The History Book Club discussion

208 views
THE FIRST WORLD WAR > 1. THE FIRST WORLD WAR ~ CHAPTERS 1 and 2 (3 - 47) (02/21/10 - 02/28/10) ~ No spoilers, please

Comments Showing 1-50 of 149 (149 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod


KICKOFF DAY - February 21, 2010

Hello Everyone,

February 21st is the first day in the kickoff week for THE FIRST WORLD WAR. This begins the first week's reading in our new Spotlighted group discussion.

The complete table of contents is as follows:

List of Maps ix
List of Illustrations xi
Acknowledgments xv

ONE: A European Tragedy p.3
TWO: War Plans p.24
THREE: The Crisis of 1914 p.48
FOUR: The Battle of the Frontiers and the Marne p.71
FIVE: Victory and Defeat in the East p.138
SIX: Stalemate p.175
SEVEN: The War Beyond the Western Front p.204
EIGHT: The Year of Battles p. 257
NINE: The Breaking of Armies p. 309
TEN: America and Armageddon p. 372

Notes: p. 429
Bibliography p. 449
Index p. 457


The assignment for this week includes the following segments/pages:

Week One - February 21st - February 28th -> Chapters ONE and TWO p.3-47
ONE - A European Tragedy and TWO - War Plans


We look forward to your participation; but remember this is a non spoiler thread.

We will open up threads for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers.

This book is being kicked off on February 21st. This will be the first week's assignment for this book.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library.

A special welcome to those who will be newcomers to this discussion and thank you to those who have actively contributed on the previous Spotlighted book selection. We are glad to have you all.

For those of you who would like to kick this book off early, please be my guest; however this thread is only dedicated to pages 3- 47 (so no spoilers and no discussions beyond those pages).

Welcome,

~Bentley

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

The First World War by John Keegan John Keegan


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
John Keegan in the Acknowledgments began his book with a very moving paragraph about how the First World War personally impacted him and his family.

He began:

"I grew up with men who fought in the First World War and with women who had waited at home for news of them. My father fought in the First World War, so did his two brothers, so did my father-in-law. All four survived. My father's and my father-in-law's carefully censored memories of their war experiences first introduced me to the war's nature. My father's sister, one of the army of spinsters the war created, told me, towards the end of her life, something of the anxieties of those left behind. To them, and to the hundreds of other veterans directly and indirectly caught up in the war's tragedy to whom I have spoken over the years, I owe the inspiration for this book."

Since I am not of this generation nor even the one that followed, I did not hear these accounts of that First World War and belong to a group which was spared the misery of not having a beloved family member not return home.

My connection with this war has been my interest in history; because of my love of history I have visited some of the World War I sites and the impact that these sites had and the stories they tell so many years later affected me profoundly.

I can only imagine the impact this war had on the living during that time period.

I was wondering if collectively folks could share some of their families recollections of this war and the impact it may have had on you and/or your family or even some friends' families.

Why do you think this war even sometimes more than the one that followed creates a profound sadness in folks when they discuss these battles and this war in general?

What does Keegan mean when he refers to this war's "nature"? What was the "nature' of this war and why was it different and/or the same as other conflicts?


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Afghanistan battle like First World War

British, Afghan and coalition forces battled the Taliban at close quarters, knee-deep in mud, over Christmas in fierce trench battles reminiscent of the First World War, it has emerged.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=h...

Have you ever wondered if we have learned anything from previous conflicts?


message 4: by JP (new)

JP I think the reason why the First World War holds such a firm grip on our collective memory is simply because it set the precedent for all future wars. Nothing like it had ever happened before. It gave us the first air war, the first submarine battles, the first gas attacks, etc. The first war that literally involved most of the major nations on the planet. To many it probably felt like armageddon, like the world was coming to an end. There was no frame of reference for the collective imagination to refer to because nothing like this had ever happened before. The haunting war poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon has also helped to shape our view of this war.

In many ways though it often seems like the forgotten war. The History Channel devotes so much coverage to WW2, the American Revolution, and Ice Road Truckers that WWI seems to get lost in the shuffle. Also, there aren't any WWI veterans still alive to keep the first hand account of that war alive.

I think the "nature" of this war was one of total destruction. Not just destruction of life but of property, culture, friendships, alliances, etc. I think the totality of the war and the impact it had on society is what made this war different from the one that followed. WW2 was even more destructive but was fought to stop the spread of National Socialism and to free Europe from the Nazis. WWI was fought more so that the newly unified Germany could flex its muscles on the world stage. So the reasons for fighting were different. I think that is something worth exploring a bit. While patriotism was high during both campaigns, how were the motives different for soldiers fighting the two wars? You've heard many of the WW2 soldiers say it was because we were attacked (i.e. Pearl Harbor) and had to defend what we stood for. That was not the case in WWI. So I guess the question then is what motivated these men to fight?


message 5: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 15, 2010 09:29AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 54 comments JP The History Channel devotes so much coverage to WW2, the American Revolution, and Ice Road Truckers that WWI seems to get lost in the shuffle

-----------------

Ice Road Truckers...I hear ya. :(

Today is Presidents Day, you would think The History Channel would devote the entire day to the presidents. They are showing a few of their terrific President's series, but not enough. Most of the day is devoted to a series titled: Pawn Stars. Egad.


message 6: by JP (new)

JP I know. Honestly, I've been really disappointed with the History Channel. They show all these shows like Ice Road Truckers that have nothing to do with history. It's frustrating. History International actually has more stuff devoted to real history. The Military Channel is pretty good too.

