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Old October 14th, 2016, 01:51 AM   #11

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I'm a little bit surprised that Jankowski doesn't say anything about the general Doumenc.
Actually he did the job at Verdun, he organised the supplying rout , the famous "voie sacrée", which permit to french to resist.
Without Doumenc, no resistance possible at Verdun.
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Old October 14th, 2016, 08:41 AM   #12

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Originally Posted by phil1904 View Post
I'm a little bit surprised that Jankowski doesn't say anything about the general Doumenc.
Actually he did the job at Verdun, he organised the supplying rout , the famous "voie sacrée", which permit to french to resist.
Without Doumenc, no resistance possible at Verdun.
He may be mentioned later. I've found that Jankowski has done a decent job with the history of the battle... but the way he's telling it is not in a list format... such as first this happened, then this, and then this. Which would probably the hallmark of the "old histories" that focus purely on the military conflict... He covers that information, but by going through various aspects of the battle and its consequences on the men who fought it, which would relate to the "new history" and how Jankowski tries to combine the two.

He has mentioned the voie sacree, with a story of a French priest living in the area christening it the sacred way.
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Old October 19th, 2016, 09:11 PM   #13

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Chapter three is used to balance with chapter two by looking at France and its view on Verdun. Jankowski opens this by comparing the two commanders, Erich von Falkenahayn and Joseph Joffre.

Click the image to open in full size. Click the image to open in full size.
Sigh... It would appear that the picture of Joffre that I'd found has gone down. To keep with the points I've made in this review, since it's too late to edit the Chapter Three post, I'll put up a new picture... Just in case there is anyone who doesn't know what Joffre looks like.

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Old October 25th, 2016, 02:03 PM   #14

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The review continues with CHAPTER FIVE:

Chapter five has the potential to be a truly confusing chapter for anyone who isn't already familiar with both the Battle of Verdun and particularly France's relation to the battle. It isn't so much in WHAT Jankowski argues, as there, what he says is accurate and is quite believable to those who are already familiar with the battle and the elements that go around it, both during and after World War I. The real issue with this chapter is HOW Jankowski presents his information...

Throughout the book, Jankowski has tended to go from the start of the battle to the end of it with regard to the individual chapter's subject matter. Such as the last chapter's focus on the offensives by either the French or the Germans in 1916. Chapter five begins to deal with the issue of prestige and how Verdun and its results were viewed by either side, yet Jankowski's coverage seems to float from 1916 to 1917 to 1940 to 1960 and then back to events in 1916. Within the chapter he is actually discussing the prestige that French commanders and particularly Philippe Petain gained as a result of the battle, and those who are familiar with the 1916 battle and Petain's post WWI career would be familiar with this. However, because Jankowski gets into this fairly early in the chapter, those who aren't familiar with it could get a bit lost as he jumps forward following Petain and then returns to 1916. In that sense, from an editorial perspective I would have put the points on "prestige" that came after the battle and even after the war toward the end of the chapter so that Chapter Five fits within the way the previous chapters have been layed out.

That said, what Jankowski argues on with the issue of prestige does make some sense, with the understanding of what prestige is and how it's often used...

In looking at the word: prestige

Quote:
prestige
noun, often attributive pres·tige \pre-ˈstēzh, -ˈstēj\

Simple Definition of prestige
: the respect and admiration that someone or something gets for being successful or important
Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of prestige
1 standing or estimation in the eyes of people : weight or credit in general opinion
2 commanding position in people's minds

Prestige | Prestige Definition by Merriam-Webster
In looking at prestige as looking at the standing of either battles or people, and usually people, we can get the sense how and why Verdun lasted as long as it did and the impact it had.

On the German side, it helped shape many of the figures that were directly involved with regard to how they viewed the battle. This relates to the conflict within the German army between Erich von Falkenhayn and Crown Prince Wilhelm.

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(Crown Prince Wilhelm, Commander of the German armies actively involved at Verdun and son of Wilhelm II)

Now, some sources have come off to make the Crown Prince as something of a "fop" and being militarily inept...

See:

Click the image to open in full size.

And at first, the German Crown Prince was very supportive and optimistic about the Battle of Verdun. The capture of Fort Douamont, what Jankowski call's Germany's only real "prestige victory" at Verdun, was enough to give him confidence int he offensive. However, Jankowski makes sure to point out that as the battle moved away from the capture of Douamount and German casualties began to rise, the Crown Prince's optimism rapidly faded. In fact by June 1916, the Crown Prince came to view that with French defenses stiffening a major Russian offensive in Galicia and the impending start of the Allied Somme Offensive, the best option for the German army on the Meuse was to end the offensive at Verdun and move over to the defensive. And in contrast to Falkenhayn who kept pushing that the offensive at Verdun continue, it would be clear that if anyone in the German Army was a "fop" regarding the battle, it WASN'T the Crown Prince.

