85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History
Landscapes of War and Peace
April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky
Title: Beyond the Western Front in the First World War
Lon Strauss, Marine Corps University
Jeff Schultz, Luzerne County Community College
Participant's Paper Title: Sustaining the Kaiser's Askaris: German Adaptation and Improvisation in the East African 'Ice-Cream War,' 1914-1918
Participant's Paper Abstract: 100 years after 1918, the European portion of World War I is well documented. Unfortunately, other regions of the war have escaped general attention such as German East Africa. While the campaign of German leader Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck is known for his prolonged 1914-1918 initially conventional and later guerrilla resistance to a combined army of British, Commonwealth and other European forces, the sheer nature of the logistics challenges his command faced has seen relatively scant attention. The colony itself (Dt. Ostafrika) became a logistics dynamo in its wide range of people, services and goods, which helped to keep von Lettow's forces in the field. Scientists, planters, colonists and indigenous Africans alike all contributed a range of resources - some of it forced - and kept the Schutztruppe fighting. As the willowy Berlin logistics chain failed, von Lettow adapted and overcame many of the issues they faced via captured supplies and weapons, blockade-runner arrivals, knowledge of the East African peculiars (terrain, weather, insects, diseases), and finally the raider Königsberg's timely presence. The light cruiser Königsberg, sunk in the Rufiji Delta in 1915, provided invaluable support to the ground campaign in the form of skilled reinforcements and dismounted 105mm guns placed on improvised carriages. Those same guns managed to harass the British ground forces for years, sustained by ammunition brought in by two successful blockade-runners. Von Lettow employed a number of improvisations, adapted to the region's environmental peculiarities and employed captured supplies from the varying enemies they fought, such as British, Indian, South African, Belgians and Portuguese troops. Von Lettow's flexible and adaptive guerilla war mindset kept the British and their allies from defeating the thinning ranks of the Kaiser's multi-racial force until after the European fighting ended.
James Tallon, Lewis University
Participant's Paper Title: A Unique Landscape in War and Peace: Albania in the First World War
Participant's Paper Abstract: The newly-created state of Albania found itself in a perpetual state of turmoil from the outset of its independence. Aside from being engaged in a near civil war between various factions within the country, Albania's neighbors and other powers sought influence and territorial domination. During the country's 'long' World War I (1912-1923) Serbia, Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, Italy, France, and the Ottoman Empire all intervened in its affairs. Many Albanians reaction to these various interlopers was ambivalent. Different segments of Albanian society reacted differently. There was support from some segments of society and resistance from others. This paper will detail the unique course that Albania followed through the First World War. This paper will draw attention to the distinctive situation that Albania found itself and will show that Albania is difficult to fit into the existing historiographies of the First World War. Albania is often associated with the Salonika Front, but Albania never officially declared war on either the Central or Entente Powers. Despite being neutral, its territory was violated by both the Central or Entente Powers. In the peace process, despite never having officially declared war, much of Albania's territory was promised as compensation. In current historiography of the First World War there is a unipolar or perhaps a bipolar approach to the conflict. Territories like Albania challenge this and this work seeks to integrate Albania into the narrative of the Salonika Front, the Mediterranean, the debate around neutrality, and the post-war peace process.
Kevin Broucke, University of North Texas
Participant's Paper Title: Macedonia 1918, the Year of Victory
Participant's Paper Abstract: The Macedonian Campaign of World War I (October 1915-November 1918) traditionally remains one of the understudied theatres of the historiography of the conflict. Despite its vital importance in the outcome of the war, it is still considered as a mere sideshow compared to the Western Front and the Gallipoli Campaign. Additionally, within the Anglophone academic community, the crucial military contribution of the French Army and the decisive role it exerted in the Allied victory of 1918 is considerably neglected. This paper will address these two issues and analyze the period between June and November 1918, to demonstrate how the Allied Armies (British, French, Greek, Italian and Serbian) under the energetic leadership of their new commander-in-chief, General Louis Franchet d'Espèrey, decisively defeated the Central Powers in South-East Europe. Between the end of September and early November 1918, under d'Espèrey's direction, the Allied triumph in the Balkans triggered the successive capitulations of Bulgaria, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, thus reinforcing the futility for Germany of continuing hostilities, and finally brought World War I to a swift conclusion. This paper will focus on two critical aspects of the Macedonian Campaign: first, the military preparations, and the conduct of the Allies' offensive launched on September 14, 1918. Secondly, this work will interpret the tense diplomatic context that existed within the Entente about the purpose of an offensive in Macedonia and disclose the negotiations that took place in the Supreme War Council. Negotiations that were held before the assault against the Central Powers started, and also once operations were under way and achieved completely unexpected strategic results. This transnational research will specifically survey British and French primary sources, such as diplomatic and military archives, as well as a vast array of memoirs and correspondence produced by protagonists of both the Central Powers and the Entente.