Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 42

to new fronts, and ultimately, in orderly withdrawal. Despite the extreme physical exertion, Kluck’s troops never failed to meet his expectations. However, since this was the first German campaign using such large armies, by the end of the advance, 8-9 September, the mutual understanding required for properly executing mission-command-style control broke down between Moltke’s headquarters and the commanders in the field. Differing understandings of the operational situation and the capabilities of the troops showed a rift, which resulted in the ordering of a controversial German retreat that many would later bitterly complain was unnecessary.2 Provide a Clear Commander’s Intent (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress) Imperial German Army Col. Gen. Alexander von Kluck, 30 March 1915 A combination of excellent organization, training, and staff work was essential in the creation of cohesive units. Those units performed well at the tactical and operational levels in the Marne campaign, as typified by the maneuvers Kluck had his corps and divisions conduct when he changed the facing of his army from south to east and shifted it twenty miles to the northwest while in contact with the enemy. However, the most important factor in this equation was leadership. The mutual trust of leaders at all echelons ensured that Kluck was not asking the impossible—but merely the almost impossible. Create Shared Understanding At the operational level, commanders shared an understanding of the expected operational environment and the capabilities of their troops. Col. Gen. Alexander von Kluck, the commander of the First Army, in particular, showed a great understanding of the capabilities of his soldiers, marching them relentlessly during the campaign in the advance, in shifting 36 Closely related to this rift in perception of the situation, German commanders failed in the modern mission-command model primarily by failing to effectively provide a clear commander’s intent. This failure was due to a combination of the German Army’s command climate, the lack of adequate communications technology for an advancing mass army, and the relatively weak and vacillating personality of the senior German commander, Chief of the General Staff Moltke. Command climate. Moltke was the de facto field commander of the German forces—with the Kaiser as the nominal commander. Moltke’s uncle, Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke (the Elder), had led Prussia to victory in the Wars of German Unification (1864-71) and had practically invented the concept of mission command, which he pioneered along with the unique German dual-command system. Under this system, a specially trained General Staff officer (chief of staff ) was paired with each senior commander above the brigade level. This officer shared responsibility for command decisions with the commander. Commanders rarely went against the opinion of their General Staff partner. This created a command climate that allowed for the extensive use of mission orders because General Staff officers could be expected to know what needed to be done in familiar situations based on training, experience, and constant participation in contingency planning, which reduced the need for detailed instructions. The effect of strategy on operations. In the prewar period, the German General Staff headquarters in Berlin had, mainly, devoted itself to the study of November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW