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Borrowed Soldiers

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BerichtGeplaatst: 10 Mei 2008 19:09    Onderwerp: Borrowed Soldiers Reageer met quote

Dissertation leads to World War I book

An Annapolis historian's new book details the experiences of two American units that were put under British command in World War I, despite opposition by the United States' top military officer, Gen. John J. Pershing.
Mitchell A. Yockelson, who teaches at the Naval Academy, wrote in "Borrowed Soldiers" about the activation of National Guard units and their deployment as the 27th and 30th divisions.

"Initially, it was a disappointment to these guys," Dr. Yockelson said in an interview of what it was like for soldiers placed under the British Army. "But in the end, there was this pride that they were the two American divisions that helped break the Hindenburg Line. They took pride in doing something unique."

Pershing wanted to keep American troops separate from Allied forces for two reasons, Dr. Yockelson said.

He wanted the United States to make a big showing in the war, so that it would have a big say in shaping the post-war world. Also, he was a veteran of the Plains, where he commanded African

American or "Buffalo" soldiers and appreciated the open fighting.

Pershing hated the way the European allies had spent three years bogged down in trench warfare, and was determined it wouldn't happen to the Americans.

"Pershing was fearful that if his own army adopted trench warfare, it would also lose the offensive spirit," Dr. Yockelson wrote. "He envisioned aggressive movement and pursuit to force the enemy into the open. His thinking drew from experiences of the old frontier army during the Indian wars, when part of the infantry consisted of expert marksmen and scouts."

Of course, the Indians that Pershing had faced on the Plains didn't have machine guns and gas - chlorine, phosgene and mustard, three gases most often used by Germans and Allies; and the high-strung Pershing was about to get a lesson in modern warfare.

In the last year of fighting, for example, the Germans launched their 1918 spring offensive March 21 on the Western Front, "a foggy Thursday morning," Dr. Yockelson wrote.

"The Germans fired 3.2 million (artillery) shells on the first day, one third of which contained gas," Dr. Yockelson wrote.

The war broke out in 1914, and the United States didn't enter the fray until 1917.

The 27th and 30th divisions arrived in the summer of 1918 and helped provide the spark that brought fighting to an end in November of that year.

The British and French always called for "amalgamation," or the blending of their armies, while the United States preferred to go it alone.

In the end, Dr. Yockelson said, the United States learned that winning modern wars requires coalition forces, and no one country can win a major war without strong allies.

Dr. Yockelson said that World War I, which left an estimated 20 million people dead, is studied widely in Europe but not in the United States.

American forces were engaged in fighting for only a short time, he said, and the war was far away. Also, World War II came along only two decades later and overshadowed the war that was supposed to have made the world safe for democracy.

"Borrowed Soldiers," published by the University of Oklahoma Press, started out as Dr. Yockelson's doctoral dissertation at Cranfield University in England. He also holds degrees from Frostburg State University and George Mason University.

Dr. Yockelson, 46, lives off Bestgate Road near Annapolis. He teaches the history of the Navy and Marine Corps at the Naval Academy, but his "day job," he said, is working as an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. He specializes in recovering stolen documents.

Dr. Yockelson's work on the 27th and 30th divisions is the first major study of these distinguished military units. His book contains a foreword by former Ambassador John S.D. Eisenhower, who is the son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and a resident of the Eastern Shore.

"Without making arbitrary judgments, Yockelson has brought to light material too long neglected by most students of the First World War," Mr. Eisenhower wrote. "His painstaking research makes fascinating reading for anyone who wants to know the real facts about America's first modern foreign war."

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