World War I
Chapter 5 examines the breakdown of German operational thinking in the face of the harsh realities of World War I. In the first weeks of the war, Schlieffen’s and Moltke’s plans for an annihilating, decisive victory on the Western front failed as the Germans were repulsed at the Battle of the Marne. For four years, the German General Staff failed to adapt to positional trench warfare, believing that the misrepresented victories of the Battle of Tannenberg and the Romania Campaign affirmed the superiority of the Schlieffen Plan’s dogmatic focus on a concentrated offensive leading to envelopment. In actuality, both of these operations revealed shortcomings in Germany’s strategy. The German Army lacked mobility, effective communication between rival commanders, and a logistical plan to support millions of troops spread across Europe. Ultimately, as American reinforcements arrived in France, the German high command resorted to stubborn, desperate attempts to break through enemy lines, split Allied forces, and force a maneuver-based war. This chapter explores the singlemindedness of German operational thinking in staking everything on a great battle for France, a battle they had lost from the beginning.
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