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  • broderickwells
    replied
    Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
    Absolutely. We can what-if in another direction as well. How about instead of pushing on to Berlin, the Russians leave one army in place to hold the Germans, and send the other to assist against the Austrians. Who knows, maybe another 250,000 men, coming from a new direction against an already battered and demoralized foe might lead to the Austrians crumbling right from the start?

    Or maybe a Russian victory at Tannenberg keeps the Turks out of the war?

    Or maybe induces the Italians to jump in sooner?

    And so on.
    One thing that a Russian victory at Tannenburg/wherever is that it would open the road to Koenigsburg. Having the Russians threaten this city would cause a large number of refugees inside Germany. This would choke the roads and, to a certain extent, the rail. This would cause more internal disruption than you might imagine.

    From my readings so far, the Russians only partially mobilised, as opposed to going fully over to a war footing and thundering at the enemy. A-H, considered the primary belligerent because it was attacking the "little brother", Serbia, would have received a terrific shock if Russia had really gone at it from day one.

    The Turks in part entered the war because the two German cruisers(?), transferred to the Turkish navy when they sheltered in Constantinople, were still crewed by Germans and they attacked the Russians. If Britain has not yet decided to enter the war, then the German ships have a few more options.

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  • Wolery
    replied
    Very late, will rebutt sometime tomorrow. But one point, I never claimed Germany could win WWI at this point. If the front moves it moves east. And what the generals did was underhanded and cowardly. But in light of Purist's way of rudeness, I want to thank you for civility, I will return it as best I can. Night!

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  • The Ibis
    replied
    Originally posted by Wolery View Post
    Well Ibis, you've got the facts right but grossly misinterpret them. Everything can lie; especially statistics. Not sure what the technical term is but I call being able to see the secondary reactions of the counterfactual thinking fourth dimensionally. It's not hard to learn, but it takes applied analysis to do.

    First, there's the evidence that does not support the case. Chief among them is the desertion rate of the German Army. There was no collapse, the German Army marched home and was demobilized, all the paperwork in order. The best case for your argument is the German Army was badly frayed. If the French sought terms after Verdun, you and Purist would be same argument about the inevitability of the French collapse based on the desertion rates, defeat and war weariness. And it would be a very good argument too, except we know from our world the French recovered. Fact is, find me any European belligerent still enthusiastic about the war past August of 1916, and I will show you propagandic tripe. As for the Revolutions: all of them were put down before the signing of Versailles, and well before the lifting of the British blockade. That is the Wiemar Republic was fully capable of putting down the mutiny and the revolutions without an end to hostilities, including the food shortage. I was saving that point in particular for the other thread I've brought this up in, but here it is.

    I'm not here to debate the niceness of German terms real or theoretical. The Germans were *******s in that regard, and would have brought WWII on their heads just like the French did theirs. But two wrongs don't make a right. Versailles was a patently unjust treaty, and not at all what the German political leadership expected. Signing an Armistice was a prudent move at the time. However, there is ample evidence that the Germans could continue to fight, especially given that most of their food problems would be alleviated by their occupation of the Ukraine. The notion of the Stab in the Back has some truth in it; the German Army was capable of conducting defensive war and holding out for better terms, especially once the Allies started to press into Germany. If there's one constant in Human history it is that people fight harder when their nation is invaded than they do when they invade others. The presence of the American Expeditionary Force precludes the notion of German victory. It does not exclude the possibility of grinding the Allies down in brutal trench warfare inside the Reich itself. Could it have worked? Stranger things certainly have happened, it's certainly possible. In practical terms, the Germans couldn't have gone much worse. The Wiemar coalition were not traitors, but they were cowards. The people had every reason to expect a white peace given the situation in the field. The armistice was not about the condition of the army, because the army was nowhere near inevitable collapse, nor that Reds were popping up all over Germany because right wing paramilitaries and the supposedly collapsing Imperial Army crushed them with ease by early 1918, and it wasn't that the people were not willing to fight on, for they wanted a white peace based on the 14 Points, it was that the Wiemar coalition took their first shot at peace, never anticipating they would come to the peace table as a defeated scapegoat.

