Just Before The Tide Turned

: Winning A Cause World War Stories

On the 27th of last May the Germans broke through the French position

at the Chemin des Dames, a position which had been considered by the

Allies as almost impregnable. They overthrew the French as they had

overthrown the British two months earlier. Day by day they came nearer

to Paris, until only thirty-nine miles separated them from their goal.

A few days more at the same rate of advance, and Paris was within range

of the German guns of terrific destructive power. Paris, the nerve

center of the French railroad system and the seat of many French war

industries, not only, but the very heart of France, far more to the

French people in its meaning and traditions than merely the capital of

the country; Paris in imminent danger of ruthless bombardment like

Rheims, in possible danger even of conquest by the brutal invader,

drunk with lust and with victory! As one Frenchman expressed it to me:

We felt in our faces the very breath of the approaching beast.

And whilst the Hunnish hordes came nearer and nearer, and the very roar

of the battle could be dimly and ominously heard from time to time in

Paris, there were air raids over the city practically every night, and

the shells from the long-range monster guns installed some sixty or

seventy miles distant fell on its houses, places, and streets almost

every day.

They were not afraid, these superb men and women of France. They do

not know the meaning of fear in defense of their beloved soil and their

sacred ideals. There was no outward manifestation even of excitement

or apprehension. Calmly and resolutely they faced what destiny might

bring. But there was deep gloom in their hearts and dire forebodings.

They had fought and dared and suffered and sacrificed for well-nigh

four years. They had buried a million of their sons, brothers, and

fathers. They were bleeding from a million wounds and more. They

said: We will fight on to our last drop of blood, but alas! our

physical strength is ebbing. The enemy is more numerous by far than

we. Where can we look for aid? The British have just suffered grave

defeat. The Italians have their own soil to defend after the disaster

of last autumn. Our troops are in retreat. The Americans are not

ready and they are untried as yet in the fierce ordeal of modern

warfare. The Germans know well that in three months or six months the

Americans will be ready and strong in numbers. That is why they are

throwing every ounce of their formidable power against us now. The

Hun is at the gate now. Immeasurable consequences are at stake

now. It is a question of days, not of weeks or months. Where can we

look for aid now?

And out of their nooks and corners and hiding places crawled forth the

slimy brood of the Bolshevik-Socialists, of the Boloists, Caillauxists,

and pacifists, and they hissed into the ears of the people, Make

peace! Victory has become impossible. Why go on shedding rivers of

blood uselessly? The Germans will give you an honorable, even a

generous peace. Save Paris! Make peace!

The holy wrath of France crushed those serpents whenever their heads

became visible. Clemenceau, the embodiment of the dauntless spirit of

France, stood forth the very soul of patriotic ardor and indomitable

courage. But the serpents were there, crawling hidden in the grass,

ever hissing, Make peace!

And then, suddenly out of the gloom flashed the lightning of a new

sword, sharp and mighty, a sword which had never been drawn except for

freedom, a sword which had never known defeat--the sword of America!