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Rise and Fall of a Coalition: The Supreme War Council and Marshal Foch, 1917-1919

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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1917 was a period of crisis for the Anglo-French Coalition. A social revolution forced Russia to withdraw from the Great War, the French Army was consumed by mutinies, and operations throughout France and Italy remained disjointed and unable to break the stalemate at the front. To resolve the issue, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George established the Supreme War Council to develop a unified strategy for the Coalition and end the war with Germany. Many historians argue that the Supreme War Council failed to provide the effective command structure needed by the coalition. The premise of this paper, however, is that the Supreme War Council did not fail in developing unified command, rather that it enabled development of a theater strategic approach. Members of the Supreme War Council wanted to provide strategy, but the council became overwhelmed with issues concerning shipping, material, and resources. Unable to provide the necessary strategic direction, a German Offensive in March 1918 brought further calamity. As a result, the council appointed Ferdinand Foch as the Supreme Allied Commander charging him with command and formulation of theater strategy in France and Italy. Foch halted the German offensive, and the Supreme War council focused on prioritizing and coordinating resources needed by the operational artists to regain the initiative. Framing and resourcing these problems enabled Foch to orchestrate an effective a coalition counter-offensive that brought Germany to the negotiating table. When pre-armistice negotiations began in 1918, political influence and national interests began to take priority over coalition strategic objectives. Following the signing of the armistice and the occupation of the Rhineland, immense political influence and diverging national interests degraded the coalition. By 1923 deteriorating Franco-German relations caused by harsh reparations brought about the American premature withdrawal from the Rhineland.

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2016,25 May 2017



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