Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

Given how much longer it takes to bring Germany down the more likely Versailles ITL is going to be worse for the Germans but the will to hold Germany to it will go away as per OTL and lead to an even more pissed off Germany ITL.
if Versailles went any worse, would they even be able to strike back anyway?

The whole reason Germany accepted Versailles is because the Army flat told the new civilian government that they couldn't continue to fight, and the allies (buyoed by american troops) could.

IF things continue to go down the crapper for the Americans, the Entente may be forced to offer better terms if only because they can't force worse on germany and Austria

I'd have to find the passage again, but I always got the impression since early on germany comes out of the war surprisingly well off given the context.
if Versailles went any worse, would they even be able to strike back anyway?

The whole reason Germany accepted Versailles is because the Army flat told the new civilian government that they couldn't continue to fight, and the allies (buyoed by american troops) could.
True, but at the same time, if the Army feels the peace would be worse then attempting to fight with those odds, well.....
Part 2-10 Loss of Innocence
…Michel began at 4:30 in the morning with a bombardment on the assault sector followed 5 minutes later by a general bombardment along a 40 mile stretch of British lines. 3.7 million shells were fired in five hours and a coating of gas and smoke covered the front lines. Under this cover stormtroopers equipped with submachine guns, light machine guns, flamethrowers, grenades and cut down artillery pieces infiltrated the British front lines.

At 9:30 the assault began and the attackers quickly isolated and reduced the frontline strongpoints of the British had established. Thick fog and the cover of smoke and gas aided them in this task even as it deprived them of the air support they had been planned The British had been warned by deserters and their reconnaissance but were unprepared for the sheer scale of the attack and brutal efficiency of the tactics developed by the Russians and perfected by the Germans. A forty-mile breach had been torn in British lines by the end of the day and the 63rd British division had been cut off in the Flesquires Salient.

General Gough in command of the British forces ordered a fighting retreat to the Somme to allow reinforcements to arrive. Many units were cut off in the forward sections of the British defenses and were unable to do so, some of these surrendered quickly while others fought until the last.

The second day of the fighting saw the British retreat continue. However the fast-moving nature of the assault saw command and control break down, becoming a battle of platoons, companies and battalions, rather than of regiments, brigades and divisions. A handful of cut off British units again made heroic stands to delay the Germans, while more surrendered. By the end of the day the British had reached and withdrew behind the Somme.

On the third day the Germans were able to force the Somme, taking advantage of continued low visibility to do so. However they could go no farther, they had marched far and supplies had to be carried over the wasteland of the 1916 Battle of the Somme and the areas devastated in Operation Alberich. Possible worse they were slowed by the capture of British supply depots, filled with food and luxuries that were irresistible to the starving and poorly treated Germans.

The Fourth day saw minimal movement as German logistics caught up and both sides rebuilt the command and control that had dissolved earlier in the campaign. The biggest development was the surrender of the British 63rd Division in the Flesquires pocket. Haig, the commander of all British forces, was adamant that French reinforcements were necessary and met with his French counterpart Petain.

Petain promised all the reinforcements he could spare; however his superiors were adamant that Paris could not be risked. If the German advance continued too much, he would fall back to Beauvis to protect Paris. Doing so would leave Haig’s flanks open and force the BEF to withdraw to the channel ports. Haig stated that the British backs were to the wall, and that if Amiens did not hold all could be lost and ordered his subordinates to do all in their power to hold while he lobbied for more aid.

The next three days saw the British, and newly arrived French reinforcements trade space for time, stubbornly fighting all the while in defense of Amiens and its vital railroad junction. Ground was given on the flanks to shore up the center and tanks and air support used to harry the Germans at every opportunity. Despite that the Germans advanced within 6 miles of Amiens a week into the offensive. It was here Ludendorff made his first fatal mistake.

Rather than continue to attack towards Amiens on the 30th he ordered an attack on Arras on the northern flank of the assault. The attack was successful after two days, however it and a follow-on attack on the second through fourth of April to the South sapped German strength to take ground that was irrelevant to the goal of the offensive.

Ludendorff decided to renew the attack on Amiens on the 5th. By that time the British had been reinforced and the going was much tougher for the Germans. They managed to advance two miles in three days before British counterattacks brought them to a halt. Ludendorff attempted minor offensives on the 8th and 9th elsewhere to renew the momentum, but the Entente lines had stabilized and he called off the attacks.

Here Ludendorff made his second mistake. He did not renew the offensive on Amiens with his massive reserves, nor attempted to use his abundance of heavy artillery to neutralize the railways of the city. Instead he decided to use his forces proximity to Amiens to invite British counterattacks which he would bleed to death.

