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New-York tribune. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, March 14, 1920, Image 72

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Story of War Told in Field Marshal Haig's Reporto
Operations on the West Front
Treated as One Single
Great Battle
* By WillUun L. McPheaaon
Autl\OT of TM? BtraHaaTT ?Slfhe Oiwrt W**"
disps tc^ea-ooveringthe period
from D?a?emfe?fv 1918? to
April, 1919, have been ?eol
lected into a stout volume not? pub
:i*h??d in three eotmtrtea?-<Oreat
Britain, France (In translation) and
the United States. B. P. Dutton A
Co. are the American publishers.
The text has been edited by Lieu?
tenant Colonel J. H. Baraaton, Earl
Haigas private secretary. A valu?
able set of West Front mapa accom?
panies this handsome reprint.
Haig's reports deserve the com?
pliment.thus paid them. They are
of Interest to the general reader, aa
well aa $o> the military student. D ar
ing the war the British were prac
tically alone among the belligerents
in adhering to the practice of issu?
ing periodical analyses of military
operations. The French drew a veil
over their campaigns, whether suc?
cessful or unsuccessful. They took
not the least chance of giving the
enemy a scrap of useful military
Information. The Russians issued
only fragmentary bulletins. ?German
reports, like the "Kriegsberichte aus
dem Orossen Hauptquartier," were
speciously deceptive, The British
General Staff, however, kept full
fa^th with the public. It described
the happenings at the front candidly
and accurately. If the interpreta?
tion of the military situation was
sometimes colored from motives of
policy, the facts themselves were
never intentionally juggled or dis?
i l?'ar and Truthful
Field Marshal Haig's accounts of
the campaigns of 1016, 1917 and
19 18 were therefore the best and
clearest sources of information
available during the progress of the
war. They were a delight to in?
vestigators and critics, confused by
a mass of second-hand and mislead
ing reports from the fighting lines.
Marshal Foch, who prepared an in?
troduction for the French edition,
cays of Haig's communications:
"Written with the strictest regard
For truth and scrupulously exact to
?"ho smallest details, these reports
ure distinguished by their unques?
tionable loftiness and breadth of
That is thoroughly deserved
praise. They are also distinguished
by modesty of tone and lucidity of
?tyle. They wear well and will re?
main an Invaluable contribution to
the history of the great war.
Of Interest To-day
That aspect of them which Mar?
shal Foch has emphasized is of
greatest interest to-day, when a
critical study of the strategy of the
war is just beginning. In hia final
dispatch, dated March 21, 1919, the
British commander in chief sug?
gests a theory of the strategical de?
velopment of the struggle on the
Western front which is certain to '
figure largely in the debates of the
future. Naturally, he tries to co?
ordinate and unify the Entente's
strategy in the West, and to present
it. as a process reasoned out in ad
vance rather than as a product of
?xperimentation, shaped to a large
> xtent by conditions and circum?
stances beyond any strategist's im?
mediate vision or control.
Haig's view is that of the profes?
sional soldier, with a justifiable
pride in his profession and a ten
dency to regard war as an exact
?cience rather than as an art subject
to infinite uncertainties and varia?
tions. He undertakes to clarify the
strategy of the four years of tenta?
tive and disjointed effort on tha
Western front by likening the con?
fused and manifold operations there
to "one single great battle." ! a
Two Theories p
The field marshal states his theory
in two ways. The first and narrow?
er form is;
"Neither the course of the war
itself nor the military lessons to be
drawn therefrom can properly be
comprehended unless the long suc?
cession of battles, commenced on the
?Somme in 1916 and ended in No?
vember of last year (1918) on the
Sarabr?, are viewed as forming part
of ene great and continuous engag<
The second and broader form, is
"If the operations of the last fou
and e half years ere regarded as
single continuous campaign, thei
can be recognised in them the san
general features and the same ne?
essary stages .which, between for?
of equal strength, have marked a
the conclusive battles of history."
