The Hindenburg Line Breaks – The Lost Battalion Returns I THE GREAT WAR Week 220


Two of the Central Powers fronts have collapsed,
one Central Power has left the war, and the German Chancellor has asked the Allies for
an armistice. This week, that request is rejected, even
as the Allies overrun the Hindenburg Line of Defense. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week Bulgaria accepted Allied terms for
peace and left the war; there are now only three Central Powers. The Allied breakthrough on the Palestine Front
continued with the fall of Damascus. There were four simultaneous Allied offensives
in progress on the Western Front, and new German Chancellor Prince Maximilian von Baden
asked the Allies for an armistice. Now, that request was not a surrender by any
means, and was really a try to end the war with no harmful conditions for Germany or
Austria. That was Max’s goal. So he claims that he’s open to Woodrow Wilson’s
14 points for peace, which we’ve talked about before and which are in the description. On the 5th, Max says he’s open to a League
of Nations, to the idea of restoring Belgian independence, and is for the Reichstag Resolution
of July 19, 1917. That was passed last year by the Reichstag
but ignored by German High Command, and sought a peace with no annexations, no indemnities,
freedom of the seas, and international arbitration by a body such as a League of Nations. Max also says civilians would have authority
in all civilian matters. The next day, though, a letter that he wrote
to a Swiss Prince is made public. In it, he jeers at western democracy and calls
that July peace resolution a “disgusting child born of fear and the Berlin dog days”,
the whole letter is in fact a diatribe against allowing the German people a voice in government. On the 7th, German industrialist Walther Rathenau
wrote a call for a final huge military effort in Vossische Zeitung, a major national newspaper. This wasn’t to win the war, but to get to
the strongest possible negotiating position- one of equality rather than defeat. But he didn’t just encourage men to sign
up, he wrote of all the armies of occupation and security in the vast eastern regions Germany
had gained earlier this year, pointing out that only half of all the troops were actually
on the western front. German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff
thought that combing out all those troops would be more trouble than the army could
stand, but Rathenau wasn’t finished- he wrote to the minister of war that if Germany
evacuated Belgium and Alsace-Lorraine, it would end German capacity for defense in future
and they would always be at the west’s mercy. Well, whatever anyone else was thinking, Woodrow
Wilson rejected Max’s proposal the 8th. The first condition of ANY armistice was the
evacuation of ALL occupied territories. So no more Germans in Belgium or all of the
eastern territory; no more Austrians in Serbia, and so forth. But it sure wasn’t going to be easy to drive
them out of Belgium or France. Autumn rain had come and slowed things, and
of course the German infrastructure was still formidable- particularly in the eastern part
of France where the Americans were attacking. And the Americans had a big problem- a serious
shortage of horses. But when American Commander John Pershing
asked Allied Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch for 25,000 of them, he was told to get them
from the states, but there wasn’t shipping space. Pershing estimated he was 100,000 horses short. French General Philippe Petain suggested solving
the supply problems by dissolving the US 1st Army and having those divisions with supply
problems assigned to the French armies. Pershing said no, though interestingly enough,
ten of the 30 American divisions fit for fighting were actually serving under British or French
command. This was all kind of unfair anyhow. Foch’s changing of strategy in September
and the speed of setting up the current offensive- one in a rural location- was partly to blame
for all this. But the tensions in the Allied command that
had ebbed and flowed all year flared up again. Henri Gouraud’s French 4th Army had been
making better progress than the Americans in that offensive, and Foch’s staff was
disappointed with the Americans. And I said last week that French PM Georges
Clemenceau got stuck in a traffic jam behind the lines, right? Well, he was furious and told Foch not to
try to persuade Pershing of anything but to order him to do it. David Stevenson points out, “…the upshot
was that the attempt to disorganize the Germans by attacking them from the south had failed,
although it had been crucial to (Sir Douglas) Haig’s and Foch’s conception of the offensive
as a whole. It had done so, moreover, in circumstances
that revived old tensions within the western alliance.” By October 6 the American offensive had reached
casualties of 75,000 (Backs to the Wall) and they couldn’t quickly replace their losses
any longer. The lousy weather prevented any air support
and the acute horse shortage was really telling. Pershing now decided not to attack the central
position- his goal- but would focus on the heights of the Argonne and the Meuse on the
flanks. By the end of the week, the Argonne forest
was, in fact, cleared of Germans, though it wasn’t a big breakthrough. And yet, the Americans had slowly but surely
battered their way to the Kriemhilde Stellung, the main German defense line. Also in the Argonne, on the 8th, an American
conscientious objector, well a former one on religious grounds, saw some action- Corporal
Alvin York. He and his men were tasked with taking out
a German machine gun position. When 9 of his 17 men were wounded or killed,
he told the rest to guard the prisoners they’d already taken and he went after the machine
gun post himself. He killed as many as 28 men with insanely
good marksmanship- picking them off their machine guns with his rifle, and then foiling
a six man bayonet charge with his pistol. When the German officer running the post surrendered,
York returned to the lines with 132 prisoners and 35 machine guns. He was promptly promoted to sergeant, and
became not just a national American hero, but an international celebrity. That same day, some other men also returned
to the American lines. See, last week, an American force of over
500 men, holding a ravine about a half mile ahead of the front lines, were surrounded
by a far larger German force. They were continuously fired upon by artillery
too for two days. Their food ran out. Then they were hit by friendly fire artillery. They sent their last carrier pigeon with the
instruction for the Americans to please stop shelling Americans. The Germans sent in flamethrower units; these
were dealt with. American High Command thought it was all over
for those men and listed them as “lost”. But the Germans withdrew the 7th, and the
lost battalion was not in fact lost. The next day the survivors- 194 of 554, returned
to the American lines. And one more piece of American news: on October
10th the news reported that 20,000 Americans had died in France in the past two months…
of the flu. As for the rest of the fighting on the Western
Front this week, there was Allied success further west in the center of the front. The Beaurevoir Line, the last line of defense
of the Hindenburg Line defense system, fell this week. After this, the Australia Corps was finally
taken out of the lines for R and R. They were nearing the limits of exhaustion. The Germans fell back to the Suippe River. The Allies launched the Second Battle of Cateau,
and this combined with the ongoing fighting for Cambrai, resulted in an allied advance
on the 8th on the whole St. Quentin-Cambrai front. 10,000 prisoners and 150 guns were taken in
one day. The French drove the Germans back on the Arnes,
Aisne, and Suippe Rivers. On the 9th, the Canadians entered Cambrai,
and the following day, when the Germans were forced back beyond the Oise Canal, the mighty
Hindenburg Line had been totally overrun. So near the end of the week, the German army
began a systematic retreat along the whole Western Front even stripping the Flanders
coast of ships and planes, but they were still fighting and fighting hard, and the Allied
advance was halted. The German retreat was by night from the 9th
to the 11th to the still unfinished Hermann Position, so when the British reached the
new German defenses at the Selle River, which was flooded to boot, they were stopped because
the Germans had brought up their heavy artillery and their reserves. So this would require another planned set
piece attack if it was to be broken. The Allies had 6 million men now in the west
(Undone), but since their tank, aircraft, and artillery advantages were so great, and
their combined attack doctrine widely adopted, they didn’t actually need all of those men. They could wear the enemy down with heavy
guns, planes, and tanks. The French now had 40% of their army in the
artillery and 20 times the big guns they’d had in 1914. Those Canadians that first broke the Hindenburg
Line did so in part by firing close on to a million artillery rounds in two days. A World Undone says that by early October
12,000 tons of munitions were being fired every day. The French 75s were firing 280,000 rounds
a day. And yet, Allied combat deaths still amazingly
exceeded German ones; the Germans just didn’t have as many easily available replacements. They did, as Walther Rathenau pointed out,
have huge amounts of troops in other regions, though. On the 5th, they were reported withdrawn from
Macedonian Front. By the 10th, the Allies were approaching Nis,
which was held by none other than German Field Marshal August von Mackensen. As for the German allies, you gotta realize
that even though the Bulgarians had just left the war, Austrian troops were still fighting,
but the Serbian and French forces were slowly advancing northwards to Belgrade and the Danube. The Allied advance continued on the Palestine
Front as well, occupying Beirut this week. Reports from the Ottoman Empire came out this
week that Enver Pasha, Ottoman Minister of War for the entire duration of it so far and
a main architect of the Ottoman entry into the war back in 1914, had been dismissed by
the Sultan. And the week comes to an end. Allied advances taking ground in the west,
but stalling because of new defenses or a lack of horses. Tales of heroism from the Argonne Forest. The breaking of the Macedonian and Palestine
Fronts continuing at speed, and German High Command trying to figure out what concessions
it is willing to make for an armistice to stop the slaughter in the field. But Wilson rejected Max’s proposal this
week, so that slaughter is going to continue. I don’t think I can even begin to imagine
the frustration of the High Commands, now that the victor in the war is pretty clear
but the fighting is heavier than ever. Sir Edward Grey, who had been the British
Foreign Minister when the war began, had this to say this week, very sad words when you
think of what it will entail: peace is within sight, but not within reach. If you want to learn more about the famous
or infamous Hindenburg Line defense system, you can click right here for our special episode
about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Brent
of All People. Thank you Brent for your ongoing support on
Patreon. If you want to support our show as well, you
can do so at patreon.com / thegreatwar Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
week.

