Nivelle’s Spring Offensive – Royal Conspiracy In Greece I THE GREAT WAR Week 131


Germany had a new plan that they were soon
to implement, and it may well bring neutral nations into the war as enemies. One of those nations was the United States,
but Germany wasn’t worried about them, and this week they tell you why. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week there was scattered action on the
Western Front and the Italians front, an Allied declaration from Rome promised to strive for
the national rights of the many peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the German
Foreign Minister offered German support of Mexico if Mexico went to war with the US. That was done to deflect American energy in
case the US went to war against Germany. Though that was not planned at the moment,
and on January 22nd US President Woodrow Wilson said that while the US would not have a voice
in determining what terms of peace for the World War should be, they would have a voice
in seeing whether those terms would be lasting as guaranteed. Things the US would join in guaranteeing were:
a) it must be a peace without victory, that negotiations would be conducted between equals,
b) nations, whether great or small, must have equality of rights, c) government must be
based on the consent of the governed, for example, there must be a united, independent,
autonomous Poland, d) the paths of the sea must be free, which is “the most immediately
and intensely practical question connected with the future fortunes of nations and of
mankind”. But those paths of the sea were not going
to be free for very long, Germany was planning to re-introduce unrestricted submarine warfare,
where all ships, neutral or otherwise, within the war zone were subject to being sunk on
sight without warning. Now, everybody knew that this was going to
be a big problem for the United States and the drowning of American sailors and civilians
might bring the US into the war, but was Germany really worried about that possibility? Well, on January 23rd, Count Bernstorff, German
ambassador in Washington, asked Berlin for $50,000 dollars to influence members of Congress
to remain neutral. That’s over a million dollars in today’s
money, but here’s what the German High Command thought: Admiral Eduard von Capelle, the German
Secretary of State for the Navy, told the budgetary committee of the Reichstag, “They
(the Americans) will not even come because our submarines will sink them. Thus America from a military point of view
means nothing, and again nothing, and for a third time nothing.” And, in terms of the American army, he kind
of had a point. The American army at this time numbered 107,641
men; it was only the 17th largest army in the world (Keegan). The Allies on just the Western Front had 40
times that- four million men, and the Germans on the Western Front fielded two and a half
million men, 25 times the size of the entire American army. And those guys had experience of modern war. The US army had no experience of large-scale
operations since the American Civil War 50 years ago. The reserves, the National Guard, were larger-
a whopping 132,000 men, but that was a part time militia that was poorly trained. The US did have one top-notch force, the Marines,
but there were only 15,000 of them and they were scattered around America’s overseas
possessions and interests, so really, the Germans wondered, why should we even worry
about them at all? They had another neutral nation to worry about
that seemed more important at the time. Greece. Now, the Greek government formally apologized
this week to the Allies for Greek actions back on December 1st. This is very interesting and I’ll tell you
why. King Constantine, in spite of his familial
connections to the Kaiser, always publicly affirmed his friendship with the Allies, but
it seems he was playing a double game. Later this year in Athens will be discovered
telegrams between Constantine and Queen Sophia on one hand and the Kaiser, her brother, on
the other. These illustrate a series of anti-Entente
plots that have been going on for the past couple of months. On December 1st, a Greek force had attacked
an Allied force in Athens, and this was why Greece was being forced to apologize. Sophia wrote to her brother about the splendid
victory the Greeks had achieved. In this telegram she demands a strong German
and Austrian offensive that would relieve Greece from foreign occupation. The Kaiser wrote back urging Constantine to
declare war on the allies and actively fight the occupying Allied forces. They weren’t in a position to do this though. Here’s one telegram from Sophia to Wilhelm,
from January 10th, courtesy of “The Story of the Great War”, “…the shortage of
ammunition and many other things compel us unfortunately to abstain from such offensive
action. You can realize my position. How I suffer. Thanks you warmly for your welcome words. May the infamous swine receive the punishment
they deserve. I embrace you heartily. Your exiled and unhappy sister, who hopes
for better times. Sophia.” Constantine had written to the Kaiser a few
days earlier, “…it is probable that a declaration of war might come before a mobilization
might be affected. Probably the Entente desire to involve Greece
in immediate war so as to destroy her before the German occupation could begin. Already Greece is faced with a fresh Entente
note demanding her complete disarmament. The transport of the whole artillery and war
materiel to the Peloponnesus is being maintained by the pressure of the blockade. The government and people are resisting with
constancy, enduring all sorts of privations, but the situation is growing worse from day
to day.” The Kaiser had been urging them to support
and organize guerrilla bands in the Lake Okrida region and even back in December, Georgios
Theotokis, the Greek Minister in Berlin, had written, “…it is of the greatest importance
to develop as quickly as possible the question of Caravitis’s (guerrilla) bands and matters
relative thereto. Pray inform me with all speed what assistance
in the way of munitions, money, and provisions you would want. The object of Caravitis should be to cut the
railroad from Monastir to Saloniki and harass (Allied General) Sarrail’s rear. One should not lose sight that even this unofficial
action by the bands will powerfully help Greece…” But this was a real big time for plans and
preparations everywhere. Here’s something I didn’t have time to
mention last week. French Commander in Chief Robert Nivelle had
explained his plans for his big 1917 Offensive. It would take place at Chemin des Dames. It would be a multi-pronged attack on the
German line west of Reims and Nivelle believed it would decide the war in under 48 hours. It would be a repeat tactically of what had
worked so well in the final stages of the Battle of Verdun, and the “death blow”
would come from a strike force of 27 French divisions of infantry and cavalry. Nivelle also promised that this would not
turn into another endless Verdun or Somme. He promised that if- impossibly- it failed
to succeed within two days, he would call it off. He had persuaded British Prime Minister Lloyd
George of the plan’s merits, and on January 15th Nivelle met with the British war cabinet. He won them over as well, though there was
the question of timing. Nivelle thought they could begin in February,
Sir Douglas Haig suggested May and they compromised, setting the date for April 1st. And here are some notes to end the week. In German East Africa, Jan Smuts relinquished
his command of the British forces there, and was succeeded by A.R. Hoskins. The British were currently advancing there
and on the 24th captured a German force of 289 men at Likuju. Forces of the Arab Revolt captured Al Wajh
on the Red Sea, and on the 25th, the SS Laurentic was sunk by German mines off the Irish Coast. That was a White Star Ocean Liner headed for
Canada with a secret cargo of gold to buy war material. 354 of the 475 passengers lives were lost,
many of them freezing to death in the lifeboats in -13 degree weather. And that was the week. Wilson talking about peace plans, Nivelle
making war plans, the Greeks talking about guerrilla war plans, the Germans dismissing
the Americans, and scattered action in Arabia, Africa, and the Atlantic. It’s true, you know, that the size of the
American army was nothing compared to the mighty armies of the European powers. The US did have a large modern navy, but that
might not help much in France. One thing the US did have that Germany may
want to not ignore was an enormous modern arms industry, entirely built over the past
two years with European money to supply the war effort. And a huge population that could conceivably
become soldiers in the millions. But that would take time, and Germany did
not plan on wasting time. They were about to take an unbelievably nasty
war and make it a lot nastier. If you want to find out more about the situation
in the US before World War 1, you can click right here for our special episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Philip
Kunze von Bischhoffshausen – support us on Patreon to make this show even better. Don’t forget to subscribe!

100 thoughts on “Nivelle’s Spring Offensive – Royal Conspiracy In Greece I THE GREAT WAR Week 131

  1. I'm very interested in this Belgian telegram sent by Queen Sophia. How was this telegram brought to public light? Was it intercepted? Or was it recovered after the war?

  2. did they really think the united states wouldnt have a surge in army recruitment in the case of war?

  3. Nivelle, whose mother was English, spoke fluent, unaccented English himself. I'm sure that had a lot to do with selling his "48 hours" scheme to the British.

  4. 0.50 when you were talking about wilson did he really use the term "world war" I thought that was coined after the second world war?

  5. Somewhat Related: Jaans Smuts and Winston Churchill met each other during the Boer war, Churchill as a Prisoner, Smuts as his captor, after escaping however, Churchill maintained friendship with Smuts after the war, and often acted as contact in the South African administration during the war for Churchill.

  6. Until I stumbled upon this channel my knowledge of the Balkan front, and issues was pretty much limited to "AH invaded Serbia, got a bloody nose but eventually got through, while Bulgaria messed around."
    I can safely say that now I know why I didn't know jack… what a bloody mess. Everyone dragging the locals around, kicking them like an old football. Not a single nation of the region can be said to have been without very complex issues. Anyone not living there or a professional would be hard pressed to make sense of it all.

    Albania still remains the most absurd case, but it is just the icing on the cake.

  7. I guess it's the different time period, but it seems so weird that the US threatens war when their civilians are killed in an active war zone. If I decided to go cruise a boat near Syria and got blown up by the SAA I wouldn't expect my country to declare war, I would expect a whole lot of "what the hell were you doing sailing around there stupid?"

