Games of World War I

 

 

 

For the next two years this blog will be focusing on the US role in World War I.  As faithful readers know I like to play games based on historical conflicts.  Last week I enjoyed reading two posts on World War I board games and World War I computer games.  Both posts were featured at the The Wargamer.  The post on board World War I games was written by Bill Gray:

Decision Games – Folio games series where in general you receive a 17 x 22” map, 100 counters and two four page rule books. The game is played at brigade level and each hex is three miles. Titles include Lettow-Vorbeck in East Africa, Loos the Big Push, Vimy Ridge, Meuse-Argonne, Massuria, Tannenburg, Suez 1916 and Gaza 1917. The price is $19.95 US each or $12.95 for Lettow-Vorbeck.

Decision Games – Over the Top! This is really a redo of the older SPI game Great War in the East Quad, but with new battles to include the Brusilov Offensive, Riga 1917, St Mihiel 1918 and Damascas 1918. The game is $50.00 US and contains rules, two 34 x 22“ maps and 560 counters.

Decision Games/SPW – Die Weltkrieg (the World War) This is not a single game but a series of hyper detailed, operational level games each with individual scenarios as well as a complete campaign game. Graphics for both maps and counters are spectacular and unique. The details for one of the games, The Eastern Front 1914 – 1917, include 1680 backprinted counters, four 34 x 22” maps, two 17 x 11” maps with a scale of 20 km per hex, four days per turn and brigade or division level units, all for $119.95 US. The rest of the series counts Tannenburg Intro Game ($19.95), Ottoman Front ($79.95), Western Front ($69.95), Italian Front ($49.95), the Grand Campaign (adds logistics and production, $79.95) and The Complete Series (all of the above, $399.75). Most games have updated editions, and yes, you can combine all the games into a single monster simulation.

GMT – 1914 – Offensive a outrance (Attack to excess) This monster game covers the Marne Campaign and Schlieffen Plan, costs $115.00 US and contains seven and ½ counter sheets and three full color map sheets. Scale is 8 km per hex, two to four days per turn with division and brigade size units. A sister game by GMT, 1914 – Twilight in the East, is currently out of print but still listed on the GMT Website.

Go here to read the rest.  The post on computer World War I games was written by James Cobb:

Hubert Cater of Fury Software and Battlefront entered the fray in 2010. The base game is derived from the popular Strategic Command series with its hallmarks: terrain is bland but functional while the 3D units are entertaining. The normal IGO/UGO turn system is here with clicks ordering movement and combat. A row of buttons gives entree to research, diplomacy and the like. Events, different weapons and even more emphasis on national morale set this game apart from its World War II stablemates.

wwiscwwi

German forces mass for the 1918 offensive.

The British blockade eats away at Central Power morale while research allows simple growth in air, tank, infantry and gas tactics. Creating havoc to British supplies is made easier by clear convoy routes and silent sub modes. Domestic policy is handles abstractly. How players react to events can change the complexion of the game. The first campaign covers the entire war while adding two shorter campaigns, seven operations and even a World War II campaign. The 2012 expansion Breakthrough gibes spice to the game by providing am alternative 1914 campaign twist, a look at the First Balkan War 1912-1913 and the Franco-Prussian War, nineteen more operations and battles covering all theatres of the conflict. This game proved the breadth of the war could be captured with fairly simple mechanics. Available from Battlefront.com.

(more…)

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

February 3, 1917: The US Breaks Diplomatic Relations With Germany

 

 

Germany’s resumption on January 31, 1917 of unrestricted submarine warfare made war with the US inevitable.  President Wilson recognized this fact on February 3, 1917 by advising a supportive Congress that the US had broken diplomatic relations with Germany: (more…)

Published in: on February 3, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

January 31, 1917: Germany Announces the Resumption of Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

 

In a letter dated January 31, 1917 the German ambassador to the United States,  Count Johann von Bernstorff, informed Robert Lansing, the US Secretary of State, that Germany was resuming unrestricted submarine warfare: (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Theodore Roosevelt and The Curse of Meroz

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt had long been a harsh critic of the neutrality policy of the Wilson administration.  On January 29, 1917 he gave a memorable response to the January 22, 1917 speech to the Senate of President Wilson in which Wilson called for Peace Without Victory:

“President Wilson has announced himself in favor of peace without victory, and now he has declared himself against universal service-that is against all efficient preparedness by the United States.

Peace without victory is the natural ideal of the man too proud to fight.

