As promised, the weekly recap of 395 and 388:
395 students witnessed the sudden halt of the German advance into Belgium and France--the "Paris for lunch" part of the war plan--and the implosion of Count Schleiffen's scheme to win the war quickly. When the Germans were stopped by British and French forces along the river Marne, the Schleiffen plan became inoperative. An improvised Plan B called for a quick swing up north, to the Belgian coast, and the capture of the Channel ports at Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk. If German forces were able to take those, the British supply lines would be cut and the British forces already in the country would be trapped. The ensuing "race to the sea," the Germans trying to take the Channel ports and the British desperate to defend them, put the sleepy town of Ypres/Ieper in the eye of the storm. There followed a furious "first battle of Ypres," Germans v. British. Although the Germans had superior numbers, their ranks were populated by the greenest of warriors--students fresh out of school--and they faced professionals on the British side. The British won the this first battle of Ypres, slaughtering thousands of Germans, and the ports were temporarily saved. After this, both sides settled into established lines and dug themselves into the earth, as attacks and raids were far too costly in the era of the machine gun and the high-intensity shell. After the famous Christmas Truce of December l9l4, the war planners would be obsessed with scoring the big breakthrough that would end the war favorably for their side. The search for that breakthrough would dominate the rest of the war.
In 388, the French colonial era in Vietnam ended with the French defeat at Dienbienphu by Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh. This was huge for colonial peoples everywhere, in that a Great White Power was felled by a group of low-tech brown people, but especially for the Viet Minh as this marked their third victory in three conflicts. The Viet Minh believed they finally had won the right to govern Vietnam, but the Big Guys Who Decide Things for Everyone had other ideas: the Geneva meeting devised a compromise that awarded south Vietnam to the French and US-affiliated anti-Communists, with the Viet Minh administering the north of the country. The country was divided at the l7th parallel, and both sides agreed that there would be elections in two years that would determine who would administer Vietnam. Convinced that Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were the advance party for monolithic Communism, the United States decided to prevent a Viet Minh victory in the election at any cost. Military intervention was out, because all the influential military people were against it, so it was decided to find a surrogate for American power, or "our values," and build him up in hopes of countering Ho's popularity. Diem became our man, and it was clear early on that his rule would be, um, problematic--but there was no one else through which we could prevent a Communist Vietnam. Next week: John F. Kennedy confronts the growing problem of southeast Asia and...reverses himself!
Did I miss anything?