At any rate, I think the First World War is going to be a great read. I'm reading a biography of Bismark right now so I'll have to hurry up and finish that so I can participate.


message 7: by Jan (new)

Jan (janverschoor) The discussion has started already before the 21th of february !. I quote JP:
'I think the totality of the war and the impact it had on society is what made this war different from the one that followed.'
I don't think that the first world war was more 'total' and its 'impact on society' greater than the second world war. For instance, when you lived in the southern part of France the war was not so prominent. Things were different of course when you lived in a region with trenches. And remember: not a meter of German soil was occupied during the Great War. Compare this with the second world war: mass bombardments of almost every German city and eventually a invasion from the West and from the East (the Russians!) The influence of the first world war on society was undoubtedly immense but of the second world war in many countries (more)
devastating (e.g.mass deportations)

I am looking forward to the discussions on Keegan's book!


JP wrote: "I think the reason why the First World War holds such a firm grip on our collective memory is simply because it set the precedent for all future wars. Nothing like it had ever happened before. It g..."

Bentley wrote: "Afghanistan battle like First World War

British, Afghan and coalition forces battled the Taliban at close quarters, knee-deep in mud, over Christmas in fierce trench battles reminiscent of the Fir..."





message 8: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2010 12:02PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Yes, Jan...I was in the process of setting up the discussion and thought it might be a good idea to talk about the "collective memory" in advance that families have about the First World War itself before we get into the reading. Also it will spur folks on to read Chapter One and Two in order to be ready. Since I have no first hand knowledge of this war, I thought it would be a good idea to hear from folks who might have heard stories passed down or actually know or have met folks and/or families who were directly impacted by World War I.

Just remember all: that this thread only deals with pages 3 - 47 and only the Acknowledgements, Chapters 1 and 2.

Opening it up early gives folks a chance to discuss why folks continue to visit the battle sites and "remember" what those folks who they may not even have known and who might have been from countries not of their own all went through. These sites like Verdun and so many others still resonate with everyone generations later. What was the "nature" of this war which might have made it different?


message 9: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 244 comments I am really looking forward to reading this book because I don't know very much about WWI. I have it in my mind that it is a "boring" war of static trench fighting. But, as JP notes, there were a lot of advancements in technology that affected the war. I think it was how these advancements were absorbed into the strategy and tactics of the time that made this war different than those that came before.

I am also looking forward to this book because, if Keegan holds to form, it should be very well done.


message 10: by Jim (new)

Jim (jimpchip) | 29 comments Speaking of first hand experiences .....

My grandfather fought in WWI prior coming to America and settling eventually in Chicago. The only stories he would tell involved being confined to a hospital at one point and waking up one day and the guy next to him had died. The next morning the guy on the other side had died. He was convinced he was next.

My knowledge of the War and his stories stop there so my interest is high in the book. He really wouldn't talk much more about it and as kids we didn't press the issue. Also, it really wasn't a topic that I can remember being covered in schools growing up. He grew up in Croatia and I believe it was part of the Austro-Hungarian (sp?) army but I'm going to have to read more to find out!


message 11: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2010 04:22PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
JP wrote: "I think the reason why the First World War holds such a firm grip on our collective memory is simply because it set the precedent for all future wars. Nothing like it had ever happened before. It g..."

JP...yes, you might be on to something. I wondered why generations later...young folks and really folks of all ages make their pilgrimages to these sites and are so deeply affected and moved.

The poetry of the combatants are enough to move folks to tears. You have to feel for what these men went through. The photo that I chose for the avatar really shows the despair up close. I think we have one WWI veteran still alive in the United States and he is the man who is trying to have the memorials for his fallen comrades fixed up and maintained. Hard to believe that he would have to ask for that at his age and for that purpose.

Here is an article on the monument itself and the last surviving US veteran is Frank Buckles.

http://www.wwimemorial.org/

Here is an article about Frank Buckles himself:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bu...

I only know of this one lone veteran in the United States; but I am sure many of you might know of survivors in your own countries and it may be good to honor them here before we begin reading The First World War.

JP..I think you made a very good point about the possible "nature" of this war that Keegan might have been referring to:

JP stated: "I think the "nature" of this war was one of total destruction. Not just destruction of life but of property, culture, friendships, alliances, etc. I think the totality of the war and the impact it had on society is what made this war different from the one that followed."

You also raised an excellent rhetorical question about motives:

JP stated:

"So the reasons for fighting were different. I think that is something worth exploring a bit. While patriotism was high during both campaigns, how were the motives different for soldiers fighting the two wars? You've heard many of the WW2 soldiers say it was because we were attacked (i.e. Pearl Harbor) and had to defend what we stood for. That was not the case in WWI. So I guess the question then is what motivated these men to fight?"

