You’re at war and you’re trying to hold off a determined and capable enemy. When you falter and that enemy advances, you ask your ally for reinforcements. But what if he says they genuinely do not exist? You begin to evacuate your capital I’m Indy Neidell. Welcome to “the Great War”. Last week the Germans launched the Third Battle of the Aisne and made such huge gains that they were now just 50 miles from Paris. Greek and French forces attacked the Bulgarians at Skra di Legen and two big battles were fought between the Oomans and the Armenians in the Caucasus, even as Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan declared themselves independent nations. There was turmoil in that region this week. We saw that Kress von Kressenstein had Georgia declare itself a German protectorate so that Germany could secure the Baku oilfields before their ally, the Ottomans, could reach them with their army. And now on June 4th, The Ottomans signed a treaty of peace and friendship with the Armenians and the war of the past few weeks was over. German troops from the Crimea arrived in the brand-new Georgian Republic the 3rd and on June 5th Ottoman Minister of War Enver Pacha himself together with German general Hans von Seeckt, left Istanbul for Batum to try and solve the situation. The furious Vehip Pasha, leading the Ottoman army there, still ordered his troops to march from Alexandropol on Tiflis anyhow, though, and they were on the move as the week ended. And they weren’t the only Central Powers troops on the move. The German Offensive that started last week against the French was still going strong, but I’d like to look at some of the issues the French had going into it. They had 103 divisions in France, but 45 of them were north of the Oise River. “A World Undone” says that Germany had over 200 divisions, battered divisions, but still divisions in France and Belgium, and that the German preparations had made the challenge of figuring out where they would attack next to impossible. In fact, it calls this one of French General Philip Petain’s greatest challenges of the whole war. “Petain’s problems were further deepened by opposition at almost every step from (Ferdinand) Foch and other generals. These men continued to believe that the only way to wage war was to attack and attack again and again almost regardless of the circumstances, and that when the enemy attacked the only acceptable response was to stand in place and die rather than retreat. They saw Petain’s openness to other tactics, his willingness to learn the lessons of the past years, as weakness bordering on cowardice”. It’s true. He had repeatedly called for a defense in depth as the Germans had used so successfully, but his directives were ignored. In fact, back on May 4th, Foch issued his own order that when attacked, even a temporary withdrawal was out of the question. So now the Germans had broken through, and are 50 miles from Paris. On June 2nd, The Allied Supreme War Council meets at Versailles. The French government and tens of thousands of people prepare to evacuate the city of Paris. French command again begged American commander John Pershing to transfer American troops to the disintegrating French sector of the front, and even just temporarily, assigned them to French units. Pershing said “no way, Jose!” Actually, what the French had asked for, was 250,000 Americans to join the lines in June and another 250,000 in July. The British, French and Germans had armies numbering in the millions on the Western Front, but it looked like the real American army wouldn’t arrive in force until at least the end of the year. Pershing agreed to put 170,000 troops in the line, however, the French needed them in June and 140,000 in July, but not a single man more, and the other new arrivals from the States would be supply and support for Pershing’s future American army. The Allied leaders were in agreement that Soissons and Reims were the western and eastern keys to preventing the salient the German advance was creating from opening wider. Reims held fast, but the Germans were already in Soissons, so the Allies had to now hold the wooded plateau just beyond Soissons. And what about the French reserves? Well, Foch did not really believe this offensive was being done to take Paris, He thought it was to drain Flanders of reserves for a new attack up there, so he refused to send reserve south. He was right. As for the Germans, by now They had taken all of their objectives and tons and tons of supplies. So what to do now? Push ahead at Soissons where the attacks had been a success? Or Keep trying to take Reims, where they had not? Or push ahead to Paris in spite of the danger that their salient posed? Or call the whole thing off? Since the Allies were not moving troops down from Flanders, which was the whole idea behind this offensive, as an objective whole it was a failure. The German High Command decided to press on. It did look on paper like things were truly falling apart for the Allies, and French general Franchet D’Esperey, AKA, “Desperate Frankie”, ordered the French 5th army to abandon Reims. However, the commander there disobeyed orders and remained, and stopped the Germans. They would try for their attacks there, but they would fail. Also, June 3rd, the Germans crossed the Marne using enormous ladders, which they telescope and then laid across the river. It was clever and the ladders were wide enough for two men to cross side-by-side, and they established a machine-gun bridgehead, but two American divisions were now at Chateau-Thierry under 10 kilometers away and they attacked the bridgehead, together with French colonial troops. The Germans were forced to swim or row boats back across the river. That same day, the Americans engaged the Germans at Belleau Wood. And the next day. And the rest of the week. They would spend the next three weeks fighting to try and take the wood and block one of the German avenues towards Paris. Fighting was especially heavy the 6th. A morning assault west of the wood captured Hill 142, and a later attack captured Bouresches, but at a cost of 1,087 casualties. That day was also notable for Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly crossing a wheat field under German machine gun fire, famously yelling to his men. “Come on ya (you) sons of bitches! Ya wanna live forever?!!”. The Third Battle of the Aisne officially ended that day, with casualties of around 130,000 for both sides. The German casualties though were mainly from assault divisions and those were becoming more and more difficult to replace. German quartermaster general Erich Ludendorff was now hastily planning to launch yet another offensive next week, beyond Soissons to the west. The French knew this because on the 3rd, they cracked a German radio code and learned the plans. They knew just what was coming and we’re. And another German secret was revealed this week. On June 2nd, the Swedish socialist newspaper “Politiken” published a secret convention between Germany and Finland. The Finnish government was to pass in the Finnish Diet the establishment of a monarchy under a German dynasty. The Finnish army would be under German leadership. Aland would be used as a German naval base, and Finnish Arctic Territory would be used for German commercial shipping. And here are some notes to end the week. On June 2nd, a German pilot named Herman Goering was awarded the “Pour le Merite”, Germany’s highest military honour. On the 3rd, Britain, France and Italy announced full support for Polish Czech and Yugoslav statehood. An independent Poland with access to the sea is now a condition of peace. On the 4th, the Taryba, the Lithuanian Council, votes to invite the Duke of Württemberg to take the Lithuanian throne. And that was the week. Ottoman troops advancing even though their war with Armenia is officially over. German troops being halted but planning another advance almost immediately, and steps toward possible German leadership of Finland and Lithuania. I’m gonna do something different today; I’m going to end with three quotes about this week’s situation on the Western Front. The first two I found in Martin Gilbert’s “the First World War” French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau said “I shall fight before Paris. I shall fight in Paris. I shall fight behind Paris … (for) the ultimate success that is within our grasp, that we are on the very eve of grasping”. However, Morris Hankey, Secretary to the British War Cabinet did not share that optimism and wrote in his diary that same day, “I do not like the outlook. The Germans are fighting better than the Allies, and I cannot exclude the possibility of disaster”. And concerning the German situation G.J .Meyer wrote in “A World Undone”, “Once again losing sight of what he had originally intended, Ludendorff ordered seven of the divisions being saved for Flanders to be brought south to join in the attack. He was like a roulette player trying to recoup his losses by putting chips on more and more numbers”. Thing is, sometimes those numbers come up. If you’d like to learn more about the evolution of French infantry tactics, you can click right here for our special episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Philip Schoffman. 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