Friday, September 5, 2014

von Kluck's Turn

Gott ist mitt uns!

A century ago this very time, the world was freaking out! As WWI kicked out it's first month, those naughty Imperial Deutschers were kicking the living chiz out of France.

Dead von Schlieffen's "Schlieffen Plan" was pretty much on schedule as Germany flung her mighty military might dang near in total against Belgium, The Brits and their BEF and of course - the French.

"Let the last cat on the right brush his sleeve against the Channel" and "Only make the right wing strong" were amoung von Schlieffen's FYI to future Generals in a bold move that forecast the defeat of the Allies in 6 weeks, granting Germany time to accept France's surrender, cut Peace Deals with Belgium and Great Britain and then xfer her victorious armies east to handle any Czarist Russian chicanery.

As Germany sprang her ginourmas wheeling armies into France, other German forces guarding the Franco-German border would purposely withdraw (luring the French Army into the trap), the main German Army would invade Belgium, enter northern France, swing around Paris and then move on the rear of the French Army, trapping it between the frontier and the Germany Army.  It was supposed to succeed in six weeks (how long the Germans assumed it would take the Russian Army to mobilize) and was designed as a battle of annihilation. 

And the last cat on the right who was gon brush the Channel with his sleeve was General Alexander von Kluck. Commanding the biggest German Army ever assembled up to 1914, Kluck's cats had to march the furtherest the fastest to touch the Channel and sweetly swing behind Paris thus becoming the anvil on which the 2nd and 3rd Armies (commanded by Bulow and Hausen respectively) would bash the French and any BEF forces that were falling back.

Blasting across the frontier in record time, the 3 German armies handily defeated the Allies.  von Kluck 1st army rec'v'd a nasty surprise as the Brits BEF held out at Mons and delivered as good as they got, holding up the advance by a day.

von Kluck fighting both the French and Brits, wanted to wipe out the BEF who kept up desperate rearguard actions and kept slipping away to fight again the next day. Piles of jettisoned boots, heavy coats and even ammo convinced von Kluck that he was pursuing a beaten foe.

The German troops were fighting their own fatigue as well as the Allies, trying to force march fast as possible to keep up the pressure and maintain Schlieffen Plan's 6 week window. A tattle tale junior officer pointed out a lot of the troops were drunk to excess, though von Kluck LOL'd such worries. "Abnormal demands require abnormal stimuli." 

A very real concern was that gaps were opening up  betwixt the 3 armies swinging like a gate through France to envelope Paris. As time exponentially expanded the gaps - more troops were needed to fill the gaps. And reinforcements were not coming. The 3 Corps pulled out of line to reinforce 8th Army at Tannenberg in Prussia -  ultimately recalled - were miles behind the lines in Belgium goofing off enroute to railway stations.

von Kluck decided instead of brushing the Channel with his sleeve - he would brush Paris on the inside in direct pursuit of France's 5th army and the BEF fleeing pell mell towards the Marne.

Prepped by indoctrination, war games, staff rides and manuevers - German generals were expected to find the correct solution to a given military problem. Tho a significant diversion from von Schlieffen's orignal plan, von Kluck's idea of ignoring Paris and pursue the retreating Allies appeared as the correct solution. German military theory stressed a fort like Paris need not be attacked until all mobile force were destroyed. Once overwhelmed, all the fruits of victory follow.

Germany's 2nd Army Commander - von Bulow requested help on von Klucks's right to "Gain the full advantage of victory" over the fleeing 5th French Army.

Those bloody gaps again.

von Kluck made his decision to turn inward and the end was in sight: the scheduled defeat of France by day 36 - 40.

As von Kluck's Turn became appearant to the increasingly freaked out French at French High Command HQ - it was clear the Germans offered their flank to the fortress troops of Paris.

The Battle of the Marne, as ebberdobby knows, ended in a German defeat. Betwixt the Ourcq and the Grand Morin, in the four days left of their schedule, Imperial Deutschland lost her bid for decisive victory, and her best opp for winning the war.

The What Ifs accumulate - aside from von Kluck's Turn - if Germany hadn't withdrawn 3 Corps for Tannenberg (recalled though way too late to participate at the Marne) von Kluck could have used one to bridge the gap betwen him and von Bulow. The other two could have overwhelmed Foch at the Marne.

A hundred years ago today Germany came so close to victory - she reached out and touched it at the Marne.

Pic - "Only the certainty of early victory and a triumphal entry into Paris keeps the men going..."


Outlaw Mike said...

You leave out the significant impact of the Belgian resistance. True, it is estimated that obliterating the Liege forts only cost them slightly less than a week of their schedule, but time was of the essence in the Schlieffen Plan. There might not have been a British victory at Mons for the simple reason that the Germans would have been far beyond it already.

Also do not forget that at Halen, the sole Belgian cavalry division stopped a German Cavalry Corps dead in its tracks for almost a week (August 12 to August 18).

Outlaw Mike/Belgistan