The Great War

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, Jan 23, 2007.

  1. I'm currently rereading an absolutely fabulous book, first published in 1962 and a winner of the Pulitizer Prize, entitled The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman. Perhaps some of you have read it; if you have not, I HIGHLY recommend it. The book essentially focuses on the first 30 days of the First World War and attempts to explain how the nations of Europe became entrapped into that horribly destructive conflict, a war no one really wanted, but everyone expected. Reading it also brought to mind the fact that our discussions here in the History Forum tend to focus mostly on the weapons and tactics of World War II and subsequent wars. We often tend to forget that the Second World War was essentially a continuation of the First. Today there are perhaps no more than a half dozen people--if that--still alive in the world who actually participated in that conflict. Yet the First World War was the first truly modern war. It saw the advent of virtually every weapons system still in common use today, from submarines to tanks to chemical warfare and massed artillery. It was a war that changed everything . . . but in the end, settled nothing. It cost a whole generation of young men and left in its wake a Europe ripe for yet another conflict. I would love to hear some discussion on this war from some of the history buffs out there. X? Crp? You folks listening? :D
  2. Crpdeth

    Crpdeth Well-Known Member

    Apr 23, 2002
    Location location

    I am but a tenuous student who is blessed to sit under such great men as some of you here and attempt to absorb bits and pieces of knowledge here and there into my thick as steel skull.

    I hated school as a kid, I'll always regret that as now I enjoy trying to learn, but if I had a favorite study in school aside from Drafting it would have been History, but to pretend that I retained enough knowledge to carry on an intelligent conversation on more than (maybe) the war in Vietnam would be ludicrous.

    Nay, I'll admit ignorance rather than try to stand aside you men and be called an idiot and be happy with what I manage to digest here.


  3. Light Coat

    Light Coat New Member

    The Germans had been laying preparations for another war with France since 1871. The French had been planning a defeat for Germany since 1813. We can add in the factor that the King of England was upset that his cousin was into the navy business; not the mention that Wilhelm spoke better English to start with. The Russians made the mistake of having a treaty with anyone as belligerent as the French coupled with their greed in relation to the Balkan land.

    The big kick-off was the assasination of the Duke by seperatists later found to be backed by the French government. Of course, France did not admit any involvement in the planning for some time afterward.

    I'll have to dig around here and find a book to suggest to you. Was written by a German agent and went to the publisher in 1914. Very good to get a look at the political intelligence end of things in that era.

    The lesson we failed to learn; "Just say no to France"
  4. Xracer

    Xracer *TFF Admin Staff Mediator*

    Well, I, for one, have to admit that I don't know as much about "The War to End All Wars" as I'd like to.

    Oh.....I know of the great battles, the strategy and tactics, and the weapons used, but the complex political causes that plunged Europe and Great Britain into war are beyond me.

    "Teacher, may I leave the brain is full!" :D
  5. Nighthawk

    Nighthawk New Member

    Aug 22, 2006
    South Central Texas

    it's beyond most, if not all, sane people.
  6. Actually, Light, the French had been preparing for a possible new war with Germany since their defeat by Bismarck in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the war which united Germany into a single country for the first time. In 1813 France was still under the control of Napoleon and would remain so until the Battle of Nations in 1814. What rankled the French so much was the loss of their Alsace-Loraine provinces under the terms of the treaty ending the Franco-Prussian War, together with deep and abiding fear (quite justified!) that Germany's ultimate aim was European domination. This explains why France's first move after outbreak of hostilities in 1914 (under their Plan 17) was to attack into Alsace-Loraine, instead of concentrating their forces along the Belgian frontier to repel the main German thrust into northern France and toward Paris under the Schleiffen Plan. This strategy very nearly lost France the war.

    So far as I am aware, there has never been any substantiation of French involvement in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, though of course the Germans and Austro-Hungarians later claimed there was. It would have been foolish indeed for the French to involve themselves in such a plot because, had it been discovered, it would have meant immediate war with Austro-Hungary and her ally Germany, something the French greatly feared. There is considerable proof, however, that certain elements within the Serbian military (the hard liners) did indeed surreptitiously back the separtist plot to assassinate Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in the hope that the chaos that would ensue would work to the advantage of Serbia and help her emerge as the dominate power in the Balkans.

    As for the Russians, they feared the Germans just as much as the Germans feared them. Germany's main fear was becoming involved in a two-front war with the Russians to the East and France, along with her ally Britain, to the West. Their only hope, as they saw it, was to defeat France first, before Britain could mobilize sufficiently to alter the outcome, and before the Russians could fully mobilize their vast army on their eastern frontier. It almost worked.
  7. I read the "Guns of August" about 20 years ago, it is a great book.

    Off the subject but her book "A Distant Mirror" about the 14th century in Europe is fascinating. It followed Count Enguerrand de Coucy, who was a French nobleman with ties to the English throne. She choose him as the central charicter because he had ties to both English and French noble families, and was involved in many events in that tragic century. Looking at 14th century Europe, makes out present times seem mild.
  8. Tuchman wrote a number of other books as well, 17th, though I agree with you that her work in A Distant Mirror was outstanding. My favorite, other than Guns of August, is The Zimmermann Telegram, published in 1958. In that one she looks carefully at the foolish attempt by Germany (thorugh her foreign minister, Zimmermann) to convince Mexico to launch an attack on the United States for which Mexico would receive return of the territory lost in the Mexican-American war of 1846-48 when Germany ultimately won the war. Ironically, it was the interception of this telegram by the British, which they promptly made public, more than any other single factor, which forced President Wilson to go before Congress in April 1917 and ask for a declaration of war against the Central Powers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 24, 2007
  9. Her book "First Salute" about the American Revolutionary War was also excellant!

    I dont' have the time to read as much as I would like right now, but when I get time there are dozens of books I would like to read, such as the new book on Lincoln and his cabinet called "Team of Rivals".
  10. I haven't read all of Tuchman's books, so far only those concerned with issues in which I have a particular interest, Bible and Sword, for example, as well as The Zimmermann Telegram and Guns of August. What I like most about Tuchman is her fine narrative style and her ability to explain complex issues clearly and interestingly. It surprises many people to learn that Tuchman was not an academic in the traditional sense, as in a PhD professor type. She was just a skilled and tireless researcher with an ability to write exceptionally well.

    I read all the time, one book after another normally. Even so, like you, I find it impossible to keep up with everything I want to read.
  11. seward

    seward Former Guest

    Sep 3, 2006
    Tuchman also wrote a good one about the 1890s-- like a prequel to Guns of August. What was the title? I confess I never finished "Distant Mirror" but it was interesting how the French kept losing vs the English.

    "Zimmerman" was really good -like a novel -- though I rarely read novels anymore.
  12. Ursus

    Ursus Active Member

    I haven´t read the book, but I did watch the film. (No kidding here, there is a documentary based on the book). I´ve always thought of this war as a warm up for WWII. Or maybe both wars were actually one with a 21 years ceased fire
  13. Many historians today agree with that assessment, Bear, and in fact look at the two conflicts as "The World War: Phase One, and Phase Two" with some even arguing that the ensuing Cold War was essentially "Phase Three" of the same conflict. Personally, I think that argument is right on the money. The First World War obviously arose from many causes, not the least of which was the ambition of Germany to break out of what it considered entrapment of its people and destiny by its neighbors to the west and east, France and Russia. The slow but inexorable breakdown of the imperial system in Europe was also a factor, as well as the century-long system of alliances that had been constructed since the Congress of Vienna at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Had the real issues been resolved at the end of the first conflict, it might have ended there with the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in Germany, the destruction of the Romanov dynasty, and the dimanteling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Those issues were not resolved as history clearly shows. Instead, peace terms were imposed that left Germany with a smoldering resentment (the "War Guilt Clause" of the Versailes Treaty), a hodge-podge of nation states in Eastern Europe with internal conflicts so intense that stability was nearly impossible to achieve, and an Allied coalition (Britain, France, Italy, and the U.S) unwilling to involve itself in any cohesive way to stabalize Europe and preserve the peace. It was a perfect ground for Herr Hitler 20 years later to use to his advantage, as indeed he did.
  14. nightfighter

    nightfighter New Member

    Feb 28, 2007
    For those who as I, who find reading hard on old eyes, there is an excellent WWI multi-volume CD from NetFlix that I have watched recently. It goes into great detail about many of the aspects of the Great War, including the politics, reasons, battles, etc. Unlike most book to movie type of renditions, this is like actual reading a book not an abridged abstract.
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