The Schlieffen Plan: Whose Plan Was It?

Excerpted from Schlieffen’s Plan: Myth, reality, or just a bad idea? by Dana Lombardy. Published in World War One Illustrated #3, Fall 2014. This issue is still available for purchase here. This issue also included an introductory game: On to Paris! that can be played solitaire. Read more about the other issues of WWOI and our projects here. Help us to preserve the stories of this critical period of history. Here’s how.


When you make a mistake, you have three options:

1. Correct the mistake and carry on.

2. Ignore the mistake.

3. Cover up the mistake and blame someone else for it.

In his controversial 2010 book Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914, Terrence Zuber wrote that what became the accepted understanding of German planning for World War One was a misrepresentation by former German officers writing after the war.

Accepted history recognizes Alfred von Schlieffen, the Chief of the Imperial German General Staff from 1891 to 1906, for developing the offensive plan used in 1914. This was through a series of memoranda he prepared. Schlieffen was in office until 1906 and died in 1913.

In Zuber’s book, the German officers wanted to deflect blame for Germany’s defeat from themselves to Helmuth von Moltke. He was Schlieffen’s successor as Chief of Staff. They claimed that Moltke did not correctly employ Schlieffen’s recommendations and thus did not defeat France in 1914. Since Moltke had died in 1916 he could not defend himself.

For 100 years, history has called the German attack in the West the “Schlieffen Plan.” Comparison between Schlieffen’s notes and Moltke’s orders shows that Moltke did not follow the plan. Instead of deploying the 83 divisions that Schlieffen recommended, Moltke only used 52. Schlieffen’s Plan suggested a pause to rest the weary troops. This would allow the men, artillery and supplies spread out for miles along roads behind the front to catch up with the most advanced units. Moltke hoped by continuing the advance it would be possible to push the bulk of the French toward the southeast, away from Paris.

Moltke did not carry out Schlieffen’s proposal for his plan in 1914. He did not pause the German advance. It was not possible for Moltke to have the additional divisions needed to try Schlieffen’s idea due to budget constraints. The plan belongs entirely to Moltke.

The Dreadnaughts: The Reason Germany Lost to France?

Excerpted from Germany’s Missing Divisions A larger German army is not a “what-if” fantasy by Dana Lombardy. Published in World War One Illustrated #3, Fall 2014. This issue is still available for purchase here. This issue also included an introductory game: On to Paris! that can be played solitaire. Read more about the other issues of WWOI and our projects here. Help us to preserve the stories of this critical period of history. Here’s how.


Count Alfred von Schlieffen estimated that defeating France would require a force of 83 divisions in the right wing hinged on the French city of Metz. The five German armies on the right wing that swung through Belgium and Luxembourg had 52 active and reserve divisions in 1914. This is 37% fewer divisions than Schlieffen stated were required.

Why was the German Army so small? Could it have been larger and had a better chance of victory in 1914? The constraints on a larger pre-war army were financial and political due to strong opposition from the Social Democratic Party. There was also a concern that a substantial increase in the size of the army would result in a dilution of the quality of the troops raised.

Could it Have Been the Budget?

From 1905 to 1912, the German Army had a budget of roughly 800 million Marks per year. The German Navy subsisted on a budget of 240 million Marks before the introduction of dreadnoughts. When Germany started to compete with the British in building battleships and battle cruisers, the German Navy’s budget doubled.

By building two to four fewer dreadnoughts, the German military might have had 360-700 million Marks to spend elsewhere before 1914 (if the Socialists allowed it). The cost of equipping and building up war stocks for an active infantry division was roughly 50 million Marks, and 25 million for a reserve division.

If an expansion months before war started could have created ten or more additional active and/or reserve divisions. They would have been all properly trained and equipped. These extra pre-war forces might have tipped the scale in Germany’s favor against France in the summer of 1914.

Dreadnaught

 

Mysteries of the Red Baron

Excerpted from Myths and Mysteries of the Great War in the Air, Part 2 by O’Brien Browne. Published in World War One Illustrated #2, Summer 2014. This issue is still available for purchase here. This issue also included an introductory game: Assassination in Sarajevo that you can play solitaire. Read more about the other issues of WWOI and our projects here. Help us to preserve the stories of this critical period of history. Here’s how.


Red BaronMost myths of the Great War in the air center on Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, Germany’s famous “Red Baron.” Among the most persistent:

  • He had all his aircraft painted red.
  • He flew a triplane with a white cowling and white wheel hubs.
  • He was secretly married.
  • He disliked women.
  • He was homosexual.
  • He was a terrible pilot.
  • He was cold and cruel.
  • He flew airplanes custom made for him.

All of this is rumor or simply wrong.

Who Shot Down the Red Baron?

Various reports stated that Richthofen was 24, 25 or 26 when killed. He was born on May 2, 1892 and killed on 21 April 1918. He was 25 when he died.

About the controversy still raging over who shot him down—pilot Roy Brown or Australian infantrymen— we will never know for sure and it is therefore incorrect to claim one or the other with certainty.

Submarine B.11

Excerpted from British Success in the Dardanelles: Submarines Score Victories in the Gallipoli Campaign, by Captain Richard F. Church, USN. Published in World War One Illustrated #2, Summer 2014. This issue is still available for purchase here. This issue also included an introductory game: Assassination in Sarajevo! that can play solitaire. Read more about the other issues of WWOI and our projects here. Help us to preserve the stories of this critical period of history. Here’s how.


Submarine B.11

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46942933

The British submarines in the Gallipoli campaign consisted of three 1904-built B-class boats, They were gasoline powered, with very limited range of action. Despite these shortcomings and that the Strait’s defenses presented a formidable obstacle, B.11 was to penetrate the Strait on December, 13 1914. Lieutenant Norman Douglas Holbrook would be in command. Holbrook had to contend with uncharted shoals, strong currents, minefields, shore batteries and a massive anti-submarine net across the main shipping channel. They selected B.11 for the attempt for two reasons. Holbrook was the most experienced of the three British sub commanders, and B.11 had just completed a battery overhaul.

