How Did the Schlieffen Plan Support Kaiser Wilhelms Goals
[ʃliːfən plaːn]) was the German General Staff’southward early on 20th-century overall strategic plan for victory in a possible future state of war in which the German Empire might observe itself fighting on two fronts: France to the west and Russia to the due east. The First World State of war after became such a war, with both a Western and an Eastern Front.
The plan took advantage of Russia’southward slowness and expected differences in the three countries’ speed in preparing for state of war. In short, it was the German plan to avoid a 2-front state of war past concentrating troops in the West and quickly defeating the French and then, if necessary, rushing those troops past rail to the East to face the Russians before they had fourth dimension to mobilize fully. The Schlieffen Plan was created by Count Alfred von Schlieffen and modified by Helmuth von Moltke the Younger after Schlieffen’s retirement; it was Moltke who actually implemented the plan at the starting time of Globe War I. In modified form, it was executed to near victory in the first month of the war. However, the modifications to the original plan, a French counterattack on the outskirts of Paris (the Battle of the Marne) and surprisingly speedy Russian offensives ended the German offensive and resulted in years of trench warfare. The programme has been the subject of intense contend among historians and military scholars ever since. Schlieffen’s terminal words were “recall to continue the correct flank potent,” which was pregnant in that Moltke strengthened the left flank in his modification.
The Schlieffen Plan
After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, virtually of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, with a population that was culturally both French and German language, were annexed by the new German language Empire. The
French vowed to regain these territories, which France had possessed for well-nigh 200 years. Due to alliances orchestrated past the
German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, France was initially isolated, merely afterwards Kaiser Wilhelm 2 took the throne in 1888 and gradually estranged Germany from Russia and Great britain, the prospect of fighting a futurity war on 2 fronts simultaneously caused increasing unease amidst High german leaders.
France, having been defeated in a matter of weeks in 1870, was non considered as dangerous in the long run as the Russians, who were expected to be hard to defeat if the Tsar were allowed the necessary time to mobilize his huge land to the fullest extent. After Britain and France concluded the Entente Cordiale in 1904, Wilhelm asked Count Schlieffen to devise a plan which would allow Deutschland to fight a war on two fronts, and in December 1905 Schlieffen began circulating it.[
The program assumed that given its vast size, inadequate runway arrangement and inefficient bureaucracy, Russian federation would need 6 weeks to fully mobilize. In that time, Schlieffen believed he could win a two-front war by showtime chop-chop defeating France in the west – the plan scheduled 39 days for the fall of Paris and 42 for the capitulation of French republic – before the “Russian Steamroller” would be able to mobilize and descend upon East Prussia.
The plan depended on Germany’s ability to quickly mobilize troops and invade French republic before the French could fully mobilize their troops and defend their territory, and then to turn on the Russians before they were prepare.
Schlieffen’due south solution reversed that of his great predecessor, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, whose experiences in the Franco-Prussian State of war with modern warfare and concerns regarding the increasing lethality of weaponry, made him doubt that a swift success could be achieved. Moltke had accordingly favoured express operations against France and a major endeavor against Russia.[
Schlieffen, on the other manus, would seek an firsthand all-out victory against France.
The plan envisaged a rapid German mobilization, disregard for the neutrality of Luxembourg, Kingdom of belgium and the netherlands and an overwhelming sweep of the powerful German correct fly southwest through Belgium and Northern France, “letting the last man on the right, brush the Channel with his sleeve,”
in the words of Schlieffen, while maintaining only a defensive posture on the central and left wings, in
Lorraine, the Vosges, and the Moselle.
Paris was not to exist taken (in 1870, the Siege of Paris had lasted for months) but was to be passed by the correct fly to the west of the city. The intent of the programme was not to conquer cities or manufacture to weaken the French war efforts. Rather, Schlieffen aimed to trap the French Army in a behemothic pincer motion and cut off the northeastern part of the country. The French Ground forces would thus be hemmed in around Paris and forced into a decisive envelopment battle.
