Pride (and the fall) - A Lesson from the Great War, 100 Years Later

Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. The Great War is not talked about much here in America; compared to WWII it is a difficult war to understand. There are no Hitlers or Nazis, just plenty of bad actors with questionable - and sometimes outright despicable - motives on both sides. The idea of men rushing headlong to their doom in trench warfare seems insane - who would do this?

Pride was involved with Adam and Eve in the garden - they wanted to be like God - and it was very much in evidence during WWI. This was particularly the case in the largest - and bloodiest - offensive ever fought by US armed forces. The Meuse-Argonne offensive took place in October/November 1918 - 1.2 million U.S. Army soldiers took part in the battle, led by General John “Blackjack” Pershing, who pulled off a logistical miracle by getting his soldiers into place without alerting his German foes.

Unfortunately, this advantage was squandered by the vain ambitions of one man - Major General Robert Lee Bullard, leader of the 4th Division. The main objective of the American forces was capturing an area called “Little Gibraltar” - this rocky fortress gave German artillery a commanding view of the battlefield; neutralizing this target would give the Americans a huge advantage. Major General of the radically mixed and untested 79th division was to attack “Little Gibraltar” head on; Bullard with the 4th Division was supposed to go around the side of the fortress, then turn, attack from behind and overwhelm the defenders before the German army could call in reserves.

Bullard, however, would have none of it. He despised his rival, hoping to someday grab command of the entire American 2nd Army for himself, and refused to do anything that might give Cameron credit. So Bullard disobeyed Pershing’s orders, and instead of turning behind Little Gibraltar instead pushed straight ahead as far and as fast as he could, stranding the 79th Division, which was slaughtered in its futile frontal attacks on Little Gibraltar.

What could have been an amazing victory instead turned into a brutal slog - 122,000 Americans became casualities, with an average of more than 1,000 soldiers dying every day during the offensive. All this because of one man’s pride.

The history of our fallen humanity is filled with stories like this; praise God on this Veterans Day for the testimonies of hearts changed and lives transformed by Jesus; he is making all things new!