Haig develops this ingenious sin
gestion by comparing the campaigi
of the Marne and of Flanders
1914 to the opening skirmishes of
battle. This phase ended in Decet
ber, 1814, with the complete aba;
donnent of the war of movement f,
I the war of rigid positions (tren?
The Second Phase
The second phase?4hat of t
war of rigid positions ?- last
through 1010 and 101?, and throng
a pax* ?of 191T, aiquwgft in 101
the levewkai toward semi-open w?
fare was already under way. The
three year? sew the barren theoi
of attrition exploited te the tztmoe
la 1918 semi-open warfare b
same the rule and wae followed 1
a revival of the real war of mov
ment. This last phase ended
Alllad victory, due, ?as is general
admitted now? to the vast tacrea
in the Allied strategic reserve cans
.y the arrivai of the Americi
irmies. But the parallel whi
Field Marshal Halg has construct?
ind especially his insistence en t
?fflcacy of the attrition policy, lea
urn to exclude from view the .
.sfve factor in Germany's defeat
he renewal of unrestricted su
narine warfare in February, 10.
vhich forced American interven ti.
Elis argument therefore culminai
n thiB very dubious conclusion i
"In a battle Joined and decid?
fn the course of a few days or hoar
there is no risk that the lay ol
server will seek to distinguish tl
culminating operations by which vi
tory le seized and exploited from tl
preceding stages by which it hi
been made possible and determine
If the whole operations of the pre
snt war are regarded in correct ps
Bpeotlve the victories of the summ
and autumn of 1918 will be seen
be as direotly dependent apon t
two years of stubborn fighting th
pneeded them."
Seyond Foreseeing
A battle generally discloses s<
?Ian, some grasp of a situation,
he part of the commander flghi
t He is able to infuse some ui
nto his designs. But in a ?
ipvead over four years and a q.
er, fought under novel conditi
nvolving masses never before
n a battle front, a war of nati
?et of armies, who could expect
en eral ?tail's to have forecast
evelopment or to have laid n
han the vaguest plans for con
ing its progress?
In the preface to "The Stra
f the Greet War" I said :
"This war differed from all ol
wars. It was fought on a seal? ti
soending experience. Its deve
meat could not be foreseen by
general staffs which wer? chai
With conducting it. Many new
disturbing factors entered into
The strategy on both sides was <
fated and empirical. Novel co
tions in the field also revolution
tactics. The old balance between
offensive and the defensive was
ranged. It had to travel arouni
a circle to reestablish itself,
war, by its very immensity, over
th* strategists. It worked out
own strategy and its own tactics
Vadition Offended
Such a view necessarily give
rage to those brought up ii
radition that strategical pract
s immutable as strategical p
le, and that both are an open
> the professional soldier. A
f this school, writing in "The
ork Sun," protested agains
Fee that the war had workei
s own strategy, and cited a
ige from General March's i
r 1919, in which th? latter
ield Marshal French, compare
ir to a single, correlated I
wording to this critic, "Si
id long ago that the principl
pomii^? yp*?S(?
'THIS IS the official war map showing the final British offensive from day to day of August to November, 1918. It is repro
* duced from the published reports of Field Ma.rahn? tt*s*.>a ??as^r-i m-?*-*--- ? ? - -
sports of Field Marahnt Un*?*?.ZmJ FZ* W V "*** VJ wvwK ? novemoer, win. it \
1 AZ%stimX??tt. Pmtu?Tco^0 the period 1ram Deeemher'
1915, to
Strategy are changeless." He else
"Lord French saw through th<
strategy of the Germans, as he tell,
very simply In his book, within i
week efter the British expeditionary
force landed in France in 1914. W<
know that General Fershing had
from the beginning, the very d?finit
plan of forcing the fighting Int
open warfare."
