Rushville Republican


March 25, 2014

The catastrophe of a century ago


A full history of World War I would fill many volumes. My purpose is just to remind everyone of the great catastrophe that took place a century ago and involved millions of people around the world. After all, a total of 34 countries ultimately took part in the war.

As far as the United States was concerned, we were actually latecomers to the war. Even though World War I started in the summer of 1914, it wasn’t until April 6, 1917 that the US declared war on Germany. The first American troops landed in France during the early summer of 1918. By mid-summer 1918, the United States was landing 10,000 troops a day in France! When it was all said and done, the total number of American troops available for service during the war exceeded 4.7 million men. When one looks at the total number of troops available to both sides – the Allies verses the Central Powers – the Allies had over 42.9 million men compared to the Central Powers with 25.2 million. By anybody’s standards those are very large armies!

Compared to the other Allies, the United States ranked 5th in the total number of troops available. Russia came in first with 12 million men in uniform. Britain was second with 8.8 million troops. France was just behind the British with 8.6 million soldiers. Italy was next with 5.6 million men in the war. But when one considers how late the United States came into the conflict, one can only imagine how many men we could have put in uniform if it had been necessary. The point is, Germany and Austria-Hungary realized that the war could not be won once the Americans came into the conflict. Therefore, the last German offensive, called “Operation Michael,” came in the spring of 1918 and was launched in the hope that Germany could win the war before significant numbers of American troops arrived. The assault started in March 1918 and had failed by July 1918, when the Germans were pushed back to the points from which they had started.

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