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Remembered Today:

What if the USA had maintained strict neutrality?


dutchbarge
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Th US Government, while proclaiming herself to be neutral, was not blind to the opportunities a European War had to offer US financial interests. Officially US interests could not get involved; unoffically it was a different story. It is well documented that the US Government turned a blind eye allowing US banks and industry to provide the Allies with capital and munitions almost from the beginning of the war. It can be fairly put that without this backing the Allies could not have prosecuted a protracted war. The US, under the guise of neutrality, proceeded to profit from the war with no plans of ever becoming a combatant herself. However by 1917 US investment in the Allied cause had grown so large that an Allied defeat (and default) would likely have bankrupted the US and America was drawn into the conflict to prevent this from happening.

I am given pause to speculate on what might have been the outcome if the US had maintained strict neutrality. Without US capital and material support would the Allies would have been more inclined to negotiate a settlement early on? Without the promise of millions of US troops might the Allies have settled in late 1917? Cheers, Bill

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Well, history turned out differently. I have little patience with your "what if" scenario.

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Hello Dutchbarge,

Are you saying, the reason for US involvement was due to financial reasons alone or due mainly to, or was a part of many reasons.

Regards

Nige

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Bill

There are many ways of looking at things and interpreting history. As you are an American, I cannot understand your negative and cynical slant on things.

To say the USA profited from the war from the beginning, is I think, ridiculous. You seem to imply that they were rubbing their hands in glee at the carnage in Europe.

You state that they only came into the war as they would have been bankrupted if they had not.

These are your own views, and should be stated as such, rather than 'facts'.

The US government helped in the ways that they could. Many of their pilots were killed in Europe, long before the US even came into the war.

I know some people still resent the fact that they did not come in sooner. However, the American people did not want to get involved, - and why should they? What sane person would want to get involved in a war thousands of miles from home, when your own country was not threatened ?

I know that it is hard to admit, but I do not think that anyone doubts that without the help of the USA, we would have been defeated. Over a hundred thousand of their men were killed, and huge numbers maimed and wounded. My opinion is that we owe them a great debt of gratitude, and should stop resenting the fact.

Regards

Janice

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I know that it is hard to admit, but I do not think that anyone doubts that without the help of the USA, we would have been defeated. Over a hundred thousand of their men were killed, and huge numbers maimed and wounded.

Janice

"These are your own views, and should be stated as such, rather than 'facts'."

Andy

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Without US capital and material support would the Allies would have been more inclined to negotiate a settlement early on? Without the promise of millions of US troops might the Allies have settled in late 1917? Cheers, Bill

I think without US "logistical supprt" it would have been a very difficult thing.

However, I do not take the view that without American military involvement there would have been a different outcome. In military terms, the war was won by the time Americans signifciantly took to the field in late September 1918.

John

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Over a hundred thousand of their men were killed,

Not correct.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs puts the number of killed/died of wounds at 53,402. A large enough number considering the very short time in action (usually attributed to the the US Army still mainly using 1916 attack tactics).

John

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However, I do not take the view that without American military involvement there would have been a different outcome. In military terms, the war was won by the time Americans signifciantly took to the field in late September 1918.

Dare one say that the threat of millions of fresh US troops provoked the all out German attacks of Spring 1918 in an effort to win the war before they arrived in significant numbers. Had the Germans remained on the defensive, bolstered by troops from the Eastern Front, then, as Haig was already planning, the war would have dragged on into 1919, possibly on the back of another large scale and relatively unsuccessful Allied summer offensive. Public opinion might then have caused Governments to look for alternatives to a military solution.

On the other hand, I suspect that the chaos within Germany, both economic and political, and the effects of the blockade, would still have eroded the effectiveness of the German war effort to a significant degree but the threat of US military intervention as much as the reality had, IMHO, a decisive and damaging impact on German strategy.

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Just opinions here guys...

I think the impact of the US entering the war must have been a huge psychological blow to the German planners.