  8. Wasn't the British army only 150,000 men at the start of the war? If the British could raise a much larger army in a relatively short amount of time, why didn't they realize America could, too?

  9. "Hah, only 15k army? Stupid Americans."

    mass conscription

    "Stop stealing tactics from Russia."

  10. Thank you for this information I put it in my own words and used all this info on my project

  11. The US Army Reserve is NOT a militia! A militia supplies its own arms. They may not have been a very well trained or equipped government force, but they absolutely do not fall into the category of "militia."

  12. I find it interesting how the USA went from netural in january 1917 to full pro-war in april 1917… Will you do a special about the song "Over There"? I've always found it fascinating that such a catchy song can be about such a dark period… Even now a days, sports team still use it. For those that don't know, research the first verse: "Johnny get your gun…." I do believe it is the inspiration for the title of the book: "Johnny got his gun"… Never met a single pro-war person who has read that book….

  13. >Nivelle's Spring Offensive

    This is going to be great, right guys? It's not like the French Army will turn to full mutiny after this offensive right?

  14. Not to spoil it for anyone but when we get to the point of the "Nivelle Offense" and after it, are there going to be mentions of the large desertions?

  15. Great job. Would love to see a video about how industry supported the war effort.

  16. can't wait for when you'll talk about the german spring offensives (kaiserschlacht) next year

  17. Question for out of the Trenches :
    Hey Indy and his badass crew, I have religiously been following your show for the last few years, and this even induced me to start my own WWI reenactment group.

    I have a question for my thesis for my buisness school as it is an important project I must do for a passing grade and decided to speak about how the U.S. mainly grew their industry between the 1880 -1950 and how europe contributed to the global empowerment of the U.S. in the early 20th century.

    Since a great many historians attribute european commerce as a major cause (example: europeean purchase of firearms and munitions payed off the factories required to make the commodities)

    How did the U.S. infact import and export commercial and military goods between all of europe (even Germany) despite the naval blockades etc… ?

    Thank you very much if you are able to answer me.

  18. The most recent US military action was not the civil war, it was the spanish/american war.

  19. Sorry, but this is the second time I'm asking… what's the book behind Indy… "Verdun" in big red letters, is that the Alistair Horne one?

  20. Have they retrieved that gold from the S.S. Laurentic? I can't imagine the water is very deep at that location.

  21. "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." – Albert Einstein

  22. Why would the US want to go to War?  We were making all kinds of money supplying materials to everyone.

  23. Got a question for Out of the Trenches, have you heard, and what's your opinion on Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, and his series Blueprint for Armagedden?

  24. Wow, even Canada had a bigger army than the US back then. Canada had about 620,000 troops in the armed forces then.

  25. An offensive starting on April 1st? That offensive's results are going to be a joke right?

  26. The irony is that German High Command failed to pay attention to America's repeated ability to change its military with extreme speed. Up to WW2, the American military would shrink after each war..stemming from a distrust of standing armies…Most of the wars saw America go completely unprepared into them in terms of manpower but the industry existed to supply them which led to a massive increase in size. Just a number that combined 230,000 number will reach 4.7 million in one year and largely have them equipped (minus heavy equipment). The American military also has shown a great ability of transforming its mission requirements. At this particular time, the U.S Army was mainly fighting a counter-insurgency in the Philippines. I would also like to point out that the Army had several combat units outside of the Marines that had experience fighting and leadership that experienced war. For example General Pershing was awarded the Silver Star during the Spanish-American War and led the late stages of counter-insurgency in the Philippines. While the immediate assessment may have been correct…the German High Commandshould have easily seen that it was a mistake to discount the American military.

  27. I was thinking if you and the team of the great war could make a video about Denmark in the first world war

  28. I just read this really funny thing on the wikipedia bio of General Hector Macdonald. If you have never heard this story before it might be something that you can mention.

    "Fighting Mac" remains a national hero in Scotland. A 100 ft high memorial was erected above Dingwall in 1907, as well as another memorial at Mulbuie on the Black Isle, near where MacDonald was born. In March 1911, the Ashburton Guardian reported that MacDonald had been seen in Manchuria, and another report that a non-commissioned officer who had served with MacDonald in India and Egypt had seen him breakfasting at the Astor House in Shanghai two years earlier.[21] Conspiracy theories emerged after his death. It was rumoured that he had staged his suicide and had defected to Germany, taking up the identity of General August von Mackensen after the real Mackensen was supposed to have died of cancer.[22] During the First World War the German High Command attempted to capitalise on his continuing popularity among Scottish rank and file in the British Army by fostering the rumours that MacDonald was von Mackensen.[23]

  29. TGW is definitely the best resource on the First World War anywhere in the world at the moment. The BBC has shouldered arms, so to speak, and you'd never know WW1 had happened judging by its current schedules.

