Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 36

back to the Marne front, where the British had retreated out of contact, before the Anglo-French force could organize for an attack against his weakened front. While a series of piecemeal attacks and counterattacks were conducted on the Ourcq front as both sides gradually reinforced, Kluck’s movements increased the gap between his forces and Bülow’s Second Army, which was covered only by weak cavalry forces. The French Response to the German Offensive Ou rcq Meanwhile, after recovering from the opening shock of finding German forces to his left, Joffre responded with effective improvisations. First, he transferred troops from the stalemated front on his right to the threatened left, beginning as soon as the threat there was identified (after Mons-Charleroi). The assembly of French forces on Kluck’s flank showed Joffre’s flexibility, and Joffre’s subsequent orders showed his penchant for seizing the initiative. Believing firmly in the superiority of offensive operations even during the French retreat, Joffre had urged his subordinates to conduct frequent counterattacks—the primary one being at Guise. Though able to use the French civilian communications network, he also personally made frequent visits to his subordinates to make sure they both knew his intentions and followed his orders. Although centralized control of military operations often has proven to be disastrous in many cases of modern warfare, in this case, the Germans proved too decentralized and disjointed in action, giving Joffre’s system of centralized control the advantage. He exercised this control through numerous on-thespot dismissals of commanders and frequent visits to subordinate headquarters. This ensured that Joffre’s overall intent for the actions of the French units was French Sixth Army rne Ma rne Germ Ma an Se Germ an Fi tish 3 tM ori n St. Gond Marshes Bri 1 Pe ti rst A rmy cond Army 5 Miles Exp Grand Morin ed itio 10 nar Fre nc yF orc e ifth ch F y Arm Fren hN int hA rm y Figure 2. Kluck’s Change of Front 32 November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW