Current Reading - November 2017

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Current Reading - November 2017

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Nov 11, 2017, 7:15pm

Guess I'll start a November thread. I'm about to begin a book that promises to be quite fascinating. The book is Deductions from the World War by Baron Alexander von Freytag-Loringhoven.

According to the website . . .

"{von Freytag-Loringhoven} was appointed Quartermaster-General by Chief of the General Staff Erich von Falkenhayn in 1915. With the latter's downfall in August 1916 Paul von Hindenburg was appointed his replacement, and he brought with him as his new Quartermaster-General Erich Ludendorff from the Eastern Front, where both Hindenburg and Ludendorff had established a popular reputation.

This did not however bring an end to Freytag-Loringhoven's wartime career. He was moved to a fresh position as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, a post he retained until the armistice.

Most unusually a year prior to Germany's defeat Freytag-Loringhoven published
Deductions from the World War, in which he expounded his opinion that Germany would fail to win the war - and also explained how the country would inevitably win the following world war."

The book's "Introductory Note" includes the following: "Deductions from the World War was written for German consumption. As soon as a few German newspaper reviews called attention to its contents, and especially to the chapters "The Army of the Future" and "Still Ready for War," with their candid explanation of the way in which Germany proposes, this war finished, to prepare for the next, all comment was restricted or suppressed. Circulation of the book in Germany was promoted, but its export was prohibited, and very few copies gave found their way across the frontier." This introduction is written by someone identified only as J.E.M. and is dated December, 1917. My copy seems to be a first edition, published in 1918 by G.P. Putnam's Sons in New York and Constable & Co. in London. There is no explanation regarding how the book came to be published by Putnam and Constable so soon thereafter its German publication. Nor is there any credit given to a translator, although the book would presumably have been written in German.

This book has been on my home shelf for a long time (the LT entry date for my copy is March 21, 2008). I'm guessing this was a thrift store or yard sale purchase somewhere along the line. There are only three members listed on LT as having this book. Me, someone named Paul Ridderhoff, and the George Patton legacy library. Kind of cool.

Nov 15, 2017, 5:11pm

I finished Deductions from the World War (see above). Here is my rather lengthy (apologies) take on it:

"It may seem presumptuous to draw conclusions from the World War while it is still in progress," says Baron von Freytag-Loringhoven at the start of his Author's Foreward to Deductions from the World War.

Indeed, von Freytag-Loringhoven, Deputy-Chief of the German General Staff, wrote this treatise during the final months of World War One. The entry on von Freytag-Loringhoven on the website First World (see the link of von Freytag-Loringhoven's name) comments that in this book he "he expounded his opinion that Germany would fail to win the war." I could not find a spot where he does that overtly, but his discussions do seem to take for granted that the war is a lost cause and that lessons must be learned so that preparations for the next war may begin immediately. What von Freytag-Loringhoven didn't see coming, among other things, was the Versailles Treaty and the furious dismantling of the German war machine. (And yes, we know how that worked out, but still . . . )

In a way it's surprising that von Freytag-Loringhoven didn't see the degree to which surrender terms would be vengeful, given that he notes the new phenomenon of a more ubiquitous press corps that helped turn the war into a much more personal affair on the part of the Allies than propriety would have previously allowed. Early on he notes that

". . . the increased facilities of communication of modern times rendered the nations more closely coherent within their own borders and more accessible to the suggestive influence of the Press for good as well as for ill. That men have always been susceptible to suggestion is demonstrated by the spread of religious fanaticism, but the present age has increased this susceptibility still further. Even distinguished minds are subject to mass suggestion, as is shown in the case of numerous distinguished scholars and artists among our enemies. Neither judgement nor good taste availed to prevent them from joining in the general orgies of hatred directed against everything German."

A few pages later, von Freytag-Loringhoven explains that the use of guerrila tactics against the Germans in Belgium meant the Germans "found themselves compelled to resort to severe measures of retaliation. Thus the War acquired a character of brutality which is otherwise very alien to the nature of our well-conducted German soldiers." (As I recall, Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August had a different take on the origins of German brutality in Belgium.)

At any rate, given all that, it's a little surprising that von Freytag-Loringhoven seemed to expect a business as usual "boys will be boys" settlement at the end of the war.

