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Thread: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

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    Default What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    There is no war plan in history that has been scrutinized or shrouded in as much confusion and debate as the now infamous Schlieffen Plan. Historians are completely divided as to what exactly it really was. Was it just a myth put together by contemporaries to describe the aftermath of a failed German flank attack through Belgium? Was it a blueprint for victory? Was it operational planning and strategic military thinking gone wrong? Or was it simply a concept paper -and an early deployment scheme- that was later modified by Moltke the Younger who now had to deal with a two-front war?

    Few if any conclusions are easy to draw, and our best source for records -the German Archives- were mostly destroyed in 1945.

    What we do know of course, was that Alfred von Schlieffen was Chief of the German General Staff from 1891 to 1906, and that he was given one of the most ridiculous sets of problems ever given to a German war planner; how to win the next European war, a war most colleagues knew was going to be fought from a position of extreme disadvantage and on a scale unlike anything the world had ever seen before.

    And that’s it. After acknowledging the rise of million-man armies and a position of strategic weakness for Germany, our conclusions about Schlieffen and his plans end, and everything else is debatable. Though its clear from his later writings and studies that Schlieffen probably would have supported an all-out attack against France in the event of a two-front war, his 1905 memo, the actual precursor to the plan enacted by Moltke, outlined only a course of actions against France. It does not summarize deployments for a two-front war. And, very importantly, it argued for 96 divisions at a time when Germany could only deploy 78. To some historians then, who aren’t buying that the Schlieffen plan was ever a real plan, the 1905 study was a neat little gimmick for more troops.

    While we can certainly envision political pandering, it’s not fair to say that Schlieffen did not ever think about a two-front war or conceive of means to avoid a long and protracted war for Germany, the main planning obstacle to Moltke and the General Staff. Though no expert on logistics, and the inclusion of ghost divisions leaves us with something to be desired, Schlieffen’s many plans and what if scenarios at least show us what he and his fellow officers thought might be possible – that France could be defeated quickly.

    It can be argued then -as many have- that the original Schlieffen memo (1905) laid the groundwork for a battle of annihilation. Personally obsessed with Cannae, Schlieffen’s hypothetical flank attack through Belgium and the Netherlands into France represented envelopment on a grand scale and a belief that wars could still be won decisively. If France’s armies could be destroyed quickly enough, or beaten badly enough, then Germany’s armies in the West could be redeployed in time to face new threats in the East, thus solving for a two-front war. This logic, combined with weak assumptions on Russian mobilization plans, and new intelligence estimates that suggested weakness in the East, allowed elements of the Schlieffen plan to survive into 1914, including the attack through Belgium. Moltke and company had decided on France first because Schlieffen’s plans were showing it was possible, and his concepts of annihilation would be the key to victory.

    "The essential element of the entire operation is a strong right wing, the formation of which will help to win the battles and allow the relentless pursuit of the enemy and bring defeat to him again and again.
    If you march into France, see to it that the man on the utmost right brushes the Channel coast with his sleeve." -Alfred von Schlieffen (1906)"


    The Schlieffen Plan vs. Plan XVII

    Of course, nobody would actually maintain that Germany went to war in 1914 with the same battle plan that Schlieffen had painted in 1905. Molkte had developed his own deployment plans and drew troops away from the right wing to help bolster German defenses in the Lorraine. The Schlieffen plan also made no assumptions about possible intervention from Italy and only weak assumptions about Britain. It did not again, offer detailed deployments in case of a two-front war, and Molkte was probably within his right to modify the original plan. It was also Prussian tradition to allow army commanders to take their own initiative once fighting had begun, and few if any detailed steps of Schlieffen’s memo are comparable to the actual plan enacted by Moltke. Though the central idea of maneuvering for positional advantage remains, including Schlieffen’s strategy of annihilation, its likely that Molkte was posturing more for defensive warfare and counterattack in his deployments, whereas Schlieffen might have favored massed attack and relentless pursuit of the enemy. Regardless, its clear through hindsight that neither plan had the troop strength or the logistics needed to envelop the French armies. Though German forces were capable of moving at great speed, it was still too much of a gamble to expect anything in Schlieffen’s aggressive timetable of 48 days. There were simply too many assumptions, and too many holes that needed filled. Not even a naval strategy was accounted for. To those that argue then that the Schlieffen plan was still the spiritual basis for the German war plan (as I myself might argue for), it looks like it was endorsed because nobody was thinking of a viable alternative. Nobody had yet solved for a two-front war or had proposed anything different than a ridiculous military solution to Germany’s strategic predicaments. Where was Bismarck now when we needed him?

