Altho the treaty of Brest-Livstok was quite harsh, the Treaty of Versailles was much more harsh that what the Germans demanded of France after the Franco-Prussian war.
wiki: …the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US $442 billion or UK £284 billion in 2018). At the time economists, notably John Maynard Keynes (a British delegate to the Paris Peace Conference), predicted that the treaty was too harsh—a “Carthaginian peace”—and said the reparations figure was excessive and counter-productive…The treaty stripped Germany of 25,000 square miles (65,000 km2) of territory and 7 million people.
The treaty also made Germany the sole cause of the war, which actually should be divided pretty evenly among the five Imperialistic powers.
This led to the “stabbed in the back” theory, which led to Hitler.
Like everything else, that too is subject to dispute. Not that anybody is wrong about anything… but every allied country (Aus, Canada, USA, UK, India…) has a similar belief.
In any case, the strategic significance of the American involvement isn’t that the Americans were going to win the war. Germany had already lost. The strategic significance is that it killed the last German hope that the America would come in on the German side.
Also The colonial/commonwealth troops (Aus, NZ, Canada etc) that spearheaded the Western Front breakthroughs that triggered the armistice weren’t exhausted
Surely one motive for the different treatment of Germany after WWII was the rise of a new enemy, communism and the USSR. The US wanted to restore western Europe to prosperity as soon as possible, and to establish NATO, to act as a buffer so that the US wouldn’t have to fight yet another land war in Europe. There was no such incentive at the end of WWI. My opinion is that if the war had continued another year (say) and Germany had been partly or completely overrun by its enemies, the resulting treaty would have been more harsh than it was, due to the western powers’ anger and disgust that Germany didn’t give up sooner.
Not to say that WWII would then have happened the way it did, or at all. If Germany had been completely crushed, though, it might have become fertile soil for the influence of communism instead of fascism. That might have provoked a different war, one which could have changed entirely the history of the 2nd half of the 20th century. That could be an interesting scenario for an altered history novel, if it hasn’t already been done.
It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. One reason reason Hitler had the Brownshirts was for street fights with Communist groups. Remember, just four years before the Beer Hall Putsch, Bavaria was briefly a self-declared Soviet republic.
It’s not a ‘belief’ whether various combatants had been involved long enough and suffered enough casualties to risk moral collapse. All the major armies on the Western Front by 1918 had, except the US one.
You could as easily say the other Entente Powers were saved from moral collapse knowing that the US was now involved on their side. Again it has to be taken into consideration, throwing out hindsight, that every major army involved over the whole was fairly near the breaking point by 1918.
And by the time the Germans really started collapsing the US contingent was no longer even small or just a potential influence. The US force was close to a quarter of the Entente force on the Western Front by the end of the war, holding around 23% of the frontage, 30 out of 218 Entente divisions but US ones were twice as large on a TO&E basis (also bigger than US infantry divs in WWII) more like 60 out of 238 than 30 out of 218.
It’s just difficult to say what would happened to both sides’ morale otherwise. And if both sides were holding up more equally morale-wise, the physical balance of forces by late 1918 would also have been notably different. ‘The Germans were already defeated by the blockade’ is somewhat of a hindsight conclusion, like many such conclusions. Prevented from winning earlier, yes.
This needs to be repeated every time someone argues about how badly poor Germany was treated after WWI, with additional documentation of the devastated state France was left in by occupying/retreating German armies, plus facts on the severe reparations Germany wrested from France after the 1870 war (which didn’t provoke France into starting a war against Germany in 1914).
To address the OP: a war of movement had been restored in 1918, American reinforcements were having a marked effect, and as noted, the poorly supplied German army was probably not far away from the sort of mutiny affecting the navy. German leaders were facing both occupation and anarchy/revolution, and didn’t have a realistic chance of holding back the Allies.
French interrogations of German prisoners during the war show that some Germans at least felt that the American presence in the war had a significant effect:
"The troops recently arrived in Alsace were strongly impressed by the good showing of the Americans under fire.
They mention occurrences in a battle in which they took part, where groups of American soldiers were killed to the last man, rather than surrender. Most of the men are still completely dumfounded. They declare that all is lost ."
The French also seem to have felt that the American contribution to the war was non-negligible
"In his postwar memoirs, Jean de Pierrefeu, a French staff officer who worked at Pétain’s headquarters, painted a vivid picture of the Americans moving toward Belleau Wood, Vaux, and Château Thierry:
Amidst enthusiastic civilians, they passed in interminable columns, tightly packed in trucks, feet in the air, in extraordinary positions, some perched on the tops, nearly all bare-headed and unbuttoned, singing their national songs at the top of their voices. The spectacle of this magnificent youth from across the sea, these youngsters of twenty years with smooth faces, radiating strength and health in their new uniforms, had an immense effect. They offered a striking contrast with our regiments in soiled uniforms, worn by the years of war, with our emaciated soldiers and their somber eyes who were nothing more than bundles of nerves held together by a heroic, sacrificial will. "
This is certainly what I have always read on the subject. The Germans were treated so generously that it was possible to argue that they weren’t actually defeated. Compared to devastated areas of France, they were let off easy. Had Germany been invaded and left devastated they might not have had an appetite to repeat the experience. And the reparations were never not collected in full and the clauses preventing remilitarization not enforced.
