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U.S. Civil War to WWI -- no lessons learned?

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Topic: U.S. Civil War to WWI -- no lessons learned?
Posted By: hugoestr
Subject: U.S. Civil War to WWI -- no lessons learned?
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 01:15
Hi, there,

My son's main historical interests in the last few months have been WWI and the U.S. Civil War. It is interesting in that both of these engagement had generals who were oblivious to how the improvement of fire arms gave defensive tactics an advantage, and that old-style offensives with closely linked lines and sending waves after waves until the defense broke didn't work anymore.

So, why didn't the Allied Generals of WWI learned the lessons of the U.S. Civil War? (the Germans either learned them or figure them out by themselves pretty quickly.)

Did the wars in between these conflicts repeated the errors of slaughtering armies by attempting futile advances into well secured defensive lines?





Replies:
Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 01:59
The British experience in the Boer War, at Spion Kop for instance, was that advancing lines if prosecuted firmly enough could in fact drive out an entrenched enemy. The Boer War was a lot more reent and closer to home than the US Civil War.
 
Though there was some successful trench defence in the Boer War, the lessons of 1870/1 didn't teach much about static warfare, more about the advantage af mobility.
 
I also don't see why you exempt the German generals, who were just as guilty of ignoring the Civil War lessons.  Who was it spent so much time trying to force the French defensive positions at Verdun? And for that matter whose initial plan, very nearly successful, depended entirely on fast movement?


-------------
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 05:42
Well it is a fact that the Preussischer Kriegsakademie [graduation from which was requisite for the German General Staff] did teach the U.S. Civil War in the context of both offense and defense, but what everyone seems to keep forgetting was that the changes in weapons technology. For the purpose of furthering discussion here is an interesting on-line essay:
 
http://johnsmilitaryhistory.com/cwarmy.html - http://johnsmilitaryhistory.com/cwarmy.html
 
Notice the premise: Military tactics had already changed in Europe to accept technological realities and these were irrelevant to the Civil War--
 
The family tree of these modern tactics goes back to mid 19th century Europe - not to the American Civil War, which had no children.
 


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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 05:55
You should learn alot more about 19th century warfare hugo before judging.
 
Compared with its contemporary european wars the US civil war was a cakewalk and a demonstration of military incompetence. Antietam was the civil war's worst battle in terms of total casualties costing 22717 (KIA/MIA/WIA and POW) men of a grand total of 120k combatants (19%).
 
In the seven weaks war and during the battle of Koniggratz (1866) both armies lost 53075 men of a grand total of 450k men engaged (11.7%). Casualties in the Franco-Prussian war and Russo-Turkish war were even higher.
 
In WWI there was simply no other choice but a headlong assault if you wanted to attack. Tanks weren't invented yet and when they were people had to figure out a way to use them. Plus a full 1/3rd of all deaths were due to disease and/or infection not direct combat. Remember people fought in very dismal trenches which were humid, hot during the rainy summer months and with absolutely no sewer system whatsoever. 
 
Al-Jassas 


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 09:27
Hi, Graham,

Yes, you made a good point. Thanks for pointing it out.

Al Jassas,

Yes, I don't know about it. That is why I started this thread. And my point is that after the U.S. Civil War, you had an example that the old-style warfare wasn't working anymore. Why was the American experience ignored? Was it dismissed as just a bunch of incompetent generals fighting each other?


As for WWI, part of the tragedy of that war is that, when it was abundantly clear that frontal assault weren't going to work, they kept pushing wave after wave to their deaths. That they lacked any other method is not really an excuse for the butchery.


Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 09:54
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Hi, there,

My son's main historical interests in the last few months have been WWI and the U.S. Civil War. It is interesting in that both of these engagement had generals who were oblivious to how the improvement of fire arms gave defensive tactics an advantage, and that old-style offensives with closely linked lines and sending waves after waves until the defense broke didn't work anymore.

So, why didn't the Allied Generals of WWI learned the lessons of the U.S. Civil War? (the Germans either learned them or figure them out by themselves pretty quickly.)

Did the wars in between these conflicts repeated the errors of slaughtering armies by attempting futile advances into well secured defensive lines?




But why would the Americans wish to continue to outfit their army as though it were fighting a similarly equipped force? After ACW, the Americans returned to fighting Natives and a Latin American banana republic every now and then. Those enemies usually had not the combination of the firepower, the discipline and the numbers to wage trench warfare.

Subjugating the Native Americans required speed and mobility. Defeating Latin American states required a feocious and disciplined assault that resulted in the occupation of key forts, towns and landmarks. Neither of those could be achieved solely through defensive trench warfare.

By the time the Americans had arrived in force in Europe in WWI, trench warfare was already being replaced by more mobile warfare thanks to the innovation of shock troops. So emphasis on mobility and assault still remained important for the Americans when they finally entered at the very end of the war.


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 10:15
Just a clarification here because of a statement made by Al:
 
In WWI there was simply no other choice but a headlong assault if you wanted to attack. Tanks weren't invented yet and when they were people had to figure out a way to use them.
 
Tanks were developed during World War I by both the British and the French and their development was a direct result of that engagement's resort to trench warfare (which in itself is no novelty since such were employed during the Italian campaigns of Gonzalo de Cordoba). One could easily assert that the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 saw the first successful employment of the technology and by July of 1918, the Battle of Soissons proved its effectiveness as an assault weapon.


-------------
Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 11:47
Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


But why would the Americans wish to continue to outfit their army as though it were fighting a similarly equipped force? After ACW, the Americans returned to fighting Natives and a Latin American banana republic every now and then. Those enemies usually had not the combination of the firepower, the discipline and the numbers to wage trench warfare.


Let's make it clear that Latin Americans have never been enemies of the U.S. but the other way around. The superpower of the north has been the one that started the abuse, particularly with sweet Teddy Roosevelt.

The only time when a group of Latin Americans ploted to destroy that country was when the drug cartel leaders started the plan of flooding the U.S. with drugs. There is evidence that this business started with the pseudo moral justification of destroying "the enemy". Confused (The Kings of Cocaine, Gugliotta, Leen)

The average Latin American doesn't have those feelings of revenge, so don't expect another 9-11 comming from us. Only expect economical revenges.

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


Subjugating the Native Americans required speed and mobility.


Subjugating? Wasn't it a genocide of the Native Americans? And yes, Custer was devoided of all movility by Crazy Horse... LOL

Originally posted by Constantine XI Constantine XI wrote:


Defeating Latin American states required a feocious and disciplined assault that resulted in the occupation of key forts, towns and landmarks. Neither of those could be achieved solely through defensive trench warfare.