    What we have here is a contest of wills. Who will REALLY collapse first? The Germans, fighting for their lives and territory, or the Entente, who seek to impose a vicious victor's peace, a position they must sell to their war weary soldiers and populations. The US would be rip roaring to get in the fight, Britain France and Belgium were utterly exhausted and with the end of offensive operations by the German army to conquer France, moral right shifts definitively to the German camp. Who breaks first wins the war, and the Germans have their backs against the wall. Historically, the mutiny was put down, the Sparticans was killed, and up to 1924 there were roving bands of German boys, just reaching manhood after the Armistice roaming eastern Europe massacring communists from Riga to Budapest, to general acclaim. All the Wiemar coalition need do is tell the German people what the Allies planned to do to them, their price of peace, and the Germans would fight into the 20s. A Just Peace is a peace worth fighting for.
    Wolery, to me your post simply doesn't add up. First, there is no truth to the stab in the back. The military knew it couldn't win the war and wanted an armistice. They abandoned the negotiations to the civilians in the government. You can read about Hindenburg's attitude in Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism by Dennis Showalter and William Astore, or any number of other works. He wanted peace at any price. Heck, you can read about it in the NY Times before the Germans signed.

    If you choose to believe the German army could carry on the war, despite the statements of the commanders of that very army, not to mention that army's most recent performance, that's up to you. I wouldn't go putting too much stock in the fact the army marched home in order though. Suppose there's a German soldier in November 1918. Call him X. He's tired. He's hungry. He's managed to survive a long spell at the front (or even a short one). He had been led to believe not more than a few months before that Germany was going to win the war, but over the past several months, he has been pushed back across Belgium or France. His buddies are dying, being wounded or captured, or deserting or simply refusing to stand and fight. He joins the vast swath of "shirkers" who refuse to fight or deserts.

    Then he runs into an officer. Call him Y. Y tells X "The war is over. Report to location 1 so you can get home." So X goes to location 1. And signs his papers. And marches home in great spirits since he survived and he won't have to face the Tommies or the Poilus or Monash's Diggers or Currie's Canadians or LeJeune's Devil Dogs ever again. And his head is held high as he, along with hundreds of thousands just like him, crosses the frontier.

    This just proves X is happy to be home, not that he'd continue to fight the Allies. Whether he'd join a free corps unit or not isn't the point. Thats later. We're talking about November 1918. X isn't fighting any more.

    As far as the Germans recovering like the French did, I'd ask you how? The French weren't starving. Its probably safe to say the average Poilu wasn't receiving a great food ration, but one of the first thing Petain did was to increase the food ration. The Germans were starving, and Hindenburg didn't have that option. You point to the Ukraine, but I'd ask you - just how long could the Germans hold it? I'd venture to say not very long. Those million men (many of whom were exposed to Bolshevik propaganda) would be needed for the front. And in any case, we're talking about November. When would the Ukrainian harvest be coming in? Not for many months. Who would be harvesting the crop? How would the crops be shipped home? The starvation would continue.

    We can go further if you'd like and discuss the fact that German artillery tubes were completely worn out. And there were few replacements. Ammunition stocks were running low. There was little fuel for tractors and trucks or for the air force. There was no cotton for bandages (the Germans were making do with paper). And so on. The French didn't have these problems. They kept increasing production, and then there was British and US industrial, agricultural and financial support.

    Finally, I've never seen the expression "the secondary reactions of the counterfactual thinking fourth dimensionally" before. I think I know what you're driving at. But in this case, IMO, the facts are clear and the conclusions flow logically and nearly inescapably from them. Is it "possible" Germans carried on? Well lots of things are possible. Is it likely? Absolutely not. But IMO we don't need to engage in that counterfactual since we know what happened. The Germans, including their top generals, said they couldn't win the war. The concluded the army wouldn't fight anymore. The high command acquiesced in (or even encouraged) the abdication of the Emperor. The high command supported (or dumped on) the politicians the responsibility for the armistice. And then the Germans went to meet with Foch in a railway car in the Compiegne forest.
    Last edited by The Ibis; 30 Sep 10, 00:15.

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  • Wolery
    replied
    Well Ibis, you've got the facts right but grossly misinterpret them. Everything can lie; especially statistics. Not sure what the technical term is but I call being able to see the secondary reactions of the counterfactual thinking fourth dimensionally. It's not hard to learn, but it takes applied analysis to do.

    First, there's the evidence that does not support the case. Chief among them is the desertion rate of the German Army. There was no collapse, the German Army marched home and was demobilized, all the paperwork in order. The best case for your argument is the German Army was badly frayed. If the French sought terms after Verdun, you and Purist would be same argument about the inevitability of the French collapse based on the desertion rates, defeat and war weariness. And it would be a very good argument too, except we know from our world the French recovered. Fact is, find me any European belligerent still enthusiastic about the war past August of 1916, and I will show you propagandic tripe. As for the Revolutions: all of them were put down before the signing of Versailles, and well before the lifting of the British blockade. That is the Wiemar Republic was fully capable of putting down the mutiny and the revolutions without an end to hostilities, including the food shortage. I was saving that point in particular for the other thread I've brought this up in, but here it is.

