(Edit: I'd let this stand, as I have other things to write, but it's just too darn rough to go without a little polishing.)
It's amazing how quickly a day at the library goes. There's a lot of things that I'd like to talk about. Some of the sillier notions of pre-war aviation history got aired again last week in the even sillier context of a call for a lunar colony. I'm still circling the problem of getting a handle on the transatlantic horse trade. (This book looks like it needs a look.) In the end, though, I went with trying to draw out a picture that I've already formed from books that I've already read.
This is one doesn't start chronologically. Eugenia Kiesling's purpose here is pretty clearly spelled out. How much can you plan for future wars? It's an interesting question, but not a big concern for me. I like her Arming Against Hitler for its explication of the obstacles between planning and implementation. And by that I don't mean all of the debates over periods of service or frequency of cohort uptake or the problems of dealing with politically unreliable conscripts. What I mean begins with a little story about mobilisation centres.
Kiesling (88) notes the ideal of 509th Tank Regiment, whose depot was Mobilisation Centre 509 in Maubeuge, with a backup Mobilization Centre 513 at Rouen, which had no indigenous regiment. So every new conscript inducted at Maubeuge who meets the 509th's requirements (of which more below) goes to that regiment. If that wasn't enough, MC 513 could send along a few more men. The 509 is staffed from a coherent region. At the end of their service, the men go back to Maubeuge or Rouen, ready to be called up to serve in "their" regiment when the balloon goes up. But consider the more common case of Mobilisation Centre 503, which sent men to the 507th, 508th and 510th Tank Regiments, while the 503rd Tank Regiment received men from rear Mobilisation Centres in yet another four regions. How did things get so confused? I'm sure that there is a complicated, amusing bureaucratic story to be told, because we are talking about complicated bureaucracies that do amusing things. I would say that it is no way to run an army, except that pretty much all armies are run this way, which is why my eyes glaze over at so much of Kiesling's heroic research. Prove that things weren't equally screwed up on the German side, and she'd have a case.
That being said, another of her examples is just awesome (89ff). She has looked at the papers for the Lille Mobilisation Centre. Obviously the old fortress-and-sayettrie centre turned grimy industrial town didn't send men to a single tank regiment. It sent men to the infantry, chasseurs à pied, Zouaves, Tiralleurs algeriens, Tirallieurs tunisiens, armoured units, "mechanical support units" for armour, horse cavalry (again, resident Africans were segregated into the chasseurs d’Afrique), motorised cavalry units, horse-drawn artillery, mechanised artillery, railway artillery, fortress infantry, AA troops, chemical weapons units,* training establishments, engineer units including sappers, mechanics, electromechanical engineers, and telegraphists, supply companies, horse-drawn and motorised, clerical and other administrative units, medical, balloon detachments, the navy and the air force. Clearly the preference for regions of recruitment conflicted heavily with the need for specialists. This is because, to an extent, Lille was just big, but there's more to it.
For example, armoured regiments didn't take just anyone. They required that 15% of their inductees to be skilled metal workers and 10% to be woodworkers (this is Kiesling's translation, and I suspect that if I were writing about the British army of the period, I would say "fitters and riggers," and be just as mysterious). Twenty percent must have driver’s licenses.
The tankers go on. They want Radio operators and painters. They also want bootmakers and saddle makers. Now this seems a little strange, but they go on to specify "other suitable candidates for training as drivers." So having a militarily useful trade makes you a better potential candidate driver? Maybe it has something to do with recruiting within pay rates? Meanwhile the cavalry remount depots also wanted the boot and saddle makers, with more reason. More specifically, they accepted only these trades, plus accountants, blacksmiths, tailors, and, once again, woodworkers. Tradesmen with other certificates across a wide range of other skills were certified by their employers and distributed with regard to need (riding, driving, music, mechanics, nursing, piloting, navigation are noted). Bakers, butchers, cooks, masons, painters, and so forth were distributed according to TOEs.
