A Fraternity of Arms: America and France in the Great War

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By the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States had already become an international power and a recognized force at sea, but its army remained little more than a frontier constabulary. In fact, when America finally entered World War I, the U.S. Army was still only a tenth the size of the smallest of the major European forces.

While most previous work on America's participation in the Great War has focused on alliance with Great Britain, Robert Bruce argues that the impact of the Franco-American relationship was of far greater significance. He makes a convincing case that the French, rather than the British, were the main military partner of the United States in its brief but decisive participation in the war-and that France deserves much credit for America's emergence as a world military power.

In this important new look at the First World War, Bruce reveals how two countries established a close and respectful relationship-marking the first time since the American Revolution that the United States had waged war as a member of a military coalition. While General Pershing's American Expeditionary Forces did much to buoy French morale and military operations, France reciprocated by training over 80 percent of all American army divisions sent to Europe, providing most of their artillery and tanks, and even commanding them in combat.

As Bruce discloses, virtually every military engagement in which the AEF participated was a Franco-American operation. He provides significant new material on all major battles-not only the decisive Second Battle of the Marne, but also St. Mihiel, Cantigny, Reims, Soissons, and other engagements-detailing the key contributions of this coalition to the final defeat of Imperial Germany. Throughout the book, he also demonstrates that there was a mutual bond of affection not only between French and American soldiers but between the French and American people as well, with roots planted deep in the democratic ideal.

By revealing the overlooked importance of this crucial alliance, A Fraternity of Arms provides new insights not only into World War I but into coalition war-making as well. Contrary to the popular belief that relations between France and the United States have been tenuous or tendentious at best, Bruce reminds us that less than a century ago French and American soldiers fought side by side in a common cause-not just as allies and brothers-in-arms, but as true friends.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Sees the Franco-American relationship as of greater significance than the Anglo-French, crediting France for America's emergence as a military power.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700612536
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 6/9/2003
  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Illustrations



1. American Volunteers in France, 1914-1917

2. America Embraces France: Joffre and the French Mission to the United States

3.The Arrival of the American Expeditionary Forces in France and the Crisis in French Morale, April-July 1917

4. The Role of France in Arming and Training the American Expeditionary Forces

5. The Amalgamation Controversy, December 1917-February 1918

6. Springtime of War: The First Franco-American Battles, May-June 1918

7. The Second Battle of the Marne: The Franco-American Battle That Turned the Tide

8. The Franco-American Armies in the Autumn Campaigns, 1918

9. Conclusion

Appendix: Maps


Selected Bibliography


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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2003

    Excellent!! Read this book!!

    In the preface of his book A Fraternity of Arms Robert Bruce asserts that his intention is to refute a popular image ¿so widely held in America, of a historically acrimonious relationship between¿, (Bruce, xiii) the United States and France. Indeed Bruce¿s account of Franco-American cooperation is well documented, vividly expressed and covers the social, political, and military aspects of this relationship. Bruce examines the experience of the American volunteers, including the Rockwell¿s, who found themselves in the Légion étrangère. Bruce points out that many of these young men wanted to fight and they wanted to find action as quickly as possible. Many of them, however wanted to serve in the regular army and found the Foreign Legion to be disappointing. They found the legion to be composed of mercenaries from many nationalities and not particularly friendly to the idealistic volunteers. Bruce points out however, that even in the face of severe disillusion Kiffen Rockwell and others still wanted to fight, but in regular French army units. Quoting Kiffen Rockwell¿s letter to his injured brother, ¿If you can get me into a French regiment, get busy, for I want out of the Legion¿. Bruce provides details of the many shortcomings of the American army, especially the lack of modern heavy weapons. Chapter 4 illustrates clearly the fact that although America had tremendous quantities of natural resources and a huge industrial capacity as well, the situation was that it would inevitably be the French who would equip the American army. Bruce shows that despite heroic efforts on the part of American armaments manufacturers to build the machine guns and artillery, the allies did not have the luxury of time and could not wait for American manufacturing to come up to speed, and so the Americans would go to war with equipment that was almost exclusively French. Bruce provides as evidence a table comparing the French and British contributions of war material to the AEF during the war and in every category; the French contribution far exceeds that of the British. Bruce provides engaging accounts of all the American engagements from Catigny the first battle in which American units play a deciding role, through Belleau Wood, the Second battle of the Marne to the Meuse-Argonne and the end of the war. He defends the Americans against those who have denigrated the American contribution to the final allied victory by quoting Ludendorf; ¿It was most assuredly the Americans who bore the brunt of the fighting on the whole battle front during the last few months of the war.¿ In the final paragraphs of his book Bruce recounts the interment of the remains of the Unknown Soldier in the tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National cemetery with moving quotes from Field Marshal Foch and Chief Plenty Coups of the Crow Nation and then points out that: ¿At the bottom of the crypt, on the hallowed ground of America¿s Valhalla, a two inch deep layer of French soil, gathered from the battlefields of the western front where the French and American army had fought side by side, had been spread. Here the Unknown American Soldier of the Great War rests for all eternity.¿ (Bruce, p.294) With that statement, Bruce brings his book A Fraternity of Arms: America & France in the Great War, to its conclusion having made his point that despite sometimes enormous political differences that America and France share a ¿fraternity of arms¿, and though it may be dismissed and forgotten, has formed a lasting foundation for Franco-American Relations.

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