Withal, a seed of disaster lurked in the conception of the plan: both Schlieffen and Moltke were seduced by the possibility of rolling up most of the French forces with ii big wheeling movements, with the right wing coming from the north and west of France and the left wing coming from the due east. The inspiration was the devastation of the Roman Ground forces past Hannibal’s forces at the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, which was the object of meticulous written report by Schlieffen. In essence, his plan was a big-scale strategic readdressing of Hannibal’due south tactics, capitalizing on the recent breakthroughs in communications and transport. Hans Delbrück’s seminal study of the battle had a profound influence on subsequent German military theorists, in particular on Schlieffen. Through his writings, Schlieffen taught that the “Cannae model” would go on to exist applicable in maneuver warfare throughout the 20th century:
“A battle of annihilation tin can be carried out today according to the same plan devised past Hannibal in long forgotten times. The enemy front is not the goal of the chief attack. The mass of the troops and the reserves should not exist full-bodied against the enemy front; the essential is that the flanks be crushed. The wings should not be sought at the advanced points of the front but rather along the unabridged depth and extension of the enemy germination. The annihilation is completed through an attack against the enemy’s rear… To bring well-nigh a decisive and annihilating victory requires an attack confronting the forepart and confronting 1 or both flanks…”
Schlieffen afterward developed his ain
doctrine in a series of articles, many of which were later translated and published in a work entitled
Politically, one of the major drawbacks of the Schlieffen Plan was that it called for the invasion of neutral states in order to transport German troops to France. In particular, the invasion of Kingdom of belgium made British intervention a nigh-certainty, thus eliminating any hazard of localizing the disharmonize. Schlieffen took the prospect of British intervention into account, but believed whatever British aid would come likewise tardily to be a factor. Equally it turned out, at to the lowest degree formally, information technology was the determination to invade Belgium which led to Swell Great britain declaring war on Germany. In the United States, the manner in which Kingdom of belgium was invaded had much to practice with turning popular sentiment against Germany, and facilitated the American entrance into war against Federal republic of germany in April 1917.
Equally noted previously, Russian mobilization would supposedly be extremely slow, due to its poor railway system. Following the speedy defeat of France, the German General Staff would switch German concentrations to the Eastern Front. His goal was to defeat France in six weeks, the fourth dimension it took for Russian federation to mobilize its army, and turn dorsum to the Eastern Front before Russia could react. Kaiser Wilhelm II is quoted as having said “Paris for lunch, dinner at St. Petersburg.”
Modifications to the Plan, 1906
Following the retirement of Schlieffen in 1906, Helmuth von Moltke became the German language principal of staff. He disagreed with at least some of the Schlieffen Programme, thinking it to exist too risky. The Plan, however, having been devised in 1905, was now too much a role of High german military thinking to be abandoned completely, so all Moltke could practise was change it.[
- Moltke decided to pull significant numbers of troops away from the main force entering France from the north, in order to fortify the forces in Alsace-Lorraine, and the forces at the Russian edge.
- The other meaning change he made was not to enter through the netherlands, instead sending troops through Kingdom of belgium and Grand duchy of luxembourg simply.
These changes take been the subject of much argue. L.C.F Turner in 1970 described von Moltke’southward changes as “a substantial modification in the Schlieffen Plan and one which probably doomed the German campaign in the west before information technology was always launched.“[
Turner claims that by weakening the main German offensive, they did non have a real chance of defeating the French army quickly enough; hence they became stranded in a 2-front end-state of war. He also says that not going through kingdom of the netherlands not just created a clogging at the German language-Belgian border, only too that not having the Dutch railways at their disposal created a huge supply problem, a problem which outweighed the benefits they gained by still having access to the Dutch ports.
However, in 1977, Martin van Creveld, analyzing the part of logistics in the plan, felt that the effects of Moltke’due south alteration to avoid invading Dutch neutrality were more apparent than real, since two corps of troops which had been allocated to contain the 90,000-strong Dutch Army could instead be used for the invasion of France. Further, van Creveld points out that while Schlieffen had assigned v corps for the investment of Antwerp, Moltke made do with simply two.
