Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The End

The anniversary of the beginning of the Great War was yesterday.  It's a war few really understand.

For instance, how did it end?  I remember being dissatisfied with the explanation in the short unit on it in High School History.  And figured I 'd learn the answer in University courses.  Not so much, really.

Let's explain.  This is what people learn in High School and what they retain if they are interested and maybe do some outside reading:

Archduke Franz Ferdinand get's shot, the way starts because of secret treaties and alliance obligations.

The Germans do the Schlieffen plan's big right hook through the Low Countries and almost get the whole darn thing starting in August of 1914.  The Miracle on the Marne and Paris cabs turn them back because Moltke pulled unit from the plan to shore up Alsace Lorraine a bit and also to meet the Russians back East.

Stalemate.  Trench warfare is a terrible horror.  Machine guns and artillery are great against men in the open but can't prevail against dugouts.  The German Verdun Campaign is a terrible horror.  The British Somme Campaign is a terrible horror.  The French are bled so white they almost collapse from the terrible horror.  French elan.  British Pals Brigades. 

Dirigibles and canvas planes and primitive tanks are interesting but no biggee really.  Cavalry doesn't do well against machine guns.  Gas warfare is tried and it's a terrible horror.  Jutland is an expensive stalemate.  U-boats.  Gallipoli is a sideshow that goes poorly for the allies but makes New Zealand and Australia into nations somehow.

The Russians sorta collapse and revolutionize and sue for peace with Germany to just end the damn thing, freeing up German troops to go to the Western Front and this is almost decisive for Germany

The Americans and Woodrow Wilson get sick of all the German depredations and come in on ally side 'just in time.'  Black Jack Pershing.

Then some things happen...  and the war ends.  Versailles Treaty.  League of Nations.  Wilson has a stroke.  The maps is divvied up arbitrarily. 

But, that ellipses:  "Then some things happen...  and the war ends."  No one marched into Berlin.  Or crossed the Rhine.  What really happens at the dot-dot-dot?   Belleau Wood is in there. 

Well, it's not just now where people are confused.  It's always been kinda muddled.  It's much simpler to get your head around WWII than this earlier war.  So I got this book to sorta shed some light on the subject.

No one talks about this last part.  Heavy fighting after the last German offensive earlier in the year. The Armies have honed their skill on both sides and are very good at their jobs.  German blitz tactics and small unit maneuver warfare get's it's start in the last year of the war.  The first inkling on how to start opening up a static defensive war of attrition...  But, more on that tomorrow.    


Bubblehead Les. said...

Tanks. It took Tanks to bring about the End.

The Hun learned THAT Lesson very well, while the French went back to doing "The Same Old Thing in the Same Old Way" with the Maginot Line.

Knucklehead said...

It has been years since I read it, and it doesn't dwell on many details or specifics of battles or campaigns, I found this an excellent book about the causes and mistakes that led to WWI and the links between WWI and WWII (Goodspeed argues that they are one war with a long truce between).

I believe that the Korean War, Vietnam, and even the ongoing debacle in the Middle East, are remnants of WWII (and therefore WWI) flaring up again and again.

In any case, I highly recommend "The German Wars" by Goodspeed.


Old NFO said...

Nicely done tease... :-)