Deployment Not Fast Enough, Lloyd George Tells House.
Matter of Life or Death.
The Tank Makes the Difference – Finally.
Special to The Great War Project
(19 November) For the British and especially the French, the American Expeditionary Force is far too slow to reach Europe.
On this day a century ago, the new French prime minister Georges Clemenceau tells the French chamber of deputies, he would not accept the new Russian government’s declaration of peace. “War, nothing but war,” is Clemenceau’s stand.
At this crucial stage in the war, though, that requires fresh troops, and the only source of new troops is the U.S. But the situation with the American Expeditionary Force presents serious problems.
In a meeting under the strictest secrecy, the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George tells Colonel Edward House, President Woodrow Wilson’s closest confidante, that the American effort is not good enough.
“It had become clear,” writes historian Martin Gilbert, that the American hope — backed by the American commander General John J. Pershing — “of having a million armed Americans in Europe by the summer of 1918 was nowhere near realization. The most recent calculation of the maximum possible had reduced that number to 525,000 by May1918.”
“Nor would the United States have sufficient shipping tonnage available to supply and feed them all, possibly not until 1919.”
“Incompetence was also proving a problem,”
reports Gilbert, “some American supply ships were reaching France with less than fifty percent of their available cargo space taken up. For the British the prospect of the scaling down and postponement of the American contribution was a blow.”