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Inventing the Schlieffen Plan


Dikke Bertha
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Glenn,

Trying to wriggle out of something now? I wrote;

Do you really believe that if France or Russia ordered mobilization but then all their demands were met, they would still have to proceede to war irrespective of the fact all need for war had now been removed?

To which your reply was;

Yes, Terry, I mean precisely that.

Now you are trying to get out of this with the excuse;

If Russia and France were to complete their full mobilization during peacetime

This is clearly not what was said by me, nor the position you tried to make a case against. I noted that mobilization meant no more or no less than anyone wished it to, it was perfectly possible to mobilize, and then demobilize without ever going to war. You seem to wish to claim that;

1. It did mean something that nobody had ever cited in any declaration of war before 1914.

2. Even if it did not mean war Germany thought it did which therefore excuses Germany for everything in forcing a situation where Russia was certain to mobilize.

You may imagine that the Franco-Russians would throw such a military opportunity away, but in doing so you ignore the very good reasons that lead them to strike.

No. I have repeatedly said that we have not seen anything to suggest that when Russia mobilized she did so with the intent of going to war with Germany, or indeed even Austria if the latter had simply talked to resolve the crisis.

You are determined not to admit that when mobilization occurred in Russia there stood a real and tangible chance that war would follow no matter what Germany and Austria subsequently did.

Oddly enough that is not my position. Certainly there was a chance for war, but it was not inevitable. It was the German action that made the war inevitable, though declarations of war and invading neighbours do tend to do that.

Everyone has an opinion, and I think we've gone around on ours on this matter quite enough.

After about 8 years or more it is hard to come to any other conclusion. It does help if the opinion is based upon evidence though.

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A Duel of Giants cautions the reader not to invest too much in the Ollivier's spin on matters,

And I wouldn't invest too much time in what David Wetzel writes, not least due to the way, on at least one occasion, he presents 'facts' which are not supported by the sources he himself gives. For example, on page 173,he writes that:

The suggestion finds a most powerful - and to this day undisputed - confirmation in the memoirs of Malmesbury former prime minister of Great Britain and a close friend of Gramont, with whom he had been exchanging messages throughout the crisis and from whom he had received a lengthy recounting of the meeting of 14 July almost immediately after it had ended. Malmesbury claims that the empress used a telegram brought by Le Boeuf to intervene with brutal effect and to argue that unless the French were to allow the Germans to continue to play around irresponsibly with the purpose of throwing sand in their eyes, there could now be no question, no thought, of turning back. Supported by Le Boeuf,she carried the day for mobilization. By eleven o'clock the die had been cast,and the ministers voted that the chamber should be informed on the following day.

Even if we set aside the 'minor' fact that Malmesbury had never been prime minister of Great Britain (he had been foreign secretary for two, rather short, periods), a quick check of Malmesbury's memoirs (the book Wetzel uses as a source) finds no such claim. The relevant section in Malmesbury's Memoirs Of An Ex-Minister: An Autobiography is:

After some discussion Gramont told me that the Empress, a high-spirited and impressionable woman, made a strong and most excited address, declaring that 'war was inevitable if the honour of France was to be sustained.' She was immediately followed by Marshal Le Boeuf, who, in the most violent tone, threw down his portfolio and swore that if war was not declared he would give it up and renounce his military rank. The Emperor gave way, and Gramont went straight to the Chamber to announce the fatal news.

As there is no reference to any telegram from Le Boeuf , we can only assume that either Wetzel made (yet) another mistake or deliberately distorted the account to support hisclaims. Either way, it hardly bodes well for his reliability as a source.

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After the decision was made to mobilize on the night of the 14th, but before a full council of ministers convened on the morning of the 15th, Ollivier and Gamont had already composed the declaration of war.

As you are using Wetzel as your source (presumably because his was the only book that you could find that even remotely can be said to support your position), it is hardly surprising that you should get this wrong as even Wetzel cannot make up his mind about this. On page 175 he writes that:

Events now were much in the nature of an epilogue. At nine o'clock in the morning on 15 July, a full council was convened at St.Cloud. Gramont read out the declaration of war that he had worked out with Ollivier.

However (only) four pages later he writes that

The actual declaration of war drawn up by the French foreign office was presented in Berlin on 19 July 1870.

The second extract is almost certainly correct as the document drawn up by Ollivier and Gramont was in fact the declaration Gramont read out to the Chamber of Deputies on 15 July and not the formal declaration of war delivered to Berlin four days later. Again this type of error does not engender any confidence in Wetzel's reliability.

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Let's have a brief look at your other source, Dupoy:

"Napoleon after an all night meeting with his council of ministers decided upon war before dawn on July 15 and ordered immediate mobilization. Publication later that day of a parliamentary note to provide funds for war was considered by both sides as a declaration of war."