Ferocious? Don't be silly. The U.S. outnumbered most of the small countries that invaded. Those were boyscout campains for the U.S. army. The only ferocious campain with a former Spanish country was in Phillipines, but there the U.S. commited a genocide against locals. An event long time forgotten by the U.S. public, like so many others.

However, when the U.S. tried to do the same with a huge population like Vietnam, had to backup in tears. Even more, when Cuba allied to the Soviet Union and tried to put the nuclear missiles pointing north, the U.S. didn't invade Cuba but got a deal.

Yes, the U.S. applied to gunboat policy only to the small guys.

Just to clarify the historical contexts.




Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 11:56
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:


Compared with its contemporary european wars the US civil war was a cakewalk and a demonstration of military incompetence. Antietam was the civil war's worst battle in terms of total casualties costing 22717 (KIA/MIA/WIA and POW) men of a grand total of 120k combatants (19%).


I think that pretty much answers Hugo's question. Stupid Americans. Didn't know how to conduct a war properly. Who needed to learn anything from a bunch of degenerates in the first place, right? At least that was the old European elitist view back then.

Antietam the worst? Perhaps you inadvertently skipped over Gettysburg with it's +50,000 casualties and losses out of around 170 thousand combatants from both armies.


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 18:14
Originally posted by drgonzaga drgonzaga wrote:

Just a clarification here because of a statement made by Al:
 
In WWI there was simply no other choice but a headlong assault if you wanted to attack. Tanks weren't invented yet and when they were people had to figure out a way to use them.
 
Tanks were developed during World War I by both the British and the French and their development was a direct result of that engagement's resort to trench warfare (which in itself is no novelty since such were employed during the Italian campaigns of Gonzalo de Cordoba). One could easily assert that the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 saw the first successful employment of the technology and by July of 1918, the Battle of Soissons proved its effectiveness as an assault weapon.
 
Please read what I put in bold. Early on in WWI tanks didn't exist and when they eventually came people didn't know how to use them. Only late during the war during the famous 8th of August offensive (battle of Amiens) were tanks used in the manner they are used now, as assault weapons grouped into large formations to achieve a breathrough on a limited sector that was immediately exploited by mounted infantry (whether they were on horses or cars) and then followed on by massed infantry.
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 18:31
Originally posted by Panther Panther wrote:

Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:


Compared with its contemporary european wars the US civil war was a cakewalk and a demonstration of military incompetence. Antietam was the civil war's worst battle in terms of total casualties costing 22717 (KIA/MIA/WIA and POW) men of a grand total of 120k combatants (19%).


I think that pretty much answers Hugo's question. Stupid Americans. Didn't know how to conduct a war properly. Who needed to learn anything from a bunch of degenerates in the first place, right? At least that was the old European elitist view back then.

Antietam the worst? Perhaps you inadvertently skipped over Gettysburg with it's +50,000 casualties and losses out of around 170 thousand combatants from both armies.
 
Did I say Americans were stupid?
 
Americans fought natives with bow and arrows and Mexicans who had a sham of an army. When the civil war started they had a small army, an even smaller officer corps and no experience in mass war before. Europeans have had 3000 years of experience killing each other and scarcely a decade went without a major war. They needed a crash course in modern warfare and they got it.
 
The last year's battles and campaigns of the civil war were indeed a lesson in military strategy (particularly Sherman's march to sea so loved by euros) but tactics wise europeans there was little difference and europeans had the edge.
 
As for Hugo's remarks, again why should europeans look to the American civil war for guidence? The same tactics the American's used then were used in the Crimeas war before and the Seven weeks war and Franco-Prussian war after. The difference was the europeans applied them better because they had a much better officer corps and better trained armies and the edge of experience. The only thing the Americans taught the europeans was how to conduct a war on an industrial large scale level. A thing the euros never bettered the American's at.
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 23:37
Al, Jassas,

First, I don't know why you couldn't learn anything from the U.S. Civil War. It is not a nationalistic reason why I ask you, but it is pragmatic: if some other people fight wars with newer weapons, you can gain their experience without having to suffer deaths.

How were the same tactics applied better? As I have seen them, frontal attacks when you have accurate weapons against trenches have overwhelming odds against the offensive army. I can't really see any application where it would work.


Posted By: Seko-
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 00:56
Jousting aside fellas the American Civil War has a lot to be studied. Evolution in arms is one. Going from muzzle loaded lead balled muskets to rifles that used cartridges is one of the changes the war brought on. Heavy use of of mobile cannon, coordinated flanking maneuvers never go out of style eihter (though the civil war did not invent those tactics it did show that frontal assaults were not the only show in town). Plus, who could forget the Gatling Gun? The first repeating rifle used on a grand scale was during the American Civil War. 


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 02:39
Since the discussion has widened out a bit, I suspect the main area in which the European general staffs learned - or tried to learn - from the Civil War was the use of railways. They watched the ironclad steamers fairly closely too.
 
Some of them may also have picked up a hint or two about possible career paths after the war was over.


-------------
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: Sarmat
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 09:15
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Al, Jassas,

First, I don't know why you couldn't learn anything from the U.S. Civil War. It is not a nationalistic reason why I ask you, but it is pragmatic: if some other people fight wars with newer weapons, you can gain their experience without having to suffer deaths.

How were the same tactics applied better? As I have seen them, frontal attacks when you have accurate weapons against trenches have overwhelming odds against the offensive army. I can't really see any application where it would work.
 
Well. Actually, the tactics has improved dramatically after American Civil War and before WWI.
 
Though for Europe the main "tough teacher" wasn't American civil war, but rather Franco-Prussian war.
 
What exactly improved in the tactics?
 
Attacks in columns were abandoned in favor of dispersed attacks in lines.
 
Though it seems like a kind of obvious thing. It took a long time to abandoned the basics of Napoleonic wars tactics style i.e. attacks in deep columns.
 
That change developed naturally due to the drammatic progress in weapons development.
 
As for the WWI, it was in fact quite different from American Civil War. And frontal assaults of WWI weren't really conducted similarly to what was happening during American Civil war.


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Σαρμάτ



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 10:19
"...frontal assaults of WWI weren't really conducted similarly to what was happening during the American Civil war."

No, they were more futile and more destructive than in the ACW.  In the ACW, it was recognized that sometimes the war needed to be a bloody mess in order to get it over with faster (Grant's brutal logic of the nature of modern war). 

