« Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Show 51 - Blueprint for Armageddon II

2014-01-31 | 🔗
The Great Powers all come out swinging in the first round of the worst war the planet has ever seen. Millions of men in dozens of armies vie in the most deadly and complex opening moves of any conflict in world history.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
How much time do you put into explaining the development of a gap. That's a perfect example of the sort of question the bedeviled us in this episode, which covers by the way a ridiculously short span of time, but one of the most important, let's just say a month or so use in human history. It represents the greatest mass outpouring of organized violence that the world had ever seen. I don't there's never been anything quite like it. You know the Second World WAR begins with the german attack on Poland and fight
two in Germany and Poland? That's over rather quickly and it's like eight months before the major powers actually come to blows. This war starts with all the major powers coming to blows head on instantly on multiple fronts, with casualties that no one had ever even seen in their wildest dreams. At the same time, at speed, and I started to realize as program. You know what's happening that you can't get into the minds of the people in the human stories in the drama in the story without into the military affairs and it's it's day to day progression because that's the driving force. That's what sets the timeline line determines the turn in fortune and that's what creates you know the human impact on the ground. You know when we quote a reporter talk about what it looks like in the hospitals in France,.
There's a reason that the hospitals are full of hurt people and that's because the events on the ground continue to dictate what's going on, but the military affairs are complex as all get out. How much time do you spend on a gap Mean the battle of the Marne Right, the famous recalling on the Marne is determined by this gap in the enemy line. How much time do you spend on? Why there's a I mean if that really is war losing situation have developed you get into that. Well, if you get into that your star follow a line of detail that just will take you off into the weeds, the difficult store to decide when to go off into the weeds and went to put on the main road. This is our attempt at explaining this most complex and yet
you are filled with human drama and great events and larger than life figures, and really a changing of the guard in terms of one century to another. As best as we can do with the Dan Carlin Approach to the first World WAR, it's called blueprint for Army and this is part two December seventh, one thousand nine hundred and forty one, a date which will live. In infamy its history or LEO, And I do this: the figure is not quite annoying math from this time and place take pride in the words, it's been
Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall that drama welcome this kind of examination, whether or not their president, and remember that we are not descended from fearful It's hard core history. What year did humankind acquire the capability to destroy itself? I think that's an in. Sting ideas that the idea that every civilization in the universe, if it continues to progress, tech. Logically down the road will
period, when it can kill itself either on purpose or accidentally. This fits into something some physicists theories on. What's called the Fermi paradox, and this idea of reaching a danger point in your civilization is called the great filter. The Fermi paradox is a famous paradox that was initially talk about, supposedly by a bunch of the great physicists in the world on their lunch break with had done the math trying to figure out the possibilities of intelligent life. Being elsewhere in the universe and the math is so overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that there must be right. There's hundreds of ins of stars in our galaxy hundreds of billions, Galaxies in the universe, it just seems like a slam, dunk right so then and Rico he famously one of the great physicists ever famously then says group. So where is everybody and that's the fermi paradox? If the math
should be there but they're, not there. What's the reason they're not there and that's where the great filter comes in, because some these people who study this stuff have suggested that there might be a point in every, intelligent civilizations development where they acquire this ability to destroy themselves and have to get through the period where they have that capability and get to the point where they figure out. How not to do that, and it's kind of like a has failed tests for intelligence, civilizational growth everywhere in the universe and sort of bias. Nature. Most civilizations don't pass it and so that's the reason they're not all out there and guys, like Nick Bostrom, who study in a global, catastrophic risk and stuff like that, and you know accommodate the planet. What nanotechnology goes out of control, I mean it looks at all these issues. He suggests that the earth
this civilizational phase, this great filter period in our own history, in one thousand nine hundred and forty five, when the atomic bombs were first used. Now I think about this in terms of the first World war because I think that's when people first realized that human this had acquired a military capability that was frightening, not frighten because your enemy had it frightening because human beings had it, you can go back look at history. There are lots of times when people were afraid of the deadliness happens, but they were afraid of the deadliness of weapons either because they were afraid themselves of getting killed or there getting taken over whatever they weren't afraid the species, they weren't afraid for civilization as a whole, I mean the closest you'll, see with that You have like a mongold invasion or invasion from the step in it it it. It strikes the subtle civilizations, a bit like a wave, and it washes up a certain amount
civilization up on the beach, but it doesn't destroy everything in the century, that's the first time, everywhere you can read writings from people who are asserting that maybe what they're developing battlefield capability wise can destroy everything. Now, their version of everything is a little bit different than ours. When we talk about things like Stanshall risk we're talking about survival of life on the planet. That's that's a post atomic you know I, yeah. What existential risk means we understand you. You have a nuclear war amongst all the great powers and you can kiss life on earth goodbye or certainly our level of civilization, you've heard that phrase bomb someone back to the stone age while we modern people have the cape He did to do that right it was in the 19th century that the idea that That's what a major war between the major powers might amount to. That's where that it takes hold. Those people are worried about.
Definition number two of existential threat. Guys like Nick Bostrom, have two definitions. One is the one we think about wiped out life on earth, but the other definition of what an existential threat is is being knocked back down a few rungs on your level of civilization and then finding your way back to your former greatness. You know to have statue of liberty in the sand moment, as I like to call it where you look up and you see that you of Liberty, like in the planet of the apes coming out of the sand, and you instantly realize, in a blinding flash of light, that you living in an era that is off the civilizational highs and that's what the people writing in the late 19th early 20th century, especially in places like Great Britain in the United States, where everything seems just great. Why do we have to screw it up with the war and really to gain and everything to lose. Those people are writing about living in a
golden age that they believe is fragile and that giant war machines that are equally deadly. In terms of their abilities, to kill people on the battlefield, but also there belletti to simply bankrupt. The societies that have to maintain them is causing consternation and and the the very weapon systems themselves in the arms races that they're, having create more cartoon ities for some sort of violent outbreak of war that will see these things employed. The funny thing about history, you study military history is that up until about one hundred years ago, you can, imagine armies from a very long time ago, fighting and beating? armies from not that long ago mean Alex to the Great's army. I think, beats the carolingian army of Charlamagne, which is a first rate arm, a thousand years later. I don't think they might
the Macedonians must their hair, and there are books like Arthur, the origins of war with that, you know say that, rebel historian can't help but play with the battle of Waterloo, inserting Alexander and his MAC Adonia from the three hundred and thirty BCE in the place of Nepal, Ian and French sending the MAC I against the duke of and his british and their coalition allies and having Alexander in the MAC. You don't do at least as well as Napoleon. So what does that show you shows you how all of human military history changes at about the time of the napoleonic because all of a sudden, a new law of historical nature takes over which says that your armies do not beat later armies in the rules changed a thousand percent first, Think about today, if you took the you army from today, how did fight a battle against you know the Us Army of nineteen, forty five, today's US army destroys that
Second, World war, army, mid Twentieth century army and maybe doesn't lose a man when they do it, but that Forty five US army would defeat easily any army from the first World war, Any army from the first World war of the major powers would easily defeat the United states in the? U civil war and those civil war armies. If they win, back to Waterloo in a beat Napoleon that's sort of the rule the law of technological battlefield development for the last two hundred years, and that's what the people in the story have had to try to suck up and understand. In one thousand, seven hundred some ruler can decide on a new musket design and not change one hundred years, and he still probably ok in the 19th century? If you miss fifteen years of development in rifle technology, you might the war 'cause of that. I think about something like the naval, arms races and how this just destroyed everybody's treasuries and everything else, but at the beginning,
the one thousand you are using ship of the line type stuff, I mean the same naval technology of giant wooden ships with cannons all in the side. That's been the way. Have been done for a couple centuries and you build a ship and spend all that money and all that time good for a long time if it doesn't get destroyed in battle that ship can serve you for twenty thirty years and just be fine great investment pay off overtime if you amortize the cost child over the decades. That goes away at the end of the 19th century, and yet the cost explodes you look at a battleship from one thousand nine hundred and it doesn't look like any from Napoleon's time it looks like a thoroughly modern battleship. The problem is: is technology is changing so fast now that in the time it future design that new battleship, the two or so years. It takes to build and launch and finish it. It may be outdated by the time
It's ready to be used, you take a first class first rate. You know delete from a global power in nineteen fourteen and you hit it in battle against a first rate for the line fleet from a mirror fourteen years ago, and the I'm from nineteen fourteen destroys the one from one thousand nine hundred and nine he doesn't lose a major surface vessel, while doing so is mind boggling to the people who lived back then, because that means, if you can't keep up now. Logically, with what your neighbors doing at great expense, you can negate all the money you spent on that fleet in the first place better to not have that fleet from one thousand nine hundred. If you're just lose the whole thing and not even sync, one of your enemy ships, the need to keep up with the killing. Power of everyone else was impact the Treasury's of these countries in ways that created just as big of a threat to their continued existence, as the threat of
these dangerous armies did it was a catch. Twenty two for them take the role the Russians, are found him dolphin in one thousand, eight hundred and ninety eight, a guy named Nicholas the second Maybe the single most powerful person on the planet he's got a shaky regime. So a lot of revolution there's a lot of discontent in a lot of it is exacerbated by the cost of trying to you know a modern military, and even with all, these costs he's falling behind rushes to illiterate. It's industries are too small. It society still need so much modernization before it can keep up with places like Germany and France and Britain, even the United States. The problem is is that the czar's power is all in the country size in the population and that's becoming less and less important as technology begins to determine, who wins and who loses battles
and that's being demonstrated all through the 19th century's these small colonial armies from the technologically sophisticated powers, Troy, sometimes giant armies of tribal natives all over the world. I mean that line our famous one. That says whatever happens, we have got the maxim gun and they have not is using machine guns on tribal peoples. The Russians are, is looking ahead and seeing that if he can't keep up with this tech logical arms, race. That seems to be never ending and endlessly expensive. The Russians are just going to be the new tribal peoples, and yet he has have this modern military machine because it adversaries have it and he doesn't going to lose any war he gets into, He loses his dynasty potentially either way. How do you get out of a mess like that in eighteen? Ninety eight, the Russian,
are things he finds a way when he issues a public invitation to representatives from the other great hours who one degree or another in the same boat he's into. No one knows what the next major war will look like, but everybody's had a to see some minor wars in the mean time, and if you sort of travel late. What they were telling you, the next war, is going to be horrifying and Nicholas. The second was actually reading the guy, who to be one of the most accurate prognosticators of what the next was like we talked about in the last show Ivan Block Nicholas. The second is reading Ivan blocks and blocks. Predictions are horrific. So those are wants out. He wants. He wants to figure out a way to stop this dangerous cycle that the modern world seems to be forcing all the great powers into, and I think it's a wonderful sort of commentary on the attitude of the times that these guys thought that they could do this.
Like rainbows and unicorns to we modern people, but to then they must have thought reasonable. People can sit down. Cigars and whiskey see dynamic that we've got ourselves caught up in realize that it's in no one's interest and reasonable people can figure a way out of this and eighteen. Ninety eight the czar of Russia, proposed something that will be called the Hague Conference to deal with this. There are many ways to look at one thousand eight hundred and ninety nine hate conference and they'll be another one in one thousand nine hundred and seven by the way and truthfully looks like an early version of arms control agreements. You will see throughout the 20th century, which you can also view through multiple lenses, the first one is. You the face value? the way those are sold it. If you want to use ' in terms desires PR people when the issues this invitation to the rest of the world leaders- you know cow
is. This whole thing is a common sense effort at a high minded idea, just the goal: this conference. He wants to put together his quote, seeking with a great idea of universal peace, try Over the elements of trouble and discord, and quote, we might L and arms control conference today, like that, this the error, where you really see for the first time in human history, the growth of what today, we would call international peace movement, it's had any conferences before the Hague Conference to promote ideas- and there was a general feeling of address on these issues, and so does are, may been playing into that, although the which is kind of an interesting dude, very watch a similar role on the monarchy, dice as the Germans, with Kaiser Wilhelm, a very Medio sort of guy, not the sort of person. You could imagine ever getting this job if it were merit based. He same- are the last czar by the way, who will
call victim in under sort of the sway of the person that ours it's called the mad monk Grigori Rasputin, although he's more interesting than that probably deserves more credit than that, but it again shows you the czar as a kind of an idealistic romantic I mean he might have bought into this stuff. It might be legitimate on the czars part, but like most, arms control agreements, there's a real. The side to this thing, does our knows that his armies are falling behind in this technological race. The old line about arms control agreements is, if you're losing an arms race. It's a good time to have an arms control agreement and the powers that are invited to this Hague conference asked for clarification of what's on the agenda, the tsar and his people, of the eight or nine points that are going to be goals of the conference and the eight or nine points to a 21st century mind are fascinating. 'cause, it really shows you. What does are wants to come out of this conference. Does ours
amber to goal, for example, that the agenda gives to the rest of the participants, says quote prohibit the use in the armies and fleets of any new kind of firearms whatever and of new. Explosives or any powders more powerful than those now in use, either for rifles or Canon end quote now. This is a staple to some degree of arms control agreements. Ever since I mean if the US and the Soviet Union, or having an arms control agreement when Anti listing missile agreement or whatever they may have rules on technological progress, but they trying to stop all technological progress. The bizarre wants to do is freeze things where they are He doesn't want any more research to increase the killing power that already exist. In Terry's he doesn't want anymore more if accidentally discover that new battleship gun that will shoot twice as far as your current one, you can't deploy it. He
the size of armies frozen and then reduced. He wants the size of military budgets frozen and then reduced. This is a who clearly shows that his main the issue with the way things are, is the pace of change. Once this conference to address it, not a modern people who will often freak out if the promised phone upgrade that's supposed to be released. Today is late. You know the internet will blow up with angry people who have had their to change, sabotaged the people in the late 19th century probably be forgiven for thinking something we would assume is impossible is possible. The first time I ever encountered this idea by the way was in James Burks, wonderful tv series from the 1980s the day the universe changed where he asked the question Humankind looks down the road where a particular Each of knowledge seems to be taking them. Can they decide if they don't like the destination to just not learn that
change of knowledge at all or the wall it off so that no one learns it tomorrow, people that sounds impossible to people in late night. Century they would have been able to show you multiple historical examples where that had been done. The catholic church very good at it in medieval times, for example, there have been chinese emperors who could do it well on the yeah of creating forbidden knowledge and then preventing people from having it or using it. Was not unusual in this time period. That's what does our wants. He wants to slow or retard the pace of change. And I always try to remind myself how tips on all these people were in this time period by the pace of change to the It's really what the 19th century is, the era where it all speeds up, if you could, for example, graph human technology, little progress, the way you would a stock market performance graph, starting beginning of human history. Ending yesterday, you know having Upson Downs, all throughout history. You notice
little things right off the bat first thing you notice is that there are ups and downs One thing the modern mind seems to find in comprehensible is that progress ever backward, the people, lived in. One thousand. Nine hundred, for example, were read: History books that made that sound like a historical law of nature they had every reason to believe that the were they were living in might be the last of a golden age. Before a fall, because after all, that's what happened to every other golden age that they look back on first, in the modern mind, sees when it looks historical stock performing chart, showing human technological progress is that there's a bunny hop sort of dynamic going on two steps forward. One step back, you might get a big turn. You know when the new kingdom Egyptians come on the scene, maybe another up like when the hand Chinese arrive another uptick when the roman empire arrives, but after your roman empire high as you get your roman empire bubble, don't you and a couple one hundred
years later, when it's gone, you have germanic barbarians in formerly roman territory, looking up at crumbling aqueducts and wondering what sort of giants once roamed the earth that could build stuff like that to the first thing, you're going to notice is a modern purse is that technology doesn't always move forward. The second. You're going to notice is that most of human history, whether it's going up or going down moving at a glacially, slow pace, the amount of change in the beginning of time. To about the renaissance is nowhere near what you would expect if we were anywhere near the pace of change we have now very overall growth until the renaissance, and then you see little uptick and then the century after that, a little bit more and then about eighteen, ten one thousand, eight hundred and twenty the graph becomes almost vertical overnight. It shoots instead of ever plateauing. As we all know, it goes ever more vertical everyday. Now we're used
