The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World

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9780812978292: The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World

For the first time in a generation, here is a bold new account of the Battle of the Marne, a cataclysmic encounter that prevented a quick German victory in World War I and changed the course of two wars and the world. With exclusive information based on newly unearthed documents, Holger H. Herwig re-creates the dramatic battle and reinterprets Germany’s aggressive “Schlieffen Plan” as a carefully crafted design to avoid a protracted war against superior coalitions. He paints a fresh portrait of the run-up to the Marne and puts in dazzling relief the Battle of the Marne itself: the French resolve to win, and the crucial lack of coordination between Germany’s First and Second Armies. Herwig also provides stunning cameos of all the important players, from Germany’s Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke to his rival, France’s Joseph Joffre. Revelatory and riveting, this is the source on this seminal event.

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About the Author:

Holger H. Herwig holds a dual position at the University of Calgary as professor of history and as Canada Research Chair in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. He has published more than a dozen books, including the prize-winning The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 and (with Richard F. Hamilton) The Origins of World War I.
From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One



War: "Now or Never"

War is . . . an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.—carl von clausewitz

Since i have been at the foreign office," arthur nicolson noted at Whitehall in May 1914, "I have not seen such calm waters."1 Europe had, in fact, refused to tear itself to pieces over troubles in faraway lands: Morocco in 1905-06 and in 1911; Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908-09; Libya in 1911-12; and the Balkans in 1912-13. The Anglo- German naval arms race had subsided, as had the fears about the Berlin- to-Baghdad Railway, since Berlin had run out of money for such gargantuan enterprises. Russia had overcome its war with Japan (1904-05), albeit at a heavy price in terms of men and ships lost and domestic discontent. Few desolate strips of African or Asian lands remained to be contested, and Berlin and London were preparing to negotiate a "settlement" of the Portuguese colonies. France and Germany had not been at war for forty-three years and Britain and Russia for fifty-eight.

Partition of the Continent by 1907 into two nearly equal camps-the Triple Alliance of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy, and the Triple Entente of Britain, France, and Russia-seemed to militate against metropolitan Europe being dragged into petty wars on its periphery. Kurt Riezler, foreign-policy adviser to German chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, cagily argued that given this model of great-power balance, future wars "would no longer be fought but calculated."2 Guns would no longer fire, "but have a voice in the negotiations." In other words, no power would risk escalating minor conflicts into a continental war; instead, each would "bluff" the adversary up the escalatory ladder, stopping just short of war in favor of diplomatic settlement. Peace seemed assured.

Domestically, for most well-off and law-abiding Europeans, the period prior to 1914 was a golden age of prosperity and decency. The "red specter" of Socialism had lost much of its threat. Real wages had shot up almost 50 percent between 1890 and 1913. Trade unions had largely won the right to collective bargaining, if not to striking, and their leaders sat in parliaments. Many workers had embraced social imperialism, believing that overseas trade and naval building translated into high-paying jobs at home. Germany had paved the path toward social welfare with state-sponsored health insurance, accident insurance, and old-age pensions. Others followed. Women were on the march for the vote. To be sure, there was trouble over Ireland, but then official London hardly viewed Ireland as a European matter.

Paris, as usual, was the exception. The capital had been seething with political excitement since January 1914, when Gaston Calmette, editor of Le Figaro, had launched a public campaign to discredit Finance Minister Joseph Caillaux-ostensibly over a new taxation bill.3 When Calmette published several letters from Caillaux's personal correspondence, Henriette Caillaux became alarmed. First, that correspondence could make public her husband's pacifist stance vis-à- vis Germany during the Second Moroccan Crisis in 1911; second, she knew that it included love letters from her to Joseph that showed she had conducted an affair with him at a time when he was still married. The elegant Madame Caillaux took matters into her own hands: On 16 March she walked into Calmette's office, drew a revolver from her muff, and shot the editor four times at point-blank range. Her trial on charges of murder dominated Paris in the summer of 1914. Two shots fired by a Serbian youth at Sarajevo on 28 June paled in comparison.