French's Regrets
These last two statements hav
little relevancy to the point unde
discussion. Viscount French ma
have thought early in 1914 that h
Saw through the strategy of th
Germans in the Marne campaigi
But it was also one of his poignet
regrets that neither he nor Jofft
saw the proper counter stroke fc
the German attack through Belgiur
That remedy dawned on him on!
after the Battle of the Aisne ha
begun. He says very frankly in tl
first chapter of "1914":
"No previous experience, no oon
elusion I had been able te draw fron
campaigns in which I had taken part
or from a close study of the ne.
conditions in which the w*r of to
day is waged, had led me to antiei
pat? a war of positions.
Judged by the course of events li
the first three weeks of the wa
neither the French nor Oerman gen
erais were prepared for the complet
transformation of all military idea
which the development of the opera
tions inevitably demonstrated to b
imperative for waging war in prei
ent conditions. . . .
"I feel sure in my own mind th?
had we realised the true effect o
modern appliances of war in Augus
1914, there would have been no re
treat from Mons, and that if, in Sei
tomber, the Germans had learnt thei
lesson, the Allies would never hav
driven them back to the Aisne. ]
was in the fighting on that rive
that the eyes of all of us began to t
"New characteristics of offensiv
and defensive war began vaguely 1
be appreciated; but it required tY
successive attempt? of Mannoury, c
Castelnau, Foeh and myself to tut
the German flanks in the North i
the old approved style and the pra?
tical failure ef these attempts 1
bring home to our minds th* tit
nature of war to-day."
rhe Deadlock Broken
General Pershing may have h
the very definite p?an of ford
be fighting into open warfare." I
efor? he got into th? fighting oj
> I warfare had arrived, the Battle of
i Cambrai in November, 1917, having
i at last broken the deadlock of posi
* ? tional warfare.
11 It is obvious that the Entente
i ? effort on the Western front was
r ? inspired by no consistent or clear
, i idea, such as must govern to some
j extent in a single battle. At th?
' ! cutset Joflfre's Alsace-Lorraine and
' Ardeines offensives failed abruptly
> The Germans swept into France bj
way of Belgium. They w?ro haltec
I at the Marne, but they couldn't b?
expelled. Trench lines were estab
i lished from Switzerland to the Nortl
. Sea. The tedious war of fixed posi
, tions began and lasted three years
On the Defensive
I The mass of the Allied forces wa
pinned down on the defensive ii
? Northern France. The Entent? at
1 tacks on the German positions 1
?1915, 1916 and 1917 were, in fac?
? only a form of the offensiv?vdefer
sive. The immense development o
artillery and small arms had give
the defence a startling temporar
I superiority. This was to be ove;
I come only by a further developmer
i of artillery power and by the intr<
duction of new weapons of offene
; like tanks. . The process of readjus
! ment was slow and uncertain.
Strategy was limited and prescrib.
by new and strange conditions
! strange, at least, for the modtfi
i world. Its problems had to wo.
I themselves out experimentally ov.
long periods. Conditions did n
?yield to strategy. They dominai*
Unified Command
Moreover, clarity and unity
; strategy can come only if there
| unified command. And up to Mar
I 26, 1918, there was no unified Alii
j command.
The war on the West front
1915, 1916 and 1917 consequen
\ degenerated into a war of attrith
Such a war is in many respects
negation of*strategy. It didn't i
peal to Foch?himself a deep s
dent of strategy. In the introdi
tion which he wrote to Haig's v
ume he deprecates attrition and
scribes it as an unpromising ex
dient forced on the Allies by th
incomplete preparation for w
"We were limited," he says,
local and spasmodic engagemei
and the best that could be done i
to coordinate them as to space i
time. That is th? explanation
the poor results obtained up to
year 1917."
Fortunately, the Germans w
also occupied in the East, figfcl
i Russia and Rumania. "The result
I ing weakness of the two opposing
| lines," Foch adds, "threatened tc
! prolong for som? time to come whai
j has been' celled the war of attritfor
?that struggle of unmarked an.
unsutteined advantages which wear
out both armies without bringinj
gain to either?a war without re
suit. If a war is to end in victor:
i it must always be given a chara cte
diff?rent from this."
Not Foch's Idea
j It is no rash assumption that Foe.
j never considered the Entente cam
: paigns of 1916,. 1916, 1917 an
11918 as oae great battle, fought 1
accordance with a clear strategi
i plan. Are the principle? of strateg
! so immutable that competent so
] diess can always grasp them an
apply them? Foch? th? cel?brate
: professor of strategy, is very re
icent on this point Shortly aft*
the armistice he wet asked how Y
won the war. ?
"The war was won by faith," 1
In some recent interviews wit
him, the substance of which he? be?
reported by M. Andr? de Maricoui
the same question recurred.
"How did I win the wat? By smo!
ing my pipe. I m$on by th;
not getting excited, reducir
everything to its simplest tern:
avoiding useless emotions, reservh
all my strength for my sped
How Foch Won
In these interviews Foch d!
cusses the immutability of strateg
principles. But he says guarded!;
"War never changes in its essenc
it only changes in its meani
Again: "No. Wax hasn't eliang
since men have existed. But dot
you realize that it really deman
a great deal of art?"
What are th? unchanging prta
pies of strategy? They are fo*eD,
highly generalised. G?n?ral Nain
B. Forrest, a self-made soldi
.ummed up one when "he said tl
the main thing was "to get th
fustest with the mostest me
Another is that the offensiv?, a.
rule, is more advantageous than '
defensive. But the test of a gr
soldier is to apply the elus
principle? of strategy which h?
:om? to him instinctively or hi
jeen taught him in th? schools.
Foch saya again:
"People have often asked me 11
expected a long war. I eouldnt i
?wer them. It wave* my ?ff?
The future never belongs te m
and It le a less ef ttoe? of theuj
<n_ __# __n?_>_r_ im <!{?_r_______i .t t__ .
detriment of the task in hand. I
? have always wanted to do my work
\ in all thinge according to the for?
mula, 'Sufficient unto the day is the
evil thereof.' The evil of each day
is sufficient. And I have always
j sought to handle the big things with
1 all the conscientiousness which one
bringe to little things."
Foch did his work conscientiously
j even when he was tied down in 1911
! and 1916 to that war of at tritio.
: which was so uncongenial to him an
in which his star sank almost t
j eclipse. But his attitude of min
indicates that he would have bee:
j about the last person in the world t
f attribute to the Entente campaign
j on the West front a closely c<
j ordineted purpose or to view the.
jas a single great battle, proceedin
{according to a fixed and smooth!
running plan.
Attrition Warfare
Yet Field Marshal Haig strong
emphasizes the attrition warfare <
1916 .and 1917 as an end in its?
and as a necessary preliminary
victory. The title affixed to the r
port of the Somme operations
"The Opening of the Wearing O
Battle." Was the Somme intend^
to be primarily an ordeal In att.
tion? Or was it primarily an t
tempt to break through the Germ.
! front and force a German withdra'
nl from the Noyon salient? Aft
the battle was over?on Decemt
23, 1916?the Field Marshal stat
?hat the joint British and French <
ifensive had this threefold object:
) "1. To relieve the pressure <
', Verdun.
? \ "2, To assist our allies in the oth<
theaters of war by stopping any fu
;? t&er transfer of German troops fro
ya Western front ?
x ^8. To wear down the strength
j the, forces opposed to us."
. Tjhe immediate strategical obj?
ive 'wfs ignored, although by 3
cember 28, 1916, that objective 1
been practically attained.
The Allied offensive in the So?
aimed to drive a wedge into
western face of the Noyon sali<
between Bapaume and P?ronne,
as to break the part of the sali
extending north-northwest f.
Roye to Arras into two smaller
lients, and ?to make it impossible
the Germans to hold on in tl
two smaller salients.
The French Activities
The French, working east on
south side of the Somme, ne
reached P?ronne end almost ei
oped ChauliHHJj: Joining the Br
north of the Somme, they
helped to penetrate the German
j British Staff Kept Faith With
the Public and Described
Conditions as They Were
almost to Bapaume. Bad weathe:
and exhaustion stopped the offensiv?
in November. But its strategic?
purpose was accomplished. For La
dendorff had realized that he couh
no longer affoTd to stay on in th
shattered Noyon salient, and durinj
| the winter months he prepared t
? evacuate it and retir? to th? newl;
: constructed Hindenburg line.
