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The American Army and the First World War (Armies of the Great War) [Kindle Edition]

David Woodward
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

This is a definitive history of the American Army's role and performance during the First World War. Drawing from a rich pool of archival sources, David Woodward sheds new light on key themes such as the mobilisation of US forces, the interdependence of military diplomacy, coalition war-making, the combat effectiveness of the AEF and the leadership of its commander John J. Pershing. He shows us how, in spite of a flawed combat doctrine, logistical breakdowns and the American industry's failure to provide modern weaponry, the Doughboys were nonetheless able to wage a costly battle at Meuse-Argonne and play a decisive role in ending the war. The book gives voice to the common soldier through firsthand war diaries, letters, and memoirs, allowing us to reimagine their first encounters with regimented military life, their transport across the sub-infested Atlantic to Europe, and their experiences both in and behind the trenches.

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Product Description

Book Description

A definitive new history of the American army's performance in World War One ranging from wartime leadership to training and combat in France and Russia. David Woodward reveals the decisive role played by the Doughboys despite a flawed combat doctrine, logistical breakdowns and American industry's failure to provide modern weaponry.

About the Author

David R. Woodward is Emeritus Professor of History at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 12001 KB
  • Print Length: 484 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (31 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #593,600 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Max
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed reading about an aspect of the Great War that is often not covered in most histories here in UK, which tend to consentrate on the main belligerents, Germany, France or Great Britain. The book covers the political debate within America, over the setting up of an Expeditionary Army and what form that would take. Until 1917, USA had what was a 19th Century army, used only for police actions against Native Americans and Mexicans or fighting minor colonial wars with third world opponents. To fight in Europe against a "Great Power" America had to adapt, however its leaders, particularly Pershing, still wanted to fight the war in the manner of the American Civil War, where infantry was king, despite the experiences of her Allies. America had to learn by experience that 20th Century war required the co-ordination of all arms (artillery, automatic weapons, tanks and aircraft) to succeed, not just a blind head-on charge of infantry. Despite their leaders, the American army began to learn these lessons and in doing so laid the foundations for the "Grand Armies" it deployed twenty years later in the Second World War.

The book is a good read, running through the developments in recruiting the army, equipping it, shipping it to Europe, supplying it and finally sending it into battle. Well worth the read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Read: The most comprehensive one-volume study on the American Army and the First World War 25 Nov. 2014
By Colin Baxter - Published on
Historian David R. Woodward observes that for many Americans, World War I remains a forgotten war, but on this the 100th anniversary of what was once called the Great War, Americans have an opportunity to reexamine America's role in that great turning point of the 20th century. In many ways, the author has spent a lifetime preparing to write this the most comprehensive one-volume study on American army's role in World War I. Author of highly acclaimed studies of World War I, Woodward's mastery of the subject is based on thorough research in the archives, and a wide reading of the secondary sources. In twenty chapters, that range from "Birth of a modern army," "You're in the army now," "Over where?" to "American soldiers in north Russia and Siberia," the author offers a fresh insights and a captivating read. He joins an illustrious company of American military historians who have become synonymous with the history of World War I, including Edward Coffman, Allan Millett, Donald Smythe, Russell Weigley, and those earlier pioneers, Frederick Palmer and David Trask.
Woodward describes the enormous difficulties that confronted America's political and military leaders as they sought to create a modern army, which at the time was largely a frontier army, no army corps, army divisions or army brigades, and ranked 17th in the world. What the nation achieved, from its intervention in 1917 until the end of the war in November 1918, was phenomenal. By war's end, the United States had mobilized some 4 million men, of whom some 2 million were in Europe. Both on and off the battlefield, the consequences of an American army were immense. The presence of American soldiers (called doughboys in World War I) rejuvenated the Allies: the British writer Vera Brittain wrote, "Look! Look! Here are the Americans." The 2 million-man American Expeditionary Force (the AEF) made a crucial difference on the Allied side. The author reminds the reader, however, that the French and British helped train and transport the American soldiers, and supplied much of their artillery, tanks, airplanes, and other needs. To make sure that the voice of the doughboy is not overlooked, Woodward make good use of the first-hand war diaries, letters, and memoirs that are located in the World War I Survey Collection at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle Pennsylvania. If due credit is given to President Woodrow Wilson for his decision to adopt a selective national draft (conscription) instead of the traditional volunteer system, the author (who is not alone in his criticism) is highly critical of Wilson's decision to give General John J. Pershing almost absolute control over the Army in France.
In the author's opinion, this led to a dysfunctional chain of command between the War Department in Washington, and General Headquarters in France, which hampered the war effort. Both Wilson and his Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, encouraged Pershing to develop what was virtually a separate war department in France, which greatly complicated orderly planning. The seriousness of their failure, states Woodward, would have been obvious if the war had lasted another year. In 1919 the supply system would have collapsed.
Woodward reminds us that Pershing was a confident advocate of American exceptionalism who preached a doctrine of a uniquely American independent American force with its own front, supply lines, strategic objectives, and its own combat doctrine. Intense debate surrounds all of these points, but perhaps most controversial has been Pershing's stubborn adherence to prewar Army doctrine, which emphasized the superiority of the aggressive American infantryman armed with rifle and bayonet. However, on the Western Front, against the power of the German army and its sophisticated defenses, heavy artillery, machine guns, mortars, grenades, tanks, and aircraft, were the primary weapons. One result of adhering to outdated doctrine was that it often led to inadequate training, and heavy losses on the battlefield.
On September 26, 1918, only two weeks after the Battle of St. Mihiel, the AEF launched the Meuse-Argonne offensive. When it ended, 47 days later, the American army had fought its greatest battle in history. The author is scathing in his criticism, writing that it was an "extraordinary timetable, especially for a neophyte force with inadequate logistics." Over 25,000 Americans were killed in the Meuse-Argonne campaign, twice as many soldiers killed than at Okinawa in World War II. From the World War I Survey at Carlisle, Woodward cites from the diary of a soldier assigned to one of the grisly burial details: "In the Argonne they [bodies] were not hard to find. We carried the bodies to the grave, laid them side by side, removed the flag, covered them with GI blankets. After the grave was full the chaplain invoked a prayer and made a short sermon." When the war ended on November 11, 1918, over 1 million doughboys in 29 divisions had seen active operations. In 200 days of combat, the AEF suffered 320,000 casualties, of which 50,280 were killed in action.
On the centennial of World War I, Professor David Woodward's book is a "must read" for any American who curious about the Great War and how the American army fought that war. As we discuss and debate past, recent, and future military action in the Middle East and elsewhere that might be undertaken, it is of the utmost importance that we study the war in which our Army played a pivotal role on the global scene.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to the American War Effort 12 Dec. 2014
By Edgar F. Raines Jr. - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a first rate academic study of the American military participation in World War I. Woodward faults Woodrow Wilson's hands-off war leadership and the at times bumbling mobilization. He is particularly critical of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, the General Staff, and the War Department bureaus. General Peyton C. March gets high marks for forcefulness but also some share of the blame for the administrative confusion that sent barely trained men into combat.

