Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 30th, 1914

- The German 2nd Army counterattacks this morning, but is unable to prevent the French 5th Army from disengaging and retreating south.  General Bülow of 2nd Army believes he has won a tremendous victory, that the French 5th Army is shattered.  He orders his army to rest for thirty-six hours, while he remains concerned with his flanks - the German 3rd Army to the east had been too far away to assist yesterday.  He thus requests 1st Army to the west to turn southeastward to close the gap between the two.

This is one of the crucial moments of the campaign.  Turning southeastward, or the 'inward turn' as it comes to be known, will result in 1st Army passing east, not west, of Paris, abandoning a crucial component of the Schlieffen Plan.  General Kluck, however, has already been thinking of such a redirection of his army.  His army has been growing smaller during the advance, not only due to battle losses but the reassignment of some of his units to other duties - a corps to mask Antwerp and other units to occupation duties and cover his lines of communication.  He thus has a greater and greater amount of front to cover with fewer and fewer forces.  By passing east of Paris, he will be able to concentrate his army again.  He knows that this move will expose his western flank to a French counterattack originating from Paris, but he does not feel this is a significant threat - skirmishes with the French 6th Army convince him it contains only rag-tag forces.  One of his corps - IV Reserve - should be sufficient to cover his flank while the rest of his army heads southeast.  Moreover, he feels the BEF has been completely knocked out of the fight.  Kluck thus agrees to Bülow's request, and orders his 1st Army to shift direction starting tomorrow.

Moltke receives a report of Kluck's decision at Luxembourg City, where OHL has relocated today from Coblenz.  Despite the glowing reports from his commanders on the Western Front, he remains gloomy.  Unlike Joffre, he does not visit his commanders in the field, relying only on their oft-contradictory reports to inform him of developments, giving him a sense of disconnect which gives free reign to his fears.  For example, if the French armies are shattered, why are there so few prisoners being taken?  While beaten and retreating, the French are still in the field.  Moreover, he is also concerned about the distances between the armies of the right wing - there simply are not enough units at the front to cover all of the line.  Finally, Kluck's inward turn promises to catch 5th Army in its western flank, at last allowing it to be enveloped and destroyed.  This is the type of decisive victory, Moltke believes, that can win the war in the West.  Further deviating from the Schlieffen Plan, he signals his acquiescence to Kluck.

- As the results of the Battle of Guise become known, Joffre informs the government that he is no longer certain he can keep the German army out of Paris, and advises them to leave the capital, rather than risk capture.  He also orders 6th Army to withdraw toward Paris, in line with his agreement with War Minister Millerand of the 27th, and instructs 4th Army to fall back on Rheims.

- One of the casualties today of Joffre's ruthless efforts to root out commanders he feels has failed the test of combat is General Pierre Ruffey, commander of 3rd Army.  He is replaced by General Maurice Sarrail, one of 3rd Army's corps commanders.

- Sir John French sends Joffre a note today informing him that the BEF would not be in condition to take its place in the fighting line for another ten days.  The British Field Marshal prefers to decline participating in the struggle for survival of his French allies.

The situation on the Western Front, Aug. 30th, 1914.  Note the change of direction of Kluck's 1st Army.

- An area around Paris within a radius of twenty miles is placed under the command of General Gallieni as Military Governor, and he prepares the region for battle - entrances to the capital are barricaded, bridges prepared to be dynamited, etc.  Also, for the first time a German airplane drops bombs on Paris - two are killed by three bombs on the Quai de Valmy.  The aircraft also drops leaflets, reminding them of the Prussian investment of the city in 1870, and stating: 'There is nothing you can do but surrender.'

- In East Prussia, the Russian 2nd Army falls apart.  Stumbling around in unfamiliar terrain, Russians are slaughtered in the thousands, while others surrender to the first Germans they find.  Among those inside the pocket is General Samsonov and his staff.  They have no idea where they are, and walk hand-in-hand trying to walk south.  Samsonov keeps repeating to his Chief of Staff: 'The Tsar trusted me.  How can I face him after such a disaster?'  When the group stopped at 1am to try to get its bearings, Samsonov wanders off into a group of pines, where he shoots himself.

- On the Galician frontier, the Russian 5th Army is in increasing trouble.  On its western flank, the advance of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army has separated it from the Russian 4th Army to the west, while the Austro-Hungarian XIV Corps has turned its eastern flank.  The three centre corps of Russian 5th Army are now in danger of encirclement, similar to the fate of 2nd Army in Eastern Prussia.  General P. A, Plehve of the Russian 5th Army, however, does not repeat the mistake of Samsonov - he orders today his corps in the centre to fall back on Krasnostav.

To the south, though units of 2nd Army are finally arriving in Galicia from the Serbian front to reinforce 3rd Army, the attack of the two armies in second phase of the Battle of Gnipa Lipa is an even worse catastrophe for the Austro-Hungarians than the first.  They advance without adequate artillery support against an enemy that outnumbers them almost two to one, and suffer twenty thousand casualties while being thrown back in disarray.

Conrad finally comes to understand the desperate situation on the southern portion of the Galician frontier, but still believes he is on the cusp of a crushing victory to the north.  As such, he orders the northern armies to continue to advance, while allowing the Russians to move westward towards Lemberg, in the belief that after crushing the Russians in the north, 4th Army can turn back south and drive into the flank of the advancing Russians.

- A force of 1383 New Zealanders, escorted by the Australia Squadron, land on the German colony of Samoa and occupy it without a fight.

No comments:

Post a Comment