Postscript—The End of the War
When the last sentence was written, no one doubted that Germany would surrender some time; the only question was “When?” Her last frantic drive came to an end with her defeat in the second battle of the Marne. In the autumn of 1918 she requested an armistice, with a view, it was generally believed, to creating an opportunity to get her troops, ordnance, munitions, and supplies safely back into Germany. She could then rest and prepare for another drive in the spring of 1919.
Nothing but unconditional surrender could be accepted, and the Allied lines pushed on. “Are you going to France?” some one asked an American soldier as he stood waiting on the wharf. “No, ma’am; to Berlin,” he replied.
People who were following on their maps the course of the war moved every day the flags of the Allies a little nearer the German boundaries. The German plan had been to make a drive, then rest and take plenty of time to prepare for another drive. General Foch’s plan was to keep up a continuous battle, striking first at one point, then at another, then at two together, no German ever knowing where the next blow would fall. The result was that at the end of his nine weeks’ campaign the line of the Germans on the Western Front was everywhere crumbling, while the Allies’ line was as powerful as at first. Guns, supplies, and prisoners were captured in large numbers by the Allies. Japan was winning victories in Siberia, and England in Palestine. On the Italian Front and in the Balkans the Allies were moving resistlessly forward. Austria begged for peace. Turkey signed an armistice that was really a surrender. Troops of the Allies took possession of the forts on the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. The Turkish army was demobilized, and a great force of Allied mine-sweepers set to work to clear the straits of mines.
It was evident that the end of the war was at hand. Before the middle of October, 1918, the Belgian authorities sent word to the Belgian refugees in England to prepare for a return to their own country. People watched eagerly for news of the ending of the war, and in the gray of the morning of November 11, which it has since been proposed to call “Victory Day,” the cable under the sea thrilled with the announcement of an armistice between the Allies and Germany. Sleepy travelers were aroused by the tooting of their locomotives responding to the bells and whistles and shouts in every city and village along their lines. Long before daylight the streets of cities were full of happy, good-natured crowds. “The boys are coming home!” millions of Americans were saying joyfully to themselves. It is no wonder that boys and girls danced and sang; that men tossed up their hats and raided the toy shops for everything that would make a noise; that they rang bells and blew horns; that clouds of confetti swept around the sky-scrapers of New York; that processions marched through the streets of every city; and that when evening came, buildings were illuminated, bands played, and the whole country gave itself up to rejoicing. Most interesting of all the celebrations was that of the Sioux Indians of South Dakota. They danced their ancient Victory Dance and made as many speeches as their white brothers. One chief gravely expressed his joy for the victory over “barbarism such as Indians never heard of before.” Another said of the Germans, “Let them put away their barbarism, and then we will give their nation its old place by the sacred campfire of the nations.”
This armistice was the same as a surrender, because of the strictness of its terms. They were neither cruel nor unmilitary, but they were severe, because the nations could put no trust in the word of their treacherous foe, and to protect themselves they were obliged to leave Germany powerless to renew the warfare. They required that she should withdraw from the lands that she had invaded and make good all damage as far as possible. She must also vacate a long stretch of territory on the western side of the Rhine. Three great cities in this territory, Cologne, Coblenz, and Mayence, were to be occupied by the Allies. Another stretch of land, twenty-five miles wide, lying on the eastern side of the Rhine, the German troops were required to evacuate. Military stores and equipments must be surrendered, and both military and civilian prisoners must be set free. The quantity of material to be given up was enormous; for instance, 30,000 machine guns and 10,000 motor trucks. All money and securities which had been stolen from the countries of the Allies must be restored. The treaties imposed upon Russia and Rumania must be abandoned.
Most humiliating of all, perhaps, but necessary, were the terms imposed upon the German navy. Battleships, cruisers, submarines, and destroyers in large numbers had to be surrendered. To receive their surrender, two hundred and forty British ships of war were drawn up in the North Sea, together with French and American fighting ships, “Comrades of the Mist,” as Admiral Beatty called them. No opportunity for treachery was allowed, and the guns which had last been fired at the battle of Jutland were in such order that in thirty seconds a broadside could have been poured out. “German fleet in sight on the starboard bow,” called the lookout man in a matter-of-fact fashion, as the fleet advanced in procession. “The German flag will be lowered at sunset,” commanded Admiral Beatty, “and will not be hoisted again without permission.” At the close of the ceremonial, the English sailors gave three rousing cheers for their commander. “Thank you,” said the Admiral; and added, “I always told you they would have to come out.”
So it is that the end of the war has come, but not the end of difficulties. Germany is in the uproar of anarchy, and the streets of Berlin have flowed with the blood of her citizens. The Kaiser has abdicated his throne; he fled to Holland even before the armistice was signed. The Crown Prince is virtually a prisoner on a little island belonging to Holland. Germans bitterly regret that they have lost the war and are angry with the leaders who brought them into disaster and downfall; but neither Kaiser, junkers, nor everyday citizens have expressed the least penitence for the suffering which they have brought upon the world. How can these people be helped to “put away their barbarism,” as the Sioux Indian said, and be fitted to take a place “by the sacred campfire of the nations”?
And shall this barbarism go unpunished? “The country that recklessly plunged the world into agony must accept a stern reckoning,” said Lloyd George, Premier of England. This stern “reckoning” is not because, in the madness of warfare, occasional cruelty might have been shown, but because such cruelty is the settled policy and belief of a nation of more than 60,000,000 people, and the world must never again be called upon to suffer from it.
Many other questions are pressing upon us. How shall Russia be aided to find herself? Where shall the border-lines of the various countries—new and old—be drawn? Shall there be disarmament, and to what extent? What laws of trade must be formed? What is meant by the “freedom of the seas”? How can it be made sure that the smaller peoples may live unmolested by more powerful neighbors, greedy of wealth and territory? Shall there be a League of Nations, and what shall be its province and its powers?
It is such questions as these that must be answered at the Peace Table by representatives of the nations that have struggled together to withstand the onslaught of Germany. It is upon the wisdom and justice with which these questions are answered that, perhaps for many generations to come, the peace of the world will depend.