In this direction some reorganization is required which will energetically combine the forces of the nation and create a real army, such as we have not at the present time. Unless we satisfy this demand, we shall not long be able to hold our own against the hostile Powers.
Although we recognize this necessity as a national duty, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that it is impossible in a short time to make up our deficiencies. Our peace army cannot be suddenly increased by 150,000 men. The necessary training staff and equipment would not be forthcoming, and on the financial side the required expenditure could not all at once be incurred. The full effectiveness of an increased army only begins to be gradually felt when the number of reservists and Landwehr is correspondingly raised. We can therefore only slowly recur to the reinforcement of universal service. The note struck by the new Five Years Act cannot be justified on any grounds. But although we wish to increase our army on a more extensive scale, we must admit that, even if we strain our resources, the process can only work slowly, and that we cannot hope for a long time to equalize even approximately the superior forces of our opponents.
We must not, therefore, be content merely to strengthen our army; we must devise other means of gaining the upper hand of our enemies. These means can only be found in the spiritual domain.
History teaches us by countless examples that numbers in themselves have only been the decisive factor in war when the opponents have been equally matched otherwise, or when the superiority of the one party exceeds the proportion required by the numerical law.[A] In most cases it was a special advantage possessed by the one party—better equipment, greater efficiency of troops, brilliant leadership, or more able strategy—which led to victory over the numerically superior. Rome conquered the world with inferior forces; Frederick the Great with inferior forces withstood the allied armies of Europe. Recent history shows us the victory of the numerically weaker Japanese army over a crushingly superior opponent. We cannot count on seeing a great commander at our head; a second Frederick the Great will hardly appear. Nor can we know beforehand whether our troops will prove superior to the hostile forces. But we can try to learn what will be the decisive factors in the future war which will turn the scale in favour of victory or defeat. If we know this, and prepare for war with a set purpose, and keep the essential points of view always before us, we might create a real source of superiority, and gain a start on our opponents which would be hard for them to make up in the course of the war. Should we then in the war itself follow one dominating principle of the policy which results from the special nature of present-day war, it must be possible to gain a positive advantage which may even equalize a considerable numerical superiority.
[Footnote A: Cf. v. Bernhardi, "Vom heutigen Kriege," vol. i., chap. ii.]
The essential point is not to match battalion with battalion, battery with battery, or to command a number of cannons, machine guns, airships, and other mechanical contrivances equal to that of the probable opponent; it is foolish initiative to strain every nerve to be abreast with the enemy in all material domains. This idea leads to a certain spiritual servility and inferiority.
Rather must an effort be made to win superiority in the factors on which the ultimate decision turns. The duty of our War Department is to prepare these decisive elements of strength while still at peace, and to apply them in war according to a clearly recognized principle of superiority. This must secure for us the spiritual and so the material advantage over our enemies. Otherwise we run the danger of being crushed by their weight of numbers.
We cannot reach this goal on the beaten roads of tradition and habit by uninspired rivalry in arming. We must trace out with clear insight the probable course of the future war, and must not be afraid to tread new paths, if needs be, which are not consecrated by experience and use. New goals can only be reached by new roads, and our military history teaches us by numerous instances how the source of superiority lies in progress, in conscious innovations based on convincing arguments. The spiritual capacity to know where, under altered conditions, the decision must be sought, and the spiritual courage to resolve on this new line of action, are the soil in which great successes ripen.
It would be too long a task in this place to examine more closely the nature of the future war, in order to develop systematically the ideas which will prove decisive in it. These questions have been thoroughly ventilated in a book recently published by me, "Vom heutigen Kriege" ("The War of To-day"). In this place I will only condense the results of my inquiry, in order to form a foundation for the further consideration of the essential questions of the future.
In a future European war "masses" will be employed to an extent unprecedented in any previous one. Weapons will be used whose deadliness will exceed all previous experience. More effective and varied means of communication will be available than were known in earlier wars. These three momentous factors will mark the war of the future.
"Masses" signify in themselves an increase of strength, but they contain elements of weakness as well. The larger they are and the less they can be commanded by professional soldiers, the more their tactical efficiency diminishes. The less they are able to live on the country during war-time, especially when concentrated, and the more they are therefore dependent on the daily renewal of food-supplies, the slower and less mobile they become. Owing to the great space which they require for their deployment, it is extraordinarily difficult to bring them into effective action simultaneously. They are also far more accessible to morally depressing influences than compacter bodies of troops, and may prove dangerous to the strategy of their own leaders, if supplies run short, if discipline breaks down, and the commander loses his authority over the masses which he can only rule under regulated conditions.
The increased effectiveness of weapons does not merely imply a longer range, but a greater deadliness, and therefore makes more exacting claims on the moral of the soldier. The danger zone begins sooner than formerly; the space which must be crossed in an attack has become far wider; it must be passed by the attacking party creeping or running. The soldier must often use the spade in defensive operations, during which he is exposed to a far hotter fire than formerly; while under all circumstances he must shoot more than in bygone days. The quick firing which the troop encounters increases the losses at every incautious movement. All branches of arms have to suffer under these circumstances. Shelter and supplies will be more scanty than ever before. In short, while the troops on the average have diminished in value, the demands made on them have become considerably greater.
Improved means of communication, finally, facilitate the handling and feeding of large masses, but tie them down to railway systems and main roads, and must, if they fail or break down in the course of a campaign, aggravate the difficulties, because the troops were accustomed to their use, and the commanders counted upon them.
The direct conclusion to be drawn from these reflections is that a great superiority must rest with the troops whose fighting capabilities and tactical efficiency are greater than those of their antagonists.
The commander who can carry out all operations quicker than the enemy, and can concentrate and employ greater masses in a narrow space than they can, will always be in a position to collect a numerically superior force in the decisive direction; if he controls the more effective troops, he will gain decisive successes against one part of the hostile army, and will be able to exploit them against other divisions of it before the enemy can gain equivalent advantages in other parts of the field.
Since the tactical efficiency and the moral of the troops are chiefly shown in the offensive, and are then most needful, the necessary conclusion is that safety only lies in offensive warfare.
In an attack, the advantage, apart from the elements of moral strength which it brings into play, depends chiefly on rapidity of action. Inasmuch as the attacking party determines the direction of the attack to suit his own plans, he is able at the selected spot to collect a superior force against his surprised opponent. The initiative, which is the privilege of the attacking party, gives a start in time and place which is very profitable in operations and tactics. The attacked party can only equalize this advantage if he has early intimation of the intentions of the assailant, and has time to take measures which hold out promise of success. The more rapidly, therefore, the attacking General strikes his blow and gains his success, and the more capable his troops, the greater is the superiority which the attack in its nature guarantees.
This superiority increases with the size of the masses. If the advancing armies are large and unwieldy, and the distances to be covered great, it will be a difficult and tedious task for the defending commander to take proper measures against a surprise attack. On the other hand, the prospects of success of the attacking General will be very favourable, especially if he is in the fortunate position of having better troops at his disposal.
Finally, the initiative secures to the numerically weaker a possibility of gaining the victory, even when other conditions are equal, and all the more so the greater the masses engaged. In most cases it is impossible to bring the entire mass of a modern army simultaneously and completely into action. A victory, therefore, in the decisive direction—the direction, that is, which directly cuts the arteries of the opponent—is usually conclusive for the whole course of the war, and its effect is felt in the most distant parts of the field of operations. If the assailant, therefore, can advance in this direction with superior numbers, and can win the day, because the enemy cannot utilize his numerical superiority, there is a possibility of an ultimate victory over the arithmetically stronger army. In conformity to this law, Frederick the Great, through superior tactical capability and striking strength, had always the upper hand of an enemy far more powerful in mere numbers.
No further proof is required that the superiority of the attack increases in proportion to the rapidity with which it is delivered, and to the lack of mobility of the hostile forces. Hence the possibility of concealing one's own movements and damaging the effective tactics of the enemy secures an advantage which, though indirect, is yet very appreciable.
