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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
Historians OverviewDavid Kennedy

American Troops in the Trenches
David Kennedy
"Certainly Wilson and Pershing, by this time, have no reason to admire or have faith in the tactics of their Western allies who were throwing away the lives of millions of men up to this point.

"So it's understandable that they were reluctant to fight in the trenches alongside the British and French under British and French command.

"Pershing, in fact, believed in all of his training – in all of American experience in the Indian Wars down to this time – convinced him that the Americans must fight a different kind of warfare: what he called mobile warfare; with the independent lone rifleman given a lot of independence of action. He thought that if the American units could be put into the field and fought the way they were trained to fight – with mobile tactics (on the move) – that they could show the British and French how to achieve swift and certain victory.

"The American military planners refuse to learn the right lessons from the experience of their British and French Allies.

Doughboy
American doughboy
"There was no lack of evidence that the machine gun had changed the nature of warfare, that it gave tremendous advantages to the defense. The machine gun was called, I think accurately, concentrated essence of infantry. It was a devise that could lay down an absolutely murderous field of fire against advancing offensive troops.

"The Americans, despite the evidence available to them of what the machine gun could do to offensive troops, insisted, when they took to the battlefield themselves, on trying to fight the kind of war motion – open movement across fields of fire – that they had been trained for. The results were tragic.

"The actual military contribution of the United States to the fighting in the end of the conflict was absolutely minimal. In so far as the presence of America made a difference in Germany's decision to surrender, it was not because of success on the battlefield at the Meusse Argonne, or anywhere else for that matter. It was because the entrance of America into the war, and its demonstrated capacity to move its army across the Atlantic in huge numbers, now faced the Germans with the prospect of a virtual endless limitless supply of reinforcements that could be brought to the Allied side."

 
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