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Old 05-21-2012, 07:22 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
I was just looking at the statistics for the US since they were posted. You can do the same exercise with any other nation. The whole point was to basically reinforce that WW1 while viewed as horribly bloody wasn't necessarily all that much worse then other wars when looked at on the "loss rate" basis among troops. Basically, the British at Normandy in WW2 suffered just as greatly as the British at the Somme in WW1. What tended to be different about WW1 was the shock value of the casualties involved in the major operations and the sheer scale of the conflict, something that had not been seen before. For general discussion purposes, WW2 was nearly as bloody an affair for those in combat as WW1 was.
As Americans, we don't understand just how close the battlefields were to the homes of the European participants.

A British soldier could be in the middle of a fight one day, and be home on leave less than 48 hours later.

For the British, who had waged wars fought at enormous distance away from the homeland for a century, the shock of sending their boys off, then seeing them come home maimed or deathly ill so soon afterwards was very deep and penetrating. It had a tremendous effect on the national psyche.

This is true with all the European nations involved, except for Russia, and the effect on all of them was the same in varying degrees.

I think that this factor, combined with the determination on all sides to win, played a large part in continuing the stalemate. Each dead boy who came home so soon must have created a lot of feelings of revenge and anger as much as sorrow.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
I agree that the entrance of the U.S. stopped the war, but I'm not at all sure the Allies would have won otherwise. Both sides had become implacable, and it's just as possible that the war could have gone on for as long as another year. By that time, all sides would have become totally exhausted and expended, so a truce would have been declared.

All wars are won by the willingness to keep fighting by one side over the other. In many wars, one side soon decides the conflict is not worth the cost and gives up, but all sides of World War I were in it to the end, and that's the essential reason it became so bloody. National pride is a very stubborn thing.
I agree with your viewpoint. I'm not convinced the Allies would have won without U.S. assistance. I think the most likely outcome would have been a cease-fire sometime in early 1919 with the Germans receiving no sanctions.

But whether you think the Allies would win anyways or not, there is no denying that the U.S. gave the Allies the quick knock-out punch. When 3-4 million fresh American troops trickled into Europe, it was too much for the Germans to handle.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:37 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
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Originally Posted by Grandstander View Post
Regardless of motive, they did indeed attack as soon as conditions permitted them to do so.

I still have little idea how any of what you have been saying relates to my original point...that without attacks, there is no war. And if there is no war, what is everyone doing out there with guns?

Just what is your notion regarding how the war should have been conducted after the western front trench lines were in place at the end of 1914? How would you win the war without ever attacking anyone? If you were France, how would you have gone about evicting the Germans from your territory? Threaten to take them off your Christmas card list?
One of the elements that was most important in the American participation in breaking the stalemate was the American's ferocity in their battles. The Germans were stunned by American recklessness, tenacity, and the willingness to continue the fight long after they should have retreated.

Until the arrival of the Americans, all sides' forces basically engaged the same way with the same amount of determination, caution, and persistence. As time went by, all sides grew increasingly weary, which had an effect on the strength of each battle.

The American ways of fighting, coming so late in the war, was just as shocking to their allies as to their foes. This ferocity may well have been one of the major factors in the armistice, as the American forces were still relatively small, in comparison of what was to come once we were in.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
As Americans, we don't understand just how close the battlefields were to the homes of the European participants.

A British soldier could be in the middle of a fight one day, and be home on leave less than 48 hours later.

For the British, who had waged wars fought at enormous distance away from the homeland for a century, the shock of sending their boys off, then seeing them come home maimed or deathly ill so soon afterwards was very deep and penetrating. It had a tremendous effect on the national psyche.

This is true with all the European nations involved, except for Russia, and the effect on all of them was the same in varying degrees.

I think that this factor, combined with the determination on all sides to win, played a large part in continuing the stalemate. Each dead boy who came home so soon must have created a lot of feelings of revenge and anger as much as sorrow.
I think the reasons for each side starting the war were silly, and I'm sure they would take it back if they could. Do you think Austria-Hungary would invade Serbia if they could do it over again? Knowing their empire might still exist had they opted otherwise? Who figured at the start of the war that Austria-Hungary would no longer exist in 4 years? I'm sure they were puffing their chests and hungry for war against Serbia.

All that said, once you start such a war, you cannot reverse it. Once Germany invaded France, there was no turning back. They had to try at all costs to destroy France, and likewise, France had to try at all costs to destroy Germany.

The stalemate had more to do with weaponry being vastly superior to mobility at the time. You had tremendously more powerful artillery and machine guns that had never been seen in prior European wars. Yet offensives still relied on foot soldiers with no vehicles, some horse-drawn carriages, and outdated maneuvering tactics. So when an offensive did achieve a breakthrough, there was no way to continue off that success or even consolidate the gains. The result was a counter-offensive that restored the original trench line.

Another major deficiency in WW1 was poor communications. The Germans were better at this than the Allies, and the French were particularly bad at this. But the communication standards were very poor compared to WW2.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:59 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
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Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
This is the old "lions led by donkeys" view of the war. This view has been getting challeneged more and more these days on a closer look at the events.

FWIW, the battlefiled of WW1 was very different from anything that came before it. People draw parallels to the US Civil War in terms of tactics and while there are similarities there, what is radically different is the SCALE of the battles.

WW1 was the first war in history where commanders could not see the entire battlefield no matter where they stood. What that meant was that commanders had no sense of the progress of the battle or to observe enemy movements and counter them. Along those same lines, communications (actually lack of) did not allow a commander to alter his battle plans on the fly or receive updates from the field. Technology had simply not caught up with the scale of the battlefield.

The best analogy to this is playing chess where you have to plan all of your moves ahead of time and then wait for someone to run into the room and tell you what happened once the game was over.

This is largely what contributed to the issues at the Somme that people are so hard on Haig over. Despite the fact that people think of the Somme as a single battle and not the 3 1/2 month campaign it was, once attacks were started and general objectives agreed to there was little that could be done to call off the attacks and change course. At the Somme Haig was also filling his role of occupying the Germans while the French delivered the blows with concentrated force. There was also a good amount of hesitancy to call off an attack once committed given the massive amount of resources that went into pulling one off. The British alone fired over a million tons of high explosive in the lead up to the battle.

Outside of those glaring issues with battlefield control, we then get into the problems of logistics and exploiting any gains. Logistics at the time were a very ponderous thing at best and relied on railheads and wagons to get anywhere. A unit advancing could easily outstrip the ability to be resupplied. This is what destroyed the Schlieffen Plan and the Kasierschlacht. The Allies were no different on the logistics end.

Then we get to exploitation. There was simply nothing that had the ability to really exploit a break in the lines once one was achieved. Infantry were too slow and cavalry were hard to keep supplied and were incredibly vulnerable on the offensive and incapable of holding anything for long without infantry support. This became the entire point behind the development of armor and mechanized/motorized infantry in the inter-war years.

To me, I think we need to realize that WW1 was a very unique war and what seems obvious to us now in hindsight may not have been possible for the commanders of the time to even consider to attempt.
This is very true, and has a personal connection for me. My great-uncle fought in WWI, and was a member of the Lost Battalion. Runners and pigeons were the only means of communication to the command, and my uncle volunteered to be one of the runners.
He was trapped for hours behind a large downed tree by German machine gunners, was wounded, fought hand to hand with several Germans armed only with a trench shovel, and was the only runner to make it back to command. By then, his information was obsolete, as a carrier pigeon had made it through before he did.
He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his efforts, although they proved to be ultimately fruitless, and was severely deafened for the rest of his life as a result of all those hours he was a target for the machine gun.

They also gave the Medal of Honor to the pigeon, which was also injured.
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Old 05-21-2012, 08:16 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
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Originally Posted by Nolefan34 View Post
I think the reasons for each side starting the war were silly, and I'm sure they would take it back if they could. Do you think Austria-Hungary would invade Serbia if they could do it over again? Knowing their empire might still exist had they opted otherwise? Who figured at the start of the war that Austria-Hungary would no longer exist in 4 years? I'm sure they were puffing their chests and hungry for war against Serbia.

All that said, once you start such a war, you cannot reverse it. Once Germany invaded France, there was no turning back. They had to try at all costs to destroy France, and likewise, France had to try at all costs to destroy Germany.

The stalemate had more to do with weaponry being vastly superior to mobility at the time. You had tremendously more powerful artillery and machine guns that had never been seen in prior European wars. Yet offensives still relied on foot soldiers with no vehicles, some horse-drawn carriages, and outdated maneuvering tactics. So when an offensive did achieve a breakthrough, there was no way to continue off that success or even consolidate the gains. The result was a counter-offensive that restored the original trench line.

Another major deficiency in WW1 was poor communications. The Germans were better at this than the Allies, and the French were particularly bad at this. But the communication standards were very poor compared to WW2.
The reasons for the war may seem silly now, but hubris is a powerful force.
All the major nations involved in the war had empires, and all had fought many colonial wars. Each became convinced they could whip all comers easily, because of so many triumphs of their small colonial forces against huge numbers of opposing colonial natives.

There was a lot of evidence that, when they fought each other, the results were different, but the earlier inter-European conflicts, where modern technology was equally employed, were all brief and at least 20 years in the past.

You're completely correct about the poor communications. While the field telephone and telegraph were employed, they were easily disrupted. More importantly, the communications between field commanders and those between strategic commanders was very poor, from the beginning to the end of the war.

This was well realized by World War II, and improved communications became an even more legal element as a result. Imagine what good communication could have done in WWI if the assaults were more coordinated and flexible! One side or the other could have quickly prevailed.
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Old 05-22-2012, 12:19 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
403 posts, read 286,700 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nolefan34 View Post
NJGoat and Mike,

My whole point was that the U.S. troops entering the war was decisive for the Allies. Prior to that point, the French Army was spent and had no chance at achieving a decisive breakthrough on the battlefield. They may have been hoping for the Germans to starve to death, but that's it. During the Spring 1918 Offensive, the Germans were able to transfer 1 million extra troops to the Western front giving them a huge numbers advantage. While the Spring offensive did not work ultimately, the Allies only managed (with U.S. assistance) to turn them back to the original starting front lines. It was the sheer manpower of ever-increasing numbers of fresh U.S. troops that was the difference in allowing the Allies to exploit the Germans being overstretched.

Had the U.S. not entered the war, who knows what would have happened. But one thing I'm sure we can agree on is that if the Allies won, it would have taken longer for them to win.

Probably not much longer, though.

Basically, if the German 1918 offensives still happen, they either succeed or they fail. If they succeed, then of course Germany has won the continental war, though a naval one with Britain may drag on for a time. If, OTOH, the offensives fail, then Germany will quit once the front line approaches her border. Without the AEF, this could take a tad longer, but we're probably talking early 1919 at most. I wouldn't expect any drastic prolongation of the land war.

Personally, though, I'm sceptical of whether there would even be a 1918 campaign as we know it. France in particular was making very heavy weather of it in 1917, and with no American intervention to boost morale and help out economically might well not have lasted into the following year..
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Old 05-22-2012, 01:14 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
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Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
I was aware of the desperate financial situation, I believe GB was into JP Morgan for something like $360 to $400 million in the red and was adding $75 million a week to finance purchases of US goods and war material. While Britain had enough collateral, gold and capital to support their own needs, they could no longer support the needs of all of their allies for the much longer. The cost of the war had simply gotten too large to be handled on the private equity/banking markets.

It begs the question though, since the British/French issue was ultimately one of money/credit, as well as getting the supplies past the U-boats, was that not ultimately easier to overcome sans US intervention then the issues that were beginning to plague Germany in terms of food (which they had no other source of) and manpower (which they were no longer able to replace losses)?

