What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

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What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:25 pm

More precisely, what if Germany had not reopened unrestricted submarine warfare against civilian merchant vessels in early 1917?

Students of history often make the mistake of imagining that Germany was losing the First World War at the time of American entry (1917). So far from this being the case, the truth was that the Germans were advancing on all European fronts except the nearly static Western front (France and Belgium). Even there, the French army would be wracked by mass mutiny during 1917, despite news of US entry. It was the German decision to wage unristricted submarine warfare which brought the United States into the war - as Germany knew it would. The Khaiser's war cabinet believed American entry would come too late (on account of the US not having a standing army to contribute immediately) and Russia and France would collapse!

Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare did have a purpose, to bring France and Britain to the brink of starvation. All the nations engaged in World War 1 were suffering food shortages by the winter of 1916-17. This was largely due to their manpower being in the trenches instead of in the fields. The western Entente powers were able to import grain from the United States, and a sympathetic Wilson administration made sure they could borrow enough money to feed their people. The solution, so the Germans thought, was to cut off this flow of grain by sinking the civilian freighters which carried it. (In the actual event it did have a serious impact, but that's another story.) What if Germany had made one different decision that winter: continue their policy of appeasing US demands with regard to civilian merchant shipping?

The Wilson administration, having campaigned for reelection on the slogan, "he kept us out of war", could not have convinced the Congress to go along with a military intervention, let alone fund the kind of build-up it would require for the US to make the contribution that it did in our timeline. Russia would have collapsed either way. The timely dispatch (by Germany) of the exiled Vladimir Lenin to St. Petersburg would have had the identical effect, and Russia would have left the war (all the sooner if there had been no hope of US help). The Germans, whether late in 1917, or early in 1918 (as in our timeline) would have shifted massive resources from the Russian front to the Western front, and the French, already tired of war, would quickly have lost all hope.

Italy too suffered a crushing defeat in the fall of 1917 (in our timeline). Without US intervention, the departure of Russia from the Entente would have left all but the British reeling with the sense of impending total defeat. In the Balkans, Serbia and Romania were overrun in 1916 and 1917 (in our timeline), and this would have been no different. Only in the Middle East, where the British led Arab coalition was liberating the Levant from the Ottomans, was there any real bright spot for the Entente other than the American declaration of war. If America had not declared war when it did, it is likely that France and Italy would both have followed Russia out of the war. Quite possibly, their governments might have been toppled by Communist uprisings similar to the one in Russia.

This scenario would have left the British Empire, with its uncontested control of the sea, alone except for Japan and the Arabs. Then the Germans could have opened unrestricted submarine warfare to try to starve the island nation into submission. Would the offended sensibillities of the United States have been enough to precipiate US entry into a war already lost on the continent? Would there have been a D-Day style invasion sometime in 1919 or 1920 after the US had time to raise an army capable of assaulting the beaches? How much of a contribution might Japan have made in the interests of ultimate victory? Or would the whole thing have simply died away, the British finally signing a peace on the condition that Germany withdrew from Belgium?
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by DuceMoosolini on Thu Sep 21, 2017 5:03 pm

I was actually thinking of writing a scenario pretty similar to this, involving the Second Mexican-American War. Now I think you've gotten me interested in it again.

Anyways, I'd give the Central Powers about 7/10 chance for victory without the US. In the absence of American manpower, the Entente can't launch the offensives which ultimately ended the war, so everything goes back to a race to see whether France or Germany collapses first.

The big question there is this: Does France go down before 10/29/18?

That date marks the beginning of the German Revolution of 1918-19, a series of mutinies and communist uprisings which would lead to the final end of the Kaiserreich and the armistice. That's a hard deadline, because the longer the war goes on past then, the faster Germany's chances of victory begin to plummet. Personally, I think France would probably be forced out by the summer, but if they stubbornly hung on through the fall, Germany's little time bomb would detonate and likely win the war for them.

As for Japan, I think Germany would just let them keep the Pacific islands. There's no reason to outfit a doomed expedition to the Pacific when the Brits would pounce on their ships right out of the gate.

