Handbook of the War

By John C. De Wilde; David H. Popper et al. | Go to book overview

4. THE WAR OF ATTRITION

MILITARY men use the words strategy and tactics to describe two levels of war-planning. In the large sense war is an expression of national will; high strategy is consequently a semi-political science. The strategist calculates how the general purposes of his government can be achieved in terms of men, geography, weapons, and resources. He must decide whether the war as a whole is to be a rapid, crushing blow with all the strength of the nation behind it; or whether it is wiser to sit tight and wear the enemy out. Such a decision made, it is time to work out tactics. Tactics is the science of distributing men and weapons on the field. Again there is a choice. One may resort to tactics of annihilation, and strike a telling blow at some Achilles heel. Or one can use the tactics of attrition, and force on the opponent prolonged, exhausting fighting.

The choice between the tactics of attrition and the tactics of annihilation is not an abstract one. Tactics are strictly limited by the nature of weapons. In the World War the chief arm of the opposing forces was the infantry; the chief weapon of the infantry was the machine gun, aided by the artillery and barbed-wire entanglements. These weapons, as they developed on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, gave an enormous advantage to the defense with the result that the tactics of annihilation were technically impossible. As each new technique of break-through was perfected, the art of defense was

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Handbook of the War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Maps and Pictorial Charts v
  • Note vii
  • 1. What They Are Fighting For - A Rapid Glance at Europe Since Versailles 1
  • 2. the Geography of Land War 15
  • 3. Armed Men 33
  • 4. the War of Attrition 44
  • 5. the War of Annihilation 57
  • 6. Air: the New Dimension 69
  • 7. Ships and Strategy 89
  • 8. the Sea Front 109
  • 9. the Economic Front 135
  • 10. Can Germany Be Blockaded? 153
  • 11. Merchant Shipping 181
  • 12. Paying for the War 203
  • 13. Propaganda 215
  • 14. the Defense of America 227
  • Index 243
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