Marshal Foch

A Great German philosopher said many years ago that history was the

story of the struggle of the human race for freedom. Would the Huns

conquer Europe and put back human liberty for hundreds of years? This

was the question that was answered at the battle of the Marne in

September, 1914, and the answer depended upon what General Foch was

able to do with his army. It was necessary that he should attack, and

General Joffr
ordered him to do so.

General Foch did not reply that he was having all he could do to hold

his own and to prevent his army from being captured or destroyed,

although this was really the situation. He sent back to his commanding

general a message that will never be forgotten, one that was in keeping

with the maxim he had always taught his students in the military

school, that the best defense is an offense: "My left has been forced

back; my right has been routed; I shall attack with my center."

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N.Y.]

Foch is a man of medium height. His face is an especially striking one.

He has the forehead of a thinker, with two deep folds between the

eyebrows; he has deep-set eyes, a large nose, a strong mouth slightly

hidden under a gray mustache, and a chin which shows decision and

force. His whole face expresses great power of thought and will.

Before the war, he was a professor of military history. He was

accustomed to outline to the young officers in his class a clear

statement of a military situation, and the orders which had been

followed. He would then call upon his pupils to decide what

difficulties would arise and what the results would be. In this way,

they learned to discover for themselves the solutions of many kinds of

military problems.

Since Foch has been accustomed to this clear reasoning on all war

problems, no military situation can surprise him. As a commander, he

selects the goal to be reached, and the most skillful way of reaching

it, and his men have confidence that he is right. This is what gives a

commander the power to do things.

Marshal Joffre realized General Foch's ability and quickly advanced


After the First Battle of the Marne, it was necessary to appoint a

commander for the French forces north of Paris, and it was very

important to select one who had the initiative and the ability to check

the German attempt to capture the Channel ports. The new commander must

also be a man of great tact, for he would have to work with the British

and the Belgians. General Foch was selected, and has proved to be the

right man in the right place.

The race for the Channel ports was an exciting one. Although the

Germans lost, it seemed at times as if they would win, and be able to

establish submarine bases within a very short distance of England. In

fact, if they had captured Calais, they could have fired with their

long-range guns across the Channel and have bombarded English coast

towns, and perhaps London itself.

Foch's decision and strength of purpose are well illustrated by an

incident which is told by the French officers working under his

command. He had sent some cavalry to protect the British army from

being outflanked and disastrously defeated. At the close of the day,

the cavalry commander reported to General Foch that he had been obliged

to withdraw, as the Germans had been reënforced. "Did you throw all the

forces possible into the fight?" asked General Foch. "No," answered the

cavalry commander. "You will at once take up your old position and hold

the enemy there until you have lost every gun," directed the general.

"Then you will report to headquarters for further orders."

Foch is a leader who plans well, who knows how to command, and how to

make others obey. His orders always end with the words, "Without

delay!" Because the enemy has usually had larger numbers and more

ammunition, time has been everything to the Allies. Foch saved time and

so saved the Allies.

After his great victory at the Second Battle of the Marne, Foch was

made a Marshal of France.

The Allies, in 1918, through the influence of President Wilson, it is

said, decided to appoint a generalissimo, that is, one who should have

direction of all the Allied forces on the west front, including those

in Italy. Foch was appointed to this command, and from this time the

German plans and campaigns began to go wrong. To this one man, who

entered the French army in his teens, and who commanded at sixty-six

the largest forces ever under one general, the successes of the Allies

were due, more than to any other single individual, unless it be

President Wilson.

Between July 15 and October, he had regained all the territory taken by

the Germans in their great drives of 1918 and had driven the enemy out

of the St. Mihiel salient which they had held since 1914. These

victories were won not by hammer blows of greatly superior numbers but

by generalship of the highest order and far superior to that of the

German leaders.