“Though it is therefore quite true that Moltke’due south right wing was not as strong as Schlieffen had planned to make information technology, this loss was more than than compensated for past the economies effected in [Moltke’s] version of the plan.”
Early in the state of war, according to the directives of Programme XVII, the French mobilized and hurled their forces towards the German edge in an ill-fated endeavour to recapture Alsace-Lorraine. This played exactly into Schlieffen’s conception of a trap through double envelopment, which called for a loose defense force of the border, and really for retreats past which the French forces would have been lured further away from the main thrust of the German language accelerate. However, Moltke’s weakening of the German right, the defense of Alsace-Lorraine, and the transfer of 3 army corps and one cavalry segmentation from the western front to aid incorporate the Russian advance into East Prussia, all contributed to the failure of the German language army to break through the Allied forces at the Marne. Without that breakthrough, the plan was destroyed.
Activation and subsequent failure
Though contend continues well-nigh the claim of the Schlieffen Plan and even on whether the Schlieffen Plan was always truly executed, a number of causes contributed to the failure of the German invasion:
Although the Belgian regular army was only a tenth of the size of the German language army, it still delayed the Germans for nigh a calendar month by defending fortresses and cities.
The Germans used their “Big Bertha” artillery to destroy Belgian forts in Liège, Namur, and Antwerp, but the Belgians still fought back, creating a constant threat to German supply lines in the north. In improver, the German attack on neutral Belgium and reports and propaganda near German atrocities in that location turned public opinion in many neutral countries against Frg and Kaiser Wilhelm Ii. Yet, despite strong Belgian resistance, the timetable for the Schlieffen Program was going according to schedule before it was halted in France.
German underestimation of the British-Belgian alliance
United kingdom of great britain and northern ireland and Belgium had an alliance due to the London Treaty of 1839. Germany hoped that Britain, which was wary of making alliances due to its wish to remain neutral, would not laurels the treaty and would not rush to the help of Belgium. To Deutschland’s dismay, Britain kept to the terms of the treaty and responded to German aggression against Belgium by declaring state of war on Germany. When
Edward Goschen, the British administrator to Federal republic of germany, informed German chancellor
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg
that the 2 countries were now at war, Bethmann-Hollweg famously replied, “The Britons will go to war for a mere scrap of paper?” They non just underestimated the Alliance between United kingdom and Kingdom of belgium, but felt that U.k. had an extremely weak forcefulness. They felt that they could hands overpower the British, and thought that fifty-fifty if they were to strike, the British would only manage to get across their fleet in small numbers, and they idea that past this time, they would have got the French ocean ports (Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne), so the British would not exist allowed to get across in large numbers, and they would be slaughtered by the Germans if this were to happen.
The effectiveness of the British Expeditionary Forcefulness
The BEF was small, numbering only 75,000 at the starting time of the state of war, but it was a highly trained, professional strength, unlike continental conscript armies. Among the benefits were that the BEF were able to produce a much higher charge per unit of small arms fire than the French or Germans. This higher rate of fire effectively served equally a force multiplier. The French mobilized millions of recruits, and their goal was to use this number to defeat the Germans rapidly in Alsace. To this end, the French commander-in-chief Joseph Joffre placed the small but highly trained BEF on the left flank, where he believed in that location would not be any fighting. Due to the rapid High german advance through Kingdom of belgium, the British were almost annihilated several times, but they managed to delay the Germans long enough for French and British reinforcements to go far. While the BEF was forced into retreat throughout the month of August, it provided enough resistance against the German First Army under Alexander von Kluck to help induce the German full general to break off the Schlieffen Programme.[
Instead, von Kluck turned south-e towards Compiègne, showing his flank to the Garrison of Paris under Gallieni, making possible the “Miracle of the Marne”.
The speed of Russian mobilization
The Russians moved faster than expected and mobilized in less than vi weeks, gaining ground in East Prussia more than rapidly than the Germans had planned for. While the Russian accelerate may not have posed much of a existent threat at the fourth dimension, had they kept gaining footing at that pace, they would become dangerously close to Berlin. This caused the Germans to pull fifty-fifty more men from their main forcefulness, in order to reinforce the Eastern Front end. This proved counterproductive, since the forces pulled from the Western Front were still in transit during the Battle of Tannenberg, in which the Germans would emerge victorious, while the battles on the Western forepart were being lost for Germany.
