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THE ARMISTICES 1
BY GENERAL TASKER H. BLISS
This work was published early in the course of the Paris Peace Conference. Even at that time its title was somewhat misleading. Practically all of the so-called secret documents contained in it, including the extracts from the proceedings of the Allied Council which adopted the armistice terms, had already been published in every country that took any interest in the war. A considerable part of the work is devoted to the activities of the Socialistes, the Syndicalistes and the Internationalistes towards effecting a peace before the war should be fought to a conclusion; as well as to the so-called “affaires” of Caillaux, Bolo Pasha, Prince Sixte de Parme, et al., based upon the current publications of the press. These are probably what the author means by the “Négotiations Secrètes."
That part of the work which relates to the armistices consists, mainly, of the proceedings, then already published, of the Allied Council at Versailles, October 31-November 4, 1918. This Allied Council consisted of the Supreme War Council, to which were attached representatives, designated ad hoc, of Japan and of several of the smaller allied countries. It is important to remember that the Supreme War Council itself consisted solely of the political representatives of Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States, to whom were attached, but not as voting members of the Council, a military representative of each of those four countries, as an adviser for his own government.
The author of this work gives the impression that the above-mentioned Allied Council drew up the terms of the armistices. This is not the fact. Its official proceedings show that when it met it had before it drafts for its consideration. Its sole function was to trim the edges and round-off the corners, in doing which there was an opportunity to consider points raised by the smaller Powers that had not been represented in the preparation of the drafts. Nor does the author discuss the reasons or motives that governed the consideration of these drafts, by paragraphs or in their entirety. He fails to note that this Council adopted not four but two armistices, because two had been entered upon before the Council met. Nor does he note the significance of prior consideration being given to the armistice with Austria-Hungary. This prior consideration was due to the fact that the
1 Mermeix: Les Négociations Secrètes et les Quatre Armistices, avec Pièces Justificatives. 5th edition. Paris: 1921. Librairie Ollendorff. Pp. 355.
Allies knew that Austria-Hungary would accept any conditions for an armistice. The armistice with this Power was, therefore, approved first and sent to General Diaz to put into effect. One of its articles provided that,
“The Allies shall have the right of free movement over all roads, rail and waterways, in Austro-Hungarian territory, and of the use of the necessary Austrian and Hungarian means of transportation.
“The Armies of the Allied and Associated Powers shall occupy such strategic points in Austria-Hungary at such times as they may deem necessary to enable them to conduct military operations or to maintain order."
The underscored words should be noted in connection with subsequent remarks of the reviewer on the armistice with Germany. Suffice it to say here that a plan of further military operations against Germany, should such be necessary, had already been prepared in anticipation of the above condition in the Austrian armistice and to meet the extreme contingency of Germany refusing an armistice after she had herself asked for it. This plan was submitted to the Supreme War Council and approved by it late in the day of November 4, 1918, in its
Resolutions in regard to operations against Germany through Austria
1. To approve the plan of operations against Germany through Austria proposed by Marshal Foch, General Bliss, General Wilson and General di Robilant.?
2. That Marshal Foch shall have the supreme strategical direction of operations against Germany on all fronts, including the Southern and Eastern.
3. That the Military Advisers of the British, French, Italian and United States Governments shall immediately examine the following questions:
“(a) The possibility of taking immediate steps to send a force, which shall include the Czecho-Slovak forces on the French and Italian fronts, to Bohemia and Galicia, with the following objects:
“To organize these countries against invasion by Germany;
“To prevent the export to Germany of oil, coal, or any other material, and to render these available to the Allied forces;
"To establish aerodromes for the purpose of bombing Germany.
In the opinion of the reviewer, the conditions of the armistice with Austria, which showed Germany that such a plan of operations was on the cards, would have obliged the latter Power to accept any conditions that might have been proposed in the armistice with it. For reasons to be given, he believes that had the proper conditions been imposed, real peace would have been brought much nearer and Europe at this moment would be more advanced in the process of recovery from the war.
? Committee appointed by the Supreme War Council to prepare a plan of operations,
3 Commander-in-chief of the Army of the East, who had operated from his base in Macedonia and had already concluded armistices with Bulgaria and Hungary,
The fact is that, with the exception of the people who made them and those most directly affected by them, no one is or has been interested in any of the armistices except the one with Germany. After that one went into effect, after the German Government had utterly collapsed and with it all possibility of military effort, some people, who had cordially approved the armistice but who now for the first time appreciated the military helplessness of their enemy, began to ask the questions, Why were not the terms of the armistice different? Why was it made at all? Why didn't the Allies march to Berlin? Even then, although these men knew and then said that had it not been for the intervention of the United States in the war the Allies would have been defeated, there were some who, at first ignorantly and then maliciously, attributed some sinister purpose to the United States, a desire to rob the Allies of the fruits of the common victory. At various times since then this idea has been inculcated in various quarters, sometimes in ignorance, generally in malice. Recently, when the falsehood was moribund from inanition, it has been revived by an alleged interview, the authenticity of which has been denied, with a distinguished member of the literary world, and now widely circulated. He is quoted as saying,
"America had forced the Allies into making peace at the first opportunity instead of insisting upon finishing in Berlin. America quit the day of the Armistice without waiting to see the thing through.
Although these statements are not to be attributed to the recently alleged source, they are the exact charges notoriously and frequently made by many writers and speakers. It is proper, therefore, to examine into their truth.