These differences ultimately went into the post war arguments between those that supported Falkenhayn's offensive and those who supported the Crown Prince. Crown Prince Wilhelm even gives commentary on his positions leading up to the withdrawal from the offensive at Verdun. See: First World War.com - Primary Documents - Crown Prince Wilhelm on the End of the Battle of Verdun, September 1916

This would make it clear that there were major differences of opinion. In this particular case, I would tend to believe the Crown Prince over Falkenhayn, as while Wilhelm attracted attention as the Kaiser's son, he wasn't the man who essentially planned the Battle of Verdun. And Jankowski also points out in the chapter that Falkenhayn had already pushed an offensive beyond what was possible at Ypres in 1914. This killed Falkenhayn's prestige for the failure and the tit for tat between Falkenhayn and Crown Prince Wilhelm during and after the war hurt Wilhelm's prestige and Jankowski points out that the only German officer to really gain prestige of high level during the war was Hindenburg, who's only involvement at Verdun was to put an end to the German offensives there when Falkenhayn was removed as Chief of Staff.

For the French, while Petain did argue for the purpose of withdrawing from at least part of the line to conserve forces, Jankowski goes through extensive coverage of how their prestige seemed to rise simply by winning the battle. Nivelle's line, "Ils ne passeron pas" (they shall not pass) has gone around the world. Jankowski notes that it was used by the Spanish Republicans in a desperate fight against Italian tanks backing the Spanish Nationalists. It should also be noted that it has also found its way into popular culture through the Lord of the Rings. See:

That line, "they shall not pass" has helped create a very heroic image around the Battle of Verdun that has raised France's prestige with regard to the battle, mostly due to the fact that the French were the ultimate winners of the battle. Even though, Jankowski also mentions that the overall arguments about the prestige of the battle at the time often related to the exaggeration of the other's casualties and the real lack of knowledge that either side had on the other's casualties. In this, Jankowski would actually refute many of Mosier's claims about the Germans inflicting massive losses on the French for next to nothing in 1916.

The rest of the issue of prestige was with regard to France's commanders. Jankowski makes some commentary that in the end Joffre lost prestige, mostly by continuing to favor his offensive on the Somme over the defense of Verdun, despite giving orders that Verdun was to be held and that while Nivelle gained prestige for the victory, his rise was short lived as his offensive in 1917 ended in a bloody failure and killed what prestige he had gained at Verdun. The only one who had his prestige rise because of Verdun was Petain, who arguably did the most to prevent its fall in 1916. And as the only veteran of the battle remain in a command position until the end of the war, Petain gained an almost cult following based on the victory and his connection to it. This is where Jankowski notes that by 1940, as the Third Republic fell to Nazi Germany there was the perception that the victor of Verdun was needed to save what could be saved of France. Petain's prestige took a massive hit by collaborating with the Nazis after the war. Jankowski notes that in the 1946 commemoration of the Battle of Verdun, Free French General de Lattre de Tassigny made no mention of Petain and talked about Mangin instead and that later while de Gaulle did elude to Petain, he did not mention Petain by name. It would not be until the 1960s that Petain's image and prestige finally healed from the "pariah of Vichy."
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Old October 26th, 2016, 11:55 AM   #15

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Dear Sam, you're in the habit to send excellent post in this forum.
Be sure, i read them with great attention.
Congratulation, as i claimed it one year ago, you've got a real feeling for History.
Thank you
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Old November 1st, 2016, 07:44 PM   #16

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The review continues with CHAPTER SIX:

In this chapter, Jankowski is dealing with the issue of attrition and the lessons that the Battle of Verdun had on both France and Germany...

The common and simplistic theme of attrition comes down to killing more of the enemy than one loses. This is something that Mosier used frequently in his book and generally relied on that simplistic definition to make his case that Germany won every battle of World War I. As I noted in that review, however, is that in cases like World War I, attrition applies to what either side could afford to lose, not necessarily on whether or not they killed more than they lost, as Germany had found itself at war with France, Russia, Britain, and Belgium in 1914 and would add other countries to their list of opponents in World War I, namely the United States. In this, while the Germans did often kill more of their enemies than they killed Germans, the losses the Germans DID take was more than they could sustain. It is akin to a force of 10 (Force A) taking on a force of 100 (Force B), and in the battle Force A kills/wounds 30 men from Force B while only losing five of their own. Force A suffered fewer men killed or wounded, but that number was half their entire force and thus wouldn't be able to take a second engagement.

Like Mosier, Jankowski would seem to support the more simplistic definition of attrition. However, unlike Mosier, Jankowski doesn't ramble on about how Germany was suffering fewer casualties than the Allies and thus trying to make the claim that Germany won. Jankowski's argument is different and focuses more on the details that exist within the use of "attrition" as a justification and as a result and the details that brought the battle of attrition out and the ultimate lessons from it.

Jankowski repeats his point that attrition was often used in World War I to justify not making great advances, pointing to Joffre's line of, "I'm nibbling at them" after his offensives in the winter of 1914 and again in 1915 failed to drive the Germans out of France. He also makes the argument that Haig would make similar arguments regarding the Battle of the Somme and that Falkenhayn would argue after the war that his entire Verdun strategy was based on "bleeding France white." The argument for this that Jankowski makes here is that generals looking for a breakthrough and fail to make it will tend to turn to attrition as something that may justify the lack of territorial success. Especially if it is true that one side in a battle DOES achieve the success of killing more of the enemy than they lose.

However, this can lead into perplexing issues on how the attritional conflict develops and how the Battle of Verdun would relate to other battles in history, and in an ironic case, Jankowski makes the case that "attrition" saves lives and comes with an axiom from the French army manual issued in January 1916 in that, "one doesn't fight material with men." And this was a lesson the French had well learned through 1914 and 1915. They began the war in uniforms better suited to the nineteenth century, yet by Verdun, they had switched to a horizon blue uniform and they were the FIRST nation in WWI to adopt a steel helmet, and this was done to protect their men... Overcoming the enemy's material, however, was a different issue.

In this Jankowski looks through the development of both artillery and the use of air power as the means to break the stalemate of the trenches. He notes that before the war, France's artillery focus was on the 75mm field gun, which was the most advanced gun of its type in 1914, but France invested little into heavy weapons and thus when the trenches formalized, the French field gun lost its main uses unless it was in a defensive role as it lacked the range that the German heavier guns had. In contrast the Germans focused more on the development of their heavy howitzers, and while they might not be effective as field guns, once the trench systems were in place, they could pound their French counterparts with impunity. In this, France had to play catch up. Jankowski notes that the French tried this, but even by 1918 they had not caught up with the Germans with regard to heavy guns, though the difference had narrowed. In 1916, however, that difference was larger and the French needed something try and overcome the German artillery advantage.

This is where the development of air power comes in, as it was France's only option. Early on, the Germans had the air advantage as well, and the French needed to overcome this. Jankowski notes that they did with the formation of squadrons, Escadrilles, under the command of Commander Charles Tricornot de Rose to clear the skies...

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(Charles Tricornot de Rose, father of France's fighter forces)

And it was the clearing of the skies that allowed for the recapture of Fort Douamount in October 1916, as once the French had air superiority they were able to extend the reach of their own guns and attacks... Though it also needs to be noted that Jankowski also points out that toward the end of the year, the Germans had removed many of their guns to deal with actions on other fronts. And in that sense, while the French may not have produced more guns than the Germans or possessed air superiority throughout the battle, they ultimately benefited at Verdun in the sense that the Germans couldn't keep all their material there.

Much of the rest of the chapter focuses on the issue of whether or not "attrition" saved lives and the lessons drawn from it.

Jankowski notes that both sides suffered roughly 375,000 casualties at Verdun and that despite the attackers generally suffering more than the defenders, the Battle of Verdun was the opposite. France's casualties rose the most sharply when they were on the defensive early in the year and Germany's casualties began to rise more sharply when they went over to the defensive at the end of 1916. Now, Jankowski's numbers aren't exact, and there can be some differences within the range of casualties (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Verdun and particularly in the upper introduction and the casualties and losses on the side), but they do fall within the range posted. Jankowski also notes in looking at Verdun in comparison to even other battles on the Western Front that in the exchange of casualties, earlier in the war, the French were losing at least two casualties for every one that they inflicted. At Verdun, that exchange actually moved toward a 1:1 exchange rate. France did suffer heavier losses, but if that move in the exchange rate holds... that would say something about the weapons of the material battle, that have become a telling point for Jankowski's argument.