I also think the Germans would try to broker a peace deal nice enough to get the UK out of the war ASAP, especially once the Revolution kicks off. If that means abandoning Belgium and letting the UK keep much of Africa, so be it.



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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:36 pm

Excellent analysis, DuceMoosolini. I would point out one additional factor, and that is the "14 Points" leaflets that were airdropped in western Germany shortly before the Revolution. Basically, Woodrow Wilson proposed peace terms very generous to the soon-to-be-vanquished Germans. Word of these terms spread fast from the air drop zones, and I think this contributed to peace sentiment, and probably hastened the mass demonstrations in the streets. Little did the German people know that the 14 points were a propaganda ploy delivered to a populace that was obviously on the edge of revolt anyway. But without the US, there would have been no "Wilson's 14 Points".

It is entirely possible, as many contemporary Communists hoped, that a Communist Revolution would spread to all the exhausted nations of Europe. History might have been very different thereafter!
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Mr Trolldemort on Sat Sep 23, 2017 11:51 am

There is actually a scenario with the same premise you described, Thorfinn, that is a HOI4 mod. It's called Kaiserreich and it's really interesting and fun to play. You should check it out if you are interested in this.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Cold War Communist on Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:47 pm

I don't think it would have made that much of a difference. Russia was being manhandled for a while in the East, and the Allies were able to help the White Army fight in the Russian Civil War while fighting the Central Powers. Both sides were more than capable of handling long term bouts in different theaters.

Germany was on the way out by 1917 when the US joined the war. Food shortages were a common occurrence, and despite the efforts of their u-boats, they had no way to import food to quell an increasingly anti-war populace. This is coupled with the fact that Austria-Hungary was also a poor ally, and the Ottoman front was failing means that Germany would have been left entirely alone whether the US joined the war or not.

I would have to say that Germany vs. France, Italy, the UK, and its own instability would have been a losing battle. They would likely still try Operation Michael, and it would still fail for the same reasons, thus depleting whatever morale the Germans had left.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:39 am

Cold War Communist, I agree with literally nothing of what you just said. I've seen your other posts, and they are usually astonishingly well researched, detailed, and thought provoking, but I don't know where to begin on this one... I'll have a crack at it maybe, when the weekend is over. You really did not get one point technically accurate. Oh, boy.. this is gonna take some digging... I wrote papers on this wayyy back in undergrad.. almost nobody knows the truth, and I really don't understand where the misconceptions come from. 1917 wasn't 1944.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Cold War Communist on Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:44 am

Let me try it again then, to clearly articulate my position on the issue:

The entry of the United States was one of several factors that made the defeat of Germany inevitable. These factors had always been present, such as the lack of preparation for a long war among Europe's major powers, as well as poor allies (i.e. the Sick Man of Europe and the Shackled Corpse of Austria Hungary), but they were initially small cracks that turned into great fissures.

By 1917, food shortages were common for nearly all participants in WWI. Germany was no exception, however they suffered from the naval blockade of Great Britain in addition to rationing food for wartime. The final straw would be the Turnip Winter of 1917, with poor harvests leading to further food shortages and frustration for the German populace. Morale began to drop significantly, as did support for the war.

By 1917 as well, the Ottoman Empire was effectively out of the war. Great Britain had captured Gaza, Baghdad, and could have pressed on to totally knock the Sick Man out of the war but was delayed with their preoccupation on the Western Front. Additional attention should be given to Austria-Hungary, who in 1917 was dependent on the German Empire's military support to be a factor in the war. Internal strife in the Dual Monarchical Empire also began to show, as old ethnic divisions finally began to pull the Empire apart at the seams.

Effectively, the war was a starving, fatigued German Empire vs. Great Britain, France, and Italy. They were stretched to fight beside the Austria-Hungarians, and they were unable to make significant advances to defeat the Allies.

