||MARSHAL JOFFRE'S NARRATIVE|
||CROWN PRINCE WILHELM'S NARRATIVE|
||MARSHAL FOCH'S NARRATIVE|
||GENERAL VON LUDENDORFF'S NARRATIVE|
Narrative of the Battle of the Marne, as told to Bernard Désouches, official liaison officer between the French Army and the American Air Service in France. Revised by Major Desmazes, chief of the marshal's personal staff.
ON September 5, 1914, as commander-in-chief of the French forces facing the invading German hosts along the river Marne, I issued this order to the gallant troops whose valor was to decide the future of France:
'"As we are about to begin the battle upon which depends the fate of our country, it is necessary to remind all that the time for retreat has ended. Every effort must be made to drive back the enemy. A soldier who can no longer advance must guard the territory already held, no matter what the cost. He must be killed in his tracks rather than draw back."
How gallantly our troops responded to the call of la patrie all the world knows. Paris, the heart of France, was saved. The Germans were driven back to a line where they dug themselves in. Their dreams of quick conquest were over.
The general staff's plan of campaign was based upon the certainty that the German Empire would have to wage war simultaneously on its eastern and western frontiers. It was advisable, therefore, for the Germans first to concentrate the maximum of power against France, the most dangerous of their adversaries. When France was crushed, they could then turn around and defeat the Russians, who were much slower in mobilizing and getting into action than the French on account of Russia's lack of railroads.
The success of this plan depended upon the rapidity and strength of the attack to enable the Germans to dispose of the French. The armies of France had to be defeated before the tsar's armies could be in a position to throw the weight of their millions of soldiers into the military balance.
Now the Franco-German frontier fairly bristled with fortresses. The German army, although more liberally equipped with the materials of war than any other nation, could not hope to crash through this fortified barrier, against which the French field forces would set their backs.
Thus, to the German staff, the idea of bringing about an operation in open country presented itself. Such an operation, they believed, would enable them to achieve in the smallest possible time a decisive victory over France.
A glance at the map of western Europe showed that the only open door to France was through Belgium!
The invasion and violation of Belgium presented many diplomatic complications. But from the military point of view alone, it was logical. And it almost succeeded.
On August 20, 1914, twenty days after the war began, the three armies forming the right wing of the German forces poured out of conquered Namur, at the northern frontier of France, and met the French left and the small British army that had been transported across the Channel from its home base. The torrent of German troops that poured through Belgium could not at first be resisted. The French left wing and the entire British forces were compelled to retreat in order to avoid a catastrophe.
The situation could be saved for the Allies only by a daring and difficult change in our plans. It was on the night of August 25 that I made my decision. The First and Second French armies would remain in Lorraine with orders to oppose the German left, while the armies of our center and left (including the British army), which were bravely and stubbornly opposing the advancing center and right of the Germans, would fall back, pivoting on Verdun, to a line running westward from that city to Laon, La Fère and the high valley of the Somme.
To the east of Verdun lay the Vosges Mountains, with their great forts. Here the First and Second French armies and the Sixth and Seventh German armies opposed each other. None of these armies participated in the battle of the Marne or in the actions leading directly up to it.
To the west of Verdun the French center, made up of the Third Army, under General Sarrail; the Fourth Army under General Langle, and the newly created Ninth Army, under General Foch, faced the Fifth German Army, under the German Crown Prince, the Fourth Army, under the Prince of Würtemberg, and the Third Army, under General von Hausen.
Still farther to the west the French left, consisting of the Fifth Army under General Lanrezac, and the British army under Field Marshal Sir John French, was opposed to the Second and First German armies under Generals von Bülow and von Kluck, respectively.
My plan of August 25, besides calling for a retreat to the lines of Verdun-La Fère, also called for the organization of an entirely new French army to the left and rear of the British army. This was named the Sixth Army, which was put under command of General Maunoury. It began assembling on August 27. It was made up of troops taken from our right in Lorraine, and its task was to prevent the outflanking of our forces by itself outflanking the enemy. Eventually, it would cover Paris.
The days immediately following the 25th saw numerous minor French successes. General Langle's Fourth Army on August 27 won a very distinct success on the Meuse River over the army of the Prince of Würtemberg. The French Fifth Army compelled the German right to stop its pursuit by a fierce counter-offensive at Guise on the 29th, and on the 25th, itself, the French First and Second armies had gained an important defensive victory in Lorraine.
But, in spite of these heartening developments, the arrangement of our forces, instead of being rewelded, continued to become more and more disassociated. The new army of General Maunoury had hardly started unloading in the region of the Somme when the advance guard of Von Kluck's army made its appearance there. The French left was compelled to swerve towards Paris. The conditions essential to taking the offensive had not been realized. A new retreat was imposed upon us. The line running westward from Verdun to Laon, La Fère, and the high valley of the Somme had to be abandoned.
Thus, on September 1, I ordered the armies to continue retreating as far as a line resting on the river Seine, still using Verdun as a pivot. The Fifth Army would fall back to Nogent, which is southeast of Paris; Foch's Ninth Army would stop to the south of Arcis on the river Aube, which is a tributary of the Seine, beginning east of Nogent; Langle's Fourth Army was to rest to the east of Vitry, on the river Ornain, a tributary of the Marne, beginning northeast of Arcis; and Sarrail's Third Army must halt at Bar-le-Duc, also on the Ornain, and northeast of Vitry
This line, which formed a semicircle running south west from Verdun to the outskirts of Paris, was in my orders to all our armies "considered as the limit of the retreat, without implying that this limit would necessarily be attained." It was not attained. On September 5 the Allied armies halted? and midway between the Seine and the Marne they began the attack which in the next five days saved France, defeated the entire German plan of campaign and changed the military situation from an open battle to a war of attrition.
The period of retreat was used to restore order among the troops, to fill vacancies with fresh men to take large bodies of soldiers from the armies of the right and transfer them to those of the left, which were to play the decisive part in the coming battle, and to strengthen the gaps between the armies with corps of cavalry organized especially for this purpose.
But, no matter how well this time of retreat was employed, the decision to fall back was full of dangers.
First of all, we were abandoning to the enemy another section of our territory. By an unhappy fatality the north and east of France contained her richest provinces. And we knew from what had just taken place in Belgium that the Germans would respect neither property nor people in the surrendered area. This plan was to make war terrible, unbearable to the civil population in the hope of making the war short and decisive. Furthermore, Paris, the capital and heart of France, would soon be in the zone of operations.
To these risks, there was added another-a moral one. It is well known that France possesses incomparable military traditions. And it is generally recognized that the artisan of her victories for centuries- the French soldier-is second to none in intelligence, courage and energy. But it has been frequently said that the French soldier lacked patience, and that he was scarcely likely to endure without flinching the depressing, weakening? seemingly hopeless long retreat. It was, therefore, to be feared that the French army, shaken by the failures encountered at the beginning, might break before reaching the Seine. That was, of course, the enemy's scheme and purpose. But I, who know the French soldier as a father knows his cherished son, had absolute faith in him, and went ahead methodically, getting ready for the decisive engagement. In the meantime, General von Moltke, supreme commander of the German forces, was unconsciously preparing his own defeat.
The Germans to date had achieved repeated victories on the western front, but in eastern Prussia they had received such a severe check that the commander of their armies in that area had decided immediately to evacuate all German territory east of the Vistula River. The first Russian troops in action had been mobilized more rapidly than expected by the Germans.
Von Moltke was tremendously upset at the prospect of abandoning to the Cossacks the cradle of the Prussian monarchy. He felt it necessary to avoid such a catastrophe on account of the effect it would have upon the Germans at home.
On August 25 he, therefore, withdrew two army corps from the western front and dispatched them to eastern Prussia. One of these corps came from Von Bülow's Second Army and the other from Von Hausen's Third Army. Now, two German army corps were already occupied in the north with the Belgian army, and one army corps and a half were besieging Maubeuge.