this, because it's been going that way for awhile design, generation yeah that century, that's the first time it really takes off and those people are looking at that as an extremely destabilizing force. Those are things perhaps an arm control agreement will help Russia from falling far behind there, more technologically sophisticated neighbors now, as you might expect, there are more technologically sophisticated neighbors see this as an art. We constraint on the fact that they're winning take the Germans as a perfect example. People who are trying very hard to make up for what they see as the rest of the hours treating them like dirt. There building more ships than anybody and trying to catch you to Britain they're the ones modernizing their military everyday they're, the ones who, instead of being panicked by the pace of change, are taking advantage of it to them. This looks like that will lock in their inferiority and by the way, that's a
the situation that will repeat many times after this period in arms control negotiations trying to gain an edge on phone and if you are losing the arms race, as I said, good time, to have an arms control agreement. Finally, there's an interesting group of people, and they really don't exist anymore, not openly that are on opposite side of the ledger from say the internet, no peace movement. That's in a ramping up during this era, the people who think that war is a good thing for get international You know, goals or real politik people. That literally believe the humankind thrives on Warren, that without war we will drown in materialism is the only thing that keeps us focused on the higher things That's an idea that has sort of gone by the Wayside Inn eastern culture today. It's device to argue against. You know real politik people,
in the 1880s, for example, you have guys like the elder Helmut VON Moltke, who tries to explain to people why peace is not even a good idea. You're deluded, he said, quote purpose Peace is a dream and ninety a beautiful dream and war is an integral part of God's ordering of the universe in war. Man's noblest virtues come into play. Kirk Jen renunciation, fidelity duty and a readiness for sacrifice that does not stop at giving up life itself without war would be swamped in materialism and quote. Others will point out. But if you decide to try to make war, you know a thing of the past it happens to all those people that are in situations where struggling against foreign oppression, for example, you gonna tell someone they can't free themselves from a horrible of pressure, because you violence is bad, but finally,
You also have the people that the modern peace activists would recognize very well. Those who adhere to a belief system. That is difficult to argue with in terms of know, historical proof you can use history, as your guide you're, going to argue that the best way to keep the peace to be so strong that it is almost suicidal to fight with you best exemplified perhaps by british Admiral, John Fisher, who tries to explain to a friend of his when he sounds horrific, he's really an advocate of peace, and he said quote. I am not for war. I am for peace. That is, I am Iamperez Supreme Navy. Not right, your autograph book at the Hague. The supremacy of the british Navy is the best security for the peace of the world. My object, is peace. What you call my truculence is all for peace if you rub it in both at home and abroad,
that you are ready for instant war with every of your strength in the first line and waiting the first in but your enemy in the belly and kick him when he's down and your prisoners in oil. If you take any and torture his, we Then children, then people will steer clear of you. End quote. Well as harsh as that is it has a certain amount of historical evidence to back it up. Doesn't it when asked? how to make war more humane, the nephew of Helmet VON Moltke, the elder that would be helmet fun. Multi the younger the field Marshall in charge of Germany's war effort at the start of the first World WAR famously said, the only way to make war humane is to make it short, hence the schlieffen plan. We talked about this so called Schlieffen plan in the last episode of it. It's the almost-
mythological pre war plan for how Germany was going to deal with this terrible two front problem. My analogy is like a bar fight Isn't there a meme online that I saw comparing One went to a bar fight, but it's a little like, Germany knows it's going to have a bar fight France and Russia, but they know that France, be there five minutes before Russia, so they get to the bar right on time. Knock France out in five minutes later, when Russia shows up late, they get to fight the is one that's the war plan in a nutshell, but the Tions surrounding this war plan have become maybe the number one most controversial issue that historians argue with each other and froth at the mouth over and your Truly, I don't have a dog in this fight, I'm just going to sit back, eat, popcorn and the very entertaining discussions on the Schlieffen so called Schlieffen Plan, because it's not just this or that
It's like a Kennedy assassination thing. Where I mean every different theory you can think of is out there. There was a schlieffen plan initial even blend there wasn't even planned, but it was modified modified by mocha. Then why not call it? The schlieffen Moltke plan I may just goes on and on and on and the people off and on. Dual side to this issue are very kredible, so I'm not getting it's like trying to We are not a discussion with scientists. You just have to sort of watch. Sometimes I'm not the position on the so called Schlieffen plan. I will call it the Schlieffen plan, because that's what everybody knows it by, but Why is it to say this? Chili is retired for quite a long time before the first World WAR breaks out. So what plan the Germans were going to use are in the hands of Helmuth VON Moltke. The younger the guy who's leading this whole. You know early or on the Germans part he's been. The one design is planned for a long time after the first World WAR is over. You will get a
german generals writing memoirs sort of castigating this multi guy, for deviating from Schlieffen's, amazingly brilliant plan, is the way it was pronounced. If you just stayed with the plan, the way it was supposed to be, We win the war, and so it's worth talking about the plan a little bit. From a military history standpoint, the Schlieffen plan, and again I have as it's normally understood, because somebody out there is going to have a very good piece of evidence showing it was totally and I'm saying right now, but it's it's commonly understood. The schlieffen plan is a fantastic, Terry Gamble, it involves taking troops from sickly everywhere else you might have to fight taking as many of them as you can and sticking them on that one part: that's going to be the sledgehammer, the head of the sledgehammer and your superiority in numbers at the head of that sledgehammer is going be so overwhelming. It's going to crush everything and then can swing it around and trap,
The french armies that are sitting on the french border waiting the Germans on the other side of the german border, but the head of the hammers coming through Belgium, a neutral country going to swing from above and then it's going to collapse down on all those french armies facing the Germans and trap them in the rear. But it's a huge gamble. What, if you screw up what are the Russians mobilize faster than you think, they're they're going to well they'll, be mowing down. Your tiny little forces left there to stop them and they're, not that far from Berlin and the first territory they're going to take over happens to be the ancestral home of Russia's nobility, including Kaiser. So nobody wants to see the Russians anywhere near Prussia, but they happen to be kind of near pressure anyway. So that's a problem, also everyone knows the French are going to want to retake those territories at the Germans took a generation before which is down
Franco german border, which means the French are going to attack there with a lot of forces. You pull too many people away from there. The French could be BR and through into southern Germany, while the head of your sledgehammer, is still working its way around french flags. I mean it's a terrible because if you screw it up, you could lose the war. But let's remember two things: when and writing the war plan, and he supposedly came up with this idea. The conditions are different. The germ army is different in size. So, as the french Army, the actions have almost seen a complete collapse in one thousand. Nine hundred and five of their whole dynasty mean they're falling apart. They just lost a war against Japan. They are nowhere near as formidable as they'll be. You know ten years later, right, nine years later, but that's when VON Moltke has to deal with things and the situations are different and he has to recalculate things and the second part of that whole equation. The schlieffen could afford to be a gambler because he doesn't actually have Do it. Schlieffen is a gambler on paper. Malta is a guy who has to
this work in real time and not have the downside happen and live through it and he's more of a pessimist Maybe you would say more of a realist and he won't put as many in the sledgehammer. Part of the attack as Ethan would have dictated you should he won't denude the other fronts to his graded degree and leave them that wide open. He can't assume that the war will be one so automatically that you can just the Germany will be safe and won't be broken through in all these areas. You've denuded, in other words, multi a more conservative guy. But if this anne- is true- I'm going to keep saying that disclaimer, so don't get in trouble. If this plan is true, it puts more in a position of accepting a gamble of a plan for a guy, is not a gambler, but that's the plan And in order to understand the sledgehammer side of this plan, you have
have some sort of conception of the sign. Of the army's involved for compare, purposes and again, it sort of demonstrates how much things have changed in a middle the sense and how they've exploded since napoleonic times? If you look at assumptions by people who study the roman empire. One of the favorite subjects that they will debate is how human beings were in the military of the Roman empire, at its height to police and take care of that massive ancient. Eight and I don't mean in anyone battle, I mean the total military power. Of the roman empire at its height, and you will get- numbers anywhere four hundred and fifty thousand men at the low end and about seven hundred thousand men at the higher end now. The numbers of Germans,
making their way through Belgium in August, one thousand nine hundred and fourteen as part of the sledge hammers head is at least seven hundred, and fifty thousand some numbers put that up to one point: two million. That means the flanking force, the head of the sledgehammers. We keep calling it that's moving through Belgium to smack the French like a door swinging on a hinge. Is it as large as the higher military of the roman empire at its height and those lower numbers are actually closer to the truth. For the empires you total military capability might have a german army moving through Belgium. That's twice the size of the entire roman empire at its height. That totally justifies all of the worst fears of these, the people in the 19th century worried about this? The kind of folks who would call a Hague conference and right peace and all that kind of stuff, and the people who
you. Stood with the growth in the military technology is going to Ivan blocks. Ideas are about to be proven. True in no uncertain fashion. I mean these people were used to Napoleon olins Giant gamble of invading Russia may have had at its highest seven hundred and fifty thousand men across the entire front? You know from a in front of Russia. That's what you have moving, through the tiny little rd system and railroad system of Belgium. No aliens. Grand army is your flanking force wow. Now I keep trying to remind my the what the Germans are trying to do here is not perhaps as much of a of a weird gamble, as you might think, and we also need to remember that most of the people in the higher leadership positions in the german military, have done all this before. In fact, they fought hence before it's probably the most important war that happened between Napoleon
sometimes an the first World war, and most people outside of Europe know nothing about the Franco Prussian WAR of eighteen. Seventy, seventy one, but a sense I forget what it says you know in the history books 'cause, it makes it look like a nine month war, Essentia Lee, the German smashed, the French in a month and a half, it's a fantastically interesting conflict, and it's shaped the perceptions and views of these people in the higher leadership positions, because they were junior officers who fought in that war right they watched two amazing things happen. They watch the german armies trap. An entire french army of like eight thousand and ninety thousand men in one of the french fortress is that was there to keep the from crossing the border, and then the actual we're friends himself, a guy named Napoleon the third another. One of those interesting roles of the monarchy, dice leads a relief army, is going to break the seeds right and rescue his other army of another eighty or ninety thousand guys and the germ
is managed to surround the whole army with the emperor And force them to surrender, which then, of course The entire army, that's also trap nearby, has to surrender. To I mean the French. On for a long time doggedly the people of rose up. I mean there was a fantastic resistance after this, the war was over in a month and a half. That was the way the Germans wanted to do it again, this time and the people who did it last, time, are the ones in command of a lot of these. You know cores and armies and in the general staff. Now as the Germans try to make their way. You know through Belgium and not have this important time schedule screwed up the french the other side are trying figure out what the Heck's going on part of what we modern people have to remember, and I always try to try to put myself in their position is very hard because we are in an era where the battlefield
specially to western powers and, most especially to the United States. The battlefield is totally visible for the most part, you can hide your and foliage, sometimes maybe for nearby we're going to thermal sensors and stuff, but the battlefield is visible to us now and we're used to this in human history. The fog of war is, it's known, is huge because it If you from seeing what's about to happen until it just is about to happen, you don't get a lot of advanced notice to plan. That's why aircraft start becoming really important because they take the eyes of military put him up in the air and extend how far back you can see. If you see armies moving to another area, you can safely assume? Oh, I better move my army to another area, something's going to happen over there during the early part of the bat no one is sure what's happening on the allied side. The French are is worried about how they get the British over here to fight with as many men as they can bring over as they are about where the Germans common in and
what sort of strength you see, the French have cysts. Connected for a very long time that the Germans were to do this out flanking move in Belgium. That was not totally unexpected. The part that may have caught them off guard is what they were out: you know the French, through Belgium, with. The guys running the french military at this time, Can on their own war plans, assumptions simply won't believe that the size Moving through Belgium is as big as it is, and, let's remember, Mult Go we criticized after the war by other german generals who are mad. It's not bigger, I mean, and the French have huge problems Here- because they have one of the loosest agreements ever run into in my life for in a military cooperation, their battle plans, for the british Army to guard their entire lines, and we talk about Align the french Terry Line runs from Switzerland in the south to
Belgium in the north. Millions of men in multiple armies and by the way on the other side of the board of the Germans, had the same thing first time in human history that you had millions of men squaring off against millions of men. But the French left flank is counting on having the british army there to anchor it. That agreement has less paper work attached to it than you would normally generate when you buy a house for all intents, and As we said, it's a handshake deal the handshake deal that we will. Go to war with you. If war breaks out and a handshake deal with, only one government in a country where governments can come and go and we're public opinion isn't unified. And a nation that you've had centuries of antagonistic history with and only like five or eight years of in a friendly cooperation. What's more Britain gets into this war and then the first
that the british people here is we're going to send the troops that would defend us if the Germans decide to land on our coastline, to France A lot of questions over how many troops to spare, eventually the bf will get to France with seventy thousand men. Five divisions for country. One cavalry to give you an idea of what One thousand men or five divisions means on this front. The Germans are deploying eighty five divisions on the western front, seventy thousand men seems like nothing. That's the tiny little you know it's the army of a sea power. Isn't it that's the tiny little force that is mark, a generation before that iron and blood german diplomat had famously said when one of his aides said what, if the british land their army on our coast, he says then I'll have them arrested. This is the army that was so small. You could joke about arresting them, but here's the
friends, unlike all the other major armies of the participants in this war, the british Army are professional, long standing, regular force with a people in the specially the non commissioned officer ranks who were lifers and who, in this war started immediately called up there. Reservists guys who served ten being twenty years before it had fought in places like South Africa and the Boar war in the turn of the century. The institutional memory of these units was deep. The quality of these forces was intensely have you know unlimited marksman practice and get financial rewards for in a winning it? The actual the you know, a lot of the people in these units fought in actual combat with modern weapons. My favorite source from this early period is an Irishman. You know, as you might
engine who's actually fighting in the B. His name is John Lucy and he's one of the few british side reporters, I guess you could call him but he's a soldier who writes from this very early period 'cause. He was right in the first wave and he explains You know the difference between his unit and the rest of the continental troops, and he does so in a very chauvinistic, very proud fashion, but he claims quote. The british army in nineteen fourteen was more used to battle than that of any other nation, what's the highest and bravest traditions that can be engendered in a fighting force and its experience of wars with such that our own regiment, though a young one in the army had so many battle honors that they were difficult to memorize and quote Now John loses only twenty He didn't have a long service history under his belt, but when the reservists arrive he watches is
who appeared to be just regular folks off the street, transform themselves into grizzled. British veterans quote our service came streaming into make up our war strength cheerful care, Fellows of all types, some bowler hats and smart suitings others in descending scale down to the garb of tramps. Soon like us, they a uniformed and equipped with field kits change was remarkable. Sergeants and corporals and be a ribbon veterans of the south african war hatched out of that crowd of nondescript civilians and took their place, duties as if they had never left the army. They were an excellent lot, but there- increased our strength to an uncomfortable extent. End quote what John Lucy found to be an uncomfortable increasing of
numbers when they arrived at the continent seemed like a tiny little trickle of british soldiers, but the quality of this army that came to be known as the old contemptible's was of the highest level matching the top german units It was ironically under the command of his general name French, who didn't very much like the French, Sir John French will lead the b e F, the british expeditionary force on the continent just in time to play their historic role in what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called the most terrible August in the history of the world to be involved in several battles that are all called the battle of the frontiers. There's a bunch of little battles that are all
serve wrapped up into this one big event called the battle of the frontiers. What it really means is, it is all the fighting that was going on along this front and there are several sort of thrusts and pair using Counterthrust thrust that go on I'm going to spend. A bit more time than I normally plan to for the rest of this series on this battle, because this this battle frontiers is in so many ways the most interesting moment of this war. First of all, it's what we've talked about for an episode of now it's the rubber meets the road moment. The testing moment for all this military theory and hypothesis. It's been happening in some cases. You know for the last hundred years you get to see if people assumptions about how this weapon system would work or that tactic would fare you get to see. You know which of those turn out to be correct and which ones don't
and a lot of the time these armies will go into combat hams. By decisions that were made a decade before in terms of what the army's doctrines going to be or the tactics or how they're going to be you dressed in equipped me take the french The French will go into this modern war and it is almost impossible understand this today, 'cause there's a ludicrous to it. It shows off another century, you want to see the 19th century clash with the 20th century. It happens in this battle of the frontiers. In August, one thousand, nine hundred and fourteen the French go into combat, with almost the exact same uniform, their grandfather's war in eighteen. Seventy, a blue jacket with tails, wide red pants that look like targets and acted like it to their officers, would have white hats and white glue.