    I'm not here to debate the niceness of German terms real or theoretical. The Germans were *******s in that regard, and would have brought WWII on their heads just like the French did theirs. But two wrongs don't make a right. Versailles was a patently unjust treaty, and not at all what the German political leadership expected. Signing an Armistice was a prudent move at the time. However, there is ample evidence that the Germans could continue to fight, especially given that most of their food problems would be alleviated by their occupation of the Ukraine. The notion of the Stab in the Back has some truth in it; the German Army was capable of conducting defensive war and holding out for better terms, especially once the Allies started to press into Germany. If there's one constant in Human history it is that people fight harder when their nation is invaded than they do when they invade others. The presence of the American Expeditionary Force precludes the notion of German victory. It does not exclude the possibility of grinding the Allies down in brutal trench warfare inside the Reich itself. Could it have worked? Stranger things certainly have happened, it's certainly possible. In practical terms, the Germans couldn't have gone much worse. The Wiemar coalition were not traitors, but they were cowards. The people had every reason to expect a white peace given the situation in the field. The armistice was not about the condition of the army, because the army was nowhere near inevitable collapse, nor that Reds were popping up all over Germany because right wing paramilitaries and the supposedly collapsing Imperial Army crushed them with ease by early 1918, and it wasn't that the people were not willing to fight on, for they wanted a white peace based on the 14 Points, it was that the Wiemar coalition took their first shot at peace, never anticipating they would come to the peace table as a defeated scapegoat.

    What we have here is a contest of wills. Who will REALLY collapse first? The Germans, fighting for their lives and territory, or the Entente, who seek to impose a vicious victor's peace, a position they must sell to their war weary soldiers and populations. The US would be rip roaring to get in the fight, Britain France and Belgium were utterly exhausted and with the end of offensive operations by the German army to conquer France, moral right shifts definitively to the German camp. Who breaks first wins the war, and the Germans have their backs against the wall. Historically, the mutiny was put down, the Sparticans was killed, and up to 1924 there were roving bands of German boys, just reaching manhood after the Armistice roaming eastern Europe massacring communists from Riga to Budapest, to general acclaim. All the Wiemar coalition need do is tell the German people what the Allies planned to do to them, their price of peace, and the Germans would fight into the 20s. A Just Peace is a peace worth fighting for.

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  • The Ibis
    replied
    Originally posted by Wolery View Post

    And Ibis, remember too, your own sources say the Germans were sick of war, but this was true of all sides but the US. They would accept any peace WITHIN THE PERVUE OF THE 14 POINTS. Even if the removal of West Prussia was necessary (and technically it wasn't and it would clearly violate self-determination), the reparations were not. The Germans were not prepared to make peace at any price; they were expecting pretty much a white peace. I've read the 14 Points mind you, and it's kid gloves compared to Versailles.
    Wolery, we must read different books. If you didn't like Herwig, take a look at The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment After 75 Years, by Boemeke, Feldman and Gläser. Or even Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan. Or Czernin's Versailles, 1919 (a bit older book).

    The Germans certainly wanted peace based on the 14 Points. They asked for it in October, but didn't get it. Wilson made clear in his response reparations were going to be on the table, the Kaiser had to go and the British and French were going to have a say. And we all know what happened. The Kaiser left (as did Prince Max), and the Germans were forced to seek an armistice because they had no way to resist what was coming - invasion, revolution, etc.

    To say the Germans weren't willing to accept peace at any price in November 1918 thus seems counter to the evidence I've seen. They did accept it. They might not have been happy about it. Many were certainly willing to buy into the stabbed-in-the-back myth perpetuated by Ludendorff and others. And the new government certainly sought a peace of equals when its representatives got to Versailles.

    But if in November 1918 the Germans didn't want peace at the Allies price, which wasn't going to be the 14 Points, the Germans didn't have to accept it; they could have kept fighting (to whatever extent they could, assuming they could find troops to fight with). But of course, Germany didn't keep fighting. Because they couldn't, and because no one - not the army that was deserting in droves, not the navy that was in the midst of revolution, not the people on the homefront who were starving or waving red banners, and not least the new democratic leadership of the country who wanted a fresh start - wanted to fight anymore. No matter the terms imposed.


