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(1914-1918) WWI
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/6/2019 2:04:51 PM

On Sept 6 1914 the French Sixth Army threw its fresh, raw, and unorganized troops against Gen. Gronau's elements of the German First Army. For the second day German artillery inflicted another defeat on the French. Not only did it fail to dislodge the Germans but the debacle left the Sixth Army shattered. There was still hope that Kluck might be able to finish the French Army.
On the morning of Sept 9 Kluck prepared to order forward Gen. von Quast Corps to drive off the reeling French. The attack went forward as planned. The French Sixth Army fell apart. As Quast was tearing apart the last of the disintegrating French Army, Kluck received orders to break of the attack and retreat. At this point nothing lay between the Germans and Paris but 30 miles of open, undefended ground.
Was Kluck that close and did the Germans miss a final opportunity to capture Paris? Or did the situation elsewhere make this a moot point?
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/7/2019 2:16:42 AM

John,

The Miracle of the Marne ....That phrase says a lot, doesn’t it ?

Perhaps it just settles the business of trying to account for what happened in one of the most complex and enigmatic episodes in military history.

I’ve always been frightened by the task of trying to understand the story : it’s just too big and convoluted , with too many names, too many units and too many locations flying around.

It does seem that the Germans lived up to the trope of winning battles and losing wars.

More to come.

Regards , Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/7/2019 6:34:09 AM

John,

You allude to ..the situation elsewhere....

Therein, I think, lies the key to understanding this bewildering series of events.

Not only in France and Belgium, but in East Prussia, Galicia and in the mountains of the Serbian Austrian theatre , there raged a series of huge battles that determined what was happening close to Paris.

In France itself, at the very time when the French Sixth Army was being so roughly handled, the Germans themselves were being slaughtered as they were repulsed along the Grand Couronne near Nancy. I think that events there had a lot to do with failure to exploit advantage near Paris. Then there was failure of nerve in the German high command : the imperturbable Joffre won the battle of minds.

It was a “ touch and go” business, no doubt about that. The same excruciating failure to advance and exploit hampered the Allies as they themselves lost the race to occupy the Chemin des Dames in the aftermath of the German retirement . Literally a matter of minutes.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/7/2019 7:31:21 AM

There was confusion all along the German front esp. between Bulow's 2nd Army and Kluck's 1st Army. A gap appeared between the two and the BEF was slowly moving into it. Kluck pulled back his left to counter this. He felt he had the situation in hand and also had time. From Bulow's view, Kluck's movement appeared to be a retreat and from the confusion and congestion on the roads, it reinforced his views. It took 5 hours for an officer from the General Staff sent to assets the situation to travel between the two Armies. Kluck's movements did increase the gap between the two but it seems he felt the BEF posed no immediate threat to him. He could attack the French 6th Army, destroy it, before the BEF could hurt him. Kluck was more aggressive than Bulow.
German defeat around Verdun shook the German High Command at this time also.
Could it have been a case of the war was too big for the German command to handle? Joffre was concerned about the Western Front and focused all his energy there. Moltke had the Western Front, Eastern Front in East Prussia, A-H Front to contend with.
Perhaps too much.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/7/2019 2:24:00 PM

Yes, too much : too much going on in too many places at the same time.

Too much reach and not enough grasp ?

It was such a huge risk ; to knock out France in six weeks. It came close. A generation later it worked. But then there wasn’t simultaneous warfare raging in the East.

There is an interesting book recently published “ The German Failure in Belgium, August 1914 “ by Showalter Robinson& Robinson, that attributes German failure in large measure to a solipsistic culture in the German High Command, a form of hubris that had fatal consequences.

On reflection, it’s too easy to focus on German flaws. We must - I think - give more credit to French qualities.
Apart from the Soviet Union in 1941, I cannot think of any comparable recovery from such an appalling initial blow as that displayed by the French in those few weeks of August and September 1914. Belgian and British prowess played their part, too.

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/8/2019 7:27:46 AM

Joffre never seemed to panic. A very good quality during those trying times. Sir John French seemed to under estimate his men, claiming they needed rest after Mons. Not sure if he lost his nerve or things were moving too fast for him. Moltke seemed to have become lost trying to do too much
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/8/2019 7:40:21 AM

Joffre never seemed to panic.

A lot to be said for a good lunch !

How extraordinary that Kitchener appointed Smith Dorrien to command the Second Corps of the BEF, when the world and his wife knew that Sir John French hated his guts.

Intriguing array of personalities in this series of battles : none more so than Lanrezac.

Adding an afterthought as an edit : a couple of posts back I remarked on the French experience of the opening battles of the Great War as an astonishing story of a nation fighting an existential struggle and being dreadfully hammered, only to recover and win. I compared it with the ordeal of the Soviet Union in 1941. Let me add another example from Antiquity : the defeats suffered by the Romans at the hands of the Carthaginian Hannibal....Trebbia, Trasimene and Cannae ; a trinity of disasters with catastrophic losses, especially in the last named, which , ironically, was to be the inspiration behind the German General Staff in its quest for victory in 1914.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/8/2019 8:16:07 PM

But wasn't Smith-Dorrien suppose to be a fine and capable general?

Speaking of Cannae, the thought of such of battle crept in to the Germans' plans. Wouldn't it have been to their advantage if the French were allowed to follow their Plan 17 and have their right wing advance deep into Germany? Meanwhile the German right could sweep out of Belgium
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4650
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/9/2019 1:37:08 AM

Since when did the competence of generals interfere with the hostility that flourishes between them ?

SD was held in high regard by many : he held the unique record of being a British officer who had managed to escape from Isandlwhana thirty five years earlier, so he clearly possessed that vital quality : luck. This attribute was to stand him in good stead when he determined to stand and fight at Le Cateau, a risk that might be compared with Lee’s defiant stand at Sharpsburg more than half a century earlier.

Several months later he had the temerity to suggest that it might save valuable lives and make good sense to withdraw from lethally exposed ground in the Ypres Salient. Here he pushed his luck too far, and was dismissed .

The Germans suffered from their own internal rivalries and antagonisms. I wonder if this accounts for the decision to allow the difficulties and defeats of the French on their right wing to be exploited to the degree that the German right was compromised in its mission.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
George
Centre Hastings
ON Canada
Posts: 10971
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/9/2019 6:46:50 AM

I am enjoying this thread very much.
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john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/9/2019 8:03:51 AM

I believe the Crown Prince was in command of the German left wing. It was beneath his status to be ordered to fight defensively and absorb French attacks while lesser beings reaped the glory.
Falkenhayn and Hindenburg-Ludendorff never saw eye to eye which led to an internal battle of Western vs Eastern importance.
Smith-Dorrien asked for a halt of the attack on April 25 1915 near Ypres predicting failure and useless losses for no gains. He was right. He tried to get Chief of Staff Robertson to support him. Instead he was sent packing.
No body likes "I told you so!"
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
scoucer
Berlin
 Germany
Posts: 2778
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/9/2019 4:03:53 PM

I don´t know where to start with this one.

John,

You´ve picked one of the most controversial subjects in 20thC military history. The raging controversies, smear campaigns and propaganda would affect german inter-war politics as key figures involved would be prominent in deciding the future of the Weimar republic. The histiography itself is worthy of volumes.

An interesting lecture by a clear expert.

[Read More]

Quote:
There is an interesting book recently published “ The German Failure in Belgium, August 1914 “ by Showalter Robinson& Robinson, that attributes German failure in large measure to a solipsistic culture in the German High Command, a form of hubris that had fatal consequences.

The theme is thought provoking and makes the much vaunted German General Staff appear as an institution flawed by arrogance and solipsism : words that occur in the text more than once.Regards, Phil


Phil,
Another massive subject ( and one I´m keeping for retirement : LOL: ). There has been a hell of a lot of BS written over the years about the German General Staff. It had far less power, authority and influence then many believe. Robert T. Foley touches on this in his book "German Strategy and the Path to Verdun" and there seems to be far less understanding of the confederate political structure that affected the military.
The General Staff was far from incompetent, being a ruthless meritocracy. My personal belief is that, like many "expert" organisations basically solely occupyied with planning with a long, or non-existent, feedback-ribbon ( the proof of the pudding is in the eating) they underestimate the effect of "frictions" and similarly fall into what is called "groupthink".

1. Excessive optimism
2. Discounting warnings
3. A belief that the other person's motives are ethical
4. A belief that people outside the group are troublemakers or create conflict
5. Pressure not to disagree with other members of the group
6. Failure to express doubts or differing opinions
7. Assumption that what most of the group believes is what all of the group believes
8. Members who "protect" the leader from conflicting information or dissenters

I´ll try to keep up with the thread.

Trevor

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`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/9/2019 10:07:35 PM

Just how confident were Moltke and the general staff that von Schlieffen "Plan" was actually work? By 1914 it seemed that the overall feeling was "we better fight now instead of later but it may be too late." The talk was defeat France but then what? No plans on table to take care of Russia later. They must have realized that A-H was a paper tiger. Also there was no fresh ideas at the top. They also seemed to think the enemy would react in a certain way. When it didn't, there was confusing, again at the top.
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
Jim Cameron
Ossining
NY USA
Posts: 914
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/13/2019 1:15:53 PM

I don't think that Kluck was that close, or that he missed a final opportunity to capture Paris.
The German invasion plans had been marginal to begin with, both in terms of manpower, and, perhaps even more important, logistics. Kluck's First Army had to cover enormous distances, in hot weather, and was reaching the limits on both human and animal endurance. Yes, it was still dangerous and could fight effectively, but by the beginning of September it was a wasting asset. The Germans couldn't sustain it so far from their railheads, with played out horse transport and only limited motor transport.
Equally important, the German First and Second armies were, for all practical purposes, each fighting their own separate wars. The overriding, and effective, coordination that Joffre provided for the French was absent, and couldn't really be duplicated by "empowered colonels" from the General Staff riding from headquarters to headquarters.
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Jim Cameron Every time I go to Gettysburg, I learn two things. Something new, and, how much I still don't know.
john hayward
Allenstown
NH USA
Posts: 816
The Battle of the Marne
Posted on: 12/14/2019 2:17:32 PM

The 1st and 2nd Army advanced faster than the German wire crews could strand the wire needed. Wireless radio contact was spotty leading to delays in information sent and orders from German HQ. Hence the "empowered colonels" ride from HQ.
The Corps Kluck used to smash the French 6th Army had seen less fighting than any unit in the 1st Army. It had been loaned to 2nd Army when Bulow felt threatened by action on his front. It was not used and returned to Kluck. It was the freshest unit in the 1st Army and Kluck felt confident in it being to continue the the advance.
Kluck was a highly aggressive general while Bulow was of a different sort. Placing Kluck under Bulow canceled Kluck's drive. Bulow saw doubts and confusion. Kluck saw opportunity
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"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

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