Ridpath's History of the World
CHAPTER CLXXXV-THE KAISER'S BATTLES.
EVEN while talking peace, the Germans openly boasted that in the spring they would launch a stupendous drive that would bring them overwhelming victory. Various motives caused them to speak thus. Beyond question, they hoped that knowledge that a blow was impending might cause the Allies to sue for peace. Also the Germans counted upon the intimidating effect upon the Allied armies of the proposed offensive, which they were careful to declare would surpass all military movements in the history of the world. Furthermore, they talked of the offensive for the purpose of keeping up German spirits and morale. Once more the War Lords held up before the eyes of their deluded people another will-o'-the-wisp. To do so was rendered necessary because .their previous promise, of ending the conflict in three months by ruthless use of submarines had proved false, and an uneasy, feeling was spreading in Germany that the submarine alone could never bring victory.
Much difference of opinion existed among Allied military men as to whether the Germans were in earnest in their announcement of an offensive on the western front. Some thought the German talk was mere camouflage to conceal a drive against Italy or Salonica. Either of these points of attack was vulnerable. Owing to the submarines and the strain on Allied shipping, it was difficult for the Allies to maintain and provision a great army in the Balkan region. Victory there would give the Germans control of Greece and would secure for them many submarine bases from which they could direct attacks against shipping in the Mediterranean. A victory in the Balkans might also be followed by a drive against the Suez Canal. The tremendous success of the Teutonic attack on Italy the previous year caused grave misgivings in the minds of those who feared that the blow would fall in Lombardy. It was only by superhuman efforts that the Italians had managed, with some French and British assistance, to save Venice. Teutonic victory would probably give the Central Powers control of the whole rich northern plain, and not improbably would result in the elimination of Italy from the war.
Doubtless the German High Command considered these alternatives, but their final decision was to strike on the western front. Victory in the Balkans or in Italy could not be decisive. What they must have was a real decision. The German government persistently made light of the Americans, insisted that America would not really enter the conflict, contended that the submarines would prevent our sending over a large army, declared that ships were not available to supply such an army, and asserted that even if an army should be landed it could not stand before German troops, but the War Lords were really well aware of the vast preparations America was making, and they were well enough acquainted with history to know that Americans, when properly trained, make first class fighting men. They realized that it was now or never for them. They must win before America could take the field. Furthermore, Ludendorff, Hindenburg, and the other German Generals were soldiers aflame with thirst for military glory. They knew all the mighty deeds of the past. They saw in the Allied armies in France a challenge. If they could break the Allied lines and involve the French and British troops in confusion, they might annihilate those armies, capture Paris, overrun France, and dictate a conqueror's terms to a frightened world.
The War Lords made their preparations with even more than usual Teutonic thoroughness. They "robbed the cradle and the grave" to get men with which to carry