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So the standard story when it comes to WW1 was that older tactics

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So the standard story when it comes to WW1 was that older tactics had become obsolete in the face of new technologies like barbed wire and machine guns, and so entrenched defenses became very difficult to break through. But how true was that? Was it just that defense was much easier and better than offense, meaning that attacks from both sides would be repelled continuously? Just how much of a stalemate was the Western Front?
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Defending a trench with a machine gun would just come down to mowing down lines of people as they were charging you. You wouldn't even have to aim: just load up the gun and spray side to side. This made defending much more preferable, hence the stalemate.

I believe a majority of deaths though still ended up being caused by diseases spreading through the trenches.
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>>304876

>But how true was that

Not really that true.

>Was it just that defense was much easier and better than offense, meaning that attacks from both sides would be repelled continuously? Just how much of a stalemate was the Western Front?

It was pretty stalemated, but for different reasons than pop history will tell you.


Consider: battles like Verdun, the Somme, or Artois had huge attacker casualties yes, but also very significant casualties among the defenders. Even a really good ratio of killed to lost would be around 5:3. Attackers would get through, they would deal quite a lot of damage, you didn't just have a guy with a machine gun mowing people down.

What really killed offensives was a number of factors, the biggest being that it was really hard to build up a preponderance of firepower at a critical point. Weapons got too deadly, and armies got too big, and you had a front that stretched from the Swiss border to the sea, and pretty much every section's strength was as high as they could make it without stuffing so many men together that they start to impede each other's effectiveness.

In situations like that, you can't maneuver, because there's no exposed flank to get to, the enemy's front has nowhere to turn, and it's hard to just bull on through, because they're equal strength to you.

So you go over the top. And you kill, and you die, and in more or less equal measure, and it's almost impossible to build up a local advantage to break through somewhere.


Cont.
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>>304949
>>304876


Furthermore, trenches, even when taken (which did happen) were hard to hold. You didn't just have one line of trench, you often had 4-7, and of course, all the defneses faced the enemy's side, not your own rear. So troops that did take an enemy trench line would be there, tired, battle-worn, while an enemy counterattack was mustering and would probably knock them right back. Ideally, you'd send fresh troops to relieve your successful attackers, but it's almost impossible to know which charges would succeed and which ones would fail, and you can't send reinforcements everywhere.

And communication in general was terrible; when the Germans first unleashed chlorine gas, they blew a 5 mile hole in the French line, but were unable to exploit it before the French rushed reinforcements in because they didn't realize how successful their own attack was. When you have a largely conscript army, with new officers by and large, you're going to see a lot of mistakes, just the nature of any human endeavor.

But it had a lot to do with human elements, not just "Defense winz hurr"
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It's true anon. Seems hard to believe, but it is true. For example, the Austrians honestly believed that having more élan than the enemy was more important than strategy. The Russians and Serbians would exploit their outdated tactics by holding their lines until the Austrians came close and immediately retreating to the next line to rinse and repeat until the Austrians ran out of steam. Then they would counter attack and completely rout them. The problem wasn't as prominent on the western front, but was still an important factor. The western front was a complete stalemate because there wasn't as much room to maneuver (the entire western front was half as big as the eastern front and was almost one continuous trench system) and the technology punished those who took the offensive. It wasn't until after world war one that militaries were able to come up with strategies to counter the technology.
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>>304876

Western Front was basically a complete stalemate.

Colonial warfare was far more effective and emulated modern warfare.

Give Indy Niedell a watch on YouTube. Great series. Trenches were everywhere and attacking them only became effective after the invention of armoured tanks.
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>>304876
The problem was-there was no mobility after a breakthrough, both sides were able to plug holes before the breakthrough could be exploited. I put down to problems with communications.
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>>304908

Actually most MGs were sited on fixed lines, and planned out with overlapping fields of fire to cover obstacles (barbed wire entanglements) or terrain features.

It was generally rare to be wildly swinging the MG back and forth as seen in the movies. The standard was a set number of degrees of traverse, and the loading number would give the gun the "two-inch tap" to move back and forth within the set traverse. Remember you've got 12, or 16, or 36 of these heavy MGs doing this at the same time.

The British even had special ammunition to allow for indirect fire for the Vickers (i.e. over the top of a hill).
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>>304908
I thought artillery was the biggest killer. They would have barrages hitting your trench for sometimes days. If it didn't kill you, the shockwave and noise would fuck your shit up mentally.
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>>304951
>not just "Defense winz hurr"

actually this was the biggest factor and you typed all that shit for nothing
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>>306173

Artillery and heavy MGs confirmed for the big killers in WWI.

"Disease" in the front line was more like trench foot--debilitating, but recoverable in most cases.

