The First Battle of the Marne & the End of the Schlieffen Plan

Combatants at 1st Marne-2

The first Battle of the Marne was fought from 5-12 September, 1914.  It was the turning point of the opening campaign in what would be known as the Western Front during World War I.  First Marne represented the death of German hopes for a repeat of 1870 and ensured that Germany would have to face every German planner’s nightmare for over a century, a two front war. The Schlieffen Plan was supposed to allow Germany to defeat her two great enemies, France and Russia, one after the other in sequence.  The greatest flaw in the Schlieffen Plan was actually the plan itself.  It was an attempt to move huge masses … Read more…

Happy Veterans Day

Today is Veteran’s Day in the US and Armistice Day in Britain and France. It is a day to remember the end of the fighting in World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. It is also the day set aside in the US to remember all veterans, not just those of World War I but also those that served in our nation’s other wars and those that served during peacetime. It takes something special to serve your country and a little bit more to do so voluntarily. There is always the possibility of going to war and giving your life … Read more…

Battle Analysis-Sedan, 1870

Map of Battle of Sedan - Image Courtesy: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/events/f/pics/sedan.gif

The Battle of Sedan, fought on 1 September 1870 displayed the superiority the Prussian Army had attained over the French in the nearly sixty years since their devastating defeat at Jena in the Napoleonic wars. The battle was notable for several developments in warfare, which were showcased by the Prussian and French army’s different abilities to effectively utilize the new technologies and methods existing. The most dominant military technologies of the time were railroads, repeating rifles, and modern cannon. While the French had at their disposal the Chassepot rifle which was superior to the Prussian needle-gun, their artillery was inferior in both quantity and quality to the Krupp guns deployed … Read more…

The Fronts of World War I in 1917 & 1918

The tactical and strategic situation at the beginning of 1917 was little changed from that at the beginning of 1916.   All that the offensives on the Western Front had managed to accomplish the previous year were minor changes in the trace of the trenches and massive loss of life.   Both the British and French planned further offensives in the west during the years but events would intervene to ensure that only the British committed themselves to large-scale offensives on the Western Front in 1917. The spring and summer saw the French army undergo a crisis of confidence that has come to be known as the French mutinies, thought … Read more…

Medieval Armor was heavy; Is this a Surprise?

I ran across this article on discovery news today: Heavy Armor Led to French Knights’ Loss.The article immediately irritated me. Perhaps it was the way the article was written or perhaps it was the content of the interviews with the guys who did the study. The gist of the story is that some English researchers had some medieval reenactor volunteers don period medieval armor and do various exercises on a treadmill while their various bodily functions were measured such as breathing, heart rate, etc. The article makes out as if it is a surprise that one, medieval suits of plate mail were heavy and two, that knights tire rapidly while … Read more…

Germany’s Current Strategic Position

At the present time, Germany is in a strategic position unparalleled in its history.   The German state shares no borders with any potential enemies in the near future.   Historically Germany has had to contend with one or more enemies sharing contiguous borders with it and rarely has Germany been able to count on outside help in combating these enemies.   As a continental as opposed to maritime power this situation is unprecedented for Germany with her short coastline and long land borders.   Historically Germany has always shared a border with at least one enemy whether at peace with them or not. The list of historical enemies is … Read more…

Was the Franco-Prussian War Modern?

The Franco-Prussian war was a modern war although it was not the first of Europe’s modern wars.   The Franco-Prussian war was also not a total war because while it was intensive in manpower while it lasted, its limited duration did not force a radical reorganization of both countries economies in order for it to be waged. In order to determine whether the Franco-Prussian war was a modern war or not we must define what a modern war is.   Is it a war in which all the modern implements of war as well as the modern methods of raising armies are employed?  Is it a war in which all … Read more…

The Fronts of World War I in 1915 & 1916

After Turkey’s entry into the war towards the end of 1914, the Dardanelles was closed to allied shipping and thus the only warm water route to Russian ports was closed.   The allied solution to this dilemma was to use the powerful British Navy in concert with a French battle group to force the Dardanelles and reopen the route to the Black Sea.   This operation gained added impetus with the massive Russian losses suffered in the previous year and because of the Turkish opening of a new front against Russia along their common frontier in the Caucasus. The first naval attempt to force the Dardanelles in February 1915 ended … Read more…