Thus, at the time I was reinforcing my left by building up a whole new army there under General Maunoury? the German command was recklessly withdrawing troops from its right. It was this right upon which the brunt of the coming fighting was to fall, and which Maunoury was to endeavor to outflank.
On August 26, the day after the transfer of the two German army corps from the western front, the British suffered a serious check at Le Gateau. This seemed to give Von Moltke absolute assurance of victory, for on the 27th he issued general instructions, organizing the German armies for their triumphal march on Paris.
The Second Army of Von Bülow was ordered to march directly on the capital city, having on its right flank Von Kluck's First Army, which was to move in the direction of the Seine to the west of the metropolis. Von Hausen's Third Army had Château-Thierry as its objective. The Prince of Würtemberg's Fourth Army would occupy Rheims and Epernay. And the Fifth Army of the imperial crown prince was to march on Châlons-sur-Marne and Vitry-le-François.
The principal mass of the German armies was, therefore, hurled upon Paris. But in one of the last paragraphs of the order of the German commander-in-chief there was this reservation: "Strong resistance encountered on the Aisne and subsequently on the Marne may render necessary the turning of the armies from the southwest to the south."
These directions came from Luxemburg, where the imperial staff was installed. They reached the army commanders on August 28. From this moment General von Moltke was deprived of the conduct of operations. The change of events and the individual initiative of his commanders were to face the German supreme chief with a series of accomplished facts.
The Duke of Würtemberg, having been very roughly handled on the Meuse by Langle's Fourth French Army during the day and night of August 27, had to call for aid upon his right-hand neighbor, General von Hausen. In response to the duke's appeal, Von Hausen deflected the course of the Third Army to the south, and threw his forces against the troops of General Foch.
A similar development occurred on the Germans' extreme right. Von Kluck with his First Army had passed the Somme, when, on the evening of the 31st, he received a wireless message from Von Bülow, requesting him to hurl himself on the left of the French Fifth Army, which had just fought the fierce battle of Guise. Von Kluck at once responded to this appeal by directing the march of his army southward towards Noyon and Compiègne.
Von Moltke quickly resigned himself to this change of direction, which he had not ordered, but which he had nevertheless provided for in his general instructions of the 27th. In fact, he told the army commanders in succeeding instructions that the new direction complied with his intentions, and on the night of the 2d of September he sent out the now celebrated wireless message:
"The intention of the supreme command is to cut off the French from Paris to the southeast. The First Army (Von Kluck's) will follow the Second in echelons, and will insure the protection of the flank of all the armies."
Thus the German armies suddenly stopped spreading out, as if preparing to mow down the Allied armies and take Paris with one tremendous encircling sweep of a gigantic scythe. Instead, they now began penetrating into the encircling curve which was beginning to be assumed by the Allied battle front from the outskirts of Verdun to the approaches of Paris.
It is true that Von Moltke had prudently ordered Von Kluck's First Army to insure, during the course of this new march, the protection of the outside flank of the German forces. But Von Kluck had already recklessly moved on to the southeast. On September 1 he had crossed the Oise, again coming in contact with the British to the south of Compiègne. The British had immediately fallen back and Von Kluck, no longer troubling himself about this adversary, whom he wrongly considered as out of the show, went forward with still greater speed.
He was intent on engaging the left of Lanrezac's Fifth Army and thus completing the maneuver which Von Bülow had indicated to him on August 31.
Pushing toward the Marne, between Château-Thierry and Dormans, in which direction Von Kluck's aviation informed him Lanrezac's army was fast retreating, the German First Army made rapid progress, and on the evening of September 2 its left reached the Marne at Château-Thierry.
Von Bülow, during this time, had lingered in front of La Fère and, afterward, before Rheims. By the evening of the 2d, when Von Kluck's left rested on the Marne, the Second Army had hardly reached the Vesle. Von Bülow, thereupon, ordered a forced march for the day which was to enable him to cross the Marne between Château-Thierry and Chatillon.
It can thus be seen that on the night of the 2d when Von Moltke sent out the famous wireless message, which ordered the First Army to follow the Second in echelons so as to cover the flank of the German armies, Von Kluck was a day's march ahead of his neighbor.
But far from being alarmed at this daring initiative, which is to be attributed to unwarranted contempt of his adversary, Von Kluck added to his disobedience on the following day. He pressed on with the bulk of his troops toward Meaux and the lower Ourcq. Arriving here he then decided to continue his march toward the Seine, thinking to complete the destruction of Lanrezac's army, whose track Von Bülow was following.
The German armies were unguardedly rushing into the great trap which was being laid for them.
The eyes of the imperial staff were finally opened to the danger to which Von Kluck's mad pursuit was exposing the German armies. On September 4, at about 7 P.M., the following wireless message was dispatched from Luxemburg:
"The First and Second armies shall remain facing the front, east of Paris; the First between the Oise and the Marne, and the Second between the Marne and the Seine."
This order was presented to Von Kluck on the morning of the 5th. He read it with astonishment. He was told to stop between the Oise and the Marne when he had almost reached the Seine; when he saw himself about to complete with victory the success prepared by Von Bülow on the Oise!
It was at this moment that Lieutenant-Colonel Hentsch reached the First Army headquarters, bringing orders from the imperial general staff. Hentsch informed Von Kluck that the enemy had escaped the encircling attack, and that in the region of Paris a menace existed in the large masses of troops which the French commander-in-chief was assembling there.
The German right, consisting of the First and Second armies, would therefore veer round to face this newly organized army of the enemy. The Fourth and Fifth German armies would continue to march toward the southeast, and the Third Army would advance toward the south, ready to support the First and Second armies on its right or the Fourth and Fifth on its left
Von Kluck, now enlightened respecting this situation he so little expected, thought that he would have adequate time to make his return to the north of the Marne, where he had left only a single army corps supported by one cavalry division. But on the night of September 5, to his utter astonishment, a message arrived at his headquarters from Rebais stating that his reserve corps north of the Marne had just been forced back by superior forces of the enemy.
The battle of the Marne had begun with the complete surprise of the German First Army.
The battle of the Marne was not only a giant conflict of great armies, but also a significant struggle between two methods of command.
The military method practiced on the French side had been inspired by the teachings of Napoleon. This doctrine calls upon the commander-in-chief to direct the battle from beginning to end. It is he who coordinates activities, guides every initiative, and endeavors to seize all possible advantages. There is no insistence upon mechanically following a preconceived plan which the enemy's counter-efforts usually render ineffective.
In the German camp, a quite different doctrine was being followed. It had been bequeathed to the armies of the empire by old Marshal von Moltke. The victor of the battles of Sadowa and Sedan taught that the actual direction of a battle falls principally upon the subordinate command. The commander-in-chief, after having drawn the general plan of battle, makes way for the initiative of his army commanders.
This method succeeded against Austria in 1866 and against France in 1870, because in these two campaigns, which founded the German Empire, the Prussian forces were confronted by inert armies led by feeble commanders.
In 1914, however, Von Moltke's doctrine resulted in failure. In the preliminary phases leading up to the battle of the Marne, the German supreme command had submitted to the ascendancy of its army commanders, accepting their rashest actions. The German commander-in-chief had not endeavored to correct his subordinate's most flagrant mistakes, nor did he take notice of their spirited disregard of his orders.
It is a German general who said: "A battle is not only an act of force, but also a conflict of wills." It is, in addition, a conflict of intelligences.
We have already seen how between August 25 and September 5 the situations of the German and Allied armies were reversed. After destroying the Belgian frontier fortresses, Liége and Namur, and the French-intrenched camp of Maubeuge, the German armies had begun a grand encircling movement like the sweep of a gigantic scythe that was intended to encompass the French capital, Paris. But on the eve of the battle of the Marne they found themselves inside a curve described by the Allied armies. The eastern extremity of this curve abutted on the fortress of Verdun, and the western end on the intrenched camp of Paris.
The Germans swung too far toward the center of the Allies' encircling line, and failed to cover their right flank. It was against this flank that I had massed General Maunoury's army And it was here that the battle of the Marne really began
Now the Germans owed the dangerous situation of their right to three primary causes.
First: The failure of the German intelligence service to reveal in time to General von Moltke the menace which was developing on his right in the form of the newly created Sixth French Army under General Maunoury.
Second: The serious mistake of the German supreme command in particularly weakening the armies of its right to strengthen a secondary and more remote theater of war. (Two army corps had been sent to the Russian front.)
Third: The repeated disobedience of Von Kluck had transformed the offensive arrangement prescribed by Von Moltke to take effect on September 2 into a defensive arrangement which could not meet the requirements of the situation in view of the force and ferocity of the French counter-attack.
Thus the position of the two weights of the military balance had been radically changed. The weight of the Allies had been increased at the vital points while that of the Germans had been lightened. The equilibrium had been gradually displaced to our decided advantage.
Besides those favorable conditions already de scribed, under which the Allies were about to begin the battle of the Marne, there was to be added another, the most essential-surprise!
The battle began on September 5 with a surprise attack upon Von Kluck's army, after the long retreat of the Allies. The German right flank was then unexpectedly attacked by Maunoury's troops. The forces of the Sixth French Army had been set energetically into action by General Galliéni, military governor of Paris. The story of their hasty transport to the front by every imaginable means of locomotion is a glorious chapter in the history of France. Here taxicabs played, for the first time in history, a heroic rôle by transporting an entire army to make a surprise attack.
If surprise played an essential part in the battles of the past, its importance has increased in modern warfare. This is easy to understand. The enormous mass of combatants in this battle-a million and a half of men-and the immensity of the battle fronts, about 180 miles long, compelled the commander-in-chief to make his plans long before the actual battle. Naturally, this militated against the possibility of surprise. And it is difficult radically to change the plans of battle in the middle of an action. Once the cards are dealt, you must play the hand you hold.
However, this does not mean that when the battle has once begun the commander-in-chief has only to await the result, like one computing a set of figures. In this battle the figures were changed and shifted and the big figures concentrated at certain points during the battle itself. In fact, it is because the French command, inspired by the example of the great Napoleon, seized every advantage the course of battle offered that the victory was won by them instead of by the enemy.
The Allied armies had carried out as well as they could the movements leading up to the battle of the Marne. Their great retreat before the fully prepared avalanche of German troops had been skilfully executed. The Fifth Army of Lanrezac had released itself unharmed from Von Bülow's onslaught. The British, who were on Lanrezac's left and had retreated faster, fighting stubbornly every step of the way, had finally reached the Seine below Paris. And Maunoury's army, transferred, partly in taxicabs, round Paris to turn the flank of Von Kluck's German army, reached the northeast sector of Paris in the evening of September 2.
Here it was preparing to receive the enemy's attack when, to its great surprise, the columns of Von Kluck's army neglected the capital city and deviated to the left or southeast, instead of to the right or southwest, as the German general staff had intended.
It was on September 4, when the movement of the German right (General von Kluck) had become extremely accentuated toward the south, that I felt the supreme moment had come to start the decisive battle. My first care was to ascertain that our armies, which had suffered most during the retreat, were capable of resuming the offensive. That was essential. If one link breaks the whole chain gives way.
In reply to my inquiry General Franchet d'Espérey, who now commanded the Fifth Army, having replaced General Lanrezac, and General Foch, who commanded the Ninth Army, on General d'Espérey's right, both answered by telephone from fifty to seventy miles away that their troops could be relied upon. These armies had borne the brunt of the German offensive, were hard pressed and had suffered terrible losses.
Thus I knew that the French forces were ready for the supreme effort. Their spirit was not broken. I delayed no longer, and on September 4, at 10 P.M., signed the order calling for the attack to begin on the morning of the 6th:
GENERAL ORDER NO. 6.
1--It behooves us to profit from the adventurous situation of the First German Army and to concentrate against it the efforts of the AlIied armies of the extreme left.
All preparations will be taken during the day of September 5, in view of beginning the attack on the 6th.
2--The arrangement to be realized on the evening of September 5 is as follows:
(a) All the forces making up the Sixth Army to the northeast of Meaux ready to cross the Ourcq, between Lisy-sur-Ourcq and May-en-Multien, in the general direction of Château-Thierry.
The disposable parts of the cavalry corps which are in the proximity will be put under the orders of General Maunoury for this operation.
(b) The British army to be established along the front Changis-Coulommiers, facing east and ready to attack in the general direction of Montmirail.
.(c) The Fifth Army, closing in slightly on its left, will establish itself along the front Courtacon-Esternay-Sézanne, and be ready to attack in the general direction south to north. The Second Cavalry Corps will assume the liaison between the British army and the Fifth Army.
(d) The Ninth Army will cover the right of the Fifth Army in holding the southern outlets of the marsh of Saint Gond, and in bringing a part of its forces to the plateau to the north of Sézanne.
3--The offensive will be taken by these different armies from the morning of September 6.
At this time there was one uncertain quantity in the Allied camp-the British army. It had suffered greatly in the initial encounters, and during the retreat Marshal French, in obedience to the instructions received from the British government, had endeavored to give his forces time to reconstitute themselves even at the expense of not maintaining a uniform front with the French army. It had been necessary, following the ideas of the French government, for Lord Kitchener to intervene personally so that the British commander-in-chief would at all hazards keep his brave army in line.
It was only natural, therefore, for one to ask on the evening of the 4th if Marshal French, already sounded on this question by the governor of Paris, would consent to change from the defensive retreat to an attack with all his strength alongside the French armies.
The question was a serious one. The British regular army had suffered terrific losses in the six-day battle, in which it had slowly retreated sixty to eighty miles, but fighting every step of the way, and always with face to the advancing avalanche of the enemy. I had no authority over the British commander-in-chief except that which he was himself willing to recognize. If the British continued to fall back it meant that the fighting line of the Allies, which had been reconstituted with so much difficulty, would again be broken. And this time a fracture might be fatal to our entire battle front.
To banish all doubt, I personally called upon Marshal French on September 5 in the early afternoon. I found him at the Château de Vaux-de-Penil near Melun. I did not understand English and the British marshal did not speak French. General Wilson of the British staff acted as interpreter.
I showed the British commander-in-chief the position of my armies, which were about to begin the battle upon which depended the outcome of the war. I explained that it would never be understood how the British army could be present without taking a great part in so decisive a struggle. I appealed to British honor, knowing that it is never appealed to in vain.
Marshal French listened to my words in silence. When Wilson translated my moving appeal to him, he replied simply: "I will do all I possibly can."
The battle began on the afternoon of September 5. At the western extremity of the immense line of battle, the Sixth French Army encountered the Fourth German Reserve Corps, which made up Von Kluck's extreme right. The two forces met between the Ourcq and the Marne, about four miles north of Meaux. The Germans were immediately thrown back beyond the Therouanne River, which is one of the northern tributaries of the Marne.
General von Kluck was now thoroughly aware of the danger facing the German armies as a result of his mad rush to reach the Seine. With a resolution that spoke highly of his confidence in his troops and of the technical skill of his staff, he decided upon a rapid change of front. He ordered his Second and Fourth Army corps, which were in a position to intervene in the shortest possible time, to proceed by forced marches to the north of the Marne. His object was to lengthen the right of the Fourth Reserve Corps, and turn the flank of the French who had just overlapped his troops in the north.
General von Kluck believed he could execute this preliminary maneuver without calling upon the two army corps composing his left. These, on the morning of the 6th while facing southward, had come into cooperation with Von Bülow's right, which at this moment was engaged by the right of Franchet d'Espérey's Fifth Army and the left of Foch's Ninth Army.
At the same time, the German's Fourth and Fifth armies, under the command of the Prince of Würtemberg and the imperial crown prince, respectively, were attacked by Langle's Fourth French Army and Sarrail's Third French Army. As to the Third German Army of Von Hausen, it received two simultaneous calls for help. General von Bülow requested it to support his left, and the Prince of Würtemberg demanded assistance for his right.
Von Hausen had had since the beginning of the campaign the hard task, besides fighting and advancing on his own front, of responding to repeated calls for aid from the German armies on both his wings. He now divided his strongest forces, hurling one to the assistance of Von Bülow, east of the marshes of Saint Gond, and with the other supported Würtemberg's right to the east of Vitry-le-Francois.
On September 7 the fighting became terrific on a battle front nearly two hundred miles in length. In the west (northeast of Paris) Von Kluck had found Maunoury a stronger adversary than he had expected. He therefore ordered the two army corps of his left north of the Marne in the direction of the river Ourcq. Their departure immediately uncovered the right of Von Bülow's Second Army.
Thus an enormous gap was created in the German right. While Von Bülow's Second Army was fighting south of the Marne with its front facing south, Von Kluck's First Army was fighting north of the Marne with its front facing west. The open space between these two armies was occupied only by the thin line of Von der Marwitz's corps of cavalry.
The British army and the left of d'Espérey's Fifth Army pushed back this fragile barrier on the night of September 6, advancing to the river Grand Morin, one of the southern tributaries of the Marne. On September 7 they crossed the river and threatened to outflank the Second German Army of Von Bülow on its right.
This menace to his flank forced Von Bülow to draw back his right wing in a defensive hook. An advantage gained in the meantime by Von Kluck over Maunoury, whose left was compelled to draw back despite its reinforcement by an army corps which I had sent, did not fully compensate for the ever-increasing danger facing Von Bülow.
On September 8, the action entered its decisive phase.
To the west, Von Kluck had totally evacuated the territory south of the Marne, completely separating himself from Von Bülow. He was now fully engaged with his counter-attack against Maunoury.
The Germans paid dearly for the definite separation of their First and Second armies. In the area between these two armies there had begun the victorious advance of the British and the main body of d'Espérey's Fifth Army. On the 8th these allied forces reached the plateau between the river Petit Morin and the Marne. The Petit Morin is another of the tributaries of the Marne, situated north of the Grand Morin.
General von Bülow on the morning of the 8th gave up all hope of receiving any aid on his right from Von Kluck. The latter, heedless of the general issue, was conducting an isolated action, fighting desperately north of the Marne and slowly retreating toward the northeast.
The commander of the Second German Army, Von Bülow, endeavored to right the situation with a daring action. He hurled his center and left, which was supported by the right wing of Von Hausen's Third Army, against Foch's Ninth Army. Foch's right and center were slowly forced back to the south of the marshes of Saint Gond.
It was a brilliant effort of Von Bülow, executed with great skill, but it failed to achieve its objective. He was unable to weaken the magnificent resolution of General Foch, whose perspective was not limited to his own battlefield. Foch contemplated the situation as a whole and in its true light. That evening he telegraphed to the commander-in-chief: "Situation excellent!"
Farther to the east the Fourth and Fifth German armies had not been able to gain any marked advantages over Langle's Fourth Army and Sarrail's Third Army. Both were actively engaged on the whole line and hard pressed. The happy addition of two army corps to our forces in the east, one between the French Third and Fourth armies and the other on the Fourth Army's (Langle's) left, resulted in strengthening two weak points in our fighting line.
It was on the evening of September 8 that I felt the victory approaching. I sent instructions to the armies of my left and center which were to guide their maneuvers while Maunoury was coping with Von Kluck. Marshal French I requested to cross the Marne as soon as possible so as to threaten the rear of Von Kluck's First Army. At the same time d'Espérey, giving a hand to the British, was to push forward with the left of his Fifth Army, going straight north to beyond the Marne. With his right he was to support Foch, helping him to reestablish his position.
As one can see under the influence of circumstances, 1 again radically modified my plan. We had begun the battle with an operation intended to turn the flank or encircle and destroy the German right. But the movement which Von Kluck, commanding the German right, executed in throwing all his forces against Maunoury had opened a gaping breach between the First and Second German armies-fatal to both if we could take advantage of it. It was into this opening that I then endeavored quickly to push the British army and the left of d'Espérey's Fifth Army. Both commanders and their nearly exhausted armies responded magnificently to this auspicious situation, every detail of which I was following closely by telephone reports.
In striking contrast, since the beginning of the battle the German supreme command had left its army commanders to conduct their own battles.
The German commanders soon began to feel that the game was hopelessly lost. On the fourth day of the great battle they began the great retreat to save their armies. On the evening of September 8~ Lieutenant-Colonel Hentsch, sent for the second time by Von Moltke to the various army headquarters, reached Von Bülow at Montmort, southwest of Epernay.
Hentsch had full powers to give orders in the name of the German general staff. General von Bülow gloomily pictured the situation to him. His army was exhausted by his efforts, its effectiveness was dangerously reduced by heavy losses. The movement of Von Kluck's army in the direction of the river Ourcq, regardless of its mission to cover the Second Army's right flank, which was its first duty, had enabled the French and English armies to turn Von Kluck's right flank and force it to march across the face of Maunoury's Sixth Army and Field Marshal French's British army, suffering terrific losses from the French and English artillery.
Hentsch and Von Bülow agreed that only a vast retreating movement would enable Von Kluck's army to save itself by joining up with the main body of the German armies.
September 9 began the great German strategic retreat.
Our whole right had remained unshaken, and Foch was preparing to resume the offensive with a daring maneuver, when he suddenly saw the enemy's line relax. At this moment men of d'Espérey's left touched the Marne at Château-Thierry, and the British, marching with equal speed, reached the river between Château-Thierry and Ferté-sous-Jouarre.
What had happened was that Von Bülow had given the Second German Army the order to retreat on the morning of the 9th, and the Third German Army had retreated along with its right neighbor.
The same day at about noon, Hentsch arrived at the headquarters of the First German Army. He informed Von Kluck of the situation of the Second Army and of Von Bülow's order to retreat. Then he ordered the First Army also to retreat, making Soissons its objective. He explained that a new army, the Seventh, had been brought from Lorraine to the region of Saint-Quentin, and was about to start a maneuver in an endeavor to save the situation.
I am informed than Von Kluck protested against this decision, but finally consented. The retreat of his army toward the north began that evening in indescribable confusion, as General von Kuhl, Von Kluck's chief-of-staff, has since acknowledged in his memoirs.
On September 10, when Hentsch, having returned to Luxemburg, showed Von Moltke the exact situation, the latter, who had hoped to confine the retreat to the German right, resigned himself to a general retreat. The plan of retreat was for the German armies to draw back by pivoting around the army of the imperial crown prince.
On the 11th, upon hearing from Von Bülow that there was grave danger of the enemy breaking through the German front in the zone of the Third Army of Von Hausen, a development which would seriously endanger the rears of the Fourth and Fifth armies, Von Moltke finally decided to take all the reins of command in his own hands.
The German commander-in-chief immediately visited the commanders of all the armies. Everywhere he observed signs of confusion and division, and found an attitude of distrust and ill-feeling arising toward himself.
It was while on this rapid trip that he gave the orders to bring the armies of his center and left, the Third, Fourth and Fifth, to a line running from Thuisy, through Suippes, to Sainte-Menehould. This constituted a definite avowal of a general defeat.
Returning to Luxemburg on the night of September 11, Von Moltke immediately took to his bed. Two days later he was replaced by General von Falkenhayn, minister of war, as head of the German Army's general staff.
The battle of the Marne saved the Allied cause. The capital of France was not to be taken, and France was not to be enslaved. The scenes of 1870, when Bismarck and the German field marshal, General von Moltke, dictated terms of peace in the palace of Versailles, were not to be repeated. Our troops had valiantly sustained the long retreat. And when the moment had come to attack, they had rushed into battle with a magnificent élan.
A decisive victory for Germany in the World War depended upon an early crushing defeat of the French armies, so the empire could devote the maximum of its forces against Russia. The first rush of the German armies, 700,000 men, carried it in the fourth and fifth weeks of the conflict almost to the gates of Paris. There on September 5, 1914, the German avalanche was stopped within barely twenty miles of Paris, by the counter-attack of the French armies. In nine days the German armies were driven back eighty five miles.
My faith in the soldiers of France had been justified a thousandfold. How gloriously they had fought! With what sacrifice, bravery, and valor they had done honor to la patrie! With such magnificent heroes at one's command, what general could fail to achieve victory?
From the Belgian frontier to a semicircular line running from the outskirts of Paris to the forts of Verdun-this had been the great area over which the Allied armies had retreated from August 23 to September 5, 1914. Superior German forces had forced us back. But we had withdrawn with the idea of awaiting the best moment to attack.
The opportune moment came on the afternoon of September 5. General von Kluck by a headlong march south of the Marne with the bulk of the troops of his First Army had exposed the right wing of all the German armies to an outflanking movement by the Sixth French Army under General Maunoury.
I had especially organized this army on my extreme left expressly for this attack. The existence of this Sixth French Army was unknown to Von Kluck, who could not at first believe the reports that reached him on the night of September 5 that the few troops he had left north of the Marne to protect his own right flank, which was the extreme right flank of the entire German army, had been driven back by superior French forces.
General von Kluck made two cardinal mistakes: He allowed his army to lose contact with the Second German Army, commanded by Von Bülow, protecting his left flank, and he underestimated the strength of the French army menacing his right flank.
Our forces were so coordinated that we were able quickly to take advantage of both mistakes. A concentrated attack on Von Kluck's right wing that had just crossed the Therouanne, one of the northern tributaries of the Marne, drove it back across the river. To prevent that flank from being encircled (turned) General von Kluck was forced to swing his great army from a battle front extending generally east to west, about thirty miles, to a new and much shorter line extending almost north to south.
This opened a great gap between his and General von Bülow's Second German Army. Into this gap General d'Espérey's Fifth French Army and the small, gallant, highly trained British regular army, under Field Marshal French, were pressed. This attack, effected with great rapidity and gallantry by the allied French and British forces, shattered the whole German battle front of more than one hundred miles and forced a general withdrawal.
The gap between the First and the Second German armies was held only by a thin line of General von Marwitz's cavalry. While this was being driven back Maunoury, with the Sixteenth French Army, was endeavoring to turn Von Kluck's right, or north, flank. To avoid the success of this operation, the German supreme command ordered the general retreat to unite and consolidate the German armies again on a shorter front far north of the Marne.
With the enemy in full retreat, the victory depended upon our soldiers' legs; the quick transport of our heavy guns was necessary to make our artillery fire incessant and effective upon the receding enemy.
On September 10, five days after the beginning of the battle, I learned in rapid succession of the drawing back of Von Bülow's Second Army and of Von Kluck's First Army by forced marches. This indicated heavy losses by the enemy, and tremendous successes of our forces. I immediately issued orders for a maneuver that would enable us to turn the perplexities of the enemy into an irreparable disaster for German arms.
General Maunoury, with the Sixth French Army, which had been reinforced by an army corps taken from our forces in Lorraine, was to make the utmost possible effort to turn the right flank of Von Kluck's First Army. Marshal French, with the British army, and Franchet d'Espérey, with the Fifth French Army, were to press forward a wedge between Von Kluck's First Army and Von Bülow's Second Army. Foch, with the Ninth French Army, and Langle, with the Fourth French Army, were to push forward the center of our 120-mile battle front toward the northeast as rapidly as possible against their retreating adversaries, Von Hausen's Third Army and the Prince of Würtemberg's Fourth Army.
This maneuver not only prevented reinforcement of Von Kluck's retreating army, but it widened the gap between the German First and Second armies, forcing Von Kluck to make a forced retreat northeasterly across the front of Maunoury's Sixth French Army and Field Marshal French's British army. This withdrawal was effected under a heavy enfilading fire of the French and British artillery, causing the gravest losses.
While the great strategic movement was in progress at the western end of the 130-mile front, Sarrail with the Third French Army, abutting on Verdun, made a vigorous advance toward the north against the imperial crown prince's Fifth German Army. The whole battle-line thus engaged, made transfer of troops to reinforce hard-pressed divisions impossible.
General von Kluck's withdrawal under fire, with terrible losses, was nevertheless managed with skill. The pursuit of our troops was necessarily slow. Bridges across streams had been blown up by the retreating German armies. The roads over which our heavy guns had to be transported had crater-like holes made by explosion of heavy shells. Our troops were exhausted by six days of the fierce fighting, without one night of real rest. In spite of their magnificent spirit and will to fight, their tired bodies were incapable of it. Strenuous effort was required to move our heavy guns and munitions forward fast enough to take full advantage of the enemy's withdrawal.
The German retreat ended gradually between the 14th and 16th of September. Their armies, on the whole, had gone back in good order. This was especially true of the armies of the German left, which had been farthest removed from the region about Paris where the decisive struggle occurred.
It was evident to me from all my reports that the enemy, in spite of his forced retreat of more than eighty-five miles and in spite of his losses, was not broken in spirit. He was now preparing to accept further battle along new positions which he was organizing north of the rivers Aisne and Vesle and between the rivers Suippes and Meuse. Reinforcements had arrived from the east Prussian front to strengthen the German battle-line in northern France, and to fill up with replacement the gaps made during nine days of incessant and victorious battle.
The utmost efforts of Maunoury's Sixth Army to outflank Von Kluck's First Army were not successful. The principal part of Maunoury's forces were stopped in their advance by tenacious resistance and terrific counter-attacks by Von Kluck, reinforced by a new Seventh German Army under Von Heeringen, encountered on the plateau between the rivers Aisne and Oise. The Germans realized that their entire forces might be threatened with destruction if Maunoury turned their flank at that point. They fought desperately and successfully to prevent it. The losses were heavy on both sides.
I realized that a strategic balance was being established all along the front. From the river Oise on the west to the river Meuse on the east, and even further eastward through Lorraine, the Vosges Mountains, right up to the Swiss frontier, the two enemy hosts, three million men, were gradually balancing one another on a battle front more than four hundred kilometers long.
I therefore decided to rush to our left, the point where the front was least stabilized, all the troops that could safely be taken from those parts of the battle-line where a strategic balance or deadlock had already been achieved. My aim was to overcome the enemy's resistance by widely outflanking him on the northwest.
I immediately organized the following forces on the north of the river Oise: the Second Army, under General Castelnau, which came from Lorraine, and two new armies, the Tenth under General de Maud'huy and the Eighth under General d'Urbal.
General von Falkenhayn, the new commander-in-chief of the German armies, was prompted by a similar impulse as myself. He, too, was withdrawing troops from his stabilized fronts and rushing them to the northwest, toward the north coast of France. He reinforced his right with Von Bülow's Second Army, withdrawn from the Aisne, Prince Rupprecht's Sixth Army, withdrawn from Lorraine, and the Prince of Würtemberg's Fourth Army, coming from Champagne.
The battle was spreading northward with the speed of a forest fire. "The race to the sea" was on.
The use of the term "the race to the sea" in explaining this last phase of the battle begun at the Marne on September 5 does not mean that each of the two belligerents sought to make their still free wing rest on the sea as rapidly as possible. The maneuver was really a race on the part of both the Germans and the Allies to turn one another's flank and thus encircle its enemy. The race ended only when the sea itself was reached and neither army could go farther. Each side finally had one-half its infantry division and practically all its cavalry engaged between the river Oise and the sea, in the area northward of the stabilized front. The fighting from the Swiss frontier to the Oise River became less intense and more intermittent and sporadic.
