John Mosier's The Myth of the Great War

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heinz kling
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John Mosier's The Myth of the Great War

Post by heinz kling » 05 Dec 2002 02:42

Has anyone read it, and what are your comments on his researches that the Germans bettered the Allies on the Western Front and that it's only with Pershing's troops that the tide was turned ?

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Post by Tim Smith » 05 Dec 2002 08:41

Haven't read the book, but I agree that following the decimation of the original BEF in 1914, the German army was the best in Europe in terms of tactics.

Overall, the Germans did better than the Allies on the Western Front in terms of enemy soldiers killed, wounded or captured.

However, the German High Command went wrong in two key areas of technology - they gave too little priority to the aeroplane and the tank.

The Imperial Air Service was extremely successful in terms of its kill to loss ratio, but from 1916 onwards it was on the strategic defensive on the Western Front due to its greatly inferior numerical strength - which means that it generally fought only over its own side of the lines. The reconnaisance, artillery spotting and ground attack support given by the German Air Service to the German Army was far inferior to the level of support the RFC/RAF and the French Air Service gave to their armies.

The tank wasn't taken seriously by the German Army until 1917, too late to develop and build enough German tanks to make a difference. The German Army had to rely mainly on captured enemy tanks.

It wasn't the Americans specifically that broke German morale on the Western Front - it was the failure of the own 1918 offensives against the British that made both the High Command and the soldiers at the front realise that the war could not be won. Ludendorff had effectively promised his soldiers that their 1918 offensives would succeed and end the war, and when they failed to do so German morale plummeted. In the last few months of the war many thousands of German soldiers surrendered after only token resistance - yet despite this the German Army did not collapse completely.

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I am reading Mosier's book now

Post by heinz kling » 05 Dec 2002 15:49

He has quite a low opinion of the French army and the BEF, and he has quoted some statistics to support that the Germans bettered the Allies on the Western Front (he didn't even count in the casaulties suffered by Germany's East European allies or enemies).

deaths/missing total wounded


Belgium 98,000 n.a.
France 1,384,000 3,481,000
Great Britain 884,539 1,837,613
USA 121,402 239,787
Germany 1,292,523 1,214,327

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Re: John Mosier's The Myth of the Great War

Post by Anthony EJW » 05 Dec 2002 18:12

heinz kling wrote:Has anyone read it, and what are your comments on his researches that the Germans bettered the Allies on the Western Front and that it's only with Pershing's troops that the tide was turned ?
I've had a look, and I'm not terriblely impressed. I have as yet been unable to indentify which country has the power that Mosier frequently refers to as "Germany". It has no relation of any Earth country I know of in the period 1914-18.

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Re: I am reading Mosier's book now

Post by Anthony EJW » 05 Dec 2002 18:13

heinz kling wrote:
deaths/missing total wounded


Belgium 98,000 n.a.
France 1,384,000 3,481,000
Great Britain 884,539 1,837,613
USA 121,402 239,787
Germany 1,292,523 1,214,327
The German government's offical figures are 2.1 million German dead during WW1.

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Mosier

Post by Glenn2438 » 09 Dec 2002 22:05

Heinz,

I read the book and bye and large found it very interesting. Although poorly edited and plagued by typographical errors it does have the saving grace of at least dealing with other parts of the front besides those only involving the BEF and AEF! It was certainly refreshing to be able to read about the Argonne (long before the USA entered the war), the Woëvre and the Vosges sectors.

Where Mosier is most controversial is in his assertion that man for man the entente forces suffered much heavier casualties than their German opponents and that the allies always overestimated the number of German casualties. He may well be right. Victors tend to write the history of warfare and the First World War was no exception.

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 10 Dec 2002 05:25

Pershings troops certainly helped seal the fate of Germany. With man power exhausted in Germany, Britain and France, the American soldiers were needed to provide the fresh legs needed to defeat Germany.

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Post by Tim Smith » 10 Dec 2002 13:42

Only true if, as the Allies expected in 1918, the war was to continue into 1919 and require the complete conquest of Germany. In that case yes, the presence of a large American army would have been decisive.

