
taken four months earlier. Actually, on the 25th Foch wrote to Haig and
congratulated him for widening British operations. Haig wrote back saying that what he wanted
to do was push to St. Quentin and Cambrai while the Americans pushed north toward Mezieres. The plan was to beat the Germans along a whole
130 km front and threaten their single lateral railway from Valenciennes and Cambrai to Metz
and Thionville. Haig won Foch over to this, but this plan
would mess with American Commander John Pershing’s plans. Pershing, in command of the only weeks old
American First Army, had been gearing up for its first independent offensive against St.
Mihiel, but that would now be downgraded so that when it went off, and if it was a success,
the Americans would have to stop advancing at the base of the St. Mihiel salient, since
they would be pushing northeast and that wouldn’t fit with Haig’s big plan, and then quickly
change sectors so the next push in Haig’s plan toward Mezieres could go off west of
the Meuse river. Pershing was actually on board with the change
as long as his army was still autonomous. Here’s some other bits of Foch’s overall
plans: with the Germans pulling back from the La Lys salient, they were exposing their
railways up there that ran to the sea. So now King Albert of Belgium, who’d been
holding back his army since 1914, wanted to put it into the game. Foch suggested a Flanders attack to Haig and
Belgian army Chief of Staff Cyriaque Gillain. This would ideally take the heights east of
Ypres and from there they could hit the Roulers railway line. So, to sum up… near the end of September
the British would attack eastward against the center of the Hindenburg Line, the French
and Americans northward along the River Meuse, and the Belgians and British up in Flanders. Thing is, the Americans would have to open
that offensive and would have the toughest job. First of all, whether or not the St. Mihiel
attack was successful, Pershing was going to have to pull his men out of there and into
the new sector to go up west of the Meuse, and that’ll be fun logistics. But see, the Germans had two main railway
lines connecting their army with Germany itself, and the southern one could handle differing
capacities at different spots. From Metz toward Verdun it could handle (Stevenson)
like 200 trains a day, but the parts of that line that crossed the Ardennes could only
handle 80 or so, and in the section between Mezieres, Carignan, and Sedan there was no
other east-west route. Now, this section of the railway is only 50
km from where the Americans would begin the attack, and from the rear German defense lines,
if they could be reached, it was only 18 km. So theoretically the Americans would have
a thinner belt of defense to fight their way through, and were closer than any of the other
allies anyhow. However (Stevenson), “…precisely for these
reasons the Germans knew they could not retreat, and both the terrain and their defenses were
forbidding. On the eastern flank of the attack lay the
unfordable River Meuse with wooded heights above it. On the western flank lay further wooded heights,
the dense and tangled Argonne Forest.” And in between? The high ground from Montfaucon back to Romagne. We visited there in 2017 and I can tell you
from personal experience that Montfaucon is a serious commanding position. So the Americans would have to advance uphill
on positions covered by German artillery, would have to pass four defensive lines, all
with excellent machine gun lookouts, including line three – the Kriemhilde Stellung, at the
Romagne Heights, which was the local section of the Hindenburg Line. So that would be the Americans’ job a few
weeks from now, when that offensive kicked off. They were hoping that they would have the
element of surprise with them, so that they could at least overrun Kriemhilde Stellung
before it could be reinforced. You might wonder how that could happen – it
would be by the breaking off of the St. Mihiel attack and moving hundreds of thousands of
men to where they were not expected to suddenly turn up. There was plenty of unexpected news at the
moment though. The New York Times blared that General Dmitri
Horvath, hailed by the London Daily Mail last month as “the man to save Siberia”, declared
the 25th that he was assuming control of all Russian military forces in the Far East by
coup d’état. He had already set up a provisional government
and proclaimed himself dictator. Thing is, there were a bunch of independent
military forces out there, Russian and otherwise, more or less friendly to the allies but divided
amongst themselves. Horvath’s rule would last only an hour or
two, however, when Allied diplomats made it clear that their forces would not support
him. The Allies weren’t just in Siberia. They had landed in force in Murmansk. German General Max von Hoffman wrote of that,
“if the Entente set up a Tsar in Russia, then Russia will be closed to us” (Gilbert). This week the Russian Bolshevik leadership
signs a supplementary peace treaty with the Germans in which the Russians promise to fight
against the Allies in the north. And also under treaty from this week, Germany
has full control of all Red Navy ships and facilities on the Black Sea, so that if Baku
can be put in Bolshevik hands, Germany will get a third of that city’s oil production. In return, Germany will prevent Finland from
attacking Russia. Lenin and the Kaiser were making common cause. But you know, Lenin would have to survive
for that to work. And he was shot and badly wounded the 30th,
to the point where it was unclear if he would survive. More on that next week. Here’s a note to end THIS week. An As Salam newspaper on the 28th and the
French paper “Le Temps” the 29th both reported that the sheik of the Senussi, the
Ottoman backed North African tribesmen who harassed the Entente on the Libyan front before
being defeated two years ago, arrived at Vienna before heading for Constantinople. He made the crossing from Tripoli to Pola
in a German submarine, the first Arab leader to do so, as far as I’m aware. I found that quite interesting – thanks Rabih
Rac for that tidbit. So the week ends. With more Allied advances in the West, as
the Germans pull back to consolidate; a deteriorating situation for the British in Baku, a brief
coup in Siberia, and an attempt on Lenin’s life. And Doug Haig’s plans for a big new offensive
soon to come, bigger than the local attacks we’ve seen recently, bringing in the Belgians
and kicking off with the Americans. Now, the Americans had surprised many by fighting
pretty well so far the past couple of months now that they had joined the war in force,
but this was gonna be some seriously tough fighting. I can’t say what the tactical results will
be, but I can say this – the Americans will finally join the war in another respect; they
will have tens of thousands of dead soldiers. If you want to learn more about the German
positions at the Meuse-Argonnes offensive, you can click right here for our special episode
that we filmed there with our local battlefield guide Jean-Paul. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Zhengchao
Liu. Thank you for your ongoing support on Patreon,
we could not do this show without you. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next

100 thoughts on “The American First Army Gears Up – Germany Retreats I THE GREAT WAR – Week 214

  1. Indy and team your map seems wrong : Charleville and Mezières are quite close, closer than on your map (in fact : they are but one town now). Your map's mezières must be the famous town of Sedan. 😉

  2. I am praying that The Great War continues beyond the armistice into 1919 to the finale. You produce my favorite YouTube channel.

  3. Getting ready for St. Mihael, the Canadians hitting the D-Q line and the Diggers of the AIF going after Mont St-Quentin should be a busy week next week.

  4. The soldiers of Germany may be forced to retreat, but this will only shorten the front, and allow us to better concentrate our forces at our formidable defensive positions! The Entente's resolve will break when wave after wave of their men are cut down before the mighty Hindenburg Line!

  5. I think that there is one thread throughout this series that is sort of unexpected. And that's that, in much the same way to how it happened in the war, at the beginning of the series your listing off the numbers of people dead in these battles was saddening and disheartening, the thousands dead minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week. But also, much the same way it happened in the war, it's hard not to just gloss over the fact that there as still thousands of human men dying daily in skirmishes on the front. And thousands of other people dying of starvation in the cities.

    It's hard to not be numb to it.

    Much the same as what happened in the war.

  6. Excellent timeline series. When watching, I sometimes wonder if it will ever end. How it must have been for those who lived through it. I just watched your segment on George Guynemer. While you mentioned that there were numerous tributes for him, there was no mention that one of the Spad aircraft he flew (according to the placard) still exists and is on display at a museum in Paris. Great museum to go to.
    Thanks for bringing a freshness to this pivotal period in history.

    "Guynemer ‘s Spad VII aircraft descends upon the Air and Space Museum in Le Bourget.

    Guynemer's Spad VII"


  7. Get that time machine going over time and send back the 101frst and the 82^ to give Germany a nice surprise to slow the war đowm.

  8. Hey indie I love the show everyone there is AWESOME. But can you tell me were there any Albanians who did anything extraordinary during the war. For either side.

  9. Has the Belgian Army really been sitting idle since 1914? Where have they been, how have they remained equipped, and how did they and the Allies come to an understanding that they'd lay in wait until now?

  10. I was thinking the whole “stab-in-the-back” thing in Germany and I was wondering how long would it have taken for the Germans to fell like they had actually lost the war if it wasn’t for those meddling republicans or whatever.

  11. Spoiler. Ok I think this will be finished soon. Do you have plans to do another one that isn't Exactly 100 years ago? Like say Vietnam or Korea or even something like the Boer or Crimea wars? Even the American or English civil wars would be interesting. ALL the best

  12. Can you talk about U.S. Infantry uniforms and weapons along with the vehicles like tanks and planes they used during WWI?

  13. 8:58 you used the doctored image of lenin, distributed by Starlin, as Trotsky is missing.