This is a very worthwhile question to keep in mind as we read Keegan's book and come back and revisit time and time again.

When I chose the group avatar this week to reflect something about the reading that we are about to embark upon and tried to conjure up in my mind the image that seemed to speak volumes about the "nature" of this war and how it was different, I was struck by the pathos and poignancy of the image I finally settled on.

description

This depicts a figure of an Australian soldier sitting in the mud with his head in his hands on the Western Front during the First World War. This life sized diorama was commissioned to highlight the harsh conditions the soldiers endured.

Source: Australian Memorial Site (WWI)

www.awm.gov.au/visit/ visit-mustsee-first.asp

I think the soldier covering up his eyes is an image that conveys that he cannot stand one moment more looking at the despair, destruction and even death around him. The one living figure solitary, desperate and horrified. He covers up his eyes so that he does not have to see the result of the evil around him.

This is the much loved Man in the Mud diorama and the Australians lost 46,000 men among the three million people who died in the fighting in the trench warfare. A sad commentary about the "nature" of this war.



message 12: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Alias Reader wrote: "JP The History Channel devotes so much coverage to WW2, the American Revolution, and Ice Road Truckers that WWI seems to get lost in the shuffle

-----------------

Ice Road Truckers...I hear ya. ..."


Very sad about the History Channel Alias. Couldn't agree with you more.




message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Jan wrote: "The discussion has started already before the 21th of february !. I quote JP:
'I think the totality of the war and the impact it had on society is what made this war different from the one that fo..."


Jan..being from the Continent you raise another perspective. And you explain some of the differences:

Jan stated:

"I don't think that the first world war was more 'total' and its 'impact on society' greater than the second world war. For instance, when you lived in the southern part of France the war was not so prominent. Things were different of course when you lived in a region with trenches. And remember: not a meter of German soil was occupied during the Great War. Compare this with the second world war: mass bombardments of almost every German city and eventually a invasion from the West and from the East (the Russians!) The influence of the first world war on society was undoubtedly immense but of the second world war in many countries (more) devastating (e.g.mass deportations)."

True differences Jan. Thank you for your insight on these. We look forward to your comments because you provide another perspective being from Europe itself.







message 14: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
What I am trying to accomplish with this week is some "preparation" for the reading of this book. I think we need to get into the mind set that we may encounter some things that might be difficult to discuss and read about and we need to develop some idea of the "nature" of the war itself. And what is war really about at the end of it all but about the effects on the people, the land heals eventually...but a lot of young men did not heal and did not come back and this affected of course them, their families and generations to come.

It would be good to have some first hand accounts of folks who had family members who did fight in the First World War and it would be better still to talk of their survival and their life afterwards. What impact did this war have upon these folks and if unfortunately some were not so fortunate how can we honor those memories so that they are not forgotten and realize that people do still care.

When I have visited some of the World War I sites, I always come away with how much dignity has been afforded these resting places for both their own countrymen, their allies but also for the dead of their enemies.


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Jim wrote: "Speaking of first hand experiences .....

My grandfather fought in WWI prior coming to America and settling eventually in Chicago. The only stories he would tell involved being confined to a hos..."


Hello Jim...welcome to the spotlighted book discussion.

Jim..you stated:

Speaking of first hand experiences .....

My grandfather fought in WWI prior coming to America and settling eventually in Chicago. The only stories he would tell involved being confined to a hospital at one point and waking up one day and the guy next to him had died. The next morning the guy on the other side had died. He was convinced he was next.

My knowledge of the War and his stories stop there so my interest is high in the book. He really wouldn't talk much more about it and as kids we didn't press the issue. Also, it really wasn't a topic that I can remember being covered in schools growing up. He grew up in Croatia and I believe it was part of the Austro-Hungarian (sp?) army but I'm going to have to read more to find out!


Jim..your account is so like many others that folks have told about family members being content to let the memories lie dormant. Probably what they endured was not something that they could share with a loved one and might have thought that they would burden them. It might have been too painful to "voice". Maybe there was that feeling that they might be "next". And maybe they feel fortunate and maybe a little "guilty" that they managed to free themselves from this horror and live on.

What I have found is that many of these survivors will participate in an Oral History project and relate memories as if they were yesterday; but were mum with their families all these years. Remarkable really.

It will be interesting hearing more about your grandfather's experiences maybe from other sources if you find out additional information I hope you will share it with us.

Welcome to the discussion,

Bentley


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Erick wrote: "I am really looking forward to reading this book because I don't know very much about WWI. I have it in my mind that it is a "boring" war of static trench fighting. But, as JP notes, there were a..."

Hello Erick and welcome to the spotlighted book discussion. We are having a prep week to help us understand the "nature" of this war and what the collective memory might be that we have about World War I. This will help I hope prepare us to read about a time and an event which was monumental and devastating for so many millions who died in this war.

I don't think it was a boring war; in fact it was quite horrific and eventful for many...but it was a deadly one. There is a lot that we will be able to talk about related to this war including why after all of this destruction that we could not learn from it and avoid "The Unnecessary War" - World War II.

