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The Great War
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Modern Warfare
Robert Wohl
"The men who found themselves in command of Europe's armies in 1914, were just as much at sea as the men they were commanding.

"That is they had to improvise – particularly, after the first six weeks of the war. During the first six weeks, they could, of course, follow the plans that had been devised before the war began. But once it became clear that these plans had failed, they then had to improvise a type of war that they did in September, October, November and December 1914.

"They improvised this trench system, and what had begun as a war of movement, now became a war of position. And then having realized that the plans had failed, they had to figure out some way of winning this war. There's every reason to believe that they were deeply perplexed about how this was going to be done.

"Although in talks with their civilian masters, they naturally affected optimism, claiming that if they had enough men, if they had enough munitions, if they had enough equipment that they would be able to break through the enemy's lines. But I doubt that deep down inside themselves they were very confident about the possibility of doing this in the near future.

"They knew that they were stuck in a situation… they were not prepared for it.

"The question was going to be: 'Who was going to be able to learn fastest and most effectively how to wage this warfare?' This type of warfare being a warfare that was technologically different than the warfare that most of them had been brought up to fight; and of course, the technologies of warfare which changed during the war as well.

"Tanks would be introduced. Airplanes would change dramatically over the course of the war – would change from instruments of reconnaissance to offensive weapons. So these people had to train themselves, and had to rethink the war as they went, and of course, many of them fell by the wayside.

"Many of them were just incapable of doing this and had to be removed.

"These people should have known that when you walk into machine gun fire there's a very good chance that you're going to be mowed down. But you have to remember that many of these people had also been trained in the cavalry, and they thought that the most effective military action that you could take was a cavalry charge.

"They thought that men behind machine guns, and infantry men who did not have the same kind of elan and esprit, would possibly break and run if they were attacked by cavalry. I mean they soon discovered that this was not going to be the case. That somebody who is in a trench with a machine gun, or in a fortified position with a machine gun, is going to be able to withstand a cavalry charge."

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