    The debate of course, lives on. Proponents of the Schlieffen plan say the plan would have worked had Molkte not have modified it. Others say the Schlieffen plan was a postwar invention by the General Staff, meant again to save their own inflated egos. Others, to include maneuver theorists, say Schlieffen’s writings and essays were ahead of his time, and that envelopment and encirclement were the correct call against fortified positions, along with modern weapons. Serious studies show though that the plan could not have amounted to anything more than a gamble, Germany could not count on enough rail, material, or manpower to pull off such a maneuver. We know too that command and control still left something to be desired, with commanders still communicating by runners. Armies that numbered in the millions -to include nations at war- should have been the end of decisive battle, yet the Battle of the Marne is still sometimes called a miracle. Whichever position we take, one thing is clear, the Schlieffen plan -real or imagined- represents a military tactic elevated to the position of national strategy. To solve its strategic dilemmas, Germany would rely on its military, forgoing the legacy of Realpolitk and all other instruments of national power, including deal making and diplomacy.

    The consequences of Germany relying on its military, as its self-appointed savior, speak for itself. The combined French-British-American and Italian alliance, to include naval blockade and war in the East, was a military disaster for Germany, one no country could realistically hope to benefit from. The Schlieffen plan was military genius at its worst and should remind us all that sometimes war is too important to be left to the generals.
    Last edited by Dick Cheney.; December 06, 2019 at 02:28 PM.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    I am more interested about why Falkenhayn decided to ditch the part 2 of Schlieffen plan and launched a retarded "I would bleed them white" direct confrontation against French in Verdun. If he did shift 60% of units into East during 1915 German could well knock out Russian around early 1916 and launched total attrition war on Entente during early 1917 in West, without fear of blockade as a reorganized Ukraine could well supply German Empire with enough food.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    The Schlieffen plan was military genius at its worst and should remind us all that sometimes war is too important to be left to the generals.
    Have to say I disagree. In essence you have plan to win a total war with the one decisive thing Germany could maybe do - knock France out of the war. The plan essentially chews swallows and digests all the risks of a total war at once and plays its hand first. That's not a bad ideal. The problem with total wars if nobody really is ready for them nor the actual sacrifices they will be willing to pay before they loose. They slide into them and the acceptance of risk without really noticing it but too late for it to be decisive in anything but a slugfest of GDP and blood. No matter how low probability had the plan worked Germany had its only chance to win in a war with France, Russia and the UK.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    I am persuaded by Keegan's analysis in his history of WWI. The plan amounts to an academic exercise "what would it take to win a two front war". The answer includes IIRC four additional armies not in Germany's possession in 1905 or 1914 for that matter. The road net of Belgium was not large enough to hold these or their supply chain but they were slated to arrive on the battlefield behind the first wave and continue the encirclement of Paris.

    The fundamental point was good as Conon notes: beat France fast and resist Russia at one's leisure.

    Kaiser Wilhelm II was unsuited to the unified command his Grandfather has exercised so sensibly. His choice of Moltke the Younger as Chief of Staff seems like a mistake as he took Schlieffen's unfinished bluesky jottings as Gospel. As events unfolded the plan was altered giving it less chance of success despite unbelievably promising beginnings.

    French errors played into German ones: poor command choices were not a German monopoly and France added doctrinal blunders: they were trying something new because they had lost so badly last time, whereas Germany plams were a less radical departure.

    Germany needed a Schlieffen plan because the idiot Kaiser had made a two front war possible. I don't think the Elder Moltke could have made it work either. It was a desperate measure from a desperate leadership that lacked the imagination to frame the conflict in a winnable way.

    Its a credit to the Prussian and other Imperial German army systems they collapsed Russia and nearly bled France out. They were eventually defeated at sea by the blockade, so while the Schlieffen plan was a failure, Germany nearly managed to win the war.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Schlieffen plan was the only viable strategy, which was at least theoretically able to grant Germany a decisive and relatively inexpensive victory against the hostile coalition. France was the obvious target, as her smaller size and much denser road infrastructure meant that military conquest could happen in a quick pace, as long as her army was defeated. In fact, these advantages were so clear even to amateurs that I'd argue that Schlieffen plan was hardly revolutionary or brilliantly daring and risky. After all, dividing your enemies and vanquishing each one separately has been taught in military academies at least since Napoleon removed the Sardinian equation in Mondovi. Its main weaknesses was its inevitable over-optimism in what concerns the course of events in the western front and its underestimation of Russia's mobilisation capabilities. Thanks to technological advancement and the propagation of the railway system, Russia could deploy larger armies in a shorter space of time than originally anticipated.

    As a result, the Germans could have been forced almost the entirety of Eastern Prussia, even if the campaign against France proceeded impeccably. Although these territorial losses could not necessarily damage the German army in a serious manner, they could seriously threaten the stability of the royal regime. With the example of the Bonaparte family's collapse being rather recent, ne of the constant fears of the Hohenzollern dynasty and its court was the prospect of sharing the same fate as their Corsican colleagues. In the end, the Czarist forces were annihilated in Poland, but nobody could expect the extreme ineptitude shown by von Rennenkamp and Samsonov, against whom he apparently had an axe to grind.

