Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18th, 1914

- King Albert orders the Belgian army to retire from its positions along the Gette river, which commences this evening.  Albert's objective now is to preserve the Belgian army, knowing that its destruction would end Belgian participation in the war.  The army is to retreat to Antwerp in the northwest.  The port city is surrounded by a series of forts, and will hopefully provide both a respite from German attacks and a base from which counterattacks against the German flank can be undertaken.

- The French 1st Army seizes Sarrebourg today, after it had been evacuated by the Germans.  Upon hearing of the success, Joffre issues revised orders for 2nd Army - given the apparent weakness of the German left, 2nd Army is to focus more to the north, in order to fix the German defenders there and prevent them from reinforcing the Ardennes, target of the imminent offensive of 3rd and 4th Armies.  The practical effect of the order is to pull 1st and 2nd Armies apart, weakening the point where the two armies meet.  2nd Army, meanwhile, has been receiving accurate intelligence of the German forces at Morhange, thanks to aerial reconnaissance.  General Castlenau thus understands that 2nd Army is now approaching the main German defensive position in the area.

- Even as the French 1st and 2nd Armies advance, OHL continues to mull over Prince Rupprecht's request for his 6th Army to launch a counterattack.  As no decision had been communicated by this afternoon, Rupprecht's chief of staff telephones OHL, demanding a decision.  Moltke, weighed down by the enormity of events, cannot make a choice.  One of Moltke's deputies takes the call, and refuses to give a yes or no answer, stating that Rupprecht should take the choice he prefers.  When told that the choice is to attack, the deputy merely states that it will be Rupprecht's responsibility.  Thus a critical decision to launch a major counterattack is taken without OHL having made any real decision on the matter - not exactly decisive leadership from headquarters.  6th Army begins preparation for a counterattack, to be launched on the 20th.

- A reply is delivered today to the Ottoman government from the Entente to Enver Pasha's earlier secret inquiry regarding what the Entente might offer the Ottomans to dissuade them from taking a pro-German line.  The Entente response is that they would offer a guarantee of Ottoman territorial integrity in exchange for Ottoman neutrality in the war.  There is no enthusiasm in the Entente for the restoration of recently-lost territory in Europe to the Ottomans - Russia does not want to see a revival of Ottoman power in the Balkans, preferring to dominate Balkan affairs themselves, while Britain and France do not wish to offend neutral Greece.  For the Ottomans, a guarantee of the status quo is unacceptable, given that the status quo is a weakening Ottoman Empire increasingly vulnerable to foreign aggression.  In this context, the German offer is more enticing.

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