I think this is one of Keegan's best so it should be enlightening and I am looking forward to the discussion as well.

We are glad to have you with us on this journey.

Bentley




message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
REGARDING CASUALITES (Both Military and Civilian)

The Australian War Site cited numbers concerning casualties which I thought were low when I read them (see the reference in message 11).

Thinking about the nature of this war; I wanted to look a little deeper into the numbers of the casualties and the type of casualties themselves.

Wikipedia is quoted as follows: (which is vastly higher!)

"The total number of casualties in World War I, both military and civilian, were about 37 million: 16 million deaths and 21 million wounded.

The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 6.8 million civilians. The Entente Powers (also known as the Allies) lost 5.7 million soldiers and the Central Powers about 4 million.

Unlike most (if not all) conflicts that took place in the 19th century and before, the majority of military deaths in World War I were caused by combat as opposed to disease.

Improvements in medicine as well as the increased lethality of military weaponry were both factors in this development.

Nevertheless, disease (including the Spanish flu) still caused a significant proportion of military deaths for all belligerents."


So combat was the main cause of death unlike all previous conflicts which came before which were from disease.

Medicine had become better but the weaponry had become more lethal.

Wikipedia discussed that there are differences in opinions as to the number of casualties:

"Estimates of casualty numbers for World War I vary to a great extent; estimates of total deaths range from 9 million to over 16.5 million [1:]

Military casualty statistics listed here include 6.8 million[2:] combat related deaths as well as 2 million military deaths caused by accidents, disease and deaths while prisoners of war.

When scholarly sources differ on the number of deaths in a country, a range of war losses is given, in order to inform readers that the death toll is uncertain.

The table lists total deaths; the footnotes give a breakdown between combat and non-combat losses. The figures listed below include about 6 million civilian deaths due to war related famine and disease, these civilian losses are often omitted from other compilations of World War I casualties.

The war disrupted trade resulting in acute shortages of food which resulted in famine in Europe, the Ottoman Empire and Africa. Civilian deaths include the Armenian Genocide, and it is debated if this event should be included with war losses.

Civilian deaths due to the Spanish flu have been excluded from these figures, whenever possible. Furthermore, the figures do not include deaths during the Turkish War of Independence and the Russian Civil War. The data listed here is from official sources, whenever available.


See data and tables in source cited below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wa...


message 18: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Hi Bentley, I knew that picture was familiar, as I had seen it many times at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) but at a different angle. Here is some information on casualties (Commonwealth countries) as a percentage of those embarked for war.

British Isles: 5,000,000 - Total Embarkation. 2,535,424 - Total Casualties. 50.71%

Canada: 422,405 - Total Embarkation. 210,100 - Total Casualties. 49.74%

Australia: 331,781 - Total Embarkation. 215,585 - Total Casualties. 64.98%

New Zealand: 98,950 - Total Embarkation. 58,526 - Total Casualties. 59.01%

India (native): 1,096,013 - Total Embarkation. 140,015 - Total Casualties. 12.77%





message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 15, 2010 03:20PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Thank you Aussie Rick..the numbers do seem to be all over the place don't they. The picture itself is quite remarkable.

Your numbers seem to be focused on those embarked for war. The casualties for Australia in terms of percentages are tremendous..most who embarked never came back. However, all of the others and especially the British Isles all paid a high price.

America did not join the war until three years after it started and even then the number of Americans that died in World War 1 is 116,516.

And of course civilian casualties are not included in your table.


message 20: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Hi Bentley, I am unsure how many civilians we lost and we have another problem in that the AWM didn't record Australians who died in foreign service (including British regiments) as Australian casualties for some time, nor merchant seamen.

The different statistics taken from different sources are a bit of a mess. All Australia servicemen who served overseas during WW1 were all volunteers, we did not have conscription to keep our numbers up but suffered proportionally high casualties when compared to our actual population.

I find this period of history so interesting but mainly read on the Western Front. I read Keegan’s book when it first came out some years back and I think everyone will have a good time discussing the book and the War.



message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Thank you Aussie Rick for the explanation and assistance. This is our preparation week to try to understand the "nature" of this war and the differences between the wars that came before and those that followed. And why does this war resonate such emotion with so many who clearly were born generations later.

I think this will be a good read too.


message 22: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 244 comments Bentley wrote: "Erick wrote: "I am really looking forward to reading this book because I don't know very much about WWI. I have it in my mind that it is a "boring" war of static trench fighting. But, as JP notes..."

Bentley, I agree that this wasn't a boring war and I certainly didn't mean to minimize the courage and sacrifice of those who fought and suffered because of it. I was describing a prejudice I have always had and how I am looking forward to having it corrected.


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
No problem or offense taken Erick...I am sure everybody will learn and expand their vision of what this war was like for those who fought in the war, for those who died, and for those who lived on with or without their loved ones. I think so many of us do not have any personal connection with this war because we did not have loved ones affected, this war was generations before and the strongest connection we have is when we visit those battlefields and see the vastness of the cemetaries and see the films which depict the absolute horror of the environmental and personal devastation. The trench warfare did have some numbing consequences which we will undoubtedly talk more about later.