Manpower was not exhausted in either Britain or Germany in 1918 - the school leavers would have been enough to replace losses. However, the backbone of the German army was its well-trained and experienced NCO's - by mid-1918 most of these men were dead, and the fighting quality and morale of the rank and file was seriously degraded as a result.

Good food was also in short supply for the soldiers, which contributed further to the low morale of the German army. Unlike the Allied soldiers, who were well fed by this stage thanks to American supplies.
Gwynn Compton wrote:Pershings troops certainly helped seal the fate of Germany. With man power exhausted in Germany, Britain and France, the American soldiers were needed to provide the fresh legs needed to defeat Germany.

Gwynn

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Post by Gwynn Compton » 15 Dec 2002 07:51

You could keep drafting in school leavers for each year to replace losses, but eventually neither side could last long at that rate.

Though you're certainly right that American soldiers would have proved to be the decisive factor had the complete conquest of Germany been required.

Gwynn

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Re: Mosier

Post by Anthony EJW » 19 Dec 2002 19:03

Glenn2438 wrote:Where Mosier is most controversial is in his assertion that man for man the entente forces suffered much heavier casualties than their German opponents and that the allies always overestimated the number of German casualties. He may well be right. Victors tend to write the history of warfare and the First World War was no exception.

Regards
Glenn
The Entente forces did suffer heavier casualties than the Central Powers, but not to the extent that Mosier claims.

Mosier analysises only war dead, but assumes the many missing of the German army were "safe in French PoW camp", not "blown into tiny pieces". Mosier claims the Germans lost about 600,000 men dead on the West Front, IIRC. Given that Germany lost about 2.1 million dead during WW1 I would like to know how Mosier accounts for the other1.5 million men. I suppose the Russian army was much more effective than commonly assumed.

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Post by D. Advocate Esq. » 22 Jan 2003 12:00

It is true to say (clearly) that the US forces were needed and did indeed provide fresh legs, enthusiasm and equipment. However, the soldiers took many months to arrive from the point at which they were politically committed (not sure of the dates).
The final push mentioned by many others that represented Germany's last hope was beaten, for the most part, before huge numbers of Amercians arrived. That is not to say that we don't thank them for their support, but by that point the British naval blockade was causing massive starvation in Germany, and large demonstrations were taking place in German cities.
As always, it is almost impossible to pin the successes and failures onto the actions of specific nations (though it is always tempting to try! - Come on the British!)

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Why Brits hate Mosier

Post by R.M. Schultz » 10 Feb 2003 23:04

I have read John Mosier’s book and talked to him about it as well and I find it wholly convincing. For another opinion along these lines I recommend Bruce I. Gudmundsson’s “Stormtroop tactics : innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918,” Praeger, N.Y.C., 1989.
What goads British historians about both Mosier and Gudmundsson is that their interpretation of Germany’s military efforts it that it makes the “Stab In The Back” interpretation both clear and plausible.

From 1914 to the late summer of 1918 the German people were told by their government that they were winning the war and this was substantially true. A series of opponents, Serbia, Romania, and Russia had been decisively defeated, Italy would have utterly collapsed in 1917 without British and French reïnforcement, the offensive potential of the French had been spent by 1917 and their army teetered on the very edge of dissolution for many months, while Britain’s resources were stretched to thin as to render her unable to launch an offensive without the considerable aid of her colonial dominions. Furthermore, while Germany had been able to launch successful offensives on every front, every effort of the western allies had proven fruitless in the face of German and Austrian resistance. At the beginning of 1918 the German high command realized that the war must be won, and won decisively, before the fall of 1918 when the Americans would begin to arrive in significant numbers. The liquidation of Russian resistance gave Germany a one time opportunity to shift their weight to the west and annihilate the French and British, and this they attempted to do in a series of offensives in the spring of 1918. These offensives, while more successful than any allied effort during the war, failed to achieve the war ending victory that was needed and the Germans fell back upon the defensive. The tables had turned, but not utterly. While the Allies began to enjoy an ever growing preponderance of men and materiel, the German home front began to show increasing strains from the starvation blockade, and the initiative had shifted (probably irretrievably) over to the Allies, the German position was not without its advantages. First, while the Allies enjoyed a superiority of men the Germans possessed a great deal of foreign land that they could make the allies pay to regain. Secondly, while there was a shortage of food in Germany throughout 1918, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk had ceded to the German sphere the grain-rich lands of the Ukraine and they could reasonably expect the harvest of 1918 to replenish their granaries. Thirdly, while the strategic initiative was lost, the Germans possessed great defensive capabilities in the face of singularly inept Allied offensive tactics. Thus, to the German way of thinking, while they had failed to win the war in 1918, they could certainly stave off defeat indefinitely, and thus counted the war as stalemated.