The allies and central powers were both exhausted by the war, ecomomically and miltarily, and both knew it was only a matter of time before one of them collapsed due to the pressures. As the status quo stood both sides still had a chance of holding on until the other collapsed first, or they agreed to an honourable peace.

The Germans took a gmable, that they could step up the u-boat pressure on Britian, knowing full well it would antagonise the Americans into more active intervention, but they gambled on being able to knock out Britian before the Americans could get into the war.

You can see how desperate they were to avoid the eventuality of US troops arriving in Europe, by their half-baked schemes to get the US and Mexico tied up in a war and keep US troops over there in case the gamble failed.

The Germans knew that if their gamble failed and US troops actually arrived in Europe they would be finished. This is indeed what happened, much quicker than the Germans expected. It would be like two boxers in the tenth round, both exhausted, but knowing they could still knock the other one out, and suddenly one boxer having a reserve boxer appearing in his corner, fresh and fit and ready to take over.

OK, the Americans did not have much time to get into the action militarily, but the wider picture was an endless supply of resources and men. As it was they lost 53,000, this may not be as many as other allies, but in modern terms those are still unimaginable numbers. To put into perspective that is more than Canada or Australia lost in WW2, so no small contribution, and in a realtively short time.

Lets also not foget the extra British and other allied troops that were able to be freed up for the front line by US troops arriving in rear areas. The impact of this is often overlooked. This was a huge factor in military succcesses, even before the US troops were in action.

Once the Germans started their unresticted u-boat war, I think neutrality was no longer an option for the US, since they were actually being attacked by an aggressor. So the question should perhaps be "What would have happened if the Germans had not provoked the US into the war?"

Ironically the Germans might have had more chance of victory if they had NOT tried to knock Britian out quickly with u-boats!

As I have stated in another thread, I personally find the sight of the graves of young US men in France very sad. They came from remote farms in Kentucky and Idaho, and should have grown up there and seen their grandchildren born. I know that is the same for all nations' dead, but it seems an even more foreign field for those men to end up in.

Those men were told they were doing the right and honourable thing, and they belived it. We should value the contribution of all nations and men who took part, not bicker over who suffered more. Every grave is a personal tradegy to someone.

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This 'what if' scenario is a red herring. There was no possibility of the US remaining neutral given that Germany had promised Mexico to return the ex-Mexican states to them 'when' Germany won the war. Look up 'Zimmerman telegrams' for background on this.

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There was not only the Zimmerman telgrams, but the u-boat attacks (which were higher impact), and also the detonation of the munitions supplies and factories in New Jersey. So you are right, in the face of this aggression the US could not fail to respond.

So the question might be better phrased as "What if Germany had not provoked America into the war?"

But the answers will still be the same regardless.

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However, the American people did not want to get involved, - and why should they? What sane person would want to get involved in a war thousands of miles from home, when your own country was not threatened ?

You mean like all those sane Newfoundlanders, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans (maybe they were threatened ever so slighty) etc..?

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Moon Monkey is spot on. Yes there were a number of issues that provoked the US into the war, but people do tend to focus on u-boats, the Lusitania etc and the Mexican issue is not often remembered.

My apologies Horatio2: I missed your contribution.

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And people often forget the Black Tom and Kingsland bombings. These must have had a huge imapct on public opinion, much like later attacks on New York! (altough not of the same scale in terms of casualties!). Must have seemed like the war was reaching American soil.

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The US government helped in the ways that they could. Many of their pilots were killed in Europe, long before the US even came into the war.

For the sake of clarity then as far as I am aware these were American citizens that had made a personal choice - nothing to do with the US government as the wording of your post implies.

Regards,

Jonathan S

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The US were never really neutral. Respecting the British blockade of German ports whilst threatening Germany over her blockade of Britain, supply of munitions, food, denying Germany the products she had previously imported from the U.S. etc are all evidence that the U.S. was far from neutral.

