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The Battle of the Selle – Ludendorff Resigns I THE GREAT WAR Week 221


He has been in many ways a virtual military
dictator of Germany for more than a year, but this week the power of Quartermaster General
Erich Ludendorff breaks. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Allies finally overran the Hindenburg
Line, Germany’s powerful western front defenses. The Allied breakthroughs on the Macedonian
and Palestine fronts continued, and US President Woodrow Wilson rejected an armistice proposal
from the German Chancellor. Though that didn’t end the back and forth
over conditions for such an end to hostilities. On October 12th, the German government accepted
a condition of Wilson’s – complete withdrawal of troops from France and Belgium. However, on October 10th, the steamer Leinster
was torpedoed and sunk in the Irish Sea. 501 people lost their lives. The hysteria this provoked in the US was like
the Lusitania sinking all over again. Now, anti-German hysteria in the US was already
huge by this time anyhow, and Wilson had been repeatedly criticized for his “gentle”
tone in his responses to the Germans. And with only a small majority in Congress
and mid term elections coming up November 5th, his Democrats could well soon lose control
of the war situation. But that sinking made the Allies double down
and toughen peace terms. It also allowed Wilson to write a new note
to Berlin, demanding an end to U-Boat warfare, attacking the threat of the German military
elite- saying the militarist government must be deposed and a constitutional one begun
before any armistice, but also saying that now armistice terms were not going to be settled
with him, nor with the other Allies all acting together, but by the commanders in the field. Wilson had taken himself out of the game. British PM David Lloyd George (Gilbert) worried
that if an armistice gave the Germans a respite they might reorganize and recover. He “raised for consideration the question
as to whether the actual military defeat of Germany and the giving to the German people
a real taste of war was not more important, from the point of view of the peace of the
world, than a surrender at the present time when the German armies were still on foreign
territory.” But what did the German High Command think? Well, Grand Admiral Tirpitz wrote to Chancellor
Max von Baden that they should reinforce the western front and continue the submarine campaign,
and on the 17th, there was a gathering of the Crown Council. The Kaiser asked Ludendorff what they should
tell Wilson, and Ludendorff now said, unlike a couple weeks ago, that they should continue
to fight. He did not think an Allied breakthrough was
likely, and anyhow, in a month or so winter would bring action in the field to a halt. If they withdrew to a line that was based
on Antwerp and the River Meuse, they could plan a spring offensive of their own and retake
all the lost parts of Belgium. German Minister of War Heinrich Scheuch figured
he could get maybe 600,000 army reinforcements, but also- a note of realism here- that if
the oil supply from Romania were cut off, the army could only fight for six weeks, and
what at this point could really prevent the Allied Army of the Orient, now moving up through
the Balkans, from making it to Romania? Austria-Hungary? By this point, units of the various nationalities
in the empire were leaving their army and marching home. Ludendorff was pretty irrational by this meeting,
and threatened to resign if the other generals even got to air their opinions. He also demanded that the U-boat campaign
continue, in direct defiance of Wilson. The Kaiser agreed to this, but Max, who’d
only been Chancellor for days, did not. He used Ludendorff’s tried and true tactic-
threatening to resign if Wilson’s terms were not accepted, and it was actually Max
who won the day. (Undone), “…letting him go so soon after
attaching importance to the creation of his “liberal” government was impossible. In so doing, he broke Ludendorff’s power
at a single stroke.” Yep, and when Crown Prince Rupprecht, in charge
of the Army Group North on the western front, sent a warning that if there was no armistice
soon then Germany would be invaded, he sent it to Max, not Ludendorff. And things were certainly looking grimmer
and grimmer for the Germans on the Western Front. On the 14th came another big attack in Flanders
under Belgian King Albert, with American bombers flying deep into the enemy communication lines,
in five days they advanced 30 km, took 12,000 prisoners, and 550 guns. But this was bigger than that maybe sounds. The German navy evacuated Ostend and Zeebrugge. On the 17th, the Belgians entered Ostend. The British occupy Lille without firing a
shot. The Allies, in fact, pushed up to the Dutch
border. But they were attacking along the whole front. On the 17th, the Battle of the Selles began. This was against the Hermann Position defense
line. German Chief of Staff Paul von Hindenburg
thought this was vital to hold to help during armistice negotiations. The river itself was a big tank obstacle,
there was marshland around it, and of course the German artillery and machine guns on the
eastern side were nothing to sneeze at. So instead of any sort of Amiens surprise,
the British were going to just bomb the hell out of it. For two days, they hammered it with 1,320
guns, concentrating on the German artillery and communications lines. At 0520 the 17th, four British and two American
divisions went over the top, setting up floating bridges, on a 16 km front south of Le Cateau. Progress was made in spite of heavy opposition
and Le Cateau captured by the evening. As the week ended, the British 4th Army, assisted
by the French 1st Army on the right, continued to advance, hoping to push the Germans back
to the Sambre-Oise Canal. Further to the east, the Americans launched