We arrive, then, at the conclusion that, in order to secure the superiority in a war of the future under otherwise equal conditions, it is incumbent on us: First, during the period of preparation to raise the tactical value and capabilities of the troops as much as possible, and especially to develop the means of concealing the attacking movements and damaging the enemy's tactical powers; secondly, in the war itself to act on the offensive and strike the first blow, and to exploit the manoeuvring capacity of the troops as much as possible, in order to be superior in the decisive directions. Above all, a State which has objects to attain that cannot be relinquished, and is exposed to attacks by enemies more powerful than itself, is bound to act in this sense. It must, before all things, develop the attacking powers of its army, since a strategic defensive must often adopt offensive methods.
This principle holds good pre-eminently for Germany. The points which I have tried to emphasize must never be lost sight of, if we wish to face the future with confidence. All our measures must be calculated to raise the efficiency of the army, especially in attack; to this end all else must give way. We shall thus have a central point on which all our measures can be focussed. We can make them all serve one purpose, and thus we shall be kept from going astray on the bypaths which we all too easily take if we regard matters separately, and not as forming parts of a collective whole. Much of our previous omissions and commissions would have borne a quite different complexion had we observed this unifying principle.
The requirements which I have described as the most essential are somewhat opposed to the trend of our present efforts, and necessitate a resolute resistance to the controlling forces of our age.
The larger the armies by which one State tries to outbid another, the smaller will be the efficiency and tactical worth of the troops; and not merely the average worth, but the worth of each separate detachment as such. Huge armies are even a danger to their own cause. "They will be suffocated by their own fat," said General v. Brandenstein, the great organizer of the advance of 1870, when speaking of the mass-formation of the French. The complete neglect of cavalry in their proportion to the whole bulk of the army has deprived the commander of the means to injure the tactical capabilities of the enemy, and to screen effectually his own movements. The necessary attention has never been paid in the course of military training to this latter duty. Finally, the tactical efficiency of troops has never been regarded as so essential as it certainly will prove in the wars of the future.
A mechanical notion of warfare and weak concessions to the pressure of public opinion, and often a defective grasp of the actual needs, have conduced to measures which inevitably result in an essential contradiction between the needs of the army and the actual end attained, and cannot be justified from the purely military point of view. It would be illogical and irrelevant to continue in these paths so soon as it is recognized that the desired superiority over the enemy cannot be reached on them.
This essential contradiction between what is necessary and what is attained appears in the enforcement of the law of universal military service. Opinion oscillates between the wish to enforce it more or less, and the disinclination to make the required outlay, and recourse is had to all sorts of subterfuges which may save appearances without giving a good trial to the system. One of these methods is the Ersatzreserve, which is once more being frequently proposed. But the situation is by no means helped by the very brief training which these units at best receive. This system only creates a military mob, which has no capacity for serious military operations. Such an institution would be a heavy strain on the existing teaching personnel in the army, and would be indirectly detrimental to it as well. Nor would any strengthening of the field army be possible under this scheme, since the cadres to contain the mass of these special reservists are not ready to hand. This mass would therefore only fill up the recruiting depots, and facilitate to some degree the task of making good the losses.
A similar contradiction is often shown in the employment of the troops. Every army at the present time is divided into regular troops, who are already organized in time of peace and are merely brought to full strength in war-time, and new formations, which are only organized on mobilization. The tactical value of these latter varies much according to their composition and the age of the units, but is always much inferior to that of the regular troops. The Landwehr formations, which were employed in the field in 1870-71, were an example of this, notwithstanding the excellent services which they rendered, and the new French formations in that campaign were totally ineffective. The sphere of activity of such troops is the second line. In an offensive war their duty is to secure the railroads and bases, to garrison the conquered territory, and partly also to besiege the enemies' fortresses. In fact, they must discharge all the duties which would otherwise weaken the field army. In a defensive war they will have to undertake the local and mainly passive defence, and the support of the national war. By acting at first in this limited sphere, such new formations will gradually become fitted for the duties of the war, and will acquire a degree of offensive strength which certainly cannot be reckoned upon at the outset of the war; and the less adequately such bodies of troops are supplied with columns, trains, and cavalry, the less their value will be.
Nevertheless, it appears to be assumed by us that, in event of war, such troops will be partly available in the first line, and that decisive operations may be entrusted to them. Reserves and regulars are treated as equivalent pieces on the board, and no one seems to suppose that some are less effective than others. A great danger lies in this mechanical conception.
For operations in the field we must employ, wherever possible, regulars only, and rather limit our numbers than assign to inferior troops tasks for which they are inadequate. We must have the courage to attack, if necessary, with troops numerically inferior but tactically superior and more efficient; we must attack in the consciousness that tactical striking power and efficiency outweigh the advantages of greater numbers, and that with the immense modern armies a victory in the decisive direction has more bearing on the ultimate issue than ever before.
The decision depends on the regular troops, not on the masses which are placed at their side on mobilization. The commander who acts on this principle, and so far restricts himself in the employment of masses that he preserves the complete mobility of the armies, will win a strong advantage over the one whose leader is burdened with inferior troops and therefore is handicapped generally, and has paid for the size of his army by want of efficiency. The mass of reserves must, therefore, be employed as subsidiary to the regular troops, whom they must relieve as much as possible from all minor duties. Thus used, a superiority in the numbers of national reserves will secure an undoubted superiority in the actual war.
It follows directly from this argument that we must do our best to render the regular army strong and efficient, and that it would be a mistake to weaken them unnecessarily by excessive drafts upon their personnel with the object of making the reserves tactically equal to them. This aim may sometimes be realized; but the general level of efficiency throughout the troops would be lowered.
Our one object must therefore be to strengthen our regular army. An increase of the peace footing of the standing army is worth far more than a far greater number of badly trained special reservists. It is supremely important to increase the strength of the officers on the establishment. The stronger each unit is in peace, the more efficient will it become for war, hence the vital importance of aiming at quality, not quantity. Concentration, not dilution, will be our safeguard. If we wish to encourage the enforcement of universal service by strengthening the army, we must organize new peace formations, since the number of professional officers and sub-officers will be thus increased. This step is the more necessary because the present available cadres are insufficient to receive the mass of able-bodied recruits and to provide for their thorough training.
The gradual enforcement of universal military service hand in hand with an increase of the regular army is the first practical requirement. We shall now consider how far the tactical value of the troops, the efficiency of the army, the cavalry, and the screening service can be improved by organization, equipment, and training.
I must first point out a factor which lies in a different sphere to the questions already discussed, but has great importance in every branch of military activity, especially in the offensive, which requires prompt original action—I mean the importance of personality.
From the Commander-in-Chief, who puts into execution the conceptions of his own brain under the pressure of responsibility and shifting fortune, and the Brigadier, who must act independently according to a given general scheme; to the dispatch rider, surrounded with dangers, and left to his own resources in the enemy's country, and the youngest private in the field fighting for his own hand, and striving for victory in the face of death; everywhere in the wars of to-day, more than in any other age, personality dominates all else. The effect of mass tactics has abolished all close formations of infantry, and the individual is left to himself. The direct influence of the superior has lessened. In the strategic duties of the cavalry, which represent the chief activity of that arm, the patrol riders and orderlies are separated more than before from their troop and are left to their own responsibility. Even in the artillery the importance of independent action will be more clearly emphasized than previously. The battlefields and area of operations have increased with the masses employed. The Commander-in-Chief is far less able than ever before to superintend operations in various parts of the field; he is forced to allow a greater latitude to his subordinates. These conditions are very prominent in attacking operations.
When on the defensive the duty of the individual is mainly to hold his ground, while the commander's principal business is to utilize the reserves. On the offensive, however, the conditions change from moment to moment, according to the counter-movements of the enemy, which cannot be anticipated, and the success or failure of the attacking troops. Even the individual soldier, as the fight fluctuates, must now push on, now wait patiently until the reinforcements have come up; he will often have to choose for himself the objects at which to fire, while never losing touch with the main body. The offensive makes very varied calls on the commander's qualities. Ruse and strategy, boldness and unsparing energy, deliberate judgment and rapid decision, are alternately demanded from him. He must be competent to perform the most opposite duties. All this puts a heavy strain on personality.