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This 'what if' scenario is a red herring. There was no possibility of the US remaining neutral given that Germany had promised Mexico to return the ex-Mexican states to them 'when' Germany won the war. Look up 'Zimmerman telegrams' for background on this.

Was this really a likely prospect! The Germans made a similar promise to the Irish.... and in reality did very little to pursue that. I cannot have been considered as a serious threat to the americans and that must have been known to everyone.

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Hello Dutchbarge,

Are you saying, the reason for US involvement was due to financial reasons alone or due mainly to, or was a part of many reasons.

Regards

Nige

Hello Nige,

From the beginning of the war the US chose a course of strict neutrality. President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected to a second term in 1916 on the slogan "He kept us out of the war!". Despite the recent arrival of immigrants from the belligerent European countries the overwhelming majority Americans believed that the European War was the folly of those involved and America should not take sides let alone get involved.

But under international law, as a neutral, the US had the absolute right to trade with any and all warring parties and early on did just that trading with both Allied and Central Powers (as did many other neutral nations).

As the war progressed it became more practical (and profitable) to deal solely with the Allies principally because of England's naval strangle hold on Germany. America was very frustrated by England's effort's to curb her freedom under international law to trade with whomever she pleased and early on there was as much cause, at least on that count, to go to war with England over her treatment of US vessels trying to reach Germany (remember the War of 1812 was fought over freedom of the seas) as there was with Germany for her actions. Frustrated in seeing their enemy being supplied by the US and other neutral nations while she was blockaded by the British Navy, Germany was forced to declare the waters around the British Isles a war zone and begin her U-boat war. Britian couldn't have been happier for they welcomed the chance for the Germans to sink US shipping and thereby bring the US to the Allied cause. Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty while arguing for cheap insurance rates for neutral shippers stated "It is most important to attract neutral shipping to our shores in the hopes especially of embroiling the United States with germany". (He said much the same thing in 1941). Unfortunately for Germany the military necessity to sink US merchant ships became a propaganda bonanza for the British. Wellington House, a very efficient propaganda machine set up in the US by the British to feed the US media the Allied point of view was already beginning to turn popular opinion against Germany with later discredited charges of wholesale German atrocities. When passenger liners began to carry contraban to the British Isles (to circumvent the U-boat blockade of merchant ships) the Germans cried foul. When Germany finally began sinking these vessels (after repeated warning in the international press) world opinion, uninformed about the munitions they were carrying, became outraged against Germany. As England had severed Germany's transatlantic cables early in the war they had no effective means of making their case to the world community. Still America had no popular desire to go to war. Only to profit from it.

However by 1917, with Britian having made it virtually impossible for the US to trade with Germany from early in the war, US firms had racked up over 2 Billion in business with the Allies and US banks had loaned them 2.5 Billion. A huge amout at that time. Despite America's stance as a neutral, Britian's ability to curtail US trading with Germany had very effectively turned the US into an unwitting Allied partner and wedded the fate of the US economy to the Allied cause. Allied defeat might very well mean bankruptcy for the US. It certainly would for the US war profiteers who had the ear of the politicians and media moguls. Looking back it seems foolish of the US to have allowed themselves to be so deeply entangled in this wicked mess (not that the average citizen had any say in the matter). Allied victory was the only way out for the US economy. Ironically in the end the Allies, bankrupted themselves by 4 years of war, defaulted on and were eventually forgiven the lion's share of the war debt anyway leaving the US taxpayer to pick up the tab (after first reimbursing the war profiteers). I suppose one could argue that the household hardships of nationalizating the war debt , the Great Depression it helped to cause, and 50,000 US combat deaths (with thousands more maimed) were the penalty the average American paid for not speaking out against US big business cynically turning huge profits on the European War.