    As for the factors that led to the creation o the two-front war, I believe it was an inevitable development. Blaming William II was an easy excuse for the elites of the Weimar Republic, as he was now nothing more than an insignificant former head of state living in exile in the Netherlands. However, in my opinion, even Bismarck's reincarnation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (who had actually become a bit of liability in the end, due to his international notoriety of duplicity, as his interlocutors instinctively assumed the worst about his intentions) could only delay the formation of the Entente. Meanwhile, France would never be reconciled, because of how harsh the terms of the Frankfurt Treaty were (Bismarck had strongly insisted on their severity), while Britain would never tolerate a foreign superpower completely dominating European politics. There was also the international competition for colonies rich in raw materials, as well as for controlling consumer markets, in order to appease the export-orientated industry.

    Even Russia, despite her opposition with Britain about influence in Afghanistan and Qajar Persia, would eventually clash with Germany, especially after London and Saint Petersburg generally agreed in a mutually beneficial partition of the Ottoman Empire. The primary reason for this was that Russian Poland and the Baltic coastline were desperately needed by Germany for the expansion of her industrial potential, which was seriously limited in the confined place of the German Empire. The only potential ally was Italy, but that would have alienated Austria-Hungary. So, given how diplomatically untrustworthy the Italian monarchy has historically been and that Vienna actually proved to be more powerful than Rome, I'd say that siding with the Hapsburgs was the cleverer option.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Its a credit to the Prussian and other Imperial German army systems they collapsed Russia and nearly bled France out. They were eventually defeated at sea by the blockade, so while the Schlieffen plan was a failure, Germany nearly managed to win the war.
    Germany was by far the most powerful member of the Central Powers, but the contribution of her two imperial colleagues should not be neglected. If the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs had remained neutral, the Romanovs would have been much less susceptible to economic disaster and political disintegration, while quite a great number of colonial troops would have been available for service in Flanders.

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    I am more interested about why Falkenhayn decided to ditch the part 2 of Schlieffen plan and launched a retarded "I would bleed them white" direct confrontation against French in Verdun. If he did shift 60% of units into East during 1915 German could well knock out Russian around early 1916 and launched total attrition war on Entente during early 1917 in West, without fear of blockade as a reorganized Ukraine could well supply German Empire with enough food.
    Don't mean to tease you too much, but there's this Russian expression about noobs with strong opinions about military matters: "Диванный генерал".

    Thing is that Russia collapsed because of time. Russia would not have collapsed in 1916, even if it had lost Moscow. Not only 1812, but even 1612 were still very fresh in Russia's memory. The Russian early losses at Allenstein weren't so much because of its backwardness (those would play a factor later), but because of the total incompetence and the reciprocal hate between their generals. The German general responsible for that victory himself acknowledged this:
    „Wenn die Schlacht von Waterloo auf den Spielfeldern von Eton gewonnen wurde, dann wurde die Schlacht von Tannenberg auf einem Bahnsteig in Mukden gewonnen.“
    – General Max Hofmann
    Nevermind the huge logistical issues (which worked both ways, as, iirc, the occupied Ukraine etc. did not solve Germany's starvation problem) and considerable binding of military personnel in occupied areas required, even if those had been conquered with relatively little bloodshed. The fact of the matter was, however, that the Russian military wasn't nearly as weak as it's portrayed, even as it suffered from significant issues, such as the lack of artillery compared to the Germans, as the Russians had not participated in the military buildup the same way the rest of Europe had prewar.

    Which brings me to this section in the OP:
    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Cheney. View Post
    What we do know of course, was that Alfred von Schlieffen was Chief of the German General Staff from 1891 to 1906, and that he was given one of the most ridiculous sets of problems ever given to a German war planner; how to win the next European war, a war most colleagues knew was going to be fought from a position of extreme disadvantage and on a scale unlike anything the world had ever seen before.

    [...]

    The consequences of Germany relying on its military, as its self-appointed savior, speak for itself. The combined French-British-American and Italian alliance, to include naval blockade and war in the East, was a military disaster for Germany, one no country could realistically hope to benefit from. The Schlieffen plan was military genius at its worst and should remind us all that sometimes war is too important to be left to the generals.
    Thing is that I do not agree with that notion of extreme German disadvantages. Their significant successes and efficiency are testament to their military abilities. The significant disadvantage, that made the war essentially unwinnable is mentioned at the end: The fact that Germany would never be able to compete with the British at sea.