At the other extreme, there were unwanted men. Les Joyeux, illiterates and non-Francophones were supposed to be sprinkled around to maximum targets. The cavalry wanted no more than 5% illiterates, but when, say, 22.5% of the inductees in the Limoge, for example, were functionally illiterate, this was a challenge. Kiesling notes that some mounted units in western France had 50% illiterates.
Now, the theory of the nation in arms is that each man (parliament argued about conscripting women, and concluded that it, like a national labour registry was impractical in peace) goes to camp, is trained, and returns to civilian life. Every once in a while, he gets a refresher, and as his cohort ages, it graduates into newer, lower effectiveness reserve units. So 1st Infantry of Ville Ordinaire is backed by the 101st, 201st, 301st and Too-Old-For-This1st that garrisons the citadel. But if a man goes away from town to be a tanker in the 509th, and comes back to Ville Ordinaire. His unit is supposed to be the 1509th, all the way across the country, which is not very practical to start with, and raises the further problem that there have to be tanks for him. If there is no 1509th, for lack of tanks or whatever, the old soldier is sent to the local infantry –with no infantry training! (94). In theory, 20 armoured regiments that train 1000 men every year have encumbered the country with 200,000 veterans with no infantry training after 10 years!
I wouldn't overstress this problem taken in isolation. Maybe if the awesome Nazi war machine crossed the border hours after mobilisation in a vast attaque brusque, it would be important. If it's an "iron spearhead on a wooden shaft" that does so eight months after the declaration of war, not so much. Yet the same circumstance can apply to anything from the cavalry to the railway service and I do see a more subtle problem.
Consider: how many eighteen year old inductees are skilled mechanics? Bootmakers? Accountants? Butchers? Very few: the system is based on the premise that these eighteen year olds can be turned into riflemen quite as good as anyone's, but the armed forces' are only 39% infantry, a figure that the British Army Council could only look at with envy, hampered as it was by the India garrison) In a shooting war, the riflemen will die a lot, and there will be need of a large cohort of replacements, but that's not the point. The point is to staff the regular units that will train everybody. This is easily accomplished with rifle companies, but not so much with units that are presumably looking for eighteen-year-old mechanics. Not that the army can afford to be the trade school for the nation, even if one can imagine how it might be accomplished. (Are surplus Grande Ecole men going to be kidnapped and forced to study a trade?)
The point of the requirements of the cavalry depot is that this isn't exactly a new problem. There's probably a transition point where the main issue goes from horses being relatively scarce to war being all new fangled and stuff. But, heck. Let's not sweat the "probably." Let's look at other books.
So one way to start here is with the myth of decisive warfare. My buddy Jamal Ostwald says that we can go back to the eighteenth century and earlier and find people agitating for wars that consist of individual decisive battles, and critics who think that the problem is that war is just not being prosecuted "vigorously" enough. Fair enough, but the conventional picture is that the old regime was all about avoiding battle because armies were too expensive to risk, and sieges didn't kill lots of soldiers. Which is completely wrong, but never mind. The purpose of fighting wars was to capture provinces willy-nilly, because monarchies had no concept of the longing for authentic national community that burned in the hearts of men. Then came the French Revolution, with Napoleon blasting the crumbling citadels of old Europe with his brassy, beautiful daughters. (Stick around through 3:00. It's meta-ironic. Oh. Also, serious link. Gotta look at this some day.)
The idea is that liberal-bourgeois national armies, for various reasons having to do with the awesomeness of the end of history, had unleashed the power of decisive battle. This is sort of free-floating historiography. Military-historical literature treats it as a fact made apparent by the Napoleonic wars, so if there reaction away from conscript armies in many countries, it's part of the Counter-Revolution's effort to put the genie of nationalism back in the bottle. This makes it a little hard to account for Jomini, and allegedly leads to an impoverished reading of Clausewitz. Whatever. I don't care, and trying to write the intellectual history of the first half of the Nineteenth Century in broad strokes so that you can get to the First World War in one blog posting sounds like an unsound endeavour to me, so I'm just going to skip ahead to 1870.
