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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Military/History Related Hobbies > Alternate Timelines

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Alternate Timelines The plausible "what if's" of military history.

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  #1  
Old 09 Sep 17, 23:03
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WW 1 Germany decides on a defensive posture in the West

What if Germany after stalling trying to invade France chose to take a close to complete defensive posture there? That is, they dig in, dig deep, and build a defense line in depth. No massive losses at Verdun. No real attempt to break the front.
They still develop weapons that will aid them in trench warfare, gas, flamethrowers, etc. Germany still comes up with silliness like the Paris Gun(s) too.

Instead, they immediately focus on defeating Russia. This is pretty much a foregone conclusion that Russia will collapse and seek an armistice at some point. The Germans, with Austrian help, try to make that happen ASAP.

If Italy still joins the conflict, they become target #2 to be taken out of the war. Again, its likely to occur.

In the West we will assume that the British and French are still determined to break the German line with repeated offensives of the sort they launched historically.

I think that if Russia and Italy fall earlier, and the Germans have greater amounts of manpower by the point where they've developed Strosstruppen as a tactic, and the US isn't in the war yet, the British and French are in a serious situation.
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  #2  
Old 10 Sep 17, 05:03
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With the exception of Verdun that is exactly what they did. However they got a nasty shock. Military orthodoxy of the time stated that the side on the defensive would have many times less casualties that the attackers but the experience of the Somme and 3rd Ypres proved this not to be the case. In the case of the Somme it depends on which source you use but they either didn't have as quite as many casualties as the British and French but came close or even more! With the Allies continuing to take an offensive stance Germany simply could not deplete the Western Front and send the troops elsewhere otherwise Haig would have got his breakthrough. As it was they were pinned in place and suffering a war of attrition

BTW flamethrowers and gas were originally developed as offensive weapons
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Old 10 Sep 17, 08:49
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That would also leave much of Norther France intact, which would no doubt increase the Allied resources. I would imagine that would have a big short term effect and negligible long term effect.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 12:19
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If you remove the Verdun offensive I think the effects for Germany in 1916 could have been very beneficial and AH would have benefitted as a result. Without the drain of Verdun, the Germans would have had the manpower/firepower in the East to quickly blunt the Brusilov offensive which cost the Austrian 1.5 million casualties. After the Brusilov offensive the AH army was never the same, so German ability to save their ally here is of huge importance.
Secondly, the Germans detected the Somme build up and von Bulow wanted a spoiling attack to disrupt British preparations. If actually executed that would have bought enough time to finish defensive preparations at the Somme.
The problem with not executing the Verdun offensive and sparing themselves that cost, they also leave the French Army unmolested and wanting to execute their own offensive.
I still believe the smarter choice was concentrating on Russia, destroying the Brusilov offensive, saving the AH Army and convincing Romania that war was not a good idea.
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  #5  
Old 11 Sep 17, 13:28
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If you remove the Verdun offensive I think the effects for Germany in 1916 could have been very beneficial and AH would have benefitted as a result. Without the drain of Verdun, the Germans would have had the manpower/firepower in the East to quickly blunt the Brusilov offensive which cost the Austrian 1.5 million casualties. After the Brusilov offensive the AH army was never the same, so German ability to save their ally here is of huge importance.
Secondly, the Germans detected the Somme build up and von Bulow wanted a spoiling attack to disrupt British preparations. If actually executed that would have bought enough time to finish defensive preparations at the Somme.
The problem with not executing the Verdun offensive and sparing themselves that cost, they also leave the French Army unmolested and wanting to execute their own offensive.
I still believe the smarter choice was concentrating on Russia, destroying the Brusilov offensive, saving the AH Army and convincing Romania that war was not a good idea.
Take a look at the German casualty figures for the Somme

Quote:
German casualties on the Somme vary, but between 500,000 and 600,000 soldiers were casualties or missing or captured. - Anthony Richards head of documents and sound at Imperial War Museums (IWM) and author of the IWM’s book The Somme: A Visual History
Then look at the demands by German industry for manpower for the war effort. Even without Verdun 1916 was a bad year for Germany (and without Verdun the French effort at the Somme could have been much greater). Germany simply did not have enough man power full stop. Hence the need in early 1917 to pull back to the Hindenburg Line which was shorter and could be defended with less men. Even if they could have spared men for Russia it probably would not have hastened matters as the distances and logistic problems on the Easatern Front were as big an issue as numbers - indeed a larger army there might have made things worse.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 13:43
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If Verdun were avoided and the Brusilov offensive was crushed early on with Russia subsequently seeking an armistice, the Germans would have lost far less manpower.
On the Somme, the British had less manpower to begin with in terms of population so their losses dug deeper into their reserve than German ones did.