Underway at 0400 on the 13th, B.11 headed for an area about one mile south of Canakkale (also known as Chanak.) Turkish warships were known to anchor in a defensive posture to protect the Strait. B.11 submerged and tried to stay close to the western side of the channel but a southerly current and shoals hindered her progress. Holbrook’s voyage brought him under and through the minefield in about five hours. Coming to periscope depth he discovered he was in Sari Sighiar Bay opposite Canakkale. Amazingly, he was less than a mile from the anchored Turkish battleship, the Mesudiye.

Holbrook skillfully maneuvered B.11 into a firing position only 800 yards from the Mesudiye. Fighting the strong currents, he fired one torpedo and was rewarded by a loud thump. The periscope confirmed the hit. As the Turkish ship began settling by the stern, it fired its guns that could bear on the B.11’s periscope.

B.11’s Daring Escape

Holbrook turned B.11 south, heading down the Strait. The slowly sinking Mesudiye’s guns continued firing, and the Turkish shore batteries joined in. The loss of the ship’s compass and a badly fogged periscope impaired the B.11’s steering. Navigating by dead reckoning, Holbrook ran aground, exposing the ship’s conning tower to the Turkish fire.

Pushing the electric motors to full power, he was able to free B.11 from almost certain destruction. Despite splashes from near misses, Holbrook navigated the final distance to the open sea using the small portholes in the exposed conning tower. Holbrook’s exploit captured the imagination of the British Empire and he became the first submarine officer (and first British naval officer) in World War One to receive the Victoria Cross (VC), Great Britain’s highest military award.

In the frenzy of anti-German sentiment, the Australian town of Germantown was renamed Holbrook and a replica of Holbrook’s VC and a scale model of a B-class submarine are displayed in the city.

The Vanishing Hero and the Revenge that Never Happened

Excerpted from Myths and Mysteries of the Great War in the Air, Part 1 by O’Brien Browne. Published in World War One Illustrated #1, Fall 2013. This issue is still available for purchase here. This issue also included an introductory game: Zeppelin Raider! that can play solitaire. Read more about the other issues of WWOI and our projects here. Help us to preserve the stories of this critical period of history. Here’s how.


Georges Guynemer

Georges Guynemer by “Lucien” (unknown painter), Musée de la Légion d’Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie, Paris

Never underestimate the power of a good story. World War I was perhaps the last opportunity for a fighter pilot to become a hero in the medieval sense the word. It was not unusual for propagandists to embellish the career of popular pilots to the level of heroic legend. However, the facts usually do not match up to the myths.

One such myth is that Capitaine Georges Guynemer flew into the clouds, never to be seen again.

Guynemer was a French ace with 53 air to air kills credited to him before his death. At his memorial service, a French general stated, “[Guynemer] had disappeared in empyrean glory through a miraculous assumption.” This is certainly a romantic notion.

Writers picked up on the general’s statement and repeated it endlessly. The repetition made it as though the good Captain had actually vanished into the clouds rather than met his death. In fact, Capitaine Guynemer had been shot down on September 10, 1917 by Leutnant Wissemann near Poelkapelle. A German doctor examined his body. A shot through the head had killed him.

The French Get Revenge?

A myth related to the first is that French Ace of Aces René Fonck Killed Ltn. Wissemann, the Pilot Who Shot Down Guynemer. Propagandists credited Fonck with killing Wissemann in a delicious and often repeated tale of vengeance for the death of Guynemer.

Not true. Captain Geoffrey Hilton Bowman and Lt. T. C. Hoidge of the Royal Flying Corps shot down Wissemann on September 28, 1917, a little over two weeks after the fall of the French ace.

Terror in the Sky: The Zeppelin over Britain

In 1937, the luxury Zeppelin airship Hindenburg burned in a devastating fire.  Instead of non-flammable helium, the Germans used hydrogen as the lifting gas for their airships.  Public opinion labeled Zeppelins as unsafe because of the disaster, which was seen worldwide on newsreels.

With that disaster in mind, one might not consider them to be a terrifying vehicle of war. However, Zeppelins plagued the British skies with near-impunity during the first two years of World War I.

Zeppelins were much more difficult to bring down than one would think. Zeppelins used multiple cells made from cow intestines and suspended in a rigid structure of an aluminum alloy called duralumin to contain the hydrogen. For the hydrogen to ignite, it needed to mix with oxygen and a spark or flame. Normal machine-gun fire and tracers could not bring them down.

The huge airships carried explosives and incendiaries to drop on targets. The world’s first Zeppelin bombing campaign caused 557 deaths and 1558 wounded, most of them civilians.

The ammunition at the beginning of WWI could not bring them down. This changed when the British developed incendiary and explosive ammunition. It was now possible to shoot a Zeppelin down, but it required concentrated machine-gun fire to do so.

Excerpted from Zeppelin Scourge: The First Aerial Battle of Britain by Steve Suddaby. Published in World War One Illustrated #1, Fall 2013. This issue is still available for purchase here. This issue also included an introductory game: Zeppelin Raider! that can be played solitaire. Read more about the other issues of WWOI and our projects here. Help us to preserve the stories of this critical period of history. Here’s how.

Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty: The Last Naval Hero: An Intimate Biography

Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty: The Last Naval Hero: An Intimate BiographyAdmiral of the Fleet Earl Beatty by Stephen Wentworth Roskill
Published by Atheneum on 1981
Pages: 430

Although originally written almost forty years ago, this book remains an important work on a controversial figure. Roskill was sympathetic to his subject, but does not shy away from the less attractive aspects of Beatty’s personality. A balanced portrait of a man who served successively as commander of the British battlecruisers, then as commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet, and after the war became a successful First Sea Lord.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

The Zimmermann Telegram: Intelligence, Diplomacy, and America’s Entry into World War I

The Zimmermann Telegram: Intelligence, Diplomacy, and America’s Entry into World War IThe Zimmermann Telegram by Thomas Boghardt
ISBN: 9781612511474
Published by Naval Institute Press on October 15, 2012
Genres: History, Military, World War I
Pages: 320

