Along the way, he shows how General Pershing and other leaders -- including George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, Billy Mitchell, and Peyton March -- transformed the American Expeditionary Force from a small, underequipped force into a strong, efficient, and effective army. Fast-paced, lively, and engaging, Yanks illuminates the central role of the American army in turning the tide in the biggest war the world had ever known.
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"The history of the Victorian Age," writes Lytton Strachey in his Preface to Eminent Victorians, "will never be written: we know too much about it." That paradoxical and somewhat arresting statement serves as Strachey's excuse for selecting four lives to depict an entire age of British history, but it applies to any subject on which mountains of material have been written.
The First World War, often referred to as the Great War, certainly falls into that category. Too much is known about that vast conflict to permit one book to cover the entire war in anything but a textbook fashion. The "explorer of the past," to continue with Strachey, "will row out over that great ocean of material, and lower down into it...a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen."
With that idea in mind, I have not attempted to write a comprehensive story of the Great War. Instead I have focused on the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), commanded by General John J. Pershing. In describing the inception of the AEF in early 1917 and its subsequent development and employment until the war's end in late 1918, I have not attempted to give a rounded picture of the whole war, which includes the actions of many nations on many fronts. Nevertheless, the story of the AEF and how it fit into the general scheme of the war is worth a study in itself.
The saga of the AEF is not, on the whole, a cheery one. The overseas experiences of the American troops "doughboys" bore little relationship to the rousing patriotic songs such as George M. Cohan's "Over There," or to the parades and banners. It entailed arduous duties, performed in the wet, the cold, sometimes the heat, with death always lurking, mostly in the front line infantry battalions but elsewhere as well. There was heroism, but there was also cowardice. At first there was ignorance of the job to be done "innocence" might be a better word. Yet the end result was inspiring. A great many people pulled together to attain a great accomplishment.
In a way, the story of the AEF in the Great War is part of my background, perhaps something I needed to put on paper in order to work it out of my system. I was born in an Army family slightly less than four years after the last gun was fired in the Meuse-Argonne; my first vivid memories are those of trudging over the battlefields with my father, Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, and my mother. During 1928 and 1929 my father was a member of General Pershing's American Battle Monuments Commission, with offices in Paris. One of his tasks was to draft the official Guide to the American Battlefields in France. The end result was a remarkable book; it remains today the best available guide for the student of the war to follow. The final edition was not published until 1938, and I have no idea what proportion of my father's original words survived. I also have no idea of how the study of the terrain in northern France helped him in later campaigns across the same territory fifteen years later. But I know that accompanying him on his many tours around the territory made a lasting impression on me. At age six, I was even privileged to shake the hand of the Great Man himself, John J. Pershing!
It is not surprising that, as a youngster, I viewed the Great War in a romantic fashion. Heroic charges, reduction of fearsome enemy machine gun nests, the roar of artillery, the exploits of the air aces those were my boyhood fantasies, based on true stories but far from the grim truth.
Others have viewed the AEF and its role in the Great War much differently. Some have thought it unnecessary; others have succumbed to excessive disillusionment over the disparity between the patriotic mouthings of our propagandists and the grisly facts of the Argonne or of Château Thierry. The latter views, when carried to the extreme, are no more right nor wrong than my childhood concepts. They are just viewed from different angles, both extreme.
The purpose of this book, therefore, is to strike a balance, to examine how the AEF came about, to describe the gargantuan efforts needed to create it, supply it, train it, and fight it, and in so doing to show how the modern American Army was born. Since many of my sources are personal memoirs written by survivors, I have not dwelt at length on the immense tragedies felt by so many families. Nevertheless, it is my hope that this single, modest volume will provide some perspective on one of the truly pivotal events in American history.
John S. D. Eisenhower
Copyright © 2001 by John S. D. Eisenhower
Table of ContentsCONTENTS
List of Maps
CREATING THE AEF
ONE A Visit from Papa Joffre
TWO A Nation at War
THREE The Selection of General Pershing
FOUR The Yanks Arrive
FIVE Organizing the AEF
SIX The Supreme War Council
APPRENTICESHIP: THE OPENING BATTLES
SEVEN Baptism of Fire
EIGHT The Calm Before the Storm
NINE Unified Command at Last!
TEN "I Will Not Be Coerced"
ELEVEN The Big Red One at Cantigny
TWELVE The 2d Division at Belleau Wood
THIRTEEN The Rock of the Marne
FOURTEEN Soissons -- The Turning Point
THE AEF FIGHTS INDEPENDENTLY:
ST. MIHIEL AND THE MEUSE-ARGONNE
FIFTEEN St. Mihiel -- Dress Rehearsal
SIXTEEN The Race Against Time
SEVENTEEN Montfaucon -- Ominous Victory
NINETEEN Feelers for Peace
TWENTY First Army Comes of Age
TWENTY-ONE The Windup
TWENTY-TWO The Railroad Car at Compiègne
TWENTY-THREE The End of the AEF
What People are Saying About This
When John Eisenhower describes General Pershing and his staff on the ship taking his first contingent of Americans to France, he makes you feel you were theremost of all wondering, as Pershing did, how all this was going to work. Find out is what makes this such an enjoyable read.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Well written but the author seems more engrossed with General Pershing than with the overall US war effort.
She appeared suddenly." So so. This is where you headed after abusing me. Huh."
Fu.ck me with your tongue! *she screamed.*