I mean again targets. They will send cavalry to go fight. That look like I mean you can go, look at your history books in nineteen fourteen and they often have pictures of this cavalry. I told friend who was always asking for you know I would love to see a picture of Nepal. His cuirassiers. You know his famous cavalry with the breast plates in the horse: hair plume, lets. You know when the sabres in the whole thing- and I said you don't have to wish for a picture of Queer Sears we're going off to war in one thousand nine hundred and fourteen. They look identical arm. And all that's. Old world going off to war, and you can see it visually think of how the French Jr's, hamstrung by that the british have been using Khaki for themselves? colonial wars,
eighteen eighties. The front you're gonna go into this war. Looking like walking, he and a ton of french soldiers will pay the price for that. They'll pay the price for not having much in the way of heavy artillery to again these all ideas that you could logically back up the French Why did they wanted to have more mobile army? So we don't need that big, heavy cumbersome, slow artillery to slow it down by the time that gets anywhere the battles going to be over anyway sounds great. In theory till you try it and you find out, your soldiers are in terrible trouble on the actual. Fields, because they don't have any heavy artillery, there's a reputation. The French have militarily in the United States, that is in Oregon and Lee influenced by the way the Second World WAR went. I always try to tell people you misunderstand France's military reputation than because, for hundreds of you, they're considered one of the finest, if not the finest land army in the world a hundred years before this time, a little
Second, guy is using you know, especially as the hardcore core his armies to conquer the majority of the world, that battered at this time and the one that and the rest of the majority of the world is colonies and did it with french troops. They will often heroically throw their lives down to try to overcome these deficiencies that they enter war with. I think you could make a case that in all three wars, that over seventy five years, the French and Germans fought with each other from eighteen one thousand nine and forty five that the average french soldier on the ground was hamstrung by his leadership. In all three of those conflicts in second world war. I mean historically tragically, but I would suggest that the war out of those three in which french leadership performed the best was in the first world war. There are a bunch of different generals that I think second world war. France would have their right arm to have um led by a guy who is iconic
we thought of him as, like the French Churchill. You know what you're was to written in the Second World war. This guy is to France in the first World war. And he has all these same stereotypically, interesting, anecdotes and character. Churchill had been instead of them being stereotypically british as Churchill's were there stereotypically Golic their French. You know Joe had this thing with alcohol that was part of his image and part of the fun with this guy it's food, and that's because it fits perfectly with his physical sort of image. He's huge in every way he's tall he's fat he's got a giant, bushy white mustache and a placid look on his face all the time. Its name is Joseph Joffrey and if I miss pronounce that again, that's just going to be the first of many, my apology because he's still in the lion of France in a lot of french households, he's a fabulously
guy, but you know, I've read a significant amount on this person and I'm not sure I understand him any better than before ice. And, what's more, I'm not sure these authors did either. He is like an obelisk and he is imperturbable good luck, scratching the surface of figuring out what you have there and even his Temporaries felt that way. One thing when you read quotes that people who him say about him is one they. They say different things sometimes, and two, times they didn't know what this guy was up? To I mean you know, sometimes you it's something that you wonder, if he's just a little dull or slow or is he you know, sly, like a fox and just hiding everything I mean it's he's an interesting guy. You could probe this guy along time and still not really get a good idea about what you're dealing with here. The one thing you can say about him is he's got one of those qualities of generalship. That's just going to be a perfect match for what's needed at the time time. I've have always said that
ship is absolutely in art and in the same way that art in a sea is the manifestation of the artists personality sort of translated in its own unique way in the art form. Generalship is like that too, and you can see all these different kinds of generals who all have these different kinds of personalities and they command that way and and the key is to try to find your strengths and then in a figure out a way to make those strengths work for you want a battle take, for example, these really aggressive commanders, these quick thinking, hard, pushing dashing sort of guys in high, in the famous guy who basically created the german tank approach in the Second World war. That kind of guy the guy, by the way whose commanding the most important army, on the german side. In this war, the the sledgehammer head Army First armies a guy just, this too hard driving aggressive kind of guy. That sort of approach is perfect some situations and in some armies. But then you need to be counter guys
times. Two, as one moltke is he's a bean counter. He sits there and and plan getting out to the Nth degree and make sure all the teaser lost in the eyes dotted, and you don't have anything on those guys- are very useful to the Inspir tional general, like an Alexander, the great who get out there and get your troops to perform in a feats of Oh, is that maybe a lesser man or woman couldn't have gotten them to perform this there's all these different kinds of generals. Joshua is the kind that doesn't ever get ruffled. That's what he brings to the table. He refuses to panic. He's almost frightfully com situations that he's about to experience that that are not only stressful to the point of panic, but the perhaps panic is the right emotion to have now. There are historians out there who suggest that we should not look at that as such a great quality to bring to the table because it might be Jaffer's own shortcut. In some of the other arts of generalship, that made it never
this area for there to be a guy who wouldn't panic at the top to begin with, wouldn't be needing to panic. If you have been a better player of that blind chess game that we talked about early and maybe offer not that good at that game. Hence the Situa. Becomes panic inducing Hence a leader, that's very good at stopping panic is just what you need at the time, anyway, might be a self reinforcing sort of thing, but I think it's hard to deny that France would have given up a right arm and both legs to have this guy in the Second World war. And the reason that this guy is going to be so necessary in this in perturb ability is going to be so necessary is because of how this first round in this heavyweight championship fight, that's going to go on for four years is going to go if you're gonna use Boxing analogy here, for this is going to be a boring fight, as the fight goes on, you know things slow down to a dull, roar and everybody's looking for tactical opportunities and and but the first round is wild. My
Haymaker swings misses dropping the other guy. For you know an eight count. I mean it's going to be a wild first round and lose your head, you could lose the war so having Jaffer at the at the french high command is it. The French are not going to lose their head. I can't help but think about the german commander at this point, though, VON Moltke's, a very interesting guy, in the sense that he almost looks like a guy who doesn't want to be there. You know he is the nephew one of the greatest heroes in german military history. It's almost like he went into the family business, but whereas These guys thought about nothing but war. All the time and remember, Schlieffen. The legendary writer of the Schlieffen plan is supposed to have died still saying stuff about the Schlieffen plan. The last words in his lips are supposedly make sure to keep the right strong, I mean these are people who have no hobbies other than war
VON Moltke, the younger, is a guy who famously said that art was what he lived for, and I think about this guy In the most one of the most stressful positions in all history, once this war breaks out he has no illusions about what the stakes are. He's the one who famously said that the he's launching, will decide the course of history for the next hundred years. And it certainly has think of the pressure on that, though, think about the fact that his plan That he's operating with is a terrible gamble, and then one. How every flip of the coin. So far in this conflict gone against him. If you're. Judging this fight based on who landed the latest punch, VON Moltke Ann, the Germans are losing right from the very beginning and think about the coin. Flips that have already happened mean think about the belgian.
One. To begin with, I mean you were hoping that when you invaded Belgium, they just sort of stood by the side of the road and let you go through, maybe would feed you and everything right. You would get that's what that's. What your hope was. Could flip the coin. Instead, the Belgians resisted you, they destroyed the communique and and transportation system you were hoping to use and then to make matters worse. Some of them were shooting at you, allegedly. So your troops and executing Belgians, which makes you look terrible on the world stage, so that coin flip the wrong way, and then you, going again, maybe Britain won't get involved when we violate the neutrality of Belgium right. It's just a scrap of paper is the german diplomat famously said: oh, that landed on the wrong side of the coin to the British came in. You lost that flip. Another flip happens, starting on August 15th and the timetable is going to get weird now because their stuff happening on multiple fronts that overlap with each other 'cause. While this is going on, you know the first one.
Others are going on in the West do, but but on the 15th of August, if you're, multiple watching how your your planned attack is. Is going- and you haven't even gotten your sledge hammer head through Belgium, yet so still a ways away from your attack. Doing anything, but you got things did collapse around you on August 15th. The server Remember this is a moderate country. Fighting a great power or some serbian gunmen killed the austrian Archduke and that's why we're here right I mean the I think everyone was sure about. Is that no matter what happens in this conflict, Serbia is going to get their butt kicked. Cuz they're in Austria. Hungary is right next door and there are global power. The os, Gary ins are camped out sort of on a hillside by river on on the fifteenth of August. A hundred and eighty thousand Serbs attacked them. The Austro hungarian Army has about two hundred thousand people and it its morale just collapses, and we told you before the Serbs are one of those people.
Historically, who, in the military sense kind of punch above their weight class there for wrote, spiders. Their aggressive aggressively lead the Austria hungarian forces were apparently more riddled with problems than anyone new and a lot of drowned routing across this river pursued closely by one hundred and eighty thousand Serbians in three armies think about what this does. If you're VON Moltke, in terms of stress, because you're hoping that the Austro Hungarians can help you keep the Russians off your neck until you're done in France. Remember you got a deal with enemies on each side of you, your hope, ally right, there is going to be able to help, and yet they just got their tail kit buy a moderate sized power. What's going to happen when they face the Russians and then on the 17th of August.
The biggest disaster at all. If your VON Moltke occurs and the Russians arrive early talk about flipping the coin before the war, assuming you can get all this stuff done, the Russians mobilize and then they mobilize early so by August. 17Th find Molcas has problems everywhere and it becomes question whether or not he's ever going to be. Well to use his war. Winning sledgehammer, because maybe he'll have lossed war everywhere else. Before that even happens, I mean there's, writing you. Can you can read from this time period thousand nineteen fourteen? They think that the war's almost already over meanwhile on the 14th of August your in the french launch an attack in Alsace, Lorraine, the first real attack. I should say they token force in there on the seventh of August, which is you know, get a member seventh of August is four days after France and Germany declared war on each other. They sent a token
in there in know, with messages from the french leadership about were home, you're back in the bosom of France. All these wonderful things, kisses picnic baskets flowers, wine, the whole deal in a welcome with open arms and then all suddenly a little token force with the roses and wine and everything has to run back across the french border, because the German forced nearby is not a token force to on August 14th, The day before the Serbs smash that Austro hungarian Army that so discomforts VON Moltke, French, launch two armies into Alsace, Lorraine and it's serious now now it's on Now we have two of the best armies in the world clashing head on with significant numbers of people and the French pushed the Germans back and then the next day they push back again and then the next day they push him back again Now it should be noted that, while the to the world thinks this looks like just one more disaster for Germany side you have all
the problems. Is the Russians are already in EAST Prussia and now look at the French the first time they launch a significant attack. The Germans are backing up, but that's one thing: I'm sure VON Moltke wasn't stressed about, because that retreat by the Germans was all part of the plan, the Germans, of course, for decades, the French would involve Alsace, Lorraine in any war effort, and so they put who's there who had orders to retire to just so to keep the French engaged but move backwards, move forward, let them even into Germany, shoot them as they're pursuing you. Take your toll on them as they're pursuing you but retiring good order. Take your guns with you and just sort of pull. I'm away from all the parts of the war. That matter, you see when the french figure what about the sledgehammer I've also compared it to a door on a hinge cuz. You have all
these german army stretching from the swiss border all the way up to Belgium, and most of them are just there to keep the French occupied the damage, that's going to be done is going to be done by that door sort of in bed. Jim and Luxenberg that swings closed on top of the french nation. The other german army's job is to keep the French in front of the month. Pride, so they can't turn around and move in a action and do anything about that hammer and those Charmis way down south in Alsace and Lorraine, which are down by the swiss border that are are pursuing german armies back into the Interior of Germany are just getting farther. Farther away from where they can help once the French realize they need every army they can get their hands on to deal with that threat. So fun mold is not upset about this. This is part of the deal, and that starts on August 14th, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, the continues there. The Russians are in EAST Prussia. Now the Austrians have been defeated on their front
since the seventh of August, but really big on the 11th and 12th of August, the british expeditionary force has been arriving on the continent. They keep and they're not going to be ready to fight until maybe the 26th of August, but the French like them there sooner. One Frenchman in particular is desperate to have the british show up as early as possible. This is the french general who is commanding the army on Lance's left flank right the last army. You know it's kind of facing sort of Belgium where, if you look to your they've got several armies, millions of men all the way down to the swiss border, totally protected from any. Penetrating our ranks in hitting us in the flank, but if that fifth r under a general name. Lynn, rasic looks to the left, looks n, there's nobody there. There's open land
There's maneuvering room for an enemy to get around his flanks and destroy him and roll the whole french line up all the way down to Switzerland, if necessary, so got a vested interest being aware of any potential threats out there, because going to take it in the flank? You know when when it shows up- and he even even before the war starts, you sending messages in July to job offers saying I'm all signs point to a german advance through Belgium. Basically, which is one reason you knew the high command knew about it. They just nobody, knew how big going to be, but this general and resit keeps telling him every. Daisy, sending messages to the high command going. You know latest ports are Oregon huge attack. I mean basically the way history will vindicate this guy. Is he correctly perceive use the power and destiny this german blow long before anyone else does and historical. What ifs in this time period is what, if Joffrey
taking what he was saying seriously sooner again. Maybe you don't need to be such a wonderful stood, Lydia factor when panic is all around you. If you don't make a mistake like not listening to this general in which creates the panic using situation to begin with, Jennifer basically thinks the guys panicking, and then he starts saying you know, as it becomes apparent that something is moving through Belgium and those forts are going down He starts thinking. This is going to be a good thing for the same reason, it's a good thing for the Germans to have those French go through. Also still raining keep inventing away from where the action is going to be on the job for ideas. Listen, even if the Germans are going through Belgium with a large force, all the better. Our plans going to be to cut that search for that this is a swinging gate or door. We will
at the end, and then we will roll up behind it all the way up to the water. You know in the in the North Sea, the English channel right there and then you're cut off, and then this wonderful, you know, Sledge hammer blow, becomes a surrounded, trapped cream of your army, so negative into a positive and basically would tell basically would that you have nothing to worry about one about one different and figured chances would be improved. If that british force would hurry up and come up, his left, so even though the British might have an open left flank. He wouldn't have one anymore, and it's at that point, that the battle of the frontiers breaks out now. The battle of the front here's is named that because it's the time where the general eruption of violence on the Franco german border happens- and there are a lot of different encounters that are all
part of this larger conflict. Essentially, that is an umbrella term that covers all the violence on the Franco german border. That breaks out almost simultaneously and it turns out to be a really important thing for the german war effort that it did, because you know, by about August nineteen the german situation really as bad as we said earlier, but things are even gotten worse. Those Russians in EAST Prussia that it's showing up sooner than expected had defeated some german forces that went out and tried to deal with them all of a sudden. It looks like that flank might be collapsing. It's hard to get really excited about anything if you're multi, a whose nickname no given to him by the Kaiser, was something that translates loosely too gloomy Gus anyway, not exactly an optimist anyway. He couldn't have been feeling too good about the situation on the 19th or 20th. He she a request from one of his generals in the field. It's the guy, who is retreating from all those French
is retiring in good order, taking his guns with him and sort of drawing them away from the action he's one of the wonderful german royalty. That's part of this, this isn't in the verm oft in the Second World war. You didn't have any of this and this first war, you these guys, like Prince Rupert of Bavaria, and he commands the Force- that's retreating. He doesn't retreating, you don't get a lot of medals for retreating, it's not exactly what he was hoping to do with an army in this war. So we requests to VON Moltke. Can I attack now. This goes against the idea of what he supposed to do right he's the retreat or he pulls his french force away, with a sledgehammer is going to hit what he makes a pretty good case. These french are asking for it. They're sitting ducks. Been sort of like getting more and more disordered and strung out after days of pursuing us and we've been shooting them with artillery and weakening them. They're ripe for a counterattack will crush them, and this is one of several
incidents that will happen literally in the next few days. That's some historians have pointed to for years as the moment when the Germans lost the war. In this case, some historians say that mold CAS response to Crown Prince Rubric tub Riveria area lost him. The war. He told group that he could counter the the French were strung out and disorganized and asking for it and on August 20th he does. He crushes them now. This is the time where you get to see perhaps from a soldiers perspective the thing that had chain battle and warfare the most really come into its own. Machine guns made a huge difference, make no mistake about it, and there were a lot of things that seem relatively benign when you look at them. That made a huge difference as to like barbed wire, but the element that
analogy in land. Warfare had altered the most in terms of something that would change the face of warfare and how it was fought. An experienced by human beings on the ground artillery had come leaps and bounds beyond anything, anyone had expected and its artillery that on August 20th hits the French when they're still in tight columns, marching and must during an just sitting. Around I mean later in the war Ernst younger german soldier will write about the effect on a show. I'll one single artillery shell landing in a group of people that were just sitting around in a town square hundred and fifty of his soldier, and he said the one shell killed, seventy of them out right now. Imagine if you're in March column, richer gathered around a a mess, a center or taking a religious
Service in in the field or whatever, when you're closely matched with your buddies, and then modern artillery hits you and remember. Part of this is technology of the guns. The other part of it is the science and engineering that goes into make artillery effective, not you're, shooting a gun up in the air, but you should see the the scientific calculations, the soldiers on the grounds of the mathematics, they had to do to make sure that everything was honed in the right way and everything and that really differentiated by the way, the good armies from the less good armies, the Russians had a ton of artillery. They did good engineering, people shooting it was often inaccurate and not effective. The British in the French and the Germans had exceptional people working their artillery is very effective and the german artillery was bigger and better than anything that the French had This is where they find out that that idea that light Mobile, seventy five millimeter artillery getting the job done in every situation was horribly flawed. In fact, it was outranged by the german pieces. The Germans could hit
it when they couldn't hit the Germans and when the german army, under Crown Prince rubric, hits the French in a counterattack on August 20th, the artillery just devastates them as historian Eric Bros writes, quote. The first furious fighting occured in southern Lorraine, where the french second army having progressed thirty five kilometres was meringue by the german sixth army, the counter counterattacked with superior artillery fire from one hundred and five millimeter and one hundred and fifty millimeter howitzers the barrage crushed. In army formations that were assembling in tight ranks for the day's march, forcing it to flee and they by compelling and exposed first army to retreat as well end quote now. What Bros is talking about there is that when the Germans crushed the French Second Army and it has to retreat, it- creates a all in the line and that's the most dangerous thing
for any of these armies. They want to maintain maintain an unbroken line, because if there are places that can be penetrated by enemy forces, Those forces can move into those gaps and then, if they turn right or turn left there. Another army in the flank where it's terribly vulnerable, or they could continue to go deeper into the interior and strike at logistic, and supply and rear areas. I mean the whole point is don't allow, you know a gap to open up in your line and do whatever you can to create or You know your enemy, doing something like that with their forces, so and second army gets smashed in, has to rich read backwards. First, He has to go with them, just to make sure the line stays unbroken and nobody can get into our interior. Now there lot of different things. You might be able to draw conclusion wise from what happened in Alsace and Lorraine, where those two armies were hit by the Germans. Shop decided
