Military history

CHAPTER NINE

DECISION: THE MARNE

I don’t know who won the Battle of the Marne, but if it had been lost, I know who would have lost it.

—JOSEPH JOFFRE

“IF THE PESSIMISTIC OBERSTLEUTNANT HENTSCH HAD CRASHED INTO a tree … somewhere on his journey of 8 September, or if he had been shot by a French straggler, we would have had a ceasefire two weeks later and thereafter would have received a peace in which we could have asked for everything.”1These pithy words, published in 1965 by Jenö von Egan-Krieger, who as Karl von Bülow’s deputy adjutant had witnessed the Battle of the Marne at Second Army headquarters, in many ways encapsulate the most persistent myth of the Marne. To wit, had Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hentsch of the General Staff not arrived at Bülow’s headquarters at Montmort-Lucy late that afternoon and by way of his pessimistic assessment of the situation helped persuade Bülow to initiate Second Army’s (and thereafter First Army’s) retreat behind the Marne River over the next two days, victory over France would have been secured. After all, lead elements of Alexander von Kluck’s First Army were just thirty kilometers from Paris. Bülow’s Second Army likewise seemed to be pressing on the capital. Max von Hausen’s Third Army was poised to break through Ferdinand Foch’s Ninth Army at the Saint-Gond Marshes. The French government had fled to Bordeaux. Thus, for an entire school of German military officers and writers, the “miracle of the Marne” consisted of Hentsch’s fateful order to retreat.

This line of argumentation is to be found not only in the vast memoir literature, but also in the fourth volume of the German official history, Der Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918. Usually factual and understated in its judgments, the official history loses its objectivity with Hentsch’s mission—to which it dedicates about fifty pages.2 Its depiction of the events of 8 and 9 September is one uninterrupted saga of victorious advances: in the Argonne and Ardennes forests, at the Marais de Saint-Gond, and along the Ourcq River. Every German unit is on the threshold of a breakthrough; every French on the point of defeat. Exit Hentsch from the story, and victory is assured. Beyond Germany, U.S. Army chief of staff Peyton C. March after the war expressed amazement that Germany’s senior army commanders had readily obeyed orders from “a perfectly unknown lieutenant colonel … far exceeding his authority,” and suggested that the Allies erect a monument in their “Hall of Fame” to honor Hentsch.3

BEFORE ANALYZING THE FINAL, dramatic turn of events of the Marne, I owe the reader three brief discourses: Who was Richard Hentsch; on what documentary evidence can we evaluate his mission; and how did it fit into the German staff system of 1914?4 Born 18 December 1869, the son of an army sergeant in the Inspectorate of Barracks at Cologne in the Prussian Rhineland, Hentsch because of “difficult family relations” decided in 1888 to enter the Saxon rather than the Prussian army. After a brilliant performance at the War Academy in Berlin, he alternated assignments to both the Prussian and Saxon General Staffs with infantry commands. In 1912, he served with Saxon XII Army Corps and the following year, in the rank of major as operations officer, with Saxon XIX Corps at Leipzig. In April 1914, Hentsch was promoted to lieutenant colonel and returned to the Prussian General Staff in Berlin as chief of the Third Section (Intelligence). He was a heavy smoker and had developed gallbladder problems that made him irritable and almost unapproachable.

Supporters and detractors alike agree that Hentsch was a superb, if somewhat pessimistic, military analyst. Colonel Max von Mutius, aide-de-camp to Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1914, recalled Hentsch as “an exceptional, talented officer endowed with clear and sober judgment.”5 General Hermann von Kuhl, who as chief of staff of First Army in September “vigorously” argued with Hentsch about the order to retreat from the Ourcq, was fair in his postwar assessment. Hentsch on numerous occasions had worked under Kuhl at the General Staff—most recently in the Third Section, which Hentsch inherited from Kuhl. “I knew him as a very intelligent, prudent and reserved staff officer,” Kuhl wrote, “in whom one could have absolute confidence.”6 Similarly, Gerhard Tappen, chief of operations in 1914, was not spare with praise after the war. He called Hentsch “an unusually gifted General Staff officer” who impressed on the basis of his “firm and precise nature” as well as his “calm, clear and convincing reasoning.”7 After the Marne, Hentsch served in the campaigns against Serbia and Romania (1915–17) and received the order Pour le Mérite while with Army Group Mackensen in September 1917. He died at Bucharest in February 1918 after a gallbladder operation.

BATTLE OF THE MARNE, 1914

For all the rivers of ink spilled about the so-called Hentsch mission,8 there exists a single contemporary document: his report to the General Staff on 15 September 1914.* This is extremely important in light of the fact that Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke never put his instructions to Hentsch on paper; that neither Moltke nor Hentsch made notes of their final discussion “under four eyes” before the lieutenant colonel left Luxembourg; that the only two officers who accompanied Hentsch in his staff car (Captains Georg König and Hans Koeppen) participated in just some of Hentsch’s discussions with the various army commanders and their staffs; and that the other eyewitness accounts by General Staff officers Wilhelm von Dommes and Gerhard Tappen9 were submitted to the Reichsarchiv a decade after the Marne as it produced the critical fourth volume, The Marne Campaign—The Battle, of its official history. Indeed, the Hentsch mission remained shrouded in the “fog of uncertainty” even for the Reichsarchiv historians in the 1920s, when they discovered that the General Staff’s files on it “contained as good as nothing.”10I have reconstructed Hentsch’s staff tour on the basis of 1914 diary excerpts that were submitted to the Reichsarchiv by leading staff officers and front commanders in the early 1920s, and which became available only after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic in 1990.

Third, Hentsch’s mission was not a “one-off,” an isolated shot in the dark, but rather consistent with what one scholar has called the “Tappen method.”11 As noted in chapters 3 and 7, Moltke and Tappen had used “special emissaries” to communicate with Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria’s Sixth Army in Lorraine. Lieutenant Colonel Wilhelm von Dommes, Major Max Bauer, General Ludwig von Sieger, and Major Erich von Redern had all been sent to Rupprecht’s headquarters not with specific written orders but simply with general talking points. All four had no authority to direct Sixth Army’s operations. One, Dommes, had even been warned by Kaiser Wilhelm II “to avoid anything embarrassing that might give his planned ‘suggestions’ the impression of an ‘order.’”12 Yet in each case, Rupprecht and his chief of staff, Konrad Krafft von Dellmensingen, had understood the nature of those missions as representing the “thoughts” of the Army Supreme Command (OHL). Hentsch’s mission was thus consistent with established General Staff practices.