The Opening Months of World War I in the East and Elsewhere

The opening months of World War I on the Eastern Front did not proceed at as the German General Staff thought they would.   When General Alfred von Schlieffen (1833-1912) was drawing up the German war plan that would subsequently bear his name, he made several assumptions about the Russian army that would prove to be false. The most glaring incorrect assumption was the Germans estimate of the time it would take the Russian army to take the offensive.   The German General Staff assumed it would the take the Russians at least forty days to complete mobilization and begin their offensive.   This was the amount of time they … Read more…

Book Review: Fighting the Great War by Michael Neiberg

I originally saw Neiberg’s Fighting the Great War mentioned in a review essay covering recent works on WWI. The essay had good things to say about the work and then I decided to check and yes, the book had been reviewed by the Journal of Military History in the Jan 2007 issue, Vol. 71 no. 1 pg 242. I subscribe to the Journal so I pulled it it out and read the review. The review is generally favorable and recommends the book as a general history of the war. I did not have the same impression of the book as did the reviewer in JMH.I found the book to be … Read more…

Europe and the Crusading Impulse

Europe in the tenth and eleventh centuries was a continent in transition.   The states of Europe were still in flux and the kings of Europe had limited authority outside their own personal demesne.   Although individual French kings did wield considerable power, they waged a constant struggle to have their authority recognized by the great magnates in France, especially after the fall of the Carolingian dynasty in the ninth century[1].   The rest of Europe was no exception, in England the king was engaged in a great struggle with his leading barons and the Pope that would not be settled until the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215[2]. … Read more…

The Opening Months of World War I in the West

This will be a series of posts laying out the general history of the major Fronts in World War I. The First World War was unnecessary in that if the diplomats of Europe had truly wanted to stop the war there was ample opportunity in the five weeks between the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the start of the fighting.[1] The outbreak of war in 1939 can be directly traced to the terms of the Peace dictated at Versailles in 1919, and World War II was incomparably more destructive than World War I both in terms of lives lost and property destroyed. It was fashionable in the aftermath … Read more…

Book Review: The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar, translated by S.A. Hanford

The Conquest of Gaul tells the story of the Roman Conquest of what is now France, Switzerland, most of the Low Countries, and parts of present day Germany.   It was written by Julius Caesar, the Governor of the Roman province of Transalpine Gaul from 59 B.C. until he was declared Dictator of Rome in 44 B.C.   He presents a linear account of the conquest of Gaul set forth as a series of books, each book covering one year of his governorship.   The first seven books were written by Caesar himself as yearly reports to Rome.   The seventh book covering 51 B.C. was written after Caesar’s death … Read more…

Combatant Military Strategic Thought in 1914

All classical military theorists point out that military strategy and national policy are intermingled.   Clausewitz devotes a lengthy portion of his treatise to the ways in which military action should serve the needs of the state; indeed, his most famous quote concerns politics and war.   Most of the combatants in World War I seem to have forgotten that policy drives strategy. When the Elder Moltke was Chief of the German General Staff, German war-plans and policy neatly interlinked however, during Schleiffen’s tenure as Chief of the General Staff that link between policy and strategy was lost.   The Great Memorandum of 1905 ignored political reality in favor of … Read more…

Why the Western Front Stalemated in WWI

The conventional explanation for why the Western Front in World War I settled into a stalemate is that the power of defensive weapons was stronger than the offensive methods employed.   The theory is that the defensive potential of machine-guns, artillery, repeating rifles, and trenches was unbreakable with infantry and artillery alone.   This simplistic explanation does not suffice under close scrutiny though.   If this were so, why were the Germans not stopped in France until after they had removed troops to the Eastern front for the Battle of Tannenberg and why were the French stopped cold when they attempted to invade Germany in August 1914? The reasons for … Read more…