In October 1918, under increasing military pressure on all fronts, Germany seeks an end to the fighting. The new German Chancellor, Prince Maximilian of Baden, sends President Wilson a public note requesting peace negotiations on the basis of the Fourteen Points and the “five particulars” set forth in his recent speech in New York. Further exchanges culminate in an American demand for submission to Allied military supremacy, cessation of “illegal and inhumane practices” such as submarine attacks on passenger ships, and regime change in Germany. When Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff threaten to resign if Wilson’s conditions are accepted, the Kaiser accepts Ludendorff’s resignation but orders Hindenburg to remain. The Allies’ general offensive on the Western Front succeeds in seizing Cambrai and driving the Germans from the Hindenburg Line, while to the south the American Army begins the second phase of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. The “lost battalion” is cut off by the Germans in the Argonne Forest and Corporal Alvin York earns the Medal of Honor by leading an attack on a German machine-gun emplacement. The Austro-Hungarian Empire rapidly disintegrates as a republic is proclaimed in Vienna and as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other nations in central Europe declare their independence. In the Near East, the Egyptian Expeditionary Force captures Damascus and Aleppo, leading to an armistice between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain. The German High Seas Fleet is ordered to sea for a final battle, but when crews begin to refuse orders the operation is cancelled and the Dreadnought squadrons are dispersed. In the United States, the proposed Woman Suffrage Amendment to the Constitution fails in the Senate. As mid-term Congressional elections draw near, President Wilson begs Americans to elect a Democratic Congress.
Author: Dennis Cross (Page 1 of 3)
Dennis Cross is a retired lawyer and amateur historian of World War I. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and a 1962 graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. He graduated from New York University Law School in 1969 and served as Assistant General Counsel of the Federal Trade Commission from 1977 to 1982. Since his retirement from the practice of law in 2007, he has been a volunteer at the National World War One Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO. Beginning in September 2011, he has written a monthly blog about the events of the month one hundred years ago.
In September 1918 the Allies are on the offensive on every front. British and Belgian troops attack the Ypres salient and recapture Passchendaele. To the south, the American Expeditionary Force under the command of General John J. Pershing clears the St. Mihiel salient, and then turns north to attack along the River Meuse and through the Argonne Forest. Launching the Fourth Liberty Bond drive with a speech in New York City, President Wilson calls for a “secure and lasting peace” enforced by a League of Nations. He sets forth five “particulars” designed to achieve that goal, representing his view of “this government’s own duty with regard to peace.” Three days later he goes before the Senate and asks it to approve the proposed woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution, already approved by the House of Representatives, as a “war measure.” British forces under General Allenby advance in Palestine. Americans join French and British units in the “Polar Bear Expedition,” designed to protect war supplies stockpiled in the Russian Arctic. An Allied offensive in Macedonia leads to an armistice with Bulgaria. Germany and Austria-Hungary are rocked with unrest and protests calling for an end to the war. At month’s end, faced with military defeat and loss of support in the Reichstag, German Chancellor Georg von Hertling is forced to resign. In the United States, the baseball season ends early because of the war. In the World Series, which begins and ends in September for the only time in its history, the Boston Red Sox defeat the Chicago Cubs four games to two. The Red Sox will win their next World Series championship in 2004.
August 1918 marks the beginning of the 100 days offensive that will bring an end to the war on the Western Front. An Allied army under British command mounts a successful offensive east of Amiens. The attack advances up to nine miles the first day, a day General Ludendorff will later call “the black day of the German Army.” As the Allies follow up with a series of frequent attacks at different locations along the front, the Germans fall back to the Hindenburg Line. In a Crown Council at Spa, the leaders of the Central Powers agree that they must seek a negotiated settlement, but only “after the next success in the west.” On the recommendation of his Jewish superior officer, Corporal Adolf Hitler is decorated for bravery. In the United States, outspoken opponents of the draft are sentenced to long prison terms. The Bolshevik revolution in Russia is under intense pressure as British, French and American troops land in Vladivostok on the Pacific coast of Siberia and in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in the Russian Arctic, and as British forces move north from Persia and India to secure the Baku oil fields and lines of communication in the Caucasus and Turkestan. Lenin makes additional concessions to Germany and barely survives an assassination attempt.
In July 1918, four years after the July Crisis that started it all, the tide of war begins to turn in favor of the Allies. Germany’s last major offensive effort falls short and is followed by a French and American counterattack that forces the German Army to surrender much of the ground it has gained since Russia left the war. Russia is in chaos as a civil war gains momentum: opponents of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk assassinate the German ambassador, anti-Bolshevik forces take control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and the Bolsheviks murder the former Tsar and his family. In the United States President Wilson observes the Fourth of July at Mount Vernon, where he declares that there can be no compromise peace. Americans celebrate Bastille Day as well as the Fourth of July. John Purroy Mitchel, the former mayor of New York City who joined the Army’s Air Service after his defeat for reelection, dies when he falls from his aircraft during a training flight in Louisiana. Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, is shot down and killed in an aerial battle in France.
