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How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

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How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby cj on 11 Sep 2009 21:23

In your opinion what could have been done differently to make germany successful in September 1914
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby Dave Bender on 11 Sep 2009 22:24

what could have been done differently to make germany successful in September 1914

7 Sep 1914.
Germany captures the Maubeuge fortress.

9 Sep 1914. Battle of the Marais de Saint Gond.
French Army counter attack on the German right wing is defeated.

9 Sep 1914.
Belgium army counter attack from Antwerp is defeated.

12 Sep 1914.
German right wing halts withdrawal on prepared defensive positions along the Aisne.

13 Sep 1914. Battle of Masurian Lakes ends.
Russian 1st Army was mauled, suffering about 100,000 casualties and losing 150 artillery pieces.

24 Sep 1914. German army seizes the Vauquois butte.
This cuts 1 (of 2 total) main rail lines to the Verdun fortress complex.

24 Sep 1914. German army seizes Fort Camp des Romains.
This cuts the other main rail line to Verdun.

27 Sep - 8 Oct 1914. German army reduces the Antwerp fortress complex.
Arguably the largest and most modern fortress in Europe. Most of the Belgium field army (approximately 100,000 soldiers) is destroyed along with the fortress complex.

11 Oct 1914. German army captures Lille. The most important industrial region of France.
Not in September but part of the German operations which began during mid September 1914.

Germany captured more territory during September to mid October 1914 then the British and French armies captured during the entire war. And it wasn't worthless territory like the few square miles of swamp captured on the Somme. Antwerp, Vauquois, Fort Camp des Romains, Maubeuge and Lille have serious strategic importance. At the same time Germany mauled a Russia field army and ejected the Russians from East Prussia. Germany accomplished this while sustaining casualties approximately 1/3rd of their Entente opponents.

What makes you think the German army was unsuccessful during September 1914?
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby Terry Duncan on 11 Sep 2009 22:30

Not to go to war in the first place would have been the very best course of action.

Having a far larger army to avoid the east-west deployment problems, and then a huge slice of luck to defeat the French army - which will also be larger as France sees the German army grow. The major problem for all armies at this time is always the inability to sustain an advance for long against a Great Powers army. Germany got a major advantage when Joffre and GQG refused to accept intel about what was going on in Belgium and that the Russians were so badly co-ordinated in their attack upon East Prussia, either of these things changing could have reduced the chances to almost zero, so its hard to want for the enemy to behave much worse at the start.

The biggest single improvement would have been to not declare war on anyone until absolutely neccessary, declaring war on Russia so long before any military action was needed was pointless. Liege was the first action and this was days later so the declaration of war could have waited until then with no loss in time.

What makes you think the German army was unsuccessful during September 1914?


Dave,

Germany lost. Moltke is credited with saying the war was lost after the Marne battles, and some military historians agree with him. Hardly a success when the only German hope was a quick war, and that was the judgement of the military at the time.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby Dave Bender on 11 Sep 2009 22:37

declaring war on Russia so long before any military action was needed was pointless.

I agree. It's pointless to declare war before your field armies have assembled in the mobilization staging areas.

However this won't change anything during September 1914. :)
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby Terry Duncan on 11 Sep 2009 22:57

Time was the one thing Germany could not waste, so warning everyone days in advance was pointless. It removed all late chances for talks to produce a result and gained nothing except that. One thing it could change is that Russia may have declared war first.

I do not think this likely, but I am aware many here do think this way. If Russia declared war first, there is far less chance if instant British intervention, especially if Belgium is avoided, so by September you may not see a full BEF in the line to cause problems. Time could be critical for that reason alone.

The only other major change would be to remove von Kluck replace him with someone willing to work with Bulow, the two not getting on was fatal and Kluck was far from co-operative in following any plan. At least this way we would see if the German army could have won at the Marne - again I dont think so, supply and fatigue are against them.

From his war record Crown Prine Ruprecht would have been a good choice, he at least understood modern warfare better than most of the army commanders on the right wing in the advance. A shame he was treated so disgustingly later by Hitler and co.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby Dave Bender on 11 Sep 2009 23:12

If Russia declared war first, there is far less chance if instant British intervention, especially if Belgium is avoided, so by September you may not see a full BEF in the line to cause problems.

Germany has nothing to lose by delaying declarations of war until 8 Aug 1914. That is the day German artillery began firing on Liege. France and Russia will not be effected but you might delay British entry into the war by a couple days. Every little bit helps.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby stg 44 on 12 Sep 2009 02:51

There was no way that it could have, the logistics were not there, even without Kluck's inward turn. He made the right decision for the wrong reasons, but he should have shielded Paris better. It is true that the right wing was in a bad way and needed to retreat, but the German center was winning. In any event, it was forced to retreat in line with the right wing when it pulled back, but was not defeated and actually winning when it had to retreat.

In reality, the best thing would have been to not have Moltke send two corps east in August and keep them with their respective armies. Also, don't send the 6.5 ersatz divisions to the 6th army, rather, send them to the Camp des Romain offensive, but have it begin earlier and Verdun could be cut off and the breakthrough happen in the center. If so, Verdun probably falls and the French could lose an entire army if the attack is timed right. It also prevents forces from being transferred to the French left wing around Paris, changing that battle and perhaps preventing a pull back to the Aisne line, which then give the Germans a shot at holding a line further forward, depriving France of more of their country and the important symbol of Verdun.

Though not a completely successful Schlieffen plan, it still is better than the historical one and weakens France that much more. In fact, it might have prevented the "Race to the Sea" and instead created a war of movement much deeper in France.


