Are the Generals of World War I war criminals?

Are the Generals of World War I war criminals?

  • No, they did their duty. They couldn't do much else

    Votes: 26 68.4%
  • Yes, generals used young boys much to reckless

    Votes: 3 7.9%
  • Both

    Votes: 9 23.7%

  • Total voters
    38
Sep 2010
3,538
Somewhere in the former First French Empire
I've heard someone say it ones and I wondered what you people think of it. They reckless ways in which generals sometimes used thousends of young boys on the map to achieve a goal regardless of life shows little sympathy to human life. You could of course also that Generals had little choice and were in fact forced to use this strategy. What do you think? Did they do their duty or did they perform war crimes?
 

constantine

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
8,545
I've heard someone say it ones and I wondered what you people think of it. They reckless ways in which generals sometimes used thousends of young boys on the map to achieve a goal regardless of life shows little sympathy to human life. You could of course also that Generals had little choice and were in fact forced to use this strategy. What do you think? Did they do their duty or did they perform war crimes?
I would say that, yes, they used the lives of their soldiers recklessly; but bad strategy does not constitute a war crime. You could make an argument that it constitutes dereliction of duty or even treason, but not a war crime.
 
Sep 2010
3,538
Somewhere in the former First French Empire
Some numbers:

Marne:

Entente: 263,000, of whom 81,700 died

Centrals: 220,000

Verdun:

Entente: 542,000-400,000; of which 362,000 were killed in action.

Centrals: 434,000-355,000; of which 336,000 were killed in action.

Somme:

Entente: 623,907

Centrals: 465,000

Passchendaele

Entente: 200,000 – 448,614

Centrals: 217,000 – 410,000

Galicia

Entente: 225,000

Centrals: 324,000

Gorlice–Tarnów

Entente: 240,000

Centrals: 90,000

Brusilov

Entente: 1,000,000

Centrals: 1,325,000

Etc, lots more battles and massacres to mention...
 

bartieboy

Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
6,616
The Netherlands
A massive generalization, if a general ordered the massacre of a village then he is a war criminal. People are not war criminals because they are on the"wrong" side
 

funakison

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,381
Between a rock and a hard place
Using a failed stratergy time and again may rate as stupidity, lacking imagination or even stubborness, it does not rank as treason or as a war crime.
 

Salah

Forum Staff
Oct 2009
23,284
Maryland
This war - like all others - produced generals who went to almost criminal levels with their bloodlust, stupidity, pomposity, or carelessness. But that does not make them 'war criminals' by any formal definition of the term.
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,851
At present SD, USA
I've heard someone say it ones and I wondered what you people think of it. They reckless ways in which generals sometimes used thousends of young boys on the map to achieve a goal regardless of life shows little sympathy to human life. You could of course also that Generals had little choice and were in fact forced to use this strategy. What do you think? Did they do their duty or did they perform war crimes?
Generally, I would say no. Some German actions in Belgium, particularly in 1914 would be war crimes in the sense that they were deliberately killing civilians in retaliation for Germans killed, but in the course of the war, these incidents were relatively small. Most of the atrocity stories that came out about German actions in Belgium and occupied France during WWI were pure propaganda and nothing more...

The only area where you could make the legitimate claim for war crimes would be with regard to the Armenian Genocide committed by the Turks between 1915 and 1920. But, that is only with one nation within the Central Powers and even Germany at the time tried in vain to get the Turks to stop these atrocities. As such, you can not use the Armenian Genocide to make a statement that all generals, even on the Central Powers alone, were war criminals... let alone all of the generals from the war.

And as for the casualties taken... you might be able to make some criticism that WWI generals were callous with the lives of their men or were totally ignorant to the power of modern weapons, but that doesn't constitute a war crime.
 
Nov 2012
887
Virginia
Id have to agree with several posters-poor tactics used over and over is not a war crime but in some circumstances could be a well reasoned argument for relieving them of command.
Human wave assaults across no man's land against water cooled machine guns and artillery is close to being imbecilic where the leadership who ordered it is concerned.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
I voted no.

While World War I produced its share of generals who were imcompetent bumblers or callous butchers, I don't think it did so in greater proportion to any other major war.

The primary reason for the appalling casualty rates, particularly on the Western Front, is that the war occured in an era where military innovations that favored the defender had outpaced innovations that favored those on the offensive. There has always been a sort of back-and-forth between innovations that favor the attacker and those that favor the defender, and WW1 happened to occur in the latter.

Both sides struggled to achieve breakthoughs and got bugged down in a nasty war of attrition, not because of the incompetence of the general staffs, but rather because the generals didn't have the means to achieve the sort of breakthrough that would shift the Western Front back to a war of manuever.

That changed with the invention of the tank, even if it took a couple years to figure out how to use it effectively.
 
Last edited:
Apr 2013
329
Wisconsin
Well,technology had outrun tactics,and they really did'nt know how to employ their forces any better.Still,after the first few battles,you'd think they'd have changed.