THE MOOD AT THE OHL on the morning of 8 September can only be described as bordering on panic.13 Moltke had received no word from First or Second armies the past two days. Both were reported to be within striking distance of Paris, yet one (First) had cut sharply across the front of the other (Second) at the Marne. French chief of the General Staff Joseph Joffre had launched a massive counterattack along the entire front from Paris to Verdun. A new French Sixth Army seemed to be trying to envelop First Army’s right flank on the Ourcq. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) ever so slowly was marching into the fifty-kilometer-wide gap between First and Second armies. Moltke, fearing that First Army had already been attacked in the rear and was in danger of being ground up between French Sixth Army and the BEF, desperately needed clarity. He believed that neither he nor Tappen could be spared at Luxembourg and hence decided to dispatch another emissary. Dommes, chief of the Political Section and just promoted to colonel, volunteered. Moltke instead chose Hentsch because he had visited both Bülow’s and Kluck’s headquarters three days earlier and thus was better informed on the military situation at the Marne and the Ourcq.

During the intense discussions among the four officers—Moltke, Tappen, Hentsch, and Dommes—in Tappen’s office, Moltke most likely gave Hentsch powers to initiate a general withdrawal of the right wing to the line Sainte-Menehould–Reims–Fismes–Soissons if First Army’s predicament made such a move “necessary.” Hentsch took this to constitute “full power of authority” (Vollmacht) to act in Moltke’s name.14 This certainly is what he shared with Captain König during their drive to the front. At a final meeting alone with Moltke sometime around 9 AM* on 8 September, Hentsch—according to Wilhelm II and half a dozen General Staff officers at the OHL—received no word to dissuade him of this interpretation.15 At 10 AM Hentsch, along with Captains König and Koeppen, left Luxembourg to visit Fifth, Fourth, Third, Second, and First armies.16He decided on his own to undertake a grand tour of the entire front from the Argonne Forest to the Ourcq River rather than to proceed directly to Second and First armies. He was mentally “confident” and physically “fresh,” and showed no signs of the gallbladder ailment. But, as he confided to Captain König, he regretted that Moltke had declined to issue him orders in writing and that the chief of the General Staff had not gone to the front in person, or at least sent a more senior officer, such as Deputy Chief of Staff Hermann von Stein or Colonel Tappen. He feared that he would be made the “scapegoat” for whatever action he took.17

The small motorcade arrived at Fifth Army headquarters in Varennes-en-Argonne at 1 PM on 8 September. Hentsch was pleased to learn that Crown Prince Wilhelm planned to storm Forts Troyon and Les Paroches the next day.18 He then continued to Fourth Army headquarters, arriving at Courtisols, on the Vesle River, at 3:15 PM. He received the welcome news that Duke Albrecht would advance along the Marne-Rhine Canal the next day. In short, both armies were engaged in heavy fighting in the rugged Argonne terrain. Each hoped to mount flanking offensives by their respective right wings: Wilhelm to envelop French Third Army east of Revigny and Albrecht to surround French Fourth Army east of Vitry-le-François. Hentsch used Fourth Army’s telephone link to inform Luxembourg that there was no urgency.19

Hentsch left Courtisols at 4:30 PM for Châlons-sur-Marne. Hausen was at the front, but Chief of Staff Ernst von Hoeppner optimistically reported that Third Army, despite the precarious position of its right wing due to having received its eighth and ninth SOS calls in two days from Second Army, was making “victorious but slow progress.”20 In fact, the audacious bayonet attack of Hausen’s Third Army had been stopped by French Ninth Army. Still, for Hentsch, no urgency. Shortly before leaving Châlons at 5:45 PM, Hentsch radioed Moltke: “3. Army’s situation and conception [of operations] entirely favorable.”21 Next, he was off to Second Army headquarters at Montmort-Lucy, where he arrived at 6:45 PM. Bülow returned from his command post at Fromentières half an hour later. The ensuing meeting was greatly to shape the Battle of the Marne.

On arriving at the Château de Montmort, Hentsch’s cautious optimism waned. The shafts of the wagons of Second Army’s headquarters staff all pointed north, an indication of a planned withdrawal.* He held a brief, first meeting with Chief of Staff Otto von Lauenstein. At first, Lauenstein tried to reassure Hentsch that all was well. That very afternoon Bülow had rushed to the front at Champaubert upon receiving word that Louis Franchet d’Espèrey’s Fifth Army had broken through the seam between Otto von Emmich’s X Army Corps and Guenther von Kirchbach’s X Reserve Corps—only to return “laughing and in high spirits” because the report had proved to be false.22 But then Lauenstein became more serious. The day’s offensive by the left wing of Second Army had met with some success, but the right wing between Montmirail and Chézy had barely been able to maintain its positions and was in danger of being enveloped by French Fifth Army. Hentsch in the name of the OHL expressed the view that First Army would not be able to ward off French Sixth Army’s offensive emanating from Paris, and that “enemy formations” were exploiting the fifty-kilometer-wide corridor between First and Second armies.23

Bülow then invited Hentsch, Lauenstein, and First General Staff Officer Arthur Matthes, as well as Captains König and Koeppen, into his study in the Renaissance castle. No protocol was kept. According to Hentsch’s report of 15 September and Lieutenant Colonel Matthes’s post meeting notes, Bülow began with a description of Second Army’s situation.24 It was “extremely serious and even dangerous.” After a month of unceasing campaigning, Second Army’s combat effectiveness had been reduced to the point where it was “in no condition” to deliver the “final and decisive blow” that was now being asked of it. Bülow, still without any reports from First Army headquarters at Mareuil, then turned his anger on Kluck. In nonobservance of Moltke’s General Instruction of 5 September, First Army had turned southeast and crossed the Marne ahead of Second Army. Kluck now threatened to withdraw III and IX corps from Second Army’s right flank, thereby widening the distance between the two armies by fifteen kilometers. The two cavalry corps and Jäger units that had been thrown into the breach would soon be overrun. Unless Kluck at once broke off the battle with Michel-Joseph Maunoury’s Sixth Army at the Ourcq and closed up with Second Army, “hostile columns, brigades or divisions” could break through the gap. There were no reserves to fall back on. “First Army simply and solely is responsible for the current crisis.”

At this point in the discussion, either Bülow or Matthes uttered what soon became a fateful word, “Schlacke.”25 Captain König reiterated this fact in formal replies to the historians of the Reichsarchiv in March 1925 and January 1926, and on both occasions testified that the word cindershad been applied to Second Army. The term would be central to all subsequent discussions, both at Montmort and Mareuilsur-Ourcq. It undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that Second Army had been constantly on the march for a month, that it had fought at least three major engagements with French Fifth Army, that its right wing was being exploited by the enemy, that it already had to pull three corps behind the Petit Morin, that the men were at the end of their physical capabilities, and that Second Army’s overall strength was little more than three corps.

