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Sunday, May 29, 2016
100 Years Since Verdun Celebrated
In a show of support, Angie and Francis make nice and say some generic pro-EU things. So that's nice. They probably glossed over a few things though.
For the uninitiated here is a quick rundown on the war:
In reality, Verdun was a meat grinder much in the way that the Somme and the Battle(s) of Ypres became. Much for the same reason too. The Germans still were riding high on the exploits of Fredrick the Great and thought their military might would be unmatched. Frederick the Great was instrumental in developing how Germans would look at maneuver warfare, but they were hanging on to 130 year old laurels. To be sure, the German Empire, (just 45 yeas young at this point), was still angry over the Wars of Religion and the 30 Years War which had killed 1 out of 3 Germans and left them out of major European politics for a couple of hundred years. Hubris was coupled with an aged and doddering higher command which was in no particular hurry to change with the times. Years later, the Germans would have to relearn the lessons of Pyrrhic stubbornness to the point of of annihilation on the Eastern front, (Kursk and Stalingrad come to mind). Not to be outdone, Americans took their turn at the meat grinder in the Hurtgen Forrest from 1944 to 1945.
I have traveled to Verdun and walked inside Fort Vaux and the memorial at Douaumont. Both are well worth the trip to see. Time has washed over much of the fortifications but you can still see parts of the trenchworks around the area. The memorial, with its thousands upon thousands of crosses is a sight to behold.
It is no mistake that the German word for battle, "Schlacht", also means to butcher.
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Nicely done. Thanks for the elucidating summary. Until today, I could have SWORN that I had never been in a bar fight.
The last two paragraphs of the graphic can stand alone as, “How WW2 Got Started”.
The scenario would have been more properly, Serbia ordered drinks for the room and ordered it charged to the Austrians. The Russians thought they'd be able to do the same while the French and British wanted dinner free too.
My dad was part of the first combat action of the 104th Inf at Breda. He was captured the nite of Oct 26, 1944. After his recon platoon (daddy was platoon leader) returned information of a strong German position, the Co. Commander sent the unit right into it (no strategery here). Daddy and his entire platoon was knocked unconscious by US artillery fire and he woke up with a German boot on his neck. He was eventually taken by train to Oflag 64 in Szubin Poland (650miles). As the Russians advanced on Szubin, 7 columns were marched out of Szubin headed for various other POW camps in Germany. Pattons son-in-law was in one column. My dad was in another, Jan 1945, snow storms, 230 miles force march to Stalag IIIA near Lukenwald. Built for 12K men, it now contained over 50K prisoners, little food. The Russians "liberated " Stalag IIIA in April 1945. As more of the Russian army passed thru, they took what little food there was. Daddy also was told that the prisoners would be taken to Odessa. Daddy was 30yrs old, knew being taken to Russsia was NOT GOOD. He and French officer escaped under a fence, hiding in the daytime, and traveling west at nite, finally were repatriated to American lines near Halle.
"Pyrrhic stubbornness"- having come from a German-American family i can most assuredly say that's an understatement. Especially the Prussian side of my family. The Saxons were a little easier going..
The tragedy is that the clever little "bar" story is far to close to the truth. drunken fools turning an assassination of a minor noble into a world wide conflagration, the ending of which lead directly to WWII and it's horrors.
American intervention in favor of the allied power's the subsequent crushing of the axis powers and the extraction of crippling reparations ( later exacerbated by the depression)fueled Hitlers agenda. With out that intervention the allies and axis powers who had been stalemated for some time would have signed an armistice and every one would have gone home. Perhaps even the Russian revolution might have never happened, or had a different outcome. Interventionist is a gift that continues to give, the outcome of which we can never know for any certainty, and for which our military will pay the bloody price. If we send out people to war we need to be 1000% sure it isn't for some one else's agenda, that it's not for lining the pockets of the weapons company's and that we bloody well take care of our vets. We need to mind our own business, be friends to as many as possible, enemy's to as few as possible, and by God don't go out looking for excuses to make war.
I have to agree that the sacrifice of valiant lives for the petty interests of a vainglorious leadership is sickening. It sickened Europe, the cancerous excess of pacifism which denied that there was ever a legitimate reason for war grew out of the blood-soaked fields of WWI...paving the road to the next global conflict, and the next, and the next.