It is evident, then, that the army which contains the greatest number of self-reliant and independent personalities must have a distinct advantage. This object, therefore, we must strive with every nerve to attain: to be superior in this respect to all our enemies. And this object can be attained. Personality can be developed, especially in the sphere of spiritual activity. The reflective and critical powers can be improved by continuous exercise; but the man who can estimate the conditions under which he has to act, who is master of the element in which he has to work, will certainly make up his mind more rapidly and more easily than a man who faces a situation which he does not grasp. Self-reliance, boldness, and imperturbability in the hour of misfortune are produced by knowledge. This is shown everywhere. We see the awkward and shy recruit ripen into a clear-headed smart sergeant; and the same process is often traced among the higher commands. But where the mental development is insufficient for the problems which are to be solved, the personality fails at the moment of action. The elegant guardsman Bourbaki collapsed when he saw himself confronted with the task of leading an army whose conditions he did not thoroughly grasp. General Chanzy, on the other hand, retained his clear judgment and resolute determination in the midst of defeat. Thus one of the essential tasks of the preparations for war is to raise the spiritual level of the army and thus indirectly to mould and elevate character. Especially is it essential to develop the self-reliance and resourcefulness of those in high command. In a long military life ideas all too early grow stereotyped and the old soldier follows traditional trains of thought and can no longer form an unprejudiced opinion. The danger of such development cannot be shut out. The stiff and uniform composition of the army which doubles its moral powers has this defect: it often leads to a one-sided development, quite at variance with the many-sidedness of actual realities, and arrests the growth of personality. Something akin to this was seen in Germany in the tentative scheme of an attack en masse. United will and action are essential to give force its greatest value. They must go hand in hand with the greatest spiritual independence and resourcefulness, capable of meeting any emergency and solving new problems by original methods.
It has often been said that one man is as good as another; that personality is nothing, the type is everything; but this assertion is erroneous. In time of peace, when sham reputations flourish and no real struggle winnows the chaff from the coin, mediocrity in performance is enough. But in war, personality turns the scale. Responsibility and danger bring out personality, and show its real worth, as surely as a chemical test separates the pure metal from the dross.
That army is fortunate which has placed men of this kind in the important posts during peace-time and has kept them there. This is the only way to avoid the dangers which a one-sided routine produces, and to break down that red-tapism which is so prejudicial to progress and success. It redounds to the lasting credit of William I. that for the highest and most responsible posts, at any rate, he had already in time of peace made his selection from among all the apparently great men around him; and that he chose and upheld in the teeth of all opposition those who showed themselves heroes and men of action in the hour of need, and had the courage to keep to their own self-selected paths. This is no slight title to fame, for, as a rule, the unusual rouses envy and distrust, but the cheap, average wisdom, which never prompted action, appears as a refined superiority, and it is only under the pressure of the stern reality of war that the truth of Goethe's lines is proved:
"Folk and thrall and victor can Witness bear in every zone: Fortune's greatest gift to man Is personality alone."
I now turn to the discussion of some questions of organization, but it is not my intention to ventilate all the needs and aims connected with this subject that occupy our military circles at the present time. I shall rather endeavour to work out the general considerations which, in my opinion, must determine the further development of our army, if we wish, by consistent energy, to attain a superiority in the directions which will certainly prove to be all-important in the next war. It will be necessary to go into details only on points which are especially noteworthy or require some explanation. I shall obviously come into opposition with the existing state of things, but nothing is further from my purpose than to criticize them. My views are based on theoretical requirements, while our army, from certain definitely presented beginnings, and under the influence of most different men and of changing views, in the midst of financial difficulties and political disputes, has, by fits and starts, grown up into what it now is. It is, in a certain sense, outside criticism; it must be taken as something already existing, whose origin is only a subject for a subsequent historical verdict. But the further expansion of our army belongs to the future, and its course can be directed. It can follow well-defined lines, in order to become efficient, and it is politically most important that this object should be realized. Therefore I shall not look back critically on the past, but shall try to serve the future.
The guiding principle of our preparations for war must be, as I have already said, the development of the greatest fighting strength and the greatest tactical efficiency, in order through them to be in a position to carry on an offensive war successfully. What follows will, therefore, fall naturally under these two heads. Fighting strength rests partly, as already said, on the training (which will be discussed later), the arming, and the personnel, partly on the composition of the troops, and, therefore, in the case of line regiments, with which we chiefly have to deal, since they are the real field troops, on the strength of their peace establishment. It was shown in the previous chapter how essential it is to have in the standing army not only the necessary cadres ready for the new formations, but to make the separate branches so strong that they can easily be brought up to full strength in war-time.
The efficiency and character of the superiors, the officers and the non-commissioned officers, are equally weighty factors in the value of the troops. They are the professional supporters of discipline, decision, and initiative, and, since they are the teachers of the troops, they determine their intellectual standard. The number of permanent officers on the establishment in peace is exceedingly small in proportion to their duties in the training of the troops and to the demands made of them on mobilization. If we reflect how many officers and non-commissioned officers from the standing army must be transferred to the new formations in order to vitalize them, and how the modern tactical forms make it difficult for the superior officer to assert his influence in battle, the numerical inadequacy of the existing personnel is clearly demonstrated. This applies mainly to the infantry, and in their case, since they are the decisive arm, a sufficient number of efficient officers is essential. All the more important is it, on the one hand, to keep the establishment of officers and non-commissioned officers in the infantry at full strength, and, on the other hand, to raise the efficiency of the officers and non-commissioned officers on leave or in the reserve. This latter is a question of training, and does not come into the present discussion.
The task of keeping the establishments at adequate strength is, in a sense, a financial question. The amount of the pay and the prospects which the profession holds out for subsequent civil posts greatly affect the body of non-commissioned officers, and therefore it is important to keep step with the general increase in prices by improved pecuniary advantages. Even for the building up of the corps of officers, the financial question is all-important. The career of the officer offers to-day so little prospect of success and exacts such efficiency and self-devotion from the individual, that he will not long remain in the service, attractive as it is, if the financial sacrifices are so high as they now are. The infantry officer especially must have a better position. Granted that the cavalry and mounted artillery officers incur greater expenses for the keep of their horses than the infantry officer has to pay, the military duties of the latter are by far the most strenuous and require a very considerable outlay on clothing. It would be, in my opinion, expedient to give the infantry officer more pay than the cavalry and artillery officers, in order to make service in that arm more attractive. There is a rush nowadays into the mounted arm, for which there is a plethora of candidates. These arms will always be well supplied with officers. Their greater attractiveness must be counterbalanced by special advantages offered by the infantry service. By no other means can we be sure of having sufficient officers in the chief arm.
If the fighting strength in each detachment depends on its composition and training, there are other elements besides the tactical value of the troops which determine the effectiveness of their combined efforts in action; these are first the leadership, which, however, depends on conditions which are beyond calculation, and secondly the numerical proportion of the arms to each other. Disregarding provisionally the cavalry, who play a special role in battle, we must define the proportion which artillery must bear to infantry.
With regard to machine guns, the idea that they can to some extent replace infantry is quite erroneous. Machine guns are primarily weapons of defence. In attack they can only be employed under very favourable conditions, and then strengthen only one factor of a successful attack—the fire-strength—while they may sometimes hinder that impetuous forward rush which is the soul of every attack. Hence, this auxiliary weapon should be given to the infantry in limited numbers, and employed mainly on the defensive fronts, and should be often massed into large units. Machine-gun detachments should not overburden the marching columns.
The relation of infantry to artillery is of more importance.
Infantry is the decisive arm. Other arms are exclusively there to smooth their road to victory, and support their action directly or indirectly. This relation must not be merely theoretical; the needs of the infantry must ultimately determine the importance of all other fighting instruments in the whole army.
If we make this idea the basis of our argument, the following is the result. Infantry has gained enormously in defensive power owing to modern weapons. The attack requires, therefore, a far greater superiority than ever before. In addition to this, the breadth of front in action has greatly increased in consequence of the former close tactical formations having been broken up through the increase of fire. This refers only to the separate detachment, and does not justify the conclusion that in the future fewer troops will cover the same spaces as before. This assumption applies at the most to defence, and then only in a limited sense. In attack the opposite will probably be the case. The troops must therefore be placed more deeply en echelon than in the last wars. Now, the average breadth of the front in attack must regulate the allotment of artillery to infantry. No definite proportion can be settled; but if the theoretical calculation be compared with the experiences of the last wars, conclusions may be obtained which will most probably prove appropriate. No more than this can be expected in the domain of military science.