I think the school history lessons we all had did not do too much to enlighten our thinking nor were we taught as much about this war as some of the others.

It should be quite a journey.

Glad to have you with us.

Bentley


message 24: by Virginia (new)

Virginia (va-BBoomer) | 210 comments I'm looking forward to this book and discussion for the same reason as expressed - unfamiliarity with the scope and facts of WW1. The only reference to WW


message 25: by Virginia (new)

Virginia (va-BBoomer) | 210 comments ...(continued; glitch) I grew up with was only from the WW2 angle, especially with reference to the rise of Hitler. And when mustard gas is mentioned, I heard it started in WW1. Otherwise, I know a lot more about WW2 than WW1. I'm looking forward to getting this corrected.


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 16, 2010 11:03AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Yes, Virginia there is a lot that most of us do not know about World War I...WWII being later seems to be the one everyone knows about.

It is horrible to say this but mustard gas was considered to be a major military innovation in WWI.

We are glad to have you with us on this journey.

Bentley


message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 16, 2010 12:37PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
One thing to try to keep in mind as we begin this journey is the organization of the war itself. This organization might help organize the book and the events in a easier format.

Remember there are always the theaters of war. Within each of these theaters are campaigns and within these campaigns are the specific individual battles.

In World War I, there were the following theaters...so I am introducing for you the top part of the funnel:

European Theater: (Western Front, Eastern Front, Balkans, Italian Front)
Middle Eastern Theater: (Caucasus · Mesopotamia · Sinai and Palestine · Gallipoli · Persia)
African Theater: (South-West · West · East · North)
Asian and Pacific theatre: (Siege of Tsingtao)
Atlantic Ocean · Mediterranean (The War at Sea)


We will be discussing all of these and I will give additional info along with Keegan as we get started. But try to wrap yourself around this larger concept of how the war was enacted.

If you can find a good book of war maps for World War I to accompany your reading, that would probably be helpful to you. But I will do my best to help you as we move along.

Note: I increased the size of the theaters and what is in the parentheses beside the major theaters are more or less the campaigns. I have not gotten down to the battle level yet except possibly Gallipoli which is a campaign made up of battles; but maybe because of the awful consequences of that campaign; it stands out by itself as almost synonymous with both).


message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Chapter One is called EUROPEAN TRAGEDY.

It has a seven page introduction. And then has a section which is titled EUROPEAN HARMONY which begins on page 10. This next segment goes along until the top of page 18 (top of page).

Then the next section of this chapter is called A EUROPE OF SOLDIERS which begins on page 18 and goes through the end of Chapter One which ends on page 23. The table of contents of the book does not reflect these segments; but we will when discussing this chapter.


message 29: by Martin Lamb (new)

Martin Lamb I received my book today in the mail. I am looking forward to this discussion.


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 16, 2010 10:50PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Chapter Two is called WAR PLANS.

This chapter does not have any of these segments but it does have a diagram on page 31 called the Schlieffen Plan which you should look over in detail.

Also, try to take a look at the maps at the front of the book:

The first map shows Europe at war, 1914. It shows the situation as on November 30, 1914. In the darker shade you will see the Central Powers and their associates, in the the lighter shade you will see the countries known as the Entente Powers. And then in white are those countries known as Neutral States.

There is also one broken dashed looking line which shows the WESTERN FRONT and another heavier broken dashed looking line which shows the EASTERN FRONT. Both the Western Front and Eastern Front were campaigns in Europe which were part of the EUROPEAN THEATER.

It is a good idea to become familiar with these maps and others if you can get your hands on them.

The next map is titled The World at War 1914. The darkest shading shows the extent of the British Empire in 1914 (400,000,000 people strong), the middle shading shows the French Empire in 1914 (95,638,000 people strong) and the lightest shading shows the German Empire in 1914 (66,745,000 people strong).

After page 110 in your book should be a grouping of photos, etc.
Be sure to look at the bust on the bottom left of Schlieffen after page 110.


message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 16, 2010 05:58PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Martin wrote: "I received my book today in the mail. I am looking forward to this discussion."

Hello Martin,

We are delighted to have you join this discussion. Glad that you have your book...we are still doing all of the preparation work, etc. but we have been discussing some preliminary questions on what is the "nature" of World War I which may have made it a different kind of war. We have also discussed the Acknowledgment segment. We will be about ready to start digging into Chapter One and Two.

Do you happen to have any family members or ancestors that you know of that served in World War I and/or were affected by World War I..we would be very interested to hear about them. So much of us and this also included me do not have any first hand knowledge of this war from any family members.




message 32: by Martin Lamb (new)

Martin Lamb Unfortunately I do not have any family members that have served during that time period. My great grand father grew up during that time period but he passed away before I was born.


message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Martin, I guess many of us are in the same boat. I would certainly love to hear from any of the group members who do have some family stories to pass on. That is always so interesting; hearing from primary sources.


message 34: by Martin Lamb (new)

Martin Lamb I agree first hand accounts are very interesting. I enjoy listening to my grandpa's stories during the Depression and WW2. Especially some of the pictures he has passed on to me. To know someone who was actually there is always exciting.


message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Yes, it is...you get a view from someone you trust and you love.


message 36: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Before we begin, I would like to give a high level outline of what each chapter of our reading covers.