He carries it further with a comparison with earlier WWI battles and later WWI battles with regard to casualties per unit of infantry. In Champagne in 1915 with 13 batteries of artillery for each half mile of front, the French suffered 4,000 casualties per infantry division. At Verdun in 1916 with 17 batteries of artillery while on the defensive and on the Somme with 19 batteries of artillery on the offensive per half mile of front, casualties fell to 3,000 per infantry division. Even in Nivelle's failed Chamin des Dames offensive, with 25 batteries of artillery per half mile of front, the French suffered only around 2,600 casualties per infantry division, and by 1918 with the newest tanks being added to the artillery, the fighting at the Second Battle of the Marne the casualties per infantry division fell to 2,000. By that estimation, Jankowski's argument is pretty clear and reasonable in that the factors that we attribute to the attritional battles of WWI saved lives in relying on material based firepower.

Jankowski also compares Verdun's French casualties to other historical battles and puts the casualties as a percentage of those involved. He puts it that 2.4 million French troops served at Verdun through 1916, and with 378,000 casualties, that would put France's casualties at Verdun at 15% of the forces involved. By contrast the French suffered perhaps 50% casualties at Blenheim, 60% at Waterloo, 34% at Borodino, and 29% at Worth, and at Austerlitz the French suffered 15%. In terms of percentages, the French actually took casualties at a lower rate at Verdun than they took in other battles. The difference is in the length of the battle and the number of men involved. The largest of the listed battles in terms of the size of the French army was Borodino with nearly 200,000 French troops involved and all of these earlier battles could be timed in hours. Verdun involved far more men and lasted for over 300 DAYS.

With this, I've found Jankowski's case to be believable and well reasoned out in that thought of the battle being the sort that would wear down the French that would make them end the war. The French may have taken heavy losses in a battle that was on a scale that previous battles could not compare with, but they were not suffering casualties at a rate that Germany could afford. This would reinforce the point that "bleeding France white" was a post war justification for the failed tactical offensive that Falkenhayn launched...

Yet, Jankowski also notes that the specter of attrition at Verdun in the press and in the memory lived on. He notes that Joffre and the French did exaggerate German casualties during the war and memories of the attack ultimately did carry over into the years after WWI. This served to reinforce the image of Verdun as one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War as the "capital of death" with one 1984 newscast giving an impression that one side at Verdun had suffered 100% casualties and that many arguments, Jankowski notes as closer to describing an hour at Waterloo than a month at Verdun...

But this specter of death and destruction at Verdun lead to later military lessons being learned...

The French took from Verdun and World War I was that offensives required a massive amount of material to win and that this would take time to put together. As such, to raise the strength, a defensive strategy backed by forts to buy time to raise the material superiority for the needed offensive in what the French identified as: guerre longue, bataille conduite (long war, methodical battle) and was the inverse of the ideas of 1914. In this, the French thinking didn't progress from Verdun to the Maginot Line, as the sort of material superiority needed in WWI applied to more than just Verdun. Their thinking was already defensive in nature and THAT spurred the recollections of French leaders on the defense of Verdun in 1916, not the inverse.

By contrast the Germans sought to restore movement to the battlefield and achieve rapid decisive victories. Heinz Guderian, a veteran of the Battle of Verdun, sought to apply armored tactics to include flanking attacks and rapid movement.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Heinz Guderian, pictured in 1941, A junior to middle range officer during WW1)

And in this, Guderian in a way fit the idea of the material battle with regard his use of tanks and thus having a weapon capable of methodically wearing down an enemy, yet Jankowski notes that the Germans largely drew the conclusion from the Battle of Verdun. They took Falkenhayn at his word after the war that he had intended attrition all along and judged it to be misguided, which is why the Blitzkrieg tactics that are the hallmark of World War II tend to involve many of the wide sweeping flanking movements that Schlieffen had argued for and in a way was supported arguments within the German army and among Nazi Party followers that men triumphed over material.

Yet in the course of World War II... the specter of Verdun and what the Germans had denied in what they had learned from Verdun... was that eventually World War II began to mirror the guerre longue in WWI than it did the blitzkrieg tactics that were supposed to avoid that sort of fighting. In September 1942 diplomat Ulrich von Hassell noted in his diary: "Stalingrad is beginning to play a role like that of Verdun." Which proved to be something the Germans didn't want...

But based on the lessons the Germans drew from the attritional trap that was the Battle of Verdun, that you can fight material with men, it was ultimately a trap that the Germans could escape as the 1916 French axiom "one does not fight material with men" was right. And Jankowski argues that point well.
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Old November 2nd, 2016, 11:28 AM   #17

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Sight... one day I'll notice grammatical mistakes in time to edit them...