Besides the French troops, the Allied forces in this last operation included the whole of the British army, which had just received considerable reinforcements, and also, beginning with the first days of October, the Belgian army. The latter had withdrawn from Antwerp, where it was threatened with total destruction.
During the so-called "race to the sea" the front was constantly wavering. This was caused by the fierce attacks of new units, which both sides threw into the struggle as soon as they arrived as one might throw logs into a fire.
The most violent encounters took place in Flanders between the middle of October and the middle of November. During this time the Germans endeavored to reach the French coast and to take Dunkirk and Calais. In this tremendous effort they used extremely large forces, principally made up of newly created army corps.
In the tragic conflict in Flanders the Allies rushed forward troops of every description to face the Germans. There were sailors and Hindus, as well as black troops from France's African provinces. And the old soldiers of the reserve fought alongside their young comrades, hurried almost prematurely into active service.
The Germans again failed to win their objective. Toward the middle of November both sides ceased general battle. Fighting became intermittent. They were equally exhausted, and reserves of munitions were getting low. The front was now stabilized from the river Oise to the North Sea, just as it had been stabilized from the river Oise to Switzerland at the end of September.
Thus, in the fall of 1914 the German armies found themselves spread out over a front of seven hundred kilometers. They had dug themselves into the ground behind great networks of barbed wire. These were the same German armies which on August 2 had set out upon a lightning campaign-a campaign intended quickly to destroy the French armies and enslave France.
The war of movement on the western front was now ended for the winter. It became a war of siege. For the first time in military history a front of more than four hundred miles became as strongly fortified as only great fortresses, such as Namur, Verdun and Metz, had been previously. To break through any part of this front required tremendous preparation. In this war of siege on the western front neither side won any signal victories for four years. Thus the war of siege turned into a war of attrition. In this latter development the Allies had tremendous advantages over their enemy.
The Germans found themselves at the end of the war movement facing an adversary who was master of the sea, and therefore free to derive help of all sorts from the whole of the British Empire and all of the French colonies.
As already stated, the stabilization of the western front achieved in the fall of 1914 lasted four years. For an army which based its hopes of victory upon a rapid decision in the west, this stabilization was the worst possible eventuality.
The memoirs of the leading German war personalities which have been published since the armistice, including those of Grand Admiral von Tirpitz, show that as early as the end of 1914 there were many clairvoyant spirits in the empire who realized that even if Germany had not yet lost the war she could at least no longer win it.
With the stabilization of the whole western front the Allies immediately began organizing and strengthening their forces. France of course, had thrown herself into the war with all her strength from the very beginning. For the future she could only hope to sustain her past efforts and further develop her material resources.
Great Britain, however, had been represented in France up to the present by only a half-dozen divisions of infantry. Now, under the energetic impulsion of Lord Kitchener, new divisions were recruited, trained and sent month by month to reinforce the armies in Belgium and France. Here, at the end of the war, there were sixty British divisions.
In order to hold the immense front along which their armies had dug themselves in after the battle of the Marne, the German supreme command was forced to keep the majority of its forces in the western theater of war. This prevented the empire from putting itself economically on the defensive in the west, and therefore resulted in its failure to win decisive victories elsewhere.
What happened in 1915 on the Russian front demonstrates the truth of this last statement. At this time Von Falkenhayn decided upon a big operation against the Russians. The object was to revivify the Austro-Hungarian armies, that were showing signs of an early collapse.
Von Hindenburg and Von Ludendorff, whose victories in Russia had greatly increased their prestige, really sponsored the offensive. And the action yielded important results. The Russian armies lost a vast amount of territory, immense quantities of equipment and an impressive number of prisoners. But the victory was not decisive. Von Falkenhayn, compelled to leave the bulk of his forces to oppose the French and British, could not force an action against the Russians to a truly victorious conclusion. His means were too limited.
Thus, during the entire duration of the war, Germany was suffering from the consequence of the failure in the great battle of the Marne, five weeks after the war began.
There did come, however, a moment when the horizon of the Central Powers lightened with hopes of a real victory. It was in 1917, when the revolution caused the Russian soldiers to throw down their arms. Then Germany and her associates saw one-half of the great wall that encircled them crumble to the ground.
But this success without glory came too late. America had just cast her lot with the Allies.
The German supreme command now again found itself faced with a strategical problem which called for a quick decision. The Allies on the western front had to be crushed before the youthful legion of the United States had time to cross the ocean.
During the first six months of 1918 Von Hindenburg and Von Ludendorff endeavored to carry out this plan. They failed! Once more the invading hosts were stopped almost at the very gates of Paris. The Allied cause, which in 1914 had been saved by the battle of the Marne, was finally crowned with definite victory in 1918 by this battle which history has called the "Second Battle of the Marne."
GENERAL JOFFRE'S ORDERS, AUG. 25, 1914. Outlining the Conditions Under Which the Allies' Retreat
Was to Take Place.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 2.
1--It being impossible to carry out the proposed offensive, further operations will be so conducted as to build up again on our left a force sufficient to resume the attack. This will be achieved by the junction of the Fourth and Fifth French armies, the British army, and the new troops taken from the east. In the meantime, the other armies will check the enemy's efforts as long as necessary.
2--During the retreat the Third, Fourth and Fifth armies will each keep track of the movements of their neighboring armies, with which they must remain in contact. The retreat will be covered by rear-guards left in favorable positions. They should exploit every obstacle to stop the march of the enemy, making short and violent counter-attacks, in which the artillery will be the principal weapon.
3--Limits of the zones of action of the different armies:
ARMY W (British army). To the northwest of the line running through Le Cateau-Vermand-Nesle.
FOURTH AND FIFTH ARMIES. Between this last line of the west (the line itself excluded) and the line on the east running through Stenay-Grandpré-Suippes-Condé-sur-Marne (the line itself included).
THIRD ARMY, including the army of Lorraine. Between the line on the west running through Sassey-Fléville-Ville-sur-Tourbe-Vitry-le-François (the line itself included) and the line on the east running through Vigneulles-Void-Gondrecourt (the line itself included).
4-- At the extreme left, between Picquigny and the sea, the territorial divisions of the north will form a barrier along the Somme. They will be supported by the Sixty first and Sixty-second reserve divisions.
5--The cavalry corps along the Authie should be ready to follow the advance of the extreme left.
6--Before Amiens, between Domart-en-Ponthieu and Corbie, or behind the Somme, between Picquigny and Vellers-Bretonneaux, a new group of forces will be constituted from the 27th of August to the 2d of September. The troops consisting of the Seventh Army Corps, four reserve divisions, and perhaps another active army corps, will be transported by railroad. This group should be ready to assume the offensive in the general direction of Saint-Pol-Arras, or Arras-Bapaume.
7--THE ARMY W (British army) behind the Somme, from Buay-sur-Somme to Ham, should be ready to go either north toward Bertincourt, or east toward Le Catelet.
8--THE FIFTH ARM Y will have the majority of its forces along the offensive front in the region of Vermand-Saint-Quentin-Moy, ready to go in the general direction of Bohain. The right of this army will hold the line La Fère-Laon-Craonne-Saint-Ermé.
9--FOURTH ARMY. Behind the Aisne, along the front Guinicourt-Vouziers, or in case this is impossible, along the front Berry-au-Bac-Rheims-Montagne de Rheims, always reserving, however, means of taking the offensive toward the north.
10--THIRD ARMY. Resting its right upon the fortified town of Verdun, and its left upon the defile of Grandpré or at Varennes-Sainte-Menehould.
11--All the positions indicated should be organized with the greatest care so that the maximum of resistance can be offered the enemy.
12--THE FIRST AND SECOND ARMIES will continue to engage the enemy forces opposed to them. In case they are forced back, they will have as zones of action: Second Army between the road Frouard-Toul-Vaucouleurs (the road itself included): First Army south of the road Chatel-Dompaire-Lamarche-Montigny-le-Roi (the road itself included).
