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The First Month of World War I (Which Charted the Course of the Rest of the Century) Adapted from – The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.

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Presentation on theme: "The First Month of World War I (Which Charted the Course of the Rest of the Century) Adapted from – The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman."— Presentation transcript:

1 The First Month of World War I (Which Charted the Course of the Rest of the Century) Adapted from – The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

2 1871, Germany defeated France and Unified –German Patriotic Drunkenness –France’s Simmering Anger –German arrogance (under Wilhelm II), angering both Russia and Britain and allowing France to Make Alliances with These Two General German/Social Darwinistic Belief That Germans were Destined to Expand Their Power By the Sword –The rise from 300 mini-states to 1 st rate superpower was the result of warfare! Fortune favors the bold. –Krupp weapons manufacturers –Challenge to the British navy Germans See Conspiracies Against Their Greatness –Why won’t everyone else realize how great Germans are? Why, when we talk about ourselves as clearly the most advanced race, does this seem to irritates others? –Why have we Germans been left out so completely from Imperialism? –We are surrounded by foes who wish to choke German resources and prevent the ‘Manifest Destiny’ of German hegemony on the continent –Should war come, Germany is surrounded France to the West Russia to the East the British can choke off our supplies by creating a naval blockade we have to win quickly Between 1871 German Super-Patriotism Combined With German Suspicions to Create a March Towards War

3 The Key to World War I (and to World War II as well) –The Magic Shiny Center of the Whole Thing Germans think- European war is eventually inevitable. There is too much jealousy of German greatness. Germany may be defeated. Thus, Germany must pick the time of battle to ensure it is optimal. The only way to choose the exact moment of battle… Germans decide that the perfect moment will arrive in 1914, when the German army reaches its full strength, but before Russia industrializes sufficiently to be a major challenge in the east Thus, the central paradox of the war --- Germans decide on a preemptive assault, but don’t see themselves as aggressors- the facts on the ground compel them to act

4 Schlieffen Plan Knockout France in one fell swoop –Calls for a knockout blow right wing –German center facing France must fake a retreat to draw the French army in and then hold it Then turn and deal with a slow to mobilize Russia –East Prussia may have to be abandoned until the Western forces can get there Germans are meticulously organized –Paris will fall on the 39 th day, in time for troops to re- embark to meet the Russians on the Eastern front –This will stop the Russians short of Berlin

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6 Belgium is Key –After the Napoleonic Wars (when the British feared invasion from Napoleon) the British insisted that Belgium be a neutral country (since it was the perfect embarkation points for an invasion of the England) –Belgium was the easiest route for armies, so all powers had guaranteed its neutrality (including Germany) German attack begins –Germans have built a few super weapons –Story turns into the Lord of the Rings here Explain superweapons These weapons pierce the French fortress line in the North French have highly underestimated the forces coming at them- the Germans have thrown in everything from the East and basically their entire reserve All is Looking good for the Germans- a hole has been punched in the French defenses and there is little between the German Army and Paris But, things start to go wrong –Belgians resist- this is a nightmare in a whole set of ways for the Germans Why would they do it? They have, say 50,000 troops against a million Germans They will be (they are slaughtered) Decision to fight centers largely on the knowledge that if the Germans win, Belgium will cease to exist- if the allies win, Belgium remains independent Germans Take some casualties, weakening their right wing Have to leave forces behind to guard against fortified Antwerp that could launch counterattacks With Hindsight This plan was the Right Plan Militarily/Logically, but it Required the Acceptance of Decisions that Went Against Human Nature and Fell Apart in the Heat of the War

7 –Germans, using similar logic to their decision to launch a preemptive counterattack, have decided that the ‘kindest’ way to defeat a smaller enemy is to show brutal reprisals to convince the population that resistance is futile Whole towns of Belgians are massacred when a single Partisan fires on German troops International reporters, many from the still-neutral U.S. report on the brutality Turns world against the ‘Huns’ German right wing is unstoppable –Smashes through defensive lines –Continues towards Paris French high command has the exact wrong! Strategy- let them come in, it will help us attack up the middle French attack up the middle is crushed easly and thouroughly –In this war, the offense if pointless –One reason tha the offensive of the Germans is working is because the Frnech refuse to take defenisive positions in any batle, prefering to ‘nobly’ charge straight into the enemy

8 German plan wavers –British enter the fight Tiny force lands on the continent, but Germans had hoped the British would stay out They might of the British Empire means that if the Germans don’t win in a matter of weeks they are screwed in the long run –After the French offensive is crushed in the center, the German officers there refuse to keep retreating as the plan says. A legacy of having the elites run the military- all seek their honor Attacking Germans start to cut through the French and the Germans start to envision crushing the entire French army in the field rather than bypassing it to Paris –Right wing starts to get orders to bypass Paris and trap the French army –Meanwhile, the Russians launch a crazy attack two weeks into the war (rather than the 6 wks expected) There is a reason that the Germans thought the Russians needed six weeks -> they have almost no raillines Their troops have almost no supplies. Yet, here they come… marching into some of the ancient heartland of Prussia The German high command abandons its own plan and begins to ship troops East pulling them away from the seemingly all-but-over fighting in the West The fascinating fact here is that the Russian forces are trounced- they are literally starving to death and have no ammunition –This will eventually lead to the collapse of the Tsarist government in Russia and the Russian Revolution, the rise of Communism and all of this other crazy stuff, but in a strange way, the sacrifice kind of works, because the German attack in the West falters In the end, the Germans, exhausted by a four week march at 20 miles a day, outsripping their own supply lines, turn their flank to a small part of the French army that is protecting Paris –This army attacks the Germans and stops their progress Start of trench warfare Germans had stated themselves that if the war wasn’t over in 6 weeks they couldn’t win –On the other hand, how do you admit this once your plan has failed –Germans still have a lot of strength left in them –They dig in and determine to fight to the death The result is the four year stalemate claiming the generations of the time in the meatgrinder of the trenches –the old systems of society collapse Absolute governments apear to run the war effort Germans, when finally beaten it, have now gone from medium level powers to superpower, back to medium level powers in two generations Scapegoats needed New kind of war, total war Treaty of Versailles nightmare


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