The French railway system
Because of the delays caused past the British and Belgians, the French had more time to mobilize its troops and send them to northeastern France. The Germans greatly underestimated how well they would be able to do this, particularly with the extra fourth dimension they were granted by the slowing of the German forces. The French sent some of their troops by train, some through taxis, and marched the balance of them. By the fourth dimension the Germans got into France, the French were there waiting for them.
Van Creveld asserts that:
…Schlieffen does not appear to have devoted much attention to logistics when he evolved his nifty Plan. He well understood the difficulties probable to be encountered, but fabricated no systematic effort to solve them. Had he washed then, he might well have reached the determination that the operation was impracticable. … Moltke did much to meliorate the logistic side of the Program. Under his management, the problem was seriously studied for the first time and officers trained in the ‘technics’ of warfare … He did, it is true, make a number of changes in the Plan. From an exclusively logistic bespeak of view, some of these were beneficial, but most were harmful. Yet, taking his menstruum of office every bit a whole, he probably did more to improve the Plan than to damage its prospects.[three]
He concludes that, overall, the logistical shortcomings of the Program did non contribute to the German defeat at the Commencement Battle of the Marne. However,
Had the boxing gone in Germany’s favour … there is every reason to believe that the advance would have petered out. The prime number factors would accept been the disability of the railheads to keep up with the advance, the lack of fodder, and sheer burnout. In this sense, but no other, information technology is true to say that the Schlieffen Programme was logistically impracticable.
In van Creveld’s view the design of the Plan was not characterized by the kind of thoroughness and detailed planning that is usually thought to be the hallmark of the High german General Staff, merely by
“an ostrich-like refusal on Schlieffen’south function to face up even those problems which, after xl years of peace, could be foreseen.”
Although Moltke did improve the Program somewhat in this respect, it was not methodical advanced planning which enabled the German accelerate to succeed, simply
That the Army achieved every bit much as it did, at a fourth dimension when the continuing orders could only be said to accept caused no actual harm, is remarkable indeed. Critics of the advance would do well to continue this in heed.[three]
German troops were exhausted by the time they engaged French forces; many horses (towing arms pieces) sickened, having eaten green corn.[half-dozen]
German supply lines stretched 80 mi (130 km) at the Marne; the front line of the German Army had already broken into retreat before the rear had even arrived.
Moltke’due south changes to the plan
Primary of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke made several changes to the Schlieffen Plan. One of his changes was that he weakened the right wing of the German language ground forces, which was invading France by fashion of Belgium, in order to strengthen the left-wing, which was defending Alsace-Lorraine against the French invasion. Moltke aghast at the weakness of the Alsatian “hinge” region, fearing that the massive forcefulness of the right-wing’south hammer would allow the French to breakthrough the relatively sparsely manned left-wing “anvil”. This had been role of Schlieffen’s design: his plan called for the invading French forces to be enveloped. Schlieffen had been willing to cede some German language territory in the brusk run to decisively destroy the French Army but Moltke refused to run the same adventure and shifted some divisions from the right flank to the left flank in Alsace-Lorraine. This proved problematic, because the German units who were supposed to fall back and lure the French away from Paris and the German right flank, were now driving the French before them. Rather than diverting the French forces from the action, this placed the French units much closer to the German 1st and 2nd armies threatening Paris.
Repulsed by the left-wing of Moltke’s forces almost Sarrebourg, the French retreated to the hills around the city of Nancy (most the German border.) Rather than sweeping around them and enveloping the French armies and Paris itself from the east, Moltke opted to straight assail their reinforced positions around Nancy which concluded in an unmitigated failure.
