Four Years of War I THE GREAT WAR Week 210

On July 28th, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared
war on Serbia. This local war spiraled within days into a
World War, but few if any could have guessed that war’s future. Well, that future is in fact still in the
future, for this week, the Great War is four years old. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the Germans were pushed back at
the Marne and Somme, but as the week progressed, the Allied advance slowed and slowed. The Germans themselves mounted an attack at
Reims, but this was a failure, and The German High Command agreed to shelve its next planned
offensive. The Allied commanders, though, met and agreed
to a series of new offensives all along that front. 4 years of the war. But something big happened in July 1918. The initiative on the Western Front had changed
sides. Since the beginning of the year it had lain
with the Germans, and now it was with the Allies. The Germans had taken a great deal of territory
and even come close to Paris, but the Allied Counterattack at the Second Battle of the
Marne, the implementation of defense in depth to counter the German shock troops, and the
arrival of the Americans in force had turned that tide. In Champagne, between July 18th and early
August, 270,000 Americans have seen action. That’s a bit less than twice as many as
had seen action in all of the German Offensives from March 21st up to July 15th. Even this week – on the 28th American troops
enter Fére-en-Tardenois. When they advance eastward from the town toward
Seringes and Sergy, they face the Prussian Guard, who viciously counterattack again and
again. So the Americans withdraw from Seringes like
they’re retreating, and draw the Guard in, but the Americans had in actuality surrounded
the village from three sides. The fighting that ensued was very bloody,
but the Americans held their positions. They also finally took Sergy, after twice
being driven from it. Here’s a story from Martin Gilbert from
there. On August 2nd, the American Rainbow Division,
near Sergy, heard the sounds of vehicles on the move. Douglas MacArthur, its Chief of Staff, went
forward through no mans land to find that the Germans had left their position and pulled
back, leaving only men too wounded to move behind. He also estimated passing 2,000 corpses, and
when he examined the insignias of some of the men, found them to be from at least six
divisions. The Germans had abandoned their front lines. Later that day, MacArthur led his men on an
attack on the new lines. In 8 days, his division had lost over 2,500
men killed or wounded, including the poet Joyce Kilmer, and they will now go into reserve. The Allies spent this whole week as they had
last week- trying to cut off the German forces in the Marne salient, but the German defense
was tenacious, as you might imagine. Still, on the 28th, German High Command ordered
the withdrawal back across the Vesle River, and by the very end of this week, the final
German forces were pulled out of Soissons and all units of the German 7th Army had completed
the crossing. Tomorrow the last units of the 9th army will
have withdrawn to the north bank of the Aisne, and the bridges over the Vesle will be blown. The German army was indeed off balance. They had 67 divisions now in reserve (1918
offensives), but just 39 of those were fresh. The Allies had 87 reserve divisions including
ten cavalry, and that number grew and grew, and German intelligence was having trouble
trying to anticipate the Allies next move. Still, from July 15th when the Second Battle
of the Marne began until now, the Germans inflicted more casualties than they took. The Allied estimates go as high as 160,000,
the Germans estimated their own at 110,000. I read in David Zabecki’s “The German
1918 Offensives” where they’re analyzing the reasons for the failure of this final
German “spring” offensive, and there are many historians who blame Georg Bruchmüller,
the Germany artillery wizard, for using the same tactics again and again, though this
was at least the 13th time they’d been used and had been effective until now. Some blame the high centralization of his
command that made it too inflexible to make tactical changes. Whatever the case, last week OHL – the German
High Command- issued “lessons learned” from the battle, which included things like
reinforced counter battery fire, and infantry control over the creeping barrage, but these
was really just minor modifications to existing tactics, right? See, strong artillery was the ONLY thing the
Germans had to initially disrupt enemy defensive positions. They didn’t have tanks, so they didn’t
have any speed, and they didn’t have any alternative firepower. It was just now that German Quartermaster
General Erich Ludendorff finally understood the seriousness of a lack of tanks. Thing is, in spite of the Allied advances,
there wasn’t necessarily that much optimism among their leaders. On the 31st in London (Gilbert), British PM
David Lloyd George was discussing the war with the Dominion Prime Ministers, and Lord
Milner and Jan Smuts did not believe they had enough men for a victorious campaign in
