Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Zinegata »

when it looks more like you couldn't tell a tank from a trench let alone why any of it mattered. We could have fucking gotten to what you wanted in a logical process, but you apparently know everything already anyway.
Hey, arrogant assclown.

I do already fucking know the debate about Haig's generalship about Somme/Passchendaele. From both sides. Want a quick summary?

The Somme:

Anti-Haig Argument: The Somme was an enormous pointless waste of lives, which sent tens of thousands of British troops to their deaths. It was bungled because Haig was too ambitious and tried out too many new tactics at the same time... without testing if any of them actually worked.

In particular, artillery fire that was supposed to wipe out the Germans failed to do so despite millions of shells being fired. It even failed to cut the barbed wire which meant many British troops got trapped in no man's land and were machine gunned (Keegan, The Face of Battle).

And all this happened while Haig was dining in the rear of the lines in his chateue, imagining that he was about to breakthrough the German lines and reach the Ruhr.

Pro-Haig Argument: The Somme, while a regrettable loss of lives, was an important attritional battle that tied down the German troops and relieved pressure from the French fighting a massive battle at Verdun. Despite the massive losses on the first day, several Divisions actually achieved their objectives and as the battle wore on less mistakes were made until casualties were almost on a 1:1 ratio (depending on which German sources you believe). This exchange rate was ultimately a good thing because the British, French, and Russian populations far outnumbered the Germans and they could readily trade soldiers 1:1.

Moreover, the charge that Haig didn't care about his men doesn't hold much water. After the war he set up a foundation to help veterans of the war. That he dined comfortably in the rear while his men died by the thousands was a product of technological limitations. Frontline soldiers didn't have radios. Their telephone wires were often cut. Their only option was to rely on messengers, who often arrived late or were killed enroute.

Haig thus couldn't really direct the battle once it had started, and to expose himself on the frontlines "to be with the troops" would have been irresponsible. Certainly, when Eisenhower went comfortably to bed after D-Day while men were still dying in Normandy nobody really complained. It's simply NOT the C-in-C's job to be at the frontlines anymore.

Passchendaele:

Anti-Haig argument: Haig ordered pointless attacks over terrain that had basically turned into mud. His own chief of staff burst into tears after he realized that kind of terrain they had sent their men into.

This was despite warnings from his subordinates that he would lose very many men - Currie even predicting almost the exact number of men they'd lose.

Pro-Haig argument: The French army was mutinying at the time, so the British had to launch an offensive to tie the Germans down. That the Germans did not take advantage of the mutinies was simply fortune on the Allies' part. Moreover despite the terrible terrain losses again were almost equal - and with the US, French, and British manpower far outstripping the Germans it was again profitable to engage in battles of attrition against them.

----

So again, fuck you and your "Zine doesn't know the facts". I know them. They've been done to death elsewhere. So stop whining when I ask for a very specific set of information (The Hundred Days) about the performance of Haig!

I want info on the Hundred Days because that's where I'm lacking information. That is it. And that you and Remnant imply that I am focusing on the Hundred Days to support some conclusion is just you not wanting to admit that you haven't actually said anything about the Hundred Days. AT ALL.

Instead you want to go swimming around in the mud of the Somme/Passchedale and the post-war Haig debate and claim that it will somehow, someway, lead back to his performance during the Hundred Days.

And yet that's simply not happening. Not because I'm shooting down your baseless personal attacks. But because the post-war squabbles between Lloyd George and Haig really don't have any fucking bearing on what happened in 1918.

Really, why don't you just admit "I don't know enough about the Hundred Days to comment on it" and be done with it? This was not supposed to be an easy question.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Sea Skimmer »

Yeah that right, the whole war before 1918 was two battles, and its totally pointless to talk about how troops transformed in 1915-1918 because of course, what the hell you fight with or the logistical background of a total war economy couldn’t matter at all in a discussion about generalship or why the war so suddenly ended. Sure right buddy, you know it all. You’re fucking pathetic. I start out this thread diving into detail and all we get you being a jackass before I can even come back to make a follow-up that would have gone down the road you wanted anyway.