In WW I, the generals didn't know what else to do.  Strategic turning movements had become virtually impossible because of the sheer number of troops involved, and because of both the extent of defensive positions that could be maintained by millions upon millions of troops, and the efficiency of modern weapons technology.

The only thing that changed that substantially (in WW II) was the capability of amphibious assault and its logistical support.  In the east, the battering ram that was the Red Army did work, but at the cost of 20,000,000 dead.

 




Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 12:01
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:


Did I say Americans were stupid?
 


I did not mean to imply that you did. Just reading prejudiced books and other sites on the web having saying that and so much worse.

Quote
Americans fought natives with bow and arrows and Mexicans who had a sham of an army. When the civil war started they had a small army, an even smaller officer corps and no experience in mass war before. Europeans have had 3000 years of experience killing each other and scarcely a decade went without a major war. They needed a crash course in modern warfare and they got it.
 


Sure the US Calvary did most of the fighting with the natives and sometimes, if the tribe was poor and weak, they fought with bows and arrows; And sometimes if facing a much stronger, wealthier tribe, then they fought them with some of the same weapons the US had themselves. The Mexican army may have been incredibly weak at the top, but they still made a formidable opponent for the time. You seem to forget, that US Americans of the time, and pretty much still are, largely Europeans themselves with the same history and borrowed culture as those from the old continent.

Quote
The last year's battles and campaigns of the civil war were indeed a lesson in military strategy (particularly Sherman's march to sea so loved by euros) but tactics wise europeans there was little difference and europeans had the edge.


No doubt, they had a slight edge, but i had always seen that edge as the ability in organizing manpower for military service in as little time as possible.
 
Quote
As for Hugo's remarks, again why should europeans look to the American civil war for guidence? The same tactics the American's used then were used in the Crimeas war before and the Seven weeks war and Franco-Prussian war after. The difference was the europeans applied them better because they had a much better officer corps and better trained armies and the edge of experience. The only thing the Americans taught the europeans was how to conduct a war on an industrial large scale level. A thing the euros never bettered the American's at.


The same reason why i think it is a wise policy too learn as much as one can from any region on the globe, and not just from the American or European regions. But basically for the era, the distances involved, time needed to disseminate the knowledge acquired and the ability to organize and pass on the military lessons learned meant that it should have taken, at the very least, several decades for something new or apparently catastrophic to take root. Americans had little use for what had transpired in the Crimea, just as the participants in the seven weeks war or even the Franco-Prussian war had little knowledgeable use for what had transpired in the US civil war.
 


Posted By: Sarmat
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 12:17
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

"...frontal assaults of WWI weren't really conducted similarly to what was happening during the American Civil war."

No, they were more futile and more destructive than in the ACW.  In the ACW, it was recognized that sometimes the war needed to be a bloody mess in order to get it over with faster (Grant's brutal logic of the nature of modern war). 

In WW I, the generals didn't know what else to do.  Strategic turning movements had become virtually impossible because of the sheer number of troops involved, and because of both the extent of defensive positions that could be maintained by millions upon millions of troops, and the efficiency of modern weapons technology.

 
 
This is exactly the thing. In WWI they couldn't do anything else. But in ACW they voluntary did stupid assaults... But that doesn't only apply to ACW; Crimean, Franco-Prussian and Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 belongs to the same category.

Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

The only thing that changed that substantially (in WW II) was the capability of amphibious assault and its logistical support.  In the east, the battering ram that was the Red Army did work, but at the cost of 20,000,000 dead.
 
WWII was quite different due to the new generation of tank and air hardware. And due to those technical innovations WWI stalemates couldn't work in WWII.


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Σαρμάτ



Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 12:44
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

The only thing that changed that substantially (in WW II) was the capability of amphibious assault and its logistical support.  In the east, the battering ram that was the Red Army did work, but at the cost of 20,000,000 dead.
 
WWII was quite different due to the new generation of tank and air hardware. And due to those technical innovations WWI stalemates couldn't work in WWII.


Essentially about the second world war as compared to the first, the tactics of the previous centuries couldn't stand the technological advances of industry and mechanization by that time. What use was a trench versus a tank? What use was logistical base against an air or tank assault if defenses were not more industrially organized in a much more efficient manner? What use was flesh and muscle against a rifled bullet or long range artillery, that also not too say against tank treads either?


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 23:19
Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.


Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 23:47
My suggestion that the generals learned from the postwar careers of the American generals was seriously meant. It helps account for sending people to certain death.
 
Nobody got to be president through being cautious about losing. McLellan was just as much an object lesson as Grant or Garfield.


-------------
Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 23:55
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.


There was nothing else they could do.  Schemes to turn strategic flanks in the Mediterranean (at Gallipoli) and in the Baltic were never realistic as there was no adequate amphibious capability.  The war had to be one of attrition.   

If you can't turn a flank, and you can't go over them, you have to go at them.  Modern technology made that close to suicidal.  As far as the lack of any capability at the time to airlift troops, that would have been to minimal advantage anyway in the absence of a breakthrough to exploit the drop.





 


Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 00:18
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
 
Then how do you expect to win the damn war?
 
The nature of war dictates the tactics used. Remember using trenches in the first place was an Entente strategic decision that won them the war in the long term.
 
The Entente were losing and the traditional highly mobile war and only 1st Marne and the speedy Russian entry to war forced the Germans to slow down. Trenches were the only possible way to prevent a total collapse in view of the manpower shortage the Entente suffered in 1914 and the Germans decided to follow suite since which was logical since after the manpower levels become comprable the Entente will go on to the offensive.
 
 
Al-Jassas


Posted By: Reginmund
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 00:22
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
 
But that's like saying Soviet infantry tactics in WW2 weren't any good, even though they were essential in turning the tide in favour of an allied victory. Are you saying defeat is preferable to sacrificing soldiers? You can avoid this question, but the generals you're criticizing couldn't.


-------------
Sing, goddess, of Achilles' ruinous anger
Which brought ten thousand pains to the Achaeans,
And cast the souls of many stalwart heroes
To Hades, and their bodies to the dogs
And birds of prey


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 00:39
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
 
Then how do you expect to win the damn war?
 
The nature of war dictates the tactics used. Remember using trenches in the first place was an Entente strategic decision that won them the war in the long term.
 
The Entente were losing and the traditional highly mobile war and only 1st Marne and the speedy Russian entry to war forced the Germans to slow down. Trenches were the only possible way to prevent a total collapse in view of the manpower shortage the Entente suffered in 1914 and the Germans decided to follow suite since which was logical since after the manpower levels become comprable the Entente will go on to the offensive.
 