1919, but would have to wait until 1920. That was talk about the Western Front, but
the British were planning on other fronts as well. On the Palestine Front, General Edmund Allenby’s
summer plan was finally stirring into life. Now, when the German Western Front offensives
had begun a few months ago, and the Germans had signed peace with Russia, Allenby had
been put under political pressure to gain territory in the Middle East, even though
he was to be drained of a bunch of troops that would head west. Former British Chief of Staff Wully Robertson
wanted (Desert on Fire), “to establish a barrier on Germany’s progress eastward through
a combination of Japanese intervention in Siberia, continued pressure on the Palestine
and Mesopotamian Fronts, and support for anti-Bolshevik forces in the Caucasus.” Current Chief of Staff Henry Wilson wanted
“to see Aleppo joined to Mosul joined to Baku joined to the Urals joined to the Japanese
Army.” This is a pretty ambitious design. There was no way you could make a big Palestine
offensive in the summer heat, but Allenby had spent the time planning and reorganizing. One of his tasks had been to give T.E. Lawrence
– “Lawrence of Arabia”- the 2,000 camels he had asked for to eventually attack Daraa. Lawrence’s Daraa plan would ideally force
the Ottomans to pull a few divisions back from Palestine to secure their communications
lines. This would enable Allenby to take Nablus,
north of Jerusalem, which would make Es Salt a dangerous salient, which would in turn force
its defenders to pull back to Amman where they would be cut off from Damascus by demolitions
on the railway around Daraa. Allenby liked this because it would fool the
Ottomans into thinking he was going to attack across the River Jordan again, which not at
all what he was planning. Well, by now the preliminary work was done
and the first small attack would take place next week. Speaking of Baku and the Caucasus, there was
news from that region this week. A coup in Baku by the National Armenian organization
August 1st, set up the Centro-Caspian Dictatorship, one of the weirdest nations in history with
not one, not two, but FIVE dictators, and they would continue the struggle against the
Ottomans and seek help from the British at Enzeli. The next day, though, during all the confusion
in Baku, the vanguard of the Ottoman Army of Islam finally turned up at the city’s
defense perimeter. That line was pretty thinly held and would
have quite likely broken if pressed, but it wasn’t pressed, and Colonel Bicherakov and
his Cossacks suddenly appeared on the Ottoman flanks and the Ottomans flew into a panic
and withdrew a few miles westward. In Baku, people were jubilant, but no one
had the thought to occupy and fortify the high ground west of the railway line to maintain
the city’s defense. Guess the new dictators had a lot of other
stuff on their minds. Which can be a lot, especially things like
personal safety. Another dictator, the German Military Governor
over Ukraine Hermann von Eichhorn, was assassinated July 30th in Kiev. His executioner, Boris Donskoy of the Left
Socialist Revolutionaries, was caught at the scene and will be publicly executed. General Günther von Kirchbach will take command. And the week comes to an end, as does the
fourth year of the war, with the Allies still on the move in the west, as the Germans make
new defenses and try to learn the lessons of a recent defeat. There are plans in Palestine, and new leaders
in Baku and Kiev. So how shall I end today? Well, I’ll do so with a quote. Now, for all the tactical skill possessed
by Ludendorff and his associates, we’ve mentioned several times his problems with
longer term operational planning and goals, and here’s a quote from David Zabecki, on
this, the fourth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, about the leadership of the two
sides on the Western Front. Zabecki actually ends “The German 1918 Offensives”
with this: “… it is impossible to escape the conclusion
that time after time (Ferdinand) Foch simply out-generaled Ludendorff because the Allied
generalissimo had a far better understanding of the strategic and operational realities
and dynamics during the first half of 1918. In my final assessment on Ludendorff, I have
to conclude that in many ways he was a reflection of the German Army as a whole in the first
half of the 20th century: tactically gifted, operationally flawed, and strategically bankrupt.” If you want to learn more about the Entente
Defenses during the German Spring Offensive 1918, you can click right here for our special
episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is B.K. Laughton. We could not do this show without your Patreon
support, so please consider chipping in at / thegreatwar Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Question for out of the trenches: Can you go over certain aspects of terrain, nations, and politics that affected morale? For example how rocks in the mountains or certain secretive political groups affected troops. I understand this is a really big question, but it would be interesting to see how each nation was effected differently.

