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1918

1918 YMCA folding calendar card of two child French and American soldiers dancing beneath a ball of mistletoe and the words "With much Love", by Ray or R.A.Y.
The back cover is a 1918 calendar and the YMCA logo and "Devambez. Gr. Paris". The months are in English and French.
On the inside, two toy soldiers - French and American - holding hands beneath the words 'Best Wishes from "Over Here"' and "1918". Hand written is, "Best Love and Wishes to Little Sister from Big Brother."

1918 YMCA folding calendar card of two child French and American soldiers dancing beneath a ball of mistletoe and the words "With much Love", by Ray or R.A.Y.

Image text

With much Love

Signed Ray or R.A.Y.

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January 1 to November 11, 1918

In 1917 the United States had entered the war and Russia, after its revolution, had left it. France, after a disastrous spring offensive, had suffered mutinies that led to executions, a new commander-in-chief, and improvements in the lot of the common soldier. British commander Douglas Haig, not needing to coordinate with his French ally, launched his own disaster at Passchendaele. Italy, which had initiated eleven Battles of the Isonzo River, saw its army collapse when Austria-Hungary and Germany launched the Twelfth Battle, Caparetto. It too replaced its commander-in-chief. The new commanders, Pétain of France and Diaz of Italy, planned to wait before launching any major offensive: till they had overwhelming firepower, until they had tanks in large numbers, until the Americans came.

The Americans were coming, but they too were waiting. American commander John Pershing would not subordinate American soldiers to French or British command, would not put American units into the line as part of an Allied army. The United States, for one thing, was an 'Associated Power' rather than an ally. And Pershing wanted to field an American Army, one of at least a million men.

Germany could take some satisfaction successes in 1917, in having driven Russia out of the war, in the victory at Caparetto, in maintaining the Balkan Front. But its ally Austria-Hungary was unreliable, even with its military under German command. Turkey, although it need no longer fight on the Russian front, was being driven back in Mesopotamia and Palestine. The campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare had peaked in the first half of 1917; it had not starved Britain, but it had brought the United States into the war. Even though many in Germany saw the United States Army as untrained and inexperienced, it was proving it could deliver a great many soldiers to the front.

The blockade of the Central Powers, initiated by Great Britain, but now enforced as well by the United States, was biting hard. Germany's opportunities for victory were increasingly being closed off.

The Eastern Front

Red Army troops attacking German troops in the snow, Pskov, 1918. %+%Person%m%2%n%Tsar Nicholas%-% signed his abdication papers in Pschov in March of the previous year.

The new Bolshevik government in Russia agreed ceasefires while peace negotiations went ahead. Vladimir Lenin called for an immediate peace with Germany retaining much of the territory it had taken, but many in the party, including chief negotiator Leon Trotsky called for peace with no annexations. After multiple deadlines had passed, Trotsky declared "no war, no peace," and left the negotiations on February 10,1918. Unwilling to consider this a proper resolution to the situation, the Germans advanced over great swaths of Russia with little opposition. An attack across the Gulf of Finland to Helsinki threatened the Russian capital of Petrograd, formerly St. Petersburg, and the Bolsheviks moved the capital to Moscow. Lenin had been right, and, having lost even more territory, Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers — Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria — on March 3.

Despite the enormous German advance, there were few ethnic Russians in the occupied land. Fearful of the Bolsheviks, the Allies encouraged anti-Bolshevik sentiment. In part fearful of the Red Army, the German army maintained a large force in the east.

The Russian Civil War

The new Russian government was able to secure and transport much of the war materiel the Allies had delivered to Archangel on the White Sea. It was ruthless in imposing its vision of Russia. The opposition — the Whites to the Bolshevik Reds — included Socialists and other left-wing parties, nationalists seeking independence, monarchists and other right-wing groups. They did not form a unified opposition to the Bolshevik government. Some fled abroad in hopes of returning in the future.

Russia's former Allies, Britain, France, and the United States (which had welcomed the revolution that removed the autocratic Tsar) opposed the Bolsheviks, and made military efforts to oppose them. American and British troops landed in Murmansk, a river port near Russia's northern border with Norway and Finland. The Czech Legion, 45,000 strong, composed of former Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war who had fought with the Russians, made their way across Russia to the Pacific port of Vladivostok. At first the Bolsheviks allowed them free passage, but, after German objections, resisted their continued passage across the vast country. As former Imperial Russian generals including Kornilov and Alexeiev formed a White Army in Ukraine, the Cossacks formed their own force. The Czechs returned westward joined by Russian White forces. In the Ural Mountains their journey brought the Legion near Ekaterinburg where the former Russian imperial family were held. The government in Moscow delegated to the Ural Soviet the decision on the fate of the Romanovs. After assessments that Ekaterinburg could fall to the White forces in three days, local authorities decided to eliminate them all. The family was wakened at midnight the night of July 16–17 and was murdered.

The Franco-British Armies on the Western Front

After the disasters of 1917 — the Nivelle Offensive, the Italian defeat at Caparetto, the mud of Passchendaele — Allied political leaders, mistrustful of their military commanders, agreed to a unified military command, but implemented it incrementally and in response to military operations. It included the principal statesmen of the Allies and military representatives, initially French general Ferdinand Foch, British general Henry Wilson, and Italian commander Luigi Cadorna (soon replaced by Armando Diaz). British Prime Minister Lloyd George feared losing what control he had of the military, while his generals Robertson and Haig feared French control of British forces. Foch was named Chairman of the Supreme War Council created on November 8, 1917 at the Rapallo Conference, which also created the position of independent military advisor to the civilian leadership.

Both Haig and Pétain protected what troops they had, and tried to ensure as much local strength as possible. Ultimately the British and French reconfigured the line on the Western Front, with France taking 325 miles with 100 divisions, and Britain 125 miles with 60 divisions. At the beginning 1918, there are 250,000 American soldiers in Europe, six divisions by March 1, but none in the line. Believing he would squander any additional troops given him, Lloyd George refused further replacements to Haig.

But Lloyd George did not remove Haig who ignored signs of a German buildup for a spring offensive. Haig thought the Germans should attack near Arras and ignored evidence contradicting this. He was consistently wrong about German morale, which he always thought poor and worsening, he underestimated the strength of the German forces, and about where an attack, when one came, would fall.

The German Spring Offensive in the West

As 1918 began, the U-boat campaign had run its course. Faced with shortages of food and supplies, his struggling allies of Austria-Hungary and Turkey, and the increasing number of Americans arriving in Europe and expected in the field in autumn, 1918, Ludendorff aimed for victory in the west in 1918. He would achieve it by knocking Britain out of the war.

An aerial observer or pilot in flight helmet and overcoat reports to a German General and his staff at a division

German commanders Ludendorff and Hindenburg planned a final blow to end the war before the Americans could matter. They were optimistic, even though, facing a German offensive, the Allies would have the advantages the Germans had in their defensive war in the west. The Allies would have internal lines for communication, troop transport, and supply behind the front. They would be able to fall back, regroup, and increase their strength. The German armies would, on the contrary, attack across devastated land, and risk outrunning their supplies.

Ludendorff planned Operation Michael as his final attempt at victory. His aim was to knock Britain out of the war, attacking north and south of the Somme River, then turning to the northwest to encircle the British, separate them from the French, and press them back against the Channel, annihilating them as a fighting force before US forces arrived in strength.

The Germans would also use the 'Hutier tactics' they had introduced in 1917 against Russia at Riga and against Italy at Capparetto. Troops had been trained for specific roles with mobile, attack, and trench units. Some units were trained to infiltrate, pressing where the enemy was weakest rather than strongest, bypassing enemy strong points which were left to others to destroy or capture. They were trained in attack and timely counterattack.

The offensive was well prepared, the men well trained. There was extensive reconnaissance and spying and 4,000 cartographers to prepare maps. Means of communications included dogs, pigeons, runners, and howitzers to fire messages. Germany could deploy 2,600 aircraft for the battle, including Junkers, the first all-metal planes. To mislead the Allies as to where the blow would fall, German artillery increased bombardment along the Allied front, broadcast fake radio messages, and deployed pigeons bearing fake messages.

Germany had few tanks, a weapon the French and British had recognized since 1917 might lead a path to victory. Nor did German forces have many anti-tank weapons.

Although the overall objective was to drive Britain out of the war, the battle strategy was overshadowed by its tactics. Ludendorff and German Lieutenant-Colonel Wetzell, head of the Operations Section, disagreed on the tactics, where to attack, and whether the initial blow would bring victory or not. The Germans had 1,386,177 soldiers in 192 understrength divisions facing 178 full-strength Allied divisions. They were also at a disadvantage in aircraft and guns and particularly tanks. Although they had more trucks, the wheels were rimmed with iron rather than rubber. Although there were 287,000 American troops in France, only three American divisions were in the line, none of them near what would be the battle zone.

British Intelligence came very close to predicting the time and sector for the German offensive, but Haig ignored them, putting his forces where he thought the Germans should attack.

Germany's Operation Michael

On 21 March, 1918, Operation Michael began when 6,000 guns opened fire on the British Third and Fifth Armies along a 60-mile front from Arras to La Fère. The artillery did not register before beginning the intense, brief bombardment that was mostly gas. The German forces had snuck up to the line during the night. Fog further concealed the attackers, preventing the effective use of machine guns against them.

