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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2009

10 - Conclusions


After the armistice of 11 November 1918, all American officers proudly agreed that the AEF had played a crucial role in winning the war. Developing from a small, poorly organized, inadequately equipped, and intellectually unprepared force, the U.S. Army had sent two million men to Europe, organized and equipped itself for modern combat, and bravely delivered powerful attacks against a much more experienced enemy. American officers were convinced that the AEF had provided the margin of victory for the Allied armies. There was less agreement on the role that U.S. Army doctrine had played in bringing about that victory. Although GHQ attempted to develop and disseminate doctrine, including some important tactical reforms, the most significant adaptation occurred within the individual combat divisions.

The Role of Pershing and GHQ

Despite the increasing doctrinal and operational independence of the AEF combat divisions, Pershing and GHQ were far from irrelevant – a charge sometimes leveled at some senior commanders in the French and British armies. Yet, few studies of the AEF, whether positive or negative accounts, have shown the nature of GHQ's relevance to American combat on the Western Front, or the limits of that significance. First, GHQ initially established an inadequate doctrine and then modified that doctrine more slowly and less completely than officers in the combat divisions. This initial acceptance of prewar American doctrine, and GHQ's continuous stress of the importance of that doctrine, meant that combat officers who accepted the instruction often employed faulty tactics during inadequately supported attacks based on poorly prepared attack plans.

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