Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ferdinand Foch OM GCB (October 2, 1851March 20, 1929) was a French soldier, military theorist, and writer credited with possessing "the most original and subtle mind in the French Army" in the early 20th century. He served as general in the French Army during World War I and was made Marshal of France in its final year, 1918. Shortly after the start of the Spring Offensive, Germany's final attempt to win the war, Foch was chosen as supreme commander of the allied armies, a position that he held until November 11, 1918, when he accepted the German Surrender.
He advocated peace terms that would make Germany unable to ever pose a threat to France again. His words after the Treaty of Versailles, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years," would prove prophetic.

Early life
On the outbreak of the war, Foch was in command of XX Corps, part of the Second Army of General de Castelnau. On August 14 the corps advanced towards the Sarrebourg-Morhange line, taking heavy casualties in the Battle of the Frontiers. The defeat of XV Corps to its right forced Foch into retreat. Foch acquitted himself well, covering the withdrawal to Nancy and the Charmes Gap, before lauching a counter-attack that prevented the Germans from crossing the Meurthe.
He was then selected to command the newly formed Ninth Army, which he was to command during the Battle of the Marne and the Race to the Sea. With his Chief of Staff Maxime Weygand, Foch managed to do this while the whole French Army was in full retreat. Only a week after taking command of 9th Army, he was forced to fight a series of defensive actions to prevent a German breakthrough. It was then that he spoke the famous words: "Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking." His counter-attack was an implementation of the theories he had developed during his staff college days, and succeeded in stopping the German advance. Foch received further reinforcements from the Fifth Army and, following another attack on his forces, counter-attacked again on the Marne. The Germans dug in before eventually retreating. Foch had been instrumental in stopping the great retreat and stabilising the Allied position.
Foch's successes gained him a further promotion, on October 4, when he was appointed Deputy Commander-in-Chief with responsibility for the Northern Army Group. When the Germans attacked on October 13, they narrowly failed to break through the British and French lines. They tried again at the end of the month during the First Battle of Ypres; this time suffering terrible casualties. Foch had again succeeded in co-ordinating a defence and winning against the odds. In October 1914, he was appointed to joint commander in chief with General Joffre. In 1915, he conducted the Artois Offensive, and, in 1916, the Battle of the Somme. He was strongly criticised for his tactics and the heavy casualties that were suffered by the Allied armies during these battles, and in December 1916 was removed from command, by General Joffre, and sent to command in Italy; Joffre was himself sacked days later.
Just a few months later, after the failure of General Nivelle, Foch was recalled and promoted to Chief of the General Staff under General Pétain.
On March 26, 1918, Foch was appointed Allied Supreme Commander with the title of Généralissime ("supreme General") with the job of co-ordinating the activities of the Allied armies. Despite being surprised by the German offensive on the Chemin des Dames, Foch prevented the advance of the German forces during the great Spring Offensive of 1918 at the Second Battle of Marne in July 1918. On 6 August 1918, Foch was made Marshal of France. Along with the British commander Field Marshal Haig, Foch planned the Grand Offensive, opening on September 26, 1918, which led to the defeat of Germany. Foch accepted the German surrender in November. On the day of the armistice, he was elected to the Académie des Sciences. Ten days later, he was unanimously elected to the Académie française.

Foch and World War I
In January 1919, at the Paris Peace Conference Foch presented a memorandum to the Allied plenipotentiaries in which he stated:
Henceforward the Rhine ought to be the Western military frontier of the German countries. Henceforward Germany ought to be deprived of all entrance and assembling ground, that is, of all territorial sovereignty on the left bank of the river, that is, of all facilities for invading quickly, as in 1914, Belgium, Luxembourg, for reaching the coast of the North Sea and threatening the United Kingdom, for outflanking the natural defences of France, the Rhine, Meuse, conquering the Northern Provinces and entering the Parisian area.

Paris Peace Conference
Foch was made a British Field Marshal in 1919, and, for his advice during the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920, as well as his pressure on Germany during the Great Poland Uprising, he was awarded with the title of Marshal of Poland in 1923.
On November 1, 1921 Foch was in Kansas City to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Liberty Memorial that was being constructed there. Also present that day were Lieutenant General Baron Jacques of Belgium, Admiral David Beatty of Great Britain, General Armando Diaz of Italy and General John J. Pershing of the United States. One of the main speakers was Vice President Calvin Coolidge of the United States. In 1935 bas-reliefs of Foch, Jacques, Diaz and Pershing by sculptor Walker Hancock were added to the memorial.
Foch died on March 20th, 1929, and was interred in Les Invalides, next to Napoleon and many other famous French soldiers and officers.
A statue of Foch was set up at the Compiègne Armistice site when the area was converted into a national memorial. This statue was the one item left undisturbed by the Germans following their defeat of France in June, 1940. Following the signing of France's surrender on June 21, the Germans ravaged the area surrounding the railway car in which both the 1918 and 1940 surrenders had taken place. The statue was left standing, to view nothing but a wasteland.
A heavy cruiser and an aircraft carrier were named in his honour, as well as an early district of Gdynia, Poland. The latter was, however, renamed by the Communist government after World War II. Nevertheless, one of the major avenues of the town of Bydgoszcz, located in then in the Polish corridor, holds his name -as sign of gratitude for campaigning for Free Poland. A street in Paris is named after him, Avenue Foch, one in Grenoble, Boulevard Marechal Foch, as are Mariscal Foch in Quito, Ecuador, Rue Foch - a luxury shopping street in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, and Marshall Foch Street in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana.Fochville in South Africa was also named in his honor. A statue of Foch stands near to Victoria Station in London.

Ferdinand Foch Notes

Army Manoeuvres of 1912

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