this allowed him to see where the Germans were weak, as we mentioned earlier. This is playing chess without knowing you know where the other guys pieces are part of what John just got to do is a command or some detective work he has are uh idea how many forces the Germans have, if you can, I fi, you know those forces are. He can start to figure out where the rest are. He figures, if he getting so hammered down in the south on August 20th and if he believes that general on his flank, the fifth army general that keeps telling him the Germans are making a major effort through Belgium. Where are all those troops coming from, they have to be pulled from somewhere. Jennifer figured the Germans are weak. At that point, he decided that they had been pulled from the german center, So they're strong down in Alsace, Lorraine by Switzerland, their strong up in Belgium, where they've knocked down those forts in there they're coming at us like a door on a hinge, so they're weak in the middle never made a major mistake here and the
Your mistake was assuming the Germans would treat their reserve which is the same way. The French did. The reserve forces are those forces that are not as competent, not as highly trained as the regular military forces in the french practice. Those forces was to keep him in the reserve. No keep him back away from the action you use them to support people when you need more troops thrown in, but don't put him in, who are vulnerable, where you could lose the war with inexperienced not up to standard troops like that, the Germans totally integrated their reserves into their armies and it planned for for a long time they were using all their reserves. So they had Greater numbers actually involved in all these combats then John estimations, and this will cost him dearly when he attacks this the German, the german line in the battle of the frontiers on August 21st, 22nd. In the center is a weird area, because if the left is up by Belgium and the right is down by you, Alsace, Lorraine and Switzerland, the center is the
where the terrain is hard to fight, and you know the giant in forest. Is there and it's hilly terrain with not a lot of roads, Diffi Cult country right, it's the same. Country that everyone was so shocked when the Germans came through it with tanks in the Second World WAR 'cause, it was thought to be impenetrable when the first world war- that's where he shot decides to attack. 'cause he's determined that they must. The Germans must be weak there, What's more, this is how he's going to deal now with this sledgehammer issue. If it really exists, he's going to cut it he's going to launch his attack at the german center right, where that hinge point is with the door swings between the force of the Germans that move and the force. The Germans that stay stationary, there should be a gap smell through their get behind drive all the way up until you hit You know the North Sea or the english channel and cut off that sledgehammer head. It's now a bad idea, if you can make it work, it's like Judo, you just
the great enemy advantage of so many good troops in one location there, like a steamroller it into a negative 'cause. Now, you're going to cut off the Part of the enemy army, surrounded and kill it in one place. It's a great idea if you can make it work, the French were totally incapable at this point in the war of making something like that work. Because they hadn't learned what kind of war they were in. Yet that's what the battle of the frontiers is going to be this first, found this fight, where everybody's throwing haymakers and getting smacked on the jaw. A lot of lessons to people is offer will fire? more generals in this first to the war than anybody's ever fired in history, and a lot of the other militaries will do similar things, because this is where find out. You know which generals can really I right more time and which ones are more peacetime kind of generals and within a couple of months you'll have much more competent people. You know at it handle meant a lot of places which makes it a little less fun. I mean right now: it's into the wild West out here, and you have all kinds of different quality people. Take
The russian generals that were going to Within a minute I mean, there's variable, variable quality and this this becomes a real live fire test for a lot of these people on the 21st of August and the 22nd of August John for lunches, big offensive in the Ardennes. He assumes he's running into an inferior number of german forces based on his calculations. He instead walking into a situation where he's facing almost equal numbers of troops and their dug in I'm waiting for him, and this is where the idea of bayonet attacks and charging machine guns and not digging in with your red pants, I mean we didn't even mention the fact that none of these armies- none of them, are going
do this war with helmets, there are no helmets folks, they're wearing caps. Okay, you know how many people are going to die because of that mistake. This is all kind of win that romance in war gets shot down. Literally, I mean to people live a nineteenth century sort of worldview and attitudes about honor and duty and things that are expected to, for example, officers in the field. This idea of french officers standing up with a sword and in a white gloves, and often the white hat in a storm of steel in a move that is absolutely suicidal and those brave people must have known and imagine how the soul gets conflicted in knowing to do your duty and live up to the standards and expectations of your countrymen in your people. During this time period, you are expected to stand up there and
Julie, face sure death when you might survive simply by laying on the ground and throw away that white hat and just just kinda, you know hide behind that tree or whatnot, but it's not permitted is a romance, and certain standards in this is heroic. Death of is with the elder VON Moltke was talking about. It quoted earlier. We talked about how perpetual peace was not even a good dream, because you lose all these wonderful values that warfare brings out to him that officer those officers, those many hundreds of officers dying on these fields in their white gloves because they wouldn't take cover, were doing something beautiful and admirable. Remember he said in that quote: we used that in war, man's noblest virtues come into play courage. Annunciation, the duty and a readiness for sacrifice that does not stop at giving up life itself to him. This is like the charge of the light,
brigade over and over and over again modern people. Look at this as foolish to wash A waste of that officers life in potential use him in a way that will achieve a useful, ended yet even his life, it more dearly than that to people of the time period That ends really with this war. What is value in what those officers were doing simply by dying like that and upholding the standards. You know that they were upholding by doing so, a higher fidelity to duty in readiness to sacrifices VON Moltke said one of the things that This war changes is that whole view. The people in nineteen eighteen at the end of this war would feel very similar to the way we do about how stupid it is to end up in a hail storm of steel and just be a sacrifice. Your life for nothing
the generation that does that in nineteen fourteen and most of which doesn't make it through the war. They had a different way of looking at things and older way, and that's why this war is often seen as a separation point in history between one world and another. The running into this new world as part of this attack against the in center of the front through the Ardennes Forest and everything comes sounding like a dry affair when historians write about it, not that they're dry but listen, history sometimes takes the emotion and the blood and everything out of it. I mean David Stevenson has a great one volume work on the war and here's how he describes these offensives by Joffrey and the French to in a strike against what is certain a week german center right, he says quote the result was a multiple disaster. The fray
forces entering the Arden were weaker than the Germans in Reconnaissance cavalry and on the morning of 22Nd August, missed grounded their aircraft roping forward in echelon along the few roads through the forest they blunder Not into weaker forces, but in Twenty one divisions against their own twenty there, seven Five millimeter field guns were ineffective in the hilly terrain and poorly linked by tell Phone with the infantry, they were no answer: the german machine guns and field howitzers, which wreaked havoc end quote what is wreaking havoc mean historian. Peter Hart's book on the great war. Has many wonderful, first hand accounts of what these experiences were like and hard himself writes about the stumbling into each other that are these battles in the middle of the
Through this forested hilly terrain quote in these battles, few people at any level of command had much idea of what was happening and for the troops on the ground. It was. Utterly baffling pre war tactics to have no impact bayonet are just only to more slaughter, while calling artillery support was often doomed to failure. He says quote Sometimes the gunners were too far behind sometimes too close, and caught under fire from the longer range german guns. What the reason he writes. The infantry were often left in desperate straits. Then he quotes a captain from the hundred third regiment, who was caught in desperate Straits quote: my company was sustaining heavy losses. Evidently, it's action was bring the enemy who concentrate, combined fire of his infantry artillery and machine guns on us. We were surrounded by a heavy cloud which, at times completely veiled the
Littlefield from our eyes. Little burger sprang up, shouted viva la France at the top of his voice and fell dead among the men lying on the ground. One could no longer distinguish the living from the dead, the first or entirely absolved by their grim duty, the lay motionless the wound, It offered a truly impressive sight. The quote continues: some they would stand up blood horrible. Looking emits bursts of gunfire they ran aimlessly around arm. Stretching out before them eyes: staring at the ground. Turning round and round until hit by fresh bullets, they would stop and fall heavily heart. Being cries. Agonizing appeals and horrible groans were intermingled with the sinister howling of projectiles Furious contortions, told of strong youthful bodies refusing to give up life one I was trying to replace his bloody dangling hand to his shattered wrist. Another
from the line holding the bowels falling out of his belly and through his tattered clothes before a bullet struck him down. We had no support from our artillery, and yet there were guns in our division and in the army corps, besides those destroyed on the road, where were they they arrive. We were alone end quote: twenty seven thousand Frenchmen will die on the 22nd of August. Many many more will be badly badly. Woon did maimed and scarred for life. Now, let's put this in perspective one hundred years before this time, Nepal, being used to brag to his opponents that you cannot stop me. I spend thirty thousand lives a month as though that was a big deal and back when Napoleon said it, it was. The French had just lost thirty thousand lives. That day
and their contact against the other major army that had precipitated all those deaths's only been about twenty four hours. Long. What's tomorrow, gonna look like in the next day. Already troops were dealing with. You know a new phenomenon created by this artillery Bigger heavy guns, the extra ammunition and the fact that battles are going on for a long time now, and people stay in place for awhile mean that people are staying under artillery barrage for longer and longer periods of time. This is a frightfully upsetting expire as you might imagine, and it begins to drive people insane right. As the war starts, a french Sargent wrote in his diary about these offensives in the Ardennes on August 21st, twenty and he said quote the guns recoil at each shot night, falling and they look like old men, sticking out their tongues and spitting fire heaps of corpses.
French and german or lying every witch way rifles in hand? Rain falling shells are screaming and bursting shells all the time art fire is the worst I lay all night listening to the Woon did groaning. Some were german, the cannonading goes on whenever it's We hear the Woon did crying from all over the woods. Three men go mad every day. End quote. Man who will turn out to be one of France's greatest public figures in the 20th century. Was that these battles too, he had been indoctrinated like everyone else in the romance, and they Bro ISM and the ideas of the bayonet charge and the offensive All these military ideas from another age it took him one bottle to learn the last. Is that it would take commanders on all sides in this war. Quite a bit longer to learn Lieutenant Charles De Gaulle wrote of these battles and his experience.
Quote: suddenly the enemy's fire became precise and concentrated second by second, the hail of bullets in the thunder of the shells grew stronger, those who survived, lay flat on the ground. Amidst the screaming Woon did in the humble corpses with affected com. The There's let themselves be killed, standing upright some obstinate platoons stuck there. Bayonets into their rifles. Google sounded to the charge. Icily heroes made fantastic leaps, but all to no purpose in an instant. It did become clear. Not all the courage in the world could withstand this fire. End quote. Machines that it always been important on the battlefield. I'm in kind had become the dominant factor. What had become a tool to be used by man was now something that was so devastating in the hands of each other, that the entire ideas about warfare that had been in
play in most societies during most time periods. Up till this era are all of a sudden, no longer viable the battle of the frontiers in just a couple of days manages to completely change the whole complexion of the war, what it seemed to be leading up to a german defeat. All of a sudden looks like Maybe the Germans are going to win this war and quickly nobody expects French to lose in a couple of days, more than seventy five thousand men killed and more than two hundred and fifty thousand wounded that stuns everyone, but the french especially, and you have to understand how many people this is the American still celebrate in a morbid sort of way. The famous civil war battle of Antietam, famously called the a lot of this day in american history in terms of warfare and partly because it's a sieve. Or and everybody dying on both sides happens to be american, but those cat
Early levels for comparison purposes are about six one thousand little less than six thousand dead. I think, and a little less than twenty thousand Woon did, six thousand dead. Twenty thousand Woon did compared to more than seventy five thousand dead and two hundred and sixty thousand Woon did in the first couple of days of action on the western front, the french or stunned and now, if you're, the german general put yourself in VON mold shoes remember the stress we talked about and all so you are presented with a dilemma. If you just this to your opponent and you've stunned them in there on the ropes, and they look like deer in the headlights for a minute. What do you. Do you stick with the original plan and say: listen! We're not supposed to attack We have this sledgehammer going stick with a sledgehammer and just let the recover in front of you, because it's part of the plan do you say as the uncle of an moltke, so famously did that noble well plan, survives first contact with the enemy and look at this as an opportunity about,
field opportunity that presents itself on Multi has to make. Decisions here and it becomes another place in the story where historians have argued ever sense whether or not he lost the war here those who didn't believe you lost it earlier in the story lava, believe you lost it here in a lot of german generals, writing memoirs after the war. You know needle him about this savagely, making bad decisions weakening the plan. What we all have to understand about the plan as its some we thought of- and some very good modern historians have done. A great job of pointing this out is that the plan was probably flawed from the get go. And was probably never meant to be implemented in the way. A lot of these german generals portrayed it and even more important than that. Evan seems to show that members of the general staff, maybe VON Moltke, included, never thought the plan was going to win the war anyway, which means it becomes Plan for starting the conflict and then once everything's in motion, you know you look for opera
You should try to create some. You try to exploit french mistakes. That's traditional generalship right the French, are doing on their side. So on can make some decisions based on having slammed French, so hard he's got Prince Rupert w very down in the south screaming that now push the French back all the way to the french border, french border, Whiting, Whiting, he just slam, he could collapse the whole southern flanken if the whole southern flank collapses, and you still get the northern flank collapsing because of your, judge hammer my gosh you've recreated the battle of Cannae, like the Romans in Hannibal all over again. It's every generals dream a double in element a total surrounding. I mean, if old, were less of an art. Fanatic more of a military in a hobbyist. I would think he would find that irresistible who knows maybe he's just looking for opportunities to outflank french forces, as historian David Stephenson suggests here quote
Multi's actions at this juncture suggest that he was determined to protect, Germany's territory, weather in EAST, Prussia or L sauce, but sing to strike wherever the enemy seemed week, rather than staking everything on his right flank and quote so Taking everything on the right flank idea is just what you you with no other better opportunities develop and one crown prince rubrics to attacking the French down in the south again by multiple things about it and says, ok and agrees to take some forces that would be used to bolster the sledge hammer head and instead use them on the total other side of the flank down south to help rubric. In his offensive against the French in the south. So the plan is now being diluted in the minds of the purists Ann, Maybe right, I'm not taking sides, I'm just saying the traditional ideas, but that multis the war here now and some very
historians, are saying not at all. This is what you were trying to do. Look for opportunities. And without losing the war elsewhere which create the situation, though, that Moltke himself even says after the war was a mistake. And it involves his attempts to try not to lose the war elsewhere. But again, if you put yourself in his position, it's hard not to this mold kill looks at the western front and it looks like going pretty well the bat the frontiers, an the battle. In Alsace, Lorraine. All these things seem to show that the Germans are better than the French, as I said in the So this is, in my opinion, the Songs of all time, and they just showed is that they, dumb another great army. You know pretty easily if you're on multi, you could sit. There look that go okay with all of our calculations are out the window. Maybe Don't need such dominance in numbers, you know or Qual is such that maybe we could get away with taking a few troops from here, and
come them to the east, because the Russians are taken towns in EAST Prussia and that's what more could did. First, you change the commanders over there. He sacked the guys he having problems with, and he puts a note, old retired guy, who is more known for the Franco, Prussian WAR Services and, in fact, calls him retirement, so quickly that he has to put on his old blue uniform because he doesn't have one of the newer gray ones, the blue ones date back to the earlier war that combines this older retired guy, whose name is Hindenburg Paul VON Hindenburg, with the hero from the germ point of view of that attack against you belgian city of Liege, in the fortress there who banged on the door of the fortress with the hilt of a sword and took the surrender of the city kind of by himself sort of ludendorff Hindenburg get this job or sent to the east to figure this situation out and then VON Moltke said and these troops, which historians later as well, it really needed those troops in the west. You shouldn't have sent him and he shouldn't have sent him, but he did
show that he said after the war was one of his biggest mistakes. He shouldn't to send it because it'll turn out there by the time the troops get from the west to the east trains, they're no longer needed. Now again you know I'm not a historian, although historians debate this and argue about it ever since. So who knows? Maybe we can all take a position on this, but looking from the sources that I have looking at VON Moltke's decision here looks like prudence. I mean the Russian taking towns in EAST Prussia, forcing the teeny german forces that are there to retreat. It looks like they're going to be threatening Berlin. Meanwhile, on the western front it looks like the force you put there to simply keep the French occupied while the killing force maneuvers around their flank may have defeated the Draw by themselves what happens when you beat the French before the killing thing even gets there.
And then someone wonders if you can spare a couple of cords for the eastern front in VON Moltke Lee even asks one of the come is one of the armies that makes up this sledgehammer swinging gate thing. You know that flanking force, that's the size, of Napoleon's Grand Army or the side of the roman empire, complete military, the tight he asks the your second army VON Bulow. Can you spare a few core for the east VON, Bulow, said yeah You know what he says: yeah in part, because he just master a french army in front of him during the battle of the frontiers, which happened to be the poor fifth army, commanded by one french general who saw sledgehammer forming even before the war started, poor general in Resnick and because he use with the high command to let him just shift his army a little bit to protect its flank. Some historians think he saved fifth army. Total annihilation he does have to retreat, though move backwards once again,
in line with the rest of the french forces that are retreating sort of all along the line. Meanwhile here come the British, This is a source of contention and legend like all this stuff. Isn't it funny how much of this early war is, but the French have been bad During the british since the beginning of the war to move faster, move faster and faster. We need someone up here on our left flank, it's critical right, the French refute Tory Ill units to which are like an old man and reservists and stuff and put them out of the flank just so that there's something out there but against what's coming, I mean it's nothing, and so they act. They heard British up in the british Russia and they run into Belgium so that they can take the position on the left, flank and protect. You know poor General LEN, Rezig's army and before they even get let's move in the other direction is backing just stay in line with the french armies. Exposing the british army's flank? Again, you can,
read. The british historians have been mad about that ever since being left in the lurch by the French, but so funny, read all these accounts, like the Irishman's account Lucy's account. Of arriving in France and how much the french love them, and these wonderful welcomes. And then you read other accounts, from later in the war where the soldiers are going at the French. Don't much like us, we don't like them, they don't like us and the dealership in the british Army didn't seem particularly pro french or vice versa. There seemed a lot of arguing between them and then some weird order, although it's totally understandable by the head of the british military right before the b goes to, France complicates everything. Lord Horatio Kitchener, the british legend, colonial wars you've never seen a guy like this. By the way. I always look at this picture, wonder what he would look like without that Vick korean air a waxed mustache thing he has going, but but he's a he's, a and tastic figure a character in his own right, but he famous
tells the british commander is going over to France, something to the effect of look this in thousand men, is nine. Percent of all we have France and Germany they've got millions of men in the field. This is our army, don't lose it, in other words, be careful the problem is he's in a war where men are into meat grinders very large numbers, the French will lose the equivalent the british expeditionary force, often in this war in a short period of time? So will the Germans The British are moving up into Belgium to have their first real con. Packed with modern war. They fought in South Africa against a bunch of blue or farmers, and guerrilla fighters got an idea of what you know the rifle fire and all that stuff could do. They haven't up against an army that can fight like they can fight and then outnumbers the many times over they.