Although strictly speaking not a book about naval history, the group that deciphered the Zimmermann Telegram was the Royal Navy’s Room 40OB, so I think it is only just to include it with the naval titles. This major reexamination by an expert on military intelligence investigates how the infamous telegram was intercepted, deciphered, and exploited. It reaches very different conclusions from earlier studies (including Tuchman’s The Zimmermann Telegram). A thought-provoking and well-written book.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Jutland: The Naval Staff Appreciation

Jutland: The Naval Staff AppreciationJutland: The Naval Staff Appreciation by William Schleihauf
ISBN: 9781848323193
Published by Seaforth Publishing on December 31, 2016
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Naval, General
Pages: 352

I include this title with some reluctance, as I contributed some of the text and prepared the book for publication after the death of my friend, Bill Schleihauf. Nevertheless, I think it rates as an important work on the battle. The core of this book is a secret appreciation of the battle, written after the war by a pair of Royal Navy officers and suppressed because of its extreme criticism of Admiral Jellicoe. Despite its suppression, it has been used by a number subsequent historians (including Arthur J. Marder) and so has played an important part in the historiography of the battle. The notes added by Schleihauf and McLaughlin supplement the original text and point out its errors, and a collection of valuable documents is appended.

FULL DISCLOSURE: As noted above, I added some text and prepared the manuscript for publication, so I am not an unbiased reviewer!

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Jutland: The Unfinished Battle

Jutland: The Unfinished BattleJutland: The Unfinished Battle: A Personal History of a Naval Controversy by Nick Jellicoe
ISBN: 1848323212
Published by US Naval Institute Press on May 15, 2016
Pages: 352

Written by the grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, who commanded the British Grand Fleet at Jutland, this is a fresh examination of the battle and its aftermath, offering many new perspectives on both the British and German sides of the battle, and on the bitter controversies that have surrounded it since the moment the battered ships returned to harbor.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Jutland: World War I’s Greatest Naval Battle

Jutland: World War I’s Greatest Naval BattleJutland: World War I's Greatest Naval Battle by Michael Epkenhans, Jörg Hillmann, Frank Nägler
ISBN: 0813166055
Published by University Press of Kentucky on September 22, 2015
Pages: 397

This anthology, originally published in Germany, includes articles by both British and German scholars. They offer fresh perspectives on the battle, especially from the German side. The translations of the articles originally written in German are not as readable as one might wish, but the collection is nevertheless a valuable contribution to our understanding of the battle.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

The Battle of Jutland

The Battle of JutlandThe Battle of Jutland by John Brooks
ISBN: 9781107150140
Published by Cambridge University Press on May 9, 2016
Genres: History, Europe, Great Britain, General, Military, World War I, Modern, 20th Century
Pages: 584

A remarkable work of scholarship; Brooks went back to the original reports submitted by the British commanders—Jellicoe, Beatty, and all their subordinates, as well as communications logs, gunnery logs, and other supplemental materials. The result is a detailed examination of the battle that strips away a hundred years of claims and counter-claims and provides a detailed, minute-by-minute account of the battle. Along the way Brooks offers many fresh insights into the actions of the British naval leadership. One warning: This is not a book for casual reading—to extract its full value the reader must pay close attention!

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Churchill and the Dardanelles

Churchill and the DardanellesChurchill and the Dardanelles by Christopher M. Bell
ISBN: 9780191006999
Published by Oxford University Press on January 12, 2017
Genres: History, Europe, Great Britain, General, Military, Modern, 20th Century, Biography & Autobiography, Historical, World War I, World War II
Pages: 464

A reassessment of Churchill’s role in the conception, planning and execution of the Dardanelles fiasco, as well as an examination of the subsequent inquiry and the long-standing controversy over the operation. Bell previously wrote Churchill and Sea Power, and is an expert on the great man’s relationship with the Royal Navy. His account draws on a mass of archival material, and provides a more nuanced view of the people and politics that contributed to the decision-making process.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

The Naval Route to the Abyss: The Anglo-German Naval Race 1895–1914

The Naval Route to the Abyss: The Anglo-German Naval Race 1895–1914The Naval Route to the Abyss by Matthew S. Seligmann, Michael Epkenhans
ISBN: 9781317023258
Published by Routledge on March 3, 2016
Genres: History, Oceania, Military, General
Pages: 558

An important collection of 153 documents from the British and German archives, edited and annotated by a pair of recognized experts on the naval history of the era—Seligmann for the British side and Epkenhans for the German. The commentary by the editors is excellent, and the book is produced to the usual high standards of the venerable Navy Records Society.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World War

To Crown the Waves: The Great Navies of the First World WarTo Crown the Waves by Richard Worth, W. David Dickson
ISBN: 9781612512693
Published by Naval Institute Press on July 15, 2013
Genres: History, Military, World War I
Pages: 336

Another innovative way to look at the First World War at sea, this book has separate chapters on the navies of Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the United States. The navies of Japan and the Ottoman Empire receive more limited coverage in a single chapter. Each chapter is written by an expert on the navy it covers. For each of the major navies, there are detailed descriptions under various headings, e.g., “Backstory” (outlining the navy’s pre-1914 history), “Organization” (with subheadings for Command Structure, Fleet Organization and Order of Battle, Communications, and Intelligence), “Infrastructure, Logistics, and Commerce,” “Personnel,” etc. Other sections cover doctrine, ships, aviation and weapons, as well as “War Experience and Evolution.” The result is a unique portrait of each navy that highlights its strengths and weaknesses.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I contributed the chapter on the Russian Imperial Navy.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, 1914–18

Clash of Fleets: Naval Battles of the Great War, 1914–18Clash of Fleets by Vincent P. O'Hara, Leonard R. Heinz
ISBN: 9781682470190
Published by Naval Institute Press on April 15, 2017
Genres: History, Military, Naval
Pages: 264

This innovative book looks at every single surface action involving ships of over 100 tons displacement—that is, it excludes only the smallest of patrol craft. The coverage is comprehensive, and is broken down by year, and then by theater. Each entry includes a listing of the ships involved, the commanding officer on each side, the weather conditions, the missions the two sides were engaged in when the action took place, and a succinct description of the action. Not to be overlooked are the excellent strategic overviews that begin each major section, and the analysis in the final chapter. There are superb charts throughout, specially drawn by O’Hara.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I helped the authors research the actions involving the Russian Navy.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919

From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow by Arthur J Marder
ISBN: 9781473841888
Published by Seaforth Publishing on June 13, 2014
Genres: History, Military, Naval, World War I
Pages: 425

In 5 volumes: vol. I: The Road to War, 1904-1914; vol. II: The War Years to the Eve of Jutland; vol. III: Jutland and After (May 1916-December 1916) (second edition, revised and enlarged); vol. IV: 1917, Year of Crisis; vol. V: Victory and Aftermath, January 1918–June 1919. London: Oxford University Press, 1961, 1978; a paperback edition, with introductions to each volume by Barry Gough, was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2014.

