1918: Germans No Longer Believe in Victory(Special telegram to The Herald.)
WITH THE AMERICAN ARMIES, Monday — It is very evident that German officers have about convinced the German soldiers that the Americans kill all the Huns who come into their possession. Until recently the Americans regarded the statements of prisoners who expressed this belief as foolish mis-statements but stories have come so straight recently that it seems certain that the Hun officers have convinced the soldiers that the American is a barbarian and that he first treats with kindness and then kills.
A German wandered into the American lines in the Fismes section early this morning. He said he had lost his way in the darkness. He is a Prussian and of slightly more than ordinary intelligence. He trembled with fear when he was taken before an officer for interrogation and was in such a state of fright that he could not talk readily. When asked to explain his condition he said he feared he would be killed. He added that the predictions of his officers seemed to be correct — that the Americans would be kind to him, get such information as he had and then either shoot or stab him to death. There was no doubt that this particular Prussian believed he was on the threshold of execution.
He declared that the Germans have given up expectation of victory, but that they intend to fight for at least three years.
”Rather than have our country devastated the way France has been,” he said, “every German soldier will be killed.”
Heavy Losses Admitted.
He admitted that the recent losses of the Germans have been heavy and that the soldiers realize that for the first time since the beginning of the war Germany has been defeated. He said the Germans are tired of the war but have been fighting because they believed victory was always a little nearer. The discouragement of many of the soldiers is such now, he asserted, that they would gladly surrender if they could do so with any assurance that they would not be mistreated.
Along the Americans’ sector on the Vesle there was no infantry activity last night or today. The German artillery is becoming a bit more active. The fighting in the region of Fismes and on the opposite side of the river has resolved itself into a snipers’ contest. The Germans use machine-guns as well as rifles for harassing their foes.
The Germans are throwing on average 5,000 shells a day — many of them gas — back on the American sector. There is every reason to believe that as many fall upon the Germans as strike on the ground held by the Allies on the south side of the Vesle.
— The New York Herald, European Edition, August 20, 1918