Some into this army at a place called mom's the battle is shaping up, will be a legendary british battle, called the battle of moms and DOM it will be mythologized in a very similar way to the done affair in the Second World war. You know with that was right when Germany smashes France in nineteen. Forty British managed to evacuate their army, miraculously every ship that can float comes across in every little rowboat comes across the channel takes pretty soldiers away and the little Bay in and they can flip the Germans off across the english channel. Say ha ha missed us technically, it's a defeat right, but you sort of portrayed and spin it in a way that makes it look like a glorious victory that in biting the enemy in the rear end in the long run. There's some truth to that right. You you can work with that is the publicist say The battle of mons is very similar. One of those things it's technique
leave it matter, how you look at it a defeat, but there are heroic narratives that sort of come out of it. To me, it's like woman with a cloaking device is removed from the german flanking attack. 'cause up till now, there's been this uncertainty about, is it coming and what strength is it coming in and men are we talking about here and where exactly is it going? All these different kinds of things british run into the tip of the spear. They run into the most honored uhm of the armies that are involved in this attack, the one that has the impulse most important position, the one that the great Schlieffen famously said that these guys should brush
their sleeves against the english channel, meaning that that's how wide a flanking maneuver they should make through Belgium. They should make it so wide that they actually almost touch the last man on the right touches his sleeve into the water, not commanded by one of these great german generals, a guy named Alexander VON Kluck, and Funk Luke is one of these guys. That's like it's good, I think I said in the Second World WAR he's an aggressive general he's a. Driver he This is the initiative. He gets you off balance he keeps pushing and he moves it's all speed and deadliness when he gets to the play you don't expect him yet. His commanding three Twenty thousand men in Germany's first army right now image. Germany second army, also moving through Belgium, also part of this out flanking maneuver. Sixty thousand men under VON Bulow on House
third army below him as a hundred and eighty thousand men. This is the flanking maneuver british, run into the german army on the farthest right flank, they only run into a part of it actually about one hundred and sixty thousand men who are surprised to find the british waiting for them behind defensive positions. A long twenty five miles of a can now, which we call a defensive obstacle right. This is something that magnifies the power of the defense, because now the Germans have to cross this canal under fire and everything. Now the british and they're going to face a core of Germans, maybe two inst. They're facing four plus cores and they're doing it in this kind of an otherworldly setting again Barbara Tuchman is good for this kind of stuff, and she explains that you know. You might think that this is like the wonderful belgian farm countryside in the canal with blue water going through it, but she This is a mining town
and the water that runs through this canal is more of a sludge and it's black and it gives off chemical fumes and she says amongst the flower, gardens and vegetable gardens. Are these slag heaps that are pointed and look like tall witches hats all around the the landscape. Because it doesn't look like a bad place for a modern battle. It's gone down in history, though with one narrative and then, of course, as in everything else, you're going to get tired of me here saying this, but everything else in this, where there's a whole nother counter narrative, The original narrative is the Dunkirk one that that turns this thing into something that is so let dairy within a year or two legends popular legends will spring up that there are angels, on the british side of this battle, which you know to me. I wouldn't push that rumor, because even though it makes it look like, God might be on your side
If you got the angels on your side and you still end up having to move backwards in retreat after the battle that doesn't speak too well about the fighting power of the particular angels involved, but let's not go there. Let's talk about you know the parts we can confirm about this battle. It's a twenty five mile front that these seventy thousand guys have to hold most of it behind this canal, as we said, and it's rich, with encounters between cavalry because remember, you're, trying to use these aircraft and ends, and the Germans are better than most data to to to look at things and see things, but every time anything's, misty or foggy. They can't see anything from these things. So it's still cavalry that does this job and while you're calories out front trying to be the eyes and ears of your army, the enemy's cavalry is out front being the eyes and ears of their army and they fight. This is what you only have your reconnaissance forces get into it, and so the first If it goes on, here is the british eyes and ears and counted the german eyes and ears and there's some cavalry skirmishes and
John Lucy are are irishmen in the b talks about this is you know we run into our cavalry and there's some wounded did people, but they they. The Germans in a little Calvary engagement, but the Germans are coming, and so the the British, in his unit, all get ready, they kind of scratch them out dig would be Strong word scratch themselves out a little depression in the Oil and they wait for the Germans to arrive, and I should point out something that maybe I'm estimating here I would say between eighty five and ninety percent, of all the accounts you read from so just going off to war in nineteen fourteen, and it doesn't matter which army you choose. Most of it is overwhelmingly positive in terms of the emotion that these young men feel going off, war. Now there are some russian accounts, especially when people are pulled off a farms and don't want to go. Do this, but most The young men going off to war here are excited. It sounds like it ensure the full romance of war still in bloom to them.
This is excitement. Remember a lot of these people have pretty dreary, lives and now all of a sudden they're caught up in in world affairs that are huge momentous, biggest thing. That's ever going to happen to most of these people right and they know it and they're caught up in the excitement. They don't have a lot of negative stories yet that have filtered into the public realm. You know explaining. What's happened to the guys who came for you, because there are no guys that came before you are Irish British Expo merry for soldier. John Lucy is moving up towards malls in the period right around August. Twenty second August, twenty third and says that when he first heard the guns, it was a queer. Thrilling sort of feeling that it brought on, but it also worried him, but maybe not for the reason we would think of as an adventurous young man who finds all this you know interest.
An exciting. He had a different reason to be scared. He writes about his unit as he comes up toward the situation at mom was like this. Quote. We swap news with the nearest men in the ranks and learned that nothing exciting. It happened to the battalion in our absence, except that a line of trenches Doug as a defensive measure about a mile behind and then abandoned on the orders of a staff officer who wished the battalion to move forward toward the town of Moth now visit. Through the slag heaps of many minds on the right front of the marching regiment. This dirty looking factory town had no particular interest just then for us until suddenly, above the sound of the tread of our marching feet, we heard the booming of field guns queer thrilling in menacing sound about which there any conjectures, the most popular saying that they were french, seventy five and that they were giving the Germans hell. This notion greatly depressed we should really hurry up now. Otherwise we would miss the battle. The French would get.
All the glory while we with our capacity for deadly rifle fire and dash in the attack, would miss that crowning moment a culminating in a sweeping bayonet charge, relentless and invincible. The grain salt that would drive the enemy off the field. So we damned the fray we're not waiting for us and quote. There's that romance of war. Again, the great adventure is going to be fun. We're going to be heroes, and it's funny when he skip to the line his men take up positions and what they call need trenches, these shallow little kind of holes, not too happy to not be moving forward and doing something offensive, but but they sit down and then the first shells come by them and again they find it more interesting and they kind of have fun with it. Says quote the salvo of shells passed over our heads and burst about eighty yards in the rear, with a terrific class, in crash. We were highly interested more
Cayman, still more all going over the heads of our Yes, men appeared above the trenches. Looking back to see the bursts. Look, they shouted a black one or one only or for more whites. Some Finley, imagine themselves on duty get rifle ranges at home and shouted advice to the german gunners wash out another miss and lower sites, one wag, simulating great terror cried send for the pool There's going to be a row on here and another in mock despair, oh mother, why did I desert you? Then? The Gunners shortened and the shells exploded above our trenches and the men already taken in hand for exposing themselves crouched low. So it's getting real right, but it shows you the ad to that they had at the time they having fun with it to great adventure, and you read
pounds from every major army of this period. As I said, the Russians have a little bit more people that were sort of dragged into this kicking and screaming and country, people always more than the urban people, but twenty year olds were marching off to do this. It's hard to accounts. Where were there dreading it yet they'll be it's down the road where You know everyone has a good idea where they're going and there's a lot more of planning for your own death and worrying about that kind of stuff. Right now, John loses worrying about missing the fun he's. Not because the funds coming to him. Field Marshal Alexander VON Kluck is aiming the First Army, the tip of the spear right at him and Alexander VON Cloak, is like the german general that central casting in the tv Hollywood world would have put together scarred face. Iron cross
caring soldiers rifle and a pistol at the same time, while he's walking around fearsome some a great description of him, where a french observer during the early stages of this combat, you know right around now ends witnessing the arrival of an cloaks. Where says it reminded him of Attila the HUN and he said quote, an automobile drove up from just ended an officer of air, an impressive bearing the star, forward alone, while the officer standing in groups in front of the villa made way for him he tall and majestic with uh scarred clean shaven face hard features in a few and glance, In his right hand, he carried a soldiers rifle and his left. I, on the butt of a revolver, he turned several times striking the ground with the butt end of his rifle and then halted in a theatrical pose. No one seemed to dare to approach him, and indeed, he wore a terrible air. End quote
and, as we said earlier, he's like the Heinz Guderian of this war, he's the hard driving impetus. Everything command three hundred and twenty thousand men commander of the first army and he's going to have problems with german generals who are not as aggressive and hard driving is. He is it's his army well about half of it that will run into the british at Mance, and the traditional story is that they are for a shock because, as we said earlier, the British are rifleman, but even even this just so you know. Even this is contested in second I'll, read some stuff about the same battle from the military historian of Britain's Imperial WAR Museum, who will kind of go after every single point. That's traditional in this narrative Additionally, Alex Yvonne clicks forces in sort of. Encounter battle, stumbled to the british lines and take it on the chin and are hit by so much rifle.
Fire that is so precisely aimed and so quickly in a fire that the and supposedly think, they're under machine gun, fire John Lucy's very proud of this moment and describes what happens to Germans Daschle quote. Finally, the shelling ceased and we put up our heads to breathe more freely. Then we heard conscious, like sounds strange: bugle calls the German. Tree. Wichita approach during the shelling was in sight and about to attack us not a shot had been from our trenches up till now, and the only opposition to the Germans have been made by our field gun battery, which was heavily and behind us and making almost as much clamor is the enemy shelling to my It seems that the whole battalion must have been wiped out by that dreadful rain of shells, but apparently not an answer. He writes to the German, bugles or trumpets came the full sound of our officers whistles and the rifleman. Casting aside the amazement of their strange trial, sprang to action, eight
great roar of musketry rent, the air varying slightly in intensity from minute to minute as whole, come the ceasefire and opened again the factory sharp blasts of the directing whistles showed that our machinery of defense was working like the drill book and that the and shelling had because no disorganization the class of our machine guns added to the din for us. He writes the battle. The form of well ordered rapid, rifle fire at close range. As the field gray, human targets appeared or were struck down the enemy infantry advanced according to one of our men, in columns of masses which withered away under the galling fire of the well trained in coolly. Let Irishman the leading Germans fired standing from the hip. Let me interrupt him here now: that's John Wayne style walking toward the enemy shooting from your hip, so they're coming toward the british trench just doing that, the leading Germans, as he said, fired standing from
hip as they came on, but this fire was ineffective and ignored. They crumpled Mon down as quickly as I tell it. There forcing waves in sections coming on bravely instead steadily to fall over as they reach the front line of slain and wounded behind the f, thicker, convert columns were being blown about by our field guns. Then says our the fire was appalling even to us, and the worst marksman could not miss, as he had only to fire into the brown of the masses of the unfortunate enemy who won the fronts of two of our companies were continually and uselessly reinforced at the short range of three hundred yards, such tactics, I us and after the first shock of seeing men, slowly and helplessly falling down as they were hit gave us a great, It's power and pleasure. It was also easy. He says the german attack had to be broken off quote, The german survivors began to go back here and there from the line the attack had been an utter,
soon, all that remained was the long line of the dead he before us motionless, except for the limb movements of some of the wounded and quote as a interested in military history, this era of the conflict is the one most interesting to me because you know later in the war everybody's pretty experienced in with what you're dealing with its at this point war that everybody's learning the reality of modern warfare. At the same time, through bloody hard experience, the british expeditionary force and VON Kluge first army are both kind of a real initial taste of what the new weaponry can do and issue heard from John Lucy. Irish rifleman in the b he and his compatriots were actually Paul that how effective and deadly it was it's a whole different thing in a firing at life, people than a parade ground, But if you happen to emerge unscathed, it almost things to do in a
that idea that this is fun heroic, Romantic Lynn, Mcdonald, in her book, one thousand nine hundred and fourteen quotes a bunch of people who were there, including lieutenant Chapman who, as the British, are dealing with the battle tells going on a compatriot of his and says about the Pulsing of the german human wave attacks quote. They came at us over a bank directly in front of us and as soon as they topped it, we let them the range was: seventy yard, so we were firing at them point blank. I've never seen anything like it. Legs, arms, they were flying all over the place. We absolutely smash them. They Lee melted away, then the blight got to machine guns into action. In at that distance, we were like sitting ducks, so we had to get out of it and by Joe that was a close shave. End quote as the it's a fun story right there was a sixteen year old, trumpeter That's not unusual. Going back a very long time. Always would have boys as drummer.
Trumpeters and on ships they'll, have you know they actually have a position in in Britain's Navy called first boy, second boy, and they are their kids, but a sixteen year old british trumpeter MILES describes how he just admired what the British were doing it it. He never forgot. The your discipline of these rifleman. He says he was sitting there watching an officer countdown the range of this advancing gray human wave and getting very nervous as it got closer and closer and closer, and he was saying that the british officer, was holding the rifle fire until the Germans got really close, and he was counting down the range trumpeter Jay Naylor from the third division reports quote he was saying at four hundred at three hundred and fifty at three hundred the rifles blaze. Ill, the Germans came on, they were getting nearer and nearer and for the first time I began to feel rather anxious and frightened. They weren't determinate mass anymore. You could actually pick out details see them as individual men. Coming on
and coming on and the officer You're cool is anything was saying at two hundred and fifty at two hundred and then he said, ten rounds, rapid and the chaps opened up and the just fell down like logs. I've never seen anything like it. The discipline, the fire discipline of these troops never forgotten that I was so impressed as a boy of I was simply astounded. I thought what a marvelous army we are. The attack was completely repulsed, probably not for long, but it was long enough. To get the guns away, it's saved us end quote now: I probably have more than twenty books book sitting around me here from his talking about the same event, and it is amazing to go from his story and his story, the story and see the different ways this is viewed in printed, a perfect This is Peter hearts. Wonderful book he's a historian at
Imperial WAR, museum and he's one of those contrarians who says all this is a bunch of nonsense and let's understand quickly that it's It's normal in more time for this to happen, there's not a single power involved in the conflict that wants to talk about defeats or bad things everybody wants propaganda victories. Everybody wants stuff that helps recruiting you're looking for stuff that you can play maybe be as Peter Hart suggests. That's what this Collette MILES is, but he down a number of the typical arguments pointing out that the German handled themselves very well and in fact, if the casualty. Numbers are what he thinks they are probably deserve. A victory at the battle of mons, in fact French and the Germans both thought the British were defeated there at the time he writes quote when one looks for Army smashed into Smith. Dorian second corps at six am on the on the 23rd of August, the battle that, was to enter british military folklore. The myth is
one of the heroic, successful defense with Welcher british Tommies, mowing down hordes of Germans repeatedly attacking in mass. For finally, the British would be forced to retreat only because the fickle French had given way on their right flank this view The battle is a great yarn. He writes, but like the Jules of moms at its heart, it is the product of wishful thinking. End quote He then goes on to deal with every single reality. We've talked about in this battle, shooting down each one of them again as best he can it's controversial, but he's a fantastic historian who's qualified. To do this, I should point out, though, that this was no different. You know manufacturing of victory or playing up a victory and and to find the very real heroism on both sides. There's not only nothing wrong with that. That's pretty standard behavior for every military and everywhere you can think of. I mean, for example, he'll say quote as to this
Kan, KOR being undefeated and forced to fall back only to conform with the French on their right flank. This is pure nonsense. He says the I would be is that on many occasions the german seem to have been all too successful and forcing a retreat end quote. In other words, probably the best army in the world is operating. That way in field, and it's disconcerting if you're on the other side, for example, he says quote, it is undeniable that several of the british battalions fought well, but modern. Scholarship has revealed that the Germans maneuvered skillfully to secure a local superiority against the weak points in the british defenses wherever only operated against the flanks, forcing the to fall back or risk being caught, often totally destroyed through the Germans seem to have handled their artillery and machine guns with a great tactical dexterity, born of long practice, operating them in tandem to dominate the British in the firefight effect. Lee, rendering rifle fire of secondary importance. The british
turned out of their defensive positions in a matter of a few hours and even failed to destroy several of the canal. Bridges end quote goes on to take issue with the casualties that are often cited. One of the things the british use as claiming that this, a major victories, how many more Germans they killed versus the casualties they suffer themselves. He suggests that even the interpretation of what those casualties are are overblown. Can this really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, Every nation was doing this for me. What's most interesting is to watch these nations, and these militaries try to learn on the fly while they're being shot at and translate years. Theory into practice by the the fourth of August. The friend change their mind about this whole idea of you offensive at all costs when John first
just to say. Listen. We need to go on the defensive awhile, which is in a like heresy. Amir five, six hundred and seventy eight days before the reality the situation on the ground is change everybody's mind about you, know those tactics we thought before the war we're going to be good yeah in practice, not so good, the British whether you want to believe that they were forced to retire, because the french left in the lurch or whether you want to you know believe as a heart does that the Germans were just really quite good, at turning flanks and and and in going combined arms, as it's called to to get the British in a untenable position. Is it called it doesn't matter the British have to retire just like difference? They have to get out of there. The first army, some leader VON Kluck, writes in his memoirs the British excellently, but that if he had been allowed to sweep as widely around the flank, as he had wanted to and has, as he requested at the time that the British would have been in no position to fight at all, he would have them and smash.