Why 1870? Because of the Franco-Prussian War. I'd hoped to be able to blog about David Stone's First Reich, a book about that conflict, but the UBC Library copy is out on loan. I hope the reader, no doubt attracted by the hideously mistaken title, appreciates what he has: proof that historians are doing it wrong! (Waiting...Hey! Where's my job at Slate? )** The Franco-Prussian War is not much written about, and, predictably as a war featuring Germans, tends to be written from the German perspective. It's nice that the big book that we have is by Sir Michael Howard, but bad that it's so old. So a bright young thing did what academic historians are supposed to do and piled into an archive to do it again, and came out with this disappointment. Then David Stone came along and basically wrote a book out of the contemporary newspaper coverage and blew both Howard and Wawro away, because the information readily available in the public record, because that record is so much deeper than anything a scholar could haul out of an archive in a research trip. (An even better book would begin with Stone's sources and then dive into the archives, but that would be too much reading for a dissertation. It's the kind of thing a tenured historian would write, and now I'm tempted to say a bad and envious and ill-spirited thing about the typical tenured member of my profession.)
I praise David Stone because he was the first author to explain how it was that the French declared war in July and yet couldn't invade Germany until August, by which time it was too late, and why the French, despite their superior firepower and the Prusso-German tendency to kill their own men with French bullets still lost. It wasn't because Catholic Latins are cowardly and lazy and Protestant Germanics aren't, fossilised remnants of which explanation still lurk in the Very Serious Books I just noted. It's because the the French ran out of bullets before the Prussians ran out of breasts. The ammunition wagons hadn't come up in time. .
Thomas Adriance explains why in the kind of book that you are supposed to write for your dissertation before expanding your view to write a history of the entire war. (I'll let his biography say the rest.) It was because the French depots couldn't find enough accountants, woodworkers, bootmakers, and saddlemakers in time. This had never been a problem before. Napoleon III declared war, the army got its act together, and then it was off to stage a farce. (Now with more dead people!) The army consisted of medium-service men, the idea being that you saved money by holding onto men while they were vigorous and young until the last moment before the general compensation climate would require you to offer them a pension, at which point you kick them out into the non-pension-earning reserve. Except that if you pull that trick on men who've learned to be saddlemakers, they will separate, too. So since there's no downside to keeping them on, and there's the sunk cost of training to consider, you keep the saddlemakers for another decade or so. So the reserve has a lower ratio of regular soldiers to saddlemakers, and when you mobilise, you have to go out and recruit saddlemakers somehow before you can march. The Prussians, who had everyone in the reserve (in theory) could pull in the saddlemakers and get going a bit faster. And that's how you end up with the medium-service French Imperial army being slower to get going than the short-service Prussian army because of different modes of allocation of scarce skilled labour assets.
Anyway, take my summary of David Stone with a grain of salt on account of my not being able to check it out. And, come to think of it, brings me to Eric Dorn Brose's The Kaiser's Army: The Politics of Military Technology in the Machine Age, 1870--1918, which is just as interesting as it sounds.
Despite the title, Brose begins with the cavalry exercises at 1881, before looking back at the decisive cavalry actions of Mars-la-Tour. (Hohenfriedberger March, for mood music.) Mars-la-Tour actually signals something of a division between the three arms going forward. The mounted arm hadn't done much in 1866, but Mars-la-Tour was arguably decided by the sabre. For forty years afterwards, the cavalry arm wanted to do it again, and made public gestures in this direction while people laughed at them. Meanwhile, the infantry entered the war on a high note due to the whole needle gun thing and was promptly schooled by the French, who used Science on them.
The artillery, on the other hand, had under-performed at Königgratz, and consequently, like the cavalry, was neglected in the early actions of the Franco-Prussian War. The cavalry had to thrust itself forward for suspect attention, but things worked out much better for the beautiful daughters of the Emperor. Just to drive this metaphor into the ground, by the end ( cue mood music again), the lovesick infantry was beseeching the love of the guns, and got it, with 540 steel-barreled Krupp field guns softening up the French at Sedan.
Lessons had been learned, and, better yet, the guns were all worn out, requiring their complete replacement.
So, what kind of toys? Well, as various people have told us over the years, the Prussian Great Generalquartermaster's Staff's historical section was in the midst of a raging argument with Hans Delbrück over whether Frederick the Great was into decisive battle (the Staff's position), or "the double-poled strategy of Clausewitz, (Delbrück), a phrase that implied that the Staff were not only bad historians, but bad intepreters of Clausewitz. Burn! The artillery wanted to on the GGQM-Staff's side, and went with light mobile guns that could be wheeled up and used at the front in great, heroically-advancing lines of batteries, like Frederick the Great’s horse artillery. The artillery had caught the spirit of decisive battle, or the cavalry spirit, you take your choice.
Then, at Plevna in 1877, the Russian artillery failed dreadfully to break up the Turkish field fortifications and the assaulting infantry columns were massacred by Turkish fire. This looked like exactly the kind of thing that the new German field artillery would do. What was the solution? Light field artillery armed with black-powder HE shells (“grenades,” to be less anachronistic but perhaps less than accurately translated), on the assumption that there were just not enough used at Plevna? A revived shrapnel round that could be fired over the attacking infantry to to increase volume of fire and suppress the defenders?
Oh, oh! The "foot," or garrison, or static artillery knew! With the new nitrated explosives, big shells could just plain blow up not only field fortifications such as Plevna but actual fortresses. In 1883 trials, Moltke watched a 210mm loaded with the new-fangled "gun cotton" demolish a fake fort with a single round. Instead of light field guns, why not take big mortars and howitzers to war? If that idea were endorsed, it would have both technical and strategic implications. The Germans could just walk through the French fortress belt in the next war to get at the French.
As it happened, more earth, reinforced concrete, and steel armour got in the way of the simplicity of this. Permanent fortress builders might have found a solution, although it was not clear. (You could even write an entertaining story about spies stealing each others' plans for ever bigger shells, ever thicker armour as a technological race pit artillery makers against fortress builders and naval architects. Or you could read this.) It was less obvious that the idea of the field fortification could survive.
Meanwhile, the politics of the Reich were getting poisonous. As we all know, the Prussians ended up with an army not responsible to Parliament and thus an effectively emasculated War Ministry. Still, someone had to run the army, and that left the Military Cabinet, in which the chief of the military cabinet chaired a committee of service branch chiefs plus the chief of the GGQM-Staff, each with direct access to the emperor. While the French built new railways, forts, telegraphs and introduced first the Lebel rifle and then the Model 1897 and finally the heavier-than-aircraft, all the while experimenting with the bicycle, the German service chiefs competed to present a vision of the future to a new Kaiser who, in spite of being something of a nerd, couldn't get the Germans onto the French wavelength.***
So while the infantry and cavalry struggled over the tactics and operational missions of the future, the artillery branch struggled over technology and the way that it would determine tactics. Some wanted field guns to thrust forward aggressively. Others wanted howitzers to blow up field fortifications. The foot artillerists, meanwhile, elided the difference between field howitzers and heavy batteries that could smash fortresses. But if the Germans were equipped to smash fortresses, might that mean that they should attack where fortresses were? 9 305mm mortars were ordered in 1896. Did that mean going through Lorraine and battering away at Verdun? Did light guns mean pressing through the Ardennes? Could lighter heavy guns break the aging Belgian forts and open the roads through flat country? It didn't help that steelmaking technology was in transition, too. Steam hammers? Steam diffuser presses? Hydraulic presses? What was up with this "nickel" stuff?
Meanwhile, the war minister, on the outside looking in, fought for more forts, which would allow Germany to fight on the defensive in the west or east, and more really heavy artillery to keep up with Russian forts in Poland. He also wanted to hold back manpower for industry to support a long war.
This, then, would be a war in which the general staff's expertise in rapid mobilisation would be less important. Instead of a heroic advance into France (or Russia, depending on the day of the week) leading to a decisive victory, there would be national military-industrial attrition, lasting at least a year or two. Or, as a retired Moltke mordantly predicted, a new Thirty Year's War. Meanwhile, Alfred v. Schlieffen, the most important interwar Chief of Staff, had a plan. It would need perhaps 30 corps. People talk about this as strategy, but I suspect that we could get further by looking at the politics. After all, this would mean drafting the entire working class. (Cue an image of two Colonel Blimps fighting: "this will teach them military discipline! Awesome!" "No! it will load the army up with Red revolutionaries!")
Meanwhile, machine guns. If there's one thing that I don't like about Brose, it's that he's more interested in machine guns and Spion Kop than the impact of the M. 1897, perhaps because the way that France led in military technology almost to the outbreak of WWI is in such profound conflict with the whole "superiority of German science" narrative. And there was empire building; when one of the leading military intellectuals, Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz, became head of the Corps of Engineers in 1899 he tried to turn the corp's pet labour force, the Pioneers, into assault infantry. Now, in some sense, that is what the 32 battalions of pioneers already were. The real implication of his scheme was that regular infantry battalions would rotate through pioneer brigades, creating a mass of infantry trained to dig Germany to victory against France. He even proposed (and got) a Military Technical Academy that was supposed to compete with the Staff's War Academy for the cream of the military intellectuals of the German army. As you'll see below, I think that both of these are Big Things.
And then there was Schlieffen’s 1903-04 wargame, the offensive into France became a slaughter. There was a flanking move through Belgium, but of only 12 divisions. The mass of German troops tried to fight their way into France through Lorraine in a desperately one-sided battle. The anew French rapid-fire artillery massacred the infantry, and when the guns went forward, they were butchered, too, due to their lack of gunshields. I can't emphasise enough the importance of gunshields, literally the reappearance of anti-ballistic armour on the battlefield after centuries of absence, with direct implications not only for tactics, but for the army's deployment of national equine resources. Heavier guns meant bigger teams. More horses for guns meant fewer horses for sabres. But was horse cavalry still relevant? Had the army reached some kind of material limit beyond which it could not advance with enough infantry, enough screen, and enough artillery? If so, what could possibly be a solution that retained the General Staff's primacy? And if it wasn't, what would take its place? Cars? Bicycles? Zeppelins? Fast-marching infantry, powered by advances in the science of nutrition?
Famously, in his 1905 game, Schlieffen answered the question by postulating the 30 corps I've already noted as possibly a political desiderata. The Germans used their superiority of manpower in the open field to push everyone into Belgium to outflank the French with their superior firepower and win a cauldron battle. When Einem, the Prussian war minister 1903—09, declared that the German artillery was perfectly adequate, meaning there wasn't money to re-equip it again, he implicitly endorsed Schlieffen: and thus the politics of army expansion.
This led to all out attack in parliament. The new Chancellor, v. Bulow, seeing a chance to get more control over the military establishment, took aim. Seriously? Where were the machine guns, the zeppelins, the steam-powered giant robots? In fact, the main victims were the cavalry, who had to give up Mars-la-Tour. Even so, there was a grand rearguard action, as people, notably in the popular conservative press, conjured Russians unleashing a veritable horde of Tatar-Cossack cavalry on Europe, just like Genghis and Attila and those dudes. Seriously. At one point, the Kaiser had to abandon a hunting vacation in east Prussia because a Russian cavalry division was suddenly redeployed there. Oh noes! The Tatars are going to steal our Emperor! Again, I repeat: seriously. (Though I'll have to find my cite.)
Into such an environment, the foot artillery thrust bravely. In 1909, Krupp, probably at the behest of a politician/journalist/artillerist named Max Bauer, demonstrated a 420mm howitzer, the Gamma Device capable of throwing a 2000lb shell 14km. (This kind of stuff didn't start yesterday.) It very much impressed the bourgeois military intellectual Ludendorff, now a department head at the GQM-Staff, who briefly dabbled with the idea of smashing through the French fortress wall before reverting to the staff's orthodoxy.
Briefly, because saner elements within the foot artillery noted that it would require an army that was ready to lay railways forward into battle. Not that this was impossible, but a “mobile” solution was preferred, and forthcoming. A 420mm howitzer that would only weigh "only" 44 tons. Of course, the resulting M-Device only threw a 1700lb shell 9 km, but that seemed adequate. That this was less than twice the range of an M. 1897 would have been important if anyone had thought things through, but they didn't. They were thinking in the soon-to-be-obsolete terms of penetration through steel-and-reinforced-concrete, and the M-Device's performance seemed adequate. Two Ms and 4 Gammas were in service in 1914. That's a lot of deployment infrastructure, mobile or not.
Ultimately, as we know, the war plan was for the big manoeuvre. There's a big argument about how real the "Schlieffen Plan" was, but what is not in doubt is that a flurry of new army bills made 81 divisions available. This included masses of reserve infantry that could not be equipped with adequate artillery, but also five cavalry divisions and 10 Jäger battalions so that no-one could accuse the GQM Staff of neglecting the couverture. Hopefully, the reservists' main job would be to march around the French.
What one could accuse the Staff of being, was crazy. Having 81 divisions, it still needed a place to put them. The solution, as so often intimated, was the Belgian plain, and to accomplish this in time for it to make a difference, that is, before the French could react, practically the whole German army was going to have to funnel through the vital rail centre of Liege, which would need to be open within 5 days of mobilisation. That is, the forts of Liege would have to be taken by then. How?
The answer? Bullets against breasts! And the men required for the coup de main against the ring forts of that city would have to be on their way within hours of the call to arms. None of this could be achieved without mobilisation and march planning of incredible complexity. Planning that justified the steady growth and preeminence of the Staff and gave it the appointments that allowed the War Academy to cut off the supply of brains to the War Technical Academy. And since the demand for men who knew march tables went well beyond what either Academy could supply, cavalry officers began to feed it, drawing off the head of steam in the cavalry officer corps.
So what happened? The Coup de main against Liege failed. All the mobile (very) heavy artillery that was actually available –2 M-Devices and 6 305mm mortars, including Austro-Hungarian loaners, were brought into action on 12 August, 8 days after 4th Cavalry Division crossed the border. It took until 16 August to finally reduce all of Liege’s ring forts, although the road block was cleared on the 13th. As the army pressed ahead, 5000 horses hauled the road-mobile guns off towards Namur. Liege had bought between 4 and 5 days for the Allies as the armies marched forward. Far to the south, in the last vestige of the "engineer/artillery" plan to fight France, the Bavarians supported the Gamma-Devices against the French forts, with suprising success. But that didn't matter any more, because behind the armies of the far right wing, ever more heavy guns were piling up to reduce one fort after another, culminating in the Belgian National Redoubt of Antwerp, at which point Robert Foley takes up the story.
Foley's German Strategy on the Road to Verdun is an apology for Field Marshal von Falkenhayn, a controversial figure in the history of World War I who, in my opinion, needs fewer apologists and more sympathy. He was not wrong, but Verdun was a mistake, if that makes sense.
Foley notes, correctly, the way that the need to deploy so many men into Belgium redounded on the authority of the staff even as it assumed siege warfare capabilities. Falkenhayn, chief of the Miltary Cabinet, was a prewar fan of the idea of national industrial war. As we know now, when Papa Joffre, the engineer turned chief of staff, beat Moltke on the Marne, that kind of war was in the cards. However, it also meant that Moltke, the chief of staff had to go. Falkenhayn, whose intimate relationship with the Kaiser earned him enemies within the army before he even opened his mouth, was slotted in to replace him, and tasked with completing his job. (See, there was a point to my footnoted childishness!)