    Imo it best to avoid the doctored images where possible.

    Regardless, informative as ever! 🙂

  14. Germany retreats? NEVER!!!!! This is just British and French propaganda to try to demoralize the German people. Germany will prevail!!!!

  15. Wha- wha- whaaaaaat? You mean to say that mustache size was not directly related to their military prowess? Inconcievible!

  16. is the linked vidoe the same one where you visit Mountfaucon? if not, can someone link the video of the visit to Montfaucon please?

  17. What was the italian pun rhyme about the regina, trieste, and a carolina. Ive forgot it and i cannot find it, if someone would remind me that id be thankful

  18. You guys have to do a WWII channel during the 100 year anniversary, by that time you'll be the Ken Burns of that time haha

  19. i have my middle School Project at the 20 November at 11 am… Ist About WW1 😀 best day, best time. 😀 never Forget the soldier that died for their counties! Regardless what Nation they fought for!

  20. That picture of Lenin giving a speech at 8:58 is censored. The original photo has Leon Trotsky and Lev Kamenev standing on the right side at the stairs.

  21. Do you ever do "what if" videos? I'm curious on your opinion on what would have happened if Mexico actually got the Zimmerman Telegram and decided to join the Central Powers against the U.S.

  22. Kinda crazy that after four years following here, they start WWII tomorrow over at their new World War Two channel,

  23. O/T to Indy, Flo, and Crew: This looked interesting, about Imperial Russian trench-systems!

  24. 1:36 "In 1916 Delville Wood had stopped the Allies for weeks, now it fell in days." Maybe because there doesn't seem to be any actual wood left?

  25. The photograph of Lenin you used toward the end, you used the touched up version where Trotsky is removed from the image. It was done after he fell out of favour with Lenin or the party in general.

  26. Just found this channel a couple weeks ago, watched all the videos in order and just realized I’m “caught up” and now have to wait weekly…..sigh lol

  27. Dear Indy, you can find a lot of interesting materials visiting Museo della Guerra at Rovereto in Italy especially about the southern front. War in the Alps scenario was also a really different situation especially at hight, it was also made of tunneling mountains and mining inside the rocks to blow enemy tunnels or higher positions in the same mountain…
    take a preview, Museum is all inside a castle and very well organized.

  28. How do you take a trench if the whole trench system is connected won't troops be rushing to where you attacked from your left and right

  29. People act like America did nothing during WW1, but they were crucial in turning the tide in the allies favor. The British and French definitely did the most of the fighting, but the war would have carried on longer without the American support. It would be stupid the join the war if you have no reason to. Two Million US servicemen were in Europe during WW1.

  30. 8:00 – Lenin and Kaiser making common cause? It's no doubt a part of history that Hitler conveniently ignored. Though he could easily spin it as part of the 'stab in the back'.

  31. Americans love to hype up themselves saying they saved the French in both world wars but it sounds like the French and British pretty much have this one wrapped up without them. Sure, without American Industrial Might the French and British would be much worse off but militaristically, tanks and air superiority are winning the day and turning the tide, not more bodies on/in the ground.

  32. Nice edit of the recent footage from Meuse-Argonnes. Might have given away how things play out in the near future, but what would I know, I don't live in the future.

  33. Hi Andy and team! What happend taken Turkish POW's during English Arabia Campaing and Arab Rebelion? İf you can gave an answer its gonna be awesome! Thank you! Keep up great work!

  34. "Would prevent Finland from attacking Russia"
    That is very amusing. Entire Finland had population of roughly 3 million, yet more landmass to defend than modern day Great Britain. In comparison, city of St. Petersburg alone had roughly the same number of people…
    If Finland really was a threat to Russia, it was only tells how terrible Russian army is (and ofc Russia was engaged in civil war so they could not concentrate on Finland like they could in winter war). Maybe that is why Russia even today has 200 000 soldiers near Finnish-Russian border. How else could they protect Russia against 30 000 Finnish soldiers (that number does not include conscripts, only active soldiers).

  35. 3:40 From what I read Pershing was pissed and not okay when Foch first told him he had to cancel his offensive at Saint-Mihiel and then had a shouting match with Foch for like 2 hours. Until the next day Philippe Petain helped settle the argument and they agreed on a limited offensive.

  36. Note to Allied military officials. You may want to set up a special commando raid across German lines. There is a Austrian corporal dispatch runner in the Bavarian division that might give you trouble later on.

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