General John J. Pershing had greater independence than most wartime commanders, but he proved notably lacking in his mastery of the tactics needed on the stalemated Western Front. He and his General Headquarters were more hindrance than help in insisting on "open warfare" training which was little more that a warmed over version of _Infantry Drill Regulations, 1911_. It was up to the various divisions to adapt to the conditions of a "stabilized front." Some, notably the 1st and 2d Divisions, did so. Others, the 77th and 26th Divisions, did less well.

On the other hand, Woodward gives Pershing high marks for his efforts to mold an independent American Army and not succumb to pressures to use Americans as replacements in British and French divisions. Often, Pershing's stand is represented as an example of American parochialism, but Woodward has examined British archives and argues that the Allies were no less parochial. The British government, he remarks at one point, had fought to the last Russian and almost the last Frenchman, and was now willing to fight to the last American to defend the empire.

Woodward gives a clear, concise summary of the field of American World War I studies as of the time of his writing. The only difficulty is that the field is markedly thin, both in terms of detailed studies of the mobilization and particularly of American participation in operations on the Western Front. For a social history of the war as experienced by the Doughboys, Edward M. Coffman's _The War To End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I_ (1968) still provides the best introduction. Hopefully, Woodward's excellent survey will stimulate further work in this under-developed field.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ... First World War" is a significant addition to the Great War series 5 Dec. 2014
By Kemp Morton - Published on
Professor David Woodward's "The American Army and the First World War" is a significant addition to the Great War series.This detailed account of the U.S.Armies participation and support of the Allied Campaign is a well documented history of the American contribution. The work describes the complex interplay between Allied forces and their governments.From Emperor,Kaiser,King and President down the chain of command to the troops in the field we hear their voices,fears and frustrations. The authors keen analysis and scholarly interpretation displays a thorough study and vast knowledge of the subject. We see how the "can do" attitude of the U.S. soldiers lifted the spirit of our Allies ,despite American deficiencies in transportation,training and equipment. President Wilson did not let his idealism of a more peaceful world interfere with his letting the generals run the war. The steadfast goal of General Pershing to develop a separate U.S. Army did not deter the Allies ultimate goal of victory over Germany. This volume should be on the suggested reading lists of the War Collage and the Command and General Staff College and required reading for all students of U.S. military history. The account of the transformation of the U.S.Army from a regional constabulary to a global fighting force,through various phases of reorganization is essential to our understanding the function of the Army in the modern world.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How the U.S. Army Fought the First World War 21 Mar. 2015
By Mostofizadeh - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Strongly recommended. This is an excellent account of the U.S. Army's rapid growth, in just over a year and a half, from essentially a constabulary force, with only limited modern weaponry, to become an increasingly important and effective member of the Allied coalition and a key factor in the defeat of the Central Powers. In doing so, the Army was able to overcome a whole host of challenges: shortages of modern equipment, lack of shipping, limited logistics, inadequate training, an outdated and wrong-headed tactical doctrine, President Wilson's obtuseness in dealing with his military leadership and the constant scheming of the British and French to use American soldiers piecemeal as replacements.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great narrative with so much insight on a period that ... 3 Mar. 2015
By Robert E Wilkinson - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A great narrative with so much insight on a period that needs to be studied in our times. The most interesting portions for me deal with the vast efforts to create a large, modern army and the great latitude that was given to the command staff in Europe. There are lessons here that the current and last administrations could learn a good deal from. I had the privilege of taking several of Dr. Woodward's classes and there are many times when I can hear his voice coming through the text.
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