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Originally Posted by Sam-Nary View Post
And in this, Guderian in a way fit the idea of the material battle with regard his use of tanks and thus having a weapon capable of methodically wearing down an enemy, yet Jankowski notes that the Germans largely drew the conclusion from the Battle of Verdun.
EDIT: And in this, Guderian in a way fit the idea of the material battle with regard to his use of tanks and thus having a weapon capable of methodically wearing down an enemy, yet Jankowski notes that the Germans largely drew A DIFFERENT conclusion from the Battle of Verdun.

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Originally Posted by Sam-Nary View Post
But based on the lessons the Germans drew from the attritional trap that was the Battle of Verdun, that you can fight material with men, it was ultimately a trap that the Germans could escape as the 1916 French axiom "one does not fight material with men" was right.
EDIT: But based on the lessons the Germans drew from the attritional trap that was the Battle of Verdun, that you can fight material with men, it was ultimately a trap that the Germans could NOT escape as the 1916 French axiom "one does not fight material with men" was right.
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Old November 13th, 2016, 07:39 PM   #18

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The review continues with CHAPTER SEVEN:

Throughout the book, Jankowski has tried to balance what he's termed the "old histories" with the "new histories" in the movement of men and material with the human impact that the Battle of Verdun had on human beings and their society. Many of the previous chapters seemed to lean a bit more toward what Jankowski has termed the "old histories" in discussing the movement of troops and and the number of shells fired and from which guns, as well as the casualties taken in the battle. Chapter seven, however, goes in the opposite direction where it seems to talk more on the impact of the battle on the men who fought it...

He begins with the brief commentary on the nature of the scale of the fighting in World War I and on the Western Front leading to ever larger and larger battles. This increasing scope and scale of the battles of WWI, of which Verdun would obviously be no exception, that the observation of the battle as it unfolds in the Napoleonic sense was impossible. The fighting was simply too big for men like Falkenhayn and Joffre to actively come and watch their armies fight the battle. Both had to rely on updates and communications from the front and to draw the lines on a map, which generally put both France and Germany's main commanders far from the actual fighting of the battle. This is logical and would theoretically allow both Joffre and Falkenhayn the ability to command their armies, but Jankowski also makes the point that it ultimately left effect of the battle to be felt by the rank and file where the highest ranking officer that was commonly found, was a captain.

And this point in general is true the general officers didn't endure all the same horrors that their men endured, but it should be noted that general officers did die in action in World War I. The sources I've found point only to British generals, but they do point to the fact that general officers did die in the war. See: How many generals died in world war 1

But from there, the chapter focuses on the effect the battle on on the men fighting it, including the mutual shelling of each side and the fear it generated and the commentary that both sides had as they endured the fighting and watched it happen. And in this, the story follows what we would tend think of when it comes to the First World War. French soldiers coming up the Voie Sacree could hear the sound of the guns and machine guns as the two armies, French and German, battled and that the fear those sounds generated.

Yet the battle went on and both would end up living with the dead as the exchange of shell fire uprooted previously buried bodies that made things difficult to stomach for those that were there. This lead to men describing the fighting at Verdun as akin to Dante's vision of hell in the "Inferno" with death and destruction surrounding them, and some of it going back to before 1914 with French President Poincare's old home on the Meuse being among the places that had been leveled in 1914.

Jankowski notes that after 1916, the thoughts on the battle and its horrors soon came toward posterity for France as a sort of stand of the bravery and endurance of its soldiers, with the men who fought ad Verdun enduring worse than any soldier ever did before them. Jankowski also covers the effect the Battle of Verdun had on Germany. Unlike the French, Verdun didn't attain the sort of mythical status for them. It didn't equal the tragedy of the men who died Langemarck or the triumph at Tannanberg, yet memories of Verdun did live on and German soldiers' hearts and minds. One at Stalingrad commented that the battle there was a repeat of the Battle of Verdun but with new weapons.

Jankowski's coverage in the chapter is interesting, though it will raise a counter point to what was said in the previous chapter, that the weapons that made Verdun the battle that it was saved lives. Of course, this is understandable as the average captain probably wasn't aware on the full scope of the casualties. He was simply in the trenches with the dead and under fire and in a proverbial nightmare.
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Old November 23rd, 2016, 04:50 PM   #19

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The review continues with CHAPTER EIGHT:

In continuing with the various elements that played their roles in the Battle of Verdun, Jankowski moves on to the issue of morale and how the men kept in action and what their thoughts were. It's something that does come up with regard to World War I, particularly with regard to the French. As many have at least heard of the 1917 mutiny. See: Rebellion in the Trenches: The French Army Mutiny of 1917 for reference on the 1917 mutiny...