    But those disadvantages only made themselves felt over time. They did not take their toll on Germany straight away. The German attempt at gaining a quick victory was the only chance they had.

    It's important to note, that every military in the world has to take it's own circumstances into account. What works for country A does not work for country B. Germany could not become the naval superpower Britain was, simply because Britain would never let them. Germany had a strong offensive army, though with only very limited logistical capacities, because of its geography, industry, and history.

    The army of France in turn had some deficiencies, but it was in general the army it needed, and also the army that had learned from the mistakes of 1871. France knew that it was not able to compete with Germany even on a numerical level, and that it thus would not be able to withstand the German onslaught, except with a relatively defensive approach. The supposed inferiority of the Russian Empire is also false, when one simply looks at their strong successes against the Austrian empire. But neither Russia, nor Austria, nor the Ottoman empire had the military-industrial power to stomach the protracted war this turned into. France, Germany and Britain on the other hand, did. Except, obviously, that Germany had significant issues with the blockade.


    So let's consider the alternative, where Germany had taken a strong offensive approach:
    Well, in that case, many of Russia's early defeats would probably not have happened, as they wouldn't have rushed so haphazardly as they did, but rather have taken a more cautious approach.

    People who like to play general hindsight often fail to consider that any change of plans would also have led their opponents to change their actions as well.

    And given that France too was on the brink of defeat in 1917, it cannot be said that the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, if it even should be called that way, was a foregone conclusion. Just like the German failure of operation Barbarossa was not expected by anyone, including the Soviets and their new western allies.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    ...
    Germany was by far the most powerful member of the Central Powers, but the contribution of her two imperial colleagues should not be neglected. If the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs had remained neutral, the Romanovs would have been much less susceptible to economic disaster and political disintegration, while quite a great number of colonial troops would have been available for service in Flanders.
    I do not under-rate the ottman forces in WWI. Despite decades of Imperial unrst and savage fighting in the Balkans the ottoman armies fought with courage and tenacity on several fronts and finally begrudgingly laid down their arms (long after the Romanov and Hapsburg armies had dispersed to the winds).

    The point about Ottoman importance to the economic victory is under-rated in the English speaking world. When the Bosporus closed the Ottomans severed three quarters of Russian foreign trade. Russia France and the UK faced varying degrees of unrest in many Islamic populations of their Empires as the Caliph called for an uprising. The "Sick Man " of Europe dealt many heavy blows against powers expecting to divide up the House of Osman.

    The Hapsburgs are another matter. Their armies lacked morale, and IIRC failed to conduct any successful offensive operations without German leadership and troops beside them. Strategically they began the war over a single death (although it was Russia who ensured it became a global conflict): with the Romanovs the Hapsburgs bear the burden of war guilt that Germany was wrongly made to carry.

    Given the Ottomans (surprising to contemporaries, perhaps even to the Sultan) effective contribution to destabilising Russia the Germans were able to kick the props out from under the Tsar and pacify the eastern front.

    However I disagree the Schleiffen Plan was the only route to victory in the West. The opportunity for victory developed because of a radical decision by the French command to attack at all costs into the most heavily fortified sector of the Franco-German border. IIRC one fifth of French manpower was consumed (dead or wounded, most never to serve again) in the first two weeks. Despite catastrophic losses and severe disorganisation the French managed to cobble a sixth army to deploy north of Paris to stop the German Right from encircling the rear of the French armies.

    The Schlieffen Plan also ensured British involvement by violating Belgian neutrality: it was dangerous enough tackling France and Russia at the same time, adding another Empire to the list of enemies (one with a dominant navy capable of isolating Germany economically) was close to suicide. The specifics of the Plan (how to win a two front war quickly) lacked the scope to assess the wider implications of its decisions.

    So to return to the OP, "what was the Schlieffen Plan?" It was a campaign plan, not a war plan. A war plan would have discussed the naval aspect, the diplomatic aspect etc: a good war plan would have rejected fighting a two front war, mended the fences with the Russians instead of courting the British and shackling germany to moribund Hapsburh cluster-schlamssel.

    The Schlieffen plan offered an incomplete answer (using a few spacebats like the teleporting instant armies) to an academic question that kept changing over the years. It was as though Grandma left a recipe for a Christmas cake using ingredients not yet available and requiring a bigger tin than could fit in the oven, and Moltke and Kaiser Wilhelm decided it was a party plan and invited everyone. "The recipe will need some plums-better violate Belgian neutrality to get them...haha president Wilson will love this cake!".