  2. I don't know if you guys will see this but you might find it interesting, 2236 years ago today was the battle of cannae, one of the deadliest battles in the Roman Republic. the Masterworks of Hannibal barca. 70,000 Roman's dead

  3. If the leaders of the Allies didn't think they would win. If Germany and the other central powers offered an end to the War. Would they take it? I mean it would be the start of the end of all the suffering for everyone. P.S. Love the show you all are AWESOME.

  4. captured Aug 1918. German High schoolers :

  5. So, I know it’s early but are we going to hear about the New Zealand Divisions attack on Le Quesnoy,‎ 4 November 1918, using burning oil drums and scaling ladders to take a late medieval town the old fashion way? I know New Zealand is a small country with only one division but it always seam to lumped with the Australians as a bit player in the ANZAC corps, Andrew Russell the commander of the NZ Division was I believe one of the greatest commanders of the war.

  6. WW1 will be ending in a few months. What will you all be doing then? WW2 perhaps on the 80th year anniversary of its start in 1939 or are you going to disband the crew and retire on your laurels into obscurity? That would be a shame. WW2 would give you a mission lasting 6 more years. but maybe that's too much more to do and you and the crew would like to move on to different things.

  7. Question for Indy and Crew, do you think the ottomans would’ve had a bigger effect on the war if enver pasha heeded the advice of his advisors and waited 1-2 years to get ready for war/ mobilize instead of dragging the ottomans into the war on a very very short notice in 1914, do you think the tides would’ve shifted on fronts like the Palestine,Caucasian or Mesopotamian front and would the ottomans be able to send help to her allies like Austria-Hungary or Germany. Love your series and I hope you continue on to the Second World War.

  8. Hi gang, Q4OOTT: Were there any operations during the WWI that could be characterized or would seem similar to Special forces or Commandos operations, or was the war fully fought by regular infantry/air/naval tactics on the field?

  9. The Central Powers will push the Allies back all the way to Paris in 1919! The glorious Germanic victory will bestow our excellency Kaiser Wilhelm II with the holy lands of France!

  10. Fighting continues on the western front, meanwhile Luigi Cadorna prepares the 4530th battle of the Isonzo river

  11. what happens to the channel after november 11.? does it just die, or will you make content of post ww1? such as the versilles tretty and the consequenses of it?

  12. Wow. I wasn't here right when things started, but I've been watching this every week (or at least some time close) for almost four years. I don't have any other YouTube channels like that. Again, I love having something educational, fun, serious, humorous, and amazing with it's timing. Here's to you!!

  13. Damn. I was in 4th yr highschool when you started the channel but I joined 2 years later but managed to catch up and now it's my last year in college and the war is still going on. Damn I hope the Germans win!

  14. 3 months of war left… It puts into perspective how long this war really was. 4 years is a long time, it only doesn't seem like a long time after the 4 years is over we've been "fighting" for 4 years. 4 years ago was still in highschool. I didn't have a car. And I was still living at home. I feel as though many people don't understand just how long 4 years is.

  15. So….. and it may be the wrong place to ask this question, but as a Patreon supporter, what happens when you shutdown? Do you stop withdrawing funds or do we all start funding The Great War team's retirement program? (Ha Ha)

  16. There is so much that goes on after the armistice and well into the 1920s and even 1930s. When I think of efforts by the British in the Middle East alone….. Hope you can find your way to producing more material. Definitely leave the weekly format, but so much to explore. Great Show.

  17. 9:48 LOL, the army that conquered Europe from France to Moscow in 1942 was "strategically bankrupt." Yeah, they had no clue.

  18. 6:37 funfact aboutthe city of Daraa: last week, in 2018, it was finally retaken from the ISIS terrorists and other factions by the Syrian government after fierce fights that had lasted for years now (since 2011 on and off).

  19. 5:20 Worried that they wouldn't have enough men to win until 1920?
    This may be the first instance in the entire war of a commander being too pessimistic

  20. This show and war is so long and is so underrated and underrepresented in modern history classes even though it contributed so much to modern technology.

  21. Ralph Vaughan Williams, who served in various capacities during the war, wrote his "Pastoral Symphony," after he returned to England. To me, especially the first movement of this piece, is a musical description of a pastoral scene in what used to be a battlefield, and the emotions that the scene evokes in the composer. In view of the fact that people are still dying every single year from munitions from the First World War lying in the ground of France, it's very likely that although the last veteran of that war has died, its last casualties haven't yet been born.