That mutiny would ultimately demonstrate on how important morale is to an army and how armies can keep their men in action. And on the individual level, in chapter eight, Jankowski goes into fairly decent depth on the successes and failures for both the French and the Germans at Verdun in 1916. Jankowski makes the point that in 1916 of the official studies on morale issues hadn't been made yet and thus weren't available to the commanders in the First World War, but that many of these commanders still knew many of the quotes by previous commanders on the means to providing for the morale of their men and thus often following those historical pieces of advice...

These subjects included food and comfort, leave, letters, and the ability of the generals to relate to the men.

And Jankowski makes the point that both armies did try to feed their troops, but makes the point that when the field kitchens either ran out due to the fighting or were destroyed by the fighting, morale suffered. And even if there was food in supply, if the weather was poor, the food could be spoiled by it... or the weather could spoil whatever good mood the food might have provided. Though he includes the point that food made things more bearable.

Jankowski also touches on letters in various spots throughout the chapter, with the idea that both armies did allow for the men to receive letters as a means to hear from home and keep in touch with loved ones. He makes the case that this was something that "helped" but he also refers to a soldier-historian, Louis Madelin who looked over letters to and from German soldiers killed at Verdun that indicated that there was almost competing misery between the men at the front and the family left behind. The German soldiers voicing their miseries to their families resulting from conditions at the front while the family writes back with miseries likely created by the British blockade of Germany. Jankowski also makes the case that letters also lead to some sense of nostalgia by the soldiers, as letters from home could remind them of happier pre-war times, and he makes not that some letters even did carry that.

Jankowski makes mention of leave, but he doesn't actually expressly discuss the leave arrangements that individual soldiers in any real depth and at times it's actually confusing as to which army's arrangements and when it does become apparent that he's referring to the French army there is no comparative description on the leave arrangements for the German army.

His coverage on the German army with regard to "leave" seems to start more with the pre-battle optimism and the let down that came if and when the battle failed. Jankowski makes mention that the Germans in February had some initial optimistic morale that they would be part of a great offensive to win the war, regardless of whether or not that was Falkenhayn's actual intention, but that it soon began to waver as the Battle of Verdun turned into the battle of attrition with little gain in the offensives being made. Jankowski even makes mention of Bavarian units coming to Verdun from Serbia expected to win quick and antagonized fellow Bavarian units that had already been on the Western Front, only to have their own morale sapped when they came under shell fire.

Toward the end of the section on leave arrangements, which had talked more on loss of morale when the offensive failed and things became more static fighting, Jankowski does make mention that a Bavarian division came back from two weeks rest with some of their health restored. This would give some indication that the Germans did give their troops leave, but Jankowski still does not give any direct mention as to their policies regarding leave to compare with France's policies, which were earlier noted to be complicated and often cancelled by the high command. One would assume that the Germans gave their men two weeks for leave from time to time, but the lack of any statement of Germany's policy that is unclear. The closest to that that Jankowski makes is the issue of "troop rotation" and moving troops in and out of the battle, which the French did and Germany did not. It would have been nice if Jankowski could have done more with this to give a real comparison between French and German leave arrangements up to 1916, or to at least make his points clear.

The rest of the chapter focuses on the various problems born out of low morale that you typically see from individual soldiers and issues with the high command from the rank and file. The end point that is the most important is that BOTH the Germans and the French had to deal with these issues and problems. Both armies had to confront issues related to drunkenness to insubordination and that both armies had the issue where the rank and file did NOT hold high regard for the high command. This is important, because so much of what we tend to hear on the German Army... in BOTH World Wars... that they didn't have these sorts of issues and that their command was respected. It's something that I've tended to see as something of the raising of myths around the German army being the best army and lead by masters of warfare and only fell because they lacked the men or bullets to hold out. The fact that Jankowski points to the fact that BOTH armies had those problems and issues would help tear down those myths...

With the generals and high command, Jankowski makes the point clear that many lower officers and soldiers often felt that the high command ignored them or failed them. For the French it included commentary that was highly critical of Joffre, which at times by 1916 came to outright mocking the French commander in chief and his "nibbling at them." Much of this may relate to Joffre's view of holding onto the view of l'offensive a outrance or all out offensive, which in many ways wasn't something that would work in 1916 by the sorts of schools that Joffre had learned in well before the war. It also included criticizing generals like Charles Mangin as being overly political with little care for their men.