 
Al-Jassas


Interesting perspective on manpower issues.  As far back as the 1870s the elder von Moltke had fretted over the inability of the German Empire to fight on two fronts long term.  It never seemed to him that the manpower of Germany could support that.

Then in the subsequent thirty years or so, Germany's population increased and its economic boom could sustain that increase.  By around 1905 (when the army was actually running the Empire) a patina of manpower "adequacy" masked the actual inadequacy of German resources to support and sustain her strategic pretensions.

Even the Great General Staff had the understanding that the war had to be won quickly or it might not be possible to win it.  Attrition is, of course, often a blood letting process, and the Entente had the long term resources to sustain that as you say al-Jassas.  Not only imperial resources but imperial manpower and naval superiority were then involved.

Considering all that, it is a miracle Germany lasted as long as she did.  Germany was certainly in no better position to make a strategic turning movement than was the Entente.

 


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 00:41
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
 
But that's like saying Soviet infantry tactics in WW2 weren't any good, even though they were essential in turning the tide in favour of an allied victory. Are you saying defeat is preferable to sacrificing soldiers? You can avoid this question, but the generals you're criticizing couldn't.


Yeah, unfortunately once you are in it, soldiers have to be sacrificed.  And, just as unfortunately, that is what troops are for.




Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 00:58
Has anyone finally realized that the successful generals (for both the Confederacy and the Union) all received their "spurs" in the Mexican War and that this conflict also had its effects on George McClellan (and his insistence on good supply, effective training, proper flanking and the benefits of organized siege). Anyway, the strategy that won the war for the Union was that laid out by none other than Winfield Scott right at the beginning and no matter what one might think of this other Mexican War veteran called "old fuss and feathers" by the politicians, he turned out to be right as far as to what is the proper task for general staff officers.

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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 01:03
Doc,

Politicians wanted immediate results or at least results they could exploit at the polls.  McClellan was too slow for them, but his strategic sense in the Peninsular campaign was sound.  As nearly all the West Point grads were, he was trained in engineering.  Slower process that.  Siege work is not glorious or flashy - no good newspaper headlines for politicians to use.

Winfield Scott may have had the best strategic mind of any US general, at least before WW II.  I think he has been a very under rated military figure.




Posted By: Al Jassas
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 01:42
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
 
But that's like saying Soviet infantry tactics in WW2 weren't any good, even though they were essential in turning the tide in favour of an allied victory. Are you saying defeat is preferable to sacrificing soldiers? You can avoid this question, but the generals you're criticizing couldn't.
 
70% the USSR's WWII death toll (7 million out of 10) happened in the 18 months between June 41 and Dec 42. USSR casualty levels after that were about as normal as you can expect when you have fighting on the scale of the fighting in the eastern front. The USSR infantry tactics used in the first period of the were didn't win the war, it saved the USSR from collapsing.
 
Later on in the second period of the war the USSR adopted tactics that were not essentially that much different from the German ones. Those were the tactics that won the war.
 
AL-Jassas


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 02:33
I find it amazing how people reacted to my statement . It must have touched some nerve. I also find it amazing as well how much sympathy there is for incompetent or unimaginative generals.

I will grant that they may have attempted to go through the front the first few times. But after seeing massive deaths with no results, that should have stopped, and they should have tried other things.

And your framing, Regi, is ridiculous. This is not an issue between death or defeat. This is an issue where the generals showed a huge contempt for the lives of the soldiers they were leading, and, since the lives of people doesn't really mean anything to you and potentially others, bad resource management: needlessly killing off your army increases the chances of losing a war.

I would be a lot more sympathetic if the generals in WWI tried different things looking for what worked, at the cost of human lives, rather than mindlessly ordering people to their death because they couldn't think of any good thing to do.







Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 03:09
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

I find it amazing how people reacted to my statement . It must have touched some nerve. I also find it amazing as well how much sympathy there is for incompetent or unimaginative generals.

I will grant that they may have attempted to go through the front the first few times. But after seeing massive deaths with no results, that should have stopped, and they should have tried other things.

And your framing, Regi, is ridiculous. This is not an issue between death or defeat. This is an issue where the generals showed a huge contempt for the lives of the soldiers they were leading, and, since the lives of people doesn't really mean anything to you and potentially others, bad resource management: needlessly killing off your army increases the chances of losing a war.

I would be a lot more sympathetic if the generals in WWI tried different things looking for what worked, at the cost of human lives, rather than mindlessly ordering people to their death because they couldn't think of any good thing to do.







The British did attempt different things in WW I, but they did not work for different reasons.  In WW II the British preferred a peripheral approach rather than a direct one - a point of contention with the US late in the war.  There are differing justifications for each.

In WW I British casualties were very heavy.  They didn't want to accept that again, so some leaders (Churchill among them) favored another attempt at going in through the Balkans, ala Gallipoli.  The US favored going right at the Germans where they were, but not necessarily where they were strongest obviously. 

There were a number of important technical and logistical considerations, but the point is that the US favored going right at the enemy as Grant had done in the ACW.  The US generals felt in 1943 that the peripheral approach would only lengthen the war.

The sooner the Allies came to grips with the enemy in France, and the more they kept at them, the shorter the war would be.  Going right at them in France meant going right for the Ruhr and Saar would be closer.  Once those areas were taken Germany could not continue the war.

The British still favored trying a turning movement on the left flank (Market Garden, and then accessing the Ruhr by flanking the Siegfried Line).  When that did not work in Sept., '44, the US determined that the Ruhr had to be taken directly - starting through Aachen in Oct., '44.  The fighting was heavy pretty much through the end of the year and into 1945.

The US army suffered the majority of its casualties in the eight months after Normandy.

 


Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 03:11
You may have a point there Hugo when you wrote "where the generals showed a huge contempt for the lives of soldiers" since such was the popular conclusion of the generation that fought that war and it did have a tremendous intellectual impact as captured not only in Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1928) but also in the Canadian novel of Humprey Cobb, Paths of Glory (1935). In fact, it is just this aspect of that war that has remained in the collective conscience. The psychological effects on an entire generation can not be minimized.

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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: Sarmat
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 04:22
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
 
Unfortunately, it's hard to win wars with this approach...


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Σαρμάτ



Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 05:10
I don't really see what happened in ww2 as connected with the subject of what lessons ww1 generals could have learned from the ACW (or from anywhere).
 
