In Wilson’s War—How Woodrow Wilson’s Great Blunder Led To Hitler, Lenin, Stalin & World War II, historian Jim Powell explains how WWI was stalemated for three years.
From the war’s outset, it appeared unlikely that one side would be able to dominate the other. —The Germans had better generals-less inclined to squander the lives of their men-and France and Russia were to far apart to coordinate operations. —The British navy dominated the seas and enforced a blockade preventing goods from coming to Germany. —Fighting began on August 3,1914, when Germany sent seventy-eight infantry divisions heading west.
The Germans attacked Verdun on February 21, 1916. … Until December 15, 1916, the armies alternated advancing and retreating. The Germans ended up with little to show for their 330,000 fatalities, compared with 350,000 French fatalities. … Then came the Battle of the Somme.
Mr. Powell describes the strategy of British general Douglas Haig, who “ordered British solders, each carrying perhaps sixty pounds of equipment, to walk upright in big lines toward the Germans, rather than more cautiously keeping themselves low and seeking cover from possible machine-gun fire. It turned out there were enough surviving German machine gunners for a massacre. More than 25,000 British soldiers were seriously wounded, and almost 20,000 were killed on the first day of fighting July 1, 1916.”
In part V of “The Worst President in American History,” I will detail historian Powell’s take on Haig’s abandoning the Somme campaign on November 18, which historian John Keegan calls “the worst military tragedy in the history of Britain.”