- Apr 2013
- New Verulamium
How successful was the expeditionary force, what battles did it fight in and how did it fare against the Germans?
In terms of winning victories, the AEF did rather well in France. American units played key roles in the victories at Belleau Wood, 2nd Battle of the Marne, the attack on the St. Miheal Salient near Verdun, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive...How successful was the expeditionary force, what battles did it fight in and how did it fare against the Germans?
They, of course, didn't get to the front until near the end of the war (though a large part of why the war ended was because they were there), but they weren't that slow in getting there. It took Britain 10 months in 1914 to mobilize and deploy a force beyond their core force of regular soldiers and this was just to go across the channel. It took the US 12-14 months starting with a far smaller regular army and having to cross the Atlantic. Maritime powers are inherently slower to mobilize than land powers, all things considered US mobilization was quite rapid. Though obviously not as rapid as Britain and France wanted, they would have preferred America been on the western front before 1915.AEF virtually did not fight, it was very slow shipping and very slow training and getting to the front, almost all the heavy weapons , tanks and planes were provided by the French and British.
The men were under-trained and the logistics, especially at first, were horrendous, there's no doubt about that. But I don't think criticism of the tactics is fair. After the Second Battle of the Marne Germany was exhausted and morale was eroding, the American forces were fresh, morale was high, and the American soldiers wanted in the fight. The time was right for an offensive. Perhaps the decision was made out of a naive cult of the offensive and Pershing just got lucky. But considering that the decision was made in conjunction with the French and British commands, I suspect that was not the case and it was a carefully considered decision.The AEF fighting qualities? Numbers, Courage, as a force it was incredibly naive and had vast amounts to learn, it went in with a lot of pre-1914 thinking and that Americans just knew better than people who been fighting for 4 years. The had the 1914 cult of offensive sort of thinking that got plenty of needless causalities. The German army was more or less beaten when the AEF started fighting, if the AEF had been fighting on equal terms with the experienced German Army it would have got it's arse handed back in very small pieces. This a particularly sledge against the AEF, but most armies in 1914 learned some very painful costly lessons, the US had not experienced these lessons directly and to a large experience had a belief the Americans were just 'better' had didnt need to learn from others anyway, (which is a what a lot of other Armies thought in 1914 ).
The were enormous staff, supply, planning, issues, the US force a massive forces just improvised on the top of a tiny pre war army meant there was a critical shortage of staff officers and no experience managing huge forces with the regular army anyway, supply and logistics break down under operational conditions, which if had it been in a real fight would have been very bad.
The AEF would have learned some its lessons and been better in 1919. But Given that state of the German army in late 1918, the AEF could have been very effective in 1919 without becoming really to grips with modern warfare as everyone else understood it. The AEF was new and fresh and had a capacity to real losses which had been drained to various extents from other armies in 4 long years of bloody warfare.
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