    The course of events was full of surprising twists (the French could not believe the Germans would blunder through Belgium and accelerate British and ultimately US intervention, the Germans were staggered by the speed of Russian mobilisation, who in turn were shocked by the destruction of two entire armies around the Masurian Lakes resulting from poor signals security and personal animosity between ethnic Russian and German commanders), when the US colossus stood up no one could believe how powerful it truly was and so on.
    Last edited by Cyclops; December 10, 2019 at 04:03 PM.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
    Schlieffen plan was the only viable strategy, which was at least theoretically able to grant Germany a decisive and relatively inexpensive victory against the hostile coalition. France was the obvious target, as her smaller size and much denser road infrastructure meant that military conquest could happen in a quick pace, as long as her army was defeated. In fact, these advantages were so clear even to amateurs that I'd argue that Schlieffen plan was hardly revolutionary or brilliantly daring and risky. After all, dividing your enemies and vanquishing each one separately has been taught in military academies at least since Napoleon removed the Sardinian equation in Mondovi. Its main weaknesses was its inevitable over-optimism in what concerns the course of events in the western front and its underestimation of Russia's mobilisation capabilities. Thanks to technological advancement and the propagation of the railway system, Russia could deploy larger armies in a shorter space of time than originally anticipated.
    The Germans don't seem to have taken into account Britain sufficiently in their planning. The effects of the naval blockade should have been anticipated, and a plan drawn up to address it. Germany in WW2 was far better off in that regard, and the early rationing meant Germany was not nearly as effected in WW1 as it had been in WW2.

    The attack through the Low countries, while it might have been a sound tactical move, was a disaster politically, and ultimately proved fatal militarily to Germany. Had Germany not violated Belgium, Britain might have remained neutral in 1914 as it had in 1870.. Had Germany been able to keep Britain out of the war, you might have had a repeat of the Franco-Prussian War.

    Whatever gains the Schlieffen Plan achieved tactically, the plan required the violation of Belgium's neutrality, which pretty much guaranteed Britain's entry into WW1, which otherwise was not a given. This an example where the political aspects of the plan were not given sufficient consideration. What did Germany expect Britain would do when they invaded Belgium? A better plan, perhaps less militarily sound that did not violate Belgium neutrality would have served Germany better if it kept Britain neutral.


    As a result, the Germans could have been forced almost the entirety of Eastern Prussia, even if the campaign against France proceeded impeccably. Although these territorial losses could not necessarily damage the German army in a serious manner, they could seriously threaten the stability of the royal regime. With the example of the Bonaparte family's collapse being rather recent, ne of the constant fears of the Hohenzollern dynasty and its court was the prospect of sharing the same fate as their Corsican colleagues. In the end, the Czarist forces were annihilated in Poland, but nobody could expect the extreme ineptitude shown by von Rennenkamp and Samsonov, against whom he apparently had an axe to grind.
    This indicates that Germany was focused on the wrong enemy. Russia was a threat, and while its rapid mobility did catch Germany off guard, it still had poorer logistics, and its ability to sustain its army in hostile territory over a long period is questionable. Had Britain not entered the war against Germany, there would have been no blockade, and I suspect that Germany would have been able to prevail against France. At the very least, Germany should have taken into account the naval blockade for when Britain entered the war. Implementing a system of rationing from the start would have mitigated some of the effects of the blockade.

    As for the factors that led to the creation o the two-front war, I believe it was an inevitable development. Blaming William II was an easy excuse for the elites of the Weimar Republic, as he was now nothing more than an insignificant former head of state living in exile in the Netherlands. However, in my opinion, even Bismarck's reincarnation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (who had actually become a bit of liability in the end, due to his international notoriety of duplicity, as his interlocutors instinctively assumed the worst about his intentions) could only delay the formation of the Entente. Meanwhile, France would never be reconciled, because of how harsh the terms of the Frankfurt Treaty were (Bismarck had strongly insisted on their severity), while Britain would never tolerate a foreign superpower completely dominating European politics. There was also the international competition for colonies rich in raw materials, as well as for controlling consumer markets, in order to appease the export-orientated industry.
    War with Russia might have been inevitable, but was war with Britain inevitable? While Britain was concerned with the growing power of Germany, going to war was a big step.

    Even Russia, despite her opposition with Britain about influence in Afghanistan and Qajar Persia, would eventually clash with Germany, especially after London and Saint Petersburg generally agreed in a mutually beneficial partition of the Ottoman Empire. The primary reason for this was that Russian Poland and the Baltic coastline were desperately needed by Germany for the expansion of her industrial potential, which was seriously limited in the confined place of the German Empire. The only potential ally was Italy, but that would have alienated Austria-Hungary. So, given how diplomatically untrustworthy the Italian monarchy has historically been and that Vienna actually proved to be more powerful than Rome, I'd say that siding with the Hapsburgs was the cleverer option.