(Much has been made of the loss of confidence by Hindenburg and Ludendorf on the “Black Day of the German Army” as if this made defeat inevitable, yet there was really no reason why they could not have been replaced, as had Moltke and Falkenhayen when they too had lost confidence in victory. Does anyone think that Max von Hoffman or Marshal Mackensen would not willingly have accepted command, pulled Germany’s chestnuts out of the fire, and made the allies pay for every centimeter of Belgium they were forced to relinquish?)

Very few wars are ended with a Cartheginian peace, however, and usually a military situation is resolved politically. The German general staff and politicians looked about them in 1918 and realized that the Americans had already proposed peace on the terms of a draw: Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Was not Wilson’s proposal nothing more than the terms of a fair peace where there were no winners of losers, and are those not the terms agreed upon in a stalemate? It was also at this point of stale-mate that the Imperial Government turned over responsibility to the new Republic. Thus, the Republic’s offer of surrender specifically offered on the terms of the fourteen points, was initially rejected by the now cock-sure French and British until Pershing announced American unwillingness to participate in a war of conquest.

Of course, the Republic was betrayed by the Western Imperialist Powers who raped Germany at Versailles, breaking each and every one of the promises of Wilson’s Fourteen Points! Thus a militarily undefeated Germany was indeed stabbed in the back by none other than Woodrow Wilson!

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Post by Anthony EJW » 25 Feb 2003 20:44