The choice is obviously not between attacking on unfavourable terms or acceptng defeat. The important choice (in ww1) is between going up against the other guy or letting hi come up against you. Or sitting there doing nothing until the other guy runs out of resources or something happens on another front, notably through the blockade.
 
As usual, it was Germany that needed to attack (from a war-winning point of view) because it was going to lose on attrition.


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 07:27
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.

 

Unfortunately, it's hard to win wars with this approach...


What approach would that be? Preserving your soldiers makes you lose wars?


Posted By: pikeshot1600
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 09:50
Sarmat seems to mean that war is as it is.  Once you are at war there is nothing else to do but try to win it.  Military operations mean casualties.

I am a proponent of Grant as a great commander, and he did not hesitate to fight battles.  For Grant war was a nasty business; it was not possible to clean it up.  The nastier it was the sooner they would get it over with.





Posted By: Sarmat
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 13:08
Yes, that what I mean. War means death. You might be able to minimize casualties sometimes, but more often, you can't avoid them.

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Posted By: drgonzaga
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 14:09
Grant was a great commander and it is impossible to deny such in terms of Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appomattox but it is both myth and unjust to claim his victories came from a simple willingness to sacrifice troops in battle. Historically it is untenable because Grant's casualty ratio was always lower than that of his opponents, considerably so when it came to Robert E. Lee's. He had both clarity of conception and simplicity in execution for if one cares to study his campaigns you will note that he ignored Southern cities, could not be bothered by railway junctions and just would not waste time on "strategic points", instead his focus was always on the opposing army. His systematic deployment was premised upon a single point: the application of coordinated overwhelming force. Historically, the interpretation that Grant "sacrificed" his troops is not based on actual data but is actually the bias of historians with axes to grind, first by those who could never forgive him for enforcing Reconstruction and second by the daft of the Vietnam era with their unforgiving premise that war is inhuman.

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Honi soit qui mal y pense


Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 22:25
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Yes, that what I mean. War means death. You might be able to minimize casualties sometimes, but more often, you can't avoid them.


Funny, many people get caught up on this, and then use it as an argument to justify bad decisions.

Yes, war is death, but it, at the very least, should be justified death achieving some specific goals that is actually achievable. Sending people on suicide missions just shows a lot of contempt for the people who are wiling to die for your decisions.

When the frontal approached worked in Napoleonic and pre-Napoleonic times, then it was justified since you could potentially win battles and wars that way. When the frontal approached stopped working sometime in the mid 19th century, then it wasn't. The insistence of doing this showed resistance to adapt to a new kind of warfare, and contempt for the lives of your soldiers.



Posted By: gcle2003
Date Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 22:25
Originally posted by pikeshot1600 pikeshot1600 wrote:

Sarmat seems to mean that war is as it is.  Once you are at war there is nothing else to do but try to win it. 
You can try and get the other guy to lose it.
Worked for Britain in ww2.
 
And wasn't there someone called 'Fabius' once?


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Citizen of Ankh-Morpork.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.



Posted By: hugoestr
Date Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 00:30
Thanks for bringing up Fabius. I wasn't aware of him. The wikipedia entry made a nice morning read.

Also interesting that at the end of the article, it says how Washington was called the "American Fabius."


Posted By: Sarmat
Date Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 02:01
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Yes, that what I mean. War means death. You might be able to minimize casualties sometimes, but more often, you can't avoid them.


Funny, many people get caught up on this, and then use it as an argument to justify bad decisions.

Yes, war is death, but it, at the very least, should be justified death achieving some specific goals that is actually achievable. Sending people on suicide missions just shows a lot of contempt for the people who are wiling to die for your decisions.

When the frontal approached worked in Napoleonic and pre-Napoleonic times, then it was justified since you could potentially win battles and wars that way. When the frontal approached stopped working sometime in the mid 19th century, then it wasn't. The insistence of doing this showed resistance to adapt to a new kind of warfare, and contempt for the lives of your soldiers.

 
But, you're talking about ACW here. WWI didn't see "Napoleonic style" frontal assaults, they were already abandoned by that time.
 
As I said, WWI tactics were abandoned. And "desastrous assaults" happen nowdays too. It doesn't mean, however, that commanders supervising those assaults "didn't learn from experience of ACW."
 
Besides, assaults worked in WWI. There are examples of that including Brusilov offensive and final German offensive in 1918.


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Posted By: Reginmund
Date Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 19:40
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

I find it amazing how people reacted to my statement . It must have touched some nerve. I also find it amazing as well how much sympathy there is for incompetent or unimaginative generals.

 
It's because you go too far the other way. You portray it as if finding competent generals and brilliant tactics is a matter of course. In most cases you have medicore generals using tactics that are workable at best. If you don't want to risk mediocre generals needlessly sacrificing their soldiers with their tactics, then you can't fight a war at all.

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

I will grant that they may have attempted to go through the front the first few times. But after seeing massive deaths with no results, that should have stopped, and they should have tried other things.

And your framing, Regi, is ridiculous. This is not an issue between death or defeat. This is an issue where the generals showed a huge contempt for the lives of the soldiers they were leading, and, since the lives of people doesn't really mean anything to you and potentially others, bad resource management: needlessly killing off your army increases the chances of losing a war.

I would be a lot more sympathetic if the generals in WWI tried different things looking for what worked, at the cost of human lives, rather than mindlessly ordering people to their death because they couldn't think of any good thing to do.
 
I trust you are a big fan of the Wehrmacht then, but surely you realise you are talking with the benefit of hindsight . The WW1 commanders did not know their tactics would fail before they had tried them. Many of them might have been too credulous and thrown away lives, but most generals were not geniuses and if you only want to fight a war with brilliant generals who are able to find a way through every tactic and lose a minimum of soldiers, then you can't fight at all. That's not to say they were complete idiots either; as pointed out other approaches were indeed tried and yet none of them could sever the gordian knot. Sure it would've reduced the lives lost if someone had managed to do so, but it didn't seem possible and then what the hell do you do? Give up?


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Sing, goddess, of Achilles' ruinous anger
Which brought ten thousand pains to the Achaeans,
And cast the souls of many stalwart heroes
To Hades, and their bodies to the dogs
And birds of prey


Posted By: Vanuatu
Date Posted: 24 Feb 2015 at 15:14
While WW1 was a Slav/Hun conflict, Allies of Austria /Hungary and Serbia actually kept the war going after the Slavs are driven into Armenia. We know Arabs were misled and used in the African campaigns by the British.
Keeping the Empire intact was of the utmost importance. How many African bodies lost in service to the Empire?

