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

By Walther Hubatsch; Oswald P. Backus | Go to book overview

3. War on Two Fronts

The German campaign plan. The German army faced the almost unsolvable problem of how to obtain a quick decision against numerically superior adversaries. The plan for a war on two fronts involved assembling in the west main forces, consisting of 70 infantry and 10 cavalry divisions, in order to strike decisive blows there, and thereafter --Colonel Generalvon Moltke thought of six weeks after mobilization day--shifting to the cast rather strong supporting units. Until then, the weak German army in the cast of 9 divisions in combination with the main forces of the Austro-Hungarian army was to try to stop the Russian advance. Two reserve divisions were to protect Schleswig while 6½ mobile reserve divisions were at the disposal of GHQ.

The German campaign plan reflected decisions which were to have great consequence. 1) It placed the main battle squarely on the western front. That not only was based on the need of protecting the industrial area in the Rhine and Ruhr valleys, but also took into account the view that there was no chance of obtaining a quick decision in the vast spaces of Eastern Europe. 2) The battle in the west was to be an offensive battle. Only a quick assault with massed forces seemed to promise a speedy end to the war through the defeat of the French field army. Thereafter German troops could give effective aid to Austria- Hungary, prevent the transfer of the British Expeditionary Force and British colonial units to the continent, and render the blockade utterly useless. Neither would the army, which during a mobilization had reached a peak of combat training and had been well equipped, suffer battle fatigue, nor would materiel reserves be exhausted.

There were three major disadvantages to the plan for an offensive in the west: 1) Because of the threat of war and Russian army deployment, Germany was unable to guarantee the inviolability of Belgian and French territory and thereby prevent the outbreak of war in the west. 2) Therefore Germany had to take into consideration the likelihood that Belgium and Britain would join her enemies. Such an event would decidedly increase French superiority. Strong Belgian fortresses and 6 additional enemy army corps would now oppose the speedy advance so necessary to German success. The allied forces in the west would then consist of 92 infantry and 12 cavalry divisions. 3) Britain's entry into the war would have two additional consequences: a success-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Prologue 1
  • 2 - World War I and Its Beginning 14
  • 3 - War on Two Fronts 26
  • 4 - The Central Powers at the End of 1914 40
  • 5 - Success Against Russia, 1915 46
  • 6 - The Fight for Position in The Mediterranean 52
  • 7 - The Climax, 1915 60
  • 8 - Battles of Materiel and Mass Attacks 1916 67
  • 9 - Internal Political Changes 77
  • 10 - War and Politics in 1917 89
  • 11 - From Brest-Litovsk to Compiegne 102
  • 12 - Concluding Observations 119
  • Notes 122
  • Index 125
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