The Kaiser's Army: The Politics of Military Technology in Germany during the Machine Age, 1870-1918

By Eric Dorn Brose | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 7
TOWARD THE GREAT WAR

WAR IN THE present finds no Napoleonic cluster of generals on a hill, peering through telescopes at a gunsmoke-clouded battlefield. It makes no sense for the commander-in-chief to be near the actual combat, for he sees very little. There is no line of horsemen, massing for a charge. Cavalry units are far away, peforming reconnaisance or preparing to attack enemy flanks with artillery and machine guns or to dismount and fight with carbines. There is no smoke to give away enemy artillery positions. Only barely discernible flashes of light, and small groups of infantrymen, sprinting forward before disappearing again, offer the slightest hint about the source and direction of a rolling barage of artillery shells that are exploding nearby. The killing power of modern weapons necessitates the spread of brigades and divisions to the point where corps and army groups are miles apart. Not even the most powerful binoculars bring the whole battlefield into view, and commanders find themselves far to the rear at high-tech headquarters.

The modern Alexander sits at a large table. He stares angrily. All around him, bespeckled, high-ranking aides sit at staff tables, frantically answering telephones and hectically deciphering the latest telegraphic dispatches from airships and airplanes high above. Outside, motorcycles and automobiles speed away and screech to a halt before this anthill of military activity. Time and again, officers hurry to the big table with the most urgent news, warnings, and pleas for support. Repeatedly the chief fires back explosive words.

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