I'm from the rear. Remember there will be a lot of finger pointing after the war, over whose fault all of this stuff is in a lot of the generals were still alive, will write things to defend their reputation. The one thing that you could did Lee is going on. Here, though, is that neither the british nor the French were able to stop this move through Belgium, that's coming down on them. Now all retiring at speed, and this is the part of this in early war. Narrative, that's known as the great retreat. The great retreat is, a wonderful big. Full of one of those moments where I try to get in the minds of these people. You know that's a fruitless I mean there's no reason to play with his in study history. If you don't want to try to do that, but we all have to recognize how impossible it is, but at the same time you try to yourself in their shoes. If you are
of the commanders of any of these armies and you're over about the age of fifty eight. Fifty nine, this entire, Affair is beginning to look horror familiar to you if you're on the german side wonderfully familiar to you. It looks like one thousand eight hundred and seventy one thousand eight hundred and seventy one. They looks like forty four years ago, looks like you know, when the Germans managed to surround to entire french armies and get them to surrender. Sir, French. The british commander is already making plans to get his army the other side of Paris and then starting to think about the chat is the logistical challenges of getting the army, the british Army, out of France altogether together back to the safety of Britain, he worried about a completely legitimate threat that the British could end up like two french armies ended up in the last war, completely surround by the enemy and forced to surrender. Imagine if ninety percent of Britons
military forces are on the continent and have to give up to the Germans and go into captivity. That's quite a hostage each situation, you have pretty easy to get a pretty good armistice agreement. Wouldn't you think if your home, ninety percent of the british Army hostage and French? It's confusing is that the british commander name French, but French, is not confident in the fray. Each, he hasn't been impressed. You know with his dealings with them so far and he's find a lot to his superior, who, I think we said, was the military leader in this war. Lord Ratio Kitchener, who happens to be a field, Marshall, but in fact, at this time, cabinet member, the Secretary for war, but kids. Times will feel the need to discard his bowler hat in his suit and tie and throw on his field. Marshal's uniform jump on destroyer, go across the english channel and give frank. Little piece of his mind bolster his confidence a little bit. But French has a legitimate worry. This
great retreat, that's going on is an extremely precarious moment, because, and organized retirement can easily turn into a disorganized panic route, and everyone knows that in fact only Couple of days after the battle of mons, british forces will be were to turn around and beat off. German attack against them, which is wild when you consider that the German, they're trying to catch people that move away from them at the same maximum speed if you're military history not like. I am the one thing that's interesting to follow at this point. In the war, something that that is very unusual in military history, because if you were going to take a class on military history. This is the point in the war where they would tell you if you were the Germans, that just send out your mobile units now and destroy the enemy. Try. You have cavalry right now you go talk to, Genghis Khan or any medieval or ancient general history they're going to tell you go get him.
Cavalry after them, harass them just organize them, never give him a moment's peace cut off stragglers mean if you look at where people die in pre modern warfare, but even modern warfare they die in the pursuit. The job of the battle is to get the other side to turn and run, and when they turn and run, you crush we look at the iraqi highway of death right so many Iraqis died fleeing what were they doing? They were fleeing throughout most of human history, casual demon Alexander the great supposedly only suffered less than a thousand casualties in his entire career. Although I don't know if I believe that, but that's that's what little historian and the reason those numbers are so low is 'cause. Comparatively few people hide in the battles they died while being pursued after the battle and since Alexander never lost a battle. His troops never had to face that this is the when the german cavalry should be unleashed and finish the job the problem is,
We had this tiny little window in military history with the I will resist so vulnerable that disorganized which the French and the British aren't by the way, but even retreating forces can turn around four Firing line really quickly and destroy the pursuing cavalry. Add a few our answers in there and it will be carnage now in the next war, mechanized forces armor and craft will recreate the ability to do what Light Cavalry did before this period. But in this we your little interim era, the cavalry can't you and destroy forces like this, so the Germans have to This same job with infantry, the problem is the german infantry. Maximum speed is the speed of a marching man, which is the thanks same speed of the people they're trying to catch. And yet nevertheless, and even though the Germans have marched along way already, they get darn near to catching them several times. In fact, on the 26th of August, the British
turn around and try to get a little breathing space from these. The pursuers by you know fighting them again. Can we get him to slow down cause them to form up and have to reorganize again and get a little distance between us and them? On twenty sixth of August, the British, including our friend John Lucy, from the b e F fight another battle with the Germans. This time in about eleven hours, the British suffer eight thousand casualties. Not eight thousand casualties in the war. That's about to happen isn't going to seem like that. Much in my goodness, the French two hundred and sixty thousand wounded in the last few days, but British army, which is historically small, as we said this- is a naval powers army. That's a lot! In fact, when you General Sir Archibald Murray who's with the general staff behind the lines is informed of the eight thousand casualties a couple hours later. He collapses just painting, Kalau
and what this shows you mean these hard bitten military men, but it shows you the stress in the tension that these people are under and you add to that. The fog war. No one knows what's going on and it's happening so quickly. There's a huge amount of stress. A german general shoots himself on August 20th I mean all I mean this is the real supreme test. It separates the men from the boys, as the old saying goes,. This is the moment of greatest danger. Winston Churchill, who is a high official with the Navy right about this period in this retirement. This great retreat and says quote, then: name the days of retreat. We saw the french armies of the right were holding their own, but the center and left was aging southward toward Paris as fast as possible, while our own divisions, were for several days. Plainly in the very jaws of destruction. He says at the admiralty we received requests to
if the base of the whole army from offer to send those ear, and with this comp did business. We had to cope the process of retreat. Can you, day after day they see irresistible compulsion was pressing and forcing back chords, the brave armies of France. Why should it stop Would they ever be able to turn if France could save herself, nothing could save her and quote. The Germans are coming toward Paris and the allied soon to be officially allied armies are moving back in that direction. Here's the thing, though, remember the war plan, you know a french military leaders offer has not forgotten the plan, even if the german get within sight of Paris, they're going lose the war, if at the same time that happen the Russians from the east are marching through the streets of the german capital in Berlin, offer and the whole allied higher command realizes that they're on the way.
War can still be one even with allied forces in the west, retreating they just to prolong this conflict long enough to let the russian smash the Germans in the east in the war will be over no matter how well the Germans in the western doing enter. Hindenburg and ludendorff arrive. Even as all this is going on by train in the east take command of that one lone german army. That's got to hold off the russian steamroller as it approaches. Now the Russians biggest victory at this point is the back there's an army there to fight. At all. Remember the entire german pre war plans soon to certain speed. For everyone's mobilization and the Russians are the slow ones
and here they are. You know in two weeks and they're already taking towns in EAST Prussia. Ease pressure by the way is this area that was conquered in the fourteenth fifteenth century by the famous teutonic knights, which included a a large proportion of germanic nobility, who eventually will settle down in those areas- and so this is where some of the historic german nobility you Know- has their biggest state the Kaiser himself. You know this is this is historic german territory with an abnormal number of the aristocracy there, it's important Arian in it's Way to berlin- and it's not far from Berlin. And the Russians manage within like two weeks war start forget the six weeks that guys, like If an account on within two weeks, they've got half a million men operating in that area and they've got even more down south against the Austro Hungarians and and it's one of
as things where I mean there's an author, there's a professor name, Sean Mcmeekin, who's written a whole book, called the russian origins of the first World WAR, where is the Russians are the ones who should bear the entire lion share of the guilt for starting this war. They wanted it they plan for it and part of the reason that they surprised everybody with their quick. Mobilization is because they were ready for this war. They wanted it and they put it to list their army in Poland, which is right next to EAST Prussia, ahead of time, that when the war starts when they have to mobilize people they're not coming from all over Russia, there's a ton of them right there and good units to it doesn't make any difference. The Russians are a mess, an absolute chaotic disaster, And you know, if you look at russian history, soviet history too, I mean to just consider that up a piece of russian history that's so traditional, it's crazy In the Russians always start these wars, as disasters mean second world war. They can hard
The deal with the fan in Finland, which is crazy when you think about the disparity in everything, from resources to size of the numbers of troops, everything they can hardly d with the fans in in the very the part of the Second World WAR, but six years after the Second World WAR starts their fielding one of the greatest armies in human history, very typical for the Russians a long time to get started, but they can be extremely formidable once they get going. Hindenburg and ludendorff aren't going to let him get going. When Hindenburg and Ludendorff arrive in the east these guys are probably a little would you call jet lagged, in Lag Deming Hindenburg is sixty six or something and just out of retirement a couple of days. Ludin has been on the western front since about the start of the war, Remember he banging door of Lee Asian the surrender there, a couple of days no he's helping you to,
land Resnick's army, back on the western front, and now he is in the east, trying to get acclimated to what's going on, there's a lieutenant colonel, which is a pretty low rank for a guy to make the history books like MAX Hoffman, did on the scene, though who's an expert on the russian Army and, of course, has been there the whole time so quickly Phil's Ludendorff and Hindenburg in on the situation, which is this a half million Russians nearby and about seventy five thousand Germans to deal with them. The Russians are in the two armies, the first and the second army they're, making their way across a really difficult piece of terrain it's a series of lakes and forests and marshes and rivers that just going to make these two armies have a hard time helping each other out. You know, while they're on opposite sides of this big terrain, feature your hotels, Hindenburg and Ludendorff, that they have a pretty good idea
What the Russians are trying to do, because the Russians have been casting radio messages and telegraph messages to each other without using code. They also find a russian officers body after they kill him, and it has the plans on it. In fact, there's so much information. That's giving the russian plans to the Germans that this to wonder whether or not it's just a ruse. Maybe the Russians are trying to trap us and they're just broadcasting all this to the fullest, because it's so obvious I mean who would make these kind of mistakes? Well, it's not the greatest time in russian military history. I wrote down a list of twelve, takes that were made or or areas that the Russians were having terrible problems and it's not only understandable because of the russian tradition of starting wars, a little chaotically and disorganized, but also because not even the really best armies are trying to figure out
how to deal with all this new technology in a hundred years of theory, turning into fact the british and the french- and Germans are all dealing with this on the western front. So it's under Well, that an army that some, really not up to those standards is dealing with it. All too, in fact, even the the numbers on paper say: there's half a million Russians here, they've been leave. Guns and soldiers all along the way to get here and there actual ranked when they get the combats going to be a lot less than it looks like the logistic, since supply six, These disasters, the troops in some cases, are eating. They have rags instead of shoes on their feet. Some don't have rifles. The two commanders, a guy named renting, renting, full command. The first army Second armies, a guy named Samson. They hate each other, which is going to be a problem because the plans that the Germans have become aware of through all these different methods.
Say that the Russians are going to try a pincer movement on them. There's only one german army in the region, so this first, You will come from the north. The second army will come from the south, surround this german army and destroy it. But if the commanders hate each other and the communications is awful. And they have to pass this terrain feature for fifty or sixty miles that will keep them from working together. This pincer movement going to be tough. German reconnaissance is so Much better, I mean the Russians aren't even using aircraft. The Germans have air airplanes zeppelins up there watching? What's going on. The Germans have vantage with railroads because railroads help armies move fast. Obviously, but the problem is: is that attack king armies, once they leave their railroads all never get the ability to use the railroads in the territory they're going through, whereas defenders in their own territory. Can this is one of those things that makes the defensive more powerful than the off
in this war, the Germans are able to use railroads to re in points where they need to be. The Russians are past their railroads now they're walking, finally The Germans know this country. They know to, and they know the geography. This is an area where sometimes the german army conducts peacetime maneuvers, so they set a trap for the Russians and it's very napoleonic strategy. Indeed, they're going to act. These armies these armies are separated by this terrain and unable to help each other and smash them into usually they're, going to nullify that disadvantage in numbers and the russian you know make this a lot easier because they don't know what's going on. They literally are clueless as to what they're facing and the high command isn't helping the situation they're telling General Samson off at the second army. Listen now we don't any german forces. We don't expect an attack. I mean Simpson,
Taking his time blind to what's going on around him. Where's? The Germans are moving very fast and seizing areas to the flank and taking up tions and setting a trap. This is Michael Nyberg and David Jordan. You know pick the narrative about springing the trap on the russian Second Army: right, quote, nervous and tense hours, followed as the rest of the trap, was sprung by the morning hours of the 28th of August, the Germans had control of almost all the main roads leading to Samsonov's forces, combat began in the north when a russian core advancing without support raining german corps, the Germans. Fully aware of the russian presence and we're lying in wait for them smashed the Russians and sent them reeling back in panic, surprised at an anticipated presence of german forces in the area, Sampson ordered a general withdrawal that night the full severity. The situation came slowly to him as he, Was that he was completely cut off his men to
The panic down weapons and running east as fast as they could only to end up trapped by strong german forces already sitting on their lines of retreat. Confusion, and it rained in the russian lines without supplies, Without communications, panic spread quickly run Tom's forces were more than seventy miles away and what obviously provide any help at all. On the twenty ninth August Sampson. Himself gave into the panic he told a staff officer. This is our trusted me. How can I chase after such a disaster then headed off into the woods where he committed suicide rather than face captured by the Germans. He was one of the lucky ones: Sampson, most powerful army of one hundred and fifty thousand men had suffered one of the most lopsided defeats in military history, more than eight thousand, Russians were killed and almost three thousand entered prisoner of war camps where they faced a dismal future of forced, labor and appallingly bad conditions. The Germans needed sixty trains
the of the russian equipment they captured german casualties, were less than twenty thousand end quote. The Germans had this fantasy of May emulating the famous battle of Kenny Hannibal's victory total encirclement over the Romans in the ancient world, but instead they got that in the east and after defeating Sampson off second army, those troops that have been taken? Maybe a great lost very soon from the Western arrived not in I'm for the initial bottle, just as Ludendorff Door told mold get earlier, but time to take on the first army run income, for which the germ then smash with similar nasty casualty numbers now. Reading comp will do a better job of pulling his for Is back in saving his army from total destruction? He won't get totally surrounded like the battle of Cannae, but it doesn't the results are the same, all of a sudden in shocking fashion, the german
have removed the threat of the Russians coming in and taking Berlin before the Germans can take Paris. All of a sudden. The whole strategy that the french and British were delaying an operating under the assumption of if we can just hold on a little longer the Russians all you'll, see all this war problem for us all of a sudden, the French and the British are going to have to manage to be victorious on the western front if they want to save themselves that helps not coming from the east in the west. The great retreat continues. Are you begin to see what the level of human suffering is going to be in this conflict, and I have to keep reminding self about this you know the old Joseph Stalin line is so true. One death is a tragedy, a million deaths posted to and these numbers that we will constantly throw out in this country which are enormous numbers. They fail to
just sure after awhile you become numb, take what last several days on the western front have done to France, as we said, twenty five thousand dead more than two hundred one thousand wounded in a couple of is how would our modern medical establishment deal with a crisis like that? You forget what it's like on the ground. That's why you need these reports that come from people who were there in one of the most famous books ever written about the war? It's called now, it can be told a british reporter, named Philip Gibbs, went over to the continent right when this whole conflict breaks out and he reported from it. You know during the great retreat now what he reported that made it into the media is not what you put in the book, because what he put in the book he can't he couldn't tell during the war. This is the kind of nasty stuff that none of the governments would allow to be published because it was too raw and to reveal that's. Why gives named his book now? It can be told because after the war, he wrote it and he just
the conditions during the great retreat and the human suffering, and he reminds us- you know what it to have that level of death industry injuries and will the injuries were talking about. Remember this is like having what five eight foot all stadiums worth of people in a few days injured and we're not talking about hangnails and sprained ankles. Here in August, one thousand, nine hundred and fourteen for publication later quote through am yeah at night, hey come a french army in retreat. There were, ed and wounded on their wagons, where, stumbled as they let their tired horses. Crowds of people with white faces like ghosts in the darkness, stared at their men. Retreating like this through their city, and knew that the enemy was close behind Some bed whispered a woman and gave a wailing cry. People
fighting their way into railroad trucks. At every station for hundreds of miles across northern France, women beseeching a place for the sake of their babies. There was no food, come journeys of nineteen hours or more. They fainted from heat and hung an old woman died in her corpse blocked up the laboratory at night. They slept on the pave in cities invaded by fugitives her in Belgium and at Dunkirk. On the coast of France, columns of ambulances, bringing in an endless tide of wounded. They were laid out stretcher by stretcher in station yards five hundred at a time. Some our faces, were masks of clotted blood, some the bodies were horribly torn they breathed with a hard snuffle. A foul smell came from that shall red. They were swilling over the station hall, with disinfecting fluid after getting with one day's wounded, the French doctor in charge and received a telegram from the director of medical services. Make ready for three thousand wounded. It was during the first
all of the Marne. It is impossible, said: a french doctor. Four hundred thousand people were in flight, for man toward into which big shells were falling. As English Respondents flatten themselves against the walls and said God in Heaven. Two hundred and fifty thousand people coming across the shelter in rowing boats, sailing crafts and ran US invaded one village in HOLLAND. They had no food children were mad with fright. Young mothers had no milk in their breasts. It was cold at night and there were only a few canal. Boats and fisherman's cottages and in them were crowds of fugitives. The odor of human filth exuded from them, as I smell it now, and it sickens me in remembrance. End quote. This is a human tragedy of monumental proportions, and I have to keep telling myself it's just getting started the French of lost in a couple of days,
what the United States more than the United States, lost in terms of killed and wounded in the ten year involvement they had in the Vietnam WAR. In a few days that right there should put the lie to the idea that the French are somehow to quote you know one american surrender monkeys there surrendering their standing and dying on french soil OM. You know, for the sake of just buying our comrades, a little extra time. Is showing not only that the French can take a punch, which I think everyone at this time period was fully aware of but that modern nation states can it's a mixed blessing now in the same way that boxers say that a clean early, knockout is more merciful than a long punishing fight there. Dorian to say. Maybe it would have been better for European culture civilization standards they golden age. If you will the Germans, who just won this war quickly, you would had sort of a changing of the guard of the great
hours the Germans moving into a more prominent position, there, a new country only about forty four forty five years, five years, Stinson they've been moving up. The in a power chart ever with a bullet, as they say in radio, but it works here too. Maybe this just seems like a natural progression of things and if you save all the casualties that we know are coming in a multi year, long carnage fast, which we'll get to later. And maybe save countries from communism and Nazism, maybe the Second World WAR in cold war. After that I mean the dominoes that fall. If you talk about this war may be ending here. While you can play that game forever, can't you you, can see knowing how bad it's going to get and how bad it already is. Why some historians have wondered how anything and it wouldn't be better than what they're going to experience if you are french, you may say to yourself, we would never have wanted to live under the german boot in a victory,
is all important yeah. But what, if you could have all those Frenchman who die in the rest of the story back or if you can avoid the Second World WAR I mean, when does it become worth it same thing to the Germans? I mean you look back and say what, if we could have those people, but what if we could have that wealth back now. What? If we could have that time you where we were in one thousand nine hundred back? That's called crying over historical, spilled milk, but it doesn't prevent historians from doing all the time, and it has even less of a inhibition on people like yours, truly who are historians at all. The question of what decision should have happened is obviously historically moot point. The question of, what's going to happen, is about to be determined now and one of the things that sort of makes this battle, what it is that shaping up if battles, even the right word for it everybody kind of knows. It's coming.