Page's (US ambassador to Britain) letter to Wilson ultimately openly begged for US intervention because he saw no way to fix the financial issue without making the US a belligerent. Essentially, an open credit line with the US financing the Entente's war effort would have been seen as an open declaration of war by the German's. However, I imagine as dire the straits were for the Entente financially and how dependent they were on US goods, a solution not involving American entry into the war could have been found. Germany had no way out of her predicament and dwindling resources.

Though of course they wouldn't have been dwindling so fast.

US intervention made possible a drastic tightening of the blockade, partly because GB no longer had to tread warily in order to avoid a break with the US, and could get a lot tougher with the remaining neutrals, but even more because the "Northern Neutrals" on Germany's border did much of their own importing from the US, and this could now be regulated at source, making a physical blockade far less necessary. It also left the remaining neutral shipowners with effectively no market except the Entente, with whom they now had to play ball or go broke. So 1917/18 saw the blockade become close to watertight. None of this happens if America stays neutral, so while Germany still has problems, they are quite a bit less severe.

As for manpower, Allied problems may on paper have been less severe than German, but in practice they were bad enough that we considered the potentially disastrous step of extending conscription to Ireland. In the event, the government was empowered to do this, but had an attack of sense and didn't carry it out. Take away the AEF, and they may well be tempted to risk it. Given Irish attitudes at the time, I shudder at the likely results.

However, if Stephen Broadberry [1] can be believed, the real weak spot is probably France. According to him, Britain did about the best economically, finishing the war with a real GDP about 15% higher than the prewar. Russia, predictably, did worst, and 1917 found her GDP 33% below the prewar level - the point at which she collapsed.

The CPs were in between. German GDP suffered a 20% drop in the first year of war, and thereafter more or less "flatlined" a bit above the 80% mark. Austria-Hungary did predictably worse, falling a bit more at the start, and thereafter continuing a gradual slide, so that her 1918 GDP is 27% down from 1913 - not quite as bad as 1917 Russia, but bad enough to presage disaster if Germany couldn't prop her up. France, however, was in a very bad way in the last two years and 1918 found her down to 64% of prewar GDP - actually lower than Russia had been the year before. If Britain can't bail her out, it's hard to see how she carries on, esp given how morale is visibly flagging by Spring 1917.


[1] The Economics of World War One. Scroll down to Table 4 for the stats on GDP.
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/ec...witoronto2.pdf
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Old 05-22-2012, 01:22 AM
 
Location: Peterborough, England
403 posts, read 286,700 times
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Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
As Americans, we don't understand just how close the battlefields were to the homes of the European participants.

A British soldier could be in the middle of a fight one day, and be home on leave less than 48 hours later.

For the British, who had waged wars fought at enormous distance away from the homeland for a century, the shock of sending their boys off, then seeing them come home maimed or deathly ill so soon afterwards was very deep and penetrating. It had a tremendous effect on the national psyche.

This is true with all the European nations involved, except for Russia, and the effect on all of them was the same in varying degrees.

I think that this factor, combined with the determination on all sides to win, played a large part in continuing the stalemate. Each dead boy who came home so soon must have created a lot of feelings of revenge and anger as much as sorrow.

About the best comparison is probably with the US Civil War.

Allowing for the disparity in population, British casualties in WW1 are roughly similar to Union losses in the ACW, while French ones (roughly double British out of a smaller population) are comparable to those of the South. Of course, postwar Britain did not have the high levels of immigration which, in the North at least, went some way to replace the ACW losses.
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Old 05-22-2012, 08:43 AM
 
Location: Miami, FL
3,129 posts, read 1,654,115 times
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^^I believe AJP Taylor in his volume dealing with the history of GB during 1914-1945 addressed the Lost Generation part and showed there was no decline in birth rates. Women need to die to affect birth rates not men is what research has shown. Also shown in post U.S. Civil War birthrates in the South.

Last edited by Felix C; 05-22-2012 at 08:56 AM..
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