a new attack on the Meuse-Argonne front the 14th. This still fails to reach the Kriemhilde Stellung,
the main German defense there, but over the next few days, the Americans finally managed
to take the highest points of the ridge- Cote Dame Marie and Romagne. The Kriemhilde Stellung fell the 16th and
the Americans had finally achieved their objectives of September 26th. They had now broken the main German positions
and faced one final defensive line- the Freya Stellung- before they could break out. American Commander John Pershing also had
done a major reorganization, creating the American 2nd Army, under Lieutenant General
Robert Bullard, with Hunter Liggett now commanding the First Army. Pershing was in command of the Army Group. And another Allied front- one that we haven’t
heard much from lately- was going to heat up soon. After beating back the Austrians at the Battle
of the Piave, Italian Army Chief of Staff Armando Diaz had been pressured by Allied
Supreme Command to launch his own offensive, but he stuck to limited attacks, contending
that the Austrians were still too strong. He was thinking he’d have to be ready for
a German offensive in the winter and his own one in spring 1919. But things had seriously changed by this time;
Bulgaria was out of the war, which exposed Austria to a lot of danger from the south,
Austria-Hungary looked like it might break up anyhow, and since Germany and Austria had
both publicly requested armistices, Diaz was now committed to an assault. The idea was to attack on the Piave River,
between Papadopoli Island and the Monte Grappa before advancing on the Livenza and to Vittorio-Veneto. The main attack would be the Italian 8th army,
supported by the Franco-Italian 12th army and the Anglo-Italian 10th army on the left
and right. Italian and Allied divisions had been by now
transferred from the Asiago Plateau to the Piave. The Allies had 57 divisions and 7,700 guns;
the Austrians 55 infantry and 6 cavalry divisions and 6,145 guns, so in terms of numbers it
wasn’t a huge difference. But the Austrians had not really recovered
from the summer and were even contemplating a general retreat to within their own borders
(Stevenson). Still, it didn’t seem like it would be an
easy operation. I mean, the Piave was like a mile wide, and
though shallow in a lot of places, the water was icy and there were tough currents. In fact, the start date of October 16th was
postponed because continuous rain had raised the river to an alarming level. But that same day, Austro-Hungarian Emperor
Karl announced the transformation of the Austrian half of his empire into a confederation, and
things were moving so fast all over that High Command was worried the war would end before
they could act so the attack would go off soon, whatever the conditions. By soon, I mean next week. As for Karl’s announcement, he offered federal
freedom to Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Croats, Slovenes, Serbs, and Romanians. But he was kind of behind the curve, and his
offer was rejected by American Secretary of State Robert Lansing, who said that autonomy
in the empire was no longer enough. Back on the 5th, there was the formation of
a national People’s Council of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. On the 7th, in Warsaw, still occupied by the
Germans, a regency council that had been under German control declared a new independent
Polish state. But it had competition from two other such
groups in Krakow and Lublin. The Ukrainians, who didn’t want to lose
East Galicia to a new Poland, established a National Council of their own in L’viv
and fighting broke out between Ukrainians and Poles in the region. On the 14th in Paris, the Allies recognized
the Czechoslovak National Council, exiles led by Tomas Masaryk, as the Provisional Government
of a future Czechoslovakia. Karl’s empire, such as it was, seemed destined
to be broken apart after hundreds of years. And it seemed like it wasn’t going to be
attacked by just the Italians either. In the Balkans- on the 12th, the Serbs captured
Nish and the French occupied Mitrovica. Two days later the Italians took the Albanian
capital Durazzo. By the end of the week, Greece was cleared
of Bulgarians, the Montenegrins had risen against the occupying Austrians, and half
of Serbia had been cleared of enemy forces. Also, the last German troops had left Bulgaria. The Germans were leaving everywhere, it seems. General Wilhelm Gröner reported (World Undone)
that over 200,000- and possibly up to a million troops- were missing from the various theaters
of war. It was no longer possible to keep track. A great many of those missing had simply deserted. And that was the week. Allied advances in the west and the Balkans. Plans for new action on the Italian Front,
a proposal from Karl that seems to be too little too late, and harsher terms for an
armistice in the face of unending submarine warfare. Also, the death toll from the Spanish Flu
was rising. Martin Gilbert writes that in London, 2,225
people died within a week. This was more than all the deaths there from
zeppelin raids and air raids in the four years of the war combined. And Erich Ludendorff loses his authority. That’s a big one. He had orchestrated the gain of hundreds of
thousands of square kilometers of territory, but it was now being taken in the field or
demanded as conditions of armistice. And he was no longer in control of Germany. But who was? Max? The Kaiser? Hindenburg? The Reichstag? I have no idea. If you want to learn more about Erich Ludendorff,
you can click right here for our double bio episode about him and the Bavarian Crownprince. Our Patreon supporter of the week is the Master
of Hexagons. Thank you Master and thank you to all our
Patreon supporters who made this show possible over the years. If you want to support us on Patreon, you
can do so at Patreon.com / thegreatwar And don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.

100 thoughts on “The Battle of the Selle – Ludendorff Resigns I THE GREAT WAR Week 221

  1. I had to look up the ghosts at 1:03.

    Aerschot was a city where German reprisals occurred.

    Edith Cavell was the nurse executed for assisting allied soldiers. I remember hearing about her on this channel.

    Germans broke stuff and killed civilians at Louvain.

  2. Another fabulous episode!
    Like Blackadder, are Indy and the team going Over the Top in the last episode?
    I will miss you all!

  3. Imagine how awesome it would have been if Teddy Roosevelt had won his reelection and Rough Rode over the Kaiser in WW1!

    Would have been great but instead we got boring old racist Wilson who desegregated the federal government after TR desegregated it btw

  4. To Indy and Crew: Will you guys be doing any videos about the aftermath and various peace treaties that "ended" the war after 11/11?

  5. I just watched your "Serbia Before the War' special. It was concise, accurate, and inciteful. Should the opportunity ever arise, I got yer back

  6. I feel very stupid, but I've listened to this twice and I don't hear where Ludendorff actually resigned. I heard he lost an argument in a meeting when someone else threatened to resign. I heard someone sent a message to someone else that would ordinarily go to Ludendorff. I could gather that he was being bypassed or no longer could count on being dominant. But where did it say he resigned? I never heard him say "I quit." What did I miss?

  7. Indy and crew, thank you all for the hard work and dedication to bring this apocalyptic titanic struggle that is THE GREAT WAR, so easily to all of us viewer's. Im sure we all remember an episode y'all did that went over the numbers of all things used in the war I think half way through the conflict. Y'all went over how many shells were fired to how much food was used, soldiers mustered to soldiers lost.

    Will y'all, beloved Indy, Flo, and crew, produce another numbers episode culminating to the last days of the war of all things shot, used, eaten, and lost.

    Thank you all agine for this extraordinary learning experience. See ya in the the next war

  8. No not the legendary Ludendorff! Germany is collapsing! So disappointing! Germany though should have been able to retain its rightful territory and honor, I mean they are not even the root of the cause of this devastating conflict.

  9. Dear Indy and team,
    I've been watching the show for going on 3 years now, and I've been enthralled since then by you're masterful , insightful, and sobering recounting of this war that claimed the lives of so many millions of young men my age. I want to congratulate you all from the bottom of my heart for the nearly 5 years of hard work and dedication you have put in to such a momentous project.
    My question for out of the trenches is, would you guys ever consider publishing a book on The Great War? It could essentially be an edited collection of your weekly scripts in book form. I think that it would be an incredibly comprehensive yet equally accessible title, that would cover both the most important and well known events of the conflict, as well as the obscure and oft ignore theaters and details that were none that less intriguing and important. Again, thank you for many years of knowledge and entertainment.
    With Regards.
    -Max

  10. This series has been the greatest work of scholarship for a popular audience that I have ever encountered or heard of. I'm so proud to have been able to support this work through Patreon, if only as my meager means permit. I've learned so much about WWI, military history and development, culture, geography and the daily lives of people great and small in such a wide swath of countries during this time. It's been a source of inspiration and has helped me understand and make peace with the greatness and terribleness of human existence. It can't be overstated what a treasure this work is, and what a boon to human understanding and scholarship. Thank you.

  11. So easy to say from my hindsight-padded comfortable couch, but the Allies should have demanded unconditional surrender, as they did in 1943. That would stem the Dolchstoss bulldung and any (or at least many) German claims for "not being beaten on the field". But everyone was SO exhausted that any peace sounded like heaven in everyone´s ears…..

