This well-written, exhaustively researched history of France's role in WWI adds a French perspective not often found in English-language literature on these seminal military events. Explicating France's "grand strategy... [of] waging a multifront war against the Central Powers," West Point history department head Doughty (Breaking Point: Sedan and the Fall of France, 1940)
convincingly debunks the cliché of "France's war effort as a series of ill-conceived but energetically executed operations with no connection to a coherent strategy." Doughty sheds light on Commander-in-Chief Joseph Joffre's point of view on the "bloody failures in the Artois, Champagne, and St.-Mihiel offensives" (1915), Nivelle's disastrous 1917 offensive and Pétain's salvation of the French army so that Allied Supreme Cmdr. Ferdinand Foch could lead it in the three-pronged 1917 Allied offensive, among other campaigns. Add his insight into military strategy to his portraits of lesser-known figures, such as Fifth Army commander Gen. Franchet d'Esperey, and the sum—pro-French but not uncritically so—is a valuable addition to WWI literature. (Nov.)
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is the first work to address comprehensively the strategic planning and the operational execution that shaped World War I. Doughty makes an eloquent case for the strength and flexibility of the French Third Republic as it confronted a mortal challenge. He brings an intellectual force and clarity of expression, as well as a gifted professional soldier's understanding of French aims and intentions. This long-awaited work will stand as the definitive account of French strategy in the Great War. (Dennis Showalter author of Patton and Rommel
Doughty fills a glaring gap in the literature on World War I with a magisterial book. He is very good on the French army's commanders, balanced but incisive in his judgments, and particularly revealing on the tensions between Petain and Foch. (Hew Strachan, author of The First World War
Robert Doughty has at last brought the French Army to its proper place in the historiography of the First World War: at the heart of the military operations on the Western Front. This represents one of the most important contributions to the history of the war in the last fifty years. (Williamson Murray, co-author of A War to Be Won
This well-written, exhaustively researched history of France's role in WWI adds a French perspective not often found in English-language literature on these seminal military events...Add [Doughty's] insight into military strategy to his portraits of lesser-known figures, such as Fifth Army commander Gen. Franchet d'Esperey, and the sum--pro-French but not uncritically so--is a valuable addition to WWI literature. (Publishers Weekly
This is a book for which historians of the First World War have been waiting...Although there are some excellent studies of individual aspects of the subject, until now we have lacked a comprehensive account of French strategy and campaigns. In Robert A. Doughty's superb Pyrrhic Victory
, the French army at last has the scholarly study it deserves...Pyrrhic Victory
is solidly founded on primary sources, culled both from archives and the volumes of the French official history. Doughty provides an essay on sources rather than a conventional bibliography. (Gary Sheffield RUSI Journal
is a most useful contribution to our understanding of La République dans la Grande Guerre
. (Nathan M. Greenfield Times Literary Supplement
Robert Doughty, the longtime chair of the History Department at West Point, has...done the field a great service with this intelligent and well-crafted study of French operations from 1914 to 1918. Readers will find much to interest them here and much to make them change their preconceptions of how and why the French fought as they did...Scholars interested in the military aspects of the war, especially at the level of high command, should read this book. It will help to dispel many of the old chestnuts that continue to cloud our understanding of the important role played by the French Army from 1914 to 1918. (Michael Neiberg Journal of Military History
Every scholar of the Great War, and anyone interested in a basic grounding in the subject, should read the book under review here. Robert Doughty has delivered a tour de force, a major contribution to military history and the history of the Great War...The French military effort in the Great War has always deserved a history written in three dimensions, neither as hagiography nor as caricature. Now we have it. (Leonard V. Smith Journal of Military History
Robert A. Doughty has filled a longstanding gap in the military history of World War I...This is an admirably researched text, well versed in the relevant historiography, and the publishers deserve congratulation for providing sufficient space for Doughty to pursue his topic in depth...His book is organized as a series of extended narrative chapters, which incorporate judicious commentaries on the controversies that surround French strategy and its authors. (David Stevenson American Historical Review
Doughty recognizes the high-, short- and long-term costs of what he legitimately calls a Pyrrhic victory. But in this seminal book he demonstrates the crucial role of the army and its generals in structuring a triumph of national determination. He demonstrates as well that for all its errors of preparation and execution, the army's prestige was by no means undeserved. This dual intellectual achievement merits the highest recognition by soldiers and scholars alike. (Dennis E. Showalter Parameters
This is General Doughty's valedictory work capping decades of research, analysis and writing on the French Army in two world wars. In it he presents a thorough yet concise analysis of French strategy and operations...Also analysed are the political forces and personalities at work in France and internationally, the push and pull between easterners and westerners, as well as the evolution of inter-Entente relations as the conflict progressed. Indeed, Doughty's character sketches of French military and political figures are among the best this reviewer has seen. He emphasises the nation's grim determination to hang on, to prevail despite having suffered proportionately the highest casualties of any Western Front combatant. (Len Shurtleff Stand To!
Robert A. Doughty has rendered another service to history, and to France...This is now the best English-language book about French strategy in the First World War. (Robert Young International History Review