The Spanish Influenza of 1918-19 did kill millions, including lots of soldiers.
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>you will never leave your snowy Saskatchewan farm town to go with your best buddies to a muddy hell halfway across the world
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The real problem was really an inability to followup on any successful attacks.

Breakthroughs weren't impossible, and in fact were actually pretty common, both on the smallest operational level (individual soldiers and platoons reaching the enemy trenches) to higher tactical levels (whole companies and even battalion taking enemy territory). These breakthroughs were just common enough and just successful enough to keep the higher commanders optimistic and sure in their current tactics' potential for success (at least up until 1916). The thinking went that "if only we had just a little more men" or "if only we had just a bit more firepower", leading to repeated attempts and attacks, each time with just a little more men or a bit more firepower. Unlike what pop-history have you believe, the generals weren't somehow stupid or outright delusional (at least not most of them), they were doing their best, and the results on the ground often seemed to somewhat support their decisions, at least momentarily.

But the real issue always was how to follow up on these breakthroughs. Whenever you'd attack, you can expect to face an enemy counter-attack. And if you captured their trenches, you had to figure out how to use them to defend from the other direction. The lack of good communications meant that reinforcements and fire support couldn't be directed to where they were needed. Reinforcing troops would often go to a section of the trench where a breakthrough occurred hours ago and was already repelled, meaning they would be attacking a completely solidified set of defenses.
It's this apparent wastefulness (which was really not the commanders' fault) of sending troops to act as very late and ineffective counter-counter-attacks which probably contributed more than anything to the "meat grinder" reputation of the western front.
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>>306232

Don't bother. You'll just get idiots like this >>306185


I don't think you can convince them.
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>>306196
good feels
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>>304949
>>304951
>>306232
>claims defense wasn't better than offense
>proceeds to explain how it actually was

epic
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>>306301

Reading comprehension, anon.

>It was pretty stalemated, but for different reasons than pop history will tell you.
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>>306742

Look up the casualty totals. Read a little Keegan, remember that you usually only had 1 machinegun per company, and a lot of territory that was defended by good old fashioned rifles.

And at the very last, you might want to actually read the post. But we both know that'll never happen.
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Would (non-shitty) tanks have radically altered WW1 warfare?
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>>306848

Of course they had artillery and MGs. But if you think trench warfare was each side idiotically standing up to run over the top to get pointlessly mowed down by invincible defenders, and them taking turns at it and getting nowhere, you're objectively wrong.

Trench warfare had a lot of successful attacks, (in large part due to artillery), which were then almost invariably rolled back with successful counterattacks.
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>>304876

The Entente had a strategic goal of turtling on the western front, and expect Russia to mop up from the East. The Germans did have a plan to break the trenches, and the stormkruppen detachments were effective at this, but they lost due to crippling blockades and US intervention. WWI was a dogpile, not close to a fair fight.
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>>306868
What do you think WW2 was?
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>>306913
WW2 also had blitzkrieg and good aircraft though.

Why didn't the various armies focus more on their tanks? It seems like an obvious solution to trench warfare.
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>>306918

Because WW1 tanks were awful. At Cambrai, the "Tankers's victory" almost 25% of the tanks broke down before reaching the enemy's lines. They were slow and poorly armed, and mostly useful as a shield against small arms and MGs.


You got a lot more mileage out of aeiral reconaissance which allowed for shorter and more accurate bursts of artillery fire to take the place of days long bombardments which telegraphed to your opponent where you were about to attack.

Now, yeah, if they had 1940s, or even 1930s tanks, it would be way different, but they didn't, they had completely shit tanks, so it's not a surprise that there wasn't a huge amount of interest in them.
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>>306918
Because they were crap. Engine design simply couldn't make them push heavy enough armor against the artillery in WW1.

>blitzkrieg
Read up on the German storm troopers. They were doing the blitzkrieg before tanks were even a thing. Infiltration and heavy artillery, both things that dominated WW2, were both built on tactics made at the end of WWI and honestly were more important then even tanks.
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>>304876

Hey /his/torians, you're given command of an Italian regiment during the opening weeks of the war.

How would you not fuck up and get all your men killed?
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Why was France so incompetent that they weren't prepared for the Schlieffen Plan in WW2 even after Germany tried it in WW1?
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>>306979

Get placed against Austro-Hungarian troops and hope their commander is a political appointment.
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>>307005
>french aren't psychic

>french either move troops and hope the germans do what they did last time, or assume they won't and keep maginot line

the french would have looked far more stupid had they stacked troops on the belgium border only for germany to attack via their actual border
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>>307034

What are you talking about? The bulk of the French army was at Belgium. The French took far more losses in Fall Gelb than they did in Fall Rot.