  30. Dear Indy Neidell. Sorry to use my mother's name. I always forget to log in …. I watch your videos here from Brazil and I find it very interesting. I would like to know the name of the computer program you use to make these interactive maps. I'm doing a documentary at home and wanted to use an interactive map like yours.

  31. Clearly Germany didn't pay attention to the American Civil War. At the start of the Civil War, America was in a similar situation then that of WWI: They also has a paltry insignificant army that had not seen major combat in more then a decade. But within a very short time, they were able to raise one of the largest and most effective armies on earth. America's industrialization and ability to rapidly mobilize should not have been ignored.

  32. Wohoo, I finally cought up with the release of the episodes. Thank you very much for making them and keep up the good work! 🙂

  33. As a former Marine. I'm just waiting to hear Indy go on about a few of the skirmishes they were a part of.

  34. when the US enters the war is there going to be a special about the Marines and their actions on the western front?

  35. Some say that it was an idiotic idea to launch an offensive at all. Some say it was a good idea. I believe the former. I don't understand why the Americans are doing those points it's not exactly going to be implemented after the deaths of millions of Allied troops I mean they didn't do anything to help in the war because well………… Cowardice? And anyway why didn't the German Submarines just blow up the American transports

  36. "The paths of the sea must be free" – and what is with the english see blockade against germany?

  37. 4:00
    Indy: "They had another neutral nation to worry about that seemed more important at the time.."

    Me: "Denmark?"

    Indy: "Greece!"

    Me: "oh…"

  38. 4:35 My god, I see it so clearly now. Indy is Wilhelm reincarnated! Just look at that portrait!

  39. interesting change of perspective, how Greece as seen as a potential major player over the US. also 7:00 :giggles: I am so immature sometimes…..

  40. Did he ignore Arras? It started on Apr. 1 as well. Everybody ignores Arras. The Australians called it the "Blood Tub".

  41. The map makes it look like about 1/3 of the Island of Saaremaa (Estonia) was controlled by the Central Powers. Was it?

  42. Entente – allies, Allies – central powers. Why can't you make up your mind? These are this, those are that. If I didn't already have a good idea what you were talking about, I would get confused.

  43. So when WW1 finishes on this Channel do you plan to do WW2 Afterwards? please do. 🙂

  44. the national Guard at this point "poorly trained"?! Look up 32 ID RED ARROW

  45. German Navy dude- "America means nothing." Me- Oh, German guy, you should be reassessed afraid. Very Afraid.

  46. Just wondering if you do videos on specific units from the war. I served with the 6th Marines during OIF and our unit has a rich History especially during The Great War

  47. "Don't worry about the manufacturing capability and population size of the United States; we'll win this war long before they could build forces and put them in the field against us."
    – Germany, 1917
    – Japan & Germany, 1941

  48. The moment you realize that almost exactly 100 years ago Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria had a stronger military than the US…

  49. a question, how come the germans were so outnumbered (eg: 4 mil vs 2.5 mil on the western front) and still managed to hold out for this long? what was the key to this success?

  50. "Decide the war in under 48 hours"
    Looking at the playlist shows me that you are going to cover the war from hour to hour now?
    Or, I don't believe it myself, a military leader was wrong beyond comprehension during the great war

  51. Why would Greece support the Central Powers when the Ottoman Empire was included?

  52. To give an idea of how small the US Army at the time was: it was less then half the size of the swiss army in 1914.

  53. I would blame Constantine for the problem, he had more than enough time to prepare for an armed neutrality, forcing anyone off, or joining the Central powers, or joining the Entante. He let the Allies enter Greece, set up camps and fortify in his own country against him, and let them continue till he was forced to confront them, he was also weak enough for a civil war to happen. Shamefur dispray, if I ever saw one.

  54. The Germans were not able to prevent Canadian soldiers from arriving in Europe, why did they believe they could stop Americans?

  55. 2:14 "But… Was Germany really worried about that possibility?"
    Music starts playing
    Hey! Vsauce! Indy here!

  56. Nivelle said he could defeat Germans in just 2 days with decisive victory lol!Greatest joke ı ever heard.

  57. Wasn't Germans had 2.85 million soldiers on Western Front consisting about 148 divisions in 1917?And in East they had 82 divisions consisting about 1.7 million soldiers in total 4.5 million.

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