Edit: I wrote an alternate history about this idea here:
http://alternatehistory.com/discussion/ ... p?t=128340

If you care the read about it.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby Dave Bender on 12 Sep 2009 16:59

Camp des Romain offensive, but have it begin earlier

I agree. It was a mistake to attempt crossing the Meuse at Fort Troyon (OHL Operations Order issued 5 Sep 1914). Instead the German left wing should have attacked across the Woevre to St. Mihael as Gen Falkenhayn did historically 19 to 25 Sep 1914.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby stg 44 on 12 Sep 2009 21:10

Exactly. Though the French had significant artillery assets in the area (batteries of 150mm) and the terrain was rough, it would have drawn off french forces from the more critical fronts and tied them to attacking in difficult ground to reconquer the vital sector. The ideal day would have been August 29th, as that is when the Army of Lorraine was dissolved and removed from the area. The AoL was created to prevent just such an attack, but manpower needs on other fronts demanded the forces there be removed, as they had been waiting for an attack that only came much later. Interestingly enough, the French 2nd army also pulled out of the Woevre about the same time, leaving the area wide open to attack. If St. Miheil could have been taken, then the French 3rd army would be forced to pull forces out of the line to defend the area, which they could not afford. Verdun would be surrounded and cut off from all help, and the French 2nd army would be forced to turn its attention north, further weakening the front in Alsace. A decisive victory like that in the center could give the Germans a much more powerful position for September, making the Channel coast an irrelevant backwater. The loss of Verdun and the likely loss of positions along the Franco-German border would be catastrophic even if none of the French armies were lost in the process (though casualties are going to be high).

While this doesn't mean France is out of the fight, it will mean the loss of crucial forts that were pinning down large numbers of German troops, and their deployment in other more vital areas. Also, the loss of the border region means that the French no longer possess easily defensible areas that they can draw forces from without worry. They will have to staff all defensive positions more heavily, making attacks that much more draining. Of course the Germans are not going to withdraw to the powerful Aisne line, but the fall of Verdun would be worth it. Its fall would a major blow to morale, as would the loss of the border forts, which were supposed to protect France from invasion. Not only that, but it will bring back painful reminders of the Franco-Prussian war, further bring down morale.
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Woevre terrain was rough

Postby Dave Bender on 12 Sep 2009 22:23

Battles in the Ardennes from 21 August 1914 onward show the French Army performed worst in rough terrain. The highly centralized French Army command system could not make decisions fast enough to cope with the more flexibly commanded German Army. After the Ardennes experience Germany should seek to fight France in the roughest available terrain rather then in the open. I would even consider an attack in the Vosges south of Mulhousen.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby stg 44 on 13 Sep 2009 00:02

The French fight their best in the hardest terrain. They were quite good in the Vosges until about 1915, plus they had the advantage of using there best mountain troops with purpose built equipment, including artillery, in the area. That is why the seized it early and the Germans never attempted full scale offensive to breakthrough there. They had enough problems in Verdun with its broken ground. Plus, historically when the first attempt at Camp de Romain went off, the Germans were held up by the fierce fighting of the vastly outnumbered French, fighting on even as the walls toppled on their heads. The Ardennes fighting was actually a fluke, as they were on a meeting engagement and were bested. On the defense with prepared positions in rough terrain, the French fought very well. Though the initial attack is likely to go well, the counter attack is where the Germans are going to win big. The rough ground of the heights of the Meuse let the Germans chew up the French during their counter attacks on the St. Mihiel salient and would here too. If the Ersatz troops, which were not particularly good for the offensive, but actually decent for the defense (hence their misuse with the 6th army in Alsace), they could be used for the attack on St. Mihiel earlier and used to consolidate the ground around Commercy, which was the rail hub extending north to Metz.
http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/WW1Pics ... el1600.jpg

Combine that with an attack across the Aire river by Von Strantz's 5th corps and the French are going to be in big trouble. If you throw in the cavalry from the 6th army, then they could even strike as far west as Bar-le-Duc, netting themselves the commander of the French 3rd army and a major rail hub that supplied the 3rd army and allowed transfers to the west from Lorraine and supplies to the border from Paris. The operational opportunities were truly amazing. The 3rd army could very well be crushed and the 2nd and 1st armies could be forced to retreat from their positions, abandoning the frontier to the Germans, leaving the forts there to their fate.
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Bar-le-Duc

Postby Dave Bender on 13 Sep 2009 00:22

Bar-le-Duc was one of the most important rail hubs in WWI France. You can bet the French Army will not give it up without a fight.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby stg 44 on 13 Sep 2009 04:03

Of course, but detaching troops to defend it draws more strength away from the front, exactly what the Germans want.
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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby monk2002uk on 13 Sep 2009 06:02

Dave Bender wrote:Germany captured more territory during September to mid October 1914 then the British and French armies captured during the entire war...
Incorrect. The British and French armies recaptured the entire occupied territories in Belgium and northern France, Alsace and Lorraine, and occupied the Rhineland to boot. The Germans gains of August and September 1914 were not sufficient to prevent this final outcome.

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Re: How could the Schlieffen plan have succedded?

Postby stg 44 on 13 Sep 2009 07:09

monk2002uk wrote:
Dave Bender wrote:Germany captured more territory during September to mid October 1914 then the British and French armies captured during the entire war...
Incorrect. The British and French armies recaptured the entire occupied territories in Belgium and northern France, Alsace and Lorraine, and occupied the Rhineland to boot. The Germans gains of August and September 1914 were not sufficient to prevent this final outcome.

Robert


They did not achieve all that in combat. Most of Belgium was peacefully returned after the armistice. It is true that most of France was liberated in combat, but Dave's statement holds true as long as one is talking about the war up until November 11th, 1918.
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