All governments can (and regularily do) whip up public outrage to suit their own purposes. Why else after decades of peace and prosperity would the citizens of Europe suit up in 1914 and march off to a war that was fought mostly over minor trade issues. While the media effectively turned US public opinion against Germany it was done so with an eye to the thought that at some point it might be necessary, to protect US business interests, to mobilize the US for war. (Forget about Zimmerman. Mexico for the 400 years leading up to WW1 couldn't even effectively exercise authority over their own country let alone occupy the USA. It was a silly idea no one took seriously, least of all the Mexicans. Just another public relations blunder on the part of a loose cannon in the German diplomatic corps.) When in 1917 it looked as if the Allies might actually lose, the trigger was pulled on the pent up outrage and America went off to war. Sad to say I really do think it was all about the money. This in no way is meant to take away from the US soldiers those who at the time thought they were 'making the world safe for democracy" (but for an English, Belgian and Russian King?). All war is a tragedy, but the Great War especially so.

Cheers, Bill

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I have little patience with your "what if" scenario.

"little patience" on merit or on general principals? Cheers, Bill

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HELLO, PLEASE SEE MY REPLIES TO YOUR POINTS.

There are many ways of looking at things and interpreting history. As you are an American, I cannot understand your negative and cynical slant on things.

REPLY: Let me please differentiate between the US government/war profiteers/propagandists and the truly noble American youth that rallied 'round the Allied cause. I think the motives of the first group were completely profit motivated while those of the latter deserve high praise. They were dupped, but didn't know it until latter.

To say the USA profited from the war from the beginning, is I think, ridiculous. You seem to imply that they were rubbing their hands in glee at the carnage in Europe.

REPLY: Oct. 1914 Bethlehem Steel was in London and secured armament contracts that allowed it to earn 61 million dollars, more money that their combined worldwide gross of the previous 8 years; August 5, 1914 the French Government thru J.P. Morgan's Paris branch asked for and eventually got a 100 million dollar line of credit. Pretty evident it was going on right from the start. The US was neutral and by international law had the right to trade with whomever they choosed.

You state that they only came into the war as they would have been bankrupted if they had not.

REPLY: Please see my post #19 on this thread.

These are your own views, and should be stated as such, rather than 'facts'.

REPLY: Certainly these are my intrepretations (shared by many others) of matters of public record.

The US government helped in the ways that they could. Many of their pilots were killed in Europe, long before the US even came into the war.

REPLY: The US Government was formally neutral up until she declared war in 1917. As a neutral the US had an absolute right under international law to trade with whomever it chose. The US in fact traded with both sides until Britian's blockade of Germany made it impractical and unprofitable to do so. After that the US provided capital and munitions almost exclusively to the Allies. While there was public sentiment in favor of the Allies (mostly due to later disproved stories of wholesale German war atrocities) legally the US took no sides and did not act to aid the Allies. This was not the case in WW2 where the US government , having privledged information about Nazi attrocities, was wholeheartedly in support of the Allied cause but after the deception it played on the US public in WW1 did not have popular support for going to war. In WW2 it actively supported the Allies long ahead of public sentiment. This was not the case in WW1. Thousands of US citizens joined the Allied cause while America was still neutral and did so illegally. Most claimed Canadian citizenship to avoid prosecution.

I know some people still resent the fact that they did not come in sooner. However, the American people did not want to get involved, - and why should they? What sane person would want to get involved in a war thousands of miles from home, when your own country was not threatened ?

REPLY: Agree completely and it is my opinion that had they been honestly informed the US people would never have gotten involved.

I know that it is hard to admit, but I do not think that anyone doubts that without the help of the USA, we would have been defeated. Over a hundred thousand of their men were killed, and huge numbers maimed and wounded. My opinion is that we owe them a great debt of gratitude, and should stop resenting the fact.

REPLY: Having lived in the UK I just can't believe the UK could ever be defeated by anyone!

Regards

Janice

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dutchbarge,

Are you suggesting that the USA should have maintained "strict neutrality" in the face (i) of blatant German attempts to involve Mexico in a plot to return New Mexico, Arizona and Texas to Mexican control and (ii) the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany? Congress accepted the President's assessment that Germany had, in effect, declared war on "all nations" and that the USA had been forced to take belligerent status following the killing of its citizens and the sinking of its shipping. How do you prise a "strict neutrality" status out of that state of affairs?

