Documentary by Michael Palin - The last day of the war

Discussion in 'World War I' started by parsifal, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    A doco by Michael Palin was aired last night here in Aus, looking at the last day of the war.

    It analyses the casualties taken on that last day, and shows that the ASmericans took by far the most casualties on that day....something like 3000 dead.

    It mentions that Pershing, the US commander strongly supported prosecuting the war to the full right up to the end, and in fact disagreed with a negotiated ceasefire in its entirety. He wanted to demonstrate to the germans by achieving unconditional surrender that they had lost the war utterly.....


    After the war the US Generals that had continued to send in their troops often with only minutes to go were strongly criticised. Pershing largely escaped this censure. I dont understand why he escaped whilst others under his command were castigated. And was Pershing correct....was wwII inevitable, or could it have been avoiuded by beating the living bejeesus out of the germans in 1919?
     
  2. TheMustangRider

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    I have seen this documentary a couple of months ago on Youtube and it's just amazing how soldiers kept dying senselessly hours, minutes and even seconds short of 11:00 am November 11th when the ceasefire was about to take effect; closing a bloody curtain on the Great War.
     
  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I confess im of two minds on this. on the one hand, yes it seems an enormous waste to kepp attacking right up until the end...on the other hand, if you think about pershings argument, taking the easy peace with germansy generated the opportunity for the nazis to develop the 'stabbed in the back argument, and to posture that germany was not fully and comprehensively defeated. Pershing wante to finished the war by marhing down the frederichs strasser. That would have demonstrated to alll of germany that they had indeed comprehensively lost the war
     
  4. TheMustangRider

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    #4 TheMustangRider, Apr 3, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
    I agree entirely with you, one of the stunning things about WWI is its appalling loss of life.
    I had recently began reading World War I by H.P Willmott which covers the general account of the war and from the very beginning in its opening months, you can see how all the belligerent nations began losing men in the tens and hundreds of thousands both in the Western and Eastern Front and, pursuing the war by the Allies until an unconditional surrender from Germany and its allies inevitably would have caused more bloodshed from both sides, which were having difficulty to recover from massive losses of manpower in the last stages of the war; but on the other hand it might have changed history and WWII, a much more gigantic and destructive conflict would have been evaded.
    Perhaps the most ideal chain of events would have been stopping the newly created Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan on their rearming tracks in the early 1930’s by decisive action from the US, having not withdrawn from the League of Nations, Great Britain and France but that too is another big conjecture.
     
  5. Thomas Clarke

    Thomas Clarke New Member

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    The appalling loss of life in WWI is appalling to those who did not live and fight then. My paternal grandfather fought as a private and American volunteer at Chateau Thierry and carried the shrapnel from German shells in his legs throughout his life. He could walk only with heavy braces and was effectively disabled throughout his life with constant pain. He died at age 93 while J walking during his constitutional which he took as soon as he was able to do so in 1919. He resumed his trade as an adding machine repairman.

    I spent hundreds of hours listening to his version of war and those of my Dad and his two brothers. The two brothers were Army Air Corps. Harold was a bombardier in B-25's in Italy and Wendell was in B-26's in New Guinea. Dad was in the Field Artillery and was converted from wrangling donkeys to become a machine gunner. He was in Long Beach awaiting shipment to Japan in August 1945 when the war ended.

    Appalling loss of life in WWI terms and those of WWII are really different. Not much in the way of civilian slaughter according to my grandfather. He did not think that dying was anything other than what happened as soon as he joined the Army. That was what soldiers did. One in ten was expected. He never mentioned much in the way of civilian slaughter. He never liked the Germans or the French and thought the English were of little value in the war, which he thought America helped end. The Belgians and the Danes were not much use either. He liked the wine and the women and came home to America and got married.

    My uncles both thought that war was the slaughter of innocents. They both survived their tours but were certain that most of what they did was to kill the families of the soldiers in the field. Neither thought that there was any honor in flying medium bombers. My Dad was certain to be the first or second wave of the invasion of Japan. He felt that there was nothing good that was going to come from the war, other than he expected to be dead. My uncles returned alive, with addictions to alcohol and opiates. After very little treatment my uncles and my Dad took their college degrees and taught school.

