Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 48

adheres to time-honored principles of war that need to be followed, especially when situational awareness is incomplete or the enemy responds in an unexpected manner. Epilogue At the highest levels—despite his faith in them— the Kaiser’s professionals failed him in this campaign, ultimately resulting in the loss of the war together with the loss of his crown. With the loss of the war, the severe peace terms imposed on Germany played a key role in causing World War II. Thus, the mostly forgotten German defeat of a century ago not only played a major role in the shaping of the modern world but also holds lessons of importance for military professionals today. Though the First Battle of the Marne was more than one hundred years ago, a reflection of the battle was recently invoked indirectly in the news when French police conducted a massive manhunt for two murderous terrorists across the villages and rivers that marked the 1914 battlefield. The town of Dammartin, where the manhunt ended, was, in fact, directly behind the Ourcq battlefield that was almost captured by the Germans in 1914—right before they retreated. Where it is remembered at all in the public consciousness today, the battle is mostly recollected for a legendary convoy of Paris civilian taxicabs that took troops to the front to reputedly swing the battle to Allied victory—and the appearance of a gap in the German lines subsequently filled by Allied troops. In fact, the taxicabs played only a minor role in the campaign, as the troops they transported did not even fight until the next day, and the German gap was opposite an equally big gap in Allied lines, which the Germans were unable to exploit. Nevertheless, such mythical lore—however accurate as a matter of historical fact—metaphorically highlights the decisive role that psychology played in the actual Marne campaign. This now-ancient campaign raises many questions for analysis, which may yield timeless lessons that transcend mere antiquarian interest. If the Germans were so successful, why did they ultimately fail? And, how did the French, initially operationally inept, manage to turn events around? It is useful to note that the Germans won every battle at the tactical level—but strategically and operationally they lost the campaign. This appears to be mainly from the uncertainties of warfare that crept into the psychology of the German leadership, resulting in hesitancy and missed opportunities. Ultimately, the threat of the gap between the German units, because of communications failures, was mostly in the minds of the German commanders. Ironically, this mental gap was more decisive to the campaign than was the literal gap between the units. John J. McGrath is an Army historian at the Combat Studies Institute, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is the author or editor for eleven Army historical publications and a contributor to several more. He holds a BA from Boston College and an MA from the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He is a PhD candidate at Kansas State University. His most recent work on the First Battle of the Marne is expected to be published in 2015. Notes 1. Army Doctrine Publication 6-0, Mission Command (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2012), 2. 2. Martin Sonnenberger, “Mission Command During the War of Movement in World War I—Initiative and Synchronization of the German Right Wing in August and Early September 1914,” (monograph, U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies, 2014), 41-43. 3. Mark Osborne Humphreys and John Maker, eds., Germany’s Western Front: Translations from the German Official History of the Great War. 1914: Part 1 The Battle of the Frontiers and Pursuit to the Marne (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013), Kindle loc. 2877. 4. Ibid.; Bradley John Meyer, “Operational Art and the German 42 Command System in World War I” (PhD diss., Ohio State University, 1988), 133-137. 5. Paul Evans, “Strategic Signal Communications—A Study of Signal Communications as Applied to Large Field Forces, Based on the Operations of the German Signal Corps During the March on Paris in 1914,” Signal Bulletin 82 ( January-February 1935), 24-58. 6. Ibid., 46-47. 7. Dennis E. Showalter, “The Retaming of Bellona: Prussia and the Institutionalization of the Napoleonic Legacy, 1815-1876,” Military Affairs 44 (April 1980): 57-63; Antulio J. Echevarria II, After Clausewitz: German Military Thinkers before the Great War (Lawrence, KS: Kansas University Press, 2002), 13-14. November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW