Open main menu

Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/150

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

UNITED STATES

122

UNITED STATES

States must deal with the military masters of Germany now, or if it is likely to have to deal with them later, “it must demand not peace negotiations but surrender.”

The reply received prolonged consideration by the German authorities. By that time the military situation was so hopeless that nothing remained but submission. Ludendorff resigned his command on the 26th. On the 27th, a message to President Wilson, virtually accepted the terms by declaring that it awaited the receipt of the armistice proposition from the allied military staffs.

The ultimate compliance of Germany had been counted upon as absolutely foreshadowed by the progress of events, and terms had been drawn up while the correspondence was being interchanged. On Nov. 5, Secretary Lansing announced to the German Government that peace would be made on the terms prescribed in his public utterances by President Wilson. An important reservation was made, however, namely that liberty of action was reserved on the clause relating to the freedom of the seas, since it was liable to differing interpretations. It was also demanded that compensation be made by Germany “for all damage to the civilian population of the Allies by land, by sea, and from the air.” The note closed with the statement that Marshal Foch had been authorized to receive the German delegates and acquaint them with the terms of armistice the Allied and Associated Powers were prepared to grant.

The Germans promptly requested the Marshal to appoint a time and place of meeting. The time was set as Nov. 7, and the place was the railroad car of Marshal Foch in the forest of Compiègne. The delegates proceeded there under a white flag. They were met at the French lines by guards, who conducted them to the place of meeting. There the armistice terms were read by the Generalissimo of the Allied armies. Their alleged severity aroused protests from the Germans, who were informed, however, that the Marshal's power to change them extended only to minor details. On Nov. 11, the German delegates affixed their signatures to the armistice terms, and the war was over. It is true that the treaty of peace remained to be signed, and this was not done until June 28, 1919, five years to a day from the date in 1914 when the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, at Sarajevo, had furnished the pretext for the World War. But the actual cessation of hostilities dates from Nov. 11, 1918. The terms of the armistice were such as to make it impossible for Germany to resume the war, even if she were so inclined. Those terms were drastic, but in the general judgment of the Allied world did not go beyond what justice and security from future aggression required.

In America, as in other Allied nations, the news that the armistice had been signed was received with joyful popular demonstrations. The relief from the strain of war was unspeakable, and with this was mingled pride at the part that America had played in bringing the war to a successful conclusion.

The terms of the armistice provided that three bridgeheads on the Rhine should be occupied by Allied forces. The Coblenz bridgehead was the one assigned to the American Army of Occupation. The march was begun almost at once, and on Dec. 12 the army reached Coblenz, their forces crossing the Rhine the following morning to occupy the bridgehead. Military administration was inaugurated at once, though the municipal authorities were allowed to function, under American supervision and control. The occupation continued until the signing of the Peace treaty, after which the American troops were gradually withdrawn and sent home, the places of some of them being taken by new units sent from America. In May, 1920, there remained about 13,000 American troops at the bridgehead under the command of Major-General Henry T. Allen. In the main, the occupation, beyond a little occasional friction, was marked by few untoward incidents, and order was well maintained.

The cessation of hostilities made it possible for the American people to become acquainted with the real extent of American participation in the conflict by various arms of the service. Previous to that time, many of the operations had been recorded in fragmentary form, or had been hidden under the veil of secrecy required by the censorship. The work of the land forces had been fairly well followed, but that of the navy and the air services had not been, gauged at their full value. An official report of Secretary of the Navy Daniels, issued Dec. 3, 1918, gave interesting details of the navy's achievements.

On the day that war was declared the navy numbered 65,777 men. At the signing of the armistice, it had increased to 497,030. The ships in commission had increased in the same period from 197 to 2,003. Less than a month after war was declared, a division of United States destroyers was in European waters. By October, 1918, there were 338 ships of all classes serving abroad. Up to Nov. 1, 1918, of the total number of American troops in Europe, 924,578 had been car-