REPLY,

Regarding Mexico, at no time since the Spanish Entrada has ANYONE been able to effectively govern this culturally, ethnically and geographically diverse country. A state of anarchy and civil war has existed almost constantly up until quite recently. Zimmerman was a loose cannon in the German diplomatic corp. No one, least of all Mexico, took his offer seriously. The US had long tolerated Germany's meddling in Mexico. In 1910 Wilson squashed a German scheme to trade arms to Mexican revolutionaries in exchange for a naval port. Germany later covertly supported Huerta's unsuccessful coup against the US supported Carranza. They went on to support the bandit Pancho Villa who crossed the border into the US and killed American citizens during a punitive raid. None of these provocations led to war between the US and Germany. In my opinion the reason Wilson made a public show of the Zimmerman telegram was that by 1917 he knew that financially the US had no choice but to get involved and this information if handled properly by the press would incite public outrage for war against Germany.

Regarding submarine warefare, it was Britian who first violated international law by harassing US shipping enroute to Germany. As far as neutrals were concerned German's blockade of the UK was no more legal than Britian's blockade of Germany. By international naval conventions attacks on enemy merchant and passenger vessels was permitted provided warning was given so passengers and crew could abandon ship. While the press made much of German's failure to give this warning informed opinion was that submarines were so vunerable on the surface that to do so was suicide for the U-boat and was not practical nor to be expected in practice. The British navy had either sunk or bottled up the German surface fleet (hopelessly outnumbered from the start) leaving Germany with only its U-boats to fight with. Germany had sunk ships carrying US citizens previously and the US had chosen to remain neutral inspite of American casualties. In my opinion it wasn't until 1917 when it became clear that an Allied defeat could mean bankruptcy for the US that Wilson cynically used US casualities of U-boat warfare to gain support for America's entry into the war. Please see my posting #19 on this thread.

PS: As current events illustrate it doesn't take much for a president to mislead congress.

Cheers, Bill

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Hello Bill,

Thank you for your extensive post, no. 19

Quite frankly, I hadn't thought about that side (financial) as much as I obviously should to enable me to respond in any accurate and professional way.

I do tend to agree however, that the Mexican fiasco was Bull**it and would have been recognised at the time by all and sundry as such. This tends to confirm your interpretation of the financial committments of the USA to a fairly interesting degree.

To come back to your original question though, I believe the war would still have been won, although possibly extending in to 1919 or even 1920. The British blockade was causing so much suffering in Germany, that I don't believe she could have continued beyond 1920.

Just my thoughts.

Regards

Nige

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To come back to your original question though, I believe the war would still have been won, although possibly extending in to 1919 or even 1920. The British blockade was causing so much suffering in Germany, that I don't believe she could have continued beyond 1920.

Just my thoughts.