Their last-ditch effort was Operation Michael, part of the Spring Offensive to start 1918. Germany made use of young males in supreme physical condition and mastered new tactics that put their soldiers in small pockets and dissuaded them from attacking major targets, simply looking to cut off lines of communication, supply, and reinforcements. Follow up attacks would handle the confused and weakening front line of their foes. Sounds great, right? Wrong. In order for the offensive to be of any value, it absolutely had to end in victory. This is because German losses were irreplaceable youths and perhaps the very last that Germany could muster. This defeat did more to end the war for Germany in addition to any other factor via the loss of morale and valuable infantry.

In order to save face, the Germans ended the war before the Allies had crossed onto German soil. That narrative would haunt the nation as the specter of the Imperial German Army would be invoked by Hitler to suggest that Germany never should have surrendered. The truth is that if they did not, the Allied powers would have regrouped and begun to retaliate against a depleted, starving, lone wolf. It would have been a decisive victory, if hard fought to the end. This was the outcome with or without the entry of the U.S. into the war.

My final point is thus...the United States was what one might call "fuel on the fire", or an accelerant to German defeat, but not a catalyst for it. Those were already in place in 1914, and were blooming like Poppy fields in 1917. They would be a meadow in 1918.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:35 am

Ok, CWC, I can work with that. I think I can throw in some stats that will change your perception of where Germany was at, but I might have to go to an actual physical library to do that. The "Turnip Winter" of 1916-17 Galvanized the german war cabinet to action, and as we shall see, those actions bore fruit. One of them resulted in a roughly 40% INCREASE in caloric rations for the general public between 1917 and 1918. This came due to battlefield successes that brought productive agricultural areas under German control. But I'll need to dig up some OLD sources to provide more rigorous proof of what I'm talking about. Yes, the Ottomans were hemoraging, and yes, I will admit that was inevitable. But Italy and France were much closer to collapse in 1917 than Germany was. The psychological factors are difficult to measure, but I think I can build a convincing case that at least more cracks were forming in the facade of France than of Germany in 1917. The military might to defeat Germany on land was not present, and people were beginning to realize it. The entente's Balkan fronts were in route at least as badly as the Ottoman's in the Levant. The actual crisis point for the Entent came in the fall of 1917, after the failure of the initially successful Brusilov offensive, and the collapse of the Italian front. The idea that German defeat was inevitable is the single biggest misconception I'm aware of surrounding WWI, but you read it everywhere, unsubstanciated and apparently speculative. Again, psychology in wartime is a tricky thing, but Germany was turning a corner in 1917 that would result in gradually improved conditions at home for the rest of the war. What ended it was the realization that U.S. forces had reached the point where defeat was mathematically inevitable, but that math was not there without them.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Mr Trolldemort on Mon Sep 25, 2017 1:29 pm

People tend to forget that France was in the middle of a mutiny during 1917, with one of the main factors ending it was the US declaration of war which helped the French repress the mutiny (and most importantly, made it easier to hide it from Germany to not give them a morale boost). The mutiny would have become even larger without the USA involved and if the Germans found out, they could have easily done an offensive, especially with extra troops from the eastern front following the collapse of Russia that could have knocked the French out of the war due to the already poor morale.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:59 pm

Ok, I'll try to limit the depth if not the scope of my argument (after all this is supposed to Alternate History, but as I said elsewhere, to me the point of using alternate history is to reveal hidden forces in our actual timeline; changing one factor reveals the hidden importance of others).

I have several main points, one of which I still have not found my source on, I'll list it first as I'm still planning a trip to the library at my old Alma Matter:

1) The food situation: Germany had a rough year, calorie-wise in 1916-1917. This was no longer the case in by 1917-1918. I wrote a paper for a 400 level class for which I found a source that examined the Central Powers's food supply clio-metrically, and detailed all the food (especially grain and sugar) that they captured in Romania and the Ukraine. The only argument I've ever heard against why this represented a real change of fortunes is that it was, "too near the end of the war anyway."