Chapter One begins with the author describing the First World War as a tragic and unnecessary conflict.

Keegan even goes so far as to say that the Second World War was the direct outcome of the first and the direct outcome of the Germans (through Adolf Hitler) demanding vengeance.

The war itself brought untold heartbreak to millions; there were many ceremonial monuments to the dead, but the Germans in particular who could not decently mourn their four million dead from the Second World War had also found the same issue with the First (since so many lay on foreign soil).

As countries buried their "unknown soldier", Hitler became known as Germany's "unknown corporal".

The casualties on all sides were enormous along with terrible mutilations and injuries in many who were even fortunate enough to have survived.

It was not only the physical damage of human beings that lay in ruin but a damaged civilization.

Keegan then goes on to describe the period of EUROPEAN HARMONY and prosperity that Europe and other countries/continents had enjoyed prior to the war. That even as the Second World War was so expected; this first war was the complete opposite; because it was so unexpected.

In the EUROPE OF SOLDIERS segment, Keegan drew a picture of the mistrust, suspicion and rivalry between the countries that ruled so much of the rest of the world (specifically Britain and France); especially from Germany which decided with the enactment of the Second Naval Law to build a fleet capable of engaging the Royal Navy in battle.

This created an industry of "creating soldiers". By 1914, this industry had created over 200 military divisions over Europe which was astonishing.

To make matters worse there was a lack of good military communication, as well as the means of cross communication between armies which at this time was practically non-existent.

In the end it was the lack of diplomatic communication which failed to control and stop this conflict from taking shape; a conflict which ultimately would progress to destroy a portion of the European continent and its civilization for years to come.

This chapter is very dense and covers a lot of ground so take it slowly and read it very carefully in preparation for our discussion


message 37: by JP (new)

JP Thanks Bentley. We can also think of the period between the wars (1914-1945) as a second Thirty Years War. I tend to subscribe to this view rather than the view that the Second World War was a direct outgrowth of the First.

I'd like to make some comments on the origins of the war. Do we have a thread for that?


message 38: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2010 08:04AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Hi JP,

We will be discussing the origins of the war on this thread but not yet. Let us hold off until the 21st which is the kickoff day. Right now I am only including the outlines of the chapters to keep everything in focus before we begin.

You might want to post more about your belief that the period between the wars as being a second Thirty Years War. That would be some interesting preparation work and discussion in advance of the kickoff.

These two chapters allude to many of the undercurrents but does not specifically get down to much of the nitty gritty until a bit of two and the beginning of three so I would prefer to hold off.

There is always the SPOILER thread which is open already for those who cannot wait and would like to discuss something in advance of the reading and discussion itself. I set one up for The First World War discussion for some folks who would like to jump ahead.


message 39: by JP (new)

JP Should I continue the discussion about a second Thirty Years war here or should I create a new post?


message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2010 08:23AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Continue it here on this thread would be fine and it is really a good point to discuss now. It will provide an alternative view to Keegan's theory while folks are reading Chapters One and Two.


message 41: by JP (new)

JP Bentley asked me to follow-up on my view that the period between the two wars was like a second Thirty Years War. As a reminder, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was fought initially between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire but ultimately devolved into a wider European conflict. I've heard many historians voice the belief that the period between the First World War and the Second was like a second Thirty Years War. I've come to agree with this viewpoint over the last year primarily because while fighting between the Great Powers may have ceased, a shadow war of politics was being fought during the inter-war period. For that reason I believe its best to treat the period as a unified whole rather than two separate periods.

I firmly believe that the great events of history are caused by a confluence of many historical threads that ultimately result in an historic bubble. Much like the financial bubbles where markets became overheated and subsequently "popped", historical bubbles pop too, with the result being the defining events of our times (in this case the First World War). It's impossible in my mind to point to causes of the First World War in bullet point form and say that "these caused the war".

There is little doubt that events which transpired during the First World War helped inspire the Second. That said, they had a bit of "historical help". Think of the historical animosity between Germany (previously Prussia) and France. Since the days of the Treaty of Verdun when the old Carolingian Empire of Charlemagne was split, the two have fought countless wars with one another. So there has always existed an historical animosity between the two. Prussia, and later Germany, would also suffer from a case of envy. France, particularly Paris, was everything Germany (i.e. Berlin) was not.

Germany only became unified in 1871 after a wave of nationalism which began with the March Revolution of 1848. She wanted to flex her muscles on the world stage and get some respect for the Fatherland. Through the auspices of both Bismark and Wilhelm II, she was ultimately led into war.

I don't want to extrapolate too much on causes as that is for another thread. This is simply to illustrate that the two periods, in my opinion, should be viewed as a whole.




message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2010 11:27AM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
You raise some interesting points and of course the verdict is still out here because we really have not begun the discussion in earnest.

I am sure that there will be some that agree with Keegan; could rightful thinking have curtailed the need for the First World War in the first place (of course); could things have been done differently at the end of the First World War which would have placed a damper on any enthusiasm for the "unknown corporal"...yes probably and most likely a great deal.