Before the war, Moltke besides moved 180,000 men to eastern Germany to defend confronting the Russian invasion of East Prussia. Shortly earlier the Battle of the Marne, he moved 80,000 more than men to the east against the advice of General Ludendorff. Ludendorff would exist vindicated equally two days earlier the reinforcements arrived the Germans had decisively defeated the Russians at Tannenberg, nigh destroying the Russian Second Army in its entirety in the process. Ultimately Moltke reassigned some 250,000 men (an entire army’s worth) from the correct-wing attack before finally abandoning the Schlieffen Programme altogether. Moltke besides had ideological opposition to the proposed passage of the invading armies through the neutral Netherlands, deciding instead to transport his armies only through Belgium and Luxembourg.
Decision to break off the programme
General von Kluck made the decision at the front to wheel south-easterly instead of standing on past Paris in accord with Schlieffen’s plan. German generals were taught to retrieve for themselves, and in fact his decision to wheel inwards made orthodox military sense. However, information technology deprived Federal republic of germany of the take a chance to force a decisive envelopment boxing around Paris. Information technology also turned the right flank of von Kluck’southward army toward Paris, leaving it in an unprotected position when it was attacked by the newly created French Sixth Army under General Michel-Joseph Maunoury. The result was a French victory at the Outset Battle of the Marne, which decisively concluded the German language accelerate.
Aftermath of the plan’s failure
The failures of the German regular army in the Westward resulted in defeat at the Start Battle of the Marne in September 1914, a stalemate, trench warfare, and a ii-front war for Germany. After Germany’s defeat at the Marne, in that location began a
series of flanking maneuvres
by both the Germans, and the British and French Allies heading northwards in one concluding attempt to terminate the war quickly. However, by December, the two armies had built an elaborate series of trench fortifications stretching essentially from the English Channel to the Swiss border which would remain nearly static for four years. Schlieffen’s dandy gamble would, ironically, result in the one result he had feared: A long, drawn-out war of attrition against a numerically stronger enemy.
What eventually occurred was a “reverse Schlieffen”, in that Russian federation was defeated prior to the Western Allies. The Russian army, aided by the Romanian and Serbian armies and considered past the German control as more dangerous than the Western Allies, was defeated with relative ease. Meanwhile the Western Allies had a larger manpower base from which to feed the state of war of attrition taking place. Even though Frg sent many divisions to fight in Italia and the Franco-Benelux theater post-obit the plummet of Russian federation and the Eastern Front in 1917/18, the Western Allies still defeated the Fundamental Powers’ forces. In the 1918 summer campaign, Italy obtained a long sought decisive victory over Austro-hungarian empire, and Austria withdrew from the state of war exposing Germany’s southern flank. The defeat of Bulgaria also exposed Frg (and Austria) to an Allied advance up the Danube. Finally the entrance of the United States on the side of the Allies in 1917, and the arrival of substantial U.Southward. troops, coupled with the failure of the final German offensives in the Westward in early 1918, immune the Allies to push the Germans out of France and into Belgium, towards the German border. Once the long-held static positions were lost, Frg accepted the Allies’ ceasefire terms.
Several historians contend that the program was unfeasible for its fourth dimension, due to the recent advances in weaponry and the improved transportation of industrial warfare. Some would say the program was “also skilful”. B. H. Liddell Hart, for instance, praised the Schlieffen Plan as a
conception of Napoleonic boldness, but concluded that:
- The plan would once again become possible in the next generation—when air power could paralyze the defending side’s attempt to switch its forces, while the development of mechanized forces greatly accelerated the speed of encircling moves, and extended their range. But Schlieffen’south plan had a very poor chance of success at the fourth dimension information technology was conceived.
Contrarily, Captain Douglas Cohn argues that the plan may have worked if Moltke had followed Schlieffen’s original plan instead of modifying it. He argues that had Moltke not depleted the right flank on the Western Front, Kluck’s 1st German Army would not take been forced away from the ocean, the British Expeditionary Strength (BEF) would have been overwhelmed, and the French armies would have been trapped between Paris and France’s eastern frontiers.[
The idea that logistics would have prevented this was disproven by the German supply improvisations that actually occurred.[
A different approach to the argue has been taken by other historians, including
David Fromkin, author of
Europe’s Last Summertime: Who Started the Great War in 1914?, David Stevenson, author of
Cataclysm: The Starting time World War as Political Tragedy, and
Terence Zuber, author of
Inventing the Schlieffen Plan. They have argued that what is known as the Schlieffen Plan may not accept been an bodily plan every bit such, merely instead was laid down in one 1905 hypothetical memorandum and a brief 1906 improver.