  12. You know WW1 didn't end until the 28 June 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed and the war concluded, an armistice was in force but the war went on and there were about half a million german casuelties of the continued blockade, so the great war sho should go till June 2019, and cover the Great Flu while they're at it as it ended the war too…

  13. Why is Holland red on western front map? It wasn't occupied or on the German side, and the impact of the Belgian offensive would be seen much more clearly on the map showing it as neutral, instead of Central Power territory…

  14. Again and again this October I think of the end of "Im Westen nichts neues" ~Erich Maria Remarques book that is it's German (original name)
    I won't spoil the ending but I think about it often these days.

  15. When did the German public realize that the jig was up and the war was lost. I read somewhere that people there were surprised when the war suddenly ended and they found out it was lost.

  16. Am I the only one who still automatically thinks of Cadorna when or hear the phrase "Italian army Chief of Staff" or Conrad when I hear "Austro-Hunagrian Chief of Staff"?

  17. Hitler mentally broken in Flanders and sent to Pasewalk military hospital after 14 Oct 1918. Note: Pasewalk military hospital was not for ordinary wounded or gas blind soldiers but for mental cases. Pasewalk is near current border between Germany and Poland.

  18. @TheGreatWar, what was the source of the political cartoon at 1:04? American? British? Other? I ask because the implication is that atrocities in Belgium (Louvain, Termond, Edith Cavell) were still very much on Americans' minds and contributed to Wilson's difficulty in accepting German peace overtures.

  19. Many times towards the end of a war when the rank and file can see their side simply cannot win desertions increase. It happened to the Russians in 1917 and the Confederates in the spring of 1865 to name two. It must be such a terrible choice knowing your family needs you especially after defeat and abandoning your comrades in arms and knowing that choice is being forced upon you by leaders who are not themselves in harm's way. Even at the end of WW I there were Allied generals who continued to fight just to inflict casualties on the Axis at the cost of the unnecessary loss of Allied soldiers. When will the human race reach the point where the leaders can do their own fighting if they are so intent on killing the other side? I am sick f these arm chair commandos who are so willing to fight to the last drop of someone else's blood.

  20. The thousands of lives that are simply being pissed away at this point in the war, to achieve peace, is one of the true atrocities of WW1. 🙁

  21. When you see the map in 0:23 you would say, that is go pretty well for Austria-Hungary and her allys.
    But then history strikes back.

  22. I don't know if this has been brought up already,but I was wondering if this channel was going to post anything reguardng the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 on November 11th.If this has been brought up already I apologize,as I am still fairly new to this channel.

  23. The Germans were so close to having the war won less then a year before. If Germany would've gotten rid of Russia a little sooner things may have been different.

  24. On the subject of Robert Lansing and "autonomy in the Empire", was there a push by America (or the Allies, in general) to "force" diversity on Austria-Hungary? Was that an imperative of Western democracies, even back then?

  25. Just realised that we only have a few days until the Great War ends. It's going be hard going back to life before 2014.

  26. What kind a twisted ironic fate for someone to survive through all four years of the war so far, only be killed by off by the flu.

  27. On the 17th Oct Smederevo was liberated, and the city is on the Danube. That is a bit more than "half of Serbia"…
    None of my 5 great-great-great-grandfather's brothers returned. Слава им!

  28. I find it weird that my birthday is on 11/11, especially with this one being the centenary of WW1’s end. So sad to be so close to TGW’s end. Greetings from Spain and thank you for these 4 years.

  29. Hey indy, will you cover the Paris Peace Confrence and the aftermath of WW1 or just stop at the armistice with Germany?

  30. Wilson was a racist egotist. He should never have been President. He was also well-intentioned. A bad combination in a world filled with chaos.

  31. It is my perception that Ludendorff being 1/2 of a military dictatorship is a misnomer. You repeatedly hear how Ludendorff called the shots. You rarely hear anything about Hindenburg.

  32. (1:04)
    Yes, I remember you talking about the controversial execution of Edith Cavell (WW1 British Nurse)
    I looked her up, very fascinating. I told a co-worker (former nurse) about Edith and SHE found that fascinating.
    Plus they named an entire Mountain after her in Canada (in Jasper National Park), which shows how her death affected people back then.
    Seek a few years ago they put up a memorial for Edith at a New Nursing School. In England.
    Edith may of been executed by firing squad. But her legacy and memory lives on in the modern nurse….and an entire mountain named after her.
    May she RIP.

  33. Why do you keep calling it "Spanish flu" after 100 years? We have known for decades that it started either in military camps in France or in Kansas, US. The only reason it was called Spanish flu is because it was the only country at the time that didn't censor the news about the spread of the disease on its own borders!

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