By the time France dug in at Verdun, Germany had surely lost its 30% of Jews who were conscripted. They willingly fought, many even volunteered though they were openly hated in the ranks. One such incident is documented in the film "The First World War: War without End." German soldiers forced Jewish soldiers off carts to allow Polish peasants to travel in comfort.

Now these Jews were nothing more than bodies to the German army. And Negro Divisions were used similarly in the Civil War and again along with the Japanese in WW2.
Does that follow historically accepted practice?
Yes they all knew there would be death but some were easier to sacrifice than others.

It seems fair to mention that most Generals on both sides served very near the trenches and they had high casualty rates on both sides among Generals and Officers. I cite the film again, Hew Strachan wrote the book, 10 part film available on hulu, Youtube
Thanks


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Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 12 Mar 2015 at 10:49
One thing learned in the Russo-Japanese War was that destroying parts of the brain had certain affects on behavior.  
High power ammunition and rifled firearms mean that bullets drilled through the skull and the brain, rather than balls that smashed their way through, (which made a head wound in the Civil War fatal, and was the reason why there were so many amputations).
Another lesson that was learned was that a non-European power (Japan) could defeat a European power (Russia).  
Another lesson was the failure of communism and a victory of nationalism.  Workers of the world fought for their country, despite the communist expectations otherwise.  People identified with their nation, not so much with their class.
So yes, some things were learned between US Civil War and WWI.


Posted By: Vanuatu
Date Posted: 13 Mar 2015 at 08:16
Originally posted by franciscosan franciscosan wrote:

One thing learned in the Russo-Japanese War was that destroying parts of the brain had certain affects on behavior.  
High power ammunition and rifled firearms mean that bullets drilled through the skull and the brain, rather than balls that smashed their way through, (which made a head wound in the Civil War fatal, and was the reason why there were so many amputations).
Another lesson that was learned was that a non-European power (Japan) could defeat a European power (Russia).  
Another lesson was the failure of communism and a victory of nationalism.  Workers of the world fought for their country, despite the communist expectations otherwise.  People identified with their nation, not so much with their class.
So yes, some things were learned between US Civil War and WWI.

I agree that nationalism was an essential driver and so was race if you were living in the Austria Hungary Empire but were Jewish or from a Balkan State.
Lessons learned not yet..in January issue of Smithsonian Tony Horowitz's article ""The Civil War's Hidden Lagacy" looks at PTSD in the A.Civil War and WW1. In asylum archives veterans are assessed in psychiatric terms that are devolved right thru to WW1 PTSD is attributed to everything from "character flaws" to "frequent masturbation."
Didn't experienced officers understand what these men were suffering from? Did the suffering of WW1 contribute to France's Appeasement Policy?
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ptsd-civil-wars-hidden-legacy-180953652/" rel="nofollow - http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ptsd-civil-wars-hidden-legacy-180953652/

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Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 15 Mar 2015 at 11:44
There was a Classics instructor at CUBoulder who interpreted Achilles' character in the Iliad as having PTSD.  While such an analysis is useful, it (and the Civil War version) is anachronistic.  Don't get me wrong, some veterans of the latest wars, and back through history, suffer from their experiences, but PTSD is the modern version of the interpretation of that suffering, to use a map/territory distinction, the suffering, the trauma, is the territory, PTSD is the map, as is "shell shock" and other designations throughout the ages.  But the test is, if you talked to an Achilles about PTSD, and he didn't know what you are talking about (although he might be able to figure it out), then what you are talking about is the modern map, not the territory itself.  Maps help one understand the territory, but it is important to understand, that there is a difference.
Psychology starts to become a separate discipline in, what? the late 1800s.  So contemporary with WWI, psychology is just beginning.
Do we handle it better than they did at that time?  I am not so sure.  We don't have the bonds of the community that they had, nor quite the same sense of comfort of religion.  Medicalization works for some people but, shall we say, different strokes for different folks.  Or to put it another way, there is more than one way to "skin a cat."
I know about Britain's policy of appeasement, Chamberlain and so forth, but not France's. 


Posted By: Vanuatu
Date Posted: 16 Mar 2015 at 01:15
Originally posted by franciscosan franciscosan wrote:

There was a Classics instructor at CUBoulder who interpreted Achilles' character in the Iliad as having PTSD.  While such an analysis is useful, it (and the Civil War version) is anachronistic.  Don't get me wrong, some veterans of the latest wars, and back through history, suffer from their experiences, but PTSD is the modern version of the interpretation of that suffering, to use a map/territory distinction, the suffering, the trauma, is the territory, PTSD is the map, as is "shell shock" and other designations throughout the ages.  But the test is, if you talked to an Achilles about PTSD, and he didn't know what you are talking about (although he might be able to figure it out), then what you are talking about is the modern map, not the territory itself.  Maps help one understand the territory, but it is important to understand, that there is a difference.



I know about Britain's policy of appeasement, Chamberlain and so forth, but not France's. 


Thanks I see Herodotus documents this with Epizelus an Athenian at Marathon. They were seeing ghosts.

Both France an Britain did appease Germany. Some felt the harsh penalties imposed on Germany after WW1 were going to destroy it. But the hell in the trenches made France and Britain only 20 years later unwilling to plunge back into war. It was never over for Germany and it wouldn't accept the loss in the group think of that post war humiliation.

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Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 16 Mar 2015 at 09:13
btw the instructor that interpreted Achilles as having PTSD is named Fredericksmeyer (the son, not the father).  I mention it so there will be a record of it in the future in case anyone wants to check up on it.

No, I don't doubt you about the French, I just don't personally know anything about it beyond what I could guess.
The brutality of the civil war, etc. paired with photography, did much to get rid of the idea that the dead were "sleeping."  Railroads were first used in the Civil War for troop transport.  Mediums and seances become popular both after the Civil War and, I believe, WWI.  Mary Todd Lincoln held seances for her dead son.
Russell Kirk, conservative historian in the '60s?? talks about how there is a shift from rural life to urban life, from the farm to the factory, with the rural life and the farm losing out.  He talks about the only place where resistance to this actually came to armed conflict is in the American Civil War.  Of course, after the war, you had the industry of the North, and robber barons dominating things, and a devastated South.  One has to wonder what would have happened if the South had gotten ridden of "that peculiar institution" (slavery) peaceably.


Posted By: Guests
Date Posted: 15 Apr 2015 at 05:21

The short answer: They did not think about the American Civil War.