This raises a side-bar: I don't find the "end of the war" to be something chiseled in stone. There's no magic date by which Germany has to win, or their astrology goes kaput or something. Revolution in the streets is brought on by a populace reaching their breaking point. Reaching that breaking point is the culmination of a number of mainly psychological factors. Without U.S. involvement (not to mention the 14 Points again), who knows what the German people would have been thinking in October or November of 1918? Not even the Russians installed a Peace Government when they initially rebelled and ousted the Tsar in the spring of 1917. But, for sake of argument, I will attempt to constrain my CP victory scenario to the first 3 quarters of 1918 - working under the assumption of a late October deadline.

2) The finiancial situation: The British government had exhausted its resources by mid summer 1917. At a time when the new government in Russia was begging for British financial help, J. M. Keynes (yes that J. M. Keynes) at the British Treasury was forced to beg the U.S. Government for assistance:

"Actually, the British financial position in the United States was perilous, and Keynes was forced by July 23 [1917] to tell the American government that, 'in short our resources available for payments in America are exhausted. Unless the United States Government can meet in full our expenses in the United States, including exchange, the whole financial fabric of the alliance will collapse.'" (Keith Neilson: Strategy and Supply. c 2014. P 277)

Thus, the financial factor alone would have ended the war in favor of the CP if not for US involvement. Of course, it is possible that this financial assistance would have been rendered even without a declaration of war.

3) The military situation: This factor comes in two parts. First was the string of CP victories in 1917 that made it possible for Germany to stay in the war by raising their caloric intake beginning in the fall of 1917, and the effective removal of strategic threat from Russia, Romania and Italy - at least for some months. Second is the transition to the defensive after June or July of 1918, at which point it became clear Germany had no further options for victory. This transition was necessitated by the arrival of over one million U.S. troops on the Western Front by July! (Another million would arrive before the end of the war.)

Despite the topic of this thread, I have often found alternate scenarios surrounding the second part of this equation to be the more interesting (as it allows U.S. involvement in a long war with Diesel Punk implications). But for our purposes, there is no great Entent counteroffensive in 1918, because of one simple factor: They lacked the troop strength! After the big transfer of men from the Russian front, German troops actually outnumbered French and British troops in France! Once again, if not for U.S. involvement, the military situation would have continued to favor the Central Powers!

Returning fully to my proposed Alternate Timeline, we must imagine a 1917-1918 without the U.S. This is actually easier than you might think, because the U.S. put so few troops into Europe before Germany's big western front offensives in the spring of 1918. Thus, extrapolation from our own timeline is quite practical in this regard: I shall give a picture below, in the form of a series of quotations from actual history texts, mainly David Stevenson's Cataclysm (c 2004), which serve to explain why I think the CP would have gained ultimate victory on the battlefield before the fall of 1918 if not for US involvement:

"In Autumn of 1917 the Central Powers regained the initiative. Their counter-attack against the Kerensky offensive initiated a reversal of fortunes... Although the allied attacks on the Isonzo, in Flanders, and in Palestine continued until Autumn, from that point on the Germans swept all before them. After expelling the Russians from Galicia in July, they captured Riga in September, and at Caporetto in October they inflicted on Italy one of the most spectacular defeats of the war. The Bolshevik Revolution in November enable them to conclude a ceasefire... and impose peace treaties on Russia and Romania in Spring 1918, ...carving out a vast zone of satellite states from the Arctic Circle to the Caucasus." (P 303) (Emphasis mine.)

Here I shall also insert a quote from Morrow's The Great War, an Imperial History (c 2004) demonstrating the resources and potential of these lands which the CP took control of: "In March the peace of Brest-Litovsk demolished the [Russian] Empire. ...Russia lost a million square miles, 50 million inhabitants, 90% of its coal mines, 54% of its industry, 32% of its agricultural land, and most of its oil and cotton production." (P 205)

Now I will return to quotations from David Stevenson's examination of the causes, scope and significance of CP military successes in Cataclysm (c 2004):