    As for the Western Front, unless the Russians cross the Vistula, there's no point in shifting further forces from the West. Taking Antwerp and all the rest is certainly possible and the Offensive against the Russians takes off in 1915. Until then, The Russians will get bogged down in their own advance and will have to wait for the rear to catch up. Under the circumstances I'd wait until after the German counterattack in the West, all but skeleton the trench line, hold a defensive, and take the troops from the West and attack into Poland. If it's needed, have the 8th leave a holding force at the Vistula and draw off the Russian attack in Poland by falling on them from the rear. Circle and annihilate if possible. And that is certainly when the power of the Imperial Army. If Germany gets more occupation, fine it must be done but, the key is to keep a cool head in the moment of Crisis.
    Thats what I mean about what-ifs. You've got yours and I've got mine and neither of us can prove we're right. I say they get across the Vistula and if the Germans aren't reinforced, the Russians will be on the Oder by October. So there.

    PS-
    What-ifs can be useful at times, so I don't mean to totally downplay them. Plus, even short counterfactuals can be challenging to write, as I found here and here.

    PPS -
    the rep offer in the second counterfactual still stands
    Last edited by The Ibis; 29 Sep 10, 19:45.

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  • Destroyer25
    replied
    I think this has gone off topic...

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  • The Ibis
    replied
    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
    Thaks, Ibis, I was planning an answer in a similar vein - there was that little thing called the Western Front and you can't completely ignore it when considering the other battles.
    Absolutely. We can what-if in another direction as well. How about instead of pushing on to Berlin, the Russians leave one army in place to hold the Germans, and send the other to assist against the Austrians. Who knows, maybe another 250,000 men, coming from a new direction against an already battered and demoralized foe might lead to the Austrians crumbling right from the start?

    Or maybe a Russian victory at Tannenberg keeps the Turks out of the war?

    Or maybe induces the Italians to jump in sooner?

    And so on.

    Leave a comment:


  • Wolery
    replied
    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
    If you mean something different, then this smacks of fanboyism, plain and simple. There is no indication the German Army displayed any superhuman qualities in that conflict.
    Of course the Germans had no superhuman qualities in either WWI or II. But they did have infinitely better leadership, especially in the junior officer and and NCO ranks. The Russian army has never had a reputation for good quality officers. It's one thing to get a brilliant top general like Nappy-boy, but the bread and butter of leadership is a consistent quality of the officers below. Except at the top ranks there is no question that the Germans had the best officer corps in both World Wars. And I say this as an American 'fanboy,' I'm not a German fanboy...I seek balance.

    But in WWI, the Russian Army was badly led and was ill equipped all the way down to extreme shortages of rifles. The Russians, in all honesty, didn't have the ability to make their gains stick. The Russians could have gotten to the Oder, eventually their bad logistics, horrific losses and such would catch up with the,. and the Germans, having better leadership would destroy them. This was not 1944 where the Russians could plug any hole with good reserves.

    And Ibis, remember too, your own sources say the Germans were sick of war, but this was true of all sides but the US. They would accept any peace WITHIN THE PERVUE OF THE 14 POINTS. Even if the removal of West Prussia was necessary (and technically it wasn't and it would clearly violate self-determination), the reparations were not. The Germans were not prepared to make peace at any price; they were expecting pretty much a white peace. I've read the 14 Points mind you, and it's kid gloves compared to Versailles.

    As for the Western Front, unless the Russians cross the Vistula, there's no point in shifting further forces from the West. Taking Antwerp and all the rest is certainly possible and the Offensive against the Russians takes off in 1915. Until then, The Russians will get bogged down in their own advance and will have to wait for the rear to catch up. Under the circumstances I'd wait until after the German counterattack in the West, all but skeleton the trench line, hold a defensive, and take the troops from the West and attack into Poland. If it's needed, have the 8th leave a holding force at the Vistula and draw off the Russian attack in Poland by falling on them from the rear. Circle and annihilate if possible. And that is certainly when the power of the Imperial Army. If Germany gets more occupation, fine it must be done but, the key is to keep a cool head in the moment of Crisis.

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  • ShAA
    replied
    Thaks, Ibis, I was planning an answer in a similar vein - there was that little thing called the Western Front and you can't completely ignore it when considering the other battles.

    Thing is, with the Germans, they defeat the expectations of material success. They do what is considered impossible simplistic material minds *cough*The Purist*cough*.
    Now my simplistic material mind can't understand it either. What was there about the German troops that the others didn't have? If you mean morale, then of course it's not a material factor, but it's been taken in consideration and understood by generals - and armchair generals - for many centuries. In relation to the German army, why would it have had low morale when it was properly equipped, clothed and lead?

    If you mean something different, then this smacks of fanboyism, plain and simple. There is no indication the German Army displayed any superhuman qualities in that conflict.