The long answer. There was nothing in the American Civil War that the Europeans did not experience themselves in the Crimean War of 1853-56, the War of Italian Unification of 1859, the Dano-Prussian War of 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

Ironclad combat at sea, trenches, long supply lines, massive movement of troops by railway, industrial warfare, massive casualties and many other things. All happened in these wars on a much grander scale by much more professional armies than those of the CSA and USA.

Helmuth von Moltke the elder, the chief of the Prussian staff and the mastermind behind the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian war called the American Civil War 'two armed mobs chasing each other around the country, from which nothing can be learned'.

Large armies locked up in siege-assault situations and field fortifications has happened in Europe since the 30 Years' War of 1618-48, where it was a standard tactic.

It is a common mistake to push the US hegemony and importance in and after ww2 backwards in time - to be honest, while the US was a rich country with massive resources, its military establishment and willingness to invest in its ability to project power was pathething well into the early 1900s.

In 1860, Russia could easily sweep the US navy from the seas, and countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Austria could easily match the US navy.

1865, the US had scrapped all ironclas except one - the USS New Ironsides. The French had 10 ironclads, all faster, bigger and more heavily armed than the USS New Ironsides. The French also had 6 more ironclads launched but not yet comissioned 1865.

To summarise - to the Europeans, the American Civil War was a civil war fought in a country without a proper military establishment, without the ability to fight decisive battles, without proper cavalry, without proper infrastructure and without proper officers (there were only 534 West Point graduates that fought in the Civil War - to command about 1 500 000 men) and large sparsely populated areas of relatively little value (the west).



Posted By: caldrail
Date Posted: 16 Apr 2015 at 02:42
it just strikes me that with military behaviour there is an awkward balance between tradition and change. The lessons of conflict are vivid when you encounter them, but forgotten quickly when experience fades. We're lucky these days (I use that phrase lightly) in that we have so much better expertise, assets, and training that seeks to succeed in what has become a competitive military marketplace.


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http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/


Posted By: Vanuatu
Date Posted: 17 Apr 2015 at 00:54
What keeps on changing is the ability to come up with new and better ways to kill. I had a British friend tell me that Americans are "innocent" about war. That word seemed an odd choice but I think he meant that Americans seem to be surprised at all the suffering even though the history shows us the horror of war.

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Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 22 Apr 2015 at 03:52
The US has always had a nice "moat" called the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, we didn't really need the ironclads.  I suspect that part of the "innocence" about war shown by Americans comes from the
fact that we really haven't had war in our country since 1865 (I do not count Indian Wars).

As far as new and better ways to kill, in Vietnam it was better for the VC to wound an American than to kill him.  If you wound someone, you have two more people exiting the battle, bearing the wounded to safety, whereas if you kill someone, they're out of the battle, but no one else is immediately tied down by rescuing them.  It is actually more "efficient" to wound than it is to kill.


Posted By: Vanuatu
Date Posted: 22 Apr 2015 at 04:42
I didn't know that. Regarding Vietnam I also see the added element of terror in the wounding of fellow soldiers in addition to having less bodies available for the fight. The screams and suffering of those who become like brothers is hell on earth. Tim O Brian illustrates the worse horror of getting used to violent death, singing "Lemon Tree" while retrieving from a tree the body parts belonging to his dear friend Curt Lemon.

During the Franco German conflict of 1870 the terror of sniper attacks against the Germans was the basis for the strategy of the attacks against civilians in WW1. And payback.
Fields Marshall Von Moltke said that international rules did not apply when the soldiers are in fear of civilians. Then sounding like Sherman he states the that greatest deed in war is the speedy end to the war by every means open to them.

Shelby Foote said that on Sherman's March there was not a single case of rape reported. Does that sound realistic? Does it sound like propaganda?

[ http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/thingscarried/section6.rhtml" rel="nofollow - http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/thingscarried/section6.rhtml http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2000/januaryfebruary/feature/visit-historian-shelby-foote" rel="nofollow - http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2000/januaryfebruary/feature/visit-historian-shelby-foote

http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com/author/helmuth-von-moltke-elder-fully-helmuth-karl-bernhard-graf-von-molke?page=1" rel="nofollow - http://www.greatthoughtstreasury.com/author/helmuth-von-moltke-elder-fully-helmuth-karl-bernhard-graf-von-molke?page=1

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Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate. (J. R. R. Tolkien)


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 22 Apr 2015 at 15:05
Anthony Swofford, author of Jarhead, was a marine sniper.  In the (audio) book, he gave a history of the sniper where he said that with the development of the first machine guns, it was thought that snipers would be obsolete.  Instead, with trench warfare and bored soldiers getting careless, it was quite handy.  
A friend who is a history buff says that snipers and machine gunners were not given the chance to surrender.
Listening to Swofford, I can't imagine that marines would be so unimaginative in their profanity.  But many of his stories are just about the boredom and the brutality of the organization, nothing really that overt.
I can believe that about Sherman's March, they had a goal in their march to the sea and imagine that if a soldier stopped for any reason but especially rape, he might have to worry about a dissertion charge.
But Foote implies that it was because they were fairly decent, maybe that is the case.  They were "barbaric" in their destruction, but maybe their destruction did not go beyond what was ordered. 


Posted By: AnchoriticSybarite
Date Posted: 17 May 2017 at 19:42
You make the point that the great powers learned nothing from the ACW and to a point you're right.

Fist and foremost they totally ignored the lessons of the effects of modern weaponry both in automatic weapons and artillery on battlefield tactics. Granted the Germans quickly transitioned from old linear tactics to small arm/combined ops.

But I believe that the greatest failure to learn was the German Army fialing to really appreciate the possibilities of RR and logistics.

As I understand it there has never been an actual war gaming of the Schilieffen plan. In fact I have read that it never existed as an actual formal battle strategy.

The greatest failure was from the German General Staff in not understanding the benefits the Union accrued through it RR building capability. They were able to lay track to supply their troops almost as fast as they were able to advance. Had the Gemans understood this and developed the capability to quicly lay very light rail track to keep the troops advancing according to Schlieffen doctrine, they would have been able to keep to their original timetable and not make their great turn inward going in front of Paris and not behind.


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 18 May 2017 at 09:59
Interesting, because i have heard that the Prussians used railroads effectively against the Austrians in the 1800s.  Also the Prussians had breech loading firearms and took advantage of forest cover, whereas the Austrians had muzzle loading firearms.  I am sure that the Germans, the British, et cetera had learned some lessons from 19th century warfare, but not others and had forgotten some hard learned lessons.  One did not march in formation into battle in WWI, but used available cover.  I don't know whether volleys were used or not.  Maybe initially on engagement.  I would like someone to inform me better on these issues.