"...a revolution in tactics ...was fundamental to the Central Powers' new turn of success." (P 306) This entailed revolutionary breakthroughs in both infantry and artillery tactics, which, when combined, rendered German forces superior to all others in the field in 1917. I will summarize the details: Modern small group infantry tactics were worked out, including the need to send mortar and machine guns forward with each attacking unit down to squad size! Aerial artillery spotting was developed to such precision that, coupled with the "[Captain] Pulkowski Method" for rigorously pre-testing each artillery gun individually, it allowed the Germans to achieve tactical surprise by skipping the "ranging" process and going directly to firing for effect. Finally, precision artillery barrages were used to clear the way directly for attacking infantry, and then prevent enemy reinforcement of the attack sector by shelling both flanks and rear while the infantry assault went forward. (P 307)

These combined tactics were used very effectively in capturing Riga and then decisively at Caporetto: "The biggest of the Central Powers' successes in Autumn 1917 employed both the new artillery and the new infantry tactics. The Battle of Caporetto was the only occasion on which the Germans intervened in strength in the Italian theatre." Taken completely by surprise, the Italians lost not only the battle, but the whole northeastern portion of their country down almost to Venice. The French and British sent 11 divisions of their own to shore up Italian defenses. Afterward, the Germans turned over the stabilized front to Austrian forces once more, and shifted their victorious units to France. (P 308-310)

Given the strategic, caloric, and financial situation, it seems unlikely that the Entente could have survived the winter of 1917-18 without U.S. food and money. Admittedly, adequate British commonwealth grain supplies would have continued to flow in without difficulty if Germany had refrained from resuming submarine warfare against civilian shipping, but this was counterbalanced to some degree by the Central Powers' newly captured agricultural land and its produce, which I will need to document in a later post. Regardless, without U.S. troops on the ground in France the German offensives in the Spring would likely have gained much more ground, possibly even leading to a complete collapse of French national morale. I shall illustrate with a map from Adam Hothschild's book To End All Wars (c 2011):

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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Cold War Communist on Wed Sep 27, 2017 9:51 am

I will respond by keeping my posts as simple and to the point as possible.

1. We have discussed the impact of famine gingerly. The point I was making by introducing you to the idea of Germany's food situation from 1917-18 was not to make Germany seem more strained than the Allies, but to demonstrate she was as strained as the Allies. This hurt perception of the war, which is key.

2. The financial situation of the U.K. was perilous, but you clearly state the alternative, which was for the United States to keep funding the war effort without sending personnel. That was the preferred option. It is reasonable to state that without becoming directly involved in the war, the United States would grant the Allies loans and material aid.

3. This is where I find your argument collapses. While through 1917 the Germans regained the initiative, they lost every chance at war in the Spring offensive, and specifically with Operation Michael. The Allies could count on a combined force to rebuild the loss in stopping the tide, which I would like to point out was done before significant American forces were present at all. Their presence was negligible in stemming the offensive. The thought that the Americans were arriving helped Foch decide to launch a counter offensive, but he did not want to let the initiative escape after stopping the Spring Offensive. Therefore, I believe the Allied forces of Britain, France, and Italy would have launched the Hundred Days Offensive regardless, with less troops overall or a marginally larger amount of Anzac, Canadian, and Italian forces.

In sum, the Allies still succeed (generally) in breaking the deteriorating front (which had become static with new tactics for infantry, artillery, and air reconnaissance) thus pushing Germany to the negotiating table rather than the battlefield.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Wed Sep 27, 2017 11:07 am

Well, CWC, it sort of falls back on the psychology, then. Do you really think France, including French troops, would have held if US help, even the symbollic assistance of a few hundred thousand US troops, had not been present during the German offensives that spring?

I don't necessarily buy the idea that there would have been an allied counteroffensive of any size in 1918 without a million U.S. troops arriving in France before it started. But clearly the British Mark IV tank marked a new turning point in the tactics of the war. It is possible this factor alone could have granted a measure of success to the Entente, at least for the remainder of the year.

If we postulate a hard cuttoff for the German people of the end of October, then, as I said, it comes down to psychology. Without US intervention, would Germany be "winning" in the minds of the German and French people in 1918? Which side would have blinked first, given the momentum of the war by May?