On the first day of the offensive, March 21, the Germans advanced half the distance planned, and suffered the worst German casualties of the war. The artillery's rolling barrage moved faster than the men.

Living and dead soldiers on the Somme in March, 1918. Operation Michael, the German spring offensive 1918 began on March 21. Men and barbed wire line the horizon; dead soldiers lie in the foreground.

On the second day, March 22, the British were thrown back as much as ten miles, and a gap was opened between the Third and Fifth Armies. General Headquarters seemed not to have realized at first the seriousness of the situation. On March 23, Haig considered pulling back, away from the French, to defend the Channel ports. The same day, Lloyd George ordered all available troops sent to France. Haig and Pétain met on March 24, and the French commander chastised his British counterpart for pulling away from the French, and threatened his own pullback to defend Paris. Either of these moves would have threatened the flanks of the British and French with encirclement. Meeting on March 26, as the German advance continued, the Allied commanders appointed Ferdinand Foch Supreme Commander to coordinate the Allied armies.

By March 27, the Germans had advanced as much as 40 miles, but were stopped by the British supported by French reinforcements arriving in greater numbers than Haig expected. The Allies were able to close the breaches between their armies, and slowed the German offensive.

On March 28, General Pershing agreed American troops could be used as reinforcements in British and French armies. The next day, the British counterattacked. On March 29, Good Friday, German cannons shelled Paris. But the Allies held.

On April 5, 1918, Ludendorff’s stopped his offensive. By his own definition, Operation Michael had failed, in part by his attempts to exploit opportunities his success had presented. On March 28, Ludendorff delayed his troops in a failed attempt to take Arras. He had tried and failed to take Amiens. In trying to exploit some opportunities, he had lost his focus on driving Britain from the continent.

As at Caparetto, the German advance was slowed by soldiers looting and scrounging for food and drink. In the Allied trenches they found supplies that seemed inexhaustible. The Germans had outran their supplies, but they also found clothes and food and tobacco in British trenches that were beyond what Germany could provide. They realized the submarine war had failed.

After the many failed Allied offensives, the British were shocked by the German success. They had not been prepared to make a fighting withdrawal, and they had lost 80,000 men taken prisoner. But although the Allies had been driven back, they had not broken. They retained supremacy in the air. The German troops were exhausted, and fully a third of their artillery had broken down.

In response to the offensive, the Allies unified their command. On April 3, Foch was given command of Anglo-French forces and authority to set the strategic direction of military operations. On April 14, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Allied Armies in France. (As national commanders, Haig, Pétain, and Pershing each retained the right to appeal Foch’s decisions to his own government.) Most importantly, Foch had control of the reserves, and could use them as he directed. He would use them for counter attacks.

Operation Georgette

Ludendorff's offensive had failed, but he not given up. Having disagreed with Wetzell, his head of the Operations Section, on the site for his drive to victory, he reverted to a smaller version of Wetzell’s orginal plan: Wetzell's Operation St. George, an attack toward Hazebrouck, became Operation Georgette with two German armies attacking two British armies that were supported by divisions of the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps. The northern end of the British line was held by the Belgian Army under King Albert.

Tulips among the headstones in the Portuguese Cemetery in Neuve Chapelle, France. Portugal joined the Entente Allies in 1917. They were on the front line in Operation Georgette, the German Lys Offensive, the second German drive of 1918. The Cemetery is across a field from the Indian Memorial. Nearby is the Laventie German Cemetery.

Shielded by fog, nine German divisions advanced against three Allied divisions on April 9. The Portuguese broke, and the attackers advanced up to three miles. Attacking to the north the next day, a second German army pushed back the British along their junction with the Belgians. By April 11, the Germans had extended their advance up to five miles on a front 30 miles wide.

As the British withdrew they were able to stabilize their defense. French troops reinforced the Allied line in time to halt renewed attacks on April 25 and 29. With no reinforcements, Ludendorff sent what troops he could, but they were insufficient. He ended his offensive on April 29.

In these two offensives — Michael and Georgette — Germany lost nearly half a million men. The German Sixth Army command told Ludendorff its soldiers would not attack despite orders to do so.

French Tanks, von Richthofen's Death, and Zeebrugge

While Germany's Lys Offensive was in progress, the French attacked with tanks near Reims, fielding the 13-ton Schneider-Creusot. On April 21, Manfred von Richthofen, greatest air ace of the war with 80 victories, was killed. On April 23, in an attempt to block German submarines in port by intentionally sinking ships in their path to the sea, the British conducted a raid on Zeebrugge, Belgium. The dramatic raid failed.

The United States Enters the Battle

Americans were pouring into France, but were put into battle sparingly. Within three weeks of declaring war in 1917, the United States had instituted conscription, but training was delayed for months. Upon arriving in France, the troops were retrained. General Pershing was adamant that he would field an American army led by Americans independent of the Allies, and resisted Allied requests to insert American divisions into the French Line. But by the end of March there were 300,000 American troops in France and, with the Allies being driven back by Germany's advance on the Somme, Pershing offered them to Commander Foch: 'Infantry, artillery, aëroplaces — all that I have I put at your disposal — do what you like with them.' In April, facing Germany's second drive, Foch struggled to turn Pershing's offer into reality.

The United States considered itself 'an associated power' rather than an ally. The US Army was heavily reliant on its associates: on France for tanks and planes, on Great Britain for mortars. Britain supplied ships to transport troops to Europe, increasing the flow to 300,000 American soldiers per month, bringing American strength to 21 divisions by the middle of July.

Germany's May Breakthrough

Ludendorff continued to hope to separate the British from the French and push them back to the Channel. In the Michael and Lys Offensives, French reinforcements had aided the British. To prevent this from happening again, and to draw the French troops already supporting the British, Ludendorff turned his attention to the French, planning an attack at Chemin-des-Dames north of the Aisne River which the French had taken at great cost in the Second Battle of the Aisne in 1917.

American Intelligence accurately predicted the attack and German prisoners confirmed it. Expecting another offensive against the British, the French dismissed the conclusions, and were unprepared when two German armies launched the Aisne Offensive on May 27.

Postcard map of the Chemin des Dames between Soissons and Rheims. The view is facing north towards the heights of the

The largest German artillery bombardment of the war — 2,000,000 gas and shrapnel shells in four and a half hours — along a 30-mile front from Soissons to Reims preceded the infantry advance. At its end, fourteen German divisions overwhelmed the five defending French divisions, driving them from the heights of Chemin-des-Dames and back behind the Aisne. The French lost 50,000 prisoners.

Unprepared for his success, Ludendorff stopped. Then, rather than turning against the British, he decided to continue attacking the French. His soldiers had again been pillaging Allied supplies, which far exceeded their own, and were in poor condition to continue, but, by May 30, they reached the Marne as they had in 1914. They were 56 miles from Paris.

Pétain rushed 16 divisions into defensive position in 24 hours. On May 28, near Montdidier, two American regiments had captured the town of Cantigny and held it against three German counter-attacks. After this success, Pétain felt more confident relying on the Americans. Newly in the battle line, Americans forces stopped the German attempt to cross the Marne at Château Thierry and counter-attacked. Further American counter-attacks retook Belleau Wood and Vaux.

By June 4, the Allies had stabilized the line. Americans continued to pour into France, with 250,000 Americans arriving each month.

Germany's and Austria-Hungary's June Offensives

Ludendorff saw the French as vulnerable, and turned from his offensives against the British. On June 9 he launched an offensive along the Noyon-Montdidier line north of the Oise River. German deserters had warned the French of the impending attack. The Germans made small progress on the 9th and 10th, but Foch counterattacked on June 11 at Château Thierry and Belleau Wood with tanks and French and American troops. On June 12, Ludendorff expanded his offensive south of the Oise. The French, supported by the Americans, held.

Shared headstone of Otto Waldow, replacement reservist, and Hans Jobst, infantryman, in the Belleau German Cemetery, Belleau, France, died June 25, 1918, possibly during the final American assault to seize Belleau Wood, a battle begun on June 6.

The Germans lost 209,435 men in June. They had extended their front 75 miles. Discipline was breaking down at the front and at home.

After Italy's disaster at Caparetto, and the replacement of Cadorna with General Diaz, the Italian position and morale strengthened. In early 1918, in preparation for the Western Front offensive, the Germans withdrew their forces from Italy. Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, replaced as Austro-Hungarian Chief of the General Staff, commanded the Austro-Hungarian Tenth Army in Trentino. Svetozar Boroević commanded the Fifth, Sixth, Eleventh, and Tenth Armies on the Piave River. On June 15, having sent its last 29 supply trains to the front, the Austro-Hungarians launched the Second Battle of the Piave with four armies. The Allies outmatched them and and their equipment. Austria-Hungary destroyed much of its remaining military power in the battle, and, on June 20, Kaiser Karl called off the attack.

July, the Last German Offensive

Commanding the French armies, General Pétain began to see an end to the war. The Germans had extended their front 75 miles. They had lost 209,435 men in June alone. In March, Germany had 4,600,000 men in 235 divisions with battalions of over 800 men. By mid-summer when the Noyon-Montdidier Offensive ended, the battalions were down to 600 men to compensate for losses of nearly one million men. At the beginning of the year, German morale had been good, but was falling. Discipline was breaking down at the front and at home. The blockade of Germany was strangling the country, cutting off supplies of food and other necessities. Rations were inadequate and sickness was rampant. As bad as the situation was at the battle front, the home front was worse.

