File No. 763.72/9490
The Ambassador in France ( Sharp) to the Secretary of State
[Received March 27, 2.55 a.m.]
3455. In a conversation with Mr. Pichon at the Foreign Office this morning he informed me that while the French Government looked upon the military situation, growing out of the great struggle on the British front, as still grave, yet the outlook seemed to be more hopeful as the struggle continued. What gave him special encouragement was the fact that the Germans had been defeated in their main object, to drive a wedge in between the British and French forces at the point of their juncture, which point the enemy regarded as the weakest on the entire front. The prompt requisition, however, of large reserve force of the French Army not only defeated this plan, but actually succeeded in driving the Germans back.
Notwithstanding this hopeful feature the unpleasant fact remains that the Germans had actually succeeded in advancing from Ham—recently retaken by them—down as far as Noyon, which town they entered last night—a distance of approximately 12 miles on a direct line towards Paris. It would seem from the operations of German forces that they are planning to quickly reach Compiegne as their southern objective, which town is located about 50 miles from Paris, and on the north to take the important railroad center of Amiens. The fall of the latter, now within easy range their big guns, would bring very serious results. Except in few places the gains in territory made during the last few days by the Germans fairly represent the territory which they abandoned just a year ago, and which I visited in its entirety a week later, reporting to the Department the scene of wide-spread desolation left in the wake of that retreat.
In this connection Mr. Pichon said that the fact that all the trees within gunshot at that place have been cut down by the Germans, made now the holding of that territory by the Allied forces doubly difficult. Perhaps one of the most significant developments, remarked upon by him, which has grown out of the result of this offensive has been the placing of English troops in considerable numbers at the south end of their line under direct control of a French commander. The Minister told me, with a great deal of [Page 176]satisfaction, that at that hour there is reason to believe the much desired principle of unity of command was being discussed with every prospect of this becoming an accomplished fact before the close of the day. This I know from personal knowledge has been one of the strongest contentions of Clemenceau since he became the head of the Government.
The more hopeful look upon the situation as promising a repetition of the experiences at Verdun where, after many outposts had been successfully carried, a final stand was eventually maintained against the enemy. Only the fact that the Germans have come in such overwhelming superiority of numbers makes the situation seem to me so full of danger. One of regrettable features thus far of the Allied retreat is the falling into the hands of the Germans of many institutions of relief established by Americans in that stricken district.