My personal opinion is that without the symbolic appearance of US troops virtually at EVERY CRISIS POINT during the German spring offensives, the French troops would not have had even a straw to grasp at, psychologically, and they would have quit the field in ever-increasing numbers as the offensives developed. Russia was out. Serbia was out. Without US help, there was no hope of ever regaining what had been lost. Continuing a war without hope of driving your enemy out of your country except by sheer psychological attrition of the will to fight would require North Vietnamese level determination and commitment. Did the French troops have it in 1917? Then how did they develop it by 1918? What indications did they have that if they just hung on a little longer, the tide would turn again?

To be clear, I don't believe the tide would have turned. But the concensus on this forum is that there was clock ticking in Germany, so I'm sort of caving to popular opinion for the sake of argument. Mathematically, i just don't see the Entente winning by military force alone. If the war was to end in 1918, it had to be through a psychological knock-out. That became much more difficult to do to the French once the US was involved. Even so, hundreds of thousands fled Paris in advance of what they saw as an inexorable series of German drives in 1918. The simple fact of those advances having been halted does not imply indefinite termination of the efforts. The mathematical balance of power on the Western Front actually swung in favor of the Entente with the additioin of 200,000 US troops per month that summer. Even if US troops had done nothing more than shore up stable fronts, it would allow experienced troops to shift to more critical points along the line and mass for counterattacks. In fact, the US troops did much more than that. The turn of the tide could not have come without US intervention, and certainly it could not have been forseen in France.

I have read in many sources the pervading idea that both US intervention and CP battlefield success came "too late" in the war to affect its outcome. This has never made sense to me as long as I've studied it.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Cold War Communist on Thu Sep 28, 2017 10:16 am

Well, CWC, it sort of falls back on the psychology, then. Do you really think France, including French troops, would have held if US help, even the symbollic assistance of a few hundred thousand US troops, had not been present during the German offensives that spring?

Yes, I do. The French situation was not nearly as bad as it seemed. Indeed, in my own research that spawned off as part of this back-and-forth, I have found that I overestimated the negatives of the French situation. The mutinies for example affected just under half of all French units (40%). It sounds terrible, except the troops were refusing to go to the front and demanded leave, and a cessation to what were perceived as pointless offensives. The resistance offered was tepid, with mere refusal to carry out orders such as relieving the front being the chief form of resistance. Overall, only 5-12 (sources vary here a bit) units were seriously afflicted enough to give the French a headache, and the issue was resolved by French Marshall Pétain by providing the troops with leave, rotations from the front, and limiting offensives.

That is not to say that American troops did not affect morale at all (the rallying cry was, "wait for the tanks and Americans"), but that the French were one or two victories away from being right where they needed to be. The British knew this just as well and launched the Third Battle of Ypres to try to rally the French.

By 1918, during the Spring Offensive, the situation in Germany was desperate. How desperate? Erich Ludendorff, the supreme commander of German forces, had established propaganda campaigns within the Imperial Army to counter failing morale (this as early as 1917). By early 1918, workers were striking in Germany in munitions factories. The war had clearly begun to take its toll on Germany's populace and morale began to tank.

The successes of the military campaigns to come could not be capitalized on in the Spring Offensive because of Ludendorff's poor planning. He did not give his stromtroopers a clear goal once they had broken through French/British lines, thus they pushed on aimlessly conquering everything in their path. This stretched their supply lines thin and left them exposed, which is why the offensive failed. Symbolic American presence did not expose German lines or craft poor German foresight. Remove them and these problems continue to plague the German high command, and the German front lines. The Germans effectively were going to beat themselves, and they had bogged down before American troops arrived in significant numbers to make a difference on the battlefield.

With that type of victory, the appointment of Ferdinand Foch to the post of supreme commander assured that there would be a counter offensive. Why am I so certain? Because Foch was no fool, and he had a good sense of timing. He knew when to commit to defense, to retreat, and to attack, and he had a profound sense that, "the time was right" after the German offensive was stopped for a counter-offensive. It turned out he was right, and while the presence of American troops significantly increased during/after the offensive and into the Hundred Days Offensive (see statistics on American troop presence in May, 1918), the French Army made up the backbone of the Allied response. The American forces remained attached to French/British units, and were fairly limited due to a number of factors we have discussed earlier in this topic (training, logistics, etc). Without them, the fact is that the Allies would have had to make up the difference for 500,000 troops (which could have been done, to the chagrin of the population in Allied nations) and they would have continued to play off of recent success. New tactics would make victory possible for both the Allies and the Central Powers, but the Allied forces were able to make better use of combined arms and of course tanks.

