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
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!