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  • The Ibis
    replied
    Originally posted by Wolery View Post

    But even if the Germans lose and lose big, very little of the strategic situation changes. There is nothing truly vital to German war making between the Russian border and Berlin.
    This turns quickly into what-if land, however, lets think this through for a second. If the Russians merely win at Tannenburg (and not completely destroy 8th Army), an awful lot still changes. Now two Russian armies (because without the Tannenberg victory, the Masurian Lakes battle can't occur), soon to be reinforced, start marching across present-day Poland towards Berlin. The Germans would have to scrape together forces to stop them. They obviously can't call on the Austrians - they have their own serious problems. Thus, the only place those forces could come from (since the Germans put their reserves into the field on day one) was from the west. But the Germans were basically of troops there too. Assuming something could be cobbled together to aid 8th Army, that means the cupboard is bare to stem the French counter-offensive. I'll assume that the French counter-offensive would run out of steam just as it did. But here's a real kicker. Von Falkenhayn went on the offensive pretty quickly after the French counterattack stalled. He was able to "race to the sea" against the British and went after Antwerp with a new army. The Germans launched attacks against the French that led to capturing St. Mihiel and other very defensible positions. None of that occurs if Falkenhayn has to shift forces east. And if none of that occurs, the French and British start off 1915 from a much more favorable position.

    Then there's the German homefront. How happy would they be with a large Russian army somewhere close to Berlin? You have noted how the Russian army eventually cracked and the population tired of war. Lets not forget the German army cracked too, and the German population eventually was willing to accept any demand to end the war. So even if the Germans manage to push the Russians back in 1914 or 1915, maybe the seeds of internal destruction are planted in Germany sooner than historically. And if thats the case, who is to say which Empire outlasts the other?

    Anyway, thats why I have trouble with what-ifs. You can what if into anything.

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  • ShAA
    replied
    Originally posted by craven View Post
    Doh sorry about that.

    The ping pong of declaring war is slightly confusing back then. Did russia declare on Austria Hungry first then after AH declared on serbia or however it went.
    Just checked it, Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, and AH did it on August 6. The confusion comes from the fact Russia was the first to invade enemy territory after the declarations of war.

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  • Wolery
    replied
    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
    Why would it have been a German victory? This is considering the Russian Army invaded according to a certain pre-war plan, which was not the case in August 1914.
    Tannenberg need not be a victory, and I do understand Ibis' saying it was a close run thing. As I understand it the point of contention is whether or not the Russians lost Tannenburg for spite. But there's a very strong school that claims that the two Russian armies were too far apart and their communication to poor to let the two link up and support each other, even if the generals hated each other.

    But even if the Germans lose and lose big, very little of the strategic situation changes. There is nothing truly vital to German war making between the Russian border and Berlin. Germany has a military force, better trained, better equipped and infinitely better led than the Russians can field. And let me clarify, the Russian invasion force in East Prussia is an exception, but the strategic failings of Imperial Russia will not disappear. In all possible worlds there's one where the Russians emerge victorious at Tannenburg and march unstoppable to Berlin and ends the war by Christmas, but in counterfactuals we must speak more of generalities, and I think the most likely outcome is Russian advance to the Vistula, a vicious German counter attack that sweeps the Russians off their feet and then a major rout. Add to it elastic defense and you have the strategic history of the East Front of the Great War.

    Thing is, with the Germans, they defeat the expectations of material success. They do what is considered impossible simplistic material minds *cough*The Purist*cough*. Even the WWI French had there vaunted elan, that's something to work with. The Russian army has never EVER had anything going for it but it's size and it's logistical train, and in WWI, it's train is gone. To have the Russians with a plausible chance of beating the Germans, you really would have to make substantive changes well before the fighting broke out. For example, if Germany industrialized like Italy...then yeah the Russians would have a chance. I still think they'd lose but they'd have a chance.

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  • craven
    replied
    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
    If I'm not mistaken the whole offensive in East Prussia went against the pre-war plan and it started before the mobilisation had been completed.

    Another WI for this battle would be that the Russian officers would not march into battle in the first ranks in a rush of partiotic craze.
    I think that happened to a lot of countries officers. People not quite understanding the changes that had occurred in killing effectiveness.

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  • craven
    replied
    Originally posted by ShAA View Post
    By the way, it was Germany which declared war on Russia first.
    Doh sorry about that.

    The ping pong of declaring war is slightly confusing back then. Did russia declare on Austria Hungry first then after AH declared on serbia or however it went.

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  • ShAA
    replied
    Originally posted by craven View Post
    Since they declared war first.
    By the way, it was Germany which declared war on Russia first.

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