Sunday, August 09, 2015

August 9th, 1915

- The first year of the war has seen several large fortress complexes destroyed by the power of modern heavy artillery, most prominently those at Liège and Antwerp in 1914 but also more recently the Russian capture of Przemysl.  From these episodes Joffre has taken the entirely reasonable lesson that pre-war fortifications cannot provide prolonged resistance in the face of a sustained enemy effort to seize them, and concludes that those pre-war forts that remain - most prominently the fortifications around Verdun - are no longer of vital importance.  Writing to his army group commanders today, Joffre states that forts like those at Verdun no longer have an independent role on the modern battlefield, and were only useful to the extent to which they could contribute to the trench lines established by the army in the field.  The logic of this downgrading of the importance of Verdun is that much of the considerable amount of fixed artillery in the forts around Verdun could better be employed as mobile artillery, able to be shifted to those parts of the front either under threat or where offensive operations are to be undertaken.  This reduction in the defensive capability of Verdun makes sense as long as it is just another stretch of the front line; if it ever becomes the target of a major offensive, however, Joffre's instructions could prove problematic.

- In southern Poland the left wing of the Austro-Hungarian 4th Army makes rapid progress today, given that with the Russian retreat they face only cavalry patrols, and is able to reach the north bank of the Wieprz River by this evening.  The army's right wing, however, gets nowhere, given that here the Russians are holding their line as the withdrawal from central Poland continues.

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