Germany and the Central Powers in the World War, 1914- 1918

By Walther Hubatsch; Oswald P. Backus | Go to book overview
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7. The Climax, 1915

Defense on the western front. In 1915, the Central Powers gained considerable military and political success on the eastern front and in the Balkans. In the west and on the Italian front, all enemy attacks were repulsed. Turkey had kept her position unexpectedly well, Bulgaria had been gained as a new ally, and Serbia and Montenegro were no longer in the ranks of the adversaries. Italy's entry into the war, however, had decided the fight for the Mediterranean in favor of the Allies. The hope that the adversary would see that all further attacks against the Central Powers were useless and would thus be ready for peace talks was, because of this Italian action, never fulfilled. Although, in 1915, German operations were marked by careful deployment of forces, this second year of the war in which the German field army alone lost 500,000 killed and over 1,000,000 wounded, saw the highest casualties of the entire war. The problem now was how to end the fighting without exaggerated losses. Falkenhayn had completely dropped his hope for peace and wanted to gain a military decision in France in 1916 in order to strike down "Britain's strongest sword on the Continent."

It is doubtful whether a withdrawal of the German right wing in Belgium would have made the conflict once more a war of movement. Shortening the front line would have saved reserves; however, the adversary would have had the same advantage. Moreover, Germany lacked the manpower and the means now to build necessary field fortifications in the rear, and she could not obtain them even by the most strenuous efforts of the people at home. Thus she had to be satisfied with defensive activity along existing lines. After the serious casualties suffered by the Russian army in the summer of 1915, the eastern front could be regarded as well established. The Supreme Command, of course, did not expect any decision by an offensive in Northern Italy.

Crisis of the naval command. The Supreme Command now had to examine the problem of whether or not to make better use of the navy which thus far had not joined in the fighting. In 1915, the German naval command was in a permanent crisis. In connection with the loss of the Bluecher in the clash between battle cruisers near the Dogger Bank on January 25, 1915, such great shortcomings in the leadership of the fleet became obvious that the then chief of the naval staff, vonPohl


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