But, the collapse of Russia brings a release of a million + troops for use in the West eventually, and also solves at least some of Germany's economic crisis. If Italy falls next, the AH can send troops west as well.

If a Hindenburg-like line is adopted earlier, then there'd be even greater savings in manpower and casualties.

There is the distinct possibility the Germans might do better in the West by 1917 than they did historically.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 15:10
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Originally Posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
If Verdun were avoided and the Brusilov offensive was crushed early on with Russia subsequently seeking an armistice, the Germans would have lost far less manpower.
On the Somme, the British had less manpower to begin with in terms of population so their losses dug deeper into their reserve than German ones did.

But, the collapse of Russia brings a release of a million + troops for use in the West eventually, and also solves at least some of Germany's economic crisis. If Italy falls next, the AH can send troops west as well.

If a Hindenburg-like line is adopted earlier, then there'd be even greater savings in manpower and casualties.

There is the distinct possibility the Germans might do better in the West by 1917 than they did historically.
IF as I said in my earlier post the addition of extra men to the Eastern Front might have made little difference
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Old 11 Sep 17, 15:30
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The Kaiser wanted to do just that, shifting men to the Russian front and concentrate there for a full offensive ... Moltke had a cow and that was the end of that.
The excuse was that Mobilization was already under way and any change would have caused total chaos... but after the way the General in charge of the rails said it could have been done, if anyone had told him about it!

In retrospect, it is easy to see that 3 more German Armies in the East could Germany have torn the Czar's armies apart, but at the time the very size of the Russian Army and the spaces involved made knocking it out of the war seem far more difficult than dealing with France first.
And in fact, what happened to France in 1870 and in Russia in WW2 also seem to verify this.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 15:49
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Take a look at the German casualty figures for the Somme

Then look at the demands by German industry for manpower for the war effort. Even without Verdun 1916 was a bad year for Germany (and without Verdun the French effort at the Somme could have been much greater). Germany simply did not have enough man power full stop. Hence the need in early 1917 to pull back to the Hindenburg Line which was shorter and could be defended with less men. Even if they could have spared men for Russia it probably would not have hastened matters as the distances and logistic problems on the Easatern Front were as big an issue as numbers - indeed a larger army there might have made things worse.
German casualties at the Somme are obviously very high, but that means little in terms of the number of heavy and super heavy guns deployed at Verdun and the subsequent expenditure of ammunition there. Had half of those guns gone East and the other half to prepare for the expected Entente offensive the results for Germany would have been superior than the OTL. The same can be said for the German air service. The French had plenty of 75mm to add to the Somme offensive, but against a multitude of German heavy artillery the advantage remains German in that trade off. A German emphasis in following up the Gorlice–Tarnow offensive would have pre-empted the Brusilov offensive and saved the AH Army IMHO. That also would have kept the Romanians out of the war and maintained pressure on the Italian front where the Austrians were succeeding against the Italians at Asiago near Vincenza.
The largest blow to the Central Powers war effort in 1916 came from the Russians and fell on the Austrians (and brought Romania in). TA's alternate proposed here mitigates that while leaving ample security in the West as well as plenty of opportunity to hurt the Russians even more.
I highly doubt that a combined British/French offensive in 1916 could consume more than Verdun and the Somme did historically.
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Old 11 Sep 17, 19:39
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Therefore the Schlieffen Plan was not put into effect, and British participation not triggered ?
(Whether this might have happened subsequently anyway is quite uncertain).
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Old 12 Sep 17, 09:41
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Therefore the Schlieffen Plan was not put into effect, and British participation not triggered ?
(Whether this might have happened subsequently anyway is quite uncertain).
I think that is included in the OP: "What if Germany after stalling trying to invade France chose to take a close to complete defensive posture there?"

Sounds like the wheel through Belgium, the battle of the Marne and the race to the sea all happened.
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Old 12 Sep 17, 09:45
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Germans capable of invading deep into Russia in 1914 and 1915 ? was logictiscs any easier in the East than in the west ?
What should be the short term objectives in the East ? Surely the germans would not go too deep in the russian heartland and risk a repeat of Napoleon's fiasco

What would be the french response in 1914 ? Like a repeat of the Battle of Frontiers ?

I suspect the British will enter with any excuse given their alliance with france and russia
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