It's either coming or the war's over basic the Germans are moving forward. Almost the entire line and the I'm pretty sure, moving backwards across almost the entire line and at some point they've got to turn around they've got to make a stand, they've got a punch, the Germans in the nose or there's nothing, that's going to stop them, and the problem is: is that everybody's? At the end of their rope? Everybody has been March, fighting for days. These units that weren't missing a buckle you parades across Belgium, as the Germans started, this war missing a heck of a lot more than that, as are the other allied armies. This is why it's so important if you can actually get fresh troops into the combat who don't look the way you know, for example, these soldiers that have been in contact now for almost two weeks. Look at one point during inspections shop is riding around and he runs into some french soldiers and Barbara Tuchman describes the experience quote the same day, August 30th shop visited the front of the third and fourth armies to look.
Forces he could assign to Foss another french general stockman continues on the road he passed. The retreating columns would fought in the Ardennes and on the heights of the Muse Red Trousers had faded to the color of pale brick boats were ragged and torn shoes, caked with mud, eyes. Cavernous aces dulled by exhaustion and dark with many days growth of beard. Twenty days campaigning seem to have aged the soldiers as many years, they walked heavily as, if ready to drop at every step emaciated as with bones sticking out and with bleeding harness sores, sometimes dropped in the shafts were hurriedly harnessed by the artillerymen and dragged off to the side of the road so as not to obstruct the way guns. Told and blistered, with barely a few patches of their once knew gray paint showing through the mud and dirt end quote our irish friend from D, F, John Lucy entitles a whole chapter of his book, sleep marching and he talks about how they were
We just stop at the side of the road and not care if the germ we're going to capture them, they wouldn't move for anything, everybody was exhausted and you know we talked about how the russian supply in sticks and all that was falling apart, because they weren't one of the best armies out here, trying to cope with the new modern realities. Well, the german probably are the best army trying to cope with the new modern realities and their logistics aren't keeping up either? I mean perfect example: the number of shells that they're using in the number of bullets they're using, is so far greater than anything. Anyone have predicted that they're running out The rationing some generals are, are limited to a few shells a day for their gun. It makes it very difficult to fight the kind of battles that you know on. Paper, the German, Pre WAR planned at sort of depended on
is where the operational plans designed before the war, whether you want to call in the Schlieffen plan at the Schlieffen Moltke Plant or just whatever it was, the german generals thought they were going to do, doesn't ever take into account enough the human element in the variables it's wonderfully planned and T crossed and I's dotted, but there are things you just can't know. You can't know how tired people are going to get, how quick you can't know how many times they can fight battles before they can't fight anymore, and you can't predict when they were going to be things like holdups in food and supplies. The Schlieffen Multi Plan or whatever you want to call. It is falling apart due to the human variables the number one human variable is: click and VON Bulow first and second, army troops cannot march fifteen or twenty. As a day every single day, while fighting battle
and getting far ahead of their supplies and not eating. I mean they're, just they're, worn down by the time they reach this stage in the war. These vaunted you know to. Of the spear or war. Down to a dullness. In fact, they're almost down to fifty percent strength, what's more, remember they've had units pulled from them for over the last several weeks, Multi took some and put him down south and gave him to Prince Rupert. He sent a couple to the east, help against the Russians just You kind of want some nice fresh troops to throw into this thing. They aren't there. The true, you do have, though, are very excited about the specter ending this war and capturing Paris, a member of one click staff talks about how getting nearby Paris has re, Zhai's, exhausted men quote Our soldiers are worn out for four days. They've been marching. Forty kilometers a day. The ground is difficult, roads are torn up trees, felled the feel
He by shells like strainers the soldiers, stagger every step. Their faces are plastered with dust. Their uniforms are in rags, one might all the living rag bags they march with closed eyes and sing the chorus to keep from falling asleep as they march. The certainty of very close at hand and of their triumphal entry into Paris, sustains them and whips up their enthusiasm. Without the certainty of victory, they would fall exhausted. They would lie down where they are to sleep at like no matter where no matter how and to give their bodies drunkenness like that of their souls they drink enormously, this drunkenness also helps to keep them up today. After an inspection, the was furiously, was furiously angry. He wanted to put to this to this collective debauch persuaded him not to give severe orders. It is better not to be too Otherwise. The army could not go on at all for this
abnormal weariness abnormal stimulants are needed in Paris? We shall remedy all this end quote. Indeed, when they saw signs saying that Paris was two thousand and twenty two three miles in the distance. It was as though they've been given b12 shot. One german officer on September third wrote quote One of our battalions was marching wearily forward all at once, while passing a cross road. They discovered a sign post on which they read Paris. Thirty seven kilometers. It was the first sign. Posted that not been erased on seeing it The battalion was as though shaken up by an electric current, the word Paris, which they've just read, drives them crazy, some of them embrace the wretched signpost others dance around it cries. Sales of enthusiasm accompany these mad actions, this sign Is there evidence that we are near Paris that, without We shall soon really be there. There's
Borders had a miraculous effect faces. Light up weariness seems to disappear The march is resumed. Alert cadence in spite of abominable ground in the forest. Songs burst forth, louder. End quote one, can only imagine the disappointment. Those soldiers must have felt and probably a little bit of bewilderment when on August 31st, they changed course and instead of heading toward Paris, they make a sort of a left hand turn so that they're going to March by Paris and they going to see it on there right and supposedly, according to the accounts, some Avanc look soldiers were able to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Imagine the confusion and disappointment, and there must have been some bewilderment like what are we doing? There's Paris were right. There believe me, the government in Paris realizes it on September. Second, they flee. They had to Bordeaux, which is as far away as you can get
the Germans are without know not being in France anymore. It's on the Atlantic Coast, basically the bay hey, so they leave a lot of refugees leave these soldiers who think okay, the city's basically wide open for us and we're heading in a different direction. This turn by these soldiers in a different direction will create. One questions and a million opportunities, and it will make this story almost impossible to understand, if you're, even able to follow it. To this point, the battle the is shaping up here is the most complicated I've ever encountered. It takes forever to really try to understand this, and then once you think, you've got it. You can't figure. Explain it to anyone. It doesn't even really meet the definition. Battle at all, but let's understand why it's possible
Remember we've been comparing this little conflict here to a heavyweight fight, and you know they often have three knockdown rules, which means you know if you're not down three times in any one round, the fights over The french at this point been knocked down twice in the first round. There's no NG, seemingly to keep it from happening again, except. Giant of a man comes into his own now. You know. The first world wars, version of the second world, wars, Churchill, but for France Joseph Shop- and this is where he makes his name. This is his moment in history. This is his destiny right here. You know, as Churchill had said, I felt like I had lived my whole life just for this. Moment is exactly what friends needs now and what they missed in nineteen forty. This is when he takes charge and perform miracles. Calls in as one of his generals later said. I don't know what we would have done without him as
said earlier, it's possible there only in this situation because of poor decisions by the guy. Your during the blind. Playing side of this thing but now, when everyone is panicking and the government is moving as far away as they can and the commander on the scene is pretty sure the war's already over and is worried about how he gets his army out of here. Kaiser slapping everybody on the back and his Churchill says in a Haram mood, mean everything looks really good for the Germans at this point and the French could ease We lose hard here, except job offers, taking charge and starts by firing. Generals that aren't within about a week ten days he fires, one hundred and forty of them, two of Five army commanders nine corps commanders, thirty eight of eighty two divisional generals and he's replacing them with much much better people
then said in a lot of these guys were great professors and they taught at the academy well, in other words, good peacetime generals he's replacing them. People who've already demonstrated in this short period of time that they can get the job done. Their fight in general. Their names are famous there focht there, but on their galleani and they're, going to help him I'm going to turn the tide here as soon as they get some troops to work with, and that's what Josh does next. He gets involved in figuring out ways to get troops to the crucial points in the battle. Changes his strategy right after the battle of the frontiers. You know to have all this, of operations. He has people sit down the whole off the Germans on the defensive, while
figures out a way to get enough troops to the important place to make things happen and during all of this, the guy is absolutely freakishly com, which is exactly what France needs at this time. Remember we said the art of general he's kind of bringing what qualities you bring to the table to bear at the right time and, of course, there's a little luck involved in that too. But this is your first time and while all the panic was going on, as Gj Meyer says, Shaffer was in Turnbull ball quote, but in the midst of it all Jaffer remain impassive maddeningly silent home No matter how alarming the situation, how terrible the emergency the tall and what Generalissimo never seemed disturbed. He became famous the care he always took to have a good lunch, followed by a nap in the day, with a good dinner and always get a full
sleep in bed at nine back to work at five. Even things seem to be at their worst Meyer rights he made staff understand that under no circumstances was his rest to be disturbed between Ile Times and bad times. He was steadily on the move using a big tour a car driven by a grand Prix racing champion to make repeated visits to his generals, especially those on the left, meaning the left flank the who was able to keep himself in touch with events and observe his subordinates in action. End quote and fire a lot of them, obviously, but what this is doing is steadily creating, better leadership in key positions, learning from mistakes and taking real time, knowledge, not theory and applying it and taking men who could inspire troops in hopeless situations. Of course, shop for doesn't command all the generals in this war. On his side, he's fighting a coalition
and there's a british army that makes up a part of his battle line that is hesitant about involving itself in anything involving combat. At the moment, Sir John French, the ironically named leader of the british expeditionary force, doesn't trust French. He thinks he's already had his flank exposed once and then put in great danger. He doesn't see any evidence that the French can be trusted to win this war. I mean the Germans, a basically thrown the schlieffen plan. If there ever was one out the window here tact along the entire franco german border, which is that area that is so well protected by french forts, that the Germans thought it worth violating. Belgium's neutrality and bringing the British into the war just so they
avoid that area and those sports. Well now you know three weeks into the war they're attacking along that entire front and if they break through, they will completely surround the french and destroy their armies. The problem is: is that. Sports were originally avoided for a reason, they're formidable and all of but the french troops in that area are doing a pretty decent job. On the did, they're still losing lots of people, but all of a sudden they get a chance to find out that this war that we're going to call, first World WAR is the one where the defense the temporary dominance over the offense in the French in the battle only days ago, we're doing bayonet charges in advancing in close order and all those things you're not supposed to do standing up during the shrapnel attacks. Now they get a chance to be the ones behind the machine guns and behind field guns firing behind them in
Germans advancing in the open, while the french gunners dig themselves little holes that are almost deep enough to be called trenches already and see what the power of defense means. You know for them. The Good NEWS. Is they don't get overrun by Germans? The bad news is, it looks like they can spare a few troops, which is what offers doing now. This is where the real miracle comes in. The guy can scrounge troops from everywhere he pulled I'm off for the line in all these battles near the french fortress line with the French need every man they've gotten Jaffer's taking people anyway. He needs them elsewhere. More he's taking newly returned wounded back he's got in a colonial it's coming on boats, she's taking people from the far West of France and he's he's using the rail system to get them to an important concentration points fast he creates a new army. He calls the sixth and he puts it over by the the of the british expeditionary force, he creates another one called the night. He puts it over as a reserve kind of by Paris. He
want to have an army in Paris, which is a great fortress actually, but the government of France makes him have one, so they put shoppers, old commander, Galleani arm in charge of it and put him Paris, and basically everyone thinks he just going to stay there, and you know man, the walls with his man. That's the plan anyway, theoretically and day Today, more french trains are arriving in, more troops are e training and moving over to the front over by Paris facing into the projected and that this sledgehammer is going to fall and remember they're losing troops everyday there they're down to half their original strength and here's Shaffer. Every day, bringing in more french troops to face it all of a sudden. The numerical advantage begins to diminish and then on August 31st aircraft. Yes,
again, starting to make an impact. Already in this early 20th century war, aircraft notice that the Germans have changed direction. The same thing. We told you that those troops must have been bewildered by all of a sudden they're, not heading toward Paris anymore. What's going on and more importantly, when they change direction, they present their flanks to the in a newly created forces, especially the one in Paris, there's a chance for a counterattack a chance to turn around entire great retreat and attack Jofre needs to convince Sir John French of the Bef that now is the time the opportunities there we need you and he gives one of these great speeches. This is the way he record himself and remember, Sir John French doesn't speak. French and Joffrey doesn't speak English. And the translator is
british general, a guy named Wilson, who's much diplomatic and likes the French much more than Sir John French Dozen. So there's some fun moments there too. Here's what job offers own account of his encounter with French, to try to convince him that now the time to strike. This was our opportunity. It's the last chance all the cards are on. Table shows that there was another side to this man. He wasn't just the impenetrable obelisk, where you couldn't figure out what that placid look on his face meant sometimes he could be positively churchillian, and this was one of them. He told French a suspicious and pessimistic french quote, I put my whole soul into the effort to convince the field marshal. I told the decisive moment had arrived and that we must not let it escape. We must go to battle with every man both of us had and free from all reservations, so far The french army is concerned, I continued my orders are
and whatever may happen. I intend to throw my last company into the balance to win a victory and save France it is in her name that I come to ask you for british assistance and I with all my power I have in me. I cannot believe that the british Army Refused to do its share in this supreme crisis. History would severely judge your absence. Then, as I finish carried away by my convictions in the gravity of the moment, I remember in down my fist on a table which stood at my elbow and trying miss you in a Marshall. The honor of England is at stake. Up to this point, French had listened in perturbed the to the officer who was translating what I'd said, but now his face suddenly red there ensued a long, impressive silence and then with Emotion, he murmured. I will do all I possibly can not under. In English. I asked Wilson, what's your John had said he merely applied the field says. Yes, I had distinctly felt the emotion which seemed to grip
british commander. In chief. Above all, I had remarked that one of his voice, and I felt, as did All the witnesses to the scene that these words, were equivalent to an agreement signed and sworn to t which was already prepared, was then served. End quote Barbara Tuchman, of course. Relates it a little bit more dramatically. She says that it, here well done in Sir John French's. I ended it. Hold down his cheek before he said. I don't know how to tell him just tell him will do everything we can it's one of those critical dramatic moments. In history, when you want that, you want the guy who would have been the real best first host of hardcore history, I think if it weren't Hg Wells would have to be Churchill winded and in his account of the first World WAR, which you know is full of chilean bias all all the things that you normally get with him, but what's fun about a dish is no one explains it like he does even with the biases, and he was there. Churchill's histories are
always a combination of romance history and, if he's in them, In a personal memoir to I love the way he sort of explains how many things had to right all along. You know the war for this opportunity to be presented to the general in Paris who sees func, looks first army turn their flank to him. Here's how Churchill puts it quote assuredly no human brain had conceived the design nor had human hands set the pieces on the board several separate and weapon series of events had flowed together. First, the man Galliani is on the spot fixed in his fortress. He could not move toward the back so the mighty battle has been made to come to him. Second, the weapon has, placed in his hands the army of memory. It was given him
on purpose, the defense of Paris. He will use it for another. A decisive maneuver in the field given him against the wishes of. It will prove the means Jean for salvation third, the opportunity cloak swinging. In hot pursuit of, as he believed the row british and demoralized French will present his whole right flank and rear, as he passes, Paris to Galliani and mind in his hand, observe not one of those factors would have counted without the other. Two all are interdependent all are here and all are here now. Galliani realized realize the position in a flash. I dare not believe it, he exclaimed. It is too good to be true, but it is true search alrights confirmation arrives hour by hour. He vibrates with enthusiasm. End quote: this is what sets up the famous battle of the Marne, the most complicated battle you'll ever find the battle of the
It is so hard to understand for a couple of reasons. The first one is just like the battle of the frontiers that just recently happened. These world war. One battles are modern in scale and scope. They are so much larger, an so much longer than battles in the past. Were I mean one hundred years ago, Napoleon is being defeated at Waterloo, a giant battle involving three global powers, and you could draw from one end to the battlefield, to the other. In no time. You could see one side from the other with those little telescopes that they would just put to there. I the battle started in the morning and was over at the end of the day I mean that's a hundred years ago now the battles last for well, this one will last for actually a week, but really last longer than that, the field is at least a hundred miles long, depending on who, you believe or entire front. You know, according other historians, you could legitimately have fought at the battle of the Marne and not know
Turn to a buddy that fought there with you say now where we at the Marne was. It was our fighting officially part of that or not because really to catch all term. For all, fighting that is going on when really. The Marin is all about happens, which is that the great retreat ends the french and british armies turn around and launch into contact again now to be fair? There are there parts front that have never not been in contact in the south. They've been getting pretty much since minute. One and it's never stop, that's why he told him that they were in the battle of the Marne They might not even understand it because they've never not been fighting. Historians like area. Burroughs suggests that the battle of the Marne is everything that was fought in this area from the center of France up you it. This way quote what has come to be known as the battle of the Marne should really be thought of. As the battle of France for all together,
allied and forty three and a half german divisions engaged one another in a titanic struggle along a line stretching from Paris to the eastern frontier. End quote. In a sense, what really happened is the opportunity. It was presented by an open flank, as we said VON cloak. First army turns shows his flank to Paris Paris now has an army that can hit him in blank in here we're going to have a bottle, but that just becomes the opportunity that everybody was waiting for before they turn these armies around anyway. This had to happen at some point. This is Frances last throw everybody knows that has to occur. The problem is, is that the commanders who are actually with the troops? Not these guys at the general headquarters in the highest, officers. The ones who are marching with the actual soldiers are appalled that this is being considered, with the exception of a couple notable
Commanders mean one commander. One general supposedly looks like he'd been hit in the head with a club when somebody said They were going over to the attack. His troops have been retreating days and days and days at an amazing pace there closer in rags their way it's hardly fire. Their shoes are falling off their feet. They can't stand cuz they're, so sleepy, and then you get the word that you're going to attack, but several of these french generals that Jennifer has put in commander tough hardcore fighting generals Mean Ferdinand Foch, that is right. You know during this encounter attack. Whatever happens, the Germans are at the extreme limit of their efforts. Victory will come to the side that out last the other end quote the French, You know who takes over from Glenn Resnick at the fifth army when Jeff, fires, him famously comes to the
on like one second after he takes command hears from a commander on the scene. That says it's impossible. His troops are falling down, tired, they can't march- and he says, March or die a job for a choose. His famous no just to the armies, when he tells them that Great attack is beginning, and it's a class stand or die exhortation? This is from leaving it all on the table shop for announces. The turn around in the attack real the the recommencement of contact along the entire battle line and we've seen how deadly on day, to day basis contact with the enemy in 20th century warfare. Is he announces it thusly quote we are about to engage in a battle on which the fate of our country depends, and it is and to remind all ranks that the moment has passed for looking to the rear. All our efforts, be directed to attacking and driving back the enemy troops that can advance
No farther must, at any price under the ground, leave conquered and die on the spot, rather than give way under the stances which face us know. Active weakness can be tolerated. End quote when the g in charge of Paris Gallieni, and I think I pronounced his name differently every time. I've said it but Galleani Fame lily is asked by the general of sixth army what they plans are, if you know what it's over running the enemy overruns, where we going to go and go, and he looks at him just says: no, where this is it. Imperial WAR Museum oral historian, Peter Hart, describes the crock of the battle of the Marne about as well as anyone can in a short space of words, he says what followed was a complex battle that defies easy explanation.