    Germany was by far the most powerful member of the Central Powers, but the contribution of her two imperial colleagues should not be neglected. If the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs had remained neutral, the Romanovs would have been much less susceptible to economic disaster and political disintegration, while quite a great number of colonial troops would have been available for service in Flanders.
    It must be pointed out, that it wasn't Russia that led to Germany's ultimate defeat in WW1. While concern over Russian involvement probably contributed to adopting the Schlieffen Plan, as the events demonstrated Russian wasn't as big a risk in actuality. While Russian did mobilize quicker than expected, the logistics and supply of the Russian army was poor, and fighting on home territory would have given the Germans an advantage. It seems to me the German planners were planning on a repeat of 1870, with a quick knockout of France, but failed to take the British Empire sufficiently into account. They certainly didn't seem to have plans to deal with the British naval blockade, and the German planners should have considered that fighting against both the British and French would go differently than fighting against just the French alone.

    Ultimately, the Schliefffen Plan was fundamentally flawed, because it failed to take the political and utlimately military consequences into account. It helped ensure making an enemy of the largest empire the world has ever seen, and that is bad planning. While it might be argued that Britain would have become involved anyways, that remains a questionable claim. It was much easier for Britain to get involved when Germany clearly violated the neutrality of neutral country, and the stories of atrocities committed in Belgium made excellent propaganda, which wouldn't have existed without the Schlieffen Plan. I don't think the political fallout, leading to Britain entering the war against Germany, justified the military gains from the plan.

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    Thing is that Russia collapsed because of time. Russia would not have collapsed in 1916, even if it had lost Moscow. Not only 1812, but even 1612 were still very fresh in Russia's memory. The Russian early losses at Allenstein weren't so much because of its backwardness (those would play a factor later), but because of the total incompetence and the reciprocal hate between their generals. The German general responsible for that victory himself acknowledged this:
    Russian military's problem during WWI was not incompetent leadership or manpower shortage, but seeking materials to equip its men properly. Its industry was simply too small to fully arm its mass conscripts, resulted ridiculous situation such as 2/3 of units had no rifles. The consequence was Russian military could not face material lost too much, and repeatly blow on units or lost of industrial centers only stress its already late production queue. This shortage of materials was also the reason why Churchill launched an adventure to open Black Sea sea lane.
    Quote Originally Posted by Markas View Post
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Don't forget that von Moltke the Younger watered down Schlieffen's plan by taking away 11 divisions from the right wing to the left wing of the german imperial army in Alsace Lorraine. Originally the left wing should be similar weak as the german 8th Army in East Prussia.

    Janusz Piekałkiewicz, Der Erste Weltkrieg, Page 39

    Moltke the Younger make this change because the originally plan was too risky in his eyes. He feared a french breaktrough in Alsace Lorraine.

    Moltke the Younger said about himself:

    "For the role as commander in war i'm too broody,thoughtful, serious, too careful, if you want. I'm missing the ability, at the right moment to put everything on one card, which is the real Greatness of the true and born general, the greatness of Napoleon, our old Fritz and my uncle."

    Piekalkiewicz, Page 54.

    So the Schlieffenplan was from the beginning watered down. We can't know how things would have played out, if Moltke the Younger haven't wanted a overwhelming success without waging a great risk.

    The British Empire would have sided with France and the Russian Empire sooner or later, as the British Empire had France already guaranteed to protect the french Atlantic Coast and because of their firm balance of power principle for Europe.

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    I don't think the political fallout, leading to Britain entering the war against Germany, justified the military gains from the plan.
    British "indirectly" involved in the side of Franco-Russian Alliance would probably be even more harmful to Central Power though, imagine a Russian Army fighting in full strength during 1914 because British could supply it...
    Quote Originally Posted by Markas View Post
    Hellheaven, sometimes you remind me of King Canute trying to hold back the tide, except without the winning parable.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    Russian military's problem during WWI was not incompetent leadership or manpower shortage, but seeking materials to equip its men properly. Its industry was simply too small to fully arm its mass conscripts, resulted ridiculous situation such as 2/3 of units had no rifles. The consequence was Russian military could not face material lost too much, and repeatly blow on units or lost of industrial centers only stress its already late production queue. This shortage of materials was also the reason why Churchill launched an adventure to open Black Sea sea lane.
    That I 99%ly agree with (except that the incompetence of those two generals was without question).
    But from this alone you should be able to tell that any German general was justified in thinking that Russia could wait. France being an industrial powerhouse in Europe, could not. Add to that the issue, that Germany wasn't able to supply itself through the Ukraine even when it finally did conquer it, and that iirc 1000000 men were needed to hold the conquered territories.
    Quote Originally Posted by Carmen Sylva View Post
    Don't forget that von Moltke the Younger watered down Schlieffen's plan by taking away 11 divisions from the right wing to the left wing of the german imperial army in Alsace Lorraine. Originally the left wing should be similar weak as the german 8th Army in East Prussia.

