1-156 Memorandum for the Chief of Staff, A.E.F., February 15, 1919

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: February 15, 1919

Memorandum for the Chief of

Staff, A.E.F. [s. Conner]1

February 15, 1919 [Chaumont], France

German refusal of Armistice Conditions.

1. In compliance with the memorandum of the Deputy Chief of Staff, dated February 13, referring to the Third Section certain questions regarding the above subject for study, the following is submitted.

2. Questions to be considered.

In the event that Germany refuses to sign a renewal of the armistice and then assumes a passive attitude leaving the burden of action to the allies:

(a) Will the allies conduct a further invasion of Germany?

(b) If a further invasion ensues, will the American Army participate?

(c) If the armistice is terminated, will the present plan for provisioning Germany be abandoned?

(d) If civil war develops in Germany due to famine, will the allies invade Germany to restore order, or will they limit their efforts to the occupied Germany territory?

3. Will the Allies conduct a further invasion of Germany?

When the Allied governments lay down certain conditions to be met by Germany in order that the armistice may be continued and the German government refuses to meet the conditions imposed on her by failing to sign the renewal of the armistice, then the Allied governments find themselves in a position which demands that they take some positive action in order to dominate the situation and maintain their prestige. The particular form of positive action which the allied governments would agree to among themselves, is the question to be discussed herein.

Germany is already in the grip of a rigid blockade and nothing remains without her boundaries which can be seized upon to penalize her for refusing to accede to drastic terms for the renewal of the armistice. More severe terms might be imposed upon her at the Peace Table, but this would be in the nature of negative action. It therefore appears that the Allies would be forced to carry out some form of a further invasion of German territory.

It is certain that both the British and American governments would be very loath to involve their armies in a further advance into Germany, particularly in view of the earnest desire of both governments at the present time to carry out the rapid demobilization of their armies in response to the demands of strong public opinion. It is considered probable that the French government would not be opposed to engaging in a further advance into Germany. The Belgian government may also be inclined to favorably consider an opportunity for bringing more German territory under the control of her armies. An agreement between the foregoing powers as to the course of action to be followed, would undoubtedly be fraught with many difficulties, but it is inconceivable that at the present time they would not present a united front to the German government.

The conclusion is therefore reached that all four of the powers referred to would be obligated to participate in a further invasion of German territory, notwithstanding the fact that such action might complicate the present plans for the rapid demobilization of the Allied armies. The extent to which this invasion would be carried is difficult to surmise at the present time, without a full knowledge of the situation. It would appear that the invasion should be only carried out to such extent as is deemed necessary in order to maintain the present dominant position of the Allied governments and to definitely cripple the power of the German government.

An advance from the Rhine to the line Bremen-Hanover-Cassel-Ulm could be affected by the divisions now occupying the present western front, and would present but few more difficulties to demobilization than are already presented by the occupation of the present bridge heads. The seizure and occupation of the important German sea-ports at Williamshaven, Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, Hamburg, Kiel, Stettin, Dantzig and Konigsberg could be accomplished by comparatively small naval and land forces and would secure for the Allies control not only of important strategical points, but of German property and manufacturing interests of greater value. The effect of the further invasion and the occupation of sea-ports indicated above would be to secure to the Allies the control of such a portion of German territory with its resources and population, as to render her impotent and at the same time give to the Allies a valuable mortgage on German property.

4. If a further invasion ensues, will the American Army participate?

As already indicated in paragraph 3 above, it is believed that the American government would be very loath to engage in a further invasion of Germany, but that under the special situation now existing the government would be obligated to join with the Allies in pursuing the only effective course which appears available.

If the terms to be imposed upon Germany for a renewal of the armistice are so severe as to lead to the belief that the German government may not accept them, the American government seems to be in a position which demands that it either should have refused to acquiesce to the conditions proposed or should be prepared to play its part in imposing the will of the Allied governments on the German nation.

5. If the armistice is terminated, will the present plan for provisioning Germany be abandoned?

The termination of the armistice presumes a renewal of hostilities, and even though the German government may remain passive, it is not believed that any plan which contemplates sending provisions into unoccupied German territory could be considered at the present time. The provisioning of the occupied German territory would have to be assured by the Allies, and the provisions would probably have to be supplied by them as soon as the present German supplies in the occupied territory are exhausted.

Unless the action indicated in paragraph 3 above resulted in the German government’s decision to acquiesce to the terms imposed for a renewal of the armistice, the conditions in Germany with regard to food would be very liable to produce civil disorders, which might result in a general civil war. Such a denouement would undoubtedly result in the destruction of the material wealth of Germany to such an extent as to render that government incapable, at least for a long period of years, of making the monetary payments which will undoubtedly be demanded of her at the Peace Table. Such a development should therefore be prevented; which means that steps would have to be taken by the Allied governments to insure the provisioning of Germany. Furthermore, such steps could not be taken in the absence of an armistice and previous to the signing of the treaty of peace, unless the Allied governments practically placed all of Germany under military control.

The history of the German people shows them to be law-abiding and opposed to acts of internal violence. Whether or not in the unusual conditions which may exist, following four years of war, the people as a whole would still remain inclined to avoid internal disorders, is impossible to foresee.

6. If civil war develops in Germany due to famine, will the Allies invade Germany to restore order or will they limit their efforts to the German occupied territory?

This question has been partially discussed in the foregoing paragraph. A civil war resulting from famine could only be terminated in two ways, either by the extermination of the population or by the relief of the conditions of famine. The Allied governments would undoubtedly have to furnish provisions for Germany. Whether or not they would be involved in an invasion of Germany to restore order would depend entirely upon the character of the civil war. If one side to the conflict was well organized, it might be possible to arrange for the provisioning of the country through medium of this force. If no definite line between the combatants could be drawn, it would be necessary for the Allies to restore order themselves if they desired to prevent the complete destruction of the material wealth of Germany and thus insure for their own people the benefit of the monetary payments which the German government should be required to make.

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I) (RG 120), Records of General Headquarters (GHQ), Operations Division Reports (G-3), National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed Memorandum

1. Major General James W. McAndrew (U.S.M.A., 1888), A.E.F. chief of staff, had been a student at Fort Leavenworth’s School of the Line when Marshall was an instructor, 1909-10. The memorandum was signed for Fox Conner by Colonel Upton Birnie, Jr., (U.S.M.A., 1900) one of Marshall’s classmates at Fort Leavenworth, 1906-8. But that Marshall wrote the memo is indicated by his initials at the top right of the first page, a practice which started about this time in the War Department.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 179-181.

Digital Downloads




Holding Rights: Public Information
Holding ID: 1-156

Rights: Public Information