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

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    Posted: 31 Jan 2011 at 15:15
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?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jan 2011 at 15:59
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?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jan 2011 at 19:42
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:
 
 
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jan 2011 at 19:55
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. 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jan 2011 at 23:27
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.
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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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 00:15
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 01:47
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.




Edited by pinguin - 01 Feb 2011 at 01:53
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 01:56
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 08:14
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.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 08:31
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.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 13:37
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko- Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 14:56
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. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 16:39
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Feb 2011 at 23:15
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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"...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.

 




Edited by pikeshot1600 - 02 Feb 2011 at 00:21
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 02:01
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.
 
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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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Panther Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 02:44
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?
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Not having any good tactical alternative is not really an excuse for sending people to certain death.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 13:47
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.
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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.





 
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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.
 
 
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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.
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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.

 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 02 Feb 2011 at 14:41
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 14:41
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.




Edited by pikeshot1600 - 02 Feb 2011 at 14:46
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 14:58
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 15:03
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.




Edited by pikeshot1600 - 02 Feb 2011 at 15:05
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 15:42
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.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 16:33
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.





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