The General, Commander-in-Chief,
P. A. The General, Major-General,
VON MOLTKE S ORDERS AUG. 27, 1914. Outlining the Full Details of the March of the German
Armies Toward Paris.
The enemy, articulated in three groups, has attempted to check the German offensive. On the northern wing, opposite our First and Second armies, he has maintained primarily a defensive attitude. Here he has been aided by the English army and parts of the Belgian army. His plan, which was to make a flank attack upon the German right wings failed, because of the large outflanking movement of our First Army.
Between Mézières and Verdun is the central group of the enemy. The left wing of this group took the offensive and attacked our Fourth Army above the cut of Semoy. The offensive not succeeding, this central group endeavored by an attack from Verdun to cut off the left wing of our Fifth Army from Metz. Here they also failed.
A third powerful group of the enemy has tried to penetrate Lorraine, and the upper plain of the Rhine, to somehow reach Strassburg, the Rhine and the lower Main. Our Sixth and Seventh armies have succeeded with hard fighting in victoriously throwing back this attack.
All the active French army corps, including two newly formed divisions, the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth, have already been engaged and have suffered perceptible losses. Also, the majority of the reserve divisions have participated in the fighting and find themselves greatly weakened. Here, one cannot as yet judge the capacity of resistance which actually should be attributed to the Franco-English armies.
The Belgian army has collapsed completely. It will not be able to fall in line and participate in an offensive on free territory. At Antwerp can be found 100,000 Belgian soldiers, both field and garrison troops. These troops are greatly exhausted and hardly capable of assuming the offensive.
The French, that is at least their armies of the north and center, are in full retreat toward the southwest and east-toward Paris. During the course of this retreat they will probably offer a new and desperate resistance. All reports from France confirm that the enemy is fighting for time and that he is endeavoring to keep the majority of the German forces on the French front to facilitate an offensive by the Russians.
The Anglo-French forces of the north and center, after losing the line of the Meuse, can offer a new resistance behind the Aisne; the extreme left wing probably reaching just to Saint-Quentin, La Fère and Laon, and the right wing to the west of the Argonne near Sainte-Menehould. The following line of resistance will be without doubt the Marne, the wing resting on Paris. It is equally possible that the forces will concentrate upon the lower Seine.
The situation at the south wing of the French armies is not yet clear. It is not impossible that the adversary to relieve his north wing and his center will resume the offensive in Lorraine. If the French wing on the south falls back, it will unceasingly endeavor, supporting itself upon the fortified triangle Langres-Dijon-Besançon, either to outflank the German armies of the south, or to maintain its forces ready to reassume the offensive.
One must calculate that the French army will augment itself with new formations, even though at the same time it makes up its original numbers. If, for the moment, it has at its disposal only the class of 1914, outside a few weak garrison troops, one must admit, however, that it will call next year's levy, as well as all the free forces from Northern Africa and the navy. The formation of bands of guerillas will no doubt also be ordered by the French government
England also is hurriedly organizing a new army of volunteers and territorials. But they can hardly hope for these forces to go into action before four or six months.
It is necessary, therefore, by a rapid advance of the German army toward Paris, to give no rest to the French army, to prevent the organization of new forces and to take away from the country the greatest part of its fighting means.
A general government will be constituted for Belgium, which will be under German administration. Belgium ought to serve as the zone of the rear for the First, Second and Third armies, and, therefore, a considerable shortening of the lines of communication of our right wing should be achieved.
THE FIRST ARMY making use of the Second Cavalry Corps, will march west of the Oise toward the lower Seine. It ought to be ready to intervene in the engagements of the Second Army. The protection of the flank of the armies also falls upon it. In its zone of operations it will prevent the formation of new enemy units. The forces (Third and Ninth reserve army corps) left in the rear to besiege Antwerp are under the direct orders of the supreme command. The Fourth Reserve Army Corps is again put at the disposition of the army.
THE SECOND ARMY, making use of the First Cavalry Corps, will push upon Paris, passing between La Fère and Laon. It must besiege and capture Maubeuge and later La Fère, as well as Laon-the latter in cooperation with the Third Army. The First Cavalry Corps will reconnoiter in front of the Second and Third armies. It will inform the Third Army.
THE THIRD ARMY will push upon Château-Thierry, passing between Laon and Guinicourt (west of Neufchatel). It will carry Hirson by storm, as well as Laon with the fort of Condé---these two last points in cooperation with the Second Army. The First Cavalry Corps, operating before the Second and Third armies, will inform the Third Army.
THE FOURTH ARMY will march upon Epernay by way of Rheims. The Fourth Cavalry Corps attached to the Fifth Army will also inform the Fourth Army. The necessary siege material for the taking of Rheims will be put at the disposition of the army. The Sixth Army Corps will be transferred to the Fifth Army.
THE FIFTH ARMY, to which is attached the Sixth Army Corps, will push toward the line Châlons-sur-Marne-Vitry-le-François. It will form in echelons to the left and near, so as to assure the protection of the flank of the armies until the Sixth Army is able to undertake this task to the west of the Meuse. The Fourth Cavalry Corps remains subordinate to the Fifth Army. Verdun will be isolated. In addition to five brigades of "Landwehr" from Nied the Eighth and Tenth divisions of "Ersatz" will be transferred to the Fifth Army as soon as they are no longer used by the Sixth.
THE SIXTH ARMY, with the Seventh Army and the Third Cavalry Corps, while keeping close liaison with Metz, must prevent the inroad of the enemy into Lorraine and lower Alsace. The intrenched camp of Metz is attached to it. If the enemy draws back, the Sixth Army, making use of the Third Cavalry Corps, will cross the Moselle between Toul and Epinal and go in the general direction of Neuf-Château.
It will be from there responsible for protecting the left flank of the armies. It will isolate Nancy and Toul; it will be satisfied with covering Epinal. For these operations it will be reinforced by units from the Seventh Army (Fourteenth and Fifteenth army corps and a division of "Ersatz"). On the other hand, it will cede the Eighth and Tenth divisions of "Ersatz" to the Sixth Army. The Seventh Army will become independent at this moment.
THE SEVENTH ARMY will at first be subordinated to the Sixth Army. When the latter has crossed the Moselle the Seventh Army will recover its independence. The intrenched camp of Strassburg and the fortified works of the upper Rhine will continue to be under its jurisdiction. Its mission will then consist in preventing the enemy piercing between Epinal and the Swiss frontier.
It would be opportune for it to build solid entrenchment's in front of Epinal and from there just to the mountains, as well as in the valley of the Rhine adjoining Neuf-Brisach; and also for it to place the center of gravity of its forces behind its right wing. The Fourteenth and Fifteenth army corps, as well as a division of "Ersatz," will pass at this moment to the Sixth Army.
All the armies ought to operate in perfect accord and aid one another to capture the different terrestrial obstacles. Strong resistance encountered on the Aisne and subsequently on the Marne may render necessary the turning of the armies from the southwest toward the south.
A rapid advance is immediately demanded so as not to allow the French the time to reorganize and offer a serious resistance.
The armies, therefore, will report the moment they will be able to begin- the advance movement.
Every revolt of the populace should be smothered in its beginning.
GENERAL JOFFRE'S ORDERS, SEPT. 1, 1914. Prescribing the Continuation of the Retreat After the
Failure of the Attempt to Reorganize Along
the line Verdun-Laon-Amiens.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 4.
1--In spite of the tactical successes obtained by the Third, Fourth and Fifth French armies in the region of the Meuse and at Guise, the flanking movement effected by the enemy upon the left wing of the Fifth Army and insufficiently arrested by the English troops and the Sixth Army obliges the entire line of our troops to pivot around our right.
As soon as the Fifth Army has escaped the danger of being surrounded, which is pronounced on its left, the Third, Fourth and Fifth armies will together reassume the offensive.
2--The retreat can conduct the armies backward for a certain time in the general direction north to south.