When fear of the German submarine next moves President Wilson to declare for “peace without victory” between the tortured Belgians and their cruel oppressors and task masters;  when such fear next moves him to utter the shameful untruth that each side is fighting for the same things, and to declare for neutrality between wrong and right;  let him think of the prophetess Deborah who, when Sisera mightily oppressed the children of Israel with his chariots of iron, and when the people of Meroz stood neutral between the oppressed and their oppressors, sang of them:

 

 

“Curse ye Meroz, sang the angel of the  Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord against the wrongdoings of the mighty.”” 

Published in: on January 23, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt and The Curse of Meroz  
Tags: , , , ,

January 22, 1917: Peace Without Victory

screen-shot-2010-10-12-at-6_08_29-am1

 

The United States was two months from entering the Great War when President Wilson addressed the Senate a century ago, calling for Peace Without Victory and laying out the beginnings of what would eventually be his Fourteen Points as the basis of peace:

Gentlemen of the Senate:

On the 18th of December last, I addressed an identical note to the governments of the nations now at war requesting them to state, more definitely than they had yet been stated by either group of belligerents, the terms upon which they would deem it possible to make peace.  I spoke on behalf of humanity and of the rights of all neutral nations like our own, many of whose most vital interests the war puts in constant jeopardy.

The Central Powers united in a reply which state merely that they were ready to meet their antagonists in conference to discuss terms of peace.  The Entente powers have replied much more definitely and have stated, in general terms, indeed, but with sufficient definiteness to imply details, the arrangements, guarantees, and acts of reparation which they deem to be the indispensable conditions of a satisfactory settlement.  We are that much nearer a definite discussion of the peace which shall end the present war.  We are that much nearer the definite discussion of the international concert which must thereafter hold the world at peace.

In every discussion of peace that must end this war, it is taken for granted that the peace must be followed by some definite concert of power which will make it virtually impossible that any such catastrophe should ever overwhelm us again.  Every love of mankind, every sane and thoughtful man must take that for granted.

(more…)

Published in: on January 22, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 22, 1917: Peace Without Victory  
Tags: ,

January 11, 1917: Zimmermann Telegram Sent

 

 

I assume that there must be a greater example of diplomatic folly than the Zimmermann Telegram, but I cannot think of it at the moment.  Believing that the entry of the US into the Great War was inevitable with the planned resumption by Germany of unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping, the German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann on January 11, 1917 sent the following telegram in code to the German ambassador to Mexico Heinrich von Eckardt:

“We intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. You will inform the President of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves. Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.” Signed, ZIMMERMANN

The sheer madness of this cannot be overstated.  Mexico was still in the throes of the Mexican Revolution and posed no threat to the US.  The US had recently demonstrated that it could dispatch military forces into Mexico with impunity.  Threatening the physical integrity of the US converted a far off European conflict into a direct threat against the US.  If the US did intervene in the Great War, an additional conflict with Mexico would barely resister in regard to the immense military mobilization that the US would undergo.

 

(more…)

Published in: on January 11, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , ,

October 8, 1918: Alvin C. York Renders Unto Caesar

 

 

 

13And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and of the Herodians; that they should catch him in his words. 14Who coming, say to him: Master, we know that thou art a true speaker, and carest not for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar; or shall we not give it? 15Who knowing their wiliness, saith to them: Why tempt you me? bring me a penny that I may see it. 16And they brought it him. And he saith to them: Whose is this image and inscription? They say to him, Caesar’s. 17And Jesus answering, said to them: Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Mark 12:  13-17

So you see my religion and my experience…told me not to go to war, and the memory of my ancestors…told me to get my gun and go fight. I didn’t know what to do. I’m telling you there was a war going on inside me, and I didn’t know which side to lean to. I was a heap bothered. It is a most awful thing when the wishes of your God and your country…get mixed up and go against each other. One moment I would make up my mind to follow God, and the next I would hesitate and almost make up my mind to follow Uncle Sam. Then I wouldn’t know which to follow or what to do. I wanted to follow both but I couldn’t. They were opposite. I wanted to be a good Christian and a good American too.

Alvin C. York

Drafted into the Army, serving in the All American division, Alvin C. York had a moral quandary.  A crack shot from years of hunting to feed his poverty stricken family in the hills of Tennessee, he was also a fervent Christian.  He loved his country but took literally the Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”.  Requesting a ten day leave to go home, which was granted, he prayed fervently to God for an answer to his dilemma.

