NEWTON, Iowa — Like most VFW posts, Newton’s post, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary on Saturday, is named after a veteran. The post’s official name is “Marshal F. Foch Post 1655.” So, who is this mysterious namesake?
Marshal F. Foch is better known as Ferdinand Foch, who was a French general in World War I. The Marshal portion of his name is actually from titles bestowed on him, and he was named marshal of France and Poland and appointed as an honorary field marshal in the British Army by King George V in 1919.
Foch was such an effective leader, he was later promoted to commander-in-chief of the Allied Forces in World War I.
An excerpt from “Source Records of the Great War” detail’s Foch’s appointment to Commander-in-Chief:
“Gen. Foch is charged by the British, French and American governments with the coordination of the action of the Allied Armies on the western front; to this end there is conferred on him all the powers necessary for its effective realization. To the same end, the British, French and American governments confide in Gen. Foch the strategic direction of military operations.”
“The Commander-in-Chief of the British, French and American Armies will exercise to the fullest extent the tactical direction of their armies. Each Commander-in-Chief will have the right to appeal to his government, if in his opinion, his Army is placed in danger by the instructions received from Gen. Foch.”
Foch’s appointment came about during the German Spring Offensive of 1918, in which the Germans attempted to end World War I with a force of more than 500,000 soldiers by attacking the Allies’ weak points in France.
A British historical site, historylearningsite.co.uk, broke down the damage the German’s attack inflicted on the Allied forces:
“On March 21, 1918, (German General Eric) Ludendorff launched the offensive. In just five hours, the Germans fired one million artillery shells at the British lines held by the Fifth Army — over 3,000 shells fired every minute. The artillery bombardment was followed by an attack by elite storm troopers. These soldiers travelled lightly and were skilled in fast, hard-hitting attacks before moving on to their next target. Unlike soldiers burdened with weight kits and etc., the storm troopers carried little except weaponry (such as flame throwers) that could cause much panic, as proved to be the case in this attack.
“By the end of the first day of the attack, 21,000 British soldiers had been taken prisoner and the Germans had made great advances through the lines of the Fifth Army. Senior British military commanders lost control of the situation. They had spent three years used to static warfare and suddenly they had to cope with a German onslaught. (British senior officer Hubert) Gough ordered the Fifth Army to withdraw. The German attack was the biggest breakthrough in three years of warfare on the Western Front.”
Despite the severity of the attack and odds stacked against them, Foch rallied the Allied Forces and in the Second Battle of Marne, under his leadership, the Allies turned the tide of the war. Firstworldwar.com, a site dedicated to all things WWI, broke down this battle:
“With the Germans having ultimately failed in their efforts to break through, Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Supreme Commander, authorized a counter-offensive on July 18, 1918, launching 24 divisions of the French Army alone, in addition to U.S., British and Italian troops and some 350 tanks.”
“His aim was to eliminate the large German salient among the French lines. In this, he was entirely successful.”
By Aug., 3, 1918, the German forces had lost most of the ground they gained during their Spring Offensive. As a Frenchman, Foch certainly had plenty of motivation to push the Germans farther out of his homeland.
After this staggering blow delivered by the Allied Forces, many German military leaders feared the end was near and their worse fears where confirmed when the Allies launched the Hundred Days Offensive, which began on Aug., 8, 1918 and ended on Nov. 11, 1918 — which is now known as Armistice Day and marks the day Germans asked for a cease-fire to negotiate their surrender.
Historical accounts vary about what happened during the negotiations for surrender, but a large measure of them, said Foch refused to shake hands with any Germans during the process and he only appeared twice during the three days it took to arrange the peace.
His first appearance was to ask the Germans, “what they wanted,” when they arrived and the second appearance was to verify they had signed the armistice agreement.
Throughout his career, Foch received numerous awards and titles. He is one of history’s most decorated soldiers and his legacy even lives on in Newton thanks to his namesake VFW post.
Newton’s Marshal F. Foch VFW Post is planning events all day Saturday to commemorate its 85th anniversary. The VFW is located at 315 First Ave. W.