Just to clarify this point, Germany did indeed lose more territory after 1945 than it did in 1918. But much of that was land that had already been lost in 1918 and was subsequently reclaimed by Germany after 1938 when they were briefly in ascendancy. The extra bit was mostly East Prussia, which Germany had kept after 1918 as a disjunct enclave, but was taken after 1945 and divided between the USSR and Poland.
In total Germany today is about 2/3 the size it was during the heyday of the German Empire.
Versailles was much more brutal that the Treaty of Frankfurt. France wasn’t occupied by Germany in WW1, the Germans got maybe 50 miles in. Of course the trench line was destroyed, but that was by Artillery from both sides.
I live outside the USA and that’s not true. Yes, obviously the US missed the worst of the war and Germany was likely doomed regardless but no effect on the outcome? Ridiculous. Their entry made Germany’s defeat undeniably inevitable and likely saved thousands of lives because of it.
*"Constant shelling left the area of the (Western) front so scarred that craters and trench lines can still be seen in the French countryside to this day. Towns that were swept over by the front were obliterated. This was exacerbated by a German scorched-earth policy. When the German army pulled back to the Hindenburg Line after the battle of the Somme, engineer companies systematically pulled down buildings, cut trees, poisoned wells and set booby traps in the areas being evacuated…the German invasion and occupation was needlessly destructive in many ways.
Based on their experience invading France in 1870-71, the German Army was terrified of guerrilla snipers. Officers followed a policy of severe reprisals, putting suspects before firing squads and burning down houses or whole villages in retaliation for alleged shots fired at soldiers. On August 25th, 1914, German soldiers killed 248 residents of the Belgian city of Leuven, expelled the remaining 10,000 citizens, and burned the town, including the university library containing 300,000 irreplaceable medieval manuscripts…
Belgium and northern France were a heavily industrial area, and German occupation forces set about stripping the area of resources, leading to massive food and fuel shortages. Many factories were dismantled and shipped to Germany. Individual towns and cities were assigned indemnities to be collected from civilians’ savings and turned over to the occupation authorities. During July 1915 an indemnity of one million marks was levied on Sedan while the residents of Lille were ordered to pay three million. Basic household goods were extracted from the civilian population—linens, cooking pots, china, and furniture—and civilians were required to quarter soldiers in their homes.
German soldiers killed 248 residents of Leuven, expelled the remaining 10,000 citizens, and burned the town, including the university library containing 300,000 irreplaceable medieval manuscripts.
In addition to requisitions of material goods, German occupation authorities increasingly requisitioned the time and labor of the occupied population. A common punishment for minor infractions was being shipped to Germany to perform forced labor. Young men of military age were drafted into labor battalions and assigned work, including repairing trenches and burying the dead at the front. Sometimes this forced labor was combined with additional humiliations. When 20,000 women and girls were shipped out of Lille in April 1916, they were all forced to undergo the same gynecological examination by German army doctors usually inflicted on registered army prostitutes…
Given all this, the demand for some degree of reparations becomes more understandable. The Allied commitment to help rebuild Germany after World War II wasn’t just the result of less anger towards Germany than in the prior war. It was a realistic response to the fact that German cities and the German economy had been utterly destroyed. In World War I, it was France and Belgium which had suffered that level of destruction, while Germany had benefitted from stripping away their resources during four years of occupation. Reparations were simply a way to try to right the injustices of the occupation and help the more injured party recover from the war."*
Germans knew well the value of reparations - after defeating France in 1870, Prussians hoped to subjugate the losers indefinitely.
“When Prussia defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, it appropriated Alsace-Lorraine and imposed war reparations of five billion gold francs to be paid within five years. German troops continued to occupy French territory until the indemnity was paid in full, with the result that France paid off the entire sum early.”
Certainly France hoped later to regain Alsace-Lorraine, but they didn’t force hostilities in order to do so.
Remember also what Germany did to Russia in WWI.
“When the Soviets toppled the Tsarist government in Russia and sought a separate peace with Germany, territorial acquisitions and reparations in both cash and commodities were at the top of the German list of demands. Russia lost 90 percent of its coal, 50 percent of its industry and 30 percent of its population. The Central Powers took possession of Ukraine’s grain reserves: one million rail cars of grain destined for Austria alone. They also imposed cash reparations to the tune of nine billion gold marks. With the British naval blockade causing severe shortages of basic commodities in Germany, stripping its defeated adversaries of resources was essential to the war effort.”
Spare me the nonsense about what meanies the Allies were at Versailles.