Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 46

battles at the field-army level rather than as a whole, so a coordinated response to the Allied advance, aside from a retreat to regroup, probably was not possible. Other Impacts The attitudes, personalities, and leadership styles on both sides of the conflict had a significant impact on the outcome of the campaign. Contrasting attitudes. Moltke became very pessi mistic at the first sign that there would be no swift victory despite having a very large, well-organized, and well-supplied force at his disposal that had won an impressive successive string of tactical victories. In contrast, his French counterpart, Joffre, remained optimistic despite a month of continuous defeats and retreat. In doing so, both Joffre and his troops showed great psychological resilience in the campaign in contrast to the German High Command. For example, despite general weariness, the German troops continued to perform well. This was clearly evident in their ability to blunt the effects of a great French counterattack that could have been catastrophic for the Germans, who responded instead with a relatively short and well-ordered retreat. Nevertheless, Joffre publicly transformed the fact that the Allies had forced the Germans onto the defensive and into a retreat into a major victory—in the minds of his soldiers, the civilian population, and likely, the German High Command as well. As a result, given the strategic situation, the lack of a quick victory was for Germany a major, if not immediately apparent, psychological and moral defeat. Ironically, while the Germans operated using what is today almost universally considered to be the superior mode of command (mission command) to tactically win all the battles of the campaign in terms of number of casualties inflicted and other damage to the Allies, they strategically lost because their leaders had decided they had. The purported Napoleonic adage which holds that “the moral is to the physical as three to one” evidently applied to the situation of the Germans and French on 9 September 1914, as it still applies to military forces today. Impact of personality. Surely the personalities of the individual commanders played the greatest role leading to the outcome of the campaign. The most glaring examples are manifest in the relationships of Moltke, Kluck, and Bülow. 40 The personality differences are evident in the comparative reactions of the two field army commanders, Kluck and Bülow, to the abject fatigue resulting from a month of marching, intermittent battles, and the uncertainty of the enemy situation. While at the start of September both commanders recognized the exhaustion of their forces, Kluck continued to advance, crossing the Marne and then transferring the bulk of his army by forced marches to the Ourcq front. After fighting there for five days, Kluck marched his troops forty miles to the new Aisne positions, where they then repulsed Allied attacks. Kluck was able to lead his forces in such extraordinary effort even after they had reached extreme exhaustion. Meanwhile, Bülow rested his troops for a day and a half and slowed his advance to invest the minor fortress of La Fere, which the French then evacuated. Bülow’s caution resulted in Kluck’s inadvertent gain of a day’s march on him, which contributed to the gap that opened between the two armies. Only Bülow’s left wing continued to attack until the retreat to the Aisne began. Kluck was able to get so much more out of his troops than Bülow because his optimistic aggressiveness kept up their morale. He also seemed to have a clear understanding of what his troops were capable of, and he had confidence that he and his subordinates could get them to do it. However, Kluck’s aggressiveness irritated both Moltke and Bülow, causing Moltke to twice place Kluck under Bülow’s command. The enduring importance of leadership. The most obvious lesson of first Marne campaign with relevance not only to mission command but also to the concept of command in general is the enduring importance of leadership at all levels. At the start of the war, Europe had enjoyed a period of more than forty years of general peace, although it saw a concurrent rise of large conscripted armies. Formerly intermixed national identities congealed into national states with deep mistrust of each other. Massive armies emerged as had never been fielded before. As a result, on the European continent, no senior officers in any of the alliances that would eventually fight each other had any practical experience commanding such large forces except in exercises, though a great deal of theory had been written about such commands. In Great Britain, British commanders did not even have the experience of exercise maneuvers, as the British November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW