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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 Sword of Damocles

The Sword of Damocles

A Two-Front War

(p.57) 4 The Sword of Damocles
The Myth and Reality of German Warfare

Gerhard P. Gross

, David T. Zabecki
University Press of Kentucky

Chapter 4 examines Alfred von Schlieffen’s tenure as Chief of the German General Staff and the development of operational thinking that led to the 1905 Schlieffen Plan, a procedure for war against France based on the assumption that a two-front war was inevitable. The plan called for the quick destruction of the French army through a series of offensive strikes, culminating in the total envelopment of the French defense. Schlieffen hoped that by annihilating the French army quickly, Germany could force France to surrender and could shift its forces toward Russia in the east. This chapter debunks numerous myths about the plan and points out its flaws, including a lack of political and logistical preparedness. In the end, however, the chapter suggests that German soldiers at the start of World War I did not enter the field with the Schlieffen Plan but with the Moltke Plan, a variation of the Schlieffen Plan devised by then Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, which allowed for the long war of attrition that ensued.

Keywords:   Alfred von Schlieffen, Schlieffen Plan, envelopment, annihilation, Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, two-front war, war of attrition

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