Long the standard work on the topic, Marder’s volumes have in recent years been subjected to some criticism; yet the work still stands as a monumental contribution to the field, and no reader interested in the history of the Great War at sea can ignore it. The recent reissue in paperback makes it possible to obtain at a reasonable price what had become a rare set.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

A Naval History of World War I

A Naval History of World War IA Naval History of World War I by Paul Halpern
ISBN: 9781612511726
Published by Naval Institute Press on October 11, 2012
Genres: History, Military, World War I
Pages: 616

This work is still regarded as the gold standard for overall histories of the First World War at sea. It covers every theater of the war, and the author consulted not only English-language sources but made extensive use of French and German documents and publications as well. Originally published as a hardback, it has been reissued several times in paperback.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics and Technology

Fighting the Great War at Sea: Strategy, Tactics and TechnologyFighting the Great War at Sea by Norman Friedman
ISBN: 9781612519593
Published by Naval Institute Press on October 15, 2014
Genres: History, Military, Naval
Pages: 320

A mammoth and well-illustrated work by an expert in naval affairs and a prolific author. This book delves into the details of the war, with chapters on (for example), “Blockade, Trade Warfare and Economic Attack,” “The Chessboard—Naval Geography,” “Fleets in Battle,” “Inshore Operations and an Inshore Fleet,” etc.

(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)

Duel #85: Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18

Duel #85: Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18 by Jon Guttman, Jim Laurier, Gareth Hector
ISBN: 1472820339
Published by Osprey Publishing on March 20, 2018
Genres: Equipment, Uniforms, Weapons
Pages: 80

 

 

Duel #85: Zeppelin vs British Home Defence 1915-18German Infantryman vs Russian Infantryman – 1914–15 by Robert Forczyk, Adam Hook
ISBN: 1472806549
Published by Osprey Publishing on April 21, 2015
Pages: 80

Editor’s Note: Osprey Publishing’s “versus” books cover many historical eras and weapon systems, from ancient Roman Legionary versus Carthaginian Warrior (Combat #35) to F-15C Eagle vs MiG 23/25 (Duel #72). Each of these splendid studies contain 80 pages, photos, color illustrations and often color maps, a bibliography that sometimes includes foreign language sources, and a useful index despite their small size. The authors include PhD historians to veterans familiar with the weapon systems.

These publications should not be dismissed as something for “specialists” or hobbyists. These excellent books provide a unique view of soldiers, aircraft, or tanks, detailed images and notes on equipment and organization, plus show how tactics actually worked on the battlefield.

For World War One, two of the titles of this series are shown here. They include a study of Zeppelins over England by noted aviation historian and author Jon Guttman, research director for History.net, and U.S. Army veteran and National Security PhD Robert Forczyk’s book on German and Russian infantrymen on the Eastern Front, reviewed below.

Robert Forczyk’s book on combat in East Prussia in the opening months of the war is a thorough and illuminating work on a subject commonly misinterpreted or ignored. The sources reveal never-before-seen photos, detailed battlefield maps, and artist renditions of what the combatants looked like.

Forczyk provides a superb analysis of tactics and combat performance at three battles: Gumbinnen (20 August 1914), Göritten (7 November 1914) and Mahartse (16 February 1915). He examines the evolving nature of infantry warfare on the Eastern Front. Central to the tactical portrayal of the battles fought are Russian- and German language sources rarely seen in the West. The accounts on the battle of Gumbinnen alone make the book worthwhile.

Abridged from review by Terrence Finnegan in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

American Military Vehicles of World War I: An Illustrated History of Armored Cars, Staff Cars, Motorcycles, Ambulances, Trucks, Tractors and Tanks

American Military Vehicles of World War I: An Illustrated History of Armored Cars, Staff Cars, Motorcycles, Ambulances, Trucks, Tractors and TanksAmerican Military Vehicles of World War I by Albert Mroz
ISBN: 9780786454761
Published by McFarland on January 19, 2010
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Transportation, Automotive, General
Pages: 326

Hundreds of b&w photos, images of advertisements, and technical drawings appear throughout this outstanding book that examines American motor vehicles used in World War One.

The author researched a wide variety of sources, including the American Truck Historical Society, the Art Archives at the Imperial War Museum, the Society of Automotive Historians, and the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, to name just a few. As the basis for the text, Mroz reprinted portions of prior articles he wrote that appeared in magazines such as American History, Autoweek, Army Motors, Militaria International and others.

Although not as exciting or as popular as tanks and armored cars, a standardized truck to haul supplies and men, and to tow artillery and other items was critical to the war effort. Mroz points out that American industry was able to produce only 9,364 Liberty trucks by the November 1918 Armistice. A July 1917 magazine editorialized that taking so long to design and approve a standard truck for the Army was “shameful.” That lesson would be learned and fixed in the Second World War.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to EndThe Vanquished by Robert Gerwarth
ISBN: 9780374537180
on November 7, 2017
Genres: History, Europe, General, Military, World War I, Modern, 20th Century, Tomlinson
Pages: 464

Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016

If it is true, as they say, that the victors write the history, then our understanding of World War I and the century that followed is at the very least incomplete. Take, for example, the seemingly basic question of when the war ended. The standard date–November 11, 1918–privileges the experiences of the victors, most notably France, Great Britain and the United States, all of which use it as a time for national holidays based on war memorialization.

At issue is more than simple semantics or the preferences of pedantic historians. … Robert Gerwarth cites German veteran and writer of Storm of Steel Ernst Jünger, who said in 1928, “This war is not the end but the beginning of violence.” Thus, we can understand the “First World War” as not having truly ended until at least 1945 or perhaps even 1991 when the Soviet Union, itself a product of the war, finally collapsed. Even discussing the war in terms of winners and losers misses the point. With the possible exception of the United States and Japan, all states came out of the war far worse off than when they went in—and the people of Europe knew it.

In his epilogue, Gerwarth notes that by the late 1930s only two of the new post-1918 states, Finland and Czechoslovakia, looked anything like the liberal democracies that were once supposed to be the basis of Europe’s future. By 1939 there were, in fact, fewer people living under democracies than had been the case in 1914. Violence and dehumanization (with Jews as a particular target across central and eastern Europe) had become the norm in many of the new regimes. Thus does Gerwarth make clear the need to understand two often forgotten legacies of this period: that the process of ending World War I was just as traumatic as the war itself and that even in total wars, the vanquished still play a critical role.

Abridged from the review by Michael Neiberg published on October 4, 2017 on the Lawfare: National Security and Law website lawfareblog.com

Pershing’s Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I

Pershing’s Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War IPershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I by Richard Faulkner
ISBN: 0700623736
Published by University Press of Kansas on March 17, 2017
Genres: Tomlinson
Pages: 784

Richard Faulkner’s incredible work on the doughboys of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) is imminently timely. …an extremely well researched and detailed account written by an Army veteran and World War I scholar…. It is based on the models of Bell Irvin Wiley’s The Life of Johnny Reb and The Life of Billy Yank, which makes it very readable and interesting…

Faulkner traces the steps of soldiers from their basic training until their discharge from active service. What should be readily apparent is that two million men of the AEF had two million perspectives of their experiences. While there are commonalities, the reader finds that each doughboy experienced something different as units were formed, broken apart, reformed, deployed, retrained, committed to action, committed to occupation duty, and then redeployed in different situations. Amazingly, most of this happened in the span of just over two years.

The Herculean efforts to raise, train, deploy, operate, and redeploy a huge force on very short timelines is a tribute to American know-how and ingenuity. What is also apparent is the total unpreparedness of the U.S. Army to fight in a modern, industrialized war. Faulkner covers the “down-side” of the doughboys’ experiences as well. The lack of trained leaders, the reliance on British and French trainers, the use of British and French armaments, and the complete unpreparedness to deal with chemical warfare are but a few of the issues covered….

Pershing’s Crusaders superbly adds to the body of knowledge regarding American soldiers and marines in World War I.

Abridged from the book review by Lt. Col. Edwin L. Kennedy Jr., U.S. Army, Retired and is reprinted with the permission of Military Review, the Professional Journal of the US Army, Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It was originally published in the June 2017 Military Review Online Book Review.

The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire

The World’s War: Forgotten Soldiers of EmpireThe World's War by David Olusoga
ISBN: 978-1-7818-5897-4
Published by Head of Zeus on August 1, 2014
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 432

Winner of the (UK) Political Book Awards 2015 World War One Book of the Year

This is a very good book. Olusoga rightly demonstrates that World War One was a multi-racial, multi-imperial conflict, waged in Asia and Africa as well as on better known fronts. This point has been largely downplayed by previous historians who inaccurately depict the war as “all white.” Olusoga argues that what made the 1914-1918 conflict a “world” war was that it pulled in men and resources from across the globe. This was primarily due to the fact that most of the major Western combatant countries possessed large overseas empires comprising millions of Asian and African subjects. Even the US—that did not—deployed thousands of its racially-downtrodden African-American population in the war. The harrowing story of the nearly 140,000 Chinese laborers on the Western Front is finally told.

Written as a vigorous narrative that mercifully avoids boring academic locution, Olusoga reveals the story of four million non-European, non-white participants in “the war that will end war.” This book deserves a place in every World War One buff’s library. Its 63 telling illustrations are a treat.

Reviewed by Chandar Sundaram, author of the article on the Indian Expeditionary Force in WWOI #6

Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918

Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918Victory on the Western Front: The Development of the British Army 1914-1918 by Michael Senior
ISBN: 178340065X
Published by Pen & Sword Military on October 30, 2016
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 240

Michael Senior identifies and analyzes why the development of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was “extraordinary” and shows how they led to the British Army becoming an infinitely more efficient force by 1918 than it was in 1914.

Although written in an impressively lucid style, this is not a quick read…. [and] there’s a danger, I think, of a reader unfamiliar with the truly global nature of WWI coming away from the book with the impression that this war was primarily Britain’s war.

Most of the book is devoted to technical improvements within the Royal Flying Corps, munitions, trenches, tanks, and artillery. Ultimately, Victory on the Western Front is a convincing antidote against the popular “Lions led by Donkeys” attitude toward the Great War that has sometimes been in vogue. It’s a well-written and well-organized book. All in all, an excellent read for those whose WWI interests include the workings of the British Expeditionary Force from 1914 to 1918.

Abridged from review by David F. Beer in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I

The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War IThe Last Battle: Victory, Defeat, and the End of World War I by Peter Hart
ISBN: 0190872985
Published by Oxford University Press on March 1, 2018
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 464

The author is oral historian at the Imperial War Museum in London and has access to large archives of original testimonies…. describing and enlivening the final battles of 1918.

The author does admit that his “emphasis as a British historian is on the British Army with an appreciative reflection on the massive contributions of victory made by the French, American and Belgian forces.”

Politics and personalities involved in the cease-fire agreements were complex and often cantankerous…. [and left] “an unpleasant taste in the mouth when one considers that men were being maimed and dying in huge numbers with every day that passed.”

Ironically, it didn’t take long before the business of “battlefield tourism” began to flourish…. [while veterans now] “had to fight to retain their self-respect in a society that did not seem to care one iota for their welfare.”

This is a rich and comprehensive book, one I can certainly recommend.

Abridged from review by David F. Beer in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

Dennis Showalter: “…well-paced analytical text with first-hand accounts by participants.”

