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through these doubts, and made the most of the one all-important fact it could comprehend—that the dreaded break had been avoided.
With the air thus cleared, the usual anticlimax came to the situation—the tumbling down of Germany's elaborate and grandiose defense of her misdeeds—by a tardy confession of error, which swept everything she had previously said into the discard. On May 8, 1916, the same day on which the American note had been dispatched, Germany sent a further communication acknowledging that, as result of further investigation, her previous contention “that the damage of the Sussex was to be traced back to a cause other than the attack of a German submarine cannot be maintained.” It now seems that the Sussex had been mistaken by the submarine commander for a British transport. Nothing could be more complete than Germany's belated resort to an amende honorable after the United States had proved her guilt:
"In view of the general impression of all the facts at hand the German Government considers it beyond doubt that the commander of the submarine acted in the bona fide belief that he was facing an enemy warship. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that, misled by the appearance of the vessel under the pressure of the circumstances, he formed his judgment too hurriedly in establishing her character and did not, therefore, act fully in accordance with the strict instructions which called upon him to exercise particular care.
"In view of these circumstances the German Government frankly admits that the assurance given to the American Government, in accordance with which passenger vessels were not to be attacked without warning, has not been adhered to in the present case. ... The German Government does not hesitate to draw from this resultant consequences. It therefore expresses to the American Government its sincere regret regarding the deplorable incident, and declares its readiness to pay an adequate indemnity to the injured American citizens. It also disapproved of the conduct of the commander, who has been appropriately punished.”
TWO YEARS OF THE WAR
BY FRANK H. SIMONDS
HE purpose of this article is to review rapidly and briefly the
history of the military operations in the European conflict during the first two years, from the attack upon Liege to the opening of the first general Allied offensive. Necessarily, in view of the space limitations it will be confined to a summary of events in the three more considerable campaigns, that of Germany against France in 1914, that of Germany against Russia in 1915, and the second German attack upon France at Verdun in 1916. All other land operations have been subsidiary or minor and will claim only passing comment.
In the years that lay between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the outbreak of the present conflict the Great General Staff of the German Army had carefully elaborated plans for that war on two fronts which the Franco-Russian alliance forecast. In company with the staffs of her two allies, Austria and Italy, Germany had formulated the methods by which she purposed to repeat the great success of 1870.
With Italy in the war, with Great Britain out of it, it was plain that with German efficiency and the numbers that she and her allies would possess, Germany could count on a permanent advantage in numbers as well as material. But the events of the early years of the century, the incidents beginning at Tangier in 1905, and extending to the Balkan Wars in 1913, clearly established the possibility that Italy might enter the war as an enemy. and the probability that Britain would decline to stay out while France was being destroyed.
If either of these things should happen, as both did, then German soldiers recognized that Germany and her Austrian ally would ultimately be outnumbered, although superior preparation would give them the advantage in the first and perhaps in the second years of the conflict. It was therefore the problem of German high command to prepare its plans in such fashion as to win the war, while it still possessed the advantage of numbers and before the enemy could equip and train its own forces.
In fact the problem was this: Should the Germans hurl the mass of their great army first at Russia or first at France, leaving only a small containing force on the other front? The question was much debated and remains a matter of dispute, now, when the attack ultimately decided upon has failed. (Vol. 1, 85.)
The decision to attack France, which seems to have been reached well in advance of the actual coming of the war, involved new considerations. Russia's mobilization was notoriously known to be a slow thing, although it turned out far more rapid than Germany had calculated. But at the least German high command figured upon two months, during which it could safely turn all of its energies and resources against France. (Vol. I, 85.)
Unhappily in the years since the Franco-Prussian War France had built up a great barrier of fortresses from Luxembourg to Switzerland. Granted the great superiority of German heavy artillery, it was clear that this barrier could be forced, but defended by the mass of the French army this forcing would consume more than two months.
