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Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:23 pm

Army Group strategy was most effectively utilised by the Germans, witness the creations of Rupprecht, Albrecht, Kronprinz and Luitpold commands (also the fact all these nominal controllers were Royal Crown Princes).

This was not the case in 1914 although it became the German norm later. I suggest that the failure of the German General Staff to create high-level intermediate HQ's during peacetime contributed to the events in August-October 1914, particularly on the Western Front. Forcing senior army commanders to wear two hats; that of commanding their own armies in addition to others was inherently unsatisfactory and proved counter-productive in action.

I understand the German Staff system but the canard that the army commander was a mere figurehead is, in my opinion vastly overstated and unsupported by any more than anecdotal and highly subjective evidence coupled with constant repetition of same. A strong Chief of Staff could certainly save a weak army commander but there is no evidence that a poor CoS would automatically debilitate a strong army commander and there were certainly under-performing CoS out there. That which the German's titled CoS would often wield power and authority of de facto commanders in chief, von Molkte the Younger in 1914 Chief of the General Staff for example but a CoS limited himself to logistical and administrative functions could still be a great asset to a competent commander at any level.

In the German system, staff officers could be delegated tremendous authority but at the end of the day, the entire responsibility for the actions of the CoS still belonged to the commander.

The legal authority and responsibility for command rested with the appointed Army Commanders not the CoS. All of the examples cited demonstrate the facility within the German Army for self-examination and improvement but Lossburg, Bruchmuller and Hentsch (and others more anonymous) were tasked with specific duties and mostly authorised to submit recommendations to the commanders for approval. Staff officers were certainly given authority to act in some situations but it was never uniform or universal. Otherwise there would have been no chain of command and the results would have been chaos. A CoS acted alone with authority that they were given from the titular commanders and in very specific situations; such authority was never automatically implicit in the duties of a CoS at any level.

-C

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Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:46 am

Well in 1914- The army commanders were thus-

1. Von Kluck- capable, appointed solely on his merits.
2. Von Bulow- Old and powerful aristocratic family, also passed over for Chief of General Staff post, political.
3. Von Hausen- Saxon, commanding Saxon Army
4. Von Wurtemberg- Political, Crown Prince of Wurtemberg
5. Von Preuben - Political, Crown Prince of Prussia/Germany.
6. Von Bayern - Political, Crown Prince of Bavaria.
7. Von Heeringen- but subordinated to 6th as 7th was quite small, former War Minister, part merit and part political.
8. Von Pritwitz und Gaffron- Old aristrocratic family, Political. (certainly can't be called Meritocratic)
Chief of General Staff- Von Moltke Jr., Politicial as he was descendant of Graf Moltke and also because Von Der Goltz, Von Bulow were deemed too autocratic by the Kaiser.

So out of 8+1 Major posts- only one is solely on merit and 2 partially. Rest all are political; now compare their Chief of Staff and all would be solely on merit.
Even later all Army Group Commanders were Royalty or Uradel Nobility, even Von Hindenburg is an example of titular commander and Ludendorff reining supreme on merit basis.

I totally agree that the CoS would weild authority of the de facto commanders in specific situations only however there was a clause that he could object to certain plans of the Army Commander if he felt they were not in line and propose counter plans. This was not so in any of the other Armies of the world.

Strong Army Commanders like - Kluck, Mackensen of course wielded enormous prestige and clout but they were not absolute dictators or totally autonomous like Russian, Ottoman or even French in 1914.
Also German generals were taught to think for themselves and not wait for high command unlike all other armies, notice- Von Kluck's wheeling, Von Gronau's prompt reaction and several such incidents. (An allied commander acting on his own like Smith-Dorrien was treated very shabbily by 'FRENCH and HAIG'. )


The fault in 1914 was more with Moltke Jr being a weak Chief of Staff to an Indecisive Supreme Commander - Wilhelm II who also wanted to meddle, unlike the times when Wilhelm I was more content letting Bismarck and Graf Moltke dictate terms once the war had started, Moltke Jr. had his own staff, telephones, staff cars (all were primitive and limited but there) etc and if he had exerted himself physically like Joffre did (Joffre made his army commanders exert on his behalf, as he was fat and lazy but effective) then things could have turned different.