Instead Ludendorff planned a new set of offensives, on against the British to threaten Hazebrouk and one against the French. The two attacks would draw off Entente reserves for the decisive attack he would make to break British lines and cut off the BEF in Flanders…

…Michael and its immediate follow-ons cost the Germans 240,000 casualties. In exchange they had taken 115,000 prisoners, with 90,000 additional British casualties and 80,000 French. 1800 artillery pieces were taken and 250 tanks were captured or destroyed. Almost 1500 square miles of territory were captured.

However it was ultimately a strategic draw. The Entente could replace the material losses fairly easily, and the Americans would replace the manpower in time. The German losses were concentrated in their elite troops, and the loss of those highly trained and motivated forces hurt the Germans more than simple numbers would indicate…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014

Okay so bonus update due to my "vacation". Not as good as I'd like, but yesterday was pure hell for me, even if I only had one ballot jam to deal with
Part 2-11 Loss of Innocence
…On April 11th the Germans started a bombardment on a line between Armentieres and Festubert. After just under a day the bombardment stopped and the Germans launched a massive assault on the British 1st Army codenamed Georgette. The 1st Army consisted of a number of worn out formations holding a relatively quiet sector of the front and was not prepared for a major assault.

Three British divisions were shattered in the initial assault by eight German ones. First Army commander Horne counterattacked with his reserves, including the Portuguese expeditionary Corps on the 13th, but the counterattack was shattered. By the Fourteenth the Germans had advanced twelve miles before reserves transferred from the Second Army stopped them.

This transfer was just in time for a second prong of the German attack to be launched against Second Army on the fourteenth. The Germans advanced 3 miles on a five-mile front north of Armentieres and recaptured the Messines ridge by the 15th.

At this point the situation was desperate. Marshal Haig recognized his troubles, he needed to hold the railway center at Hazebrouk, otherwise his forces could not be supplied and would be overwhelmed or forced to withdraw to the channel ports. He could not however make a withdrawal to the South of Hazebrouk to free up troops, as the critical coal mines of Bethune were located in that sector, while their loss would not lead to immediate defeat, it would cripple the French war effort in the longer term. Haig therefore gave his famous “backs to the wall” order on the 15th forbidding retreat without higher orders. At the same time he ordered second army to shorten its lines near Ypres to free up reserves, as well as demanding the Belgians shorten their own lines to the north.

On the 16th Ludendorff launched simultaneous attacks at the south and center of his salient, targeting Hazebrouk and Bailleul respectively. The latter was successful, but the former faced stiff resistance from British and Commonwealth troops. After three days the defenders had been forced to give ground, but were unbroken, if barely. Rather than keep attacking the British strong points head on Ludendorff ended the attack to fight elsewhere where the enemy were weaker.

On the 21st Ludendorff launched a three-pronged attack, aimed at Bethune, and encircling Ypres from the north at and south. The attack on Bethune was called off after a day after facing stiff resistance. The other attacks went better and after three days Ypres was abandoned by the British rather than risk their forces being encircled.

On the 26th Ludendorff again attempted to take Hazebrouk, attacking towards Godewaersvelde to threaten it from the north. However by this point Ferdinand Foch had become the Supreme Entente Commander and sent French divisions to Flanders. The Fresh divisions stopped the Germans short of their goal after two days.

The last German assault as part of Georgette occurred on the 30th. Attempting to renew the momentum they attacked the town of Poperinghe and managed to capture it. Stiff resistance behind the town persuaded them that they could go no further after the end of the day.

Instead Ludendorff decided that his next move would be as he planned a large offensive against the French to tie up French reserves before moving on to a decisive attack on the British…

…Georgette ultimately failed its goal of taking Hazebrouk and its stretch goal of shattering the British Army to allow an attack on the channel ports. The reason for this can be blamed on Ludendorff’s indecision. Had he continued the attacks on Hazebrouk he would have very likely taken the critical supply center there and totally unhinged the British positions, forcing them to withdraw to the Channel Ports and leaving a massive gap in the Entente lines to exploit. The forces defending the town had been exhausted by both assaults and committing more German reserves would have probably broken them. A similar push could have taken Bethune and crippled the French war effort there.

In general Georgette saw the beginning of a pattern of flaws in Ludendorff’s strategy, he would expend considerable manpower to achieve a breakthrough in the front, make great gains, then get cold feet when the attack stalled. Rather than expend more manpower to take a strategic objective from exhausted Entente troops he would switch to a different easier target to repeat the success of his earlier breakthrough elsewhere…

…Georgette inflicted casualties of 175,000 on the Entente, 40,000 French, 15,000 Belgians, 15,000 Portuguese and 105,000 British with the loss of 150 guns, whereas the Germans took 105,000 casualties. German casualties had a significantly lower proportion being unrecoverable, captured and deceased, than Entente casualties, but like in Michael were concentrated in the elite Stormtrooper units whose training and experience was difficult to replace…

…The Germans had penetrated 15 miles into Entente lines and forced considerable withdrawals on the extreme end of the front. Over half of the Belgian territory remaining in Entente hands was lost from the battle or in line shortening withdrawals. Despite this the attack was strategically indecisive, the Germans did not follow up on the seizure of key territory and failed to achieve any immediately decisive objectives…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014
Part 2-12 Loss of Innocence
…On May 26th the Germans began a typical Firewall bombardment against Entente troops near the Aisne River. For the first time in the spring the German Offensive, codenamed Blücher-Yorck after two famous Prussian Generals of the Napoleonic Wars, was aimed at the French. Among the defenders however was a corps of the BEF, refitting after taking heavy losses during Michael. The German goal was to draw off the remaining Entente reserves so that the planned Hagen offensive could shatter the BEF in Flanders.

18 Stormtrooper divisions launched an assault following a bombardment by 4,000 guns and a gas attack. Within 6 hours the Germans smashed 10 Entente divisions and tore a 30 mile hole in the Entente lines. By the end of the day the Germans had crossed the River Vesle, penetrated 12 miles into the Entente Rear and captured 50,000 men and 800 guns.

The first of five available American divisions went into action two days later as part of the deployment of reserves to stop the German offensive. The American deployment at Cantigny was successful in reducing a small German salient and holding position until the disintegration of French forces on their flanks forced a withdrawal. The success of the Americans increased French morale and proved to Entente high command that the Americans could stand in line.

After 4 days of smashing success Ludendorff changed the objective of the attack, rather than draw off enemy reserves from Flanders for Hagen, he felt that the offensive could decisively beat the French Army in front of Paris. Admittedly with the Germans within 35 miles of Paris that seemed like a real possibility, certainly the populace of the city believed so and began fleeing en masse. The Entente high command was concerned enough about the possibility to conduct a withdrawal between the new salient and the one created during Michael to free up more troops for a reserve. In accordance with this he postponed Hagen indefinitely to continue the assault.

However the Germans were in a poor position to continue the offensive, they had outrun their supply lines, their troops were fatigued, their lead divisions had suffered heavily and most of the reserves in that sector of the front had been deployed. Despite this he pressed onward.

For five days the Germans continued to attack, pushing exhausted French and British reserves to the breaking and forcing the deployment of all five available American divisions to halt the tide. However the Germans were running into increasingly high casualties to push onwards and making less and less progress. Furthermore the deployment of five American divisions, which at this point in the war were double strength compared to anyone else’s came as a surprise, as no more than three were expected to be ready by the Germans. After the fifth day Ludendorff called the offensive off, wary of the casualties and the possibility of more American troops.

The Germans had taken 130,000 casualties. In exchange they had captured 80,000 enemy troops, 1100 guns, and inflicted 120,000 further casualties on the Enemy, including 15,000 on the newly arrived Americans. They had reached within 30 miles of Paris, captured more territory than any Western front offensive since 1914 and caused a panic in Entente high command, forcing the deployment of most of the available Entente reserves. However they had not achieved Ludendorff’s additional objective of destroying the French Army. The French had been near the breaking point in front of Paris, but they had not broken. In exchange Ludendorff had delayed Hagen by at least one week, if not by several, giving the British more time to fortify Flanders against the coming attack.

Ludendorff for his part saw the initial success of the operation and wanted to try hitting the French again. He planned an assault south of the previous one to shatter the French lines and either destroy the French Army, or strip the Entente reserves for Hagen…

…The Third Battle of the Aisne proved the American Expeditionary Force’s true baptism of fire. The presence of the AEF proved possibly the decisive factor in halting the German offensive, both its unexpected size and its high morale. The AEF still believed almost to a man that the war could be won, where the British or French would rout or surrender the AEF would fight on, confident in their eventual victory. This willingness to fight proved critical in preventing the lines from breaking during the 3rd German Offensive…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014

Okay it has been a couple weeks, update is short I know, but it is the busy season at work. To be honest I am thinking of ending this at part II and working on a less ambitious second TL, it isn't inspiring me as much anymore
aww. I really like this, but having had to abandon overambitious projects before, I totally feel you here.
Hmm... Maybe closing the timeline with some kind of in-universe "Abridged Version"? A student using CliffsNotes for an exam, or watching a history channel in TTL version of YouTube.

Regardless, it was nice while it lasted. Certainly an interesting and well written timeline!
Honestly enjoying this, but can you at least finish up this war as I would like to know where this ends up.
Sorry for the confusion, what I meant was that once I finish Part II, which is this war, then I will end the TL for now. I am not going to spoiler what would happen after Part II, in case I ever come back to this
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Part 2-13 Loss of Innocence
…The next German offensive was launched on June 14th. Codenamed Walther, after another legendary German hero, it was launched in the South near Rheims. The Entente were expecting an assault in the north and were rapidly trying to shore up the depleted forces in Flanders, thus were taken by surprise.

25 German divisions attacked in Champagne while 19 divisions attacked along the Marne River. As usual they were preceded by the typical firewall bombardment and a gas attack, followed by a large sortie of ground attack aircraft. The attack achieved strategic surprise and the French frontline was shattered in Champagne, and 12 bridgeheads were established across the Marne river on the first day. Rheims itself was captured by nightfall.

The French Air Force attempted to intervene and destroy the bridges across the Marne by air attack the next day. The Germans retained sufficient airpower to destroy the French bombers before most of them could reach their target, with the few bombs dropped being ineffective. However the large scale air combat that accompanied the sortie inflicted punishing losses on the German Air Force and even shot down the famed Red Baron, who would be hospitalized for the remainder of the war.

By the end of the Second day the Germans had advanced as much as 20 miles in Champagne and forced Foch to deploy his limited reserves to prevent a breakthrough there. In Champagne however Foch could do nothing, he had no reserves to send and he had to protect Paris. The only source of troops he could find was the garrison of Verdun, he could free up a large force by withdrawing from the salient centered on the city and redeploying them to form a new defensive line from the Meuse to Revigny to the Marne. However that was unacceptable to the French government, they had fought too hard to retain Verdun.

On the third day of the offensive the French reinforcements stalled the German attack over the Marne with heavy casualties on both sides. However in Champagne the Germans had reached the outskirts of Chalons and were no closer to being contained. Foch again requested to evacuate Verdun, saying they would either lose Verdun now, or lose it in two months and Paris in three. This time the politicians agreed and the evacuation began, with troops redeploying to take up defensive positions.

Ludendorff, by this point had become fixated on the idea of encircling the French at Verdun and starving them out. In pursuit of this he ignored reports that the line over the Marne was lightly held and that a strong push could break the French there and threaten Paris. Likewise he disbelieved reports that the French were evacuating Verdun and continued a slow cautious and circuitous approach to Verdun he hoped would not tip off the French.

By June 22nd the evacuation was complete and the Germans realized what had happened. A few hasty attacks were launched on the 23rd against the new French defense line. After being repelled with moderate casualties Ludendorff called off the attack before it achieved any results.

By conventional metrics Walther had been a success, 60,000 German casualties led to the capture of 90,000 Frenchmen and the loss of 90,000 more. Rheims, Chalons, Troyes and Verdun had been captured, along with a huge quantity of weaponry and supplies. More territory had been taken any previous offensive.

However it cost the Germans heavily in specialist resources. Many Stormtroopers, Pioneers, Ground Attack and Fighter aircraft were lost, resources that would be very useful for Hagen. Most importantly it cost the Germans time, Hagen would have to be delayed by a month because of the attack, to July 20th rather than June 21st, and give time for the British to recover from the previous German offensives, and for more American troops to arrive.

Perhaps more importantly it failed to be a knockout blow by a hairsbreadth. Had Ludendorff pushed on at the Marne early in the battle or pressed harder against the hastily prepared defensive lines a war of movement might have resulted, one the Germans were capable of winning. But he saw the high casualties for little ground gained and moved on to his next target. Once again Ludendorff had snatched strategic defeat out of the jaws of tactical and operational success…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014

Okay not much, but what I can put out without going nuts
It sounds like post war there will be a lot of PODs with Ludendorff being more aggressive once AH becomes a thing.

My question how much longer can the Germans hold out.
On the other hand, I find it much harder for the allies to be able to run the table on Germany with regards to the peace treaty, even if Germany ends up making peace because they can't fight harder.