Although this extract also contains a number of mistakes (the meeting during the evening of 14 July did not last all night but finished before midnight whilst the recall of the reserves had actually been ordered earlier that afternoon), it is clear that you have overlooked the significance of the last sentence. Dupoy states that it was the parliamentary vote of 15 July that was considered 'by both sides' as a declaration of war and not the recall of the reserves as you claim. This is of course supported by the account of the Prussian Crown Prince who stated that it was news of this vote and not the earlier decision to recall the reserves that convinced King Wilhelm to order general mobilization.

BTW I assume that your use of Wetzel and Dupoy means that you have been unable to fulfil your promise to'gather and post Le Boeuf's opinions as he gave them on July 14/15 1870' sothat the 'the forum can decide what Le Boeuf believed to be true' as instead of posting first hand accounts, you appear to be relying on (not very reliable) second hand opinions

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After about 8 years or more it is hard to come to any other conclusion. It does help if the opinion is based upon evidence though.

Your tendency towards making personal attacks during discussions has increased noticably in the past year. Is everything OK?

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As you are using Wetzel as your source (presumably because his was the only book that you could find that even remotely can be said to support your position).

I've given citation, including author, title and excerpt, for my previously stated opinion that mobilization meant war for France in 1870.

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Your tendency towards making personal attacks during discussions has increased noticably in the past year. Is everything OK?

The former claim is not true at all, though anyone would get fed up having to repeatedly state the same things in any discussion. If pointing out that you are taking huge flights of fance based upon almost no evidence at all is a personal insult, then I can only suggest it would be better if you grounded your claims somewhat more in reality.

To the second part, no not really, and dealing with repetition of what really should be standard knowledge really does not help.

It is interesting that you have dodged the point about how you were trying to switch your claims about mobilization though.

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Your tendency towards making personal attacks during discussions has increased noticably in the past year. Is everything OK?

The former claim is not true at all, though anyone would get fed up having to repeatedly state the same things in any discussion. If pointing out that you are taking huge flights of fance based upon almost no evidence at all is a personal insult, then I can only suggest it would be better if you grounded your claims somewhat more in reality.

To the second part, no not really, and dealing with repetition of what really should be standard knowledge really does not help.

It is interesting that you have dodged the point about how you were trying to switch your claims about mobilization though.

So everything is OK then. That's good to hear.

It is interesting that you have dodged the point about how you were trying to switch your claims about mobilization though.

I ignored your statement. But you've made it again, so you must be more serious than I originally thought possible. I had given two opinions,

1 – Once Russia mobilized, that war could occur no matter what Germany and Austria subsequently did. That the act of mobilization in and of itself could cause a war to occur.

2 – That Russia and France had every incentive to complete their mobilizations before having a war with Germany.

You indicate that the second statement is a ‘dodge’ of the first. I don’t follow your point. How is my stated opinion that Russia and France had an incentive to complete mobilization before a war incompatible with my opinion that war might break out after Russian mobilization, no matter what Austria and Germany did?

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So everything is OK then. That's good to hear.

As I said, not really, but things could be worse.

That the act of mobilization in and of itself could cause a war to occur.

This is a very long way from saying that mobilization means war which you said earlier.

2 – That Russia and France had every incentive to complete their mobilizations before having a war with Germany.

Yes, but they could also demobilize without going to war. War was not inevitable because anybody mobilized, there was still an option to halt short of war.

You indicate that the second statement is a ‘dodge’ of the first.

No. The dodge is from where you said that Russia would have to go to war even if all cause for war had evaporated just because she had ordered mobilization. I have always said there was an option to not follow mobilization with war. The relevent exchange;

Do you really believe that if France or Russia ordered mobilization but then all their demands were met, they would still have to proceede to war irrespective of the fact all need for war had now been removed?

To which your reply was;

Yes, Terry, I mean precisely that.

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This is a very long way from saying that mobilization means war which you said earlier.

I said the German doctrine was that mobilization meant war. I stated that in 1870 the French concluded their own mobilization meant war, then cited for that opinion.

My personal opinion is that (1) it was theoretically possible but unlikely that Great Powers could declare a general mobilization during a serious crisis without a war then breaking out and (2) no Great Power was bound morally to continued diplomacy in the face of menacing military measures if (a) said measures constituted a tangible threat to its national security and (.b.) the Great Power had good reason to suppose it could by force of arms eliminate the threat posed.

Yes, but they could also demobilize without going to war.

The military accord between France and Russia was legally binding and contained no provision for any such eventuality. Its chronology required that war automatically starts from the point of Franco-Russian mobilization because the French invasion of Germany is automatic to the provisions of treaty. So no, Russia cannot demobilize or stand down after mobilizing.