Posted By: AnchoriticSybarite
Date Posted: 18 May 2017 at 17:17
You're absolutely right regarding Prussis vs Austria. The critical difference between them and 1914 was that the Prussians could follow the RR's in a general forward movement into Austria. They did not have to follow a specific predetermined route.

Conversely in 1914, the Germans had to follow specific predetermined routes for each of the invading armies. If you can look at a map of existing RR's vs the routes of the German armies. There is almost no congruence.

I really believe if the Germans had determined to create very small locomotives (essentially the size of a car), the tracks to support such a light vehicle could be laid almost as fast as the advancing troops.

I believe that it was not French resistance that altered the course of the Schlieffen attack, but the inability of the German supply train to keep their troops adequately equipped.


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 20 May 2017 at 07:25
Fortunate for the Prussians that the railroads went to where they wanted to go, who originally built the railroads?  It would be ironic if Austrians made them.

In WWI, the Germans had to go around the Maginot Line, correct?  That is why they went through Belgium.

For WWII, it was train and truck companies that built Panzers and Tigers, not car companies, unlike the US.  So I think that the mentality of building small locomotives was not there in WWII and presumably, before that.

 


Posted By: AnchoriticSybarite
Date Posted: 23 May 2017 at 20:26
WW II the Germans went around the Maginot Line.

While we're at it, let me say a few kind words about the French military. I am NOT a fan of the French military post Napoleon (the original). In fact they have demonstrated taking the fine art of incompetence to heights never before or since approached.

Nonetheless their defensive mentality entering WWI and II is not altogether deserved. After the shellacking they got from the Prussians in 1870, they can be forgiven for being gun shy. What everyone seems to overlook when they assess 1914 and 40 is that their defenses actually worked.

In 1914 their fortresses withstood the test. They were not supposed to be impregnable strongpoints which could never be penetrated. All they were supposed to do was to hold off the German advance for a reasonable amount of time, during which the French could mobilize and plan a strategic response to a German invasion. Not one fort fell to the Germans except through abandonment or criminal incompetence.

In 1940 the Maginot Line held. The problem was that the French never completed the line through NE France. I assume that there was a fatal miscommunication between the political leaders and the military commanders. As a result their NE border (as it adjoins Belgium) was supposed to be held by the Belgians. The problem was that there was literally NO, NONE, ZUOM NADA coordination or planning between the French and Belgian governments. In fact the King of Belgium refused to allow any such talks because they might give the Germans a reason to invade his country.

In the historical past, the German onslaught went around the Maginot Line and essentially took France from the rear. However the Maginot line itself was so strong that having gotten the French government to capitulate, they had to beg the French Army to come out of the Maginot fortresses


Posted By: franciscosan
Date Posted: 24 May 2017 at 09:51
I understand that French small arms were rather poor in WW II(?)
I don't know whether they did much military R & D between World Wars.
For example, tanks.
I am curious, did the fortresses have supplies to hold out?  Do you know?


Posted By: AnchoriticSybarite
Date Posted: 25 May 2017 at 04:48
Originally posted by franciscosan franciscosan wrote:

I understand that French small arms were rather poor in WW II(?)
I don't know whether they did much military R & D between World Wars.
For example, tanks.
I am curious, did the fortresses have supplies to hold out?  Do you know?


I can't speak to small arms, although I would assume that they were very comparable to all the other combatants in quality. As to artillery I absolutely have no clue.

However regarding tanks and aircraft, I can speak with authority. The French tanks were superior in quality and quantity to the Germans. In the largest tank battle in the Battle of France (at the time the largest tank on tank battle of all time) the French met the Germans head on and stopped them dead in their tracks. The following day the Germans renewed their attack with no better results. The French followed their success by withdrawing??????

What the French lacked was political will and competent military leadership and philosophy. The German attack was so effective because their tanks were concentrated and utilized under combined ops tactics. What their tanks lacked in quality their anti-tank weapons more than made up for.

If you want a good read which will really help you to understand the general state of France at the time try Alistair Horne's TO LOSE A BATTLE. One little statistic which speaks volumes is that after declaring war; after the fall of Poland, the French were so uncommitted that their fighter production barely reached 1 plane a week. This for a fighter that was at least competitive to the Me109.


Posted By: AnchoriticSybarite
Date Posted: 30 Nov 2017 at 21:04
First regarding the ACW. Following Waterloo, ALL European armies learned the lesson that the British line was better than the French column. Unfortunately they learned wrong.

Napoleon failed because he was under time constraints and hoped for a quick victory. His two principal commanders, Ney and Grouchy failed to support him miserably. But most importantly he abandoned the very tactics which had made him so successful. Instead of using the French column to maneuver his opponent into an untenable position he tried to overwhelm them through sheer size. In this his attack was not so much a columnar assault but a reversion to the old Spanish tercio--essentially a blob of soldiers making an inviting target to troops arrayed in line.

Lee as well as all the West Point grads in the war on both sides simply accepted the given wisdom that line trumped column. Both sides in fact used the same handbook: Hardees Infantry tactics.

What was Lee's greatest triumph--Chancellorsville. The narrow country lanes which could barely accommodate a single wagon at a time forced the Confederate troops into column and when Jackson's men smashed into the Union right flank they were literally an unstoppable force.


Secondly, WW I.

It is true both German, French and Brits used essentially the same tactical system--a variation of the old British line.

However, the German army within the first 6 months had begun the evolution from those dated tactics to the small unit tactics still in use today. In the Argonne German Gen von Mudra used these new tactics to advance against trenchs on a small but steady rate. Indeed it was the abandonment of these tactics which sounded the death knell of the Germans at Verdun.

Almost simultaneously with this was the genesis of the concept of stormtroopers, which proved their worth in the enormous (in terms of WWI) advances in the great German offensive of 1918.

The German's great Achilles heel was not their strategy or tactics but the fact that the enormity of the forces arrayed against them did not allow them to put out one fire before their enemies set 2-3 more.

ON the other hand, the British and the French had the tank in 1916. Yet it took them until almost 1919 to figure out how to use them successfully. Even then Liddell-Hart contends in his great work STRATEGY that British victory was not as much the breakthrough created by the tanks but a failure of will by the German General Staff when they learned of the opening of the Salonika front. He contends that the German Army could have rallied and fought on to reach better terms in the peace that followed.



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