Gavrilo Princip's murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Habsburg throne, and his morganatic wife, Sophie Chotek, caused no immediate crisis in the major capitals. The dog days of summer were upon Europe. There ensued a mad rush to escape urban heat for cooler climes.4 French president Raymond Poincaré and prime minister René Viviani were preparing to board the battleship France for a leisurely cruise through the Baltic Sea to meet Tsar Nicholas II at St. Petersburg. Kaiser Franz Joseph took the waters at Bad Ischl. Wilhelm II was about to board the royal yacht Hohenzollern for his annual cruise of the Norwegian fjords. Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg was off to the family estate at Hohenfinow to play Beethoven on the grand piano and to read Plato (in the original Greek). Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow saw no need to curtail his honeymoon at Lucerne.

Nor were military men much concerned. German chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke struck out for Karlsbad, Bohemia, to meet his Austro-Hungarian counterpart, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf. War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn was off to vacation in the East Frisian Islands. Navy Secretary Alfred von Tirpitz left Berlin for St. Blasien, in the Black Forest. Habsburg war minister Alexander von Krobatin took the cure at Bad Gastein.

Even the less prominent escaped the July heat. Sigmund and Martha Freud, like Moltke and Conrad, vacationed at Karlsbad. V. I. Lenin left Cracow to hike in the Tatra Mountains. Leon Trotsky took solace in a small apartment in the Vienna Woods. Adolf Hitler was back in Munich after a military court-martial at Salzburg had found the draft dodger unfit for military service ("too weak; incapable of bearing arms").5

But had the exodus of European leaders been all that innocent? Or had some deeper design lain at its root? The first move in what is popularly called the July Crisis rested with Vienna. Few in power lamented the passing of Franz Ferdinand. He was too Catholic; he detested the Czechs, Magyars, and Poles within the empire; and he distrusted the ally in Rome. But the spilling of royal blood demanded an official response.

for more than half a dozen years prior to 1914, Conrad von Hötzendorf had pressed war on his government as the only solution to the perceived decline of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire. Daily, the frail, thin, crew-cut chief of the General Staff had stood at his desk and drafted contingency war plans against "Austria's congenital foes" Italy and Serbia as well as against Albania, Montenegro, and Russia, or against combinations of these states. Each year, he had submitted them to Kaiser Franz Joseph and to Foreign Minister Aloys Lexa Count Aehrenthal. And each year, these two had steadfastly refused to act.

Why, then, was July 1914 different?6 Conrad saw the murders at Sarajevo as a Serbian declaration of war. He cared little about the high school lads who had carried out the plot and about the secret organization "Union or Death," or the "Black Hand," that had planned it; his real enemy was Belgrade. He was determined not to let the last opportunity pass by "to settle accounts" with Serbia. He was haunted by the empire's failure to use the annexationist crisis over Bosnia- Herzegovina in 1908-09 to crush Serbian annexationist aspirations. There was also a personal motive: He informed his mistress Virginie "Gina" von Reininghaus that he was anxious to return from a war "crowned with success" so that he could "claim" her "as my dearest wife." Honor was at stake as well. While the war might be a "hopeless struggle" against overwhelming odds, Conrad informed Gina on the day of the Sarajevo killings, it had to be fought "because such an ancient monarchy and such an ancient army cannot perish ingloriously."7 In a nutshell, Conrad's position in July 1914, in the words of the new foreign minister, Leopold Count Berchtold, was simply: "War, war, war."8

By 1914, Franz Joseph shared Conrad's "war at any price" mind-set. Serbian arrogance had to be rooted out, by force if necessary. The kaiser was plagued by nightmares-of Solferino, where in 1859 he had led Austrian armies to defeat at the hands of France and Piedmont- Sardinia; and of Königgrätz, where in 1866 his forces had been routed by those of King Wilhelm I of Prussia. Thus in July 1914, Franz Joseph was prepared to draw the sword. Honor demanded no less. "If we must go under," he confided to Conrad, "we better go under decently."9