Though that might be the Kaisarphile in me doing wishful thinkig.
Part 2-14 Loss of Innocence
…Unlike the preceding German offensives Hagen did not achieve strategic surprise. The British had determined from aerial reconnaissance, intelligence from German deserters and the surging of German airpower to the region that the next German offensive would be in Flanders, North of Amiens.

Knowing how close the previous offensives had come to success the British pulled out all the stops in preparing for Hagen. A new defensive paradigm was created, rather than try to meet the attack head on a three-mile outpost zone was created, lightly manned but liberally scattered with strong points it was meant to slow and channel the German assault before the main line of resistance three miles back would stop it. Artillery would be kept in reserve to deal with German artillery, with more artillery in deep reserve to counter German attempts at counter battery fire. Airpower was surged to the region to deny the Germans aerial reconnaissance and close air support. Finally Haig grabbed every tank he could get as an armored fist to deal with any breakthroughs.

On July 20th the Germans launched Hagen. 25 divisions attacked on a 14-mile front centered on Doullens. The Firewall bombardment and gas attacks proved ineffective against the outpost zone. The creeping barrage meant to keep the British heads down as the Germans advanced became separated, passing ahead as the German stormtroopers and infantry were slowed by the British outposts. Worse German artillery, stymied by lack of aerial reconnaissance due to a loss of air superiority, could not adequately suppress the British field guns, leading to heavy casualties.

Despite this the Germans reached the British mainline by noon. A few breaches were made by the end of the day, but for the most part the Germans were ordered to wait for field artillery to be brought up throughout the afternoon and night. The next morning the Germans attempted to expand their lodgments, however the British had brought up reinforcements. A vicious attrition battle ensued that resulted in that resulted in most of the German breakthroughs being contained by the end of the day.

Two were not, one reaching 6 miles past the start line and one five, to the east and west of Doullens respectively. Vicious fighting continued over the next three days as the Germans gradually expanded their lodgments, with Ludendorff pouring ever more reserves into the fighting. Then on July 25th Haig unleashed his armored fist on the eastern salient, with 200 tanks of various types attacking supported by an infantry corps. The Germans were not equipped to stop that much armor and by the end of the day were forced behind the original British mainline of resistance. However the attack had cost the British heavily in lost or crippled tanks, they could not repeat the performance any time soon.

Ludendorff was seemingly unphased and continued to pour resources into the battle, slowly expanding the western salient, confident he was inflicting casualties faster than he was taking them. However for the first time of the year British and German casualties were roughly equal and the British had more reserves in Flanders than he did.

On August 2nd three things happened to shake him. Firstly he had almost exhausted the reserves available in Flanders, more were available farther south but the local reserves were exhausted by the fierce fighting. Secondly the British launched a small-scale armored counterattack in front Amiens, taking several exposed German positions and pushing the front back two miles. Thirdly the Americans launched a Corps level assault on exposed German positions on the Marne, the unprepared Americans took unnecessarily heavy casualties but were able to force the Germans back almost a mile. Ludendorff after a day of stunned thinking concluded that he could no longer achieve Hagen’s objectives and declined to divert reserves to Flanders.

In doing so he threw away his last chance to win the war. Early August was the last time the Germans had a measurable numerical superiority on the Western Front, by the month the Entente would have parity and from then on superiority. His reserves when taken as a whole exceeded that of the Entente at this time, at the current rate of loss Haig would have run out of reserves within another week and been forced to give ground he could not afford to lose. The chance to cause a British collapse and withdrawal was still a real possibility.

After the battle that possibility went away. Never again would the Germans have even parity in the skies, their airforce running low on fuel and machines. The stormtrooper units were worse than decimated and regular infantry were having to take up more of the slack and suffering heavily without the proper training. Finally Entente morale had with the victory began to recover, no more would they be as ready to surrender or rout, a belief that the war could be won was starting to return and the troops were willing to see it through to the end in a way they weren’t before.

In the end the Germans lost 105,00 men and inflicted 110,000 casualties on the Entente. At their greatest they penetrated 10 miles into British lines and seized 90 square miles of territory. By the end of September most of that had been retaken by small scale British counterattacks.

Ludendorff of course was not aware of all of these factors. Despite what he would later claim he still believed that he had a chance of winning the war. A “Friedensturm”, or “Peace Offensive” was planned. The French had been far more willing to rout and surrender than the Germans, one final push and they would break and the war would be won…

-Excerpt from The Loss of Innocence: America in the Great War, Harper & Brothers, New York 2014

Okay still not happy with this, wanted it to be more epic, but what happened happened. But at least I am finally done with school until January