New York Journal of Books: “…an exceptional collection of personal narratives….”

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931

The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order 1916-1931The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 by Adam Tooze
ISBN: 0670024929
Published by Viking on November 13, 2014
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 672

Winner of the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Author Tooze, a previous winner of the (UK) Wolfson Foundation History Prize, has written a richly detailed book of how France and Great Britain, working with the United States, formed a workable triumvirate that won the war in 1918, only to have it unravel over the following decade. The Deluge tackles the big picture from Tooze’s chosen turning point in the Great War and America’s economic rise to a major world power.

The New York Times review called it “Splendid interpretive history.” Reviewer Gary D. Bass explained, “Rather than starting at a conventional moment like the outbreak of World War I, Tooze begins midstream in 1916 — the year of the gory battles of Verdun and the Somme, but also the year when the economic output of the United States exceeded that of the British Empire. From then until today, writes Tooze, a professor of history at Yale, American economic might would be the decisive factor in the shaping of the world order.”

Professor Kevin Matthews of George Mason University stated in his review that “On reflection, America’s emergence should have surprised no one. As Paul Kennedy pointed out in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, by 1900 the United States was already the world’s leading manufacturing power, with Britain and Germany battling for second place. So, a change was coming; sooner or later, the world’s financial and political center of gravity would cross the Atlantic. What no one could have predicted was how sudden this move would be, a suddenness that ‘was a product of the Great War’ (pp. 40–1).”

President Woodrow Wilson so distrusted the European leaders that he offered his own 14 points and peace without victory, infuriating his two allies. Wilson was not interested in joining the Europeans in ruling the world, preferring his idea of a League of Nations.

Bass summarized: “So Tooze narrates the tumultuous and violent 1920s as a heartbreakingly avoidable tragedy, with the big democracies needlessly squandering their supremacy. Above all, grand liberal projects would never succeed without American engagement. With the United States emerging exponentially more powerful from the war, France and Britain would need its support to deter possible new German aggression. Even when the United States refused to assert itself, Tooze argues, the interwar order ‘was defined in large part by the absent presence of its most defining element — the new power of the United States.’”

America’s lack of engagement in world affairs left other nations to struggle with their own rebuilding. Many chose protective tariffs, a return to the gold standard, and austerity to pay down war debt. These decisions meant a post-war recession became the Great Depression as less money and limited credit left nothing to help rebuild.

The Deluge is an enormously worthwhile book, worldwide in scope, and recommended reading.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America

The Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern AmericaThe Path to War: How the First World War Created Modern America by Michael S. Neiberg
ISBN: 0190464968
Published by Oxford University Press on October 3, 2016
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 272

Winner of the 2016 Tomlinson Prize Award

Neiberg takes a bottom-up approach toward understanding why America finally associated itself with the Entente in the fight against Germany. His major thesis is that Americans were way ahead of the government, and especially President Woodrow Wilson, in understanding that we had to be part of the war “to save civilization” and suppress Germany’s aggressive ambitions.

Memoirs, newspaper columns, magazine articles, private and public letters, and the speeches of Preparedness advocates show us the organic change taking place from 1914 to 1917 in our so-called isolationist population, and how the pressure from ordinary people, and his own advisers, dragged Wilson to a place he did not want to go. The chapter titled “Awaiting the Overt Act” is especially suspenseful, even if you know what’s coming next.

Neiberg’s refreshing viewpoint emphasizing the idealism, thoughtfulness, and good sense of the American public is certainly persuasive. Once again, his natural writing style makes this book an enjoyable as well as informative endeavor that I can recommend without hesitation.

Abridged from review by Jolie Velazquez in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

[Army Times described it “…eminently readable, impressively researched, and remarkably thorough…”—Ed.]

Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency

Ottomans and Armenians: A Study in CounterinsurgencyOttomans and Armenians: A Study in Counterinsurgency ISBN: 1137362200
Published by Palgrave Macmillan on November 12, 2013
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 316

Erickson’s book was called “courageous and provocative” by Tomlinson prize-winner Sean McMeekin. It offers a counterinsurgency military explanation for the 1915 relocation of the Armenians in eastern Turkey.

Erickson documents the beginning of the Armenian insurgency with the secret committees of the 1890s and their evolution into the Armenian armed resistance. When the Ottomans launched an offensive against Russia in late 1914 a small number of Armenians in the eastern provinces of Turkey rose in revolt and menaced the vulnerable Ottoman rail link to the Caucasus front. Threatened in the Dardanelles by Great Britain and France, pressured in the South by British forces, the Ottoman Army countered the Armenian uprising in the East using population relocation.

A successful counterinsurgency strategy against the Armenians became a public relations nightmare as thousands of Armenians were massacred or simply died of exposure during their relocation. The Ottomans were and remain defiant in defending their actions. Some Armenians continued to be killed for years, yet, as Erickson argues, more than 300,000 were allowed to remain in their homes in western Turkey. The “Armenian genocide” remains highly controversial.

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

King of Battle: Artillery in World War I

King of Battle: Artillery in World War IKing of Battle: Artillery in World War I by Sanders Marble
ISBN: 978-1-0043-0524-3
Published by Brill on 2015
Genres: Strategic Studies
Pages: 380

As the editor points out in his preface, “Artillery dominated the battlefields of World War I…. Artillery even holds the dubious distinction of causing a new diagnosis, shellshock.” Despite its crucial role in the conflict and since, and numerous books about the types and capabilities of weapons, this is the first major work that compares national organizations, new technologies, and evolving training and doctrine.

A distinguished array of authors examines the battlefield artillery—the guns that would be included in fire plans. Mortars are covered to some degree, but naval artillery is excluded. Coastal artillery, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank guns receive limited attention.

The essays included in this volume explain how the major combatants of Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the United States handled artillery and how it affected the Great War. Additional chapters explore the artillery of the Ottoman Empire, Bulgaria, Italy, India, Serbia, and Romania.

