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Forum LockedThe German Military 1871-1918

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: The German Military 1871-1918
    Posted: 04-Sep-2006 at 11:34
I have always found the German Empire being a very interesting thing until the 1918 and 1919. Their military specifically appealing to me, so I was wondering today:
 
1) Does anyone have a good picture of a German soldier during the 1871-1918 period? With the changes made in uniforms and all.
 
2) What was their tactical formation during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871? In the battles, advanced as a single line, shot, trenches, columns, groups???
 
3) The numbers of the army during the entire period?
 
 
Thanks for any replies,
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ikki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Sep-2006 at 06:13
Like others armies the german change more quickly during the few years of the war than the 40 years before.

Germans invading France in 1914:





The germans in Verdún, 1916:




Germans in the offensives of 1918:





At the end of the war Unhappy


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Post Options Post Options   Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Sep-2006 at 12:13
The at the end of the war is pretty good in contrast with others...
 
Great, do you have any of the Franco-Prussian War? I know I found a good painting of them somewhere, but I can't remember where.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kapikulu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Sep-2006 at 18:52
It is pretty bare that German army was expecting the same outcome of 1871 in 1914...
 
Which was impossible because the French army was more ready and equipped for war this time.
 
In 1871, German army advanced over Alsace-Lorraine and then cut Napoleon III's French army's contact with the rest of the French army by surrounding it in Metz..That was the key bringing success and allowing the Siege of Paris.
 
In 1914, Germans tried to use the Schlieffen Plan,but didn't apply that with all its aspects(e.g. it was including Holland's invasion Germans didn't)...But the bulk of the plan was more or less the same with the one used...Thinking French would be prepared around Alsace-Lorraine, Germans decided to use Belgium and surround the French armies via Belgium, while threatening Paris at the same time...
 
Though they lost quite some of time in Belgian fortresses, fighting against a small BEF and Belgian resistance and Russian invasion of Eastern Prussia also hit Germans.
 
When they came near Marne, they were already exhausted against organizedly retreated French armies,and new fresh French soldiers.


Edited by Kapikulu - 07-Sep-2006 at 18:57
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Genghis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14-Sep-2006 at 21:14
Originally posted by Kapikulu

But the bulk of the plan was more or less the same with the one used...Thinking French would be prepared around Alsace-Lorraine, Germans decided to use Belgium and surround the French armies via Belgium, while threatening Paris at the same time...
 
That's a pretty significant difference, so I don't think "more or less the same" is a good way to put it.
 
The Schlieffen Plan represents to an extreme, the myopic Hannibalic worldview of the Imperial German general staff.
 
In their obsession with vast cauldron battles, they gave birth to this plan which would have become the most vast cauldron battle in history.  They seemed to have completely forgotten how hard the plan would be logistically and how strict the timetable would have to be (they allocated only 48 hours for the army to conquer Belgium and march across it on foot and horseback).  Not to mention that violating Belgian neutrality almost assured British intervention and the subsequent deployment of her army and navy against Germany for temporary operational gain. 
 
The only reason the Schlieffen Plan worked as well as it did was because of the French obsession with constant attack, which led them to leave northern France almost totally undefended as they marched into the mincer of Alsace-Lorraine.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kapikulu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Oct-2006 at 08:11
Originally posted by Genghis

That's a pretty significant difference, so I don't think "more or less the same" is a good way to put it.
 
The Schlieffen Plan represents to an extreme, the myopic Hannibalic worldview of the Imperial German general staff.
 
In their obsession with vast cauldron battles, they gave birth to this plan which would have become the most vast cauldron battle in history.  They seemed to have completely forgotten how hard the plan would be logistically and how strict the timetable would have to be (they allocated only 48 hours for the army to conquer Belgium and march across it on foot and horseback).  Not to mention that violating Belgian neutrality almost assured British intervention and the subsequent deployment of her army and navy against Germany for temporary operational gain. 
 
The only reason the Schlieffen Plan worked as well as it did was because of the French obsession with constant attack, which led them to leave northern France almost totally undefended as they marched into the mincer of Alsace-Lorraine.
 
