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combat, and it was here that the enemy

must be stopped, if he should succeed in

breaking through the other two zones.

The Germans were careful to have the

zones far enough apart so that the enemy

artillery could not bombard two of them at

the same time or, at least, could not except

with very heavy guns. The men and materials were so arranged that the strength of

resistance would increase steadily from the

first to the last line of the zones. Extra

shelters and places for artillery were

constructed in case those used in the

course of battle should become untenable. As much as possible, the trenches were dug on the rear slopes of hills,

observation posts being maintained at

the top in order to give warning of


It will readily be seen that the farther

the enemy advanced the more numerous the difficulties he met, so that when

he finally reached the real zone of decisive combat he was likely to have

endured such losses that the defenders

would be able to drive him back to

his own lines after inflicting tremendous punishment. Even should he succeed in capturing the third zone, the

supposition was that he would be

unable to hold it, being too badly

shattered by long fighting.

In fact, the fortified lines had become so strong by the fall of 1917 that

many military critics believed that it

would be impossible to break through

them. Even against weaker lines the

British and French had never succeeded in getting through all the defenses

except on a narrow front. It had

always been possible for the Germans to

contain the flood of assailants before the

situation became really serious for them. It

may readily be believed that French and

British military men spent many anxious

hours considering how it would be possible

to break through the German lines constructed with such fiendish skill. As for the

Germans, they did not hesitate to declare

that their lines were impregnable. Some

Allied writers adopted this view, and many

times the statement was made in Allied

countries that the war would end approximately on the line which the two armies

occupied at the end of 1917.

However, there were optimists in the

Allied camps who contended that some way

of solving the great problem would be found.

They pointed out that in the history of past

wars ways had always been found for offense

mastering defense, and they held that this

war would not prove an exception to the

rule. The Germans also were considering

the same problem and, as we shall see, in

March of 1918, they applied what they

considered the proper solution.

The campaign of 1917 was in some respects

the most discouraging of the war from the

point of view of the Allies. Owing to the

collapse of Russia, their plan for a general

offensive had broken down. The French

and British had made a certain amount of

progress and had regained some ground, but

they had not achieved any decisive results.