    Appalling loss of life in WWI. No, I do not think it was appalling from what I can understand first hand. War is appalling and the loss of civilians which has only increased since WWI is the worst of it all. Oh and by the way I too served as an Army MP in Vietnam 1970-1972. That too was a lousy war.
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    His opinion of nations that had been fighting for three years when the first elements of the AEF turned up in mid 1917 is irrelevant. There was still only I U.S. Division committed by the time of the March 1918 German offensive. Throughout that offensive which badly shook both the British and French the American forces did precisely nothing. By the time they were committed,later that year,the German Army was a spent force. They still contrived to learn nothing from the experiences of the principal combatants of the previous years (Germany,France,Britain and her Imperial allies) with the resultant,needless,loss of life. That was Pershing's independance in action.

    He was right about the second part. The 1.5 million U.S. personnel in France by the end of the war certainly turned the tide. Germany had quite literally run out of men.

    The best way to have avoided WWII would have been to treat Germany differently after the cessation of hostilities. The impossible reparations and other conditions imposed on her led directly to the later conflict. Hindsight is easy,foresight is difficult.

    Steve
     
  7. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... And was Pershing correct....was wwII inevitable, or could it have been avoided by beating the living bejeesus out of the germans in 1919?"

    I think Pershing was more-or-less correct -- although I also agree with Stona's points that the peace had to built after the Armistice - this wasn't done effectively. There was a vindictiveness that poisoned the talks - plus a certain naivety.

    Grant and Lincoln's prosecution of war against the Confederacy comes to mind (with both its successes and failures) as to what should have happened.

    Britain, France, The Commonwealth and Germany were all tired. Pershing had the advantage of seeing the conflict with fresh eyes and fresh troops -- a real luxury, IMO. :)

    MM
     
  8. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    Great Documentary! Recommended
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I would suggest that the Germans had the 'bejasus' beaten out of them by the time of the armistice. So too had the other major combatants,particularly France. We shouldn't forget Russia,in the throws of revolution and civil war, nor Austro-Hungary and Italy who had been bleeding each other to death over the alpine passes. It was the death knell of the Ottoman Empire too,something with great relevance today given the situation in the Middle East. The U.S. as a 'Johnny come lately' was the only exception,if we even count her as a major combatant.

    To really 'beat the bejasus' out of Germany in a way which would prevent another conflict means continuing to kick her once she's down and being prepared to do so indefinitely. It would have needed the implementation of something like the Morgenthau plan,proposed but thankfully discarded,towards the end of the later conflict. Not a de-militarisation but a de-industrialisation.
    We'll never know whether such a scheme would really be practicle. It is difficult to see how such a thing could have worked in the long term.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  10. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    images.jpg ".... To really 'beat the bejasus' out of Germany in a way which would prevent another conflict means continuing to kick her once she's down and being prepared to do so indefinitely."

    The Allies didn't kick German when she was down - in 1945. Quite the opposite. But there was serious, lasting OCCUPATION - not just a token march across the Rhine
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    That is a quintessentially American persepective of the war, and understandable, given your preamble. and i would agree that compared to WWII, WWI was not raely as targetting of civilians. However, there was still an appalling loss of life for Civilians, and more to the point, an appalling treatment of civilians. Ask the belgians what they think of the German occupation of their country 1914-18. Its right up there with the worst attrocities in the Warsaw Ghettos. There are plenty of other examples. At the end of the war in Palestine, where my grandfather had fought, the Allies were forced to allow the turks to remain armed, to simply protect them from marauding Arab tribesmen. The Turks were responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million armenians and kurds in an organized genocide. The survivors were out to kill turks, any turks, and to this the bitterness between Kurds and Armenians on one side, and turks on the other, is palpable.

    It is simply untrue that WWI in all cases was a less Civilian oriented war than the second.


    The Australians, along with the canadians were generally considered the assault corps of the Western Front, and were responsible for a number of battles that contributed materially to the German defeat in 1918. In 1918, if casualty rates had been 1 in 10, the australians would have been very happy. The casualty rates for the frontline troops were about 65-70%, and the fatalities were about 1 in 5.

