Forged in Battle, 99 Years Ago

Back on Anzac Day, I picked up an article by Anton Lang, known as Tony from Oz. In comments, we got to talking about one General Sir John Monash, and how the military friendship between Australia and America got its start. Frankly, although I’ve recently read a biography of General Pershing, I had never heard of General Monash, and that says a little too much about American military history.

During World War I, Australia and America both strongly resisted the idea of having our troops under foreign command, some of that being due to what looked like extravagant expenditures of men, often to little purpose. A case in point being the Anzacs at Gallipoli.

I still haven’t chased down the book he recommended to me, but I promise I will. Here’s some from Tony,

That first association between these two great military forces was on 4th July 1918. The U.S. had finally joined the War, and had not been tried in any battle as of that time.

When the War began he was given command of a Brigade and was part of the campaign at Gallipoli in Turkey, landing there with his men the day after the intitial landing, which was on 25th April 1915. He was known for his Independent decisions and meticulous planning of military operations. He was promoted to Brigadier General in September of 1915. After that Gallipoli campaign, he was then sent to France where the War had bogged down along the Somme River. Monash arrived in June of 1916, when that Somme had already been bogged down for two years, with hardly a gain against the German military might. He was promoted to Major General in July of 1916, and given command of the 3rd Australian Division. Again his attention to detail and meticulous planning came to the notice of the High Command.

One of Monash’s biggest bugbears was that the by now very large Australian Force was still under the disposition of British Officers. Monash, although not the ranking Australian Senior Officer desperately wanted all those Australians to fight as a united group under Australian command only. This was also a politically sensitive thing as well, and the Australian political leadership also wanted the same thing. Monash was not favoured to command the hoped for Australian Corps. He won a few victories that brought him to the attention of senior Officers of the British forces, and he had the respect of them, even if not from his own political masters, influenced in part by a media outlet who actively campaigned against his taking that command. Those victories, the way he handled his planning, and the men under him brought him to notice. He was promoted to LtGen in May of 1918. His thinking was radically different from the English whose main thrust was to inject huge numbers and try and just keep driving, and those huge numbers meant that there were also huge losses, which did not seem to bother the English High Command all that much. Monash looked on his men as the most important asset, and only meticulous planning would protect them. He had some setbacks, but in the main, always had less losses than in other similar situations.

4th July 1918 – The Battle Of Hamel

Monash was tasked with planning a minor battle, taking command of all the forces for that battle, and then proceeding with the action, and here’s where the U.S. comes in. Always the meticulous planner right down to the tiniest detail, he again planned the set piece to the finest detail. The Americans had just come into the War under General Pershing, but had still been basically untried in the heat of a major battle. This operation Monash planned was the Battle of Hamel.

Monash was given as part of his force 2000 U.S. soldiers, 2 Battalions. This had never happened before, and the U.S. has never had their troops under the Command of anyone other than the U.S. This was the first time this had happened. Those 2000 troops had trained hard for this and were looking forward to actually taking part. Pershing did not want to be seen as the first U.S. person to submit his men to non U.S. command, and asked the senior English Command to remove his men from outside Command. 1000 of those men were reluctantly withdrawn, under the protest of those men, who wanted to join in the fight at last. Monash recast his battle plan, and on the eve of the battle, he was summoned to English High Command and asked to withdraw the other 1000 Americans, as Pershing did not want any of his men associated with the Battle. Monash vigorously opposed their withdrawal, saying that Battle could not proceed without them. There was back and forth and no relenting from the High Command. Monash virtually asked the Senior Command to disobey the order and allow the Americans to stay in, and to delay the message to the Americans until after the start of the Battle, too late for them to be withdrawn. This swayed the High Command, that what amounted to a lesser ranking senior officer willing to stake his future on this. They swayed and allowed the Americans to stay in, although delaying that decision to Pershing. Monash walked away from that meeting full in the knowledge that if this went badly, it would all be over for him, both with the English High Command, and also going with that, any support from his fellows, and the Australian political front, as well as any chance to lead an Australian only force under Australian Command.

The date of the Battle. 4th July 1918. Monash had intentionally and specifically planned it that way in honour of the Americans to show that they were accepted as part of the fight against the Germans. Those 1000 Americans would join with 8000 men from Australian forces.

The Battle was set to begin just before Dawn on the morning of July 4th.

It was all over in ….. 93 minutes.

Keep reading American And Australian Military – A 99 Year Relationship. And thus was an alliance formed, in a battle that few from either ally remember, between two former British colonies which would continue for 99 years and counting, including action in Word War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the War on Terror, in all its phases.

It’s sometimes said that the US and Australia really are quite a lot alike. I don’t know if that is completely true, it could be, but one thing we agree on is that foreign leaders are rarely to be entrusted with the lives of our citizens, except each other. That is one of the legacies of General Sir John Monash, and General of the Armies, John J. Pershing, neither of whom trusted either the British or the French with the lives of our soldiers. But Pershing found he could trust Monash, and 99 years later, the results are evident.

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9 Responses to Forged in Battle, 99 Years Ago

  1. The Aussies were really the only Allied Military to stay something of a presence with the US in Vietnam! Though the ROK Marines were there for awhile also. But Vietnam was of course always politically pressed rather than by the military, just like Korea sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Indeed they were!

      Like

  2. TonyfromOz says:

    Thanks again NEO.

    I had a follow up Post today with more about the American involvement in that first Battle, which saw an American Corporal awarded The Medal Of Honor.

    Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery (Monty) the British commander at the end of World War Two said that John Monash was the best World War One General on the Western Front.

    Link to today’s Post: https://papundits.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/american-and-australian-military-a-99-year-relationship-part-two/

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Thanks, Tony! On my way! 🙂

      Like

  3. the unit says:

    You mention never hearing of Monash before. As per usual following your blogs, I’ve now read about three people I never heard of before by following links while reading about the other. Monash, A.J.P. Taylor, and Malcolm Muggeridge, all interesting people.
    Taylor wrote Monash was “the only general of creative originality produced by the First World War.” Maybe that’s why he’s missing in the Pershing book you read? Other generals a llittle jealous of being out creatively originaled. 🙂
    Wiki says Monash was a “dux.” Dux test. Might say…If it looks like a dux, swims like a dux, and quacks like a dux, then it probably is Sir John Monash. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Part of the fun of doing the blog, to me, anyway.

      Ha! Reminds me that Jess’ dad used to tell her, “Legs deluxe, they look like dux.” He was wrong, of course, from the few picture I’ve seen (to the knee) they are outstanding! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        I think I remember Fr. Robert said he is or used to be a legs man, legs deluxe. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, women’s long legs are beautiful, the deluxe ones! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • And yes, me wife she “got” deluxe legs! One of her best looking points, but not her only points! And she is feeling so much better thanks be to God!

          Liked by 1 person

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