Moltke Jr. was pessimistic and appointing Von Bulow as joint Commander(1st and 2nd) was even more stupid, actually several issues-

1. Most important- Transfer of nearly 100000 troops from Western Front to the East.
2. Allowing Rupprecht to counter attack when he was defending successfully. (the troops wasted here could have been better utilised in the "RACE to SEA")
3. Not exerting himself to force Von Bulow and Von Hausen and the 2 Crown Princes commanding 4th and 5th armies to act more forcefully. (the middle armies marched at an average of 5 miles per day, Von Kluck at 12.5 Miles per day - So they could have done a bit more).
4. Not seeing and meeting the army commanders himself and relying on third hand reports to give muddled commands.
5. Not conveying to 'CONRAD' the real weakness of the Germans on the Eastern front and goading him to make even more suicidal attacks turning a bad situation to nightmare - -though this may be due to miscommunication and misunderstanding also, but he could have been forthright like Von Falkenhyn.

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Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:27 pm

That the German doctrine was to destroy Armies instead of going for capitals can of course be seen in the historical movements of von Kluge's 1st army. He was moving across Paris, and towards the east of Paris instead of going straight for the capital. This of course is why the attacks from the direction of Paris at the Marne, north east of Paris, caught him in the flank.

I wonder if a German cav corps could have historically taken Paris? Paris wasn't a strong fortress. Instead they were throwing up last minute fortifications as they realized the possible threat, IIRC. But still, could a cav corp moving faster than artillery could possibly moved still have taken a defended capital? Or would the troops being gathered under Gallieni and the fortifications being hastily improved been enough to keep German Cav out of the capital? At least long enough for the rail system to allow troops to come help?

Games, especially game AIs, seem to need geographical objectives.

I wonder if a bit of strengthening of the defenses of Paris might make this game play a bit more realistically/historically? The defenses of Paris as they currently are might be historical, but as I read this I'm wondering if making them a bit stronger might help the larger strategic situation be a bit more historical? Maybe something like a locked unit that stays in Paris that makes the defenses just strong enough to fight off a cavalry raid?

Just my $.02, so feel free to ignore or critique. And thanks for the fascinating discussion. :)

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Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:32 am

That the German doctrine was to destroy Armies instead of going for capitals can of course be seen in the historical movements of von Kluge's 1st army. He was moving across Paris, and towards the east of Paris instead of going straight for the capital.

Following Ritter (The Schleiffen Plan - Critique of a Myth) and Zuber (The Real German War Plans 1905-14) it's pretty clear that the German's never managed to solve "the problem of Paris" in their pre-war planning. Coupled with the redeployment from the right wing of four infantry and one cavalry divisions to the Eastern Front, von Kluck's turn makes perfect sense. Those magnificent sweeping arrows that always run to the west of Paris in the maps of the famous Plan are pure conjecture. The evidence suggests that First Army's flank was not that open and LtGen von Groener's reinforced Corps was actually doing quite well against the French Sixth Army counter-attacks on the flank of First Army, another instance of the German's achieving tactical victories that proved strategically hollow.

I wonder if a German cav corps could have historically taken Paris? Paris wasn't a strong fortress. Instead they were throwing up last minute fortifications as they realized the possible threat, IIRC.

Paris was the hub of the French rail net and while the fortifications may not have been up to the standards of those on the frontier, there were plenty of reserves and territorial formations in the city and more arriving daily. Cavalry operating in the semi-urban approaches to the city and the outlying fortifications would have been at a huge disadvantage in numbers and firepower if for no other reason that cavalry formations were much smaller than their infantry equivalents. So I doubt that cavalry alone would have been successful in staging a coup-de-main against the city proper. This is not to say that they could not have caused the defenders considerable grief but without heavy howitzers they would be at a huge disadvantage in most situations. Attacking fortifications was never seen as a role for German cavalry although some divisions did have jaeger and assault pioneer units attached.
Games, especially game AIs, seem to need geographical objectives.

This I agree with entirely!
I wonder if a bit of strengthening of the defenses of Paris might make this game play a bit more realistically/historically? The defenses of Paris as they currently are might be historical, but as I read this I'm wondering if making them a bit stronger might help the larger strategic situation be a bit more historical?

Paris starts as a reduced Major fortress but editing its parameters and making it full strength is easy.

Fortresses are defined in the Fortress.csv file found in the specific GoldScenario folder. The entry for Paris looks like this:

FRA_Fort-Paris;766060;Fort-Paris;FT_MajorFortress;FRA;PARIS;766061;[color="#FF0000"]1[/color];[color="#00FF00"]3;3;-2;-1;3;2[/color]

The[color="#FF0000"] Red[/color] value indicates a Reduced fortress, change to a zero for the fort to appear at full strength for a new scenario. The [color="#00FF00"]Green[/color] numbers are the fortress values, full-strength and reduced. Edit to taste but save the original file somewhere safe and if using mods enabled with JSGME, roll back to Stock before editing any files.

A worthy $0.02, thank you for posting.

-C

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