If we agree to the above-mentioned proportion of breadth and depth in an infantry attack, we shall be driven to insist on a reduction of artillery as compared with the past; but should we think that modern artillery helps the attack, especially by indirect fire, we must advocate, from the standpoint of offensive warfare, an increase of the artillery. Actual war experiences alone can find the true middle path between these two extremes.
If the frontal development of the artillery of a modern army corps, or, better still, two divisions, be regarded from the point of view that the guns cannot advance in connected line, but that only the specially adapted parts of the field can be used for artillery development, the conclusion is certain that by such frontal extension the infantry is reduced to a covering line for the artillery. In forming this opinion we must not assume the normal strength of the infantry, but take into account that the strength of the infantry in war rapidly melts away. If we estimate the companies on the average at two-thirds of their proper strength, we shall be above rather than below the real figures. Such infantry strength will, of course, be sufficient to defend the position taken up by the artillery, but it is hardly enough to carry out, in that section of the field, a decisive attack, which, under present conditions, requires greater numbers and depth than before.
In this connection it is very instructive to study the second part of the Franco-German War, and the Boer War, as well as the Manchurian campaign.
Some of the German infantry had in the first-named period extraordinarily diminished in numbers; companies of 120 men were not rare. The artillery, on the contrary, had remained at its original strength. The consequences naturally was that the powers of the Germans on the offensive grew less and the battles and skirmishes were not so decisive as in the first part of the war. This condition would have shown up more distinctly against an enemy of equal class than in the contest with the loosely-compacted, raw French levies. In the former case the offensive would have been impracticable. The strong artillery, under the existing conditions, no doubt gave great support to the weak infantry; but an unbiassed opinion leads to the conclusion that, under the then existing proportion of the arms to each other, the infantry was too weak to adopt energetic offensive tactics against a well-matched enemy. This is irresistibly proved if we consider what masses of infantry were needed at Woerth and St. Privat, for instance, in spite of the support of very superior artillery, in order to defeat a weaker enemy of equal class.
Again, in South Africa, the overwhelming superiority of the English in artillery was never able to force a victory. In Manchuria the state of things was very instructive. Numerically the Russian artillery was extraordinarily superior to the enemy's, and the range of the Russian field guns was longer than that of the Japanese; nevertheless, the Japanese succeeded in beating an enemy stronger in infantry also, because, in the decisive directions of attack, they were able to unite superior forces of infantry and artillery, while the Russian artillery was scattered along the whole of their broad front.
The lesson of this war is that, apart from the close relation of the arms to each other in the separate units, the co-operation of these units must be looked at, if the strength of the two sister arms is to be appropriately determined.
The requirement that each separate tactical unit should he made equal or superior in artillery to the corresponding hostile unit is thoroughly mechanical, as if in war division always fought against division and corps against corps! Superiority at the decisive point is the crucial test. This superiority is attained by means of an unexpected concentration of forces for attack, and there is no reason why the superiority in artillery should not also be brought about in this way. If by superior tactical skill two army corps, each with 96 guns, combine against a hostile army which brings 144 guns into action, that signifies a superiority of 48 guns and a double superiority in infantry. If it is assumed that on both sides the army corps is armed with 144 guns, and that in consequence of this the tactical superiority has become so slight that neither side can claim a superiority in one direction, then equal forces meet, and chance decides the day. Since the Japanese were tactically more efficient than their enemy and took the offensive, they were enabled to unite the superior forces in the most decisive directions, and this advantage proved far greater than the numerical superiority of the Russian army as a whole.
If we look at the whole matter we shall come to the conclusion that the artillery, if it is not a question of pure defence, need never occupy within a line of battle so much ground that the concentration of a considerably superior force of infantry for attack is rendered doubtful. In this respect we have, in our present organization already exceeded the expedient proportion between the two arms in favour of the artillery. The conclusion is that this latter arm never need, within the separate divisions, be made so strong that the attacking capacities of the army are thereby prejudiced. This is the decisive point. Any excess in artillery can be kept on the battlefield in reserve when space is restricted; if the attacking efficiency of the troops is reduced, then artillery becomes a dead weight on the army instead of an aid to victory. It is far more important to be able to unite superior forces for a decisive attack than to meet the enemy with equally matched forces along the whole front. If we observe this principle, we shall often be weaker than the enemy on the less important fronts; this disadvantage may be partly counterbalanced by remaining on the defensive in such a position. It becomes a positive advantage, if, owing to an overpowering concentration of forces, victory is won at the decisive point. This victory cancels all the failures which may have been recorded elsewhere.
The operative superiority of an enemy is determined by the greater marching capacity of the troops, by the rapid and systematic working of the communications with the rear, and, above all, by the length of the columns of the operating troops. Under the modern system of colossal armaments, an army, especially if in close formation, cannot possibly live on the country; it is driven to trust to daily food-supplies from the rear. Railways are used as far as possible to bring up the supplies; but from the railhead the communication with the troops must be maintained by columns of traction waggons and draught animals, which go to and fro between the troops, the rearward magazines, and the railhead. Since traction waggons are restricted to made roads, the direct communication with the troops must be kept up by columns of draught animals, which can move independently of the roads. The waggons of provisions, therefore, which follow the troops, and are filled daily, must come up with them the same day, or there will be a shortage of food. This is only possible if the troop column does not exceed a certain length and starts at early morning, so that the transport waggons, which, at the end of the march, must be driven from the rear to the head of the column, can reach this before the beginning of the night's rest. The fitness of an army for attack can only be maintained if these supplies are uninterrupted; there must also be a sufficient quantity of tinned rations and provisions which the soldiers can carry with them. If the length of the columns exceeds the limit here laid down, the marches must be proportionately shortened. If unusually lengthy marches are made, so that the provision carts cannot reach the troops, days of rest must be interposed, to regulate the supply. Thus the capacity of an army to march and to carry out operations is directly dependent on the possibility of being fed from the rear. A careful calculation, based on practical experiences, shows that, in order to average 20 to 22 kilometres a day—the minimum distance required from an army—no column on a road ought to exceed a length of about 25 kilometres This consideration determines the depth of the army corps on the march, since in an important campaign and when massing for battle troops seldom march in smaller bodies than a corps.
This calculation, by which the conditions of modern war are compulsorily affected, makes it highly necessary that the system of supplies and rations should be carefully organized. The restoration of any destroyed railways, the construction of light railways, the organization of columns of motor transport waggons and draught animals, must be prepared by every conceivable means in time of peace, in order that in war-time the railroads may follow as closely as possible on the track of the troops, and that the columns may maintain without interruption continuous communications between the troops and the railhead. In order to keep this machinery permanently in working order, and to surmount any crisis in bringing up supplies, it is highly advisable to have an ample stock of tinned rations. This stock should, in consideration of the necessary mass-concentration, be as large as possible. Care must be taken, by the organization of trains and columns, that the stock of tinned provisions can be quickly renewed. This would be best done by special light columns, which are attached to the army corps outside the organization of provision and transport columns, and follow it at such a distance, that, if necessary, they could be soon pushed to the front by forced or night marches. There is naturally some reluctance to increase the trains of the army corps, but this necessity is unavoidable. It is further to be observed that the columns in question would not be very long, since they would mainly convey condensed foods and other provisions compressed into the smallest space.
An immense apparatus of train formations, railway and telegraph corps, and workmen must be got ready to secure the efficiency of a modern army with its millions. This is absolutely necessary, since without it the troops in modern warfare would be practically unable to move. It is far more important to be ahead of the enemy in this respect than in any other, for there lies the possibility of massing a superior force at the decisive point, and of thus defeating a stronger opponent.
However careful the preparations, these advantages can only be attained if the troop columns do not exceed the maximum strength which can be fed from the rear, if the necessary forward movement is carried out. Everything which an army corps requires for the war must be kept within these limits.
Our modern army corps without the heavy artillery of the field army corresponds roughly to this requirement. But should it be lengthened by a heavy howitzer battalion, with the necessary ammunition columns, it will considerably exceed the safe marching depth—if, that is, the necessary advance-guard distance be included. Since, also, the infantry is too weak in proportion to the space required by the artillery to deploy, it becomes advisable in the interests both of powerful attack and of operative efficiency, within the separate troop organizations to strengthen the numbers of the infantry and reduce those of the artillery.
