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The Myth and Reality of German WarfareOperational Thinking from Moltke the Elder to Heusinger$
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Gerhard P. Gross

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813168371

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813168371.001.0001

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The Beginnings

The Beginnings

Planning, Mobility, and a System of Expedients

(p.27) 3 The Beginnings
The Myth and Reality of German Warfare

Gerhard P. Gross

, David T. Zabecki
University Press of Kentucky

Chapter 3 traces the development of Helmuth von Moltke the Elder’s operational thinking throughout his career and the impact his ideas had on future German military leaders. A pragmatist, Moltke did not leave behind theoretical literature, but his plans for a preemptive, two-front war against France and Russia heavily influenced world war thinking. His efforts to combine existing theories of warfare with new technological innovations—the railroad and telegraph—as well as his push to give subordinate commanders more freedom in accomplishing strategic objectives reshaped the German military. These ideas are examined through a brief study of the Battle of Königgrätz in 1866, the largest battle of the nineteenth century. The chapter argues that although Moltke is significant to German military history, many of the accomplishments attributed to him—introducing the study of war history, advocating for total war, and securing unlimited resources and personnel for the General Staff—have been exaggerated or invented.

Keywords:   Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, railroad, telegraph, preemptive war, Battle of Königgrätz

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