100 thoughts on “The Hindenburg Line Breaks – The Lost Battalion Returns I THE GREAT WAR Week 220

  1. If I were the Berlin/Vienna regimes- time to accept the Wilson deal is running out. But were the other allies bound by it? Entire books have been written on this month in diplomacy (at one point I read one)

  2. I have the complete field uniform of Arthur Looker Company A 308th Battalion a surviving member of the lost Battalion. It is the jewel of my WW I collection of US uniforms. Just a quick brag. :o)

  3. Hey Indi and the crew, I was wondering if you could cover the cavalry charge of Burkel.
    As a Belgian fan of the show I love the few stories about Belgian Heroisme.
    I would mean a lot for my fellow country men.
    I love the show and you show so much more depth to the war then any teacher could, thanks for that!!!

  4. Could you please elaborate more why the Hindenburg Line now was faling in rather short time in 1918 when comparing to 1917 when it was attacked unsuccessfully for half a year? What was making the difference between 1917 and 1918? The tanks, numerical superiority for the allies, collapsing moral on the german side?

  5. F#=&ed Fact none of horses that left from Australia returned back here. We didn't leave the to Arabs either as they were seen as cruel to their animals.
    Only one returned I think it was Chauvel or another generals horse to be buried with him.

  6. When this series ends, will the ship be gone? I want to be sure I get a few things before December 2nd

  7. A little story:

    My Greatgrandpa was an Austrian Soldier at the Italian front.
    He was there in late 1915 and was immediatly wounded.
    The 3rd night he was at the front, he went out from his barracks to pee and when he came back a artillery shell hit the barrack, all other who were in the barrack were dead and he was wounded.

  8. Serbs keep rolling towards the Belgrade. Yeah baby 4 years they hawent seen their homelands. If there some world justice all Germans must be dead cuz of their crimes in 2 wars.

  9. In the next out of the trenches could you talk about the military service of the English princes, the future Edward 8th and George the 6th. I really enjoyed the one on crown prince Wilhelm. Please and thank you! Keep up the great work!

  10. Man. You’ve done your goal. I remember back when it was only 1916, and only 1915 when I caught wind of it.

    Crazy.

  11. Wilsons rejection was as arrogant as the later versaille treaty/demands….The league of nations just as effective as the empty chairs and unwillingless to step up to the idea and promise they had with the league…

  12. Wish you could’ve elaborated more on the lost battalion. You should check out the movie The Lost Battalion with Rick Schroeder as Major Wittlesey. Great movie!

  13. With the end in sight, I hope I can finally get a question answered on Out of the Trenches. With the end of the war, how did the industries and the economies of the warring nations (barring Russia) step back away from total war economies? For a specific example. how were factories making guns, bombs, and bullets retooled back to making consumer goods, and how were soldiers who knew only years of terrible war brought back into the normal workforce?

  14. Nitpick correction but Prince Alexander zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst was a Prince of Hohenlohe a German prince who was living in Switzerland, and was not Swiss. Switzerland being a republic.

  15. Thank you for this series. As I watch this video I am looking over to my left at the "New York Times year Book for 1917." It is part of a small collection of antiques from this period. I had two grand uncles in the AEF and a number of prominent citizens of Howell, NJ (my home town) fought or served in the war. My family has lived in the region since colonial times and there is a lot of history for me to take in (or try to). Still, the great tragedy gives way to the small. As I walked through the cemetery of the little church down the road, I came to a large head stone not far from the graves of my Civil War ancestors.
    It reads:

    Noah T. Clayton
    9-4-1887
    Co. F 3rd Div 30th Inft
    Killed in Battle of the Argon (sic) on Mt. Faucon, France
    Oct. 12 1918
    "Faithful until Death"

    For months I have tried to think of a fitting tribute for the centennial of this loss. Finally, I remembered your channel.