I meant: The plan used by the Germans were more or less the same...Wasn't that? It hadn't gone in the way Schlieffen was foreseeing it...Germans had lost a lot of time in Belgium, especially in fortresses like Liege and even small BEF(British Expeditionary Force) detained them for around two days.
 
So, they went nearly on the same pattern with the plan on the first hand except a few details(like Schlieffen's Plan was also committed on an invasion of Netherlands), but clearly Schlieffen's plans were based on French situation in 1871...But French army was more improved and crowded in numbers at the time, plus the time lost against Belgium and BEF...was golden...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kapikulu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Oct-2006 at 19:50
Guys, did you know that Hermann Goering was an ace in WW I...He shot down 21 planes...
 
Oh, and Ernst Udet, who was later committed suicide after the tricks of Goering due to failure of Battle of Britain, was much more successful, with 70 hits. 


Edited by Kapikulu - 18-Oct-2006 at 19:53
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Post Options Post Options   Quote yan. Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Oct-2006 at 13:26
Udet commited suicide, i.e. no execution. The official cause of death was an accident while testing a new weapon, however. He also got a state funeral.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Kapikulu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Oct-2006 at 19:53
Originally posted by yan.

Udet commited suicide, i.e. no execution. The official cause of death was an accident while testing a new weapon, however. He also got a state funeral.
 
Yes, true, I wrote there wrongly...But the cause is known nowadays...He committed suicide, like many other Reich Generals whom Hitler lost his trust for different illogical reasons....Goering was behind Udet's suicide.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote milns Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Jan-2007 at 16:13
How old they could be in last picture of second post, 15, 16? This is terrible...

Edited by milns - 18-Jan-2007 at 16:16
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Post Options Post Options   Quote milns Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Jan-2007 at 16:14
Sorry, doblepost

Edited by milns - 18-Jan-2007 at 16:16
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Brian J Checco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Feb-2007 at 22:29
German military was very impressive during the discussed period. The high command made it's errors during the Schlieffen plan, but the quality of the German soldier at the time vastly surpassed that of all the other allied armies, with the possible exception of the British Tommies. The Americans broke the Germans' back with manpower and the psycological knowledge that Germany, already overstretched, now had to fight an entire new nation. This undercut the morale at home, and subsequently caused the German war effort to collapse.
The German military tech at the time was remarkable. While their machineguns were a bit underdeveloped, their Karbiner 98 rifles and steinhandlengrenates were advanced battlefield tech. They even developed tanks a year after the Brits did, though they were never widly deployed at the front.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote shopaholicchick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24-Feb-2007 at 09:34

I recently finished a book which has some information you might like reading, it is called "the struggle for the rhine" by hermann stegemann , and it has been translated into english by georges chatterton-hill.  it details the struggle for the rhine from about 55BC to about 1920AD.  The last chapter discusses the time period your looking for.  It is a military history of the rhine, but also includes what is going on elsewhere and how that effected the rhine.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Belisarius57 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Apr-2007 at 14:53
Originally posted by Brian J Checco

German military was very impressive during the discussed period. The high command made it's errors during the Schlieffen plan, but the quality of the German soldier at the time vastly surpassed that of all the other allied armies, with the possible exception of the British Tommies. The Americans broke the Germans' back with manpower and the psycological knowledge that Germany, already overstretched, now had to fight an entire new nation. This undercut the morale at home, and subsequently caused the German war effort to collapse.
The German military tech at the time was remarkable. While their machineguns were a bit underdeveloped, their Karbiner 98 rifles and steinhandlengrenates were advanced battlefield tech. They even developed tanks a year after the Brits did, though they were never widly deployed at the front.


Sorry, I disagree. The German "war machine" has been vastly overrated in the 19th and 20th Centuries, a lot of hype over substance.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Friedrich III Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2007 at 03:10
I have to disagree with your disagreement, German strategy and German ingenuity lead them to victory after victory, even their defeat in the first world war was a monument to their resolve on the battlefield.