Hentsch spoke next. In what Captains König and Koeppen described as “calm, measured terms,” Hentsch described the state of Kluck’s First Army east of Paris as “serious” and in danger of envelopment. It could not be counted on to prevent the enemy from crossing the Marne. It simply had to pull back from the Ourcq and he, Hentsch, “had the full power of authority to order this if necessary in the name of the Oberste-Heeresleitung.” The boldness of the statement took Bülow by surprise. While conceding the potential “danger” east of Paris, he remonstrated that a breakthrough “had not yet become reality.” Again, he argued that the best solution was to order Kluck to close and protect Second Army’s right wing. Hentsch demurred. First Army was no longer able to perform such a complicated maneuver in the midst of battle. Bülow countered that it was not yet too late. But time was fast running out for Kluck. If the Allies broke through at the Marne, Bülow lectured Hentsch, they would have two enticing options: “either to turn against the left flank and rear of First Army or against the right flank of Second Army; both could lead to a catastrophe.” Hentsch agreed. He again reminded Bülow that he had “full power of authority” to order Kluck to withdraw from the Ourcq.

An orderly called Lauenstein to the telephone. Louis de Maud’huy’s XVIII Corps had broken through Karl von Einem’s VII Corps at Marchais-en-Brie and was threatening Montmirail. Bülow now became alarmed. Second Army’s front was in danger of being breached. He immediately ordered his right wing (Kluck’s III and IX corps as well as his own X Reserve Corps) to fall back fifteen to twenty kilometers behind Margny and Le Thoult-Trosnay to escape envelopment, at least for the moment. It should be noted that he did this before Kluck actually took back his III and IX corps and quick-marched them to the Ourcq. The plight of the German position was becoming ever more apparent. Bülow mused aloud that should the French “compel a retreat by force of arms” through a “hostile country in which practically every inhabitant might be armed,” this could easily have “incalculable consequences.”26 Therewith, as Captain König clearly remembered, the word retreat had been uttered for the first time.27

All present at the meeting agreed that First Army’s situation was “desperate;” none had faith that Kluck’s right wing could envelop Maunoury’s left. Furthermore, all agreed that the last possible moment to order a general retreat would come as soon as major Allied forces crossed the Marne. For reasons that he never explained, Hentsch decided to spend the night at Montmort rather than to push on to First Army headquarters. Unsurprisingly, the mood at dinner that night was “depressing.” At 9:30 PM, just before going to bed, Hentsch sent off a cryptic note to Luxembourg: “Situation at 2. Army serious, but not desperate.”28 What was Moltke to make of that?

From 5 to 6 AM on 9 September, Hentsch, Lauenstein, and Matthes held a final meeting in the château’s gardens. Bülow, undoubtedly exhausted from the previous night’s momentous discussions, preferred sleep to another meeting with Hentsch, whom he described as the “horrible pessimist” from the OHL.29 The talks merely fleshed out what had already been agreed upon: Second Army could hold its present position only if First Army disengaged at the Ourcq and withdrew eastward along the north bank of the Marne to link up with Bülow’s right wing; if Kluck refused, Lauenstein was prepared to issue orders for Second Army to fall back behind the Marne. Hentsch concurred. At 6 AM, he departed Montmort for the eighty-kilometer drive to First Army headquarters at Mareuil. Moltke that day gave vent to his growing pessimism in a letter to his wife. “It goes badly. The battles east of Paris will not end in our favor. … And we certainly will be made to pay for all that has been destroyed.”30

Bülow, having risen and been briefed by Lauenstein and Matthes on their talks with Hentsch, reviewed the morning’s reconnaissance report from Lieutenant Berthold of Flying Squadron 23. It confirmed his worst fears: “Advance by 5 hostile columns in a northerly direction in the region of Montmirail—La Ferté.”31 They were obviously advancing from the Petit Morin toward the Marne into the gap between First and Second armies. For Bülow, the last moment to order a general retreat had arrived. “Second Army initiates retreat,” he tersely informed Hausen and Kluck on his left and right, respectively, at 9:02 AM, “right flank on Damery [sic].”32 When shortly thereafter a message arrived from Mareuil stating that First Army was withdrawing its left flank (Alexander von Linsingen’s II Corps) toward Coulombs, Bülow (incorrectly) assumed that this was because Hentsch had ordered Kluck also to begin the withdrawal.33 Bad communications yet again bedeviled the Germans.

How does one account for the bizarre meeting at Montmort? On the surface, it seems ludicrous that a mere lieutenant colonel was able to move Prussia’s most senior field commander into ordering his army to retreat without having suffered a major defeat. Even more ludicrous is that Bülow made absolutely no effort to contact either Moltke at Luxembourg or Kluck at Mareuil—by telegraph, rider, automobile, or airplane. Incredibly, four trains of Bülow’s Telephone Section 2 sat idle at Dormans studying handbooks on how to install and repair lines and equipment; they took no steps whatsoever to establish telephone communications with Kluck, less than sixty kilometers away as the crow flies.34 Surely, Bülow and Lauenstein could, and should, have overruled a lieutenant colonel and taken responsibility for coordinating their intended action with the OHL and First Army.

The truth of the matter is that the order to retreat was issued not by Hentsch or by Moltke, but by Bülow, with whom responsibility for setting in motion the German retreat from the Marne must rest. To be sure, Bülow was between a rock and a hard place by the evening of 8 September. Franchet d’Espèrey’s Fifth Army was hammering Second Army’s exposed right wing, over which it enjoyed a four-to-one numerical superiority. The BEF at last was advancing into the gap between the two German pivot armies and harassing Kluck’s lines of communication. Could Bülow simply stand on the Marne for another day or two and hope and pray that Hausen’s Third Army would yet defeat Ferdinand Foch’s Ninth Army in the Saint-Gond Marshes; or that Kluck’s right wing would sweep around the left flank of Maunoury’s Sixth Army northeast of Paris? If either or both Hausen and Kluck were victorious, the campaign could be salvaged at the eleventh hour. If not, the sheer weight of numbers that favored Franchet d’Espèrey would crush Second Army’s right wing—while the three corps of the BEF and the French cavalry corps would assault Kluck’s rear on the Ourcq.

Some scholars have viewed Bülow’s decision on the fourth day of the battle to avert a pending “catastrophe” by way of a timely retreat as “a sound one.”35 At the time, Lauenstein crowed to Deputy Chief of Staff von Stein that “Germany will one day thank General von Bülow that he issued the order to retreat.”36 Few German military writers, either at the time or subsequently, have agreed with either view. They are right. Quite apart from the sudden and impulsive nature of the decision and Bülow’s refusal to seek input from Moltke or Kluck, it did not correspond to the situation on the ground. There had been no major breakthrough. Kluck was rallying his army corps to crush French Sixth Army on the Ourcq. Rudolf von Lepel’s infantry brigade, marching southwest from Brussels, was about to strike Maunoury’s left flank. Second Army had merely to close up its front and stand firm at the Marne. Time was not yet of the essence. Bülow, who had viewed Kluck and First Army as a “thorn in his side” ever since their turn toward the south after the Battle of Guise/Saint-Quentin, allowed emotions to dictate operations.

BATTLE OF THE MARNE, 9 SEPTEMBER 1914

There remains the larger question concerning the fitness to command of Bülow and Lauenstein. The German official history and most eyewitnesses declined after the war to address the question, content merely to regurgitate “recollections” of what was said that 8 September. General Karl von Einem of VII Corps was an exception. After the war, he ruefully informed the historians of the Reichsarchiv, “General Lauenstein gave the impression of a sick man, Bülow was old and deaf.”37 The only military scholar to undertake “an attempt to elucidate psychological conditions” was Swiss lieutenant Colonel Eugen Bircher. After spending a decade sifting through every available scrap of French and German published sources, Bircher concluded that neither Bülow nor Lauenstein was in top form, physically or mentally, at the Marne.38 Bülow, a first-rate organizer and reformer of Prussian army doctrine before the war, had long suffered from thyroid gland illness, which had left him with severe arteriosclerosis. Under extended combat and fatigue, this condition flared up anew and made him edgy, agitated, and hard of hearing. At age sixty-eight, he was four years beyond what constituted mandatory retirement in the French army. During the night after he made his momentous decision to retreat, Bülow suffered three “crying fits” at Saint-Quentin, his new headquarters. The next day, he extended a dour greeting to Pastor Paul Le Seur: “If you think that you are seeing the commander of Second Army, then you are mistaken! That, I once was.”39Wilhelm II promoted Bülow to the rank of field marshal in January 1915 and three months later bestowed on him the order Pour le Mérite. That same year, Bülow suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side; he died at Berlin on 31 August 1921.

Lauenstein, while in the rank of captain, had developed chronic thyroid eye disease,* which attacked his heart as well as nervous system; its symptoms included extreme nervousness, muscular tremors, palpitation of the heart, and protrusion of the eyeballs. Although only fifty-seven years old in 1914, the stress and strain of four weeks of constant combat had severely tested his nerves. Captain Koeppen, who was at the critical meeting in Montmort, later informed the Reichsarchiv that on 8 September, Lauenstein had made a “sick, almost apathetic impression” on him.40Bülow’s chief of staff seemed to suffer from heart palpitations during the meeting and managed to get through it only “with strong means, especially alcohol.” Lieutenant Colonel Matthes, in fact, had taken Lauenstein’s place in decision making. Incredibly, Wilhelm II awarded Lauenstein the Iron Cross, First Class, for his role in the Battle of the Marne. Lauenstein died of heart disease in 1916. The degree to which these physical ailments affected their decision making that 8 September remains an interesting, but open, question.

HENTSCH ARRIVED AT MAREUIL-SUR-OURCQ at 11:30 AM on 9 September after a five-hour detour via Reims, Fismes, and Fère-en-Tardenois. If the sight of wagon shafts turned away from the front had already alarmed him at Montmort, what he witnessed en route to Mareuil unnerved the staff officer.41 At Fère-en-Tardenois, he encountered ammunition and supply trains, horse-drawn artillery, weary infantrymen, and columns of wounded cavalrymen fleeing from the front helter-skelter for fear of being cut off by advancing French forces. At Neuilly–Saint-Front, he could not get through, as the town was “plugged up” by countless people running in terror of what they thought to be bombs falling. Finally making his way through Neuilly “by the repeated use of force,” Hentsch headed south. At Brumetz, he had to turn around when informed (incorrectly) that British cavalry was already in the area. Then panicked Landwehr soldiers fired at his car, taking it to be part of a French advance guard. At every stop, he was told that the enemy had driven German cavalry from the Marne and had crossed the river in pursuit.

General von Kuhl, First Army’s chief of staff, met Hentsch on a dusty road at Mareuil. He quickly brought his former assistant up to speed: First Army that morning had been seriously threatened by Maunoury’s attacks on the Ourcq; aviators had reported the British advance into the gap between the two German armies in the area north of the Petit Morin River stretching from Montmirail west to La Fertésous-Jouarre; and Hans von Gronau’s IV Reserve Corps had been ground down in the fighting. But the arrival of Ferdinand von Quast’s IX Corps and Friedrich Sixt von Arnim’s IV Corps had stabilized the situation.42 The two officers then entered Kuhl’s operations room. No protocol was kept. Neither cared to send for General von Kluck, who was a mere two to three hundred meters away at his command post. Obviously, two General Staff officers could decide First Army’s operations without its commander. Kuhl announced that First Army’s right wing was about to turn Maunoury’s left flank, and that he viewed the BEF’s advance into the gap “not at all tragically” since the British had reeled back in confusion ever since Mons and Le Cateau. “We knew from previous experience,” one of Kuhl’s staff officers later stated, “how slowly the British operated.” In any case, the two German cavalry corps would be able to “deal” with the BEF. A second staff officer recalled that Hentsch was “dumbfounded” by this optimistic evaluation of the situation.

Hentsch then made his formal presentation. Fifth Army was tied down at Verdun; Sixth and Seventh armies likewise were pinned at Nancy-Épinal; and Bülow’s VII Corps had not “withdrawn” behind the Marne but had been “hurled” back across the river. To wit, the time for a general retreat had come. Third Army was to withdraw northeastward of Châlons, Fourth and Fifth armies via Clermont-en-Argonne to Verdun, Second Army behind the Marne, and First Army in the direction of Soissons and Fismes to close up with Second Army. A new German army was being formed at Saint-Quentin, whereupon the offensive could be renewed. Knowing that Bülow had ordered Second Army to fall back on Dormans, Hentsch took a charcoal pen and drew the lines of retreat for First Army on Kuhl’s staff map.

Kuhl “vigorously” objected.43 First Army’s right wing was about to break Maunoury’s left; the attack had to be given a chance to succeed; a retreat by his exhausted and disorganized forces was out of the question. And how, he demanded to know, had Bülow come to retreat behind the Marne? Hentsch obfuscated. “The decision to retreat,” he coldly replied, “had been a bitter pill for Old Bülow to swallow.” He then repeated the unsubstantiated but critical comment made by either Bülow or Matthes at Montmort that Second Army had been reduced to “cinders” by Franchet d’Espèrey’s vicious attacks. Finally, Hentsch pulled his ace out of his sleeve: He had come with “full power of authority” and “in the name of the Oberste-Heeresleitung” ordered First Army to retreat. It was less than a clinical staff performance.

Kuhl was thunderstruck. If Second Army had indeed been reduced to “cinders” and was being forced to withdraw from the Marne, then “not even a victory over Maunoury” could spare First Army’s left flank from certain destruction. In the terse verdict of the German official history, “The dice were cast.” Kuhl had no direct telephone line to Luxembourg, and he chose not to use one of his aircraft to send a staff officer to Montmort to confer with Bülow or Lauenstein. Later on, he simply informed Kluck of his discussion with Hentsch. “With a heavy heart, General von Kluck was obliged to accept the order.”44 Kuhl, who understood the inner workings of the General Staff system better than anyone, conceded at Hentsch’s requested Court of Inquiry in April 1917 that the lieutenant colonel had “not exceeded his authority.” Erich Ludendorff, then deputy chief of staff of the German army, concurred. “He [Hentsch] merely acted according to the instructions he received from the then Chief of the General Staff [Moltke].”45

Hentsch, “psychologically deeply shaken” by the gravity of his action and fearful that he would be “blamed for the unfortunate termination of the [Schlieffen-Moltke] operation,”46 departed Mareuil at 1 PM—not to brief Second Army on his discussions with Kuhl but to inform Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies of the decision to retreat. Fifteen minutes later, Kluck issued formal orders “at the behest of the OHL” for First Army to break off the battle with French Sixth Army and to withdraw “in the general direction of Soissons.”47 Thus ended First Army’s bloody thirty-day, six-hundred-kilometer advance on Paris.

There are times when senior military leaders have the right and the duty not to obey orders that make no sense, but to act in the best interests of their army and country. General Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg was one such commander, who in December 1812 had signed a neutrality pact with Russia at Tauroggen rather than to continue to have the Prussian army serve as a hoplite force for Napoleon I. On 9 September 1914, Kluck and Kuhl owed it to their soldiers and their country to see the battle with French Sixth Army through to conclusion. For the last chance to win the campaign in the west rested with their decision. A simple demand for formal written orders from the kaiser or the chief of the General Staff would have done the trick since, given the deplorable state of German communications, it would have taken two days to send the message and to receive a reply from Moltke. Instead, we are left with the great “what if?” on the Ourcq.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL HENTSCH RETURNED to LUXEMBOURG at 12:40 PM on 10 September. The atmosphere at the OHL was highly charged. The day before, while Hentsch was making his rounds, Moltke, hearing of the BEF’s advance into the infamous gap by way of an intercepted wireless, had lost his nerve and recommended a withdrawal all along the line. The senior generals in the kaiser’s entourage counseled continuation of the offensive. Wilhelm II agreed. He adamantly rejected Moltke’s advice and demanded precise information on the status of the German right wing. But the discussions were “all superfluous,” Chief of the Military Cabinet Moriz von Lyncker noted, since there existed no means of communication with Kluck.48 Moltke, according to Deputy Chief of Staff von Stein, thereupon cracked. It was 1 August all over again, when the kaiser, upon receiving the (false) news that London would hold Paris out of the war if Germany did not attack France, had brusquely demanded that Moltke alter his entire operations plan and deploy against Russia alone. And as on that day, Moltke on 9 September became “extremely agitated.” He reminded Wilhelm II that Bülow had already come out in favor of a withdrawal, and that Bülow “is one of the most experienced generals in the army.”49 The discussion raged furiously. The kaiser refused to cave in. “Despite [what I have heard], I will lead the army into [sic] France.”50 Unsurprisingly, Colonel Tappen sided with his Supreme War Lord. “Whoever now perseveres,” he concluded, “is the victor.”51

Hentsch’s report on 10 September decided the issue. First Army, he informed Moltke, “was responsible for the entire retreat” because by removing III and IX corps from Bülow’s right wing, it had allowed the distance between the two armies to widen by fifteen kilometers, and the enemy was now exploiting it. Disingenuously, he reported that First Army had already “issued orders to withdraw,” and that he, Hentsch, had merely tried to steer that withdrawal into the direction desired by the OHL! Specifically, First Army was falling back on Soissons-Fismes and Second Army behind the Marne. Third Army could regroup south of Châlons-sur-Marne, while Fourth and Fifth armies could remain in their present positions.52 Although we have no documentary evidence concerning Hentsch’s claim that Kuhl had already “issued orders to withdraw,” it is clear that he was putting the best possible spin on a decision that he had forced on First Army’s chief of staff. Hentsch had left Luxembourg on 8 September convinced of the need for a general retreat and realignment of the armies in the west. His talks with Bülow and Lauenstein at Montmort had only reinforced that conviction. At Mareuil, Hentsch—with his talk of Second Army being little more than “cinders,” of its already ongoing withdrawal, and of his “full power of authority” to issue orders to retreat “in the name of the Oberste Heeres-Leitung”—had left Kuhl no choice but to withdraw from the Ourcq. For that action, Hentsch was fully responsible.

Moltke was “pleasantly surprised” by Hentsch’s report. The danger of Kluck’s left wing being crushed by the BEF and the French cavalry corps had been removed; First Army’s withdrawal to Fismes would allow it to link up with Second Army again and thus eliminate the fifty-kilometer gap; and Fourth and Fifth armies could hold their lines. “Thank God,” Moltke cried out, “then the situation seems much better than I thought.”53 The offensive could be resumed just as soon as the new Seventh Army had been formed at Saint-Quentin. And when news arrived around 9 PM on 10 September that Paul von Hindenburg’s Eighth Army had defeated P. K. Rennenkampf ’s Russian First Army at the Masurian Lakes, the mood swing at the OHL was complete. Still, the savvy Hentsch asked Moltke to visit Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies “to make sure that I did the right thing.”54 The chief of the General Staff agreed to set off early next morning. Württemberg’s war minister, Otto von Marchtaler, caustically noted, “He should have done that earlier; too late!” on his envoy’s report of Moltke’s decision.55 Perhaps to “punish” Kluck for his bold initiative (against express orders) in crossing the Marne ahead of Second Army, Moltke once again placed First Army under Bülow’s command. He simply refused to accept that his most senior commander in the field had set in motion the entire chain of action that would lead to a general retreat from the Marne.

Moltke’s temporary recovery of spirits belied his true state of mind. For there is no question that by 8–10 September, Helmuth von Moltke was a broken man, mentally and physically. The heart problems for which he had been treated in 1911, 1912, and 1913 and that had led to arteriosclerosis had returned, aggravated by the onset of a gallbladder infection.56 His closest associates at the OHL noted his loss of energy, declining willpower, and inability to make decisions. To them, he looked tired and lethargic. They were not alone. Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, concerned that “the OHL has lost its nerves,” had traveled to German headquarters on 8 September to discuss the assault on Nancy. He was shocked. Moltke gave the impression of being “a sick, broken man. His tall frame was stooped and he looked incredibly debilitated.” He ruminated about “many mistakes having been committed,” from the foolish rush of Josias von Heeringen’s XIV and XV corps into Mulhouse in Alsace early in August, to Rupprecht’s “failure” to shift parts of his Seventh Army to the German pivot wing (Schwenkungsflügel) near Paris.57 Rupprecht left Luxembourg convinced that the German operations plan had failed.

