The Battle of the Somme was fought from July, 1916 to November 1916. This was the murderous cauldron young American men were sent to their deaths by Woodrow Wilson, the man who campaigned on a promise not to allow Americans to die in a European war. Had Wilson not intervened, Germany, France and England would have fallen exhausted into an armistice and a negotiated treaty among themselves; the German Kaiser would have remained and precluded the rise to power of a corporal named Hitler.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Applauding the Death of Our Young Men
“At 7:28 A.M. on July 1  . . . The French and the British infantry climbed up from their trenches and jumped off into the exploding unknown. Like many British commanders a sedulous diarist, Sir Douglas Haig just thirty-two minutes later was making this entry:
“Reports . . . [are] most satisfactory. Our troops had everywhere crossed the enemy’s front trenches.”
All along the line his soldiers were falling in windrows to zeroed-in enemy machine gun and artillery fire. It was a catastrophe. By day’s end more than 60,000 soldiers of the British Empire were corpses littering the field, dying men trapped in the beaten zone, burdens for the stretcher-bearers, or walking wounded.
But not one pivotal plot of ground had been won. Here and there, sections of the German forward defense zone had been shallowly penetrated, and that was all.
Haig should have called off the Somme that night and cut his losses. But having failed, he was too bulldoggish to quit. In consequence, this hideous turmoil must be recorded as the most soulless battle in British annals. The Somme deteriorated into a bloody purge rivaling Verdun. It was a battle not so much of attrition as of mutual destruction, and it continued until November 18.
[Marshal Joseph] Joffre wanted it that way. He kept prodding Haig, insisting that the offensive be continued. At the same time, noting by the numbers (infantry were but digits to him) that his own army was fading away from the effects of Verdun and the Somme. Joffre was pressuring the War Ministry to call up the class of 1917 for training, though 1916 campaigning was hardly begun. If at this time his strategic reasoning had any end in view, it could only be that the side that could scrape up the last 100,000 men would win.
The [United States] of more than seventy million had fewer than 200,000 men in its army. Its armament from top to bottom was obsolete; the cannon and automatic weapons were hopelessly antiquated, cumbersome and scarce. None would do for Europe.
[In April 1917 and after American ships were sunk supplying England with war materiel, the] President said: “There is one choice we cannot make, we are incapable of making; we will not choose the path of submission.”
The President continued to a more meaningful expression of purpose: “We must make the world safe for democracy. Its peace must be founded upon the trusted foundations of political liberty.” For the sake of [the] nation, he asked the Congress for a joint resolution declaring war against Germany.
On leaving the rostrum, Wilson got the greatest ovation of his life. Later, at the White House, he said to his secretary, Joseph Tumulty: “Think of what it was they were applauding. My message of today was a message of death for our young men. How strange it seems to applaud that.”
(World War One, S.L.A. Marshall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1964, pp. 258-260; 280-281)