The Somme w?s e substantial Al
i lied victory, although its result
didn't become apparent until th
! spring of 1917. Yet Haig's repoi
? ignored this direct strategical affet
! of the operation and only claim?
' the achievement of objectives of
i general character.
I |The Somme
: The Somme, of course, did relie.
i i German pressure on Verdun. Bt
1 i Falkenhayn had lost $>e Battle c
j Verdun before the Battle of tl
' Somme began. The Allied West?
offensive of 1916 didn't prevent Ge
many from reestablishing the Au
! tro-Hungarian front, broken 1
; BrusUoff's attacks. Nor did it hi
I der the German? from crushing R
mania and entering Bucharest.
did wear down th? German West?.
armi??. But the British ?nd Fren?
! losses probably exceeded the Goran
\ losses. A? an experiment in atti
! tion it? valu? was doubtful. It
! counted a? a successful Allied oper
jtlon solely bceause it produced i
'effect?or after effect?of genui
; strategical consequene? : th? G.
! man retreat to the Hindenbu
: line.
; The policy of "wearing out"
the W?st front recommended its?
I to the Allies in 1915 ?nd 1916 1
i cause they had then a great pi
I ponderance in crude man power. B
! in 1917, when it was manifest tl
the revolution was going to liquid.
! Russia's partnership in the Enten
the Allied preponderance quid
; vanished. But for Germany's fo
in goading the United States ii
taking up arms, the Europe
struggle would have been practica
equalized in the fall of 1917 a
j military probabilities would hi
! pointed to a draw?practically a ^
j tory for Germany, because she t
j so big a margin of territorial ga
i to bargain with.
?American Aid
America's aid could arrive o:
' very slowly ; and in the interval^
; Western Allies would be a* a dis
, vantage. A policy of continued
I tivity in 1917, therefor?, mvol<
, the risk of overstraining British i
French resources before the Ami
! can reinforcement became av?
[able. The British and French cc
: m?nds were greatly heartened, h<
I ever, by the Hindenburg ret?
They dreamed of another breaki
through operation on a great sc_
Nivelle, who had succeeded Jol
at the head of the French arm:
had an extraordinarily sangu
temperament. He had misinterpi
ed Ludendorff's very sensible reti
ment. He had also overestima
the progress made toward a r?ti
of the war of movement. He j
jsuaded the French and th? Brit
'governments that the time was x
to break the German line? and
drive the enemy out of France i
He started out in the spring
1917 from the Aisne Valley, ?xp<
ing to reach Laon in two or th
days. His plans went amiss, i
though he made some local g?
their cost was exorbitant,
whole conception was unsound i
the French government sooji
placed him in favor of P?tain. E
ing the rest of 1917 the Pre
fought warily and sparingly, as
strategic situation and their own
ternal difficulties required them
do. But the British continued
pound away at the Germans fi
April until December.
When Nivelle Failed
Field Marshal Haig doesn't
scribe his 1917 campaign as a Bee
phase of the "wearing out batt
The first part of it, the Battle of
ras, was intended to dovetail into
velle's brqak-through toward Li
Nivelle having failed completely,
British attack continued into J
ms a local operation, mainly beci
the Germans counter attacked
recovered much of the ground w]
they had lost at the beginning.
Battle of Arras died down only >y
Ludendorff was ready to let it
The great Flanders battle, wi
J?gan on Jun? 7 and ended on
/ember 6, apparently had for
>bjective the clearing of the Belj
:oast region, which could be ac<
dished by driving forward
Bruges and enveloping th? Ger
?ea base? at Ostend end Zeebru
3ut the British never get across
idges east arjd northeast of Yj
n these fiv? months of bloody fi
-ling e??ch side wore the other ?w
! I savagely by continuous contact fa,
I restricted territory. *
? Pounding the Germans
! The British armies, aided by ^
' \ French divisions, delivered s ^
' J series of locally successful attach
: The German defense had to endta?
a pounding whose severity aad (fe.