The next day, War Minister Erich von Falkenhayn again wielded his acid-dripping pen. “Our General Staff has totally lost their heads,” he noted in his diary. “Schlieffen’s notes have come to an end and therewith also Moltke’s wit.”58 Karl von Wenninger, Bavaria’s military plenipotentiary to the OHL, also took up the theme of a squandered “Schlieffen Plan.” Twice he sarcastically noted in his diary that Moltke and his “minions” had merely known how “to roll the camera” and let “Schlieffen’s film play through.” The “beaming faces” that he had encountered at Berlin on 31 July had turned to “down-cast eyes” at Luxembourg. “It is as quiet as a mortuary,” he recorded on 10 September. “One tip-toes around … best not to address [General Staff officers], not to ask.”59

Hans von Plessen, the kaiser’s adjutant general and commander of Imperial Headquarters, also noted the charged atmosphere at Luxembourg. Moltke (and his wife) seemed “agitated, nervous and very depressed.” The lack of contact with First and Second armies was vexing. Above all, “No one understands how the French, who have been beaten so many times, seem to muster the strength to [mount] such [new] advances.”60 General von Lyncker, who as chief of the Military Cabinet was responsible for all military appointments, ruminated about the “extremely serious” situation in France. “The armies have been pulled apart in a thin line [forming] a great arc from the Vosges [Mountains] to Paris.” On 10 September, he concluded that the Schlieffen-Moltke Plan had unraveled. “In sum, one must appreciate that the entire operation—that is, the encirclement [of French forces] from the north and northwest—has been utterly unsuccessful.” The campaign had instead degenerated into what he termed simple “frontal engagements.” Ominously, Lyncker laid the blame squarely on the chief of the General Staff. “Moltke is totally crushed by events; his nerves are not up to the situation.”61

IN CONTRAST WITH MOLTKE, Papa Joffre was firmly in control of operations. After his stirring appeal to the troops from a converted monk’s cell at his headquarters at Châtillon-sur-Seine on 6 September, Joffre with an iron hand directed the great assault that he had waited two weeks to launch. He had used his interior lines to great advantage to re-supply and to expand his armies, with the result that he enjoyed a superiority of forty-one to twenty-three infantry divisions over the three German armies of the pivot wing.62 The French official history speaks of a neat division of les armées françaises during the Battle of the Marne into two distinct combat phases: the “offensive maneuver” of Fifth and Sixth armies and the BEF on the left wing; and the “stationary battle” of Third, Fourth, and Ninth armies in the center of the line.63 The light, mobile forces that had proved to be inadequate for the brutal front assaults of the past were ideal for the redeployment that Joffre now undertook.

Specifically, Joffre admonished Yvon Dubail’s First Army and Édouard de Castelnau’s Second Army to continue to “fix” Crown Prince Rupprecht’s Sixth and Seventh armies along the Meurthe and Moselle rivers in Lorraine; Maurice Sarrail’s Third Army to keep Crown Prince Wilhelm’s Fifth Army pinned down around Verdun; and Fernand de Langle de Cary’s Fourth Army likewise to occupy Duke Albrecht’s Fourth Army between the Marne and Vesle rivers north of Vitry-le-François.64 A major breakthrough by any of these enemy forces would have disastrous consequences. Joffre most feared a pincer move by German Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth armies that could trap his Third and Fourth armies along the western banks of the Upper Meuse. Finally, he remained anxious about Sir John French and the BEF joining in the attack north from Melun across the Grand and Petit Morin rivers between French Fifth and Sixth armies.

In the center of the French front, Joffre ordered Foch’s Ninth Army to hold the Saint-Gond Marshes while Franchet d’Espèrey’s vastly reinforced Fifth Army mounted constant pressure on Bülow’s exhausted Second Army across the two Morins. This would allow Maunoury’s Sixth Army, the so-called army of maneuver, to sweep around the right flank of Kluck’s First Army and crush it along the Marne near Château-Thierry. Gronau’s sighting of, and brilliant decision to attack, French Sixth Army with IV Reserve Corps on 5 September, as previously noted, had tipped Joffre’s hand and deprived him of the element of surprise. But there could be no turning back; the advance of more than one million men and three thousand guns could not suddenly be halted or even altered. Moreover, news was beginning to filter in of a great Russian victory over the Austro-Hungarians at Lemberg (Lwów).* This could only cause the Germans concern and perhaps force them to transfer some of their forces from the Western to the Eastern Front.

FOCH AND FRENCH NINTH ARMY IN THE SAINT-GOND MARSHES

Early on the morning of 6 September, the confident attitude at Ewald von Lochow’s III Corps encampment at La Ferté-Gaucher and that of Quast’s IX Corps at Esternay was rudely interrupted by violent artillery bombardments. At first, they believed this to be only another French rear guard action, but reports from aviators of columns of infantry in the strength of at least an army corps marching against Esternay quickly convinced them that French Fifth Army had gone over to the attack. From noon until nightfall, Franchet d’Espèrey’s left wing (XVIII, III, and I corps) engaged the two German corps in bloody fighting between Sancy and Châtillon-sur-Marne. Completely surprised by the enemy, and vastly outnumbered due to Kluck’s decision to transfer II and IV corps a hundred kilometers north to the Ourcq, Quast and Lochow in the best tradition of the Prussian army ordered a smart counterattack, thereby limiting Fifth Army’s advance to five kilometers. In fact, the French commander had deemed it crucial that Fifth Army begin the offensive with a success. Hence, he had not set it unrealistic goals and had ordered it to entrench once visible progress had been made.

The next day, 7 September, Franchet d’Espèrey renewed the attack, this time in the direction of Montmirail. On his left, Louis Conneau’s II Cavalry Corps and the BEF marched against German rear guards near Rozay-en-Brie (Rozoy). The advance for the Allies was suspiciously easy. Were the Germans laying a trap for them? Were they withdrawing forces in order to undertake a flanking movement elsewhere? The British, as always, advanced most cautiously. Joffre twice called Sir John French’s headquarters to make it clear that it was “important,” indeed “indispensable,” that the BEF drive forward without delay and debouch north of the Marne that night.

Content to let his advance guards halt at the Grand Morin, Franchet d’Espèrey took stock of the situation. What his reconnaissance brought back was simply astounding: Bülow had ordered his entire right wing—III and IX corps as well as X Reserve Corps—to withdraw as far as twenty kilometers behind the Petit Morin, thereby further widening the gap between his Second Army and Kluck’s First Army. When Maud’huy’s XVIII Corps later that afternoon seized Marchais-en-Brie, thereby threatening Montmirail and Johannes von Eben’s X Reserve Corps with envelopment, Bülow undertook yet another fateful repositioning, moving VII Corps and X Reserve Corps to a north-south line between Margny and Le Thoult-Trosnay. The right wing of German Second Army had been turned.65

But Franchet d’Espèrey, who had distinguished himself as a corps commander at Guise/Saint-Quentin with his bold infantry charge, now seemed bedeviled by Carl von Clausewitz’s “fog of uncertainty.” Joffre’s General Instruction No. 7 of 7 September had been clear: “The Fifth Army will accelerate the movement of its left wing and will employ its right wing to support the Ninth Army.”66 And Joffre’s Special Order No. 19 the following day had again shown Franchet d’Espèrey the way: “The main body of the Fifth Army, marching due north, will drive the forces opposed to it beyond the Marne.”67 But instead of using his numerical superiority as a “breakthrough force” (armée de rupture) to destroy a retreating foe—either by envelopment or breakthrough—“Desperate Frankie” advanced only “methodically”68 and with Fifth Army in echelon, its right (!) wing in advance. Fortunately for Franchet d’Espèrey, Bülow strangely chose not to destroy the Marne bridges after his units retreated over them.

During the early hours of 8 September, Kluck ordered III and IX corps (as II and IV corps before them) up to the Ourcq. The Allies had reached their first “climacteric” of the war: The BEF, Conneau’s cavalry corps, and the left wing of French Fifth Army were poised to charge through the wide gap in the German line between Meaux and Château-Thierry. All that stood between them and annihilating either (or both) German First or Second army were four divisions of Georg von der Marwitz’s and Manfred von Richthofen’s thin and weary cavalry screen—augmented by Richard von Kraewel’s mixed brigade (34th Infantry Brigade and two batteries of field artillery).69

The Allied breakthrough remained a mirage. Despite Joffre’s constant exhortations, the BEF moved north at a snail’s pace, still some thirty kilometers behind Joffre’s desired jump-off line. Douglas Haig (I Corps) and Horace Smith-Dorrien (II Corps) consistently spied phantom German formations in front of them. On 9 September, Haig halted I Corps until nightfall at the mere sighting of Karl von Ilsemann’s 5th Cavalry Division (CD) and IX Corps’ baggage train. Smith-Dorrien, not to be outdone, likewise stopped his advance after British 5th Infantry Division (ID) had encountered Kraewel’s mixed brigade at Montreuil-aux-Lions. Smith-Dorrien engaged only two brigades of 5th ID and two companies of 3d ID against a vastly inferior force. Farther to the west, “Putty” Pulteney’s III Corps failed to cross the Marne near La Ferté-sous-Jouarre. The German screen held the right bank of the Marne and destroyed most of the bridges in this sector. As at Meaux, the Germans expertly deployed their light guns on reverse slopes and their machine guns in the wooded ravines and trenches of the north bank of the Marne Valley. The four service pontoons with British III Corps were insufficiently equipped to span the seventy to ninety meters of the Marne. As darkness fell, only about half of 4th Division’s battalions had crossed the river on a makeshift floating bridge made of trestles, pontoons, barrel piers, and boats.70

British cavalry, in the words of historian Hew Strachan, “was entirely out of the equation.”71 Edmund Allenby’s 1st CD was content just to maintain contact with Franchet d’Espèrey’s left flank, and Hubert Gough’s 2d CD likewise with Maunoury’s right wing. The dense woods, rivers, and ravines in the area seemed to dictate caution rather than bold pursuit. By nightfall, the BEF was still ten kilometers behind Joffre’s original departure line. In historian Sewell Tyng’s stinging words, Sir John French’s army had “exercised no effective intervention” at the “point of greatest strategic significance and at the crucial moment of the battle.” In strategic terms, its advance into the German gap “remained no more than a threat which was never translated into decisive action.”72Except, of course, by Hentsch, Bülow, and Kuhl.

Nor did the French cavalry corps distinguish itself in the effort to break through the German corridor. Following on the heels of British cavalry, Conneau’s riders crossed the Marne at Château-Thierry in the afternoon of 9 September. They encountered no opposition. But when he received the news that only a single German cavalry division (the 5th) was to the north, Conneau halted his advance. General de Maud’huy, coming across Camille Grellet de la Deyte’s 10th CD resting by the roadside south of the Marne, asked for the latest reconnaissance reports. Upon being told that there were none, he exploded. “It’s a disgrace to the French cavalry. My divisional cavalry has already told me there is no one at Château-Thierry and you tell me you know nothing! You’re good for nothing!” He informed Grellet that he was going to storm Château-Thierry with a regiment of African Zouaves. “You can follow behind if you like, but at least don’t get in my way!”73

In all fairness to the soldiers and cavalrymen of the BEF, French Fifth Army, and the French cavalry corps, much had already been asked, and was still being asked, of them. After days of marching to the front in mid-August, they had charged the enemy—only to have had to endure weeks of miserable retreat under a broiling sun and along dusty roads. Then they had about-faced and held off an enemy victorious and confident. Since 6 September, they had attacked yet again. They had suffered horrendous casualties. Tens of thousands were dead or wounded as well as ill from foot sores, heat exhaustion, sunstroke, thirst, and dysentery. Especially Jean-François Sordet’s cavalry corps; having covered a thousand kilometers since the war began, it simply was too exhausted to push on ahead. Christian Mallet, a trooper with Colonel Félix Robillot’s 22d Dragoons, later recalled the suffocating heat, gnawing hunger, intolerable thirst, and utter fatigue of those days. “The exhausted men, covered with a layer of black dust adherent to their sweat, looked like devils. The tired horses, no longer off-saddled, had large open sores on their back.”74 In fact, French riders, unlike their British counterparts, stayed in the saddle rather than save their horses by occasionally dismounting. In Foch’s caustic words, they seemed to have “their brains in their legs.”75 Finally, German rear guards and cavalry fought a tenacious retreat throughout 7–8 September, further hampering the Allied advance.

The tide had turned. The German day of decision in the west, 6 September, was gone. With the German retreat from the Marne and the Ourcq in full swing, the initiative was now completely with the British and the French. The ninth of September would turn out to be the decisive day of the Battle of the Marne for the Allies. Franchet d’Espèrey was aware of the importance of the moment. Once more, he drove Fifth Army forward. Once more, he urged his soldiers on with a clarion call. In a forced appeal to history, he called on them to rid “the Motherland” of the “barbarians,” just as they had done a century before with “the Prussians of Blücher.”* Still, he warned against over-confidence. “The enemy is shaken but not completely beaten. Great tests of your endurance lie ahead of you, you will have to carry out many long marches, to take part in many bitter fights.”76 In fact, with four German army corps having first moved north to the Ourcq, and now retreating northeast in the direction of the Valley of the Aisne, the going was unsurprisingly easy. French Fifth Army, having waded across the narrow Petit Morin the day before, at 2:30 PMon 9 September crossed the Marne southwest of Château-Thierry. Concurrently, British cavalry seized several Marne bridges between La Ferté-sous-Jouarre and Château-Thierry.