Did the Kaiser panic; maybe.

Was communication splintered at best...most assuredly. But there does not seem to be any way to not assert that plans for the debable known as the First World War were not on the drawing boards somewhere and all of the animosity between Germany and France did not go away after the end of the First World War; one country lost; but was determined to not feel bad about itself.

Was Germany more warlike to begin with..was its nature more warlike than the other countries around it. Was war always part of its psyche at that time. Did they always have grand ambitions?

Remember also the isms...you can never underestimate the power of the isms. Did she not feel that something better was deserved since 1848? Did a renewed wave of nationalism take over?

I am also giving some thought to having a separate thread on the Origins and the Causes of the First World War. These are very dense chapters and possibly this should be separated out as you suggested. Let me give it some more thought as we prepare to begin in earnest on the 21st.

Also Germany felt bullied; did they feel that they had only lost the initial battle but if given another chance that they could ultimately win the war. Did they ever give peace a chance after the First World War; were plans for another conflict always on their mind. There were a lot of pre-war conflicts going on elsewhere before and after the war so you are making some interesting points.

Great alternative analysis JP.


message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 17, 2010 11:16PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
As I mentioned in an earlier post, as we begin, I would like to give a high level outline of what each chapter of our reading covers.

Chapter Two begins with the obvious statement that "Armies make plans". It appears to me that Keegan is taking a bit of a stab at the military establishments as bearing a great deal of culpability for the fact that this war was not avoided. According to Keegan in this chapter, all of the armies were planning ahead for potential conflicts long before this one began.

The chapter is about War Plans. A vital peacetime task was the writing of railway movement tables. This fell to the professional military college staff and graduates who had been trained "how to assure military advantage in an international crisis, not how to resolve it." The diplomatic corps were of course at odds with these folks because their main interest was how to avoid war.

The main plan discussed was the Schlieffen Plan named after its architect. This specific plan will necessitate quite a bit of discussion along with the man who created it.

On the other side of the equation were the British and the French. Their general staffs had been in active conclave and by 1911 there was between them a firm understanding that "in the event of Germany's violation of the Anglo-French-Prussian treaty of 1839 guaranteeing Belgium's neutrality, a British Expeditionary Force would take its place on the French left, an understanding which palliated, if it did not solve, the Belgium problem. The two countries were not bound by any "formal treaty" but the French generals had learnt that "when their staffs (Brits and French) agreed upon something, action followed."

Then of course from the French viewpoint were the "Russians" - they were dilatory, secretive, unbusinesslike and they avoided commitments unlike the British who inspired confidence.

Then there was Conrad von Hotzendorf who thought there would be nothing better than for Serbia to be destroyed. Austria did not like Serbia for a number of reasons; it didn't show deference to Austria's unofficial imperium over the Balkans; but also because it attracted dissident Serbs. Conrad did not want to deal with any of these minorities.

And then finally at the pinnacle of communication and diplomatic failures, the Kaiser failed to comprehend the situation and the machinery he was supposed to control and in the final hour capitulated and let a "piece of paper control events".

Folks you will find that Chapter Two is even more dense. Just dig deep and keep reading right through..we will figure it out together. Just do not get bogged down in this chapter.


message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2010 09:36PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Keegan begins:

"The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. Unnecessary because the train of events that led to its outbreak might have been broken at any point during the five weeks of crisis that preceded the first clash of arms had prudence or common goodwill found a voice; tragic because the consequences of the first clash ended the lives of ten million human beings, tortured the emotional lives of millions more destroyed the benevolent and optimistic culture of the European continent and left, when the guns at last fell silent four years later, a legacy of politcal rancor and racial hatred so intense that no explanation of the causes of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots."

Source; Page 3

How was the First World War unnecessary? What could have been done differently and by whom to have avoided this war? And do you believe that the Second World War was the direct result of the first?


message 45: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
"On 18 September 1922, Adolf Hitler, the demobilized front fighter threw down a challange to defeated Germany that he would realize seventeen years later: "It cannot be that two million Germans should have fallen in vain...No, we do not pardon, we demand...vengeance."

Source: Page 3

Would an Adolf Hitler been able to develop a stronghold years later if not for World War I?


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2010 10:25PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Keegan mentions why the Germans may have had some hostile feelings after World War I:

"While the British were accorded a sepulture perpetuelle for their places of burial, which ramified during the 1920s into a archipelago of gardened graveyards along the line of the Western Front breathtaking in their beauty, the Germans were obligated to excavate mass graves in obscure locations to contain the remains of their casualties. Only in East Prussia, on the site of the Tanneburg epic, did they succeed in creating a mausoleum of triumphal monumentality for the fallen. At home, far from the fronts where their young men had died, they gave form to their sorrow in church and cathedral monuments that take their inspiration chiefly from the austerity of high Gothic art, often using the image of Grunewald's Crucifixion or Holbein's Christ in the Tomb as their theme."