At Koniggratz (<---apologies, that should be Tannenberg) the German army faced the full weight of the Russian advance, and drove them back with just two divisions. They drove the Russians back from East Prussia right in to the heart of their land and took Russia out in a two front war, all the while concentrating the bulk and the creme of their armies against the French and the British in the west.

Even against the armies of the British Empire, France, Belgium, and eventually the United States, they managed to advance in to the heart of France and fight the whole western war in enemy territory until the armistice (and even then the Germans maintained they had not lost).

German soldiery during the period in question was something to be awed by, as in the pervious centuries. The Ghewer 98, the Stiel Handgenade, the German Howitzer, even such novel items as the Paris Gun all combined with German military skill and training to make them the most formidable force in Europe.

I can hardly believe anyone would question the German Military skill for the rest of the 19th century either. Prussia, the name is practically synonymous with battlefield glory. Sure, the century got off to a rough start for Prussia, leaving a blotch on their military history with their defeats at Jena and the like in 1807, but they redeemed themselves and revamped their army to come roaring back to defeat the French. I'm sure everyone is familiar with their underplayed contributions at Waterloo. Then there are the later notable victories under the Iron Chancellor himself: The colossal defeat of Austria in 1866, the Franco-Prussian war in 1871.

Frankly I don't see how one could over-rate them.


Edited by Friedrich III - 01-Jun-2007 at 06:31
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2007 at 09:33
Your arguments are largely correct AFAIK. However it is still possible to overrate the importance of military prowess.
 
When did Germany (as opposed to Prussia) ever win a war? (Remembering that the topic is 1871-1918.)
 


Edited by gcle2003 - 30-May-2007 at 09:34
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Belisarius57 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-May-2007 at 12:22
Originally posted by Friedrich III

At Koniggratz the German army faced the full weight of the Russian advance, and drove them back with just two divisions.


I look forward to replying to your post when I have more time.  Meanwhile, I for one have never come across a battle of Koniggratz involving Russians.  If this is not a  typo, I'm more than happy to be enlightened. Was there more than one battle of Koniggratz? 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Friedrich III Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Jun-2007 at 06:28
Sincerest apologies, I actually meant to say Tannenberg, but I got the names mixed up with another battle. Sorry about that.

And I do conceded that between 1871 and 1918 the Germans didn't actually win a war, but then again when your tally is out of one you're either going to have 100% or 0. Besides, I don't evaluate the German Army solely based on weather they win the war or not, there is alot more to military history than victory and defeat.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Belisarius57 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Jun-2007 at 06:02

Sorry for the delay in replying, I really don't know where to begin to try to puncture the myth of German military superiority that seems to hold so many people in thrall and is typified by your post. At first glance, a casual observer of history would be forced to agree with you until, that is, they delved deeper.

From the 1820’s, Germany [or more accurately Prussia] had one significant advantage over her neighbours, a large, professional, General Staff. This institution was capable, from time to time, of performing prodigious feats of organization and logistics in order to deploy mass armies that was the envy of other European powers, but on the whole it tended to be hidebound, unimaginative and inflexible.

There is no doubt that the German army was well trained and led by an experienced cadre of long serving N.C.O.s, but ironically this was also it's greatest weakness, since these were irreplaceable in the medium term and their high attrition rate in the Great War led to the eventual deterioration of the army as an effective fighting force. Strategy and ingenuity were not as significant to the German army's initial successes as numbers and technology.

Taking your original example of KÖniggratz, von Moltke's rash attempt at a battlefield concentration almost fell apart in the early stages of the encounter, leaving the Prussians in trouble and on the defensive for most of the battle, There were several points during the battle that the Austrians could have won despite their inferior equipment [except maybe their artillery] and training; only the fortuitous arrival of 100,000 reinforcements in the form of the Crown Prince's army on the Austrian flank at the point when they were poised to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prussians, turned the tide of the battle. Although decisive, this was hardly an example of masterful strategy and ingenuity. It is well known that the French were unprepared, poorly led and were organizationally inferior to the Prussians in 1870-71, yet in most of the initial battles, they fought the Germans to a standstill against odds of 3 or 4:1 and only retired, usually in good order, as their positions were outflanked. Glorious victories?