Click the image to open in full size.
(General Charles Mangin... Lead the failed attempt to retake Fort Douamont in May and the successful attempt in October 1916)

And the Germans were not immune to this either. At times the German high command let the German rank and file down. Men complained that there hadn't been enough reconnaissance, that the supplies given to Germany's elite formations weren't available to other formations, that their maps were unreliable, and that training in siege tactics were not standardized or used for those ultimately committed to the siege battles around Verdun. Falkenhayn even took criticism that he couldn't keep Romania out of the war, which was another issue that haunted him in 1916 given his role at the top of the German high command and ultimately the leading man of the Central Powers.

And Jankowski notes that Falkenhayn was not alone in taking criticism. Both Crown Prince Wilhelm and his Chief of Staff Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf to criticism over the attacks on only one bank of the Meuse and then clinging on to the offensive at Verdun after the point where the battle had clearly failed. Though, Jankowski makes the mention that of the two, Knobelsdorf seemed to be the seen as the true instigator of the problems...

Click the image to open in full size.
(General Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf, Chief of Staff German 5th Army at Verdun 1916)

About the only officer from the high command who seemed to make it through the Battle of Verdun with the respect of the rank and file was Petain, when men seeming to praise him for understanding what the war was like for the rank and file.

With all of this and the fact that morale for both sides took hits with regard to conditions, the success or failure of offensives, or thoughts of home, one would think that desertion would be a major problem. As men simply left the army to get away from its hardships, yet Jankowski notes that this was easier in quiet sectors and not in active ones, as Verdun was in 1916. Yet, even there, with all of the issues with morale... desertion wasn't the problem one might think it was. One report would put the desertion rate from the German army at 0.5% in 1916 and another suggests that the Germans only had 100,000 desertions for the entire war, which would be much when compared to the 13 million who served. The reports and studies didn't have exact numbers to compare for the French army, which, like the issue with leave arrangements for the Germans, would have been nice to have, but they give the idea that despite all the things that could wear down a man's morale... the men were not broken by it. At least not in 1916.
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Old November 26th, 2016, 02:57 PM   #20

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The review continues with CHAPTER NINE:

Chapter nine continues with chapter eight's discussion on the issues of morale that went around the armies that fought at Verdun. While chapter eight deals with issues of morale for individual soldiers, chapter nine moves on to the larger units. This carries a continuation of the threat of mutiny that ravaged the French in 1917, as mentioned in the chapter 8 review, and in Germany in 1918... or at least the beginning of what would become the German morale struggles in late 1917...

See:Mutiny breaks out on German battleship - Aug 02, 1917 - HISTORY.com
German sailors begin to mutiny - Oct 28, 1918 - HISTORY.com
The History Place - World War I Timeline - 1918 - A Fateful Ending (With this one, look to the number of prisoners the Allies begin taking in late 1918 on the Western Front for what is ultimately the illustration of Jankowski's point in the chapter)

Jankowski starts the chapter with an outline of the mutinies of 1917 for the French and the collapse of the German army in 1918. He makes no mention of the German naval mutinies, but it should be noted that the sailors in the German navy, while their morale as units may have struggled as the war went on, their specific struggles likely differed from the soldiers of the armies fighting in the trenches and thus wouldn't be relevant to the Battle Verdun and thus why Jankowski didn't mention them. However, still sets up the chapter with the mention of the morale issues that the French army had in 1917 and the German army had in 1918. And this is critically important for two reasons...

First Reason: Balancing out the issues between the French and German armies. A fair number of sources dealing on the morale issues of WWI tend to focus on the French during the war and use the 1917 mutiny as a means to make the case that the French were incapable of fighting the war and were utterly dependent on its allies in order to survive in the war... meanwhile, the Germans are often pictured as disciplined and determined. Morale issues come up for the Germans at the end of the war, but they tend to carry a caveat that this was after fighting everyone for a long time. In the end, this tends to create the image that the French had bad morale and the Germans had good morale. In his book on Verdun, Mosier even made sure to include as many quotes as he could to indicate that the French had low morale throughout the entire war, though he never made the same effort to see if the Germans had any trouble. And other books tend to make similar arguments... Anthony Livesey in Great Battles of World War I says directly regarding the end of Verdun...

Quote:
Morever, the French Army's spirit was broken, its men on the verge of mutiny. Germany, too, had lost the best of her young manhood. It was a high price to pay for anything; it was an intolerable price to pay for nothing.

