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
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
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 reÃ«nforced. "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
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