The Fifth Army must not under any circumstances permit the enemy to capture its left, the other armies, less pressed in the execution of their movement, can stop, face the enemy, and seize every favorable occasion to inflict a check upon him.
The movement of each army must always be such that it will not uncover its neighboring armies, and the army commanders should constantly communicate their intentions, their movements, and their instructions.
3--The lines separating the zones of march of the different armies are the following:
Between the Fifth and the Fourth armies (detachment Foch) route Rheims-Epernay (to the Fourth Army); route Montmort-Sézanne-Rommilly (to the Fifth Army).
Between the Fourth and the Third armies; route Grandpré-Sainte-Menehould-Révigny (to the Fourth Army) .
In the zone assigned to the Fourth Army, the detachment (army) of General Foch will remain constantly in liaison with the Fifth Army, the space between this detachment and the mass of the Fourth Army being guarded by the Seventh and Ninth cavalry divisions, coming from the Fourth Army, and sustained by detachments of infantry furnished by that army. (The Seventh Cavalry Division belonged to the Third Army, and in spite of this order, it remained so) .
The Third Army will execute its movement under cover of the heights of the Meuse.
4- -One can consider the final limit of the retreating movement, without implying that this limit will necessarily be attained, the moment the armies will be in the following positions:
A newly formed cavalry corps behind the Seine to the south of Bray.
Fifth Army behind the Seine, to the south of Nogent-sur-Seine.
Fourth Army (detachment Foch) behind the Aube, to the south of Arcis-sur-Aude (Foch's detachment became Ninth Army) .
Third Army to the north of Bar-le-Duc.
The Third Army will be at this moment reinforced by the reserve divisions (Fifty-fourth, Sixty-fifth, Sixty-seventh and Seventy-fifth) which will quit the heights of the Meuse to participate in the offensive movement.
If the circumstances permit part of the First and Second armies will be called in sufficient time to take part in the offensive. Finally, the mobile troops of the intrenched camp of Paris can also take part in the general action.
The General, Commander-in-Chief.
VON MOLTKE'S ORDER, SEPT. 2, 1914. Radio from German Headquarters Indicating the Intention
of the German Command to Cut Off the
French from Paris.
The intention of the supreme command is to cut off the French from Paris to the southeast. The First Army will follow the Second in echelons and will insure the protection of the flank of all the armies
It is opportune that the cavalry of the army appear before Paris and destroy the railroads leading into the city.
GENERAL JOFFRE'S ORDERS, SEPT. 4, 1914. Sent Out from French Headquarters at 10 P. M. for the
General French Counter-offensive.
GENERAL ORDER NO. 6.
1--It behooves us to profit from the adventurous situation of the First German Army and to concentrate against it the efforts of the Allied arms of the extreme left.
All preparations will be taken during the day of September 5, in view of beginning the attack on the sixth.
2--The arrangement to be realized on the evening of September 5 is as follows:
(a) All the forces making up the Sixth Army to the northeast of Meaux ready to cross the Ourcq between Lisy-sur-Ourcq and May-en-Multien, in the general direction of Château-Thierry.
The disposable parts of the cavalry corps which are in the proximity will be put under the orders of General Maunoury for this operation.
(b) The British army to be established along the front Changis-Coulommiers, facing east and ready to attack in the general direction of Montmirail.
(c) The Fifth Army, closing in slightly on its left, will establish itself along the front Courtacon-Esternay-Sézanne, and be ready to attack in the general direction south to north. The Second Cavalry Corps will assume the liaison between the British army and the Fifth Army.
(d) The Ninth Army will cover the right of the Fifth Army in holding the southern outlets of the marsh of Saint Gond, and in bringing a part of its forces to the plateau to the north of Sézanne.
3--The offensive will be taken by these different armies from the morning of September 6.
VON MOLTKE'S ORDER, SEPT. 4, 1914.
The First and Second armies shall remain facing the front, east of Paris; the First Army between the Oise and the Marne, occupying the crossings of the Marne to the west of Château-Thierry, the Second Army between the Marne and the Seine, occupying the crossings of the Seine between Nogent and Niery, inclusive.
The Third Army will march upon Troyes and to the east.
VON MOLTKE'S ORDERS, SEPT. 5, 1914. By Radio from German Headquarters, Announcing that the
Allied Armies Have Escaped Being Surrounded and Concentrated Their Forces in the Region of Paris.
The enemy has escaped from the enveloping movement of the First and Second armies, and has succeeded, using detached units to operate his liaison with Paris. The reports and information coming from reliable agents permit the additional conclusion that the enemy has transported troops toward the west from the line Toul-Belfort, and that he also continues to retire his forces before the front of our Third to Fifth armies.
The pushing back of all the French armies toward the Swiss frontier is, therefore, no longer possible. It is now probably necessary to wait until the enemy, in order to protect his capital and menace the right flank of the German armies, concentrates important forces and takes new formations.
The First and Second armies ought, in consequence, to maintain themselves before the front, east of Paris. Their mission is offensively to oppose themselves to all enemy enterprise coming from the direction of Paris, and reciprocally to sustain one another.
The Fourth and Fifth armies are still in contact with a strong adversary. They ought to push their adversary back continuously toward the southeast. In this fashion the passage of the Moselle, between Toul and Epinal, will be open to the Sixth Army. One cannot as yet predict if, with the Sixth and Seventh armies in liaison, one will succeed in throwing back important fractions of the enemy toward the Swiss territory.
The task of the Sixth and Seventh armies remains first of all to grapple energetically the enemy forces which face them. As soon as possible they must begin the attack in the direction of the Moselle, between Toul and Epinal, always covering themselves in the directions of the two fortified towns.
The Third Army will take its direction of march along Troyes-Vendeuvre. According to the situation, this army will be called either to support the Second and First armies over the Seine in the west, or to participate in the combats of our left wing in the south and southeast.
In consequence, his Majesty orders:
1--The First and Second armies will continue to face the front east of Paris so as to stop offensively every effort of the enemy coming from Paris; the First Army between the Oise and Marne (the crossings of the Marne down-stream from Château-Thierry are to be held in view of a passing of the river); the Second Army between the Marne and the Seine (it is important to seize the crossing of the Seine between Nogent and Niery). It is recommended that the mass of the armies be kept sufficiently far away from Paris so that they have their liberty of movement.
The Second Cavalry Corps will remain under the command of the Second Army and will detail a division to the First Cavalry Corps. The First Cavalry Corps, which remains subordinate to the Second Army, will give a division to the Third Army.
The task of the Second Cavalry Corps consists in observing the front north of Paris between the Marne and the lower Seine and reconnoitering between the edge of the Somme and the edge of the lower Seine. The distant exploration over the edge of the line Lille-Amiens will fall to the aviation of the First Army.
The First Cavalry Corps will reconnoiter to the south of Paris between the Marne and the Seine, down-stream from Paris. It will explore in the direction of Caen, Alençon, Le Manse Tours and Bourges, and will receive the aviation help that this exploration demands.
The Second Cavalry Corps have to destroy the railroads into Paris as near Paris as possible.
2--The Third Army will progress toward Troyes-Vendeuvre. It will receive a division of cavalry ceded by the First Cavalry Corps, which should explore toward the line Nevers-le-Breusot, using the necessary aviation.
3--The Fourth and Fifth armies ought, by a firm progression to the southwest, to open the passage of the upper Moselle to the Sixth and Seventh armies, right wing of the Fourth Army by Vitry-le-François and Montierender; right wing of the Fifth Army by Révigny-Stainville-Morley. The Fifth Army will assume with its left wing the task of covering the fortified positions of the Meuse. This wing must take by storm the forts of Troyon, Paroches, and the camp of Romains. The Fourth Cavalry Corps will remain under the orders of the Fifth Army and will reconnoiter before the fronts of the Fourth and Fifth armies toward the line Dijon-Besançon-Belfort. It will also inform the Fourth Army.
4 --The task of the Fifth and Seventh armies remains unchanged.
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