Up to this point, Falkenhayn's vision had been vindicated. In the specifics of his new role, he was not quite so insightful.Moltke might have been a broken man by 14 September, but he thought that the French were on the verge of breaking, and he was wrong, and so was Falkenhayn in thinking the same.
From that mistake, everything else proceeds. Falkenhayn believed that one last push would beat the French, so he improvised that effort, combining an ill-armed new army of outbreak-of-war volunteers with the only firepower available, the heavy artillery just released from Antwerp, and threw it into Flanders. For the regrettable sequel, see Ian Beckett.
And yet, it seemed to almost work. Meanwhile, things were going even worse in the east. Germany needed to find more reserves. So GM von Wrisberg came up with the idea of taking the fourth regiment of each existing division and replacing them with 2400 recruits. It was desperate. with no reserves to back this new 11th Army, operations would have to be cautious and casualty-conscious, yet the field artillery that might substitute for men were just not available, even though the long range medium and heavy artillery was not taking the kind of casualties that the infantry were. The upshot? While the Germans found 11th Army 466 “light” guns, fully 156 “heavy” guns were available. The even more savagely hit Austro-Hungarians, precisely because they were savagely hit, could spare 453 pieces and the men to man them.
Eleventh Army was a battering ram. The new commander, Mackensen, stressed the reliance on artillery fire in his new command. Harassing fire deep into the Russian rear would paralyse reinforcements and prevent counterattack. High velocity guns would break field fortifications. A barrage would inflict attritional casualties and suppress defensive fire. It was so effective that the Russians talked about a Mackensen-Phalanx that ground forward in operation after operation until, finally, in the summer of 1915, Mackensen’s force, by now an “army group," as success accumulated ever more manpower, had reduced the Russian situation in the east, driving them back, and, apparently, finishing them.
Falkenhayn looked west. First, he had to weather an Allied offensive. That done, he could go on the offensive himself at last in the winter of 1916. His target was Fortress Verdun, his plan, "positional warfare." The guns would get another workout, but so would Colmar von der Goltz's pioneers-as-assault-troops concept. From this, I'm convinced, we get our "stormtroopers," as we have called them ever since. I leave Foley at this point. He has embraced what I regard as the hopeless task of demonstrating that Falkenhayn really totally didn't want to capture the position, and that this wasn't an after-the- fact-rationalisation. The explanation of what I'm talking about that came up at the top of my Google search is this.)
So, okay, what is the point of all of this discussion? I've opposed an "engineer way of war" against a "staff way of war." Dig your way forward, or timetable your way around? I think that the contretemps around Liege, and, more importantly, at the Marne, demonstrate that the engineers were right, and that the military intellectuals squabbling over their readings of Clausewitz were wrong.
But that's opinion. Enough with intellectuals. What I want to point out here is the hidden history of the saddlemakers. There is a story is one in which we go from having not enough saddlemakers at the beginning of a war to eventually having an army that is all saddlemakers. This might even go so far as to change an army's strategic options as the war goes on. If we go to war with the army we have, what happens when the army we have changes as the war goes on? And what does this process do to the peace that comes after? Conversely, what if technology changes the capabilities of the army that you have?
My argument is that we are seeing a process that drives historical change here in my story about saddlemakers. But then, I've got this hugely self-important "substructural history of strategy" thing to talk about. Maybe I'm forcing everything into a conceptual mold.
*Who, in every army, ended up being mortar men. Is there a more glaring example of the limits of military foresight that every WWII army ended up with supporting batteries of 4.2" or 120mm mortars based on scaled up trench mortars, while not a single one of them deployed such a weapon in 1939? Or am I missing something here?
**Just to let you know, I signed up for MySlate to search for that link. Predictably, I still couldn't find earlier "You're Doing it Wrong" articles conveniently with the nonexistent, at least so far as I could tell in the time I committed, search tools. But they have one of my emails now. I hope you appreciate the sacrifice.
***Nerd but also gay. Hilarious! I outed Kaiser Wilhelm! Now I'm going to go make Youtube comments!