? j moralizing character Ludende,}
i j frankly admits in his memoirs. B?
; j the ?German line held, and within?*
; j months the Germans were tW
again in the Lys Valley and in th?
, j outskirts of Ypres.
Haig's losses in Flanders and %
] necessity of sending several ??^
; sions to the Italian front in ^
jivember, 1917, had the unforjuna?
j effect of preventing a proper ex?
? ploitation of the striking Britjon
success in Cambrai. There ft
Julian Byng's 3d Army broke
clear through the German line, bin
, for lack of reserves it couldn't ta
low up its advantage. If ft hai
: done so, "What would have beer
i the judgment on the Italian cam
' paign?" asks LudendorfT. Cambr*
, was the great Allied opportunity n
! the West front in 1917. Bnt ?
came after the attrition of Ami
and Flanders had sapped Britb!
fighting strength. And the lone
of 1917, not made good by th
! home government, led, a few mouth
| later, *to the great disaster wbic!
jovertook-the 6th British Army wty
j of St. Quentin.
? Admission was made in Parlii
ment by a spokesman for the gov
ernment that Haig's report on tfci
German offensive of 1918 waits
printed in its original form. Be
; what was printed makes it da
enough that the British ami? ?
France had dangerously extend?
their lines to the south, in accorc
arrce with an agreement with tb
! French government, and that ic
I lack of reinforcements the division
had to be reduced from thtrtee
battalions to ten battalions. On
of the inevitable consequences c
the attrition policy of 1917 wi
thus dodged by the British Wi
? Office and the way was opened ft
j the destruction of the weak 5t
The Americans Arrive
The United States began to rui
troops to Europe only after th
blow had fallen. They arrived i
sufficient masses to constitute tl
strategic reserve, without who?
presence Foch could hardly ha^
stopped Ludendorff's mass driven
1918 and undertaken his victorlot
counter offensive. The Ameriei
armies saved the day on the Wester
front. This timely re in forcea?
was the decisive factor in Allie
success?not the Allied attritic
policy of 1916 and 1917, for tl
attrition policy would have fail?
absolutely to guarantee victory
France and Great Britain had bee
left to fight the war to a finish u
The war on the Entente side, i
fact,, took on the character of "<n
great battle" only after Allied uni'
of command was achieved by tl
appointment of Foch 8 3 generals
simo. From that d?y on?Man
26, 1918?Allied strategy became?
ordinated and effective. One ?*
and one authority could do wb
scattered command had never b?
squal to doing. It is to Haig's gre
credit as a soldier that in the Man
?ri?is he advised a unification
which British opinion had loi
salked. In his introduction. Marsh
Foch says of this generous art
Foch's Tribute
"Was it not tho iii8?gli? of W ??
perienced and enlightened coB
mander which led him [Haig] to I"
tervene. as he did, with his own gOv
eifnment on March 24, 1D18, a?
with the Allied governments assero
bled at Doullens on March ?26, to tt
end that the French and the Briti*
armies might at once be placed ?Ml
a slug!? command, oven tbottgb ?H
personal position Bhould therts
suffer? In the events which felloe*
did he not prove that he was ?b'A
ail anxious to anticipate and ?^
in perfect harmony with the get;???*'
Allied plsn, frara?sd by the ne'
Supreme Command t On this J*?E
the dispatches contain Raps y*P
prevent tha reader from grasping a
the reasons for our victory; tna
:ompelled me to complete the t*
In the final campaign the lead?
aip and fighting quality of *?
ritish army on the Western fW
sached their climax. Haig;? P
ralahip was superb. The army p
een hardened into an instrument
ictory. But the new spirit of uoi
nd cooperation, and. th?? ?jjf
merican reserve were far 1*8
?sponsible for victory than **'
ie cumulaiuve effets of the**0
on warfafe of 1916, 1916 ?
117 i

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