AUGUST 10 1914 – THE BATTLE OF MULHOUSE, AND GERMAN WARSHIPS

Several days earlier, the French had begun an attack in the Alsace region on Germany, intent on re-capturing territory they had lost during the Franco-Prussian War. Though they succeeded in pushing a number of miles into Germany, reserves soon arrived to assist in a German counterattack. August 10 saw the Germans recover about all of their lost territory, and even lost fewer men in doing so.

German_counter-attack,_Mulhouse,_9_August_1914[1]

Indeed, this disproportion in victories and deaths seemed to be the case up and down the Western front: the Germans were scoring victory after victory, and losing fewer men. Why?

“In the face of repeated bad results, generals throughout the French army threw their infantry against the Germans whatever the circumstances and kept doing so no matter how grisly the results. . . . They were to win at the point of their bayonets, not by firing steel-clad packets of high explosives into the sky.

‘The Germans, by contrast, quickly became adroit, upon making contact with the enemy, at digging in, waiting to be attacked, and mowing down the attackers with rifle fire, machine guns capable of firing up to six hundred heavy-caliber rounds per minute, and above all artillery. When the attackers fell back, the Germans would continue punishing them with their field artillery, firing shrapnel and high explosives. Then they would come out of their holes and keep the fleeing enemy on the move.

“From the start [the Germans] were even better than the British at creating defenses for themselves with the trenching tools every man carried plus picks and shovels brought forward by combat engineers. The difference in the tactics of the two sides explains why, despite the lives they squandered . . . , the Germans had significantly lower casualties on the Western Front in 1914 than the French and British.”

~G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914-1918 (New York: Delacorte Press, 2006), 141.

August 10 also saw the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau arrive at the Dardanelles and Constantinople. Though they retained their German crews and continued to take German orders, the ships were technically a gift to the Turks, and even renamed with Turkish names. The gesture was meant as a “thank you” to the Turks for closing the Dardanelles (and therefore cutting off the Russian trade routes through the area), as well as to cement the secret alliance between Germany and Turkey.

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