Guess what idiot, the History Forum is not your personal question and answer chair. Your basic approach is WRONG. You want this thread to be your personal question an answer seminar, guess what we are under zero obligation so say what you want; and certainly now that you’ve gone to such lengths to stifle debate people aren’t going to just give you what you want. You keep raving about what YOU want personally. You want shit to be purely personal, then PM someone the question. I see your new thread is a smashing success. :lol:
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Simon_Jester »

Zinegata, please stop, what you're doing is foolish and annoying.
Artemas wrote:Also assuming that attritional warfare and the indirect blockade of Germany, and the economic and political actions to hasten Germany's collapse, are not interlinked. The entire purpose of attritional warfare (to the British) was to avoid any British manpower wastage, and wait for Germany to starve. The major offensives launched were largely the result of political (namely allied) considerations. The British, while not wanting to bleed for either the French or Russians, felt it necesary to stave off pressure just enough so that they avoided collapse.
I have to say that the blockade isn't really attritional warfare. I can't shake the feeling you're misusing the term- am I wrong? I mean, classically "attritional" means "we throw armies at each other, they grind each other up, and hopefully we're left with people left standing after they run out of bodies/bullets/other things." Blockade isn't an attritional strategy, even though it can legitimately have a place in such a strategy.

Verdun was intended as a battle of attrition by the Germans. The Somme Offensive wasn't a battle of attrition for the British- they honestly wanted to knock a hole in the trenches and accomplish a strategic result other than "X dead Germans."
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

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Zinegata wrote:I want info on the Hundred Days because that's where I'm lacking information. That is it. And that you and Remnant imply that I am focusing on the Hundred Days to support some conclusion is just you not wanting to admit that you haven't actually said anything about the Hundred Days. AT ALL.
Here's a couple things you should know:

First, no one is under any obligation to tell you what you want to hear. If you think your thread's been spammed, go tell a mod, but I can tell you now that crying about background, tangential, and/or peripheral information and discussion of the sort that's going on here just makes you look like a petulant twat. Second, your first post was a blatantly loaded question, and your attempt to obfuscate it these past several posts strongly indicates that it was not simply poor wording on your part. You've only managed to further confirm your bias, rather clearly, by your "summary" of pro and anti-Haig arguments for Somme and Passchendaele. And third, shut the fuck up. You're doing yourself no favors with that scolding, faux-offended tone.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Artemas »

Simon_Jester wrote:
Artemas wrote:Also assuming that attritional warfare and the indirect blockade of Germany, and the economic and political actions to hasten Germany's collapse, are not interlinked. The entire purpose of attritional warfare (to the British) was to avoid any British manpower wastage, and wait for Germany to starve. The major offensives launched were largely the result of political (namely allied) considerations. The British, while not wanting to bleed for either the French or Russians, felt it necesary to stave off pressure just enough so that they avoided collapse.
I have to say that the blockade isn't really attritional warfare. I can't shake the feeling you're misusing the term- am I wrong? I mean, classically "attritional" means "we throw armies at each other, they grind each other up, and hopefully we're left with people left standing after they run out of bodies/bullets/other things." Blockade isn't an attritional strategy, even though it can legitimately have a place in such a strategy.

Verdun was intended as a battle of attrition by the Germans. The Somme Offensive wasn't a battle of attrition for the British- they honestly wanted to knock a hole in the trenches and accomplish a strategic result other than "X dead Germans."
My point was that attritional warfare and blockade and the economic collapse of Germany are interlinked. Specifically, the mode of warfare that the British called "attritional war" was just to conserve manpower by NOT engaging in major battles if at all possible, and just wait for Germany to collapse economically and politically. However, Germany would only collapse if a blockade is introduced. After the serious losses suffered by the French and the Russians in 1914-15, conserving men was no longer an option, and major offensives were planned and launched, but my main two points are: That the original plan was for Britain to maintain "attritional warfare", but to conserve British lives (this changed quite quickly), and two; that blockade was instrumental in any attritional war.

Verdun, actually, was claimed to be a attritional battle by the Germans after it got bogged down. Many battles were claimed post hoc to have been "attritional" in their nature.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

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Artemas wrote:Verdun, actually, was claimed to be a attritional battle by the Germans after it got bogged down. Many battles were claimed post hoc to have been "attritional" in their nature.
Verdun was concieved as an attritional battle by Falkenhayen, to the point where the lack of actual territorial objectives compromised German planning. The whole objective was to force the French into a desperate fight on German terms that would exhaust French manpower - and depending on who you believe it came perilously close to succeeding.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