Time, the german right wing was actually outnumbered by the french divisions. Rushing up from the south, as the german First army tried to turn to face the assault from the French sixth army, along the line of the river orc, a huge chasm of some thirty miles opened up between Vanc. Look. The second army on his left flank. Amidst the chaos, the men the Bef having due to about turned found themselves, advancing alongside the french Fifth army, into the gap between the first and second armies. There was no great battle, huge drama, but the a between their armies threatened utter disaster for the Germans and on the ninth of September. VON Moltke, ordered his right wing to retreat end quote now: Peter Hearts, a great reputable, modern historian and that's about as as wonderful a passage there as you could ever hope to get from one of those folks but see if they would jettison some of their wonderful his story and throw
grandeur and drama. Maybe a little exaggeration, Zan romance in there. You could get something like this from Churchill who describes the same thing as only he can, and he says this about the british Army, along with the French, advancing into this crucial gap that will change this whole conflict turn the battle of the Marne, which, let's be honest, the French are once and taking it on the chin when they're in full contact with the fabulous german army. This is what will decide. The occasion, though, and Churchill puts it. In churchillian term, quote: no human genius planned that the british Army should advance into this gap. Asir Tumultuous events had cast them into this position in the line when they advanced there was a gap in front of them on cold front, it was the line of least resistance along it. They borden and and it led into the strategic vitals of the german right wing, high Destin,
blind fate, regulated the none too vigorous, but nevertheless decisive movements of this british army. It churches on wondering what is happened to the monster which is pursued it with whip and yell. Since Mars VON Bulow, finds his right wing being rolled back by the fifth french Army and himself cut continually from his right hand to red cloak by the British advance Luke just he's got himself into a fine position to fight Munnery finds left and all the rear of his left. Hopelessly compromised and exposed end quote. It's a crazy moment. It reminds one of of of warfare in 18th century. They used to positional warfare, where a lot of the fighting was simply trying to you know, search around to flank or or get point you a your enemy into a place where they had to retreat, just because of positioning by accident, as Churchill
we put it. The british army had almost accidentally probed its way into the german liver doesn't get much better than that in terms of the high drama. Does it, and it can Lee obscures you know, the soldier's perspective on the ground of which we have very little more and more first hand accounts to spy from the german side, will be made available as the war goes on? I keep having to tell myself that a lot of the people fighting in these battles, will never make it home to their memoirs. These are people who get to go home until either the war is over or there Vitaly injured. They can't fight anymore and uh the german soldiers on this front to might leave memoirs. Someone like yours truly might be lucky enough to have translated into English leave their bones on some of these battlefields, none, the less in a one,
it clear. I remember. Reading an account once and there's lots of accounts like these, and you can specifically find them in publications that came out not long after the war. I remember I have one in my house actually in many of you, do too it's in a great series of books written just after the war, and you read it and it's an account this unbelievable battle. It sounds like something out of the Lord of the rings or some napoleonic with charges of you cavalry mowed down by Canon these amazing heroic moments. German heroism, french heroism, really thrilling moving stuff, and it turns out that that's just one of the little battles. Well, I mean comparatively that form something called the battle of Nancy. The battle of Nancy is just something that formed a part of the battle of the Marne. There are individual. Stories. Many battles whose names have been forgotten by almost everyone that form the whole here: the battle of the Marne
is a human tragedy, as we said earlier about what the civilians are suffering on a mass scale in the drama and the suffering and the heroism and the stories that would break our hearts if we knew them are going on. And down the line from Switzerland to the belgian border. In fact, they're going on in the eastern front too, we haven't even talked about the simultaneous events that are happening, while this is going on the armies of Ludendorff and Hindenburg in the EAST are wrapping up their conflict there against rent incomes army after Tannenberg in go Lyssia, which is over kind of work. Hungary and Poland, and russian interests meet. There are terrible battles going on the Austro. Hungarians are getting smashed in a way that they will never recover from, and this is all happening at the same time. Part of what makes this conflict so disorient for everyone who's facing. It is how quickly it's all happened when you think The second World war, for example, realize that there's no big fight,
between the major powers for about eight months after Second, world war is declared. Hitler goes into Poland, Poland falls fast, I mean that's all quick and relatively pain. By world war standards. It'll be eight months before the Germans are in in a real big contact with french and british Army This war is three weeks old. All. The major participants have clashed head on there's more than a million people dead. This is the worst nightmare of every pre war profit predicting. What was to happen when you combined the mass armies that the Napoleonic era unleashed on steroids by the way, with the mod Technology and weapons and systems being developed all through the 1800s. This is a great filter when you lose more than a million people in the first Think of an eye and the wars now obviously
the last awhile. How many people are going to die before this thing reaches a resolution? What is a resolution? A to simplify it. What really happens is when the entire French. British line turns around and smash back into the german line, there's one spot where they just penet there's nothing really in front of them and that's the spot that the Bef the british Expeditionary force and french forces go through and see how. Mon cloak and VON Bulow, not already been fighting somebody they could have turned and crushed these forces that were penetrating into that gap, but they are fighting other people, that's known as pinning the enemy. Cloak is fighting those forces that are coming at him from Paris VON Bulow fighting other armies, so they can't turn and if they do turn, then the army's they were fighting or hitting them in the back they're trapped, the only
They can do to alleviate this open flank issue is to pull back VON Moltke when all this is going on falls apart, and if you ask me understandably so this is a guy who's been under tremendous pressure already and as he watch is this plan so important that for years it had been known as DARE Togba day when this plan is finally used. You know, whatever the heck to plan was really this. The day means the day that the Germans launched the war he's watching. It collapsed in front of his eyes, realizing also This will all be blamed on him he's coming apart at the seams. He writes to his wife, as all of this is becoming clear
quote. I cannot find words to describe the crushing responsibility that is wait upon my shoulders during the few days and still weighs on me today. The appalling Diffi of our present situation hang before my eyes, like a dark curtain through which I can see nothing. End quote. One of one mold, because staff officers a colonel name. Bauer, our quote desperate annex seized severely the entire army or to be more correct, the greater part of its leaders. It looked at it first at the Supreme Command Moltke completely collapsed. He sat with a pallid face gazing at the map dead do all feeling a broken man. End quote: Churchill was sympathetic when he wrote quote. Everything now converged upon Multi, who was my he was the shadow of a great name. He was the net.
You have the old field Marshall and had been as aid to camp. He an ordinary man, rather Raccordi AIR, a man about the palace agreeable to the in the palmy days of peace, the sort of man who does not make too much trouble with the sovereign. Who knows how to suppress his own personality, what there is of it a good harmless. Vegetable, ordinary man and onto this ill, it being crashes, the brutal remorseless centric, impingement of tides and impulsions under which the greatest captains of history might have blanched end quote go ahead later written while he still lived
that in the moment of Supreme Crisis, he had grown, quote nervous and quote lots of sources report that VON Moltke went to the Kaiser. At this point said majesty: we just lost the war. I have never been able to confirm that, though, and truth be told They didn't lose the war here. What's just happened is the chances for an early knockout blow an outright german victory? That's what's been compromised and I'm going to say compromise because it's an open question, whether or not the Germans blew this or the French really rallied and gained the victory. There are of mistakes on the german side that people will point to basically insinuating that without those mistakes, the French go down and yet look at the fact
they were still there after suffering, unprecedented levels of casualties and punishment and forget about that for a minute and understand the condition that those armies are in before they turn around at the battle of the Marne, they are falling apart. Are dead on their feet in a wearing rags and unable to keep their eyes open, and that's who the general from the first Army VON Cloak, that's, who he singles out when he talks about the part. You know this war so far, the surprise him he wrote quote that men will let themselves be killed where they stand, is a well known thing and added on in every plan of battle, but that men, who have retreated for ten days sleeping on the ground. Half dead with fatigue should be able to take up rifles and attack when the bugle sounds. It is a thing which we never counted. It was a
ability not studied in our war academy. End quote so. He was obviously impressed. There's no deny an endless. We don't want to shortchange the british expeditionary force either. They proved to be potentially crucial to this whole thing and, as Churchill point sort of Providential Lee at the right place and at the right time sometimes, but this is one of those victories, were you just have to tip your hat a little bit to what the French achieved? This is mine you stuff. It is truly heroic. It's a little like the Alamo for Americans, but on an enormous scale and at the same time I want to remember the Germans in all this to as we said earlier, they get a bad rap from a lot of us because, the Second World WAR, an rightly so, but a lot of that is connected to the for a war in a funny way. I see them, you know not to bring some sort of science fiction reference I mean. Where would that come from, but
There are little like Anakin Skywalker this, this nation and that's new and young, and has so much promise and potential G Wells had the greatest name for them. I've ever heard at this point he called them the best and the this nation in the world. The militarism that so scared him in his socialistic sensibilities was balanced out by the fact that Germans were so admirable in so many respects what the Germans called cult tour, their music and their and their writings in their sophistication and and their science. My gosh in their education wells is overflowing with all these wonderful things to say about Germans, but they've got this flaw. It's this militarism and they're. The best in the wickedest people in Europe and somewhere along the line. Anakin Skywalker turns into Darth Vader in the poor. Germans get that to be their image, for the in the 20th century. You again,
the enormous stakes of this in a German really defeat are. If on mold can the Germans had been victorious here? The entire german history in the twentieth century is different and perhaps much much much Positive, almost certainly for Germans and for everyone else too. I think it's a very interesting what, if scenario, and it's important to remember that, when you think about these soldiers dying on the ground in these nameless awful battles, whether they french, british, german, or very soon, a lot more people from Canada and South Africa and Australia. An Indochina I mean this is going to become an international war soon, all these people are good people caught up. Well there, just people been in in the grand plans and grinding wheels of of nation states, they went into these
x for reasons that are understandable. Today, patriotism, duty, love of country to protect your family, all those kind of things they also went for reasons that were really important still in the 19th century, that are a little different today, glory heroism, romance, as I said, they still exist, but not quite like they did back. You know from the in your history until right. Around this time and September, one thousand nine hundred and fourteen a general named bond Bofors talked about the changes that this first month of the first world or created in that facade of romantic war when he said quote If war was once a chivalrous dual, it's now a dastardly slaughter end quote. The suffering on the ground, regardless which side you're on is pitiable and horrific, and you know
we try to make sure- and I hope I'm successful at this- that were never exploitive of the terrible things that are going on to the people in these stories, tell the reason that I use them is because for me these stories intrigue me because I always put myself in them I try to imagine handling these things and person who is interested in the extremes of human experience, there are almost no exceptions to the stories we talk about on this program. I can't imagine it I mean I just feel like I would wilt under the pressures that these people live through I mean when you talk about being interested.
Extremes of human nature and wondering what I would do in the same situation. I think about the worst places in the world. You can think of. I mean if there's a top three or four five list out there. One of them on my list is the western front in the first World WAR and we're about to get there an it is about the worst experience in the world. I was joking on the history twitter feed which, by the way, you can follow it at hardcore history. The It's taking us longer to get the episode you just heard and to you and by the way. Thank you for your patience. It's always appreciated, the amount of time it was actually covered in the episode itself and I think if you were crunching the data and Acting out word. Based on how long the show you just heard. Was you probably figured that that's
take us about two hundred and fifty episodes to cover the first World WAR and God forbid- we go afterwards into one thousand nine hundred and nineteen and the treaties, and all that will be doing this. The rest of our lives were obviously not going to do that. The episode you just heard fo just on to be honest, a series of events that pre war stuff and the an opening moves, common in almost all the approaches of the first World war because they set the stage for what comes afterwards. For example, already you know as story ends. The trenches are cropping up organically along the western front. It's the iconic age of the first World WAR right, trenches have always been known. Fortifications always been known, going back to ancient history, but never on this scale, never long, never in oceans of the world almost
mobile is is never under these sorts of conditions. It's going to create an almost unique experience for the people who have to go through it and again something fascinating. When I consider how I myself would have behaved in similar circumstances, but it's going to make the goals somewhat similar. You know so you'll be able to say a little bit about the big ones, but not have to go to, indeed the experience over and over again, because it becomes similar in each of the battles the people fighting in inches in one battle often have similar sorts of day to day experiences from people fighting in the trenches in another battle. So we will have the opportune. He is the program moves along to zoom in and zoom out as needed. This is going. Allow us, though, to focus on the other things, including how generals managed to deal with the fact that they're no longer operating with pre war plans, they have to actually think now learn ally there. Thinking in
I've ways we're going to find out how flexible these nineteen century men are as they try. We just on the fly in real time to the challenges of 20th century warfare, which no one's ever really tried. Yet they're going to have to contend with, and we are going to deal questions like changes in the air changes at sea change, which is involving wmd and things were still dealing with today and change involving the scope of this war that encompasses you know the rest of the world Basically, in one way or another, the first World WAR is about to go global and underground. In the next episode of blueprint. Armageddon.
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Transcript generated on 2019-11-20.