Food is Running Out, for Allies and Adversaries.
If U.S. Enters War, Germans Gamble American Help Won’t Reach Europe Soon Enough.
Special to The Great War Project.
(12-19 February) War exhaustion at this moment of the Great War a century ago is plaguing all the major combatants: Britain and France, Germany and Austria, and Russia.
It is early 1917 after more than two-and-a-half years of the most brutal blood-letting the world has ever seen, “despite the millions of soldiers killed and wounded,” writes historian Adam Hochschild, “nowhere along its entire length of nearly 500 miles had the front line moved in either direction by more than a few hours’ walk.”
“Military history,” he reports, “had not seen the likes of this before, and the Germans were no less frustrated” than the British and the French.
The big picture favors the Allies, not the Germans, but only by a hair.
“The German government was battling against opponents east and west,” writes Hochschild. “whose combined armies were significantly larger, and on the home front the situation remained dire.”
“In a country already desperately short of food, abnormally severe temperatures froze rivers and canals that usually delivered coal, and millions of city dwellers in the words of one historian “endured cold and hunger unknown since pre-industrial times.”
“Austria-Hungary was in even worse conditions,” reports historian Hochschild. And it was “militarily more of a burden to Germany than the ally it was supposed to be.”
“Its comic-opera army, rich in splendid uniforms, was weak in everything else, and its government was so inept that for the first eight months of war, it had not bothered to stop a Vienna trading firm from doing a booming business selling food and medicine – through neutral countries – to the Russian army.”
The battle for Verdun, nearly a year long, is over, and Germany has failed to take the French fortress city. As Hochschild writes, “That dashed any hopes Germany had for new frontal assaults against either the French or the British.”
The Germans resort to the return of unlimited submarine warfare as a way to break out of this bloody stalemate.