If France were to be attacked first, then it must be attacked by some other road than that leading from the valleys of the Rhine and the Moselle, the route of the 1870 invasion. And the route manifestly lay through Belgium. The fortresses of the Meuse were patently of little modern value, the Belgian army was weak in numbers and only at the beginning of a process of reorganization. By coming through Belgium the Germans could hope, even if the Belgians resisted, to get to Paris in six weeks, having delivered their decisive battle on the road. (Vol. I, 85.)
The element of additional opposition supplied by the Belgian army and the small British Expeditionary Army, if it came to the Continent, did not offset in the German mind the strength of the French barrier fortresses from Verdun to Belfort, and Belgium seemed the line of least resistance even if that resistance were to be reckoned at the maximum. If France were crushed within six weeks, it was safe to reckon that there would be time to turn east and deal with Russia, still unprepared and so far held up—if not defeated-by Austria. If Italy merely remained neutral up to the moment of the decisive battle in France, the outcome of this conflict would decide Italian policy. Here, briefly, is the basis of German strategy and the reason for German decision. (Vol. I, 86.)
Germany declared war upon Russia on August 1, 1914. (Vol. I, 279.) She was already mobilizing, and in a more or less complete form all Europe had been mobilizing for at least a week. While there were delays in the exchange of other declarations, this date may be accepted as the real beginning of the world war. Moreover, when the declaration of war was sent to Russia, Germany was already aware that France purposed to stand by her ally. (Vol. I, 280.)
The first step in German action, then, was to seize the road through Belgium. It might be had by diplomacy, but this hope was speedily extinguished when King Albert revealed his determination to defend his country. (Vol. I, 280.) Liege, the most important outer barrier, might still be won by a quick blow, and thus the opening move of the struggle was the dash of a few thousand German troops, not yet put on a complete war basis, westward from Aix-la-Chapelle and along the main Berlin-Cologne-Brussels railroad to the environs of Liege. (Vol. II, 9.)
As a coup-de-main this attack upon Liege failed. The forts resisted. For several days Belgian field forces held the open spaces between the eastern forts, and the first German troops suffered bloody repulses and were presently compelled to pause until heavy artillery could be brought up. Meantime German troops
DD-War St. 5
moved north of the city and forced the crossing of the Meuse at Visé. Thereupon the Belgian field forces, which had been defending Liege, retired, to escape envelopment. The German army penetrated in the wide unfortified gaps between the Liege forts and occupied the city of Liege on August 7, 1914. The forts held out for another week, one by one succumbing to the new heavy German and Austrian howitzers, which were making their first noise in Europe. (Vol. II, 12-23.)
Meantime, behind Liege the German concentration was going forward, the main mass of the German army was getting ready for its great drive on Paris, while west of Liege German cavalry was slowly but methodically driving in the slender Belgian field forces, which took their stand behind the north and south flowing rivulets of the central Belgian plain. Here were fought some of the minor engagements which filled the press of the world in the early days, but had no actual value. (Vol. II, 9-11.)
Early in the third week of August, 1914, the German preparations were complete and one great German army under Kluck, crossing the Meuse about Liege moved directly west upon Brussels, while a second, under Bülow, crossed the Meuse about Huy, between Liege and Namur, and advanced upon the latter place. Still a third army, under Hausen, moved across the Ardennes toward the Meuse crossings southeast of Namur, while a fourth under the Crown Prince of Württemberg aimed farther south through the Ardennes at the Meuse crossings in France. (Vol. II, 25, 26.)
Before this torrent the Belgian army was swept with little or no delay. (Vol. II, 27.) By August 19, 1914, it was fleeing back to the intrenched camp of Antwerp. (Vol. II, 27.) Brussels fell on August 20, 1914 (Vol. II, 30), and on August 22, 1914, the Belgian phase was over and the German troops had come to grips with French and British troops along the whole Belgian frontier from Luxemburg to Mons. (Vol. II, 37.) So far German plans had worked about as they had been expected to work, and at the end of the third week Germany was on the eve of the decisive battle, which she had planned.