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.
A couple of motorcycle enthusiasts from France found a U.S. Army surplus 1918 Harley Davidson in pieces and have restored it to 1918 condition. They have embarked on a 5,000 mile ride around the U.S. and some time in the next few days they should pass through Cherokee County, KS. Folks in Baxter Springs should keep a lookout for them. You can read more about this here and also here.
The United States World War One Centennial Commission is now promoting the following activity for the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending The Great War. The program is entitled Bells of Peace: A National World War I Remembrance. We will let the following statement from the Commission explain:
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.
I would like to say that this post is about the classic 1925 silent film about World War I. As the old joke goes, I would really like to say it. But it’s not.
Let me just say before I possibly dive in to where angels fear to tread, I am trying to avoid politically charged comments. If the reader feels I’ve failed to do this, the blame falls squarely on my shoulders and no one else.
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.