This is an essential book for anyone trying to understand combat and the competition for increased firepower and its application from 1914-1918.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Instrument of War: The German Army 1914-18

Instrument of War: The German Army 1914-18Instrument of War: The German Army 1914–18 by Dennis E. Showalter
ISBN: 1472813006
Published by Osprey Publishing on November 22, 2016
Genres: Reference
Pages: 328

Winner of the 2016 Tomlinson Prize Award

This is not a chronological presentation of campaigns and battles with maps and combat statistics, yet it is perhaps one of the most important books written about the German Army in the First World War.

Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires, 1914 (Brassey’s, 2004), was recently chosen for the Pritzker Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. He has spent more than 50 years researching and teaching military history. This book represents his fresh perspective on the German Army during WW1. It explores that army’s internal dynamics and operational strategy, showing how both the army and nation were changed by war.

By 1916 the German Army had proved itself as “the Great War’s most comprehensively effective fighting force….” But “Strategic planning was not its forte. Its high command’s record was at best questionable.” And “after eighteen months, without any reasonable doubt fighting a war of attrition … [it] could not win.” Showalter concludes “the kaiser’s army … existed not to serve state and society but to sustain [itself]…. A recipe for defeat and dissolution.” Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Empires in World War I: Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global Conflict

Empires in World War I:  Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global ConflictEmpires in World War I: Shifting Frontiers and Imperial Dynamics in a Global Conflict by Andrew Tait Jarboe, Richard Fogarty
ISBN: 1780764405
on March 27, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 336

This anthology moves away from the decisive Western Front to dwell upon the ramifications of the war on outlying, but not necessarily peripheral areas of the globe. These essays range from Europe, the Indian subcontinent and Japan, through the Pacific Islands, North and sub-Saharan Africa to the Caribbean.

Just one example in West Africa details how the French focused on recruiting cannon fodder for the Western Front and controlled popular unrest. African citizens of the four communes of Senegal elected a representative to the National Assembly and served in the French metropolitan army and received French pay and allowances; other colonial subjects were conscripted into the Tirailleurs Senegalais at lower pay and allowances.

The World War One service of many colonial troops led to demands for self-rule, but for most that dream would not be fulfilled until after the Second World War.

Dennis Showalter praised the book in his review: “What makes the discrete chapters fit together is their high individual quality…and the author’s success in presenting case studies and niche studies in a genuinely global context. The result is a major contribution….”

Len Shurtleff, former president of WW1HA

The British Imperial Army in the Middle East: Morale and Military Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, 1916-1918

The British Imperial Army in the Middle East:  Morale and Military Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, 1916-1918The British Imperial Army in the Middle East: Morale and Military Identity in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns, 1916-18 by James E. Kitchen
ISBN: 1474247857
Published by Bloomsbury Academic on July 30, 2015
Genres: Reference
Pages: 320

The 1918 battles in the Sinai and Palestine ultimately destroyed the Ottoman Empire and paved the way for the British and French to redraw the Middle East map and create the unstable nations whose dramas still give indigestion to diplomats a century later.

This excellent book has received numerous accolades, including Kristian Ulrichsen in the Journal of Palestine Studies: “Kitchen’s meticulously researched book makes extensive use of primary source materials ranging from contemporary soldiers’ letters and official (and unofficial) documentation to postwar memoirs and oral historiography.” The (UK) Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research called it “…a breakthrough work….”

When General Sir Edmund Allenby assumed command from the lackluster Archibald Murray in the fall of 1917, he injected new confidence into a demoralized staff officer corps and vastly improved training. Fresh reinforcements of newly recruited British Indian Army formations performed well in the battles against the still formidable Ottoman Army. What started out as a defense of the Suez Canal became a war of imperial expansion far more vicious and sophisticated than the over-rated and over-hyped hit-and-run campaign orchestrated by T. E. Lawrence.

Reviewed by Len Shurtleff, former president of WW1HA

Over the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World War

Over the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World WarOver the Top: Alternate Histories of the First World War by Peter G. Tsouras, Spencer Jones
ISBN: 1848327536
Published by Frontline Books on October 1, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 240

One of the intellectual challenges and delights of reading history is imagining how past events could have followed different paths. This anthology offers ten short alternate histories, each driven by a single change to the First World War’s actual history. In one the Brusilov Offensive is more successful than it was, as the Russian Empire defeats the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and as a result the 1917 Russian Revolution never occurs. [Others] include a German breakthrough at the First Battle of Ypres (1914), a British amphibious attack on the Ottoman port of Alexandretta, the Greeks joining the Entente at Gallipoli to seize Istanbul, Teddy Roosevelt elected president in 1912 and taking America into the war in 1915, a clear British victory at Jutland, a clear British victory at the Somme, plus an earlier and more massive deployment of tanks on the Western Front.

The deviations from history are thought provoking, giving readers a good sense of just how many different ways the Great War could have gone, and shedding insight into strategic decision-making.

Abridged from review by Bryan Alexander in RoadstotheGreatWar-ww1.blogspot.com/

World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection (5 volumes)

World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection (5 volumes)World War I: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection by Spencer C. Tucker
ISBN: 1851099646
Published by ABC-CLIO on October 28, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 2307

Full disclosure: This reviewer contributed to ABC-CLIO’s previous The Encyclopedia of World War II (2005) and The Civil War encyclopedia (2013), but did not write for this WW1 series.

A host of knowledgeable experts provided the entries that form the basis of this massive work. Spencer Tucker, the series editor, is an award-winning author or editor of 49 books and encyclopedias. A former U.S. Army captain and intelligence analyst at the Pentagon, he retired from teaching at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.

Each of the first four volumes consists of maps followed by alphabetically-organized entries. The first volume also includes three special essays: The Origins of World War I; The Outbreak of World War I (after June 28, 1914); and World War I Overview.

The fifth volume presents 207 key primary source documents, organized by dates, including pre-war and post-war periods. For example, Document 42 presents the report of German U-9 commander Lieutenant Otto Weddigen, who sank three British cruisers in the first major submarine engagement of the war on 22 September 1914, juxtaposed against the report by Royal Navy Commander Bertram W.L. Nicholson who was on the Cressy, one of the cruisers that was lost.

