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

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 17:09
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.

 


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 02 Feb 2011 at 22:47
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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 17:11
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 18:22
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 19:10
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Feb 2011 at 21:27
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?
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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 23:50
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.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 03:08
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 04:09
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.

Edited by drgonzaga - 03 Feb 2011 at 04:13
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 12:25
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.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 12:25
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?


Edited by gcle2003 - 03 Feb 2011 at 12:26
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 14:30
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."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Feb 2011 at 16:01
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Feb 2011 at 09:40
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Feb 2015 at 05:14
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
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Mar 2015 at 00:49
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Mar 2015 at 22:16
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/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2015 at 01:44
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. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2015 at 15:15
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Mar 2015 at 23:13
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote rahs08 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Apr 2015 at 19:21

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).

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Apr 2015 at 16:42
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Apr 2015 at 14:54
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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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Apr 2015 at 17:52
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vanuatu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Apr 2015 at 18:42
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.rhtmlhttp://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

Edited by Vanuatu - 21 Apr 2015 at 22:53
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Apr 2015 at 05:05
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. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AnchoriticSybarite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 May 2017 at 09:42
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 May 2017 at 23:59
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AnchoriticSybarite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 May 2017 at 07:17
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.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 May 2017 at 21:25
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.

 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AnchoriticSybarite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2017 at 10:26
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
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