However, since Germany/Prussia won both wars relatively quickly and with apparent ease, posterity seems to have given their army an undeserved reputation as “super soldiers”, much the same reputation as the Israeli army acquired in the 1956 and 1967 wars, only to see it humiliated in 1973, but I digress.

During the First World War, this reputation began to unravel. From the outset the Schlieffen Plan started to go wrong. The much-vaunted Imperial General Staff miscalculated how far and fast their armies could march. Their communications and supply arrangements fell apart as the advancing armies lost touch with each other, and in their hubris, they forgot the most important maxim of war, “no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy”. French performance during the first phase of the war is nothing short of remarkable in comparison. Wrong footed and outmanoeuvred, they nevertheless managed to change the entire axis of their operations in time to intercept and stop the German advance at the Marne. They showed the drive, ingenuity and flexibility normally attributed to the German side.

In the east, Tannenberg, although heralded as a stunning tactical triumph, was a strategic disaster for the Germans, and may even have cost them the war. Because of Tannenberg, almost a third of the forces allocated to the vital right wing of the Schlieffen plan were prematurely withdrawn from France to no useful purpose, and Hindenburg and Ludendorf came to the conclusion that defeating Russia would be easy.

With the failure of the Schlieffen plan, the Germans were bereft of any back up plans to win the war. Their sole aim being to hang on to whatever territory they had and to let the allied burn themselves out attacking them. To that end they devoted huge resources to creating acres of trenches and barbed wire defences. Who is more courageous and resourceful, the man that sits behind strong defences, or the man who leave the relative safety of his own to attack his opponent?

When opportunities arose to break the deadlock, [i.e. the use of gas at Ypres and the Verdun offensive] these were totally mismanaged and a myopic, inflexible insistence on outmoded methods doomed thousands of soldiers to unnecessary deaths, yet perversely, this is a charge almost always levelled solely at the allied high command, whereas the Germans retain a mystique of tactical genius.

This is compounded in 1918, when infiltration tactics by “storm troops” was seen by many as evidence of tactical genius and heralded as a new and innovative war winner. Everyone seems to have overlooked that the French invented these tactics in early 1915, and they were widely used and developed by the British between 1915-17. Also overlooked is the fact that the British armies attacked by these “super” stormtroops in 1918 were under strength, thinly spread and attacked at odds of 8:1 or more. The amazing thing was that the British did not collapse. The lines bulged, but the German offensives were contained. The counter attack, when it came drove the Germans out of much of France and Belgium and finally forced the Germans to admit defeat.

The German soldier deserves respect for his courage and devotion, but not awe or veneration. The German army was nothing special but has been hyped up out of all proportion, possibly to over-emphasize the scale of the allied victory, who knows. Ironically, when German soldiers were given Lee Enfield rifles to compare and evaluate with the Kar ’98, the Germans preferred the Lee Enfield.  Wink

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Justinian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Sep-2007 at 04:25

A fascinating thread; I didn't see it mentioned here so... the forces during the franco-prussian war were just over a million troops for the prussians/germans and something like 750,000 up to just under a million for the french empire. 

In regards to Rider's second question; from what I remember the german's fought on an army/corps system using seperate groups or armies based on railroads.  Have several armies traveling by seperate routes to combine together at a certain point to crush the enemy.  The railroads allowed them to bring these armies together but in much larger numbers and keep them all supplied.  Similar to Napoleonic warfare, just larger using those railroads to move more troops and also more quickly.  After the victory over Napoleon III's troops the prussians and their german allies surrounded paris with seperate corps.  The various prussian corps in the north and the bavarian corps in the south.  With others operating on the loire etc.  Moltke the elder was the driving force behind this theory of concentration of power at the key point, which influenced german military theory up until WWII really.
 
Edit:  whoops, just saw I misread rider's second question.  I don't remember their tactical formations as well as strategical.  If I were to hazard a guess I would say they advanced in spread out columns/groups.


Edited by Justinian - 27-Sep-2007 at 04:28
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