Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 45

MARNE emphasized initiative, responded by going their own ways. The lack of information and apparent unresponsiveness from his field commanders in turn caused Moltke to issue new directives that did not necessarily reflect battlefield realities but instead resulted in responses to news of Joffre’s counteroffensive with actions that, counterproductively, enhanced chances for Allied success. Responding to this situation, as he refused to go to the front himself, Moltke instead sent his equally conservative and pessimistic intelligence officer, Hentsch, who, based on little accurate information, saw the situation as desperate. He subsequently manipulated Bülow into retreating even while he was still attacking—an action which then forced Kluck to do so as well. However, the situation facing the Germans on 8 September was nowhere near as dire as Hentsch, Moltke, and then Bülow believed. Kluck had defeated the French Sixth Army on the Ourcq and had, at a minimum, destroyed its offensive capabilities. The cavalry screening force in the gap between Kluck and Bülow had greatly slowed the British advance. While Bülow’s right wing was gradually giving way to the advance of the French Fifth Army, his left wing had crumbled the French Ninth Army. Rather than a retreat, a simple reshuffling of the German forces could have allowed the German advance to continue while Moltke brought up forces from his left. Instead, the Germans, upon the advice of Hentsch, backed by the endorsement of Moltke, elected to surrender the initiative and retreat. One result was that the Germans never really regained the initiative until 1918. of uncovering his right flank, which partially explains why he transferred so many troops to the Ourcq front. On the other side, French Fifth Army commander Gen. Charles Lanrezac, an intellectual and well-regarded peacetime officer, lost all aggressiveness once faced with the uncertainties of war. Lanrezac proved to be a poor subordinate that Joffre had to replace. At a higher level, Joffre himself proved very aggressive in contrast to Moltke. Although his actions could have resulted in catastrophe, despite previous failures aggressiveness drove Joffre to attack on 6 September along the Marne and Ourcq fronts when the enemy was still successfully advancing or had previously repulsed earlier counterattacks. The large and risky French counteroffensive was successful enough to force the Germans to withdraw forty miles because its very aggressiveness frightened the German high command. The Germans probably could have reshuffled their forces and repulsed the counteroffensive, but at that point they were basically fighting separate, disjointed Accept Prudent Risk Emerging aggressiveness on the part of senior leaders, manifest in willingness to accept prudent risk, appears to have been the key discriminating factor leading to the outcome. While both the Germans and French espoused assertiveness in field commands, the actual fog of war tempered this. During the first Marne campaign, an incomplete knowledge of the enemy’s deployment on both sides led to a fear of encirclement. This fear curbed aggressiveness and created excessive caution among the Germans and long retreats in the case of the Allies. Even Kluck was at times fearful MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress) French Army commander Gen. Joseph Joffre issuing orders in the field. 39