>>307005


French strategy was predicated on the Germans repeating the Schlieffen plan, but their tactics weren't up to repelling it even when they knew it was coming.
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>>307005
1. Belgium said they would extend the Maginot Line through Belgium but they half assed it. Because lol2expensiveXD and it not being popular (who wants another war after the rape of Belgium!?)

2. They chose to ignore a forest they didn't think tanks could get through.

3. Because of 2. most of the French Army got cut from supplies when they moved up to fix Belgium's fuck up and defend its boarders for them and Germany's Army Group A cutting off most of the First Army Group of France.
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>>306979

How would you like your front senpai?
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>>304876
If you have an hour, listen to this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cbq7iu8FrI
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>>307156
>>307042
>>307034
Okay, so France was super incompetent militarily as always. WTF happened to France? Did the rest of Europe sabotage the French military/government after defeating Napoleon?
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>>307217
The French were actually the premier military on the continent up until the Franco-Prussian War. After getting ass-raped by superior artillery (Krupp gun decimated ranks at greater distances than ever) and outstanding staff work, the French didn't learn anything. They truly believed that having "cran" and wearing fashionable uniforms were more important than actually realizing that the nature of warfare was growing leaps and bounds beyond their outdated schools.

For fuck's sake, the US Civil War was a textbook about the horrors of modern trench warfare. Colonel Emory Upton was ahead of his time and was the 1st person to crack the problem with storming a well-defended entrenchment.
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>>307217
I honestly fault Belgium more. They could have properly defended their boarders, but didn't France got fucked when trying to instead.

They really only could have attacked Belgium and forcefully put troops their before Germany attacked Belgium. Which by 1940 was way too late to do haphazardly as it did historically.
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>>307259
nice memes
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>>307301
It's not a meme. I have a fair amount of respect about the military history of France. And I have nothing but the upmost admiration for the stoic generation that bled and died in the First World War. Too bad their successors lacked that backbone in WW2.

A fucking banker predicted a lot of what would happen in WW1.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Gotlib_Bloch
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>>307261
Or they could have put up defenses along their border with Belgium.
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>>307351
http://s3.libraryofsocialscience.com/pdf/06.2.zFurther_Howard1984Men-against.pdf
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>>306896
That's not true - the Germans were the ones turtling in the west. The allies kept on the offensives to drive them out. And also to grind them down in a war of attrition which favored them. Infiltration tactics were not a German thing either, basically everyone developed them - such as the French and Russians in 1915 already.
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This is a good post and everyone should read it:
>>306232
^ the above is a good post and everyone should read it.


tl;dr attacking a trench worked well enough and often enough, exploiting the break and/or holding it against the counterattack did not (and could not)
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>>304908
leave this board and never return
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>>308165

The Germans also performed large offensives like the Kaiserschlacht.
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>>307156
actually the reason Belgium didn't complete the Maginot line was twofold
one they wanted to keep their neutrality
two the proposed defense plan would leave the majority of Belgium undefended and open to a repeat of WW1
essentially the french wanted to get belgium to pay for something that didn't protect belgium in any way only france, not particularly hard to see why they didn't oblige

also a belgian maginot line would not have stalled the germans significantly given that the belgian/dutch border might as well be impossible to defend especially from a superior military force and as WWII proved the dutch/german border was even worse in that aspect
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>>304951
>when the Germans first unleashed chlorine gas, they blew a 5 mile hole in the French Colonials line, but were unable to exploit it before the Canadians extended their line to cover the gap because they didn't realize how successful their own attack was.

ftfy
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>>306315
>pop history

Irrelevant academic detected
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>>308281
Gas attacks have to be one of the most horrifying things humanity has ever come up with
imagine being one of those soldiers during the first gas attack, not knowing what the hell is happening, why your comrades further down are collapsing in agony after the strange mist rolls in
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I don't mean to shill for Dan Carlin, but his WW1 podcast series, Blueprint for Armageddon, is actually pretty good and currently free on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFMT_BVBBsA
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>>308306
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB4cdRgIcB8

The museum in Ypres had an exhibition with old gas masks in clear tubes that would be periodically flooded with "gas" while a recording of that poem was played.

>them feels
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>>307005
>>307217
Why are you so goddamn butthurt at France?
Are you an anglo-canadian by any chance?
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>>307495
They wanted to, but Belgium refused
And diplomacy was more important than defense for an hypothetical future war
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>>308168
"There's no point in breaking down a door when there's no one to rush through the opening"
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>>308682
No. I'm just reflecting on France royally fucking up at the beginning of both World Wars.
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>>308902
They did okay in WW1
Sure the German advanced in their territory, but that's normal since they were the aggressors.
The French still stopped them at the First Marne and pushed the front line back a little before the stalemate
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