Other documents include official treaties and communiqués such as President Woodrow Wilson’s correspondence with the German government in 1918, and even famous popular items such as Canadian surgeon John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” published in the British magazine Punch in December 1915.

A few entries have become outdated by recent research and scholarship and the maps are often too general, not even identifying armies let alone subordinate units. Using a modern tank silhouette to indicate Ottoman mobile howitzer battalions on the Gallipoli-Dardanelles map in volume two (page 635) looks very odd as well as anachronistic.

Despite these minor complaints, these volumes sit on a shelf within easy reach of my desk. I refer to them regularly as a starting point and/or fact-checking reference. They are indispensible to my work. Highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in the study of the First World War.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

And the World Went Dark: An Illustrated Interpretation of the Great War

And the World Went Dark: An Illustrated Interpretation of the Great WarAnd the World Went Dark: An Illustrated Interpretation of the Great War by Steven N. Patricia
ISBN: 1612003486
Published by Casemate on 2016
Genres: Reference
Pages: 96

Short but comprehensive summary of WW1 illustrated throughout (see sample pages). The author, an artist and historian, offers a thoughtful, elegant, and inclusive history of the Great War with well-presented data and illustrations that work together to incorporate the information while conveying the sense of the times. The format is similar to a graphic novel, but as written by a scholar. The title references the famous quote by British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey in 1914: “The lamps are going out all over Europe: we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”

The book is organized into six parts: an Introduction outlines the forces that led to war and the (major) “players” plus three chapters called “Acts” that describe the war in the air, at sea, and on land. A short summary chapter called “Finis” explains why and how the war ended. The bibliography indicates the amount of research used to assure the accuracy of the illustrations, but an index would have made it easier to locate key points and quotes.

This is the book I would give to a young reader or an adult who interested in learning more about the war. A most impressive effort!

Reviewed by Anne Merritt

The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917

The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 by David R. Stone
ISBN: 0700620958
Published by University Press of Kansas on April 10, 2015
Genres: Reference
Pages: 368

Histories of the Eastern Front in WW1 written and published in the West have relied upon German and Austrian sources, supplemented by writings of Russian exiles. David Stone was able to access Russian archives, including Soviet staff studies published after 1918, but he admits that some statistical data are still difficult if not impossible to obtain due to disorganized record keeping and the chaos of the revolution.

This is an illuminating and outstanding source book, as well as an engaging narrative of a major theater of the war not well known and underappreciated. Russia’s importance is evident in Germany’s decision to keep 47 of its 89 divisions in the East despite the launch of attacks in the West in the spring of 1918. Even in defeat, Russia played a role in weakening Germany’s offensive ability.

The review in The Journal of Military History noted that Stone “very deftly weaves into the narrative what the forces of the Central Powers were doing in reaction to and in anticipation of Russian strategy and tactics.”

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Armies of the Great War: The French Army and the First World War

Armies of the Great War: The French Army and the First World WarThe French Army and the First World War by Elizabeth Greenhalgh
ISBN: 1107605687
Published by Cambridge University Press on September 30, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 400

The Journal of Military History review was mixed on this volume. The reviewer noted it is “a great primer for … learning more about the French” army, but also “It is imperfect, sometimes could go into more depth, and makes a few minor errors….”

What are these “minor” errors? Elizabeth Greenhalgh, a QE II Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Australia, makes regrettable and “irreconcilable” mistakes in French casualty figures, and misses important aspects of French artillery; for example, referring to French guns only by their caliber and not by their make. Artillery was a huge factor in the Great War, so knowing if a 155-mm cannon was the 1882 de Bange model that fired one aimed round per minute or the 1905 model Rimailho capable of ten to fifteen aimed rounds per minute is a big deal.

Her analysis of the French view of British BEF commander Haig as selfish and uncooperative is interesting, and her section on the French mutinies was called “the best treatment of the phenomenon in English” by the reviewer.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Armies of the Great War: The British Army and the First World War

Armies of the Great War: The British Army and the First World WarThe British Army and the First World War by Ian F.W. Beckett, Timothy Bowman, Mark Connelly
ISBN: 052118374X
Published by Cambridge University Press on May 30, 2017
Genres: Reference
Pages: 482

This volume was a collaborative effort of three professors at the University of Kent. Unlike the other volumes of this series reviewed in this issue, this one has no statistical tables; unfortunate since there are anecdotal numbers presented throughout the narrative.

It assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the British Army between 1914 and 1918, and discusses debates about the adequacy of British generalship and the so-called “learning curve” in the development of combat operations. Their conclusion is that despite limitations of initiative and innovation among the British high command, the British Army succeeded in developing effective combined arms warfare necessary for achieving victory in 1918.

The Western Front receives the lion’s share of attention with British Army operations “throughout the rest of the world” relegated to 26 pages. The index has “BEF, See British Expeditionary Force” but there is no such listing which means any pages where the BEF’s changing organization, such as the increase in machine-guns per battalion and decrease in battalions per division are lost (or nonexistent).

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Armies of the Great War: The American Army and the First World War

Armies of the Great War: The American Army and the First World WarThe American Army and the First World War by David R. Woodward
ISBN: 1107648866
Published by Cambridge University Press on July 10, 2014
Genres: Reference
Pages: 481

The Journal of Military History review declared this “a well-researched and nicely written volume for the ‘Armies of the Great War’ series.” It went on to say “One of the major strengths of this work is the careful integration of the context in which the American Army is roughly jerked out of its wary complacency….”

David Woodward, an Emeritus Professor of History at Marshall University, covers the American Expeditionary Forces’ battles at the Saint-Mihiel salient, the Meuse-Argonne offensive, plus U.S. soldiers in Russia and Siberia. American politics, Allied debates about various strategies, and the arguments and negotiations among the coalition partners are also examined, especially on how the U.S. divisions were integrated into the Allied order of battle.

Professor Woodward’s overview is supported by seven statistical and organizational tables. The maps are adapted from the American Armies and Battlefields in Europe, 1938 published by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission.

Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI

Dennis Showalter: “…seminal work presents America’s creation of an army that suffered every possible shortcoming resulting from improvisation.”