The Marne, where it all begins, where it all ends?

The Marne, where it all begins, where it all ends?

To close

Title: The winners of the Marne.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 32.7 - Width 39.7

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 04-509638 / 59.39.12D

The winners of the Marne.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: September 2007

Historical context

Two battles for a victory for many

The first battle of the Marne took place at the beginning of September 1914 and allowed the Franco-English armies to push back the worrying advance of the Germans on Paris. These operations follow the forcing realized since the spring of the same year by the armies of Ludendorff, which are at the end of May again a few tens of kilometers from Paris. The arrival on the ground of the Americans, officially at war for a year, has indeed helped to reverse the trend in the balance of power: while at 1er April 1918, 1,569,000 Germans advance out of 1,245,000 Allies, the latter counting at 1er July 1,556,000 men, against 1,412,000 troops from Kaiser. If we take into account the fact that the Allied advance will therefore not cease until the armistice, we have a first estimate of the impact of the presence of Sammies on the battlefield.

Image Analysis

A retrospective and symbolic staging

From left to right of the image, reading direction but also chronological direction, we note first the presence of the French infantryman of 1914, hero of the nation in red pants and a cloth cap, then that of his counterpart from across -Atlantic, with a battle-dress having integrated the contributions of the experience (iron helmet, camouflage color). These two fighters are the pillars of the proposed staging, they frame a pictorial representation of the fighting, with advancing troops. This last point is major: after years of being stuck in the trenches, it is conceivable that the movement's return to confrontation can be celebrated as such. This all the more so as the march is victorious and is based on a new weapon which frightens the enemy, the tanks, which one does not forget to include in a prominent place, just above the drums and trumpets ( bugle more precisely), cannons, cavalry helmets, flags of the allies ... The official exploitation of victory cannot do without a certain decorum, any more than an appropriate rhetoric. The text inserted between the drawings thus recalls the great feats of arms of the French of 1914, but above all places at their level the action of "young soldiers of great America (...) who entered history with the undying honor of 'to have renewed these glorious exploits alongside the French of1918 ”. This monument of paper and colors to Franco-American friendship is thus presented as a digest of the propaganda resources of the time, interweaving warlike events and national cultural elements.


Really allied “Allies”?

Such unanimous and fraternal postures contrast with the realities of the United States entering the war, which only came late. Didn't Woodrow Wilson get re-elected president in 1916 on the basis of a hands-off agenda? Didn't he then proclaim that America was "too proud to fight?" »… Finally, the interests of realpolitik being what they are, General Pershing's expeditionary force arrived in Europe chanting "Lafayette, here we come" ... However, the contribution of these fresh though inexperienced troops played a big part in resolving the conflict. Less perhaps than its actual involvement on the ground, it was the moral ascendancy of the expeditionary force that weighed heavily in the balance. From the point of view of the exhausted German troops, worried about the future of theirs because of the supply difficulties of the Reich, the arrival of new forces, endowed with an unfathomable human and financial potential could only have been synonymous with discouragement. . The halting blow, precisely, by the second battle of the Marne sounded the death knell for hopes of victory. The post-war period, with the thorny question of German reparations and inter-allied debts, will not fail to reintroduce the seeds of discord between the "Victors of the Marne", but the memory of 1918 will remain, "above" at least. This is evidenced, for example, by the official and solemn gift of one of the famous "taxis of the Marne" to the American nation by France in 1926, a gesture undoubtedly inscribed in the lineage of the tribute currently analyzed.

  • Marne (battle of the)
  • battles
  • United States
  • War of 14-18


Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.Louis DELPERIERThe battle of the MarneParis, Lavauzelle, 1985.Henry CONTAMINELa Victoire de la MarneParis, Gallimard, 1970.André KASPIThe time of the Americans The American competition for France, 1917-1918 Paris, Sorbonne publications, 1976 Frédéric ROUSSEA The Great War as social experiences Paris, Ellipses, 2006.

To cite this article

François BOULOC, “The Marne, where it all begins, where it all ends? "

Video: WW1. First Battle of the Marne 612 September 1914