General Pershing to Adjutant General

Identifier

WWP25377

Description

Military point of view on armistice with Germany.

Source

Library of Congress, Woodrow Wilson Papers

Publisher

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum

Contributor

Relation

WWP25376
WWP25378
WWP25379

Language

English

Provenance

Document scan was taken from Library of Congress microfilm reel of the Wilson Papers. WWPL volunteers transcribed the text.

Text

Washington, DC October 31, 1918
5.10 P.

13 00

From Paris
To The Adjutant General

CONFIDENTIAL

For the Secretary of War.

Reporting my view terms of armistice with Germany, views were expressed under circumstances as reported and upon conditions that it should be deemed wise to grant an armistice. Question now seems undetermined and therefore have handed Allied Supreme War the following communication which I hasten to report to Secretary of War. Have not had full opportunity to discuss with Mr. House nor with Allied Commanders in Chief but an inclined to believe that Marshal Foch would hold same views and that Marshal Haig would not approve. No doubt Mr. House will report action of Council.

“Paris, October 30th, 1918 To the Allied Supreme War Council, Paris. Gentlemen: In considering the question of whether or not Germany’s request for an armistice should be granted, the following expressed my opinion from the military point of view:

Paragraph 1. Judging by their excellent French, Belgian and American armies appear capable of conducting the offensive indefinitely. Their morale is high and the prospect of certain victory should keep it so.

Paragraph 2. The American Army is constantly increasing in strength and experience and should be able to take on increasingly important parts in the Allied offensive. Its growth, both in personnel and material, with such reserves as the Allies may furnish, not counting the Italian Army, should be more than equal to the combined losses of the Allied Armies.

Paragraph 3. German man power is constantly diminishing and her armies have lost over 300000 prisoners and over 1/3 of their artillery during the past three months, in their efforts to extricate themselves from a difficult situation and avoid disaster.

Paragraph 5. The estimated strength of the Allies on the western front, not counting Italy, and of Germany, is in rifles - Allies - 22,413 Germany - 16,495 advantage of 37 per cent in favor of the Allies in ….. - Allies - 22,413 Germany - advantage of 37 per cent in favor of the Allies If Italy’s forces should be added to the western front we should have a still greater advantage.

Paragraph 5. Germany’s morale is undoubtedly low, her allies have deserted her one by one and she can no longer hope to win. Therefore we should take full advantage of the situation and continue the offensive until we compel her unconditional surrender.

Paragraph 6. An armistice would revivify the low spirits of the German army and enable it to reorganize and resist later on, and would deprive the Allies of the full measures of victory by failing to press their present advantage to its complete military end.

Paragraph 7. As the apparent humility of German leaders in talking of Peace may be feigned, the Allies should distrust their sincerity and their motives. The appeal for an armistice is undoubtedly to enable the withdrawal from a critical condition to one now advantageous.

Paragraph 8. On the other hand, the internal political conditions of Germany, if correctly reported, are such that she is practically forced to ask for an armistice to save the overthrow of her present government, a consummation which should be sought by the Allies as precedent to permanent Peace.

Paragraph 9. A cessation of hostilities short of capitulation postpones if it does not make impossible the imposition of satisfactory Peace terms, because it would allow Germany to withdraw her army with its present strength, ready to resume hostilities if terms were not satisfactory to her.

Paragraph 10. An armistice would lead the Allied Armies to believe this the end of fighting and it would be difficult if not impossible to resume hostilities with our present advantage in morale in the event of failure to secure at a peace conference what we have fought for.

Paragraph 11. By agreeing to an armistice under the present favorable military situation of the Allies and accepting the principles of a negotiated peace rather than a dictated peace the Allies would jeopardize the moral position they now hold and possibly lose the chance actually to secure world peace on terms that would insure it permanently.

Paragraph 12. It is the experiences of history that victorious armies are prone to overestimate the enemy’s strength and too eagerly seek an opportunity for peace. This mistake is likely to be made now on account of the reputation Germany has gained through her victory of the last four years. Finally, I believe that complete victory can only be obtained by continuing the war until we force unconditional surrender from Germany, but if the Allied Governments decide to grant armistice, the terms should be so rigid that under no circumstances could Germany again take up arms.

Respectfully submitted.
John J. Pershing,

Original Format

Letter

Files

http://resources.presidentwilson.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/WWI1324A.pdf

Collection

Citation

Pershing, John J. (John Joseph), 1860-1948, “General Pershing to Adjutant General,” 1918 October 31, WWP25377, World War I Letters, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.