In addition to the length of the column, the arrangement of the division is very important for its tactical efficiency. This must be such as to permit the most varied employment of the troops and the formation of reserves without the preliminary necessity of breaking up all the units. This requirement does not at all correspond to our traditional organization, and the man to insist upon it vigorously has not yet appeared, although there can be no doubt as to the inadequacy of the existing tactical organization, and suitable schemes have already been drawn up by competent officers.
The army corps is divided into two divisions, the division into two infantry brigades. All the brigades consist of two regiments. The formation of a reserve makes it very difficult for the commander to fix the centre of gravity of the battle according to circumstances and his own judgment. It is always necessary to break up some body when a reserve has to be formed, and in most cases to reduce the officers of some detachment to inactivity. Of course, a certain centre of gravity for the battle may be obtained by assigning to one part of the troops a wider and to the other a narrower space for deployment. But this procedure in no way replaces a reserve, for it is not always possible, even in the first dispositions for the engagement, to judge where the brunt of the battle will be. That depends largely on the measures taken by the enemy and the course of the battle.
Napoleon's saying, "Je m'engage et puis je vois," finds its application, though to a lessened extent, even to-day. The division of cavalry brigades into two regiments is simply a traditional institution which has been thoughtlessly perpetuated. It has not been realized that the duties of the cavalry have completely changed, and that brigades of two regiments are, in addition to other disadvantages, too weak to carry these duties out.
This bisecting system, by restricting the freedom of action, contradicts the most generally accepted military principles.
The most natural formation is certainly a tripartition of the units, as is found in an infantry regiment. This system permits the separate divisions to fight near each other, and leaves room for the withdrawal of a reserve, the formation of a detachment, or the employment of the subdivisions in lines (Treffen), for the principle of the wing attack must not be allowed to remain merely a scheme. Finally, it is the best formation for the offensive, since it allows the main body of the troops to be employed at a single point in order to obtain a decisive result there.
A special difficulty in the free handling of the troops is produced by the quite mechanical division of the artillery, who bring into action two kinds of ordnance—cannons and howitzers. These latter can, of course, be used as cannons, but have special functions which are not always required. Their place in the organization, however, is precisely the same as that of the cannons, and it is thus very difficult to employ them as their particular character demands.
The object in the whole of this organization has been to make corps and divisions equal, and if possible superior, to the corresponding formations of the enemy by distributing the batteries proportionately according to numbers among the divisions. This secured, besides, the undeniable advantage of placing the artillery directly under the orders of the commanders of the troops. But, in return, it robbed the commanding General of the last means secured by the organization of enforcing his tactical aims. He is now forced to form a reserve for himself out of the artillery of the division, and thus to deprive one division at least of half its artillery. If he has the natural desire to withdraw for himself the howitzer section, which is found in one division only, the same division must always be subjected to this reduction of its strength, and it is more than problematical whether this result always fits in with the tactical position. It seems at least worth while considering whether, under these circumstances, it would not be a more appropriate arrangement to attach a howitzer section to each division.
The distribution of the heavy field howitzers is another momentous question. It would be in accordance with the principles that guide the whole army to divide them equally among the army corps. This arrangement would have much in its favour, for every corps may find itself in a position where heavy howitzer batteries can be profitably employed. They can also, however, be combined under the command of the General-in-Chief, and attached to the second line of the army. The first arrangement offers, as has been said, many advantages, but entails the great disadvantage that the line of march of the army corps is dangerously lengthened by several kilometres, so that no course is left but either to weaken the other troops of the corps or to sacrifice the indispensable property of tactical efficiency. Both alternatives are inadmissible. On the other hand, since the employment of heavy howitzers is by no means necessary in every engagement, but only when an attack is planned against a strongly-posted enemy, it may be safely assumed that the heavy howitzers could be brought up in time out of the second line by a night march. Besides, their mobility renders it possible to detach single batteries or sections, and on emergency to attach them to an army corps temporarily.
There is a prevalent notion that the heavy howitzers are principally used to fight the enemy's field artillery, and therefore must be on the spot in every engagement. They have even been known to stray into the advance guard. I do not approve of this idea. The enemy's field artillery will fire indirectly from previously masked positions, and in such case they cannot be very successfully attacked by heavy howitzers. It seems to me quite unjustifiable, with the view of attaining this problematic object, to burden the marching columns permanently with long unwieldy trains of artillery and ammunition, and thus to render their effectiveness doubtful.
No doubt the Japanese, who throughout the war continually increased their heavy field howitzers, ultimately attached artillery of that sort to every division. The experiences of that war must not, however, be overestimated or generalized. The conditions were quite sui generis. The Japanese fought on their whole front against fortified positions strengthened by heavy artillery, and as they attacked the enemy's line in its whole extension, they required on their side equally heavy guns. It should be noticed that they did not distribute their very effective 12-centimetre field howitzers along the whole front, but, so far as I can gather, assigned them all to the army of General Nogi, whose duty was to carry out the decisive enveloping movement at Mukden. The Japanese thus felt the need of concentrating the effect of their howitzers, and as we hope we shall not imitate their frontal attack, but break through the enemy's front, though in a different way from theirs, the question of concentration seems to me very important for us.
Under these circumstances it will be most advantageous to unite the heavy batteries in the hand of the Commander-in-Chief. They thus best serve his scheme of offence. He can mass them at the place which he wishes to make the decisive point in the battle, and will thus attain that end most completely, whereas the distribution of them among the army corps only dissipates their effectiveness. His heavy batteries will be for him what the artillery reserves are for the divisional General. There, where their mighty voice roars over the battlefield, will be the deciding struggle of the day. Every man, down to the last private, knows that.
I will only mention incidentally that the present organization of the heavy artillery on a peace footing is unsatisfactory. The batteries which in war are assigned to the field army must in peace also be placed under the orders of the corps commanders (Truppenfuehrer) if they are to become an organic part of the whole. At present the heavy artillery of the field army is placed under the general-inspection of the foot artillery, and attached to the troops only for purposes of manoeuvres. It thus remains an isolated organism so far as the army goes, and does not feel itself an integral part of the whole. A clear distinction between field artillery and fortress artillery would be more practical.
This view seems at first sight to contradict the requirement that the heavy batteries should form a reserve in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. As the armies do not exist in peace-time, and manoeuvres are seldom carried out in army formation, the result of the present organization is that the tactical relations of the heavy artillery and the other troops are not sufficiently understood. This disadvantage would be removed if heavy artillery were assigned permanently to each army corps. This would not prevent it being united in war-time in the hands of the army leaders. On the contrary, they would be used in manoeuvres in relation to the army corps in precisely the same sense as they would be in war-time in relation to the armies.
The operations of the army in the enemy's countries will be far more effective if it has control of the railways and roads. That implies not merely the restoration of railroads that may have been destroyed, but the rapid capture of the barrier forts and fortresses which impede the advance of the army by cutting off the railway communications. We were taught the lesson in 1870-71 in France how far defective railway communications hindered all operations. It is, therefore, of vital importance that a corps should be available, whose main duty is the discharge of these necessary functions.
Until recently we had only one united corps of pioneers, which was organized alike for operations in the field and for siege operations, but these latter have recently been so much developed that that system can no longer supply an adequate technical training for them.
The demands made by this department of warfare, on the one hand, and by the duties of pioneering in the field on the other, are so extensive and so essentially different that it seems quite impracticable to train adequately one and the same corps in both branches during two years' service. The chief functions of the field pioneer are bridge-building, fortifying positions, and supporting the infantry in the attack on fortified places. The most important part of the fortress pioneer's duties consists in sapping, and, above all, in mining, in preparing for the storming of permanent works, and in supporting the infantry in the actual storm. The army cannot be satisfied with a superficial training for such service; it demands a most thorough going previous preparation.
Starting from this point of view, General v. Beseler, the late Inspector-General of Fortresses and Pioneers, who has done inestimable service to his country, laid the foundations of a new organization. This follows the idea of the field pioneers and the fortress pioneers—a rudimentary training in common, followed by separate special training for their special duties. We must continue on these lines, and develop more particularly the fortress pioneer branch of the service in better proportion to its value.