  22. Congrats on your 4th anniversary. I have been aboard since episode one. Glad you guys were able to make it through this whole time! See you at the peace Conference!

  23. Crew… and Indy. This is one of the best series on YouTube and the best discussion of WWI that has ever been done. Have you considered compiling it into a book form?

    Also, I heard you and other including C&Rsenal and Forgotten Weapons planning a collaboration series on WWII. I'd like to suggest starting that series immediately after this one concludes. It really should cover all the events that led to the full-on Second World War, and those events began on 12 November 1918.

  24. Hey indie can you talk about the lost battalion and how they influenced the final stages of the First World War and also I recommend you talk about Charles Whittlesey’s life I find it quite interesting. Keep up the great work!

  25. I think you should do this again when the war concludes, but instead, with an alternate timeline, talking as if the war was won by the Germans.

  26. Military History Visualized made this point, but many times when the Germans were losing a war of attrition, and defense couldn't prevent defeat, offensives were their only option if they wished to avoid defeat, even if their chance of success was small. This is why Germany took the offensive at times when it seemed a poor idea, like Operation Citadel, the Battle of the Bulge and the 2nd Battle of the Marne.

  27. I feel like this article really sums up Ludendorff's flaws:

  28. I have to disagree with the historian's gross oversimplification at the end. Calling the allies superior strategically when they kept people like Haig in command for so long is just nonsense. If anything, it was the Germans who saved Austria and the Ottomans from utter collapse, both tactically as well as strategically.
    Both world wars were lost from day one on, however not by generals, rather by politicians. You just can't defeat the whole world, period. If anything, holding our so against overwhelming odds only proves how disorganised the allies and how well functioning the German war machine was.

  29. It's easy to conclude the Germans were strategically bankrupt. The same conclusion is made about WW2. But their strategy is merely a reflection of their war econony: bankrupt! They did the best with what they had operationally. But succame to the pressure of international finance and media, much like the recent 2015 invasion that will finish them off.

  30. The planning for the war in the next year, and the year after, is rather chilling. Please talk more about the plans that the Allies were making as we move to the ending of the war. Also, how did the Germans define victory at that point of the war?

    Keeping what they had taken? Or would they have asked for more in any negotiated peace?

  31. RIP Generalfeldmarschall Hermann Emil Gottfried von Eichhorn. 70 years old, fought in the Franco prussian war

  32. I hope you guys are considering to produce the WW2 version. Honestly, I've been on this channel for since three years now, and it's part of my life and personal culture right now. September 2019 it's 80 years since the war.

  33. Congratulations to Indy and crew for an amazing 4 year run! A fascinating concept, brilliantly executed…
    I can't wait to see how the war ends!

  34. are you now the leading expert on this, The Great War ????????? your speaking style is the greatest…….why of why could nt you have been my history professor????????????? you re the greatest. I hate to see this war end. (that's a sick thought, but your instruction style makes me want to keep it going.) whats next for you? who could be better for a week by week of ww 2? seeing how it was just a continuation of this monster.. please say you will do it. please. love you ….. a__nK______y

  35. Ten cavalry divisions in reserve? – obviously British, only the blind British blundering bloody butcher buffoons could not see that the age of the horse was over – other nations simply made their troops run faster.

  36. @TheGreatWar Are you going to take a few months off once this is all over and move directly into a channel following the 80 year anniversaries of World War II?

  37. It is incredibly difficult to believe that it has been 4 entire years, especially for those who fought hard in the war..
    Well done, and thank you all for an amazing show, Indy and the Team. I shall grieve your absence after December 11th…

  38. Hey guys. Thanks for mentioning Joyce Kilmer. Was at the Ferme de Meurcy in late-July – for the centennial commemoration of the Battle of the Ourcq River at the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. There will be a performance of my play in 2021 or 22 at the very site where Kilmer died, the setting for the play, so keep in touch.

  39. This episode is missing from your "All Videos from THE GREAT WAR – chronological order" and "THIS WEEK 100 YEARS AGO – The Great War" playlists.

  40. Man, every episode of this series deserves like a million views apiece. 130, 000 views just seems too low for such a quality program. Maybe more people will understand in the future

  41. This Doug MacArthur kid looks like he has a promising career ahead of him, maybe he will surpass his father in fame someday.

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