    Janusz Piekałkiewicz, Der Erste Weltkrieg, Page 39

    Moltke the Younger make this change because the originally plan was too risky in his eyes. He feared a french breaktrough in Alsace Lorraine.

    Moltke the Younger said about himself:

    "For the role as commander in war i'm too broody,thoughtful, serious, too careful, if you want. I'm missing the ability, at the right moment to put everything on one card, which is the real Greatness of the true and born general, the greatness of Napoleon, our old Fritz and my uncle."

    Piekalkiewicz, Page 54.

    So the Schlieffenplan was from the beginning watered down. We can't know how things would have played out, if Moltke the Younger haven't wanted a overwhelming success without waging a great risk.

    The British Empire would have sided with France and the Russian Empire sooner or later, as the British Empire had France already guaranteed to protect the french Atlantic Coast and because of their firm balance of power principle for Europe.
    Maybe, though also here I'd say logistics were becoming an issue, and the German halt at Marne somewhat natural.
    .







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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    But 11 divisions more divisions would have filled the 50 km gap between First and Second German Imperial Army, which led to the sucessfull french-british counteroffensive.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Carmen Sylva View Post
    Don't forget that von Moltke the Younger watered down Schlieffen's plan by taking away 11 divisions from the right wing to the left wing of the german imperial army in Alsace Lorraine. Originally the left wing should be similar weak as the german 8th Army in East Prussia.

    Janusz Piekałkiewicz, Der Erste Weltkrieg, Page 39

    Moltke the Younger make this change because the originally plan was too risky in his eyes. He feared a french breaktrough in Alsace Lorraine.

    Moltke the Younger said about himself:

    "For the role as commander in war i'm too broody,thoughtful, serious, too careful, if you want. I'm missing the ability, at the right moment to put everything on one card, which is the real Greatness of the true and born general, the greatness of Napoleon, our old Fritz and my uncle."

    Piekalkiewicz, Page 54.

    So the Schlieffenplan was from the beginning watered down. We can't know how things would have played out, if Moltke the Younger haven't wanted a overwhelming success without waging a great risk.
    All of which points out that the German planners might have over emphasized the danger of the Russians at the expense of underestimating the danger the British Empire represented.

    The British Empire would have sided with France and the Russian Empire sooner or later, as the British Empire had France already guaranteed to protect the french Atlantic Coast and because of their firm balance of power principle for Europe.
    Perhaps the British would have entered the war eventually, but that is not a given, and the later they entered the war, the better it would have been for Germany. Without British support, the Germans might have been able to achieve a quick victory, as they did in the Franco-Prussian War. Even with the British support, the Germans were able to almost defeat France in the early part of the war. And Germany might have been able to prepare more for the inevitable blockade.

    And I don't think it was a given that the British would have necessarily entered the war, without the provocation of the violation of Belgium neutrality. The British might have been willing to enforce a neutrality on the seas, without committing ground troops, which would have all benefited Germany. It was Germany that suffered most from the naval blockade, which might not have existed if Germany hadn't invaded Belgium. Certainly, Germany didn't make much of an effort to keep Britain neutral.

    It shows the fundamental problem with Germany's planners that they were too much focused on Russia, and not enough on Britain. Britain played a far larger role in Germany's defeat in WW1 than Russia, and a review of the Russia's capacities would have revealed the weaknesses of Russia that made it less of a threat. Yes, the Russians were able to mobilize far more quickly than expected, but mobilizing troops without adequately arming them is a recipe for disaster, which is exactly what the Russians got.

    Where were the German's plans to deal with the inevitable blockade that would result with Britain entering the war against Germany? Britain had the world's largest navy, and a naval blockade was going to happen when Britain entered the war. The Germans in WW2 demonstrated the effects of the blockade could be mitigated by instituting rationing, but WW1 Germany never did as far as I know. Maybe the Germans thought the war would be over so quickly it wouldn't matter, but they should have had a backup plan for the worse case scenario, but they didn't.

    Another mistake Germany made was when they didn't achieve the expected victory early in the war and the Schiieffen Plan had failed, they should have sought peace. Seaking peace in 1915 or even 1916 Germany would have achieved far better terms than in 1918. Without a quick victory, and with troops of comparable quality and equipment, victory would be a question of which side had the most resources, and that clearly favored the Allies. The combined industrial output and manpower available of the Allies exceeded that of the Central Powers, and France and especially Britain had overseas colonies and commonwealth nations they could draw manpower and resources on that Germany and the Central Powers lacked.

    I still argue the Schlieffen Plan was fundamentally flawed, since it got Britain into the war against Germany early in the war, when Germany's plan should have been to delay Britain's entry to as late as possible

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Carmen Sylva View Post
    But 11 divisions more divisions would have filled the 50 km gap between First and Second German Imperial Army, which led to the sucessfull french-british counteroffensive.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I kinda forgot to answer your question. Mostly because I didn't have time to check up.