Rather than attempt the impossible task of always having ideal leaders, I think there is great wisdom in the Constitutional approach of relying primarily on a military that is extremely difficult to use for anything but defense. The Constitution does not prohibit the use of the Militia outside the borders of the U.S. if they volunteer, and also provides options for the use of other irregular forces.
Americans easily fall into a trap of thinking that the legitimacy of a military action can be simply assessed by assuming that the government has claim on indefinite authority. Whoever promises to oppress the most people is the most legitimate. But the founding principles of America were quite different.
The WaPo version of how WWI happened.
The John Ross (Unintended Consequences Prologue) version:
In the late 19th and very early 20th centuries, European leaders formed two major alliances. Germany, Austria, and Italy comprised one coalition, and Britain, France, and Russia the other. Belgium remained neutral per an 1839 treaty signed by all of these nations except Italy. The smaller European countries became indirectly involved in the two aforementioned alliances. One such example was Serbia, a country Russia had pledged to aid in the event of war between Serbia and Austria. Despite Russia's presence, Austria annexed a large part of Serbia, a province called Bosnia, in 1908.
Few people remain emotionally indifferent when their culture and country are taken over by an aggressor, and the Bosnian Serbs were no exception. Many Bosnians despised the government that had chilled their independence. In spite of this obvious fact, the Austrian leaders sent an archduke to the capital of Bosnia to survey the people Austria now ruled. This archduke was resplendent in full military ceremonial dress, festooned with medals and other military decorations, and accompanied by his elegantly-dressed wife. An objective observer might at this point have said, "Stripping motivated people of their dignity and rubbing their noses in it is a very bad idea."
Archduke Ferdinand and his wife arrived in Sarajevo in an open vehicle, and the only protection either of them had was their chauffeur. This man was expected to drive the car and at the same time protect the Archduke and his wife with only a six-shot revolver he carried in an enclosed holster, and no spare ammunition. Our theoretical observer might here have said, "This is a recipe for disaster."
Almost as soon as the Archduke and his wife arrived in Sarajevo, a Serbian National tossed a bomb under their car. Its fuse was defective and the bomb did not explode. Here, our observer might have advised, "A miracle happened. Go home. Now. Immediately."
Despite this obvious wake-up call, the Royal Couple shrugged off the assassination attempt and continued their tour of the Bosnian capital. Later that same day, a second Serbian National shot them with his .32, killing them both. The Austrian leaders blamed the Serbian government for the assassination and demanded a virtual protectorate over Serbia, issuing Serbia a list of demands. Serbia acceded to all but one of Austria's stipulations. Here, our observer might have said to Austria's leaders, "Russia has pledged to aid Serbia in any war with you, and Russia has both powerful allies and powerful adversaries. Serbia has agreed to almost everything you demanded. Settle, and avoid a world war." Instead, Austria shelled Serbia's capital with artillery fire.
Our observer might here have told Russia's leaders, "Serbia is not worth starting a world war over," but Russia honored its commitment to Serbia and mobilized its army, sending troops to the Russian-Austrian border. Since this left Russia vulnerable to attack from Austria's ally Germany, the Russian Army mobilized against Germany as well.
This forced the German Army to mobilize. Since France was allied with Russia, the Germans feared an attack by France in the west while German troops went east. So Germany decided to invade France immediately, VIA Belgium. Here, our observer might have said, "Saying this is your 'destiny' is not going to be good enough, Germany. When you invade a neutral country and rape their women and slaughter their livestock and bum their houses, Britain is not going to just look the other way."
When the Germans invaded Belgium, Britain honored its commitment to defend Belgian neutrality, and declared war on Germany. Every major country in Europe was now at war.
You want some Verdun?
Here's some Verdun for you snapperhead!
Outrage Over Verdun ‘Art Performance’ Desecration
the Ross synopsis is excellent. there's a new book out Docherty and McGregor,
Hidden History of WWI, approx title, with some excerpts on a blog.
the cartoon, as with many books on the hostilities doesn't spend enough
time on the later years. ...
The D&M book should be supplemented by Sigrid Schultz's
Germany Will Try It Again, 1944.
Sebastian Haffner, in his Ailing Empire (English title)
remarks that Germany could not have lasted as long as it did
except for the "relentlessly wrong-headed strategy" of
the Entente/Allies. that's all he wrote on the subject
at least there,.
two important terms: Goeben, Consett.
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