In connection with the requirements already discussed, which are directly concerned with securing and maintaining an increase of tactical efficiency, we must finally mention two organizations which indirectly serve the same purpose. These diminish the tactical efficiency of the enemy, and so increase our own; while, by reconnoitring and by screening movements, they help the attack and make it possible to take the enemy unawares—an important condition of successful offensive warfare. I refer to the cavalry and the air-fleet.
The cavalry's duties are twofold. On the one hand, they must carry out reconnaissances and screening movements, on the other hand they must operate against the enemy's communications, continually interrupt the regular renewal of his supplies, and thus cripple his mobility.
Every military expert will admit that our cavalry, in proportion to the war-footing of the army, and in view of the responsible duties assigned them in war, is lamentably weak. This disproportion is clearly seen if we look at the probable wastage on the march and in action, and realize that it is virtually impossible to replace these losses adequately, and that formations of cavalry reserves can only possess a very limited efficiency. Popular opinion considers cavalry more or less superfluous, because in our last wars they certainly achieved comparatively little from the tactical point of view, and because they cost a great deal. There is a general tendency to judge cavalry by the standard of 1866 and 1870-71. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that this standard is misleading. On the one hand, the equipment was then so defective that it crippled the powers of the mounted man in the most important points; on the other hand, the employment of the cavalry was conducted on a wholly antiquated system. It was, consequently, not armed for independent movements. What they then did must not be compared with what will be required from them in the future. In wars in which mounted forces were really effective, and not hampered in their movements by preconceived notions (as in the American War of Secession and the Boer War), their employment has been continuously extended, since the great value of their operative mobility was convincingly shown, especially in Africa, notwithstanding all modern weapons. These are the wars which must be studied in order to form a fair opinion. They will convince us that an increase of our cavalry is absolutely imperative. It will, of course, only be valuable when the divisions of the army cavalry are equipped with columns and trains in such a way that they can operate independently. The effectiveness of the cavalry depends entirely on the fulfilment of this condition. It is also imperatively necessary, when the measures of our opponents are considered, to strengthen the fighting force of the cavalry by an adequate addition of cyclist sections. This is the more requisite, as, on the one hand, the attack on the enemy's communications must expect vigorous opposition, and, on the other hand, the screening duties, which are even more important for the offensive than the reconnaissances, are likely to be specially successful if cavalry and cyclists combine. Again, an increased strength of cavalry is undeniably required to meet the reconnoitring and screening troops of the enemy.
Besides the strengthening of this arm and the addition of cyclists, another organization is required if the cavalry are to do useful service. Brigades of two regiments and divisions of six regiments are in war-time, where all depends on decisive action, far too small, as I have repeatedly demonstrated without being refuted.
The brigades must in war be three regiments strong. The strength of the divisions and corps may vary according to the requirements of the time being. Just because our cavalry is so weak, the organization must be in a high degree elastic. There can, besides, be no doubt on the point that the side which commands the services of the stronger cavalry, led on modern lines, will have at the outset quite inestimable advantage over the enemy, which must make itself felt in the ultimate issue.
I might remark incidentally that the mounted batteries which are attached to the army cavalry must be formed with four guns each, so that the division with its three parts would have the control of three batteries, and, if necessary, a battery could be assigned to each brigade. That is an old suggestion which the Emperor William I. once made, but it has never yet been considered. It is not with cavalry usually a question of protracted artillery engagements, but of utilizing momentary opportunities; the greatest mobility is required together with the most many-sided efficiency and adaptability. There can obviously, therefore, be no question of a systematic combination with the artillery. Such a thing can only be of value in the case of cavalry when it is important to make a decisive attack.
The reconnaissance and screening duties of the cavalry must be completed by the air-fleet. Here we are dealing with something which does not yet exist, but we can foresee clearly the great part which this branch of military science will play in future wars.[A] It is therefore necessary to point out in good time those aspects of it which are of special weight in a military sense, and therefore deserve peculiar consideration from the technical side.
[Footnote A: The efficiency and success of the Italian aviators in Tripoli are noteworthy, but must not be overvalued. There were no opponents in the air.]
The first requirement is that airships, in addition to simplicity of handling and independence of weather, should possess a superior fighting strength, for it is impossible effectively to screen the movements of the army and to open the road for reconnaissances without attacking successfully the hostile flying-machines and air cruisers.
The power to fight and destroy the hostile airships must be the leading idea in all constructions, and the tactics to be pursued must be at once thought out in order that the airships may be built accordingly, since tactics will be essentially dependent on the construction and the technical effectiveness. These reciprocal relations must be borne in mind from the first, so as to gain a distinct advantage over our opponents.
If the preceding remarks are epitomized, we have, apart from the necessity of enforcing universal service, quite a long list of proposed changes in organization, the adoption of which will considerably improve the efficiency of our army.
The whole organization must be such that the column length of the army corps does not exceed the size which allows a rapid advance, though the supplies are exclusively drawn from magazine depots.
In case of the larger formations, and especially of the army corps as being the tactical and operative unit, the principle of tripartition must be observed.
The infantry must be, in proportion to the artillery, substantially strengthened.
The artillery must be organized in such a way that it is possible to concentrate the fire of the howitzers where required without breaking up the units.
The cavalry must be increased, strengthened by cyclist sections, and so organized as to insure their efficiency in war.
The formation of reinforcements, especially for supplies, must be so elaborated that, on a rapid advance, an efficient system of feeding the troops entirely from magazine depots can be maintained.
The air-fleet must be energetically developed with the object of making it a better fighting machine than that of the enemy.
Finally, and this is the most important thing, we must strain every nerve to render our infantry tactically the best in the world, and to take care that none but thoroughly efficient formations are employed in the decisive field war.
The fulfilment of all these requirements on the basis of our present organization offers naturally great difficulties and can hardly be carried out. It is impossible to imagine a German Reichstag which, without the most extreme pressure of circumstances, could resolve to make for the army the sacrifices called for by our political condition. The temptation to shut the eyes to existing dangers and to limit political aims in order to repudiate the need of great sacrifices is so strong that men are sure to succumb to it, especially at a period when all political wisdom seems summed up in the maintenance of peace. They comfort themselves with the hope that the worst will not happen, although history shows that the misery produced by weakness has often surpassed all expectations.
But even if the nation can hardly be expected to understand what is necessary, yet the War Department must be asked to do their utmost to achieve what is possible, and not to stop short out of deference to public opinion. When the future of a great and noble nation is at stake there is no room for cowardice or inaction. Nothing must be done, as unhappily has too often been the case, which runs counter to the principles of a sound military organization.
The threefold division of the larger formations could be effected in various ways. Very divergent ideas may be entertained on this subject, and the difficulties of carrying out the scheme need extensive consideration. I will make a few proposals just by way of illustration.
One way would be to split up the army corps into three divisions of three infantry regiments each, and to abolish the superfluous intermediate system of brigades. Another proposal would be to form in every corps one of the present divisions of three brigades, so that the extra brigade combined with the light field howitzers and the Jaeger battalion would constitute in event of war a separate detachment in the hands of the commanding General. This last arrangement could be carried out comparatively easily under our present system, but entails the drawback that the system of twofold division is still in force within the brigades and divisions. The most sweeping reform, that of dividing the corps into three divisions, would have the advantage of being thorough and would allow the separate groups to be employed in many more ways.
The relations between the infantry and the artillery can naturally only be improved gradually by the strengthening of the infantry through the enforcement of universal service. The assignment of a fifth brigade to each army corps would produce better conditions than exist at present. But so soon as the strengthening of the infantry has gone so far that new army corps must be created, the artillery required for them can be taken from existing formations, and these can be diminished by this means. It will conduce to the general efficiency of the army if the artillery destined for each army corps is to some degree limited, without, however, reducing their total. Care must be taken that only the quantity of ammunition necessary for the first stages of the battle should be habitually carried by the columns of the troops engaged. All that exceeds this must be kept in the rear behind the commissariat waggons, and brought forward only on necessity—that is to say, when a battle is in prospect. The certainty of being able to feed the troops and thus maintain the rapidity of the advance is far more important than the more or less theoretical advantage of having a large quantity of ammunition close at hand during the advance. The soldiers will be inclined to be sparing of ammunition in the critical stages of the fight, and will not be disposed to engage with an unseen enemy, who can only be attacked by scattered fire; the full fire strength will be reserved for the deciding moments of the engagement. Then, however, the required ammunition will be on the spot, in any event, if it is brought forward by stages in good time.