R.M. Schultz wrote:I have read John Mosier’s book and talked to him about it as well and I find it wholly convincing. For another opinion along these lines I recommend Bruce I. Gudmundsson’s “Stormtroop tactics : innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918,” Praeger, N.Y.C., 1989.
What goads British historians about both Mosier and Gudmundsson is that their interpretation of Germany’s military efforts it that it makes the “Stab In The Back” interpretation both clear and plausible.
I think prehaps the fact that Mosier's book is totally anti-BEF is probably what goads British historian's about Mosier.
From 1914 to the late summer of 1918 the German people were told by their government that they were winning the war and this was substantially true. A series of opponents, Serbia, Romania, and Russia had been decisively defeated, Italy would have utterly collapsed in 1917 without British and French reïnforcement,
Austria-Hingary would have utterly collapsed much earlier than it did were it not for German reinforcements.
the offensive potential of the French had been spent by 1917 and their army teetered on the very edge of dissolution for many months,
The French army had recovered from the mutinies by 1918, and were able to effectively attack, taking 139,000 PoWs and 1,880 guns between 18th July to the 11th November.
while Britain’s resources were stretched to thin as to render her unable to launch an offensive without the considerable aid of her colonial dominions.
The French contributed something like a sixth of the troops involved
at St Mihiel. What does that say about the US Army's requirement for
French assistance?
Furthermore, while Germany had been able to launch successful offensives on every front, every effort of the western allies had proven fruitless in the face of German and Austrian resistance.
Fruitless? I don't seem to recall the Marne being a German victory, nor Verdun.
At the beginning of 1918 the German high command realized that the war must be won, and won decisively, before the fall of 1918 when the Americans would begin to arrive in significant numbers. The liquidation of Russian resistance gave Germany a one time opportunity to shift their weight to the west and annihilate the French and British, and this they attempted to do in a series of offensives in the spring of 1918. These offensives, while more successful than any allied effort during the war, failed to achieve the war ending victory that was needed and the Germans fell back upon the defensive.
They were, indeed, ultimately failures. The Germans failed to take one strategic objective during their offensives, and in the process lost nearly one million men. By territory taken the offensives would seem to have been pretty successful, and you would have thought German moral would have been sky high after this- but in the event the reverse applied.
The tables had turned, but not utterly. While the Allies began to enjoy an ever growing preponderance of men and materiel, the German home front began to show increasing strains from the starvation blockade, and the initiative had shifted (probably irretrievably) over to the Allies, the German position was not without its advantages. First, while the Allies enjoyed a superiority of men the Germans possessed a great deal of foreign land that they could make the allies pay to regain.
Likewise, it cost the Germans a great deal to defend it- they lost around 400,000 men as prisoners and 6,500 guns between 18th July and 11th November. The BEF alone took 29,000 machine guns. Germany could no longer afford such loses, and the German army was beginning to fall apart.
Secondly, while there was a shortage of food in Germany throughout 1918, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk had ceded to the German sphere the grain-rich lands of the Ukraine and they could reasonably expect the harvest of 1918 to replenish their granaries. Thirdly, while the strategic initiative was lost, the Germans possessed great defensive capabilities in the face of singularly inept Allied offensive tactics.
How was, say, the breaching of the Hindenberg Line by Allied forces in September singularly inept? What is your analysis of the storming of St Quentin Canal?
Thus, to the German way of thinking, while they had failed to win the war in 1918, they could certainly stave off defeat indefinitely, and thus counted the war as stalemated.
The main German defensive line that they had spent two years building had been breached by the end of September 1918. Just who was going to build a new one when the German army couldn't halt the Allied offensive?
(Much has been made of the loss of confidence by Hindenburg and Ludendorf on the “Black Day of the German Army” as if this made defeat inevitable, yet there was really no reason why they could not have been replaced, as had Moltke and Falkenhayen when they too had lost confidence in victory. Does anyone think that Max von Hoffman or Marshal Mackensen would not willingly have accepted command, pulled Germany’s chestnuts out of the fire, and made the allies pay for every centimeter of Belgium they were forced to relinquish?)
Given the loses they had suffered, and could not replace, I don't see how Germany could have reversed the situation. Indeed, Ludendorff was replaced, but it doesn't seem to have helped much.
Very few wars are ended with a Cartheginian peace, however, and usually a military situation is resolved politically. The German general staff and politicians looked about them in 1918 and realized that the Americans had already proposed peace on the terms of a draw: Wilson’s Fourteen Points. Was not Wilson’s proposal nothing more than the terms of a fair peace where there were no winners of losers, and are those not the terms agreed upon in a stalemate? It was also at this point of stale-mate that the Imperial Government turned over responsibility to the new Republic.
The armistice terms that the Allies offered (and the Germans accepted) included the evacuation of all occupied territories (including territory taken from Russia after Brest Litovsk) by the German army and of all districts on the left bank of the Rhine. It also included the handing over of a large amount of material (i.e., 5,000 guns, 25,000 machine guns, 1,700 aeroplanes, 5,000 motor cars etc) and warships.
Thus, the Republic’s offer of surrender specifically offered on the terms of the fourteen points, was initially rejected by the now cock-sure French and British until Pershing announced American unwillingness to participate in a war of conquest.
On the 30th October Pershing wrote to the Surpeme War Council, urging 'unconditional surrender,' despite what Wilson thought.
Of course, the Republic was betrayed by the Western Imperialist Powers who raped Germany at Versailles, breaking each and every one of the promises of Wilson’s Fourteen Points! Thus a militarily undefeated Germany was indeed stabbed in the back by none other than Woodrow Wilson!
How did the Allies break all of the Forteen Points?

