Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18, 1918: The US Turns the Tide Against the Monarchies

An overview of cemetery show plots of headstones, the chapel, and flag poles.

ONCE UPON A TIME, the US sent 2 million troops to Europe to make the world safe for democracy. The German Empire gambled that they could move divisions from the Eastern Front to the Western Front faster than the US could bring its troops into the maelstrom. They lost their gamble, and by July 18, 1918, the monarchies knew the war was lost.

As President Wilson, told Congress on April 2, 1917, seeking a declaration of war:
The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.
This was exceptional. Before America's entry into World War I empires competed to extend their dominions and even nations such as France and Great Britain fought to acquire lost lands or protect their geopolitical positions. The US fought for democracy.

The US lost 50,000 boys and young men in WWI. Pictured above is the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery where over 14,000 American soldiers rest; it is the largest US overseas cemetery in the world.

By the summer of 1918, we were sending over 250,000 boys and young men into harms way per month. These troops saved the French and British from impending collapse. By July 15, 1918, the US troops contributed mightily to stopping the final German offensive of the war. US Troops stopped the German offensive in its tracks and took the offensive at places like Chateau-Thierry.

On July 18, 1918, the US and its allies began the first of essentially continuous offensives that ultimately broke the German Army, leading to mass surrenders of German soldiers, a nervous breakdown for the German commander of the army, General Erich Ludendorff, and massive civil unrest and rebellion on the home-front of Germany.

German chancellor Georg Hertling confirmed the impact of the US and how it changed the war:
At the beginning of July, 1918, I was convinced, I confess it, that before the first of September our adversaries would send us peace proposals. . . . We expected grave events in Paris for the end of July. That was on the 15th. On the 18th even the most optimistic of us knew that all was lost. The history of the world was played out in three days.
In coming days and months, I will trace the sacrifices of the heroes of WWI, who did indeed end the scourge of the monarchies and make the world safe for democracy. We cannot honor these loyal soldiers of yesteryear enough, for we enjoy the fruits of the freedom they fought and died for.

It is the height of irony that exactly 100 years later a US President, Donald Trump, should go to Europe and insult our best democratic allies who bled with us after 9/11 in far off places like Afghanistan, and then embrace an autocrat like Vladimir Putin who subverts democracy and funds the Taliban against our soldiers. Trump displayed weakness, subservience and even cowardice in failing to deal with Putin as the enemy of the US. Some call it treason, but I need more evidence to support that conclusion.

It is, however, a betrayal of every member of the US armed services fighting in Afghanistan today, as well as those honorable soldiers of wars past who fought, bled, and died for democracy. The soldiers who died in France 100 years ago were not fighting for just Blue states or just Red states. They fought and died for an American value--democracy--that today our President is too feeble and weak-minded to understand or defend. What a difference 100 years makes.

Is democracy still a bi-partisan value, or is a majority of Americans now OK with autocracy?


  1. Hooah Prof. Ramirez.

  2. My grandfather left Poland as a child to come to the united states. He fought in the D-day invasion, worked in a factory in Detroit, and raised 8 kids, all who in one way or another understood the value off all of that, and instilled it in me. Those values are why I became a lawyer. I also grew up with plenty of friends, some who fought and died in the past decade or so in the war on terror. To watch what is happening right now appalls me, but I still have hope. Thanks for this article, it is a reminder that are those of us out there that still care about these things.