And while he speaks of the ongoing development of new and better weapons, he somehow misses by a mile the coming preeminence of the tank (which he basically dismisses as a British toy) and even the airplane. On page 68 begins this chilling passage:

"Moreover, by raids into the enemy country carried out by squadrons of aircraft, we were able to inflict damage on fortifications, sources of military supplies, and other military establishments. In the course of these raids some unfortified places without military significance have had to suffer. The bombardment of these places is in itself objectionable, but the limits of what is permissible are in this matter in many ways elastic. A new weapon opens up its own paths, as is shown, for example, by the submarine war. In any case, in this contest of nations with its economic background, the War is turned more and more against the enemy countries, and the principle hitherto accepted that war is made only against the armed power of the enemy is, in this case as in other spheres, related to the background."

A lot of the book is taken up by discussions of military tactics, as you'd imagine, as well as such issues as the advisability of compulsory military service, even in peace time, and the inadvisability of every truly taking the German Army (or any army) off of a wartime, or at least a war-preparation, footing. While he gives a bit of lip service at the end to the horrors of war, he concludes that "however convinced we may be that war is a sin against humanity, that it is something worthy of detestation, this conviction brings us no nearer to eternal peace. War has its basis in human nature, and as long as human nature remains unaltered, war will continue to exist. . . . The often quoted saying of Moltke that wars are inhuman, but eternal peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful dream, will continue to be true."

Not an uplifting book, to be sure, but a fascinating one in its way.

Nov 17, 2017, 8:58pm

It's been a fairly productive month so far but we'll start with Of Duty Well and Faithfully Done (A) and Billy Mitchell's War with the Navy (B+).

The first, while written by former denizens of the Center for Military History, and thus basically having the flavor of official history, does a fine job of explaining how the regular army bureaucracy and field forces functioned during the Civil War; the main problem is that it's really expensive and there's no paperback edition. It's not what I'd call the efficient dissemination of knowledge.

As for the second, the author carefully dissects how Billy Mitchell was his own worst enemy and really clears away any lingering haze of martyrdom from the man. On the other hand, Wildenberg's somewhat smug attitude towards the poor performance of USAAF bombers at Midway also illustrates why service unification had to come about, as all concerned had to be broken of the notion that they were going to win the next war themselves. While Wildenberg probably had the vision of the USN operating its own squadrons of land-based bombers, the reality, if only for logistical reasons, is that this was a capability still arguably best retained by the Air Force. The Navy would have had enough on its plate anyway.

Editado: Dez 1, 2017, 11:06am

History is so interesting. According to Henry VIII is my 11th cousin, 11 times removed, while James IV is my 7th cousin 11 times removed. The ancestor common to all three of us is King Haakon V of Norway (1270-1319)

These relationships may seem odd, but those shared by the principles during events occurring in 1066 England are even more so.

According to, the then King of England, Harold Godwinson (1022-1066), is one of my 25th Great Grandfathers on my paternal grandfather's branch, while Harold Hardradde, the Norwegian King Harold killed at Stamford Bridge in 1066, is a 30th Great Uncle on my paternal grandmother's branch.

No sooner was that battle over, when King Godwinson was forced to rush down to Hastings, where he was killed by William the Conqueror (1021-1087), who is a 31st Great Uncle, also through my paternal grandmother's line.

It might be called a family feud.

Nov 29, 2017, 9:15pm

>5 Rood: I always get confused on the terms "Xth cousin, Y times removed". Can you elucidate on these terms?

And does this mean someone owes you a castle? ;)

Editado: Nov 30, 2017, 10:28pm

Editado: Dez 1, 2017, 6:13am

To finish up last month there was General Jacob Devers (B), Arming the Luftwaffe (A-) and For the Homeland (D+). The first is a workmanlike biography of the general, somewhat undermined by the author perhaps being too concerned with telling an exemplary tale of a man he perhaps admires a bit too uncritically. The second is an informative tale of failures of industrial planning and bad organization. The last has some useful nuggets of information but the author seems to be a thoroughgoing fascist whose clueless attitude is almost funny.

Dez 1, 2017, 11:30am

>6 jztemple:

Man, don't ask me to explain those terms. I leave it to Geni's computer to sort out, but, as I understand things, "removed" refers to the number of generations separating two people.

Nevertheless, genealogy is a fascinating source of history, particularly when distant relatives are involved. History really comes alive.

For instance, I once followed a branch of my mother's family line from Norway to Sweden to Ukraine, to Constantinople, and finally on to Persia, where my third cousin 46 times removed, Mauletena Shahrbanu Binte Yazdegird, the daughter of the last Persian Shah, evidently became (one of the?) wives of Husayn Ibn Talib, the grandson of Muhammed. It was when Husayn was killed at the Battle of Karbala (10 October 680) that Mohammedanism split into two branches ... the Sunni and the Shia.