    Basically all I can say is that you have a solid argument, which is, that it's not entirely reasonable to consider the Schlieffen Plan to have failed, when its failure can be attributed to it having been watered down.

    I have nothing to refute it, but I'm still cautious to accept that the 11 divisions would have changed the outcome of the war, for a wide range of reasons; mostly scepticism against any what-if-scenarios, as I've already shown in e.g. the Kursk thread.

    I don't know much about the Marne battles, so my objections are more principal. E.g. the supply situation of the Germans at the Marne, or whether or not the 11 divisions would have been enough, or if their lack in Alsatia could have enabled the French to make a critical counter punch of their own, as the Rhineland is very flat and open all the way up to Mannheim and beyond, and thus threatened the German heartland (probably not, I might be grasping at straws here). If you have more on that, feel free to share.
    .







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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    British "indirectly" involved in the side of Franco-Russian Alliance would probably be even more harmful to Central Power though, imagine a Russian Army fighting in full strength during 1914 because British could supply it...
    Only if the Material would reach the Russians.
    Via Dardanells? Closed by the Ottomans
    Via Baltics? Nope, German Fleet.
    That leaves only Murmansk for Transports, don`t know it this Harbour was as developed in 1914 as it was in 1941. Its also closed in the winter because of the ice, afaik.
    Furthermore, those weapons had to be brought to the frontlines or distributed to new division.

    So I don`t see any russian troops supplied by british weapons in 1914, even 1915 would be difficult in higher numbers.


    In res 11 Divisions: Those Division would only help, if they would be in the place of the 50 km gap. One has to bear in mind, that the railways etc. where already overburdened with transports, I therefore doubt that those extra Troops would have been in the right place in the right time.... They could even do harm, by being a extra burden to the already strained logistics.

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    The key thing about Murmansk is that it's usually ice free thanks to the gulf stream, as opposed to e.g. St. Petersburg. That's the whole point of having a harbour city where there otherwise is pretty much nothing, and the key advantage compared to e.g. Arkhangelsk, which is also in the north, but in the white sea, where the current doesn't reach.
    The whole thing about Russia was though that it was overestimated by pretty much everyone. It were thus the Russians, who sent troops to support the Western front, and not vice versa.
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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    @Cookiegod: That`s right about the Gulf Stream, my bad.
    I looked up the History of Murmansk, it was founded 1915/1916, therefore to late for hellheaven`s alternate history.

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    I kinda forgot to answer your question. Mostly because I didn't have time to check up.

    Basically all I can say is that you have a solid argument, which is, that it's not entirely reasonable to consider the Schlieffen Plan to have failed, when its failure can be attributed to it having been watered down.

    I have nothing to refute it, but I'm still cautious to accept that the 11 divisions would have changed the outcome of the war, for a wide range of reasons; mostly scepticism against any what-if-scenarios, as I've already shown in e.g. the Kursk thread.

    I don't know much about the Marne battles, so my objections are more principal. E.g. the supply situation of the Germans at the Marne, or whether or not the 11 divisions would have been enough, or if their lack in Alsatia could have enabled the French to make a critical counter punch of their own, as the Rhineland is very flat and open all the way up to Mannheim and beyond, and thus threatened the German heartland (probably not, I might be grasping at straws here). If you have more on that, feel free to share.
    The German Empire had had a line of strong fortresses in Alsace-Lorraine: Metz, Thionville, Strassbourg and smaller fortresses at the Moselle and in the hills of the Vosges.

    https://www.festungen.info/content/d...06803551763078

    So Alsace-Lorraine was quite safe and a quick success for the French Army not very realistic ( In August 1914 the French Army really attacked the Vosges, it ended as bloodbath for them.

    @Morifea:

    If those 11 divisions would have positioned from the beginning at the right wing as it was Schlieffen's intention, they would have marched like the other 6 armies by foot from the belgian-german border to the Marne.

    I don't know, if a not watered down Schlieffenplan would have been a great success, but his changing surely raised his chance of failure.
    Last edited by Carmen Sylva; December 16, 2019 at 11:44 AM.

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    Default Re: What was the Schlieffen Plan?

    Quote Originally Posted by Morifea View Post
    Via Dardanells? Closed by the Ottomans
    I highly doubt Ottoman would join Central Power if GB was not in Entente; besides, a neutral GB could well use the freedom of sailing passing through Dardanelles or used the blockade as an excuse to join Franco-Russian Alliance formerly.
    Quote Originally Posted by Markas View Post
    Hellheaven, sometimes you remind me of King Canute trying to hold back the tide, except without the winning parable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Diocle View Post
    Cameron is midway between Black Rage and .. European Union ..

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