    As I said, the American experience was that there was not much civilian slaughter, but that is a fairly restricted view. 40million civilians died from the war or the effectsd of the spanish flu epidemic. more than 1 million civilians in Turkey were murdered by the turks. the german treatment of the belgians is rememebered even today. As for the effectiveness of the british, I assume that includes the Emprire troops serving under their command. US forces were first placed under the stewardship of the Anzac Corps. They (the Americans) rapidly made a name for themselves for not following orders. That would have been okay, if the Americans by their bravado, would continue to demonstrate that under fire. According to my maternal grandfather, who was there, they were about as useful as tits on a bull. they would blunder about in a blaggardly fashion, until the shooting and the dying started. then you would find them at the bottom of the trench. thats what set them apart from the Australians. the australians were a brazen loud bunch as well, except, the Aussies carried that bravado into battle with them. the Americans did not.

    It nevertheless remains the second most dangerous war for civilans in history, and for some nations the risks of the war from direct murder were as great as they were in the second war.
     
  12. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    You have got to be kidding about 1945. fighting continued right into Germany and ended in Berlin. There was nowhere in germany that could claim they had not been beaten or occupied. The german army in 1945 was utterly defeated, and it was plain for all to see. The occupation was stern, but not murderous.

    In 1919, the Germans were able to manufacture the myth that they had not been beaten, because there had been no substantial fighting in their own country. that they had been beaten in the field and their army falling apart is not seriously questioned (although there was one in another thread about the 1918 offensives who tried to argue otherwise)

    I agree that the allies didnt kick Germany when she was down in 1945, but they made abslutely clear through the unconditional surrender demands that all germans knew that germany was down for the count this time. That should have been done in 1919, but wasnt. would history have been different if Pershing had gotten his way. Since my earlier musings I have come to the point of believing it would.
     
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #13 michaelmaltby, Feb 7, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
    "... The Allies didn't kick German when she was down - in 1945. Quite the opposite. But there was serious, lasting OCCUPATION - not just a token march across the Rhine"

    WW2 ended in a divided Berlin. A divided Germany. WW1 ended at the Rhine. You misunderstand my previous post, Parsifal. Read it again. :)

    MM

    Can you imagine a Berlin airlift in 1921 ...?
     
  14. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Ummm....The Americans did help end WW1, the dismissal of other combatants is flawed. My family lost 3 out of 4 brothers and that is not exceptional by any means. I don't usually comment on Germany but, any historian would see that the French, Germans, British, Commonwealth and other European countries fought themselves to a standstill with courage sacrifice given on all sides.
    The Versailles treaty sowed the seeds for WW2. We all agree on that, but as ever its easy to be wise with hindsight.

    The biggest legacy of both WW's is the fractured Europe we have under the surface of civility.

    John
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... The biggest legacy of both WW's is the fractured Europe we have under the surface of civility."

    George Marshall saved western europe from communism, but he couldn't (the USA couldn't) save europe from themselves.

    MM
     
  16. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Europeans have fought each other since records began. we may have peace and prosperity ( for some) but, it takes so little for the old resentments to surface.
    Rather like the Irish and French Canadians.

    What a world.
    John
     
  17. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I honestly don't believe that applies to what we call Western Europe,the part that fell on our side of Goebbel's (later Churchill's) "Iron Curtain".

    The situation in the other,ex Soviet,sphere has got roots in the distant past and was simply repressed by successive totalitarian regimes from the Tsars to Stalin and beyond. The two world wars have contributed to,but not caused problems like those we saw in the ex-Yugoslavia.
    Many of the ethnic divisions date back to the middle ages.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  18. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    I would like to agree with you Steve but, it seems to me that when the chips are down there is no EU cohesion to get the problems sorted...people (not unnaturally) go back into their silos and look for someone or something to blame.

    John
     
  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    True John, but they are working together in an attempt to save their European dream rather than trying to save themselves.
    Steve
     
  20. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    I hope that you are right Steve.
    The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate.
    John
     
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