In sharp contrast to 1945, Germany was not dismembered. Germany was not robbed of its territorial integrity, its unity, its imposing industries or its potential for great power status. Even that strategically placed segment of Germany, the Rhineland, which for reasons of their nation's security the French military wanted to see converted into a French dependency, was left as an integral part of the German state. No attempt was made to demolish or bring under Allied control the heavy-industrial complex which had provided the material basis for the German war machine.

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Post by R.M. Schultz » 27 Feb 2003 05:50

President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points

• With commentary about it’s application under the Versailles Diktat.

The program of the world's peace, therefore, is our program; and that program, the only possible program, as we see it, is this:

I. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

• In place of open covenants, the Big Four victorious Entente Powers (excluding their smaller allies) conspired together in secret at Versailles and presented the defeated Central Powers with dictated treaties.

II. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.

• Not only did the United States enter the war to support the British blockade of Germany, but that blockade was kept in place after the signing of the Armistice until Germany had been forced to sign the Versailles Diktat in the face of the starvation of her people.

III. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.

• At this time, and throughout the post-war years, the United States maintained one of the highest tariffs in the world, making it virtually impossible for anybody to sell enough in America to repay war loans or make reparations payments.

IV. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.

• Germany alone was forced by the Versailles Diktat to reduce her army to a size barely consistent with maintaining internal security.

V. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

• Since when is any form of colonialism consistent with interests of the populations concerned? This was mere smoke and mirrors for awarding Germany’s paltry colonies to the victorious Entente Powers.

VI. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.

• At the time of the Armistice, Germany was drawing much of her food-stuffs from the Ukraine (which, from all reports, was being very well governed under German occupation). The Entente Powers then forced Germany to evacuate the Ukraine (where an anarchic civil war then raged for four years) while themselves maintaining the Starvation Blockade. Furthermore, rather than respecting Russia’s “institutions of her own choosing,” four of the Entente Powers subsequently sent expeditionary forces in an attempt to dislodge the Soviet Government.

VII. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.

• This point was, in fact, carried out. Belgium, being among the victors, was in fact given the 82.6% German district of Eupen-Malmédy as a spoil of war!

VIII. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.

• Alsace-Lorraine was, in 1918, 87.4% German.

IX. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.

• Not only were the Italian portions of the Tyrol given to Italy, but the overwhelmingly German South Tyrol was awarded her as well. Furthermore, Italy saw fit to make a grab for the Croatian Istria, and the Greek Dodecanesse Islands as spoil of war!

X. The peoples of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.

• It can hardly be called “autonomous development” when Transylvania, largely Hungarian and German, was awarded to victorious Romania, or when Slovenia and Croatia were given, much against their will, to their fellow “south Slavs,” the Serbs. Further, the Versailles Diktat specifically forbid the Germans of the dissolved Hapsburg Empire from joining the German Republic.

XI. Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.

• Montenegro, a neutral power, was given, as spoil of war to the Serbs. Macedonia (overwhelmingly Bulgarian) and Kosovo (overwhelmingly Albanian) awarded as booty after the Second Balkan War of 1913, were allowed to remain in Serbian hands. Northern Epiris, largely Greek, was retained by Albania. All of this in contravention to “historically established lines of allegiance and nationality.”

XII. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

• Turkey had to fight a three year war of resistance to Greek invasion even after her independence was “guaranteed” by the treaty of Saint Germain.

XIII. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.

• The entire Baltic coast, from Kiel to Memel was inhabited by overwhelmingly German populations, yet a corridor was cut through these peoples and awarded to Poland to guarantee her “free and secure access to the sea.” The area around Memel, 52.3% German though it was, fell to newly independent Lithuania.

XIV. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.

• The United States never joined this association, nor was the German Republic allowed to join.

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Post by Peter H » 27 Feb 2003 09:38

The problem with the idealistic 14 Points was that the Germans grasped them as an easy way out for peace--note how the High Command was replaced by a Social democrat government in line with this.Present a 'changed' character and make peace with the Americans.

What was overlooked was the views of the long-suffering Allies in this regard.

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