Where: The Hampton Inn

Cost: $115.00 for 4 session(s)

Type: In Person


Instructor: Richard A. Cosgrove, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona

1918 and the End of the Great War

Few individuals, civilian or military, anticipated an end to the War in this year. Russia had dropped out of the War in 1917, so the German army had transferred many of its divisions from the Eastern to the Western front. At the beginning of the year, therefore, the Germans enjoyed a numerical advantage over the Allies. In the spring of 1917 the French undertook offensives; In the fall it was the British. All of them had failed. American entry into the War, thought to occur in July, presented the Germans with a nightmare because the United States had an unending supply of troops to enter the War. General Ludendorff believed that he must launch a new offensive to end the War. In the spring of 1918 Germany sustained a number of offensives from March through July. Despite individual victories of great magnitude, the Germans did not gain the advantages they sought. In the summer of 1918 the Allies, now including the Americans, turned the tide with victory after victory. By September the German High Command concluded that the War was lost and started to seek an armistice. On Nov 11, at 11:00 am, the gunfire ceased. The Great War had ended.

Week 1: The Great Gamble
Circumstances, especially the arrival of American soldiers, made the German leadership conclude that they must win the War before the Americans could make a difference. Just as the Germans had gambled at the outset of the War in 1914 that the Schlieffen Plan would secure victory, now in 1918, they gambled that their attacks would force the Allies to seek peace. Their plans came close to success but did not prevail. By July the Germans had to face the consequences of their failure.

Week 2: The Hundred Days
As Germany’s resources waned, the strength of the Allies rose dramatically. As the ability of the Germans to defend ebbed, the Allies won victory after victory. By the end of September, the German High Command was forced to conclude that although it could still defend, it could not win. Fears of domestic revolution added to the concerns of German authorities. As a result, seeking an armistice seemed the only alternative.

Week 3: The Great Flu
Early in 1918 a new, deadly strain of flu started perhaps the greatest pandemic in human history. In 18 months the flu killed more people than those who died in the War. It struck down the young rather than the very young and the very old. Masses of soldiers together in military camps provided the perfect opportunity for the flu to strike its victims. The flu was a global phenomenon that attacked populations in every part of the world. The random nature of who lived, who died and who escaped the contagion altogether added to the nightmare.

Week 4: The Armistice
By the fall of 1918 Germany was not only losing its own War, but its allies were also looking to end the fighting with or without the Germans. Austria-Hungary endured domestic tumult as the Hapsburgs passed into history. The same fate also happened to the Ottoman Empire. When Bulgaria put out peace feelers, Germany had little choice but to follow as well. Throughout October Germany negotiated primarily with the United States for a truce based on president Wilson’s Fourteen Points. On November 9 Germany was declared a republic and the Kaiser abdicated. The new government signed the armistice agreement on November 11. The guns went silent at last.

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