Under Four Flags for France - Foreword

This book has been published at the suggestion of an officer of the United States Army who I met recently in Europe. A keen student of the world war, he had followed its phases in the newspapers and had delved liberally in the imposing array of war books. But when he reached France, he found that he lacked perspective. Focussed on the great events, public attention has been moved daily to different episodes in the far-flung areas of conflict, until the mental picture has become kaleidoscopic.
   The super-strategy of Germany was based on a plan to extend her frontier straight across France to the mouth of the Seine. Hinged on Metz, her armies were to carry her frontier posts outward across Luxembourg and Belgium and, in an impressive sweep, swing the line south to embrace all of northern France. The French Army was to be overwhelmed in the process, and the capture of Paris would have been the logical result.
   Unprepared for this violation of neutral territory, Joffre met super-strategy with simple strategy and super-tactics which modified the invasion and wrecked all chances of a German victory and the bid for world dominance. From the outset, the operations on the Western front must be approached as a prolonged battle with every unit consolidated in the general plan. Everyone has read of definite actions in certain sectors, while brilliant phases, on which the developments of the campaign were based, have frequently been unrecorded.

Marshall Joffre and General Pershing

   On the great battlefield outlined by the virtues and failures of Joffre's strategy, the United States Army is taking its place. A comprehensive story of the unified efforts of the composite armies to limit the German invasion and push it back to the frontier is necessary for many readers who desire to follow their own army in the field with a freshened memory and a coherent record of the events which have built up existing conditions. This I have endeavoured to present.
   The Marne, Ypres, Verdun, are household words. Nancy, Lassigny, the Ancre Valley, and the Scarpe are among the vital French battles that have escaped general attention. Having had a fortunate opportunity to follow the recession of the German flood from the Aisne northward in successive efforts to flow around the French flank, on the Oise, above the Somme, across south and north Artois, and finally from Lille and Belgium, to reach the coveted coast, I have perhaps been able to supply links necessary for a complete understanding of the greatest of French efforts when there were no correspondents and the most rigid censorship existed.
   In a nascent history well-known episodes must take their place to complete the story. But the basis of these pages is personal observation widened by a collection of facts gathered for three years from unusual sources including bivouacs, hospitals, prisoner convoys, and neutral points close to the enemy's frontier, where conditions in Belgium and the German side have added to the store. In these chapters I have tried to give a concise story of the war, tinged with human interest and so arranged that its ramifications are reduced to a straightforward account of the achievements of France and her Allies under the master hand of Joffre, whose policy endures.
   The closing pages were outlined under the influence of two inspiring challenges to Teutonic fury; the thunder of the new British guns in Belgium, and the American buglers sounding "Taps".
George C Musgrave
New York 1918

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Chapter 1