That left the foreign minister. In the past, Berchtold, like Aehrenthal, had resisted Conrad's demands for war. But diplomacy had brought no security. Thus, Berchtold, emboldened by the hard-line stance of a small cohort of hawks at the Foreign Office, endorsed military measures. Just two days after the Sarajevo murders, he spoke of the need for a "final and fundamental reckoning" with Serbia.10 And he worked out a set of assumptions to underpin his decision: Early and decisive action by Berlin would deter possible Russian intervention and "localize" the war in the Balkans.

But would Berlin play the role of gallant second? During past Balkan crises, Wilhelm II and his advisers had refused to back Habsburg initiatives with military force. Would July 1914 confirm that pattern? Berchtold, knowing that he needed diplomatic and military backing from Berlin, on 4 July dispatched Alexander Count Hoyos, his chef de cabinet, to sound out what the German position would be in the event that Vienna took actions to "eliminate" Serbia as a "political power factor in the Balkans."11 It was a clever move, given the kaiser's well-known propensity for personal diplomacy. In meetings the next two days with Wilhelm II, Bethmann Hollweg, Falkenhayn, and Undersecretary of the Foreign Office Arthur Zimmermann, Hoyos and Habsburg ambassador László Count Szögyény-Marich obtained promises of "full German backing" for whatever action Vienna took against Belgrade. There was no time to lose. "The present situation," the kaiser noted, "is so favorable to us." Diplomats and soldiers "considered the question of Russian intervention and accepted the risk of a g...

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Descrizione libro Random House USA Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. For the first time in a generation, here is a bold new account of the Battle of the Marne, a cataclysmic encounter that prevented a quick German victory in World War I and changed the course of two wars and the world. With exclusive information based on newly unearthed documents, Holger H. Herwig re-creates the dramatic battle and reinterprets Germany s aggressive Schlieffen Plan as a carefully crafted design to avoid a protracted war against superior coalitions. He paints a fresh portrait of the run-up to the Marne and puts in dazzling relief the Battle of the Marne itself: the French resolve to win, and the crucial lack of coordination between Germany s First and Second Armies. Herwig also provides stunning cameos of all the important players, from Germany s Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke to his rival, France s Joseph Joffre. Revelatory and riveting, this is the source on this seminal event. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780812978292

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Descrizione libro Random House USA Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. For the first time in a generation, here is a bold new account of the Battle of the Marne, a cataclysmic encounter that prevented a quick German victory in World War I and changed the course of two wars and the world. With exclusive information based on newly unearthed documents, Holger H. Herwig re-creates the dramatic battle and reinterprets Germany s aggressive Schlieffen Plan as a carefully crafted design to avoid a protracted war against superior coalitions. He paints a fresh portrait of the run-up to the Marne and puts in dazzling relief the Battle of the Marne itself: the French resolve to win, and the crucial lack of coordination between Germany s First and Second Armies. Herwig also provides stunning cameos of all the important players, from Germany s Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke to his rival, France s Joseph Joffre. Revelatory and riveting, this is the source on this seminal event. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780812978292

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Descrizione libro Random House USA Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. For the first time in a generation, here is a bold new account of the Battle of the Marne, a cataclysmic encounter that prevented a quick German victory in World War I and changed the course of two wars and the world. With exclusive information based on newly unearthed documents, Holger H. Herwig re-creates the dramatic battle and reinterprets Germany s aggressive Schlieffen Plan as a carefully crafted design to avoid a protracted war against superior coalitions. He paints a fresh portrait of the run-up to the Marne and puts in dazzling relief the Battle of the Marne itself: the French resolve to win, and the crucial lack of coordination between Germany s First and Second Armies. Herwig also provides stunning cameos of all the important players, from Germany s Chief of General Staff Helmuth von Moltke to his rival, France s Joseph Joffre. Revelatory and riveting, this is the source on this seminal event. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780812978292

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