During the summer, the Spanish Flu, the 1918 influenza pandemic, struck with 500,000 soldiers falling sick. Some thought it was a new weapon of war. By the time it had run its course over the world, it had killed more people than the war itself did.

On July 15, Ludendorff struck again on either side of Rheims in the Champagne-Marne Offensive, the Fifth German Drive of 1918, but the French had ample warning from prisoners and air reconnaissance, and fell back, luring the Germans forward. On July 18 the Allies counter-attacked.

Ludendorff had begun 1918 making one last bid for victory by separating the British from the French, and driving them from the battle before the Americans arrived in strength. He had failed, tried a second time, and failed again. His Hutier tactics of infiltration succeeded, but did not give him victory. Ludendorff had then turned against the French planning to return to the British, but he had tried to take advantage of opportunities that presented themselves, and was lured by Paris. In March, at the beginning of his offensives, he had 5.1 million men. In July, he had 4.2 million. He did not recognize his army was at the end of its rope.

The Allied Advance

Foch responded to the German tactics with an elastic defense and quick counterattacks. The Germans had advanced into the pocket the retreating French had created for them. In the early morning of July 18, the Allies struck the German salient, first on one flank, then the other, with no preparatory artillery barrage, opening the Second Battle of the Marne, the Aisne-Marne Offensive. A Franco-American assault supported by 750 tanks, many of them French Renault tanks, and 1,000 aircraft. The defenders were taken completely by surprise. The Allies advanced up to four miles on the first day, and took 25,000 Germans prisoner.

Dormans, France. View from the cemetary facing the Marne River.

The Germans retreated to escape Foch's trap, and in the process shortened and strengthened their line. Ludendorff ordered a general retreat from the Marne. By July 28 his forces had withdrawn to the Ourcq River. By August 6, the Germans had retreated to the Aisne and the Vesle Rivers between Soissons and Rheims.

German morale and discipline were collapsing. Desertions sky-rocketed in July and August, and reservists did not report to the front. Supplies of gasoline and ammunition were running out. In their retreat from the Marne, German losses were equivalent to entire armies: 420,000 dead and wounded; 340,000 captured or missing. Although Ludendorff would refer to August 8, 1918 as the Black Day of the German Army, historian Holger Herwig argues that July 18 was the end of it as an effective fighting force.

On July 24, Foch, Pétain, Haig, and Pershing met, and developed a general plan to prevent a German retrenchment and to free three strategic rail lines, from Paris to Amiens, Verdun, and Nancy. In the center of the Allied line, the French would press against the bulk of the German army, tying it down, and keeping open the Paris-Verdun line, all of which the French and Americans were doing in the Aisne-Marne Offensive. The British would attack to the north, in the Amiens salient, from Ypres south, securing the Paris-Amiens line. The Americans would attack near Verdun, in the St. Mihiel sector, securing the Paris-Nancy line. Although the Allies would not be ready for a general offensive until September, local offensives would move ahead.

The Battle of Amiens

On August 8, shielded by fog, thirteen British, Canadian, and Australian divisions, supported by a French army under the British commander, over 2,000 guns, hundreds of planes, and nearly every British tank, over 450 in all, including Britain's new Whippet tank, struck east of Amiens on both banks of the Somme. Secretive preparations and the absence of a preliminary bombardment completely surprised the Germans, whose line was shattered. The Allies advanced as much as seven miles on a front 15 miles wide, in the first day of the Battle of Amiens, taking 15,000 prisoners and 400 guns.

German morale was shattered and it was now German troops that were at risk of mutiny. Ludendorff, who would later call August 8, 1918 "the black day of the German Army,” told the Kaiser peace negotiations should be initiated. The Kaiser agreed, recognizing that Germany had no reserves.

Detail showing the British sector of the Western Front from a map of the Allied offensives of 1918, from July 18 and the Second Battle of the Marne to the Armistice on November 11. From The Memoirs of Marshall Foch by Marshall Foch. The 1st and other armies to the south are French.

The British advance was more limited on August 9, but Foch expanded the offensive, rapidly transferring troops over the rail lines behind the front. On 10 August, the French Third Army struck on the southern flank of the Amiens Salient, and on August 17, the French Tenth Army still further south. On August 21, north of the initial British advance, an additional British army struck between Albert and Arras, and on August 26, another British army still further north. British and Commonwealth troops continued their advance along the Somme, recapturing Bapaume, Péronne, and Noyon by September 4. By early September the Allies had taken 110,000 prisoners, and the Germans had withdrawn to the Hindenburg Line.