Were the Germans treated with so much retribution and hostility that there built up in them such resentment as a people that it fostered this sense of hostility towards the world for their assigned fate which in many respects had been brought to bear by their actions in WWI? What could have been done to try to lessen the world hatred and the hatred on both sides after the war?


message 47: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod




GRUNEWALD'S CRUCIFIXION

Description from WebMuseum:

"Art for him did not consist in the search for the hidden laws of beauty - for him it could have only one aim, the aim of all religious art in the Middle Ages - that of providing a sermon in pictures, of proclaiming the sacred truths as taught by the Church. The central panel of the Isenheim altarpiece shows that he sacrificed all other considerations to this one overriding aim. Of beauty, as the Italian artists saw it, there is none in the stark and cruel picture of the crucified Savior. Like a preacher at Passiontide, Grunewald left nothing undone to bring home to us the horrors of this scene of suffering: Christ's dying body is distorted by the torture of the cross; the thorns of the scourges stick in the festering wounds which cover the whole figure. The dark red blood forms a glaring contrast to the sickly green of the flesh. By His features and the impressive gesture of His hands, the Man of Sorrows speaks to us of the meaning of His Calvary. His suffering is reflected in the traditional group of Mary, in the garb of a widow, fainting in the arms of St John the Evangelist, to whose care the Lord has commended her, and in the smaller figure of St Mary Magdelene with her vessel of ointments, wringing her hands in sorrow. On the other side of the Cross, there stands the powerful figure of St John the Baptist with the ancient symbol of the lamb carrying the cross and pouring out its blood into the chalice of the Holy Communion. With a stern and commanding gesture he points towards the Savior, and over him are written the words that he speaks (according to the gospel of St John iii. 30): 'He must increase, but I must decrease.'

There is little doubt that the artist wanted the beholder of the altar to meditate on these words, which he emphasized so strongly by the pointing hand of St John the Baptist. Perhaps he even wanted us to see how Christ must grow and we diminish. For in this picture, in which reality seems to be depicted in all its unmitigated horror, there is one unreal and fantastic trait: the figures differ greatly in size. We need only compare the hands of St Mary Magdalene under the Cross with those of Christ to become fully aware of the astonishing difference in their dimensions. It is clear that in these matters Grunewald rejected the rules of modern art as it had developed since the Renaissance, and that he deliberately returned to the principles of medieval and primitive painters, who varied the size of their figures according to their importance in the picture. Just as he had sacrificed the pleasing kind of beauty for the sake of the spiritual lesson of the altar, he also disregarded the new demand for correct proportions, since this helped him to express the mystic truth of the words of St John.

Grunewald's work may thus remind us once more that an artist can be very great indeed without being 'progressive', because the greatness of art does not lie in new discoveries. That Grunewald was familiar with these discoveries he showed plainly enough whenever they helped him to express what he wanted to convey. And just as he used his brush to depict the dead and tormented body of Christ, he used it on another panel to convey its transfiguration at the Resurrection into an unearthly apparition of heavenly light. It is difficult to describe this picture because, once more, so much depends on its colors. It seems as if Christ has just soared out of the grave, leaving a trail of radiant light - the shroud in which the body has been swathed reflecting the colored rays of the halo. There is a poignant contrast between the risen Christ, who is hovering over the scene, and the helpless gestures of the soldiers on the ground, who are dazzled and overwhelmed by this sudden apparition of light. We feel the violence of the shock in the way in which they writhe in their armor. As we cannot assess the distance between foreground and background, the two soldiers behind the grave look like puppets who have- tumbled over, and their distorted shapes only serve to throw into relief the serene and majestic calm of the transfigured body of Christ."

Source: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/...


message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 18, 2010 10:45PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod


THE BODY OF THE DEAD CHRIST IN THE TOMB - HANS HOLBEIN

According to Keegan: "The Christ of Grunewald and Holbein is a body that has bled, suffered and died, untended in its final agony by relative or friend. The image was appropriate to the symbolization of the Great War's common soldier, for over half of those who died in the west, perhaps more in the east were lost as corpses in the battlefield."

Would simply allowing the Germans to grieve their dead have brought about any difference in feelings or attitudes that Keegan seems to blame on the First World War. Do you agree with Keegan that the Second World War was brought to us by the First?


message 49: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) Bentley wrote: "

THE BODY OF THE DEAD CHRIST IN THE TOMB - HANS HOLBEIN

According to Keegan: "The Christ of Grunewald and Holbein is a body that has bled, suffered and died, untended in its final agony by relat..."


Hi Bentley,

A very interesting idea however I don't think allowing the Germans to build memorials to their dead would have made any difference. You also have to remember that their dead fell on French & Belgium land. You couldn't expect many countries to allow the aggressor/invader to build massive memorials to their dead after bring such destruction to their lands.
You’ve walked the battlefields there, the German sites that I saw were arresting in their simplicity and brought home the terrible human consequences of the war quite easily. I do agree with Keegan and most other historians that the Second World War was born from the results of the First World War.



message 50: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
I tend to agree with you Aussie Rick. Keegan seems to make a lot of this scenario thinking that the First lay the groundwork for the Second.

I totally understand how the French and Belgium felt.


« previous 1 3
back to top