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Yeah, you are correct, I mispoke. I meant the Somme, I misread somehow.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Stuart »

thejester wrote: Verdun was concieved as an attritional battle by Falkenhayen, to the point where the lack of actual territorial objectives compromised German planning. The whole objective was to force the French into a desperate fight on German terms that would exhaust French manpower - and depending on who you believe it came perilously close to succeeding.
If I may sound a cautionary note; Falkenhayn claimed that Verdun was always conceived as an attrition battle in his memoirs and quoted a memo he sent to the Kaiser to support that. The problem is that nobody has ever found a copy of that memo and nobody else (including the Crown Prince) remembers receiving it. So, there is a good case that Falkenhayn's attrition objective was post-facto. Modern scholarship tends to go with the post-facto case - for what that's worth.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Sea Skimmer »

If it was post-facto then it doesn’t make a great deal of sense that the initial German infantry attack was so weak, so weak in fact that it cost Germany a chance to win the battle in the first two days. It may not have been intended as a battle of attrition per say but that weak start would support the notion that Falkenhayn was being limited in his objectives. He was afterall attacking directly into a major fortress; and the Germans were entirely aware by this point that the Belgian forts they had so easily defeated were made of worthless concrete.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Zinegata »

Sea Skimmer wrote:Yeah that right, the whole war before 1918 was two battles, and its totally pointless to talk about how troops transformed in 1915-1918 because of course
Again, did you miss what I said?
Again, reead the second half of the question. Still NO talk about the Hundred Days Offensive at ALL except for a tangential discussion about the quality of BEF troopers ( a valid tangent. Do you see me shooting it down?).
My main beef is with people whining about how unfair Llyod George was to Haig. Again, completely fucking irrelevant. That's just post-war squabbling. That I side with the anti-Haig folks who say Haig schemed against French and you take it as me being completely impervious to any argument that Haig is competent is just dick-headedness on your part. Note that I never even accused Haig of being incompetent. At most I accused him of scheming, and of being responsible for having a shitty staff system.

My secondary beef is with people who are defending Haig's performance in the previous battles when I had asked specifically about the Hundred Days. My question is loaded? So is it your opinion that the Somme and Third Ypres were such smashing successes that Haig never needed any vindication? Or that the Hundred Days was not such a clear victory in comparison with the Somme/Third Ypres that it could paint Haig in an entirely different light as a commander?

Because if the question is loaded then it only means the above is true: Haig did not need vindication. The Hundred Days was not that great a "victory" compared to his previous performances, OR that his previous performances were smashing successes like the Hundred Days.
Guess what idiot, the History Forum is not your personal question and answer chair. Your basic approach is WRONG. You want this thread to be your personal question an answer seminar, guess what we are under zero obligation so say what you want; and certainly now that you’ve gone to such lengths to stifle debate people aren’t going to just give you what you want. You keep raving about what YOU want personally. You want shit to be purely personal, then PM someone the question. I see your new thread is a smashing success. :lol:
Of course you're under no obligation to answer my question. But when you start hurling personal attacks that I "don't know the difference between a trench or a tank", or that I "subscriber to the discredited views of David Winter" for having the temerity to say "Haig schemed because he ratted out French to the king", then don't be surprised when somebody shouts "Fuck you, asshole" right back, especially when you haven't actually "helped" me in any way.

Moreover, I take the lack of answers in the other thread as mere further proof that you really just don't know anything about the Hundred Days, and are now pointlessly wailing because you got caught hurling unwarranted insults.

So that just tells me to look elsewhere. Want to argue about 1914-1917? Go right on ahead. Heck, you're talking about VERDUN now.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Sea Skimmer »

Zinegata wrote: Of course you're under no obligation to answer my question. But when you start hurling personal attacks that I "don't know the difference between a trench or a tank", or that I "subscriber to the discredited views of David Winter" for having the temerity to say "Haig schemed because he ratted out French to the king", then don't be surprised when somebody shouts "Fuck you, asshole" right back, especially when you haven't actually "helped" me in any way.
No one would know it from talking to you. The events of 1918 stem directly out of earlier fighting, particularly the ease with which the Hindenburg line was ultimately breached. Discussing if Haig is vindicated or not requires one to establish WHAT it was that allowed victory and how in the first place, if he had anything to do with it, and if anyone else would have done better or differently. You've fucking ranted and raved against anyone trying to do that in a detailed manner, thus you are just stupid. When I first posted in this thread I thought we'd be working through a couple pages of debate leading up to 1918 and then 1918 itself, that's how a real fucking useful thread would have gone. But instead you insist people must only respond to what you want to hear personally, and declare that you know everything already and then make ever longer rants about it. Amazing that this annoys other people no? If you already damn well know everything you claim to know and actually understand what any of it means then you should already have an answer anyway.
Moreover, I take the lack of answers in the other thread as mere further proof that you really just don't know anything about the Hundred Days, and are now pointlessly wailing because you got caught hurling unwarranted insults.
Wow yeah, you really think its a lack of answers and not just that I and everyone else no longer care to help you when your going to derail any attempt at doing so?

The idea that you are somehow 'catching' me for typing insults for everyone to see is just laughable. Do you think these posts are secret or something?

So that just tells me to look elsewhere. Want to argue about 1914-1917? Go right on ahead. Heck, you're talking about VERDUN now.
Yeah at this point no one gives a fuck about your question, that would be because you've acted like an asshole. But keep thinking its all me, it makes this a lot more fun.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Zinegata »

Sea Skimmer wrote:No one would know it from talking to you.
So let me repeat myself, because you're the one who's making this about personal attacks:
Again, reead the second half of the question. Still NO talk about the Hundred Days Offensive at ALL except for a tangential discussion about the quality of BEF troopers ( a valid tangent. Do you see me shooting it down?).
That you and others keep claiming I am shooting down "everything not directly about the Hundred Days, but could have lead to it", is fiction that you crafted to protect yourself from the fact that you launched unwarranted personal attacks. Easier to keep insulting somebody than admit you've been an ass.

The fact that you keep conveniently skipping over large parts of my posts, and instead pick out snippets to go "Waaaah! Zine is so mean to me!" just further confirms it. You keep levelling the accusation of a loaded question and yet flee the moment I show why it's not.

-----
The events of 1918 stem directly out of earlier fighting, particularly the ease with which the Hindenburg line was ultimately breached.
And again, notice that my beef was almost entirely about the post-war debate and whining about how Llyod George blackened Haig's reputation. Take five minutes to actually read what I wrote and set off my "ranting and raving".

Because what's clear is that you're not actually reading my posts, treat me as somebody with an unchangeable anti-Haig bias (despite the fact my Pro-Haig arguments above are actually LONGER than the anti-Haig arguments).

Again, what I said:
Finally, the argument that "Plumer, Currie, and Monash didn't want to replace Haig" is irrelevant. The opportunity never came up in the first place. That Haig got his job by ratting out Field Marshal French just demonstrates he's good at scheming, not that he'd be a good overall commander of the BEF. If Haig was sacked, somebody would have replaced him.
What I was accused of:
Cart and horse there on that last part. The opportunity to replace him never came up for a reason- and good at scheming? You've been reading Denis Winter, haven't you? If he had been that good at plots and plans he wouldn't have his reputation so comprehensively blackened by Lloyd George.
The historical reality:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Haig
In December 1915, Haig replaced French as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, with French returning to Britain. Haig had been conspiring towards the removal of French as commander of the BEF and had told King George V that French was "a source of great weakness to the army and no one had confidence in him any more"
So again, what's the point of defending Haig from Llyod George's attacks in the context of his military performance? There was ZERO point.

Moreover, is it wrong to shoot down someone who is clearly distorting historical facts - by attempting to counter the argument that Haig was a good schemer and had French removed? Really, all of this "Zine has an anti-Haig bias" started because I had the temerity to shoot down Remnant's post.

Just because Remnant's post is long, doesn't mean it's particularly correct or relevant.
Wow yeah, you really think its a lack of answers and not just that I and everyone else no longer care to help you when your going to derail any attempt at doing so?
Yes. Because you certainly haven't shown that you actually know anything specific to the Hundred Days.

So really, before accusing other people of throwing rocks, take a look at yourself.
Last edited by Zinegata on 2011-02-04 09:45pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

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Stuart wrote:
thejester wrote: Verdun was concieved as an attritional battle by Falkenhayen, to the point where the lack of actual territorial objectives compromised German planning. The whole objective was to force the French into a desperate fight on German terms that would exhaust French manpower - and depending on who you believe it came perilously close to succeeding.
If I may sound a cautionary note; Falkenhayn claimed that Verdun was always conceived as an attrition battle in his memoirs and quoted a memo he sent to the Kaiser to support that. The problem is that nobody has ever found a copy of that memo and nobody else (including the Crown Prince) remembers receiving it. So, there is a good case that Falkenhayn's attrition objective was post-facto. Modern scholarship tends to go with the post-facto case - for what that's worth.
Can you give specific examples of that scholarship? As Skimmer said so much of the attack doesn't make sense otherwise, but that could just be further testament to Falkenhayen's failings as a commander.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Zinegata »