A suitable organization of the artillery would insure that each division had an equal number of batteries at its disposal. The light field howitzers, however, must be attached to a division in such a way that they may form an artillery corps, without necessarily breaking up the formations of the division. The strength of the artillery must be regulated according to that of the infantry, in such a way that the entire marching depth does not exceed some 25 kilometres. The heavy field howitzers, on the other hand, must in peace be placed under the orders of the General commanding, and in event of war be combined as "army" artillery.
It would, perhaps, be advisable if the cavalry were completely detached from the corps formation, since the main body is absolutely independent in war as "army" cavalry. The regiments necessary for service with the infantry could be called out in turn during peace-time for manoeuvres with mixed arms, in order to be trained in the work of divisional cavalry, for which purpose garrison training can also be utilized. On the other hand, it is, I know, often alleged that the Truppenfuehrer are better trained and learn much if the cavalry are under their orders; but this objection does not seem very pertinent.
Another way to adapt the organization better to the efficiency of the arm than at present would be that the four cavalry regiments belonging to each army corps should be combined into a brigade and placed under the commanding General. In event of mobilization, one regiment would be withdrawn for the two divisions, while the brigade, now three regiments strong, would pass over to the "army" cavalry. The regiment intended for divisional cavalry would, on mobilization, form itself into six squadrons and place three of them at the service of each division. If the army corps was formed into three divisions, each division would only be able to receive two squadrons.
In this way, of course, a very weak and inferior divisional cavalry would be formed; the service in the field would suffer heavily under it; but since it is still more important to have at hand a sufficient army cavalry than a divisional cavalry, quite competent for their difficult task, there is, for the time being, no course left than to raise the one to its indispensable strength at the cost of the other. The blame for such a makeshift, which seriously injures the army, falls upon those who did not advocate an increase of the cavalry at the proper moment. The whole discussion shows how absolutely necessary such an increase is. If it were effected, it would naturally react upon the organization of the arm. This would have to be adapted to the new conditions. There are various ways in which a sound and suitable development of the cavalry can be guaranteed.
The absolutely necessary cyclist sections must in any case be attached to the cavalry in peace, in order that the two arms may be drilled in co-operation, and that the cavalry commander may learn to make appropriate use of this important arm. Since the cyclists are restricted to fairly good roads, the co-operation presents difficulties which require to be surmounted.
The views which I have here tried to sketch as aspects of the organization of the army can be combated from several standpoints. In military questions, particularly, different estimates of the individual factors lead to very different results. I believe, however, that my opinions result with a certain logical necessity from the whole aspect of affairs. It is most essential, in preparing for war, to keep the main leading idea fixed and firm, and not to allow it to be shaken by question of detail. Each special requirement must be regarded as part of that general combination of things which only really comes into view in actual warfare. The special standpoint of a particular arm must be rejected as unjustified, and the departmental spirit must be silenced. Care must be taken not to overestimate the technical and material means of power in spite of their undoubted importance, and to take sufficient account of the spiritual and moral factors. Our age, which has made such progress in the conquest of nature, is inclined to attach too much importance to this dominion over natural forces; but in the last resort, the forces that give victory are in the men and not in the means which they employ.
A profound knowledge of generalship and a self-reliant personality are essential to enable the war preparations to be suitably carried out; under the shifting influence of different aims and ideas the "organizer of victory" will often feel doubtful whether he ought to decide this way or that. The only satisfactory solution of such doubts is to deduce from a view of warfare in its entirety and its varied phases and demands the importance of the separate co-operating factors.
"For he who grasps the problem as a whole Has calmed the storm that rages in his soul"
TRAINING AND EDUCATION
Our first object, then, must be to organize and transform the German army into the most effective tool of German policy, and into a school of health and strength for our nation. We must also try to get ahead of our rivals by superiority of training, and at the same time to do full justice to the social requirements of the army by exerting all our efforts towards raising the spiritual and moral level of the units and strengthening their loyal German feelings.
Diligence and devotion to military education are no longer at the present day sufficient to make our troops superior to the enemy's, for there are men working no less devotedly in the hostile armies. If we wish to gain a start there is only one way to do it: the training must break with all that is antiquated and proceed in the spirit of the war of the future, which will impose fresh requirements on the troops as well as on the officers.
It is unnecessary to go into the details about the training in the use of modern arms and technical contrivances: this follows necessarily from the introduction of these means of war. But if we survey the sphere of training as a whole, two phenomena of modern warfare will strike us as peculiarly important with regard to it: the heightened demands which will be made on individual character and the employment of "masses" to an extent hitherto unknown.
The necessity for increased individualization in the case of infantry and artillery results directly from the character of the modern battle; in the case of cavalry it is due to the nature of their strategical duties and the need of sometimes fighting on foot like infantry; in the case of leaders of every grade, from the immensity of the armies, the vast extent of the spheres of operation and fields of battle, and the difficulty, inseparable from all these conditions, of giving direct orders. Wherever we turn our eyes to the wide sphere of modern warfare, we encounter the necessity of independent action—by the private soldier in the thick of the battle, or the lonely patrol in the midst of the enemy's country, as much as by the leader of an army, who handles huge hosts. In battle, as well as in operations, the requisite uniformity of action can only be attained at the present time by independent co-operation of all in accordance with a fixed general scheme.
The employment of "masses" requires an entirely altered method of moving and feeding the troops. It is one thing to lead 100,000 or perhaps 200,000 men in a rich country seamed with roads, and concentrate them for a battle—it is another to manoeuvre 800,000 men on a scene of war stripped bare by the enemy, where all railroads and bridges have been destroyed by modern explosives. In the first case the military empiric may be equal to the occasion; the second case demands imperatively a scientifically educated General and a staff who have also studied and mastered for themselves the nature of modern warfare. The problems of the future must be solved in advance if a commander wishes to be able to operate in a modern theatre of war with certainty and rapid decision.
The necessity of far-reaching individualization then is universally recognized. To be sure, the old traditions die slowly. Here and there an undeserved importance is still attached to the march past as a method of education, and drilling in close formation is sometimes practised more than is justified by its value. The cavalry is not yet completely awakened from its slumbers, and performs the time-honoured exercises on the parade-grounds with great strain on the horses' strength, oblivious of the existence of long-range quick-firing guns, and as if they were still the old arm which Napoleon or Frederick the Great commanded. Even the artillery is still haunted by some more or less antiquated notions; technical and stereotyped ideas still sometimes restrict the freedom of operations; in the practice of manoeuvres, artillery duels are still in vogue, while sufficient attention is not given to concentration of fire with a definite purpose, and to co-operation with the infantry. Even in theory the necessity of the artillery duel is still asserted. Many conservative notions linger on in the heavy artillery. Obsolete ideas have not yet wholly disappeared even from the new regulations and ordinances where they block the path of true progress; but, on the whole, it has been realized that greater individual responsibility and self-reliance must be encouraged. In this respect the army is on the right road, and if it continues on it and continually resists the temptation of restricting the independence of the subordinate for the sake of outward appearance, there is room for hope that gradually the highest results will be attained, provided that competent military criticism has been equally encouraged.
In this direction a healthy development has started, but insufficient attention has been given to the fact that the main features of war have completely changed. Although in the next war men will have to be handled by millions, the training of our officers is still being conducted on lines which belong to a past era, and virtually ignore modern conditions. Our manoeuvres more especially follow these lines. Most of the practical training is carried out in manoeuvres of brigades and divisions—i.e., in formations which could never occur in the great decisive campaigns of the future. From time to time—financial grounds unfortunately prevent it being an annual affair—a corps manoeuvre is held, which also cannot be regarded as training for the command of "masses." Sometimes, but rarely, several army corps are assembled for combined training under veteran Generals, who soon afterwards leave the service, and so cannot give the army the benefit of any experience which they may have gained.