“As I prayed there alone, a great peace kind of come into my soul and a great calm come over me, and I received my assurance. He heard my prayer and He come to me on the mountainside. I didn’t see Him, of course, but he was there just the same. I knowed he was there. He understood that I didn’t want to be a fighter or a killing man, that I didn’t want to go to war to hurt nobody nohow. And yet I wanted to do what my country wanted me to do. I wanted to serve God and my country, too. He understood all of this. He seen right inside of me, and He knowed I had been troubled and worried, not because I was afraid, but because I put Him first, even before my country, and I only wanted to do what would please Him.”

So He took pity on me and He gave me the assurance I needed. I didn’t understand everything. I didn’t understand how He could let me go to war and even kill and yet not hold it against me. I didn’t even want to understand. It was His will and that was enough for me. So at last I begun to see the light. I begun to understand that no matter what a man is forced to do, so long as he is right in his own soul he remains a righteous man. I knowed I would go to war. I knowed I would be protected from all harm, and that so long as I believed in Him He would not allow even a hair on my head to be harmed.”

In the fall of 1918, York’s regiment participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the largest American operation of the war.  On October 8, 1918, York’s regiment took part in an attack to seize German positions along the Decauville rail-line north of Chatel-Chehery, France.  The attack encountered savage German resistance as York noted in his diary:

The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from… And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley] and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.

Sergeant Bernard Early was ordered to take 16 men including York and work his way around the German position to take out the machine guns.  Early and his men overran a German headquarters, when German machine guns opened up killing six of the Americans, and wounding three others, including Sergeant Early.  York, the reluctant soldier, now found himself in command of the remaining seven soldiers.

And those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful. And the Germans were yelling orders. You never heard such a racket in all of your life. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush… As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting… All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had. (more…)

Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 8, 1918: Alvin C. York Renders Unto Caesar  
Tags: ,

Fearless Freddie Dies

Frederick_Funston_001

All but forgotten today, Major General Frederick Funston would almost certainly would have led the American Expeditionary Force in World War I if he had not died at age 51 of a heart attack on February 19, 1917.  Nicknamed “Fearless Freddie” he was perhaps the most famous American soldier between the Civil War and World War I.  He had a very unique career.  Always in ill health, he was a physically small man, 5 foot, 5 inches, and throughout his life never weighed more than 120 pounds.  After failing an admissions test to West Point in 1884 he pursued a career in botany.  Tiring of the quiet life he enlisted in the Cuban Revolutionary Army fighting against Spain.  Contracting malaria his weight fell to an alarming 95 pounds and he was granted medical leave in the United States.

After the declaration of war against Spain he was commissioned colonel of the 20th Kansas Infantry.  Fighting against the Filipino Insurrection, he became a national hero by capturing the Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo.  A separate action earned him a Medal of Honor.  Playing a leading role in putting down the Insurrection, Funston came under attack by critics for the severe measures he took.  The pen of Mark Twain was enlisted against him:

 

If this Funstonian boom continues, Funstonism will presently affect the army. In fact, this has already happened. There are weak-headed and weak-principled officers in all armies, and these

are always ready to imitate successful notoriety-breeding methods, let them be good or bad. The fact that Funston has achieved notoriety by paralyzing the universe with a fresh and hideous

idea, is sufficient for this kind—they will call that hand if they can, and go it one better when the chance offers. Funston’s example has bred many imitators, and many ghastly additions to

our history: the torturing of Filipinos by the awful “watercure,” for instance, to make them confess—^what? Truth? Or lies ? How can one know which it is they are telling ? For under

unendurable pain a man confesses anything that is required of him, true or false, and his evidence is worthless. Yet upon such evidence American officers have actually—but you know about

those atrocities which the War Office has been hiding a year or two; and about General Smith’s now world-celebrated order of massacre—thus summarized by the press from Major Waller’s

testimony:

“Kill and burn—this is no time to take prisoners—the more you kill and burn, the better—Kill all above the age of ten—make Samar a howling

wilderness!

