Excerpts

FROM THE INTRODUCTION

       It was April 5, 1917 and characteristically cloudy along almost the full 475-mile line running from the North Sea to the Swiss border. It was a line of brutal devastation, of rows upon rows of fortified trenches, dividing two massive military machines, millions of men in each, which had battled and bloodied each other for almost three years. For almost as long they had been stalemated and deadlocked along that line, known as the Western Front, despite hurtling unprecedented numbers of troops at each other in one massive offensive and counteroffensive after another, suffering unprecedented casualties, counted not in the tens or even hundreds of thousands but in the millions, in futile attempts to break their deadlock. Continue reading...

FROM CHAPTER TWO – AMERICA WATCHES A WAR

       When the war in Europe erupted in August 1914, there was no sense in America (or elsewhere, for that matter) that this ever would become America’s war. Throughout its history, after all, the U.S. resolutely had refused to get involved in Europe’s battles. When Europe exploded, therefore, President Woodrow Wilson’s first response was to proclaim the nation’s neutrality and declare that Europe’s war “cannot touch us.”
       Even had Wilson toyed with the notion of taking sides (which he certainly did not), it would not be clear which side America would favor. Looking back a century from our day, it may be hard for us to understand how thoroughly divided were American sympathies in 1914. There were, naturally, deep feelings for and bonds with the British—through the obvious elements of common language, shared democratic values and systems and a great deal of intermingled history. But American feelings for and bonds with Germany were nearly as strong and nearly as historically grounded... Continue reading...

FROM CHAPTER THREE – CHOOSING WAR

       [In January, 1917, Germany ordered its submarines to attack all shipping, including those of neutrals, in the war zones around Britain and France. Doing so, it realized that it risked bringing America into the war.]
       Wilson’s first response to the notification of unfettered U-boat attacks was to break diplomatic relations with Germany. On February 3, 1917, at 2 p.m., a State Department lawyer arrived at the German Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. There he formally declared to German Ambassador Bernstorff that because there is “no alternative consistent with the dignity and honor of the United States... The President has, therefore, directed me to announce to your Excellency that all diplomatic relations between the United States and the German Empire are severed."... Continue reading...

FROM: CHAPTER 4 – MOBILIZING THE NATION

“The most unfit army the United States has had since the Revolution.”

“From a military point of view, America is nothing.”

“I do not think that it will make much difference whether America comes in or not.”

       The first statement is by an American popular magazine in 1914; the second by a German Navy officer in early 1917; the third by the Chief of the British Imperial General Staff just days before America declared war. In their unanimity, they were not far off the mark. While the question for the world no longer was would America get into the war, it now was the equally pressing: Could America fight the war? The safe answer would be “No.” Continue reading...

CHAPTER 6 – AMERICA BREAKS THE STALEMATE

       By the time that the Great War’s guns fell silent on the late morning of November 11, 1918, Americans had seen Western Front action for about a year, in thirteen battles, great and small. They suffered 114,000 killed and 205,690 wounded, many very critically, with limbs amputated, bodies and faces disfigured, hearing and eyesight ruined. After tallying the toll, history can ask: Did they make a difference?
       And history’s answer is: Yes, they clearly did.
       In shorthand, the difference made by the American Expeditionary Force can be encapsulated in a single large number: “One Million.” This was the staggering combined British and French losses as their armies in spring 1918 were pulverized by, reeled from, regrouped and then began throwing back five massive, blitzkrieg-like German offensives. This also was the number of German losses. And, most relevant, this too was the number of American doughboys who had landed in France by mid-July 1918, when the last of the German thrusts had been halted. This number dramatizes how decisively the Americans transformed the Western Front’s arithmetic by making up in full the horrendous Allied losses. For Germany, there was nothing to make up its losses, no prospects of manpower replenishment, no way to rebound. “America became the deciding factor in the war,” later said General Erich Ludendorff, Germany’s most important commander and architect of German battlefield strategy.Continue reading...

CHAPTER 7 – CULMINATION: ARMISTICE AND VERSAILLES

“Everything for which America fought has been accomplished.”

       Thus did Woodrow Wilson announce to his countrymen the November 11, 1918 armistice ending the Great War’s fighting. It is a statement that history turns upside down. Little for which America had fought had been accomplished. America, to be sure, had wanted the Allies to win, and win they did. But just about nothing else came out the way Wilson or America had intended. The first proof of this emerged in the armistice, when the British and French treated Germany as a soundly defeated enemy for whom every shred of honor would be withheld. This was followed a few months later at the Paris Peace Conference and in the peace treaty. They were to be the culmination of the transforming actions taken by America since it entered the war in spring 1917. That, as earlier chapters relate, dramatically altered the dynamics and balance of the Western Front, giving Britain and France a victory otherwise inconceivable. It consequently gave them the opportunity, which they seized, to punish, strip and humiliate Germany. This certainly was not why America had fought and, in fact, was everything Wilson had said he opposed…
       If it was a fateful mistake for America to have entered the Great War, it was still a mistake which could have been rectified by ending the conflict with genuine negotiations and compromise. At the armistice and peace talks, America had a last chance to blunt the long-term, history-changing tragic effects of its having taken sides in the war. Continue reading...

Where can I buy America’s Greatest Blunder?

The book is published in hardback and paperback print editions and in e-book editions for Kindle, Nook, iBooks and other e-reader devices. You can buy them at:

Buy the Book from Amazon Buy the Book from Barnes & Noble Buy the Book from iBookstore