According to this view, Schlieffen may non have intended his concept to be carried out in the form he laid down, instead, seeing it as peradventure an intellectual practice. Fromkin has argued that, given what historians have recently[
seen in Schlieffen’s papers, captured by the U.South. Regular army forth with other German war documents, that the memorandum had never been refined into an operational programme. No orders or operational details (such every bit specific units for each area of the offensive) were appended. Furthermore, Fromkin says that the memorandum acknowledges the fact that for the programme to work the German Army needs more than divisions, and there needs to be more parallel roads through Belgium. Fromkin continues by putting much of the genesis of the program, as finally enacted, on Moltke, who had seen the memorandum and believed it to be a fully operational plan which he then proceeded to aggrandize upon. Fromkin, in fact, has advocated referring to the “Moltke Plan” as opposed to the “Schlieffen Plan”, as information technology may have been more than a production of Moltke’s misreading of the Schlieffen Memorandum of 1905 and its 1906 codicil.
Zuber’s argument is that the Schlieffen memorandum was a “rough draft” of a program to set on France in a unmarried front war. It tin non be regarded as an operational programme, as the memo was never typed upwards, was stored with Schlieffen’s family, and envisioned the use of units not in existence. Further, the supposed plan was never published subsequently the war when information technology was being touted as the infallible recipe for victory that Moltke ruined. Zuber contends that if Germany faced a war with France and Russian federation, Shlieffen’s real plan was defensive counter-attacks on the French and Russians.[eight]
According to the historian A. Palmer, notwithstanding, closer inspection of documents regarding the German war programme reveal that Moltke’s changes were not that dandy, and that the program was basically flawed from the get-go. He claims that the Schlieffen programme does non deserve its high reputation, because it underestimated pretty much everyone—the Russians, French, British, and Belgians. Some other view is that both Palmer and Fromkin are right, since Palmer’southward opinion that the Schlieffen programme was a poor plan would indicate its origin as one not fully vetted. The Schlieffen plan could have been simply a certificate that spurred operational thinking and planning, and became the working proper noun for a strategy of bypassing the majority of the French forces through a flanking maneuver.
The British armed services historian John Keegan in summarizing the debate over the programme, criticizes it for its lack of realism almost the speed with which the right wing of the German army would exist able to wheel through Belgium and the netherlands in order to arrive outside of Paris on schedule. He observes that, regardless of the path taken, in that location were simply non enough roads for the masses of troops planned to achieve Paris in the time required. In other words, the Plan required High german forces to arrive on schedule and in sufficient force, but in reality simply i or the other could exist accomplished, not both.
Keegan likewise points to the Schlieffen Plan as a leading example of the separation between military machine state of war planning and political/diplomatic considerations which was i of the original causes of the war. Schlieffen conceived his Plan as the all-time possible solution to a strategic trouble, while ignoring the political reality that violating Belgian neutrality was the affair most probable to invite British intervention and aggrandize the conflict.
The rigidity of the Schlieffen Plan has as well been a source of much criticism. The plan called for the defeat of France in precisely 42 days. Armed with an inflexible timetable, argue many scholars, the German General Staff was unable to improvise as the “fog” of state of war became more apparent. Thus, many scholars believe that the Schlieffen Plan was anti-Clausewitzian in concept.[
A gene in evaluating the significance of the Schlieffen program is the misinformation that was widely disseminated during and after the war. Records were lost and cloth made up to paint the events in a calorie-free more than adequate to those making the decisions at the time.
Run across also
- Manstein Plan (Second World State of war plan with some similarities)
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How Did the Schlieffen Plan Support Kaiser Wilhelms Goals