It cannot, of course, be denied that present-day manoeuvres are extraordinarily instructive and useful, especially for the troops themselves', but they are not a direct training for the command of armies in modern warfare. Even the so-called "Imperial Manoeuvres" only correspond, to a very slight extent, to the requirements of modern war, since they never take account of the commissariat arrangements, and seldom of the arrangements for sheltering, etc., the troops which would be essential in real warfare. A glance at the Imperial Manoeuvres of 1909 is sufficient to show that many of the operations could never have been carried out had it been a question of the troops being fed under the conditions of war. It is an absolute necessity that our officers should learn to pay adequate attention to these points, which are the rule in warfare and appreciably cramp the power of operations. In theory, of course, the commissariat waggons are always taken into account; they are conscientiously mentioned in all orders, and in theory are posted as a commissariat reserve between the corps and the divisions. That they would in reality all have to circulate with a pendulum-like frequency between the troops and the magazines, that the magazines would have to be almost daily brought forward or sent farther back, that the position of the field bakeries is of extreme importance—these are all points which are inconvenient and troublesome, and so are very seldom considered.
In great strategic war-games, too, even in a theatre of war selected in Russia which excludes all living upon the country, the commissariat arrangements are rarely worked out in detail; I should almost doubt whether on such occasions the possibility of exclusive "magazine feeding" has ever been entertained. Even smaller opportunities of being acquainted with these conditions are given to the officer in ordinary manoeuvres, and yet it is extremely difficult on purely theoretical lines to become familiar with the machinery for moving and feeding a large army and to master the subject efficiently.
The friction and the obstacles which occur in reality cannot be brought home to the student in theory, and the routine in managing such things cannot be learnt from books.
These conditions, then, are a great check on the freedom of operations, but, quite apart from the commissariat question, the movements of an army present considerable difficulties in themselves, which it is obviously very hard for the inexperienced to surmount. When, in 1870, some rather complicated army movements were contemplated, as on the advance to Sedan, it was at once seen that the chief commanders were not masters of the situation, that only the fertility of the theatre of war and the deficient attacking powers of the French allowed the operations to succeed, although a man like Moltke was at the head of the army. All these matters have since been thoroughly worked out by our General Staff, but the theoretical labours of the General Staff are by no means the common property of the army.
On all these grounds I believe that first and foremost our manoeuvres must be placed on a new footing corresponding to the completely altered conditions, and that we must leave the beaten paths of tradition. The troops must be trained—as formerly—to the highest tactical efficiency, and the army must be developed into the most effective machine for carrying out operations; success in modern war turns on these two pivots. But the leaders must be definitely educated for that war on the great scale which some day will have to be fought to a finish. The paths we have hitherto followed do not lead to this goal.
All methods of training and education must be in accordance with these views.
I do not propose to go further into the battle training of infantry and cavalry in this place, since I have already discussed the question at length in special treatises.[A] In the case of the artillery alone, some remarks on the principles guiding the technical training of this arm seem necessary.
[Footnote A: v. Bernhardi: "Taktik und Ausbildung der Infanterie," 1910 "Unsere Kavallerie im naechsten Krieg," 1899; "Reiterdienst," 1910.]
The demands on the fighting-efficiency of this arm—as is partly expressed in the regulations—may be summed up as follows: all preconceived ideas and theories as to its employment must be put on one side, and its one guiding principle must be to support the cavalry or infantry at the decisive point. This principle is universally acknowledged in theory, but it ought to be more enforced in practice. The artillery, therefore, must try more than ever to bring their tactical duties into the foreground and to make their special technical requirements subservient to this idea. The ever-recurring tendency to fight chiefly the enemy's artillery must be emphatically checked. On the defensive it will, of course, often be necessary to engage the attacking artillery, if there is any prospect of success, since this is the most dreaded enemy of the infantry on the defensive; but, on the attack, its chief duty always is to fire upon the enemy's infantry, where possible, from masked positions. The principle of keeping the artillery divisions close together on the battlefield and combining the fire in one direction, must not be carried to an extreme. The artillery certainly must be employed on a large plan, and the chief in command must see that there is a concentration of effort at the decisive points; but in particular cases, and among the varying incidents of a battle, this idea will be carried out less effectively by uniformity of orders than by explaining the general scheme to the subordinate officers, and leaving to them the duty of carrying it out. Accordingly, it is important that the personal initiative of the subordinate officer should be recognized more fully than before; for in a crisis such independent action is indispensable. The great extent of the battlefields and the natural endeavour to select wooded and irregular ground for the attack will often force the artillery to advance in groups or in lines one behind the other, and to attempt, notwithstanding, united action against the tactically most important objective. This result is hard to attain by a centralization of command, and is best realized by the independent action of tactically trained subordinates.
This is not the place to enter into technical details, and I will only mention some points which appear especially important.
The Bz shell (Granatschuss) should be withdrawn as unsuitable, and its use should not form part of the training. It requires, in order to attain its specific effect against rifle-pits, such accurate aiming as is very seldom possible in actual warfare.
No very great value should be attached to firing with shrapnel. It seems to be retained in France and to have shown satisfactory results with us; but care must be taken not to apply the experiences of the shooting-range directly to serious warfare. No doubt its use, if successful, promises rapid results, but it may easily lead, especially in the "mass" battle, to great errors in calculation. In any case, practice with Az shot is more trustworthy, and is of the first importance.
The Az fire must be reserved principally for the last stages of an offensive engagement, as was lately laid down in the regulations.
Care must be taken generally not to go too far in refinements and complications of strategy and devices. Only the simplest methods can be successfully applied in battle; this fact must never be forgotten.
The important point in the general training of the artillery is that text-book pedantries—for example, in the reports on shooting—should be relegated more than hitherto to the background, and that tactics should be given a more prominent position. In this way only can the artillery do really good service in action; but the technique of shooting must not be neglected in the reports. That would mean rejecting the good and the evil together, and the tendency to abolish such reports as inconvenient must be distinctly opposed.
Under this head, attention must be called to the independent manoeuvres of artillery regiments and brigades in the country, which entail large expenditure, and, in fact, do more harm than good. They must, in my opinion, be abandoned or at least considerably modified, since their possible use is not in proportion to their cost and their drawbacks. They lead to pronounced tactics of position (Stellungstaktik) which are impracticable in war; and the most important lesson in actual war—the timely employment of artillery within a defined space and for a definite object without any previous reconnoitring of the country in search of suitable positions for the batteries—can never be learnt on these manoeuvres. They could be made more instructive if the tactical limits were marked by troops; but the chief defect in these manoeuvres—viz., that the artillery is regarded as the decisive arm—cannot be thus remedied. The usual result is that favourable artillery positions are searched for, and that they are then adhered to under some tactical pretence.
After all, only a slight shifting of the existing centre of gravity may be necessary, so far as the development of the fighting tactics of the various branches of the service is concerned, in order to bring them into line with modern conditions. If, however, the troops are to be educated to a higher efficiency in operations, completely new ground must be broken, on which, I am convinced, great results and an undoubted superiority over our opponents can be attained. Considerable difficulties will have to be surmounted, for the crucial point is to amass immense armies on a genuine war footing; but these difficulties are not, in my opinion, insurmountable.
There are two chief points: first, the practice of marching and operations in formations at war strength, fully equipped with well-stocked magazines as on active service; and, secondly, a reorganization of the manoeuvres, which must be combined with a more thorough education of the chief commanders.
As regards the first point, practice on this scale, so far as I know, has never yet been attempted. But if we consider, firstly, how valuable more rapid and accurate movements of great masses will be for the war of the future, and, secondly, what serious difficulties they involve, we shall be rewarded for the attempt to prepare the army systematically for the discharge of such duties, and thus to win an unquestioned advantage over our supposed antagonist.
The preparation for the larger manoeuvres of this sort can naturally also be carried out in smaller formation. It is, moreover, very important to train large masses of troops—brigades and divisions—in long marches across country by night and day with pioneer sections in the vanguard, in order to gain experience for the technique of such movements, and to acquire by practice a certain security in them.
Training marches with full military stores, etc., in columns of 20 to 25 kilometres depth would be still more valuable, since they correspond to the daily needs of real warfare. Should it not be possible to assemble two army corps in such manoeuvres, then the necessary depth of march can be obtained by letting the separate detachments march with suitable intervals, in which case the intervals must be very strictly observed. This does not ever really reproduce the conditions of actual warfare, but it is useful as a makeshift. The waggons for the troops would have to be hired, as On manoeuvres, though only partly, in order to save expense. The supplies could be brought on army transport trains, which would represent the pioneer convoys (Verpflegungsstaffel), and would regulate their pace accordingly.