 

Funston was completely unrepentant:

I personally strung up thirty-five Filipinos without trial, so what was all the fuss over Waller’s ‘dispatching’ a few ‘treacherous savages’? If there had been more Smiths and Wallers, the war would have been over long ago. Impromptu domestic hanging might also hasten the end of the war. For starters, all Americans who had recently petitioned Congress to sue for peace in the Philippines should be dragged out of their homes and lynched. (more…)

Published in: on August 21, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Fearless Freddie Dies  
Tags: ,

Winston Churchill: July 4, 1918

churchill-great-war-375x500

 

 

A speech given by the half-American Winston Churchill at a celebration of the Fourth of July at the city of Westminster, England on July 4, 1918:

 

We are, as the Chairman has stated, met here to-day in the City of Westminster to celebrate the hundred and forty-second anniversary of American Independence. We are met also, as he has reminded you, as brothers in arms, facing together grave injuries and perils, and passing through a period of exceptional anxiety and suffering. Therefore we seek to draw from the past history of our race inspiration and encouragement which will cheer our hearts and fortify and purify our resolution and our comradeship. A great harmony exists between the Declaration of Independence and all we are fighting for now. A similar harmony exists between the principles of that Declaration and what the British Empire has wished to stand for and has at last achieved, not only here at home, but in the great self-governing Dominions through the world. The Declaration of Independence is not only an American document; it follows on Magna Charta and the Petition of Right as the third of the great title deeds on which the liberties of the English-speaking race are founded. By it we lost an Empire, but by it we also preserved an Empire. By applying these principles and learning this lesson we have maintained unbroken communion with those powerful Commonwealths which our children have founded and have developed beyond the seas, and which, in this time of stress, have rallied spontaneously to our aid. The political conceptions embodied in the Declaration of Independence are the same as those which were consistently expressed at the time by Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke and by many others who had in turn received them from John Hampden and Algernon Sidney. They spring from the same source; they come from the same well of practical truth, and that well, ladies and gentlemen, is here, by the banks of the Thames in this famous Island, which we have guarded all these years, and which is the birthplace and the cradle of the British and the American race. It is English wisdom, it is that peculiar political sagacity and sense of practical truth, which animates the great document in the minds of all Americans to-day. Wherever men seek to frame polities or constitutions which are intended to safeguard the citizen, be he rich or be he poor, on the one hand from the shame of despotism, on the other from the misery of anarchy, which are devised to combine personal liberty with respect for law and love of country — wherever these desires are sincerely before the makers of constitutions or laws, it is to this original inspiration, this inspiration which was the product of English soil, which was the outcome of the Anglo-Saxon mind, that they will inevitably be drawn. (more…)

Published in: on July 6, 2016 at 6:23 pm  Comments Off on Winston Churchill: July 4, 1918  
Tags: , ,

First Day of the Somme

Enemy superiority is so great that we are not in a position either to fix their forces in position or to prevent them from launching an offensive elsewhere. We just do not have the troops…. We cannot prevail in a second battle of the Somme with our men; they cannot achieve that any more.

Generalleutnant Georg von Fuchs, January 20, 1917

http://the-american-catholic.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wpembed/../../../wp-embed.js

One hundred years ago the British Army suffered the deadliest day in its long history.  Sixty thousand casualties on the first day of the 141-day battle of the Somme, twenty thousand of them killed.  Britain reeled from the casualties they incurred on the Somme, which would total in excess of half a million men.  The German Army however also reeled from the casualties they sustained, the British having commenced the grim, grinding war of attrition that would ultimately cause the German Army to be defeated in 1918.

In World War I the British managed the considerable feat of raising a mass army for the first time in their history, bringing rapidly online new technology of which tanks and fighter planes and bombers were only three examples, and slugging it out with the finest army on Earth. Mistakes were not uncommon in this process, sometimes grave ones, but they learned all the time and by the end of the War had a military force that was able to be the spearhead of the Hundred Days Offensive that broke the German Army in 1918.

I think Douglas Haig, the British Commander in Chief on the Western Front from 1915-1918, has been badly maligned. Portrayed as a blundering cavalry officer, he was actually an enthusiast for new technology, especially tanks. Considered a completely callous butcher he was anything but. Early in the War his staff had to stop him from visiting hospitals because the sight of wounded and dying British soldiers was too much for him emotionally. When a painter came to his headquarters to do an official portrait of him, he told him to paint the common soldiers instead, saying that they were the ones saving the world and they were dying every day while doing it. He refused to take a viscountcy from the British government after the War, resisting even lobbying from the King, until financial assistance was approved for demobilized soldiers. Without his stand, it is quite possible that the former soldiers would have been left to private charity. He spent the rest of his life helping the men who had served under him and forming the veteran’s organization, the British Legion, of which he was President until his death. When he died at 66 in 1928 endless lines of his veterans filed by his coffin to pay their last respects. British Legion halls almost always had a picture of Haig on the wall.

(more…)

Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,