But the concensus on this forum is that there was clock ticking in Germany, so I'm sort of caving to popular opinion for the sake of argument.

Of course that's the consensus. 1918 is a firm date set in stone because the nations involved in WWI were on their last legs. The clock was ticking on Germany, but also France, Britain, Italy, Austria-Hungary, the Ottomans...it had already run out on the Russians, and no other nation desired to share a similar fate. But this sense of impending doom is exactly what drove the Germans into foolhardy mistakes, such as launching a poorly thought-out offensive that cost them the creme-de-la-creme of their troops. They were starving (like everyone else, to the tune of over 200,000 dead due to starvation in the winter of 1917), they were going bankrupt (like everyone else), and unlike they had committed and lost the very best soldiers they could muster, and there was no replacing those young men.

My point is, and has been, without American troop strength, the Germans were facing the exact same issues as other Great Powers. The difference is that Germany was working this virtually by itself because its allies were incompetent and collapsing from within before the war. She did not have enough food and had excellent tactical but poor long-term military planners in high command. And finally she lost the most potent troops in one move. It galvanized the Allied forces to make one final thrust, which with or without American troops it would have come due to the military intuition of French high command.

For further reading, I will provide some names (consider these my sources, as their research has informed my thought on the matter):

Guy Pedroncini - French Army Mutinies (I am struggling to find his work in English as opposed to French, but there are portions translated here and there online).

Ludendorff's Memoirs

German Workers' Strikes

German Diaries and Memoirs on their WWI Experience (Note: the diaries contained include Germans from all sectors and walks of life, as opposed to just soldiers or just civilians)

Timeline for the Allies
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:58 pm

...and again, without the psychology of the US intervention...

I'm just saying, your argument rests on the unknowable: The balance of psychological attrition continuing to favor the Entente even without a US declaration of war.

Without the US, there's just no hope on France's horizon. Militarily, they would have been faced with an endless war on their own soil. In hindsight, we can see that Germany would eventually quit. They could not have known that. I think France would not have survived 1917 watching the task ahead of them grow and grow as Germany occupied massive new territories in the east. Even if they did, the shock of those first few German breakthroughs in 1918 would have opened their eyes to the desperateness of their situation. How long would the French have expected the war to go on? Did they have the will to endure such a war?

The long term military situation in France - taken in isolation - was truly hopeless without the US.

Russia quit when it became apparent that they would eventually be overrun.
Germany quit when it became apparent that they would eventually be overrun.
How was France supposed to keep fighting when it became apparent that they would eventually be overrun? Sure, the German people would have taken Germany out of the war before this happened. But how would the French people have known this?
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Cold War Communist on Thu Sep 28, 2017 4:41 pm

Thorfinn Karlsefni wrote:...and again, without the psychology of the US intervention...

I'm just saying, your argument rests on the unknowable: The balance of psychological attrition continuing to favor the Entente even without a US declaration of war.

Incorrect. My argument rests on the known. The state of the war in the 3 years before direct U.S. intervention began, and the state of the war just as the Germans made a final push to beat the Allies on the Western Front. Up until the middle of 1918, there was not a significant presence of American troops on the continent. The Allies held up without them through the first few months of 1918, during the Spring Offensive. Without U.S. intervention, I postulate that to be the turning point, as per the inquiry that spawned this discussion.

In summary, the natural evolution of the war in 1917 through the Spring Offensive points to a race to the bottom, which Germany was winning, all before there was a population of American soldiers bolstering the front lines.