thejester wrote:
Stuart wrote:
thejester wrote: Verdun was concieved as an attritional battle by Falkenhayen, to the point where the lack of actual territorial objectives compromised German planning. The whole objective was to force the French into a desperate fight on German terms that would exhaust French manpower - and depending on who you believe it came perilously close to succeeding.
If I may sound a cautionary note; Falkenhayn claimed that Verdun was always conceived as an attrition battle in his memoirs and quoted a memo he sent to the Kaiser to support that. The problem is that nobody has ever found a copy of that memo and nobody else (including the Crown Prince) remembers receiving it. So, there is a good case that Falkenhayn's attrition objective was post-facto. Modern scholarship tends to go with the post-facto case - for what that's worth.
Can you give specific examples of that scholarship? As Skimmer said so much of the attack doesn't make sense otherwise, but that could just be further testament to Falkenhayen's failings as a commander.
I'll chip in too: This is a new one on me.

All accounts I've read in books apparently take Falkenhayn's memoirs as fact but didn't check the memo existed.

Checking the wiki though...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Verdun
However, recent German scholarship by Holger Afflerbach and others has questioned the authenticity of this so-called "Christmas memo".[6] No copy has ever surfaced and the only account of it appeared in Falkenhayn's post-war memoir. His army commanders at Verdun, including the German Crown Prince, denied any knowledge of a plan based on attrition. Afflerbach argues it likely that Falkenhayn did not specifically design the battle to bleed the French Army dry, but instead proposed ex-post-facto the motive for the Verdun offensive in order to justify its failure.
It seems the scholarship supporting that is this one:

Holger Afflerbach Falkenhayn. Politisches Denken und Handeln im Kaiserreich (München: Oldenbourg, 1994); "Planning Total War? Falkenhayn and the Battle of Verdun, 1916," in Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914–1918, Roger Chickering and Stig Foerster, eds. (New York: Cambridge, 2000)

Edit: And hey, it looks to be in Google Books. Cool!

http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Yik ... 22&f=false
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by thejester »

Afflerbach doesn't seriously deviate from the basic idea of Verdun as a battle of attrition, though:
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(p. 122)
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Zinegata »

Re: Afflerbach

I hadn't actually read it yet when I posted. I did a quick search, lucked out that it was in Google books, and managed to sneak it in before the edit window closed.

Reading through it though, I can't find the claim made by wiki - which is that Falkenhayn claimed that Verdun was supposed to be a battle of attrition from start to finish, but the memo proving this didn't actually exist.

And you're right jester - the Afflerbach article shows quite the opposite - it cites a source wherein Crown Prince Wilhelm reportedly heard Falkenhayn saying that the French army was to be "bled white".

In the article's conclusion though (Page 130), Afflerbach cites Falkenhayn's post-war attempts to justify Verdun, which often involved mentioning grossly exagerated casualty counts for the French.

I think Afflerbach's thesis may run more along the following lines:

1) Falkenhayn didn't really expect a battle of attrition that involves a nearly 1:1 exchange ratio in lost troops. Instead, he expected a very favorable casualty exchange ratio for the Germans.

2) Due to tactical mistakes and bad intelligence, the Germans actually fought the battle with a 1:1 exchange rate without realizing it, and ended up committing more and more troops in the mistaken belief they were inflicting more damage than they were taking.

3) After the war, Falkenhayn had become so divorced from the reality of battle that he keeps claiming that they had destroyed 90 French Divisions at Verdun, or three times the German casualties. In reality, the French had lost about 365K men, while the Germans 336K.

So, yeah, it doesn't really seem to deviate from the existing narrative that Falkenhayn got suckered into a battle of mutual attrition.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Simon_Jester »

Well, a battle in which you grind up huge numbers of enemy troops for a smaller loss of your own troops is still a battle of attrition. Indeed, it's the least bad kind of battle of attrition: one with a favorable rate of exchange.

The experience of WWI tends to suggest that battles of attrition between comparable opponents can't be fought with a favorable rate of exchange for one side. But it was not unreasonable for Falkenhayn to think that drawing the French to put large numbers of men into a kill-zone to wear down their forces would be a good idea; no one had ever really tried it at the time. And that was very much an attritional strategy, even if Falkenhayn was gambling on an exchange rate of (say) 2 to 1 when in fact he got 1.1 to 1.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Zinegata »

Simon_Jester wrote:Well, a battle in which you grind up huge numbers of enemy troops for a smaller loss of your own troops is still a battle of attrition. Indeed, it's the least bad kind of battle of attrition: one with a favorable rate of exchange.