- Anthony Livesey Great Battles of World War I page 77
Now, Livesey does mention the French and the Germans, but with the French he talks about their loss in morale and being on the edge of mutiny, while with the Germans... the lines seem to talk about the loss of men and not the loss of morale. Now, granted Livesey's book is probably more of an introduction to World War I than anything else, but the way those lines read, one would get the sense that German morale didn't suffer at Verdun whereas French morale did...

And that isn't realistic, as the sort of conflict that WWI was was bound to affect men on both sides in the same ways. And Jankowski's reference to the Germans in 1918 (and continuing through the chapter) provide that sense of balance to show that the Germans DID have issues with unit morale to the same degree as the French.

Second Reason: The other reason is to allow Jankowski to make the argument that the origins of the 1917 French mutiny or the collapse of the German army in 1918 didn't come with the failure of Nivelle's Offensive in 1917 or the failure of the Spring Offensive in 1918. Now, Jankowski's focus remains on the 1916 Battle of Verdun and thus the incidents and points that he makes regarding unit morale all relate to the 1916, but one could probably assume that many of the "warning signs" mentioned could probably go all the way back to when the stalemated fighting on the Western Front began.

Many of the reasons that Jankowski lists for why units "mutinied" during the fighting at Verdun in 1916 were the same as for why individual men had their morale suffer during the battle. A perception of a lack of safety in an attack, a lack of rest in that a unit had been in the line for too long, the perception that attacks weren't getting anywhere, and at times men reaching the breaking point and simply not being able to go further.

The issues of mutiny and morale were things that the officers on both sides feared and Jankowski goes through some coverage on their fears and reactions to various incidents that occurred on both sides. One included a small German unit that boorishly refused to advance and rejected doing so even after being issued their weapons and being urged forward. The incident involved mocking and laughing at the officers and NCOs that tried to lead them forward. The incident was instigated by a corporal, Georg Mandl, who had fought well since 1914, but by June 1916, he'd had enough. He was lead away by German pioneers and spent the remainder of the war in a prison cell... but he did get what he wanted in that he didn't have to fight. A more violent outburst occurred in May as a French battalion prepared to leave its rest camp for Verdun. As they moved, men from various companies banded together "to cause trouble," leading to an incident in which shots were fired. A ringleader, who would be executed for his involvement in the incident, eventually made the statement that "I've suffered too much, better death from twelve of our bullets than to start these torments all over. I'm sick of it all."

Another tale that Jankowski relates to even makes the case that mutinous actions at Verdun in 1916 didn't necessarily end because of external pressure from units that were "loyal." It relates to various French troops leaving the lines at a depot at Haudainville, and wanting rest after having been in the lines in a different sector. This "mutiny" ultimately ended when the men ultimately wandered back into the trenches of their own accord. Some may have gone for patriotic or duty bound reasons, but Jankowski speculates that many of the men who went back did so to avoid being ostracized.

All of this serves as a precursor to the 1917 mutinies. Things as a whole may not have progressed to the point where these sorts of things on the French side wouldn't go beyond small scale actions, but the point that they existed would indicate that things were pushing in that direction, and the size and scale of the fighting at Verdun would surely go a long way toward that... especially as the reforms that would be used to end the 1917 mutiny were not yet in place during the Battle of Verdun. It speaks to the endurance of the men in WWI, and Jankowski does make reference to historians making the case for it after war... but one could also make the case that these actions in 1916 at Verdun should have been taken as a warning in the French army, and the necessary reforms made to improve the quality of life for the soldiers and to properly rest the units between battles.

The biggest issues that both sides faced, according to Jankowski, related more to mass surrender. Whole French companies surrendered at the beginning of the battle as they were attacked and caught in the beginning of the German onslaught, though on the French side, they did recover and things did get better and stabilized for the French. As the tide of the Battle of Verdun turned against the Germans, however, the optimism that was had early on began to fade away, and as the French began to retake positions, the German spirit began to break. Six thousand Germans surrendered when Douamount and Vaux were recaptured and another three thousand surrendered when the French retook Bezonvaux in November 1916. By the end of the year, Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff were struggling to try and make sure that German morale was restored.

Click the image to open in full size. Click the image to open in full size.
(Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff, the generals who replaced Falkenhayn in the fall of 1916)

Though, Jankowski ultimately makes a closing point that despite all the fears that were had by the officers and high command over mutinies or the loss of morale leading to mass surrenders when things ultimately failed, which should have been taken as serious warnings of things to come, was that morale at the Battle of Verdun was never high enough to win it or low enough to lose it on either side. It remained at a point to carry on and left the warnings for the future...
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