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Clemenceau class - Namesakes

Georges ("The Tiger") Clemenceau [1841-1929] was the French Radical Prime Minister in the last year of World War I, and a vocal opponent of earlier political and military leaders in the French war effort. An ardent opponent of Germany, his political leadership in the last year contributed greatly to Allied victory. His ardor earned him the nickname. Clemenceau is often credited for the phrase "War is too important to be left to the generals." Clemenceau, to the dismay of the French high command, insisted on frequent firsthand visits to the front lines to observe the performance of senior military.

By 1918 events were going far from well at the front.With great raiding activity on the part of the German air squadron and with the opening of the bombardment of Paris on March 23 by a gun situated over 70 m. distant from the capital, the French people, and the Parisian population in particular, had many reasons for despondency.

The alert courage and tireless energy of Clemenceau throughout those dark months acted as a tonic both on the army at the front, where he was known as Padre la Victoire, and upon the civilian populations in the rear. Clemenceau was constant in his visits to the trenches, whence he always returned with a fresh store of serene confidence. The appointment of Gen. Foch to be chief of the western front was also bracing in its effects. Throughout the summer the Government was called upon to deal with some firmness with the growing section of extremists in the Socialist and Syndicalist parties, which, with every fresh reverse in the field, redoubled their opposition to Clemenceau.

When the Armistice was signed, however, it again became apparent in Radical-Socialist and Socialist quarters, and even among Radicals of a less extreme character, who felt that, while Clemenceau might be an excellent man for the waging of war, he was not likely to prove a satisfactory negotiator of a peace by which the whole future of the world would be settled. Such was the overwhelming popularity of Clemenceau, however, that this reaction against his almost dictatorial power made but a faint ripple on the political surface.

With his customary sturdy self-confidence, Clemenceau never for an instant contemplated leaving the making of peace to other hands than those which had forged the victory. Clemenceau frankly stated that although the old political system of the world appeared to be discredited, he still remained faithful to it. He pointed out that, had that old system been developed, had the United States, Great Britain, France and Italy, before the war declared that whoever attacked one of them would have to expect the other three to join in the task of common defence, there would have been no war.

French General (later Marshal of France) Ferdinand Foch [1851-1929] served briefly in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1. He subsequently returned to school and was commissioned 1873 in the field artillery. Forch graduated from the War College in 1885, and served on the faculty 1894-1913. He was promoted to school director and brigadier general by Clemenceau, the war minister and a friend, in 1907. It was not so much his ability to impart information to the students that distinguished the teaching career of General Foch, but rather the spirit with which he permeated the whole institution. He was the very reverse of a dry tactician. He taught rather the art of War than its science; or, rather, be emphasized the human side of it. War, as he taught its principles, was not only a study of explosives and engineering, but the capacity to understand the psydxology of the human brain under stress of the excitement of actual military operations. In his courses intuition played quite as important a part as mathematics. Briefiy, he considered morale the most important element in successful warfare.

When the Germans invaded France, in August, 1914, thus beginning the five years’ military operations on the western front, General Foch was in command of the Ninth Army. His remarkable achievements following, which gradually brought him to the highest rank on the side of the Allied forces, are historical, rather than biographical. His masterful defeat of the Germans under General von Bulow, on Sept. 8, 1914, known as “The Affair of the Marshes of St. Gond,” wherein the Allies registered the first check to the oncoming invaders, was but the beginning of a series of such achievements.

In May, 1917, General Foch succeeded General Pétain as Chief of Staff of the French Army. On March 28, 1918, it was announced that the Allies had finally agreed to amalgamate their forces on the western front under a single command, with General Foch as supreme director of operations, on Haig's advice. Henceforward, the coordination of the Allies equalled that of the Germans, and the defeat of the latter was assured. Promoted to Field Marshal 6 August 1918, Foch implemented his war-winning "roulement strategy," in July 1918. In the following October Marshal Foch, who still remembered vividly the experiences of the French during the Franco-Prussian War, had the supreme honor of receiving the German delegation which brought the surrendier of the Central Empires mto his hands.

Foch dictated the peace terms to the German delegation in his railway car at Compiegne. On learning of the terms of the Versailles Treaty, he said, "This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years." Foch reputedly stated in March 1913 that "aviation is fine as sport. I even wish officers would practice the sport, as it accustoms them to risk. But, as an instrument of war, it is nothing (c'est zéro)."

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Page last modified: 09-04-2017 16:01:37 ZULU