On September 12, the Americans attacked at St. Mihiel, achieving impressive gains against an enemy that had begun evacuating the salient four days earlier.

The Allied commanders began to believe that Germany could be defeated in 1918. By late September, all the German territorial gains of of the spring and summer offensives of 1918 had been retaken by the Allies. Having secured the Paris rail lines to Amiens, Verdun, and Nancy, Foch targeted the principal German supply lines, not only the rail line that paralleled the Western Front from Bruges, Belgium to Lille to Strassbourg, France, but also the lines to the front from Germany and its centers of Cologne, Coblenz, and Mainz.

Meuse-Argonne Offensive

Executing Foch’s plan, the Allies began their great offensive on September 26, with the Americans and French striking in the Meuse-Argonne sector to the east near Verdun. On the 27th, the British attacked between Péronne on the Somme River and Lens. On September 28, a combined British, French, and Belgian offensive began in Flanders. On the 29th, the British and French struck between Péronne and La Fere. The French held the line between the Franco-American offensive on their right, and the British, French, and Belgian offensives on their left.

On September 29, the British advanced past the Hindenburg Line, and on October 5 they were in open country behind the German defenses, and had taken 36,000 prisoners. The French advanced in the center, shortening and strengthening their line.

Although German soldiers surrendered in large numbers, their machine gunners remained and covered the German retreat. As with all other successful offensives during the war, the supply and transport struggled to keep up, particularly in the British sector where the advance was complicated by mud and the large numbers of prisoners.

Salonica, the Balkan Front, and the Defeat of Bulgaria

In the Balkans, where combined Serbian, French, British, Italian, forces had held a line facing Bulgarian armies along the northern border of Greece, and Turkish troops to the east, the commander of Allied forces in the sector, French General Franchet d’Esperey, launched an offensive, the Battle of Dobro Pole, across the entire front on September 15. The Serbs, moving through the mountains, advanced 20 miles in two days west of the Vardar River valley. Cavalry (Moroccan French Spahis) moved through the mountains. The French advanced. The Bulgarian right collapsed.

In the east, the British and Greeks attacked at Lake Doiran on September 18 and 19, but were repulsed with heavy casualties. Faced with the collapse of his right wing, Bulgarian Commander in Chief General Georgi Todorov ordered the withdrawal of his army that was holding against the British offensive. Stunned, the First Bulgarian Army retreated from Doiran through narrow mountain passages. Strafed and bombed by British, the at first orderly withdrawal turned into a rout.

On September 26, the Bulgarians asked that hostilities be suspended. Defeated, Bulgaria signed an armistice on September 29, the same day the British breeched the Hindenburg Line on the Western Front.

On November 5, Franchet d’Esperey set out for Belgrade to meet with representatives of the new Hungarian government. He spent a night in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital. Continuing across Serbia, he reached Serbia's capital on November 10, on the Danube, Serbia’s border with Austria-Hungary. The same day, Romania's King Ferdinand mobilized the army, and Romania re-entered the war on the side of the Allies.

The Defeat of Turkey

After British Empire forces entered Jerusalem On December 9, 1917, General Edmund Allenby prepared to continue to advance north through Palestine. From March 9 to 11 he attacked at Nablus, but the Turkish forces held and would stay in position for six months. Responding to Germany's offensives on the Western Front, the British command redeployed men and materiel to Europe.

A British Mark IV tank advances across the red field, star and crescent moon of a Turkish flag under a chain of grey and yellow clouds. Entitled Entente-török fegyverszünet, Entente-Turkish Armistice, it refers to the British-Turkish Armistice signed on October 30, 1918, that took effect on October 31. Original watercolor postcard by Schima Martos.

By August the Allies had begun to reverse German gains and could pay some attention to other fronts. That same month, German General Liman von Sanders would later write, coal and wood had run short, limiting rail deliveries of food and other supplies, and desertions increased. The British attacked on the coast on the 19th and 20th, but began an offensive with all available resources the following month. On the September 17 the Royal Air Force and Arabs struck at Daraa in a diversion from Allenby's main assault two days later. The Allies wiped out communications centers, cutting land lines and bombing defenses, leaving the defenders under local command only in the following days. On October 1 Allenby took Damascus and continued moving north through Syria towards Turkey itself.

British forces were stripping the Ottoman Empire of its southern territory. With the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in place and Russia removed from the war in early 1918, Turkish War Minister Ismail Enver had diverted his limited resources to an expansion of the Empire beyond the Caucasus Mountains into Russia and Persia. Allied forces on the eastern flank of their advance on the Salonica Front were within striking distance of Constantinople. It wasn't until October 2 that Enver ended his adventure and ordered troops to defend Constantinople and Mesopotamia where British troops were closing on Mosul. Turkey, defeated in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine, and threatened along its European border, capitulated on October 31. Three days later, in violation of the armistice, advanced into Mosul.

The End of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Austria-Hungary destroyed much of its remaining military power in its offensive on the Piave River in June, 1918. By July, Austria-Hungary was defeated in the field. The army reflected the internal division that would shortly break apart the Empire. In mid-August, Emperor Karl traveled to Spa for a meeting of the Austro-Hungarian and German high commands. The former told the Germans their Empire could not survive another winter and must make peace immediately.

In late September, Italian commander Diaz fielded two new armies, the Tenth, with two Italian and two British divisions, and the Twelfth with three Italian divisions and one French. As Diaz prepared a major attack, Austria-Hungary retreated. On October 1, General Pflanzer-Baltin began withdrawing from Albania. In Mid-October the Veneto in northeast Italy was evacuated allowing Diaz to advance. In the third week of October, with Allied forces moving north across the Balkan Front, General Kövess retreated from Serbia.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was collapsing, breaking into nations. On August 16 a Pan-Slav Congress at Laibach (Ljubljana) brought thousands of Poles, Slovenes, and Czechs together. There were food riots in Budapest and Prague. On October 5, quasi governments were formed in Zagreb and Prague. On October 7, Poles declared independence. On October 21, the same day the Czechoslovak National Council published a declaration of independence in Paris, German speakers proclaimed an Austro-German state. Two days later, on October 23, Croatian units rebelled in Fiume. With retreats on all fronts, some soldiers simply left, and headed home, individually and in armed and hungry groups.

Austro-Hungarian trench art pencil drawing on pink paper of a soldier in a ragged, many-times-patched uniform, labeled

Having for months resisted Allied demands for an Italian offensive and fearful that the war would end with Italy taking little part in the final battle, Diaz attacked along the Italian front from Switzerland to the Adriatic on October 24. His primary attack was in the center of the Austro-Hungarian line, in an attempt to split it by encircling the Sixth Army. The Austro-Hungarians held back the Italian Fourth and Eighth Armies central to Diaz's plan. But within two days, the Allies had crossed the Piave at two locations, and suddenly found their opponent evaporating.

Hungarian troops mutinied, refusing to fight. On October 24, Hungary called its Honvéd (territorial) soldiers home, and on October 31, recalled the rest of its troops. By the end of October half the Austro-Hungarian forces were in revolt. Former Royal Hungarian Premier Count Tisza, who in July, 1914 had been the last member of the Austro-Hungarian Council of Ministers for Common Affairs to resist a military response against Serbia in retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, was murdered.

On October 29, Austria-Hungary, in general retreat before the Italian offensive, and with its army collapsing, asked Italy for an armistice. The advancing Italians were in no hurry to agree. On November 2, Kaiser Karl accepted Italian armistice terms, but the document was not signed until the next day, and did not take effect until the 4th, leaving time for further Italian gains. The delay left time for the “Battle” of Vittorio Veneto, an advance in which 30,000 died and in which the Allies took 350,000 to 400,000 prisoners. Many would die as POWs.

On November 3, a naval expedition from Venice seized Trieste, achieving one of Italy's primary war goals.

By the end, the average Austro-Hungarian soldier weighed 120 lbs, and only one in three had a coat. Austria-Hungary had mobilized 8,000,000 men of whom 1,015,200 had died, and 1,943,000 had been wounded. 3,748,000 had been hospitalized due to illness. 1,691,000 had been taken prisoner, and 480,000 of them had died?. Huge numbers of men were in transit, leaving the front, going home or elsewhere, many of them to a country that was being reborn or was in the first stages of formation. Returning soldiers, often in groups, looted on the way home.

The new country of Austria, the primarily German-speaking region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, signed the Treaty of St. Germain in 1919. The Empire's flagship, Viribus Unitis, renamed Yugoslavia and part of that country's navy, was blown up by Italians on November 1, 1919. The Treaty of Trianon configured a diminished Hungary. On November 11, 1918, Karl, former Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary, renounced political power, but did not abdicate. He went into exile in Switzerland four months later, his border crossing recorded by Stefan Zweig.

Germany

As Germany's allies collapsed, its enemies strengthened. American productive capacity and manpower were overwhelming, as Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg had recognized. America built 1,000 cargo ships in 1917 and 18, with one cargo or transport ship leaving America for France every five hours.

By contrast, Germany had no more manpower to meet its need for 200,000 men per month. 4,000,000 women were working, as were 170,000 Belgians and 130,000 Russians. The average German was forced to survive on 1,000 calories per day, and many did not: 250,000 Germans died of malnutrition in 1918. German soldiers still occupied nearly all of Belgium, much of northern France, and a huge swath of Russia from the Baltic to the Black Seas, but the army was on the verge of collapse. 110,000 soldiers deserted in August alone. Front-line troops greeted new troops as "strike-breakers" and "war-prolongers".

The Allied tortoise climbs the victory podium ahead of the German hare. A postcard by F. Sancha from between March 1916 when Portugal entered the war, and April 1917, when the United States (not included) did. The card was printed in England for a Portuguese audience. Sancha produced other war postcards based on Aesop

The simultaneous Bulgarian capitulation and breeching of the Hindenburg Line by the British on September 29, as the Allies were moving north through Serbia towards a collapsing Austria-Hungary, convinced Ludendorff the war was done. Desperate to save the German army at any cost (the price paid two decades hence), he began a retreat to preserve the army and its supplies and insisted on an armistice without delay.

To divert blame from the army and themselves, Hindenburg and Ludendorff turned to the political sphere, planning to bring to power liberals and socialists who could be blamed for defeat. Having denied civilians knowledge of the military situation, OHL insisted on immediate peace.

Prince Max of Baden was named Chancellor and was pressured by Hindenburg and Ludendorff to appeal immediately for peace, an appeal the new Chancellor made on October 3. Ludendorff became an advocate for a democracy that could bear the blame for defeat. Social Democrats joined the government, and the press was freed. Having been kept ignorant of the state of the war and the army, political leaders did not understand Ludendorff’s October 3 demand for an armistice. The General gave a press conference on October 4 in which he confessed that the situation was not good. Panic took hold in Berlin.

The same day Ludendorff met the press, Germany requested an armistice of Wilson, hoping to bypass Marshall Foch, and receive lenient terms. The attempt showed promise until a German submarine sank the Irish mail boat RMS Leinster with over 550 lives lost on October 10. Hoping to appease an angry Wilson, Germany ended unrestricted submarine warfare for the second time on October 17, 1918.

On October 26, Kaiser Wilhelm dismissed Ludendorff even though the action was beyond his constitutional powers. Ludendorff, in disguise, fled to Sweden.

The End of the German Empire

The German Empire rushed to an end as revolution spread. On October 28 the German constitution was revised, but Kaiser Wilhelm refused to abdicate. On October 29, mutinies in the fleet began in the ports of Cuxhaven and Kiel. Two days later soldiers refused to fight even as the Americans, with 2,000,000 men in France, resumed their advance.

On November 4, revolution broke out in Germany. On November 6, German delegates left Berlin for armistice talks with the Allies, who were represented by military commanders seeking harsh terms. The British continued advancing, taking more prisoners even as some German troops slipped away.

On November 8, Germans meet with Foch, the most implacable of their counterparts. The next day, the German Republic was declared in Berlin. The Kaiser fled to the Netherlands on November 10, and abdicated two days later.

On November 4, Diaz and the Italian and Allied armies were in Austria. On November 10, Franchet d’Esperey and his Allied army were on the Danube River, the border of Austria-Hungary. Southern Germany lay open to invasion.

Faced with revolution, starvation, and disillusionment in Germany, the German delegates accepted the Allied terms with the armistice becoming effective November 11, 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. What remained of the German army still stood on foreign soil on both the western and eastern fronts. The new government turned its attention to stopping revolution at home, but the foundation of the homefront stabbing the army in the back had been well laid.

Some of the Toll

The Allies and Associated Powers had lost 5,700,000 dead in the war, the Central Powers 3,600,000, a total of 9,300,000. Roughly 6,000,000 civilian had died. The flu pandemic, most virulent in the last months of the war, would eventually reach across the planet, killing tens of millions. The peace treaties that ended the war ensured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. The Russian Civil War would continue into 1921, the victorious Bolsheviks averting the breakup of the Empire in consolidating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The German Republic would struggle with internal dissension, the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, revolution and counter-revolution, hunger and inflation, before being perverted into the Third Reich, its president General von Hindenburg, its Chancellor an Austro-Hungarian who held the Iron Cross for his service on the Western Front.

Events for 1918-01-01 to 1918-12-31

Event Start Date Event End Date Event
1918-03-03 1918-03-03 Russia and the Central Powers sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
1918-03-21 1918-04-05 Operation Michael - the Somme Offensive
1918-03-21 1918-07-17 Germany's 1918 Offensives
1918-04-09 1918-04-29 Operation Georgette - the Lys Offensive
1918-05-27 1918-06-04 Aisne (Blücher) Offensive
1918-06-09 1918-06-13 Noyon-Montdidier Offensive
1918-06-15 1918-06-23 Battle of the Piave
1918-07-15 1918-07-17 Champagne-Marne Offensive
1918-07-18 1918-08-06 Second Battle of the Marne (The Aisne-Marne Offensive)
1918-08-08 1918-09-04 Battle of Amiens