While this website generally focuses on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the AEF Centennial Celebrations throughout Belgium and France in 2018 warrant a broader view. The timeline and statistics outlined in the spreadsheet below attempt to quantify the size and timing of the AEF Build-up in France and Belgium and America’s contribution toward victory.
The genesis of this spreadsheet was the author’s six month stay in France in 2017; where it seemed few people knew the size of the AEF build-up and the extent of the AEF action in Summer 1918. Did this lack of knowledge stem from not knowing the facts, from language barriers, or from inherent bias? Most readers–including Americans–read only history from their nation’s scholars and take it for the gospel truth. (Americans will read British authors, too, and do the same.) It is a natural bias that each nation attempts to explain / justify its sacrifices; while downplaying the role that other nations played in winning the war.
Critics will argue that the U.S. joined the war too late; took too long to send troops and equipment; did a poor job of training its troops; and wouldn’t let them be fed into existing units under foreign leadership. Proponents will argue that America’s entry tipped the balance in favor of the Allies; that Germany exhausted itself in the Spring of 1918 trying to end the war before Americans arrived in large numbers; and that Americans advanced up the learning curve much fast than their European Allies had at the outbreak of the war.
Objectively, there are too few statistics for this spreadsheet to provide a definitive answer, and there is “ammunition” for both sides in the numbers presented below. For it took ALL of the Allies–France, England, Belgium and the USA–116 days to defeat an “exhausted” German Army. (The measurement dates used are 18 July, when Foch’s French-American Aisne-Marne Campaign was launched, to 11 November.) The role of the French Army is often maligned in English-language texts; yet at no time during this period did the war-weary French Army hold less than 50% of the Western Front. What is interesting is that, by late August, 1918, the AEF was holding as large a % of the Western Front as the BEF. (See page 6.) Also, by 11 November, 1918 the size of the AEF exceeded the “Peak strength” of the BEF in Flanders and France during the war; albeit there was a significant difference in training and experience. (See page 4.)
The Webmaster believes that an “objective” multi-national review of the last 116 days of the war remains to be written. Perhaps, a more fair comparison of the AEF to its Allies’ Armies would be to look at the BEF’s actions during the first 18 months of the war or during the period after which Britain’s small, professional army was eliminated. Both nations had significantly smaller armies than Europe’s major players.