No. The dodge is from where you said that Russia would have to go to war even if all cause for war had evaporated just because she had ordered mobilization. I have always said there was an option to not follow mobilization with war. The relevent exchange;

I see the problem now – your original question was whether Russia in any of a series of infinite circumstances, must automatically go to war after mobilizing. I wouldn't go that far; automatic war by Russia followed insofar as the Franco-Russian military agreement stated it did. But in theory, in another universe where that agreement didn't exist, there might have been a small chance that the Russian decision wouldn't end all chances of a negotiated settlement.

Sure – I can buy that; if France and Russia were not allied and French neutrality was likely, then the Russian mobilization would not constitute a grave threat to Germany's national security and it might become theoretically possible that war would not follow a Russian mobilization.<BR style="mso-special-character: line-break"><BR style="mso-special-character: line-break">

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Can I just echo Keith's post of a few days ago:

"As a reader of the thread, I find posts that argue a position more convincing when they are supported by reference to evidence."

I have seen a large number of opinions over the last x pages of posts with very little reference. I for one would like to hear from anyone who has worked through CAB 20 at the N.A. This has a large amount of captured German material from 1905 to 1912 returned by the US in the 50's including a lot of maps and is titled 'Cabinet Office: Historical Branch: German Army Documents (Schlieffen Papers)'.

Either some referenced material (preferably primary) enters the fray soon or this thread may as well close.

Jim

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  • 1 year later...

Either some referenced material (preferably primary) enters the fray soon or this thread may as well close.

Jim

This is not primary Jim, but at least it is referenced. I thought this might be of interest. Perhaps not new to many?

From page 74 of Over the front in an aeroplane, and scenes inside the French and Flemish trenches

" The conversation was of course not for publication, but one passage I think I can repeat without fear of violating confidence.

" Why did not Von Kluck march on Paris when he had the chance?" I asked the officer who was sitting on one side of me.

"I will tell you," he replied. In the 1913 'Kriegsspiel' [great manœuvres] in Germany the theoretical invasion of France by the attacking armies was precisely the same advance as in actual fact they made the following year. In the manœuvres Von Kluck commanded the right wing precisely as he did in the actual invasion. In these manœuvres he came to a point in his advance where he had to choose between attacking Paris and swinging past Paris in pursuit of the enemy. He decided to attack Paris. The verdict of the board of generals who were judging the manœuvres contained the severest kind of arraignment of Von Kluck for having violated the cardinal principal of German military strategy by allowing a mere geographical point to divert him from the one paramount object of German generalship the enemy's army. We actually possess a copy of this official reprimand, for *tout s'achete' (there is nothing that money will not buy), you know. Now when little over one year later Von Kluck in actual warfare came face to face with precisely the same choice of alternatives, with the previous year's censure still stingingly fresh in mind, he ignored Paris and followed the enemy army."

Mike

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Hi Mike

Interesting, if not a source that can be taken as a fully reliable one. Also interesting, although I didn't notice at the time, that my last post seemed to halt all discussion! :ph34r:

Jim

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Also interesting, although I didn't notice at the time, that my last post seemed to halt all discussion!

Jim

It must have been something you said Jim? :)

Mike

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Again I'm not sure if this is new, but interesting enough.

From (The Excellent-The Monthly Magazine of the New York Times) Current history and forum Vol 7 page 325: Joffre and Hindenburg: Their Methods and Battles

Here Hindenburg's success was incomplete. Schlieffen's system provides only for absolute crushing. Rennenkampf escaped. I cannot give the details of the military operations — they can be found in my " History of the War." But the point I am making is in the comparison of the operations on the west and east fronts. Samsonoff took the offensive without manoeuvring, Rennenkampf stood on the defensive almost without manoeuvres, while Joffre, who knew his business, was manoeuvring all the time. He took the Schlieffen system on its weak side, that of rash extension of front. The Germans, held back first at the breach at Charmes, were finally beaten on the Mame. Thus was obtained the greatest reversal of fortune, perhaps, that history has ever seen. The Yser, Verdun, the Somme, are the daughters of that initial thought. The battles of Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes throw light for us on the battle of the Marne. The Schlieffen system succeeded on the one hand failed on the other. The manoeuvre of Joffre was one of the most beautiful intellectual operations of military genius in all time; it is a magnificent expression of French genius.

Mike

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  • 11 months later...

Found this on the wonderful archive.org, and thought worth adding? A dissertation by Mark R Stoneman

WlLHELM GROENER, OFFICERING, AND THE SCHLIEFFEN PLAN 

Mike

Oh well, for some reason this will not link. Go to archive.org and and input.

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