Regards

Nige

Hello Nige,

I agree with you that the Central Powers were really suffering because of the British naval blockade. It is amazing how they carried on considering that by 1917 the US had loaned the Allies 2.5 billion to a paltry 44 million to Germany! I think however that the Allies were hurting worse and that 1917 would have been the breaking point for the Allies had not the US declared war. In 1917 Russia was out of the war releasing over a million seasoned German troops for action on the Western Front, the French army had abandoned offensive operations and was purely on the defensive following Nivielle's disasterous campaign which lead to widespread mutiny. To prop up the French Britian was forced into an massively costly offensive in Flanders which came to nothing more than an horrific butcher's bill. The fact that the Germans were able, despite British intelligence reports of low morale and poor combat efficiency, to roll back the British almost all the way to Amiens in March of 1918 and kick the French back to the Marne in May showed they still had plenty of offensive muscle. I think too much is made of the "Black Day of the German Army". It was an excuse of a General after the fact. All advancing armies eventually loose steam in the offensive but few crumble completely when they come to a halt. Germany was retreating in good order back upon her own lines of communication getting stronger every mile closer to Germany. Britian and France were exhausted. The Prime Minister was refusing to allow anymore British troops to be sent to the continent and France was reeling from their own losses with Paris expected to soon be under bombardment once again from 'Big Bertha'. What saved the day for the Allied side was the anticipated arrival of a new army from America. Everything could be made right again with millions of fresh, well equiped doughboys. And with US industry now openly behind the Allies it was impossible for Germany to hope for anything approaching favorable terms let alone victory. With the injection of hope from America the Brits cranked up and ripped thru the Germans in the north while the French and Americans did the same in the south. It was only a matter of time (short at that) until Germany would be surrounded from the flanks and destroyed in the field. The story that Hiltler loved to tell about Germany never having been defeated in the field is true only in the respect that Germany, realizing she was about to be shredded by the reinvigorated Allies, sued for peace just barely ahead of defeat. Pershing was vehemently opposed to an armistice. He felt that Germany needed to be horribly routed and for her people to know it. But the powers that be didn't take that view, preferring to let the German field army return home armed lead by their own officers.

To sum up, and its only my opinion, I am convinced that right from the beginning the Allies (especially Britian) would have had a tough time fighting the war at all had they not manuvered the neutral US into the role of an unwitting ally due their brilliant blockade of Germany. I think it is unlikely that either side would ever have won a decisive victory over the other. Both sides showed tenacity in the attack (though usually fruitless) and amazing resilience on the defensive. To avoid defeat Britian could easily have slipped back to its Island (and I've never read a credible scenario for a successful assault let alone occupation of the British Isles) and France had hundreds of miles of interior over which, like the Russians in WW2, she could have retreated drawing the Germans farther from their lines of communications. But long before either of these scenarios could unfold terms would have been worked out. It would have been fruitless to go on. Possibly as early as 1915 without US financial support, no later than 1917 with out US military support. Not that the Germans would have defeated the Allies at these points, but without hope of anything better than indefinate stalemate calmer minds would have persuaded the powers that be to call it quits. You could credibly argue that if the US had managed to stay truely neutral, and not do business with either side, the war probably would have been over in a year. It was the edge that US involvement gave the Allies that kept them going and in their darkest hour gave them hope of ultimate vicory. Stretching things abit you might also argue that the brilliant Allied politicans who manuvered the US into becoming an Ally were the real architects of victory. Cheers, Bill

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  • 1 month later...

Dutchbarge,

I disagree with your hypothesis, do remember that it wasn't until mid 1918 that US combat forces conducted any significant operations and they didn't free up allied troops by being in rear areas beforehand, nor would the US have somehow been bankrupted by a German "win". If anything it could be said that the release of hundreds of German divisions from the Russian Front was possibly more significant to the course of the war. But anyway, I honestly don't want to enter this debate other than to suggest a quick read of this link posted by Borden Battery over at the Canadian research site: http://www.cefresearch.com/phpBB2/viewtopi...ht=intelligence

cjeers,

Chris

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Dutchbarge,

I disagree with your hypothesis, do remember that it wasn't until mid 1918 that US combat forces conducted any significant operations and they didn't free up allied troops by being in rear areas beforehand, nor would the US have somehow been bankrupted by a German "win". If anything it could be said that the release of hundreds of German divisions from the Russian Front was possibly more significant to the course of the war. But anyway, I honestly don't want to enter this debate other than to suggest a quick read of this link posted by Borden Battery over at the Canadian research site: http://www.cefresearch.com/phpBB2/viewtopi...ht=intelligence

cjeers,

Chris

Chris, If you haven't already, suggest you check out these eye-opening books, The Last Days of Innocence; Illusion of Victory; Mud, Blood and Poppycock. I think they will go a long way to winning you over to my point of view. Cheers, Bill

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