Passing for the moment the allegation in the first of the above sentences, what is "the thing," mentioned in the second, that America did not wait to see through? Was there anything left to "see through" except the conclusion of formal peace? Did not America appoint her peace delegates before any other great Power did? Did they not arrive in Paris before any others were appointed, before even those of the French were announced? And after the consideration of the terms of peace began, was it America that caused delay "in seeing the thing through?” Or was it the passionate and selfish greed of European Powers who, dazzled by the enormity of the loot lying before them, refused to make peace with the enemy until they could settle their quarrels among themselves and decide on the distribution of this loot? Who refused to say, as they could have said within the first seven days, "Germany must surrender to the Allied and Associated Powers her battleships and her colonies," but in their distrust of each other waited until they could decide which Allies could get what proportion of battleships and colonies?
Now, what of the "insisting upon finishing in Berlin"? That suggestion comes late now. There was a time when the Allied Governments could have insisted on this, had they so desired. When the Government of the United States sent its note of October 23, 1918, saying that,
“The President has, therefore, transmitted his correspondence with the present German authorities to the Governments with which the Government of the United States is associated as a belligerent, with the suggestion that, if those Governments are disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated, their military advisers and the military advisers of the United States be asked to submit to the Governments associated against Germany the necessary terms of such an armistice as will fully protect the interests of the peoples involved and ensure to the associated Governments the unrestricted power to safeguard and enforce the details of the peace to which the German Government has agreed, provided they deem such an armistice possible from the military point
of view, --then was the time for the Allied Governments, or any one of them, to say “No, we are not disposed to effect peace upon the terms and principles indicated” and “we shall not ask our advisers to submit for our approval the necessary terms of such an armistice nor of any armistice.” As a matter of fact, the Allies and Associated Powers immediately consulted their military advisers. These advisers were bound to advise such terms as, in their respective judgments, would not only guarantee against a resumption of hostilities during the peace proceedings but ensure also the successful imposition of the peace terms. Based on their advice, the political representatives drew up the exact terms and by their note of November 4, 1918, the three Prime Ministers informed the Government of the United States that they would discuss peace on the acceptance by Germany of these terms. Does anyone assert that there is a single one of these military terms that was imposed by the United States? Or that the Government suggested the change of an iota after the three Prime Ministers had accepted them? And after that acceptance, on prolonged and detailed scrutiny and discussion, and after that declaration by the three Prime Ministers, can there be anything more silly, groundless and malignant than the allegation that America forced the Allies into making peace at the first opportunity instead of insisting upon finishing in Berlin.
Probably most people believe that the first consideration by the European Allies of armistice terms as preliminary to peace was given after the communication of the United States' note of October 23, 1918. That, however, is not the case; and many citizens of those countries will be interested to know the steps taken to that end by their governments before that of the United States had received the conditions of the armistice agreed upon by them on November 4, 1918.
The first German note to the United States was announced in the Reichstag on October 5th, the note having been sent the night before through Berne and reaching Washington on October 6th. On October 5th the Prime Ministers of Great Britain, France and Italy met in Paris. At a meeting on October 6th they agreed upon certain principles for the basis of an armistice. At nine o'clock on the night of October 7th the American military representative received from them the following document:
The conference of Ministers at a meeting held on 7th October 1918, agreed to refer to the Military Representatives at Versailles, with whom shall be associated representatives of the American, British, French and Italian Navies, the consideration of the terms of an armistice with Germany and Austria, on the basis of the following principles accepted on the previous day.
1. Total evacuation, by the enemy, of France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Italy; 2. The Germans to retire behind the Rhine into Germany;
3. Alsace-Lorraine to be evacuated by German troops without occupation by the Allies;
4. The same conditions to apply to the Trentino and Istria;
7. Immediate steps to be taken for the evacuation of all territory belonging to Russia and Roumania before the war.
8. Immediate cessation of submarine warfare.
Unnumbered Paragraph. (It was also agreed that the Allied blockade should not be raised.)
The foregoing note was accompanied by a request that the military representatives, with the associates indicated in the note, meet for its consideration at 9.15 o'clock on the following morning, October 8th. The American representative at once decided not to participate in the discussion and recommendation of armistice terms thus requested. In the absence of official information he took note of the fact that it was commonly believed in every Allied capital in Europe that a German note on this subject was then pending before the Government at Washington. He could take no part in the discussion of it without specific instructions. He immediately cabled the note of the Ministers to Washington with his proposed action. At the same time he invited attention to par. 2 of the note, under which, if not modified, the Germans could retire to a strong position behind the Rhine with their army, armament and supplies intact. Accordingly, in the action taken at the meeting of military and naval representatives on the morning of October 8th there was no American participation. The following is the document that was then drawn up and submitted to the three Prime Ministers:
The Military Representatives and Naval Representatives meeting together on October 8th, in accordance with the Resolution taken by the Conference of Ministers at their meeting held on 7th October, 1918, are of opinion that the first essential of an armistice is the disarmament of the enemy, under the control of the Allies.
This principle having been established, the conditions specified by the Ministers at their meeting held on 7th October, require from a military point of view to be supplemented as follows:
1. Total and immediate evacuation, by the enemy, of France, Belgium, Luxemburg, and Italy on the following conditions:
(a) Immediate re-occupation by Allied troops of the territories so evacuated;
(b) Immediate repatriation of the civil population of these regions interned in enemy country;