  16. Why does it sound like every instance of American heroism is embellished with huge amounts of hyperbole? Probably propaganda nonsense like the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima was. Not that indy will ever question anything.

  17. Hey Indy, Could you please do an episode about China as well? China also participated in the Great War in the Ally's side and provided overall 200,000 labours in both west and east front. The sacrifice of them should not be forgotten as well.

  18. Ah the start of the public's awareness of the devastating Spanish flu! I have no doubt you guys will eventually do a special on that, and I'm looking forward to it. I imagine we'll be hearing more and more about it in the regular episodes too.

  19. One has to wonder if Germany could hold on another 6 months if the allied alliance would come to standstill from above, giving them a easy road back to paris

  20. after all theese years i just realized, that this is a terrible desk. shure it seems to be foldable, looks nice and pencils won`t roll over the side edges, but it has an uneven surface, pencils can still roll over the front and rear edges, nobody owning it in their home will ever use the folding mechanisnm, it`s surface seems too soft and uneven to write on and it looks like it would absorb stink, bacteria and liquids like a sponge.I wouldn`t take it as a gift.

  21. Can you believe that only 100 years ago today, millions of people were dying of a deadly epidemic, something that we would find almost inconceivable today ?

  22. “We are along the road parallel to 276.4 , our artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For Heaven’s sake stop it.” Sent by homing pigeon Cher Amy – Whittlesey, 308th Infantry, 1st Battalion, “The lost battalion”

  23. why do you never speak on sir john monash the general that planned executed and commanded the spearhead that broke through the hindenburg line and won ww1????

  24. Love the show & I have learned so much from it! My family & friends have also become half addicted as well. I know the show is coming to an end soon which is unfortunate. Can you do a special over the Lost Battalion & Belleau Wood? Though small in overall force size they were both very significant for the forces involved & are some of the most well known American battles. Special thanks to Sabaton for spiking my interest in WW1 through there songs which lead to me discovering this channel!😎🤗🇺🇸

  25. Know others have referenced the 2001 movie (staring Ricky Schroeder). Sure you can find it online and it is very well done.

    The commander, Major (then Lt. Col) Charles W. Whittlesey, was awarded the highest American military honour, the Congressional Medal of Honour. In 1922 he was one of the pall bearers for the casket of the unknown soldier who was laid to rest at the ceremony creating the monument in Washington.

    He then boarded a boat for the Carribean, spent a night drinking, playing cards, and attempting to dull the pain that ceremony has clearly reignited. He went to the railing of the ship, and without notice, jumped to his death. The last casualty of the Lost Battalion.

    May he Rest In Peace free from those horrors.

  26. Think about the waste in just material. 12.000 tons of munitions fires every day. 280,000 75 rounds per day. How many buildings, cars, ships, rail lines and more was wasted away along with the lives they killed.

    "Peace is in sight but not at hand." Only because the will to end it at both ends didn't exist. But it wasn't the politicians dying as the days pass by.

  27. the map at 0:40 –0:50 is incorrect. The crimean peninsula and russian black sea coast wasn't under turkish control back then. I understand that it's not in line with current western approach to the Crimea, but still

  28. Interesting how Max didn't want people to have a voice in government. Now Angela Merkel is saying the same thing…are globalists just imperialists in a different suit? 100 years and history is rhyming again.

  29. Th e Allies won ( that part of ) the War ……. but given the Idiot! Politicians post 1929— they LOST the Peace. If they had occupied Berlin// in 1919 ………..

  30. 1918 The Great War rages on
    A battalion is lost in the Argonne
    Under fire there's nothing they can do
    It's no way they can get a message through

    That is quite the tale, the men where nothing less than heroes.

  31. Sgt. York credited his shooting with his days of hunting as a kid in Tennessee. He also awarded the medal of honor.

  32. This thing about Alvin York is complete bullshit and propaganda. His doings and it‘s results are also completly unrealistic

  33. I could comment this on any of these videos,but i have to say, the quality of the production of these shows in fantastic.The depth of the analysis, the quality of the presenting. Great job everybody! one of the best made shows on Youtube

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