WWI battle lines.

Remember that great animated map showing the expansion and loss of territory between the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War? The BBC has put the same thing together for the Western Front, during WWI. Now I understand what was going on, battle-wise, during WWI.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

7 replies on “WWI battle lines.”

  1. The most interesting thing to me about WW1 is the difference in causality rates. The Germans suffered much lower causality rates than the Allies.

    This has do with many things:

    First the Germans had much more modern artillery, more powerful and quick to reload, aim and fire. Compounding this disparity was the Allies use of fragmentation shells which had absolutely no affect on the Germans defenses, barbed wire and bunkers. (more solders were killed by artillery in WW1 than any other weapon).

    Second the Germans learned not attack in the human waves, the French and British couldn’t break the habit.

  2. I was just re-reading the WW I service journal of my Great-Uncle Edward, my grandmother’s brother, in preparation for an unrelated writing assignment. It reflects Jon’s comments.

    Uncle Ed spent longs months marching across France, sleeping in trenches and eating short rations – while being regularly bombarded by artillery. His company of forward observers were targeted and nearly wiped out by German artillery at the battle of the Argonne Forest.

    Yet during lulls in the fighting, he could walk to the home of a nearby French citizen, pay for a hot meal, and the opportunity to sleep in a real bed (he found it impossible to sleep and moved to the floor).

    In the second Argonne offensive (October 1918) he was part of a stalled charge, lying face down to avoid machine gun fire, when an artillery fragment tore away much of his calf.

    While Uncle Ed went on to live a long, and happy life (98), he suffered what we now call PTSD during his transition to civilian life. He would go days without sleeping, unable to eat or talk. A supportive family, and community were critical to his recovery.

  3. I love how the BBC sort of skips past the whole initial part of the war. Which is generally what everyone does because they want to pretend that Germany up and attacked France out of nowhere.

    It would be nice if this map first showed the deployment of German troops into Serbia at the request of Austria (which governed Serbia) in order to fight a group of terrorist separatists called ‘the Black Hand’ that was plotting a military insurrection against the Austrian government.

    Then Russia decided that it would be a good idea to declare war against Germany in a move that would be similar to the idea of declaring war against Britain for helping the US to fight al Queda in Iraq. There was no noble reason for Russia’s involvement. What it comes down to is that the Russians wanted to grab some of Germany’s valuable ports which were open year round for trade, unlike most of Russia’s which froze over in the winter.

    France had an alliance with Russia and so they declared war against Germany as well. Germany had made no effort to pick a fight with any of these nations. France asked for a fight, so Germany gave it to them. Which is where the BBC map picks things up.

    Why England got into the mess is still beyond me. They had no alliance at that time with France. If anything, England picked the wrong side. WW1 was without a doubt the stupidest, most pointless waste of human life that has taken place in the last 2 centuries.

    Personally, I place the blame for those millions and millions of deaths squarely on the shoulders of France and England. Arguably for WW2 as well, since their shameful treatment of the conquered Germany bred the same violent radicalism that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has in the middle east. I hate Islamist terrorists just as much as I hate the Nazis but in both cases it’s not hard to see who caused the problem in the first place.

  4. Correction – it would be similar to declaring war on Britain for for helping the US to fight al Queda in AFGHANISTAN. Not in Iraq. In the sense that the Afghan government (Taliban) attacked and threatened the US just as surely as the Black Hand attacked and threatened Austria. Iraq of course had nothing to do with 9/11.

  5. Jack: I believe you have too modernist a perspective here. This was truly old Europe, with inbred nobility woven by treaty to protect the status quo. Germany was Austria’s merc, and France and Russia were bound by agreement to oppose any hegemony. France, Russia, AND Germany had a treaty. Germany broke it. I think England joined the war hoping to come out on top of the empire opportunity.

    The whole thing stunk. The Austria-Hungarian Empire was a house of cards, doomed to collapse, Black Hand or no Black Hand – even Tito’s pan-Yugoslavia couldn’t bind these diverse people. If you want to understand the southern Slavs, think feisty hillbilly with religious fervor. Provincial doesn’t begin to explain it.

    The outcome of course was disaster. Hitler’s populist movement appears as the transition away from the old order that had brought suffering for so many. And that suffering had been the pattern of old Europe for a long time. There was huge pent-up animosity. Just like WWII was inevitable, so too were the recent Yugoslavian wars. The claims, myths, and grievances are deep and rich.

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