The experience of WWI tends to suggest that battles of attrition between comparable opponents can't be fought with a favorable rate of exchange for one side. But it was not unreasonable for Falkenhayn to think that drawing the French to put large numbers of men into a kill-zone to wear down their forces would be a good idea; no one had ever really tried it at the time. And that was very much an attritional strategy, even if Falkenhayn was gambling on an exchange rate of (say) 2 to 1 when in fact he got 1.1 to 1.
I think it's also partly a question of semantics. I don't think Falkenhayn even actually used the term "battle of attrition". Instead, he tends to say Verdun was meant to "bleed the French Army white".

The former indicates a willingness to sustain heavy casualties, in the pursuit of inflicting even greater losses on the enemy. The latter... just tells you that Falkenhayn wanted to kill a lot of Frenchmen.

That being said, I think that whether the memo existed or not, the narrative remains the same: Falkenhayn attempted to lure the French into battle at Verdun, with the object of inflicting unsustainable losses on the French army. What he did not bank on was the fact that his own army would suffer equally horrendous losses in the first place.

That Falkenhayn still persisted in saying that the French had lost three times more men that he did at Verdun - when evidence already showed otherwise - is much more damning evidence that he didn't understand what he had gotten to in Verdun than a lost memo.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Eleventh Century Remnant »

Oh, I should have got back to this thread sooner.

On Verdun, as I understand it- and can I put in a plug here? I was lucky enough to snag a copy in a second hand store some time ago of Basil Liddell-Hart's history of the first world war, which is tremendously opinionated- with some eye as a learning text for future wars- and written before the official history was really digested, but that also means before most of the mythology of the war- for or against- had a chance to settle. Well worth looking for. As a fellow military professional and certified theorist, he thinks he has an unlimited right to pass judgement on the generals on all sides, and even- no, especially- when you think he's wrong, thinking through why is a worthwhile exercise.

The initial phases of the operation were a very successful attritional battle, the Germans actually did get the surprisingly lopsided ratio they were looking for in the first attacks- partly because Verdun had been largely disarmed and the fortress complex's guns parcelled out along the rest of the line- but they, too, kept pushing too long and aggressively, against hardening French resistance that eventually brought it down to being barely a victory, if that. The autobiographical novel by Jules Romains simply called Verdun is worth looking for, too- recently reprinted.

Ex post facto justification and appeal to the initial stages sounds about right to me.

Oh, and Winter? Basically, the Case for the Prosecution- definitely a hater, but a forceful and credible one- makes points that have to be answered, even if not believed.
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Re: Was Haig Vindicated by the Hundred Days in 1918?

Post by Thanas »

Zinegata wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:Well, a battle in which you grind up huge numbers of enemy troops for a smaller loss of your own troops is still a battle of attrition. Indeed, it's the least bad kind of battle of attrition: one with a favorable rate of exchange.

The experience of WWI tends to suggest that battles of attrition between comparable opponents can't be fought with a favorable rate of exchange for one side. But it was not unreasonable for Falkenhayn to think that drawing the French to put large numbers of men into a kill-zone to wear down their forces would be a good idea; no one had ever really tried it at the time. And that was very much an attritional strategy, even if Falkenhayn was gambling on an exchange rate of (say) 2 to 1 when in fact he got 1.1 to 1.
I think it's also partly a question of semantics. I don't think Falkenhayn even actually used the term "battle of attrition". Instead, he tends to say Verdun was meant to "bleed the French Army white".

The former indicates a willingness to sustain heavy casualties, in the pursuit of inflicting even greater losses on the enemy. The latter... just tells you that Falkenhayn wanted to kill a lot of Frenchmen.

No. This is a problem of translation, not what he originally said. Falkenhayn uses the following words when describing Verdun:

"Ermattungsstrategie" to describe his overall approach and "Weißbluten des Feindes" to specifically describe Verdun. Both, taken together, only can be interpreted in the context of a battle of atrition. Of course, there is the famous interpretation that Falkenhayn took a tactic and turned it into his strategy, but that is about it.


EDIT: In his memoirs, Falkenhayn also claimes he tried the tactic of "capture and hold", which basically amounted to three steps:

a) capture ideologically/strategically important place
b) hold it, watch the enemy throw away his troops against your forces
c) repeat step a.
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