It’s June 1918. Four years have passed since Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering the most destructive war the world has ever seen. This month, United States Marine Corps and Army units expel the Germans from Belleau Wood. The German Army’s spring offensive continues with an attack at the River Matz. Addressing the Reichstag in Berlin, Foreign Minister von Kuhlmann tells the deputies they should not expect a victory by military effort alone, advice that angers the German military. In Italy, a two-pronged offensive by Austria-Hungary is turned back by Allied forces led by the new Italian commander, General Armando Diaz. In the United States, Eugene V. Debs, the leader and three-time presidential nominee of the Socialist Party, delivers a speech criticizing the war and the draft; a speech that leads to his arrest two weeks later for violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts. The Supreme Court strikes down a federal law banning interstate shipment of the products of child labor. Former Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks dies at his home in Indianapolis.
In May 1918, the Central Powers claim a victory over another of their Eastern Front enemies when they sign the Treaty of Bucharest with Romania. The Czech Legion, trying to reach Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway, comes into open conflict with the Bolsheviks. In a conference at Spa, Kaiser Wilhelm and Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary agree to a long-term alliance, economic agreements, and a common high command. On the Western Front, the German Army mounts its third major offensive in as many months, attacking the Allied lines on the Chemin des Dames and advancing to the Marne, where the American Army’s Third Division helps halt the German advance at Chateau-Thierry. Americans conduct their first offensive operation of the war at Cantigny. In Great Britain, the House of Commons defeats a motion by former Prime Minister Asquith to conduct a parliamentary inquiry into charges made against the government in a letter from a British general. RMS Moldavia, a British transport carrying American soldiers, is torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in the English Channel. The Royal Navy tries again to block U-Boat access to the sea at Ostend, this time with more success. The United States Congress enacts the Sedition Act, forbidding the use of disloyal or abusive language about the government in time of war, and the Overman Act, giving the President broad authority to reorganize federal agencies by executive action. Declaring that “politics is adjourned,” President Wilson urges Congress to stay in session through the campaign season. Air mail service begins between New York City and Washington, D.C.
In April 1918, Germany renews its offensive on the Western Front, attacking this time in Flanders. As German forces advance to and across the Lys River, British Field Marshal Haig orders his troops, with their “backs to the wall,” to “fight to the end.” Marshal Foch is given command authority over all Allied Armies on the Western Front. American troops turn back a German attack at the village of Seicheprey, near St. Mihiel. The “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen, Germany’s leading ace and commander of the “Flying Circus,” dies when his airplane is shot down over France. Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo in 1914 set in motion the events that led to the outbreak of war, dies of consumption in an Austrian prison. Revelation of an earlier unsuccessful attempt by the Emperor of Austria-Hungary to make a separate peace leads to the resignation of his Foreign Minister, Count Czernin. American President Woodrow Wilson, opening the Third Liberty Loan Campaign in Baltimore, calls for “force to the utmost” to win the war. British and Japanese marines land in Vladivostok.
It’s March 1918. The nation whose mobilization against Austria-Hungary and Germany propelled Europe into the World War in 1914 is now the first nation out of the war. Rid of the Tsar and under a new Bolshevik government, Russia signs without negotiating or even reading the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Then, recognizing the geographical vulnerability of Petrograd, the Bolsheviks move their capital to Moscow. Germany, now free to concentrate on the Western Front, mounts a major offensive in France. The long-range “Paris Gun” begins raining destruction on the French capital. British Minister of Munitions Winston Churchill, in France when the German offensive begins, returns to Whitehall and joins a War Cabinet meeting, then returns to France and tours the front with Premier Clemenceau. As their armies are driven back, the Allies give Marshal Foch the responsibility of coordinating military operations on the Western Front. Great Britain and France appeal to the United States to speed movement of American troops to Europe and to use them to reinforce Allied units already in the field rather than wait for independent American units to be formed. Great Britain encourages Japan to send troops to Vladivostok to safeguard Allied war supplies and secure the eastern terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Daylight Saving Time begins in the United States. Bernard Baruch is made Chairman of the War Industries Board with broad powers to govern production, purchase and delivery of war supplies. A virulent strain of influenza breaks out at Fort Riley, Kansas.
In February 1918 the Bolsheviks, now in control in Russia, decide to pull out of the war at any cost rather than risk losing their revolution. Germany exploits Russian weakness by increasing its demands and sending its armies forward until Russia capitulates. In the United States, the President replies to statements made by leaders of the Central Powers in response to his “Fourteen Points,” and adds four more. The British Parliament debates and defeats a pacifist’s proposed response to the speech from the throne. President Wilson, facing a domestic challenge, opposes a Senate proposal to create a War Cabinet to direct the war effort, but supports his own proposal to give himself more power to do so. The workless Monday rule is suspended after less than a month. SS Tuscania, a British troop ship carrying American soldiers to Europe, is attacked by a U-boat and sunk off the coast of Ireland.
It’s January 1918. As a new year begins, President Wilson outlines his vision for a postwar world in an address to Congress. His “Fourteen Points,” which follow Prime Minister Lloyd George’s statement of British war aims by only three days, are based on study and analysis conducted by a group of intellectuals called the “Inquiry,” a precursor of the Council on Foreign Relations. The Bolsheviks walk away from the talks at Brest-Litovsk, but the reality of Russia’s military situation forces them to return. Workers demanding an end to the war go on strike in Austria-Hungary and Germany. The popularly elected Russian Constituent Assembly holds its first and only session before being shut down the next day by the Red Guards. In the Mediterranean, the Ottoman Navy loses the two German cruisers it gained in the early days of the war. In the United States, the government curtails manufacturing industries to conserve fuel. The House of Representatives approves a woman suffrage amendment to the Constitution. Americans enjoy music by Jerome Kern and George M. Cohan.