I think France would not have survived 1917 watching the task ahead of them grow and grow as Germany occupied massive new territories in the east. Even if they did, the shock of those first few German breakthroughs in 1918 would have opened their eyes to the desperateness of their situation. How long would the French have expected the war to go on? Did they have the will to endure such a war?

Apparently, they did. We know this because that's exactly what happened.


How was France supposed to keep fighting when it became apparent that they would eventually be overrun? Sure, the German people would have taken Germany out of the war before this happened. But how would the French people have known this?

They didn't need to know this. Even in our timeline, the presence of the U.S. was minimal until the months after the Spring Offensive. The offensive slowed itself down and overstretched its supply lines along the front (ironically) due to its overwhelming success. Additionally, poor planning meant that the German forces had no real goals once they achieved the breakthrough. The circumstances meant that counter-attacks were simple (in WWI terms), which allowed the Allies with the ability to crush the invading force. Why wouldn't the Allies respond to the Spring Offensive with an offensive of their own later, after such a resounding victory? They had the troop strength, and they had just beaten back the German's most pivotal offensive, and they knew it. Minus the U.S. later on, this is all still true. So I don't understand the adamant nature of your position.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Thu Sep 28, 2017 11:57 pm

Cold War Communist wrote:
How was France supposed to keep fighting when it became apparent that they would eventually be overrun? Sure, the German people would have taken Germany out of the war before this happened. But how would the French people have known this?

They didn't need to know this. Even in our timeline, the presence of the U.S. was minimal until the months after the Spring Offensive. The offensive slowed itself down and overstretched its supply lines along the front (ironically) due to its overwhelming success. Additionally, poor planning meant that the German forces had no real goals once they achieved the breakthrough. The circumstances meant that counter-attacks were simple (in WWI terms), which allowed the Allies with the ability to crush the invading force. Why wouldn't the Allies respond to the Spring Offensive with an offensive of their own later, after such a resounding victory? They had the troop strength, and they had just beaten back the German's most pivotal offensive, and they knew it. Minus the U.S. later on, this is all still true. So I don't understand the adamant nature of your position.

Oh, ok. You and I have simply been exposed to different sources on the state of the Western Front in 1918. This wasn't the Battle of the Bulge. German troops in France outnumbered French and British troops in France at that time. German tactics were superior, German aircraft were superior, German weaponry was only inferior in one regard, that is the tank, which was by that time developed to an elegant form by the British. However, such tanks are mainly useful only on the offensive. There would have been no Entente offensive in France in 1918 without American troops to take over a large percentage of the lines in order to free up more experienced troops. I completely disagree with your perception that the French and British "crushed" the German forces involved in the spring offensives, or that halting those offensives somehow represented "resounding victory". Despite advances in tactics and weaponry, these were by World War 2 standards still battles of attrition. Wins and loses were assigned only by degree. I know, for example, two divisions of American Marines took frightful casualties at Belleau Wood in early June helping to halt and repel a German drive on Paris. This was characterized as a "victory" but the units involved were savaged.

I wondered why you have argued so strongly. I felt I had needlessly surrendered every arguable point and was basing my alternate scenario only on what was irrefutable. If you imagine that the British and French were going to take the offensive in 1918 with or without US assistance, then I see why you are so confident. But that is a completely different picture than the one I had developed over the years. I do not know how many US troops were on the actual front lines by July, but that was the month the one millionth US soldier reached France.  You make that figure seem so inconsequential, but in a theatre where both sides had fewer than four million troops, adding a million to one side seems pretty significant.
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:05 am

By the end of the War, the American Expeditionary Force numbered 1.9 million troops, compared with 1.75 million for the British Expeditionary Force, and it held a longer section of the Front! This is no minor contribution. They were driving down the Meuse River Valley around Sedan, advancing northward from Verdun.

I have superimposed information from the West Point Altas on the map I shared earlier:
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Cold War Communist on Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:02 pm

Hey, would you perhaps be able to resize the image? I feel like I am losing something because it is being cut off (or so it seems).
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Re: What if the United States Never Joined WW1?

Post by Thorfinn Karlsefni on Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:45 pm

Sure thing.

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