A compelling and novel reassessment of WWI military history.
It is said that truth is the first casualty of war, and Mosier makes it clear that this aphorism is a tragic understatement when applied to WWI. Historians have repeatedly attempted explicate the primary mystery of the conflict—namely, why the Allied commanders saw fit to transform the fields of Belgium and France into human abattoirs with their repeated and quixotic attacks against entrenched German positions. In the battle of the Somme, for example, the British suffered 60,000 dead and wounded in the course of two hours—in exchange for a few meters of strategically worthless ground. The author’s answer to this mystery is simple, but abundantly supported: The French and British commands operated under the delusion that German casualties far outstripped their own, and that the next big offensive would knock Germany out of the war. In fact, German losses, although horrendous in their own right, never approached the militarily unsupportable levels endured by the French and the British. Mosier analyzes the major battles of the Western Front from the Marne to Belleau Wood and persuasively argues that the superiority of the Germans’ heavy guns, combined with a greater tactical sophistication on the part of their commanders, kept their casualties lower than the Allies and brought them battlefield successes that eluded the French and British. The standard perception of WWI as a stalemate that ended because the Germans became exhausted first is thus overturned; Mosier firmly believes that slowly but surely Germany was winning the war and that the Allies were saved only by America’s entry on the Allied side. This last claim is likely to be the most controversial, as many historians still tend to downplay the American contribution, but historians who disagree will be compelled at the very least to come to terms with his argument.
A necessary addition to any serious collection of military or WWI history.