Joffre immediately spied the opportunity awaiting the Allies. The magnitude of his new design became apparent late in the night of 9 September. Until then he had concentrated his efforts on trying to push the BEF and the left wing of Fifth Army to exploit the gap between German First and Second armies, but the slow pace of their advance and the enemy’s withdrawal had cost him that opportunity. Joffre returned to his former offensive optimism. He shifted focus from breakthrough to envelopment. His Instruction particulière No. 20 “suggested” that Sir John and the BEF, with their flanks covered by Raoul de Lartigue’s 8th ID and Maud’huy’s XVIII Corps, seize the heights of the south bank of the Clignon River between Bouresches and Hervilliers and attack Bülow’s Second Army with all due energy and speed.77 The Particular Instruction ordered Fifth Army to drive the enemy “back toward the north;” all the while, Gilbert Defforges’s X Corps was to maintain contact with Foch’s Ninth Army. This would free Maunoury’s Sixth Army, “resting its right on the Ourcq,” to attack northward “to seek to envelop the enemy.” Eugène Bridoux’s V Cavalry Corps was to harass “the flank and the rear” of Kluck’s “fleeing” First Army. Remembering the nervous state of the government at Bordeaux, Joffre dashed off a reassuring cable: “General situation is satisfactory. … Battle is engaged in good condition and should lead to a decisive result.”78 By the night of 9 September, the Allies were on the offensive along a broad front stretching from Meaux to Châlons-sur-Marne.

THE FRENCH CENTER ALONE caused Joffre concern. Langle de Cary’s Fourth Army, fronting Duke Albrecht’s Fourth Army, was stretched out in a wide arc between Humbauville, southwest of Vitry-le-François, and Revigny-sur-Ornain. On its left wing, the Mailly Gap, some twenty kilometers wide, separated it from the right flank of Foch’s Ninth Army southeast of the Saint-Gond Marshes; on its right, the smaller Revigny Gap had opened between Fourth Army and Sarrail’s Third Army. Joffre rushed reinforcements up from Lorraine—Louis Espinasse’s XV Corps and Émile-Edmond Legrand-Girarde’s XXI Corps—to plug the gaps. His one worry was that an enemy breakthrough there could jeopardize his left wing behind the Seine River.

Indeed, on 6 September, Duke Albrecht planned to attack southeast from Vitry-le-François along the Marne-Rhine Canal with VI, VIII, and XVIII corps as well as VIII and XVIII reserve corps to relieve the pressure on German Sixth Army before Nancy. At dawn, a violent French artillery attack preempted his plan. Although Albrecht at first believed that this was simply one last, desperate French attempt to secure their line by way of a brazen offensive, aviators’ reports of the arrival of fresh formations (Joseph Masnou’s 23d ID from XII Corps in the south) quickly brought the realization that the French had gone to the attack in the east as well. Erich Tülff von Tschepe und Weidenbach’s exposed VIII Corps stood in danger of being enveloped; hence, as mentioned earlier, Duke Albrecht appealed to Third Army for aid. Hausen, as ever, responded positively. He divided his army, sending Maximilian von Laffert’s XIX Corps and 23d ID from Karl d’Elsa’s XII Corps to buttress Fourth Army’s right wing. For three days, Langle de Cary’s soldiers fought a vicious battle in the land between the Ornain and Marne rivers. Neither side gained an advantage.

On 8 September, Duke Albrecht had declined to take part in Hausen’s nighttime bayonet attack on French artillery positions; by the time he attempted it the next morning after a lengthy artillery barrage, he had lost the critical element of surprise. At ten-thirty that night, Langle de Cary confidently informed Joffre that “all together, the general situation at the close of day is good.” The enemy had thrown everything it had at Fourth Army, Langle de Cary reported, and French fliers reported no German reserves moving up to the front. “Physical state of troops: good. Moral state: much improved, is now actually excellent.” The arrival of Legrand-Girarde’s XXI Corps from Épinal augured well for the next day, when Langle de Cary planned to attack Albrecht’s right flank, with “a good chance of bringing about a decision.”79 The German retreat in the afternoon of 9 September made that “chance” more than reasonable.

In fact, a sharp dispute had broken out between the German center armies. While Duke Albrecht called on Fifth Army to support his left wing in an attempt to envelop the left flank of Langle de Cary’s Fourth Army, Crown Prince Wilhelm instead wanted Fourth Army to tie down Langle de Cary’s right wing while he forced his way through the Revigny Gap. Appeals for resolution to Luxembourg brought no relief. Studiously careful not to get ground up in a spat between two royals, Moltke managed a Solomon-like decision: “Mutual support between 4. and 5. Armies desirable.”80 Albrecht eventually yielded, after Wilhelm appealed the matter directly to his father, the kaiser.

While the German royals squabbled, Joffre struck. On the morning of 6 September, Sarrail’s Third Army, with its pivot on Verdun and its main body about twenty kilometers southwest of the fortress, had advanced against German Fifth Army as part of the great Allied offensive.81Expecting the enemy to continue its advance southward from Clermont-en-Argonne and Sainte-Menehould, Joffre had ordered Sarrail to “attack the flank of the enemy forces … west of the Argonne Forest.”82 But the German crown prince had shifted his advance onto a southeasterly course toward Bar-le-Duc, with the result that the two armies clashed head-on. Frédéric Micheler’s V Corps, entrusted with guarding the Revigny Gap, took the brunt of the German attack by Kurt von Pritzelwitz’s VI Corps—the same unit that had so badly mauled the French colonials at Rossigny. And just as at Rossigny, Pritzelwitz’s corps again stove in a French division—this time the 10th of Micheler’s V Corps—shot its commander, General Charles Roques, and captured most of its staff.83 Espinasse’s XV Corps had arrived just in time to take part in Third Army’s debacle.

Joffre, true to fashion, blamed the setback on Third Army’s commander. He struck out furiously. He railed against “the mediocre military value” of some of Sarrail’s units. He accused them of having committed “grave errors such as abandoning rifles, ammunition and rucksacks along the roads or in bivouacs.” He charged that especially 173d Infantry Regiment (IR) had purposefully “broken war material.” All too many infantry officers “have no authority over their men;” staff officers failed to show “sufficient activity.” Joffre closed his blistering epistle with the dire admonition that “General Command of Third Army reestablish order, taking whatever measures necessary.”84

By 8 September, the Germans had stormed the Meuse heights and thrown the French line back from Revigny, Laheycourt, and Laimont. Joffre, concerned that the enemy would now break through the Revigny Gap, late on the night of 8 September ordered a chastened Sarrail to withdraw his right wing and break off contact with la région fortifée de Verdun.85 Sarrail churlishly refused. He would later claim that he had heroically refused the “order to abandon Verdun” and assume the title of “Savior of Verdun.” In fact, Verdun with its mighty ring of forts, 350 heavy and 442 light guns, and 65,774 soldiers had little to fear from the German crown prince.86 With his stubborn refusal to obey Joffre’s order, Sarrail had momentarily imperiled the entire French attack by failing to maintain contact with the right wing of Langle de Cary’s Fourth Army.87

Crown Prince Wilhelm on 10 September made a final bid for breakthrough. His Fifth Army had taken a frightful battering from the soixante-quinzes—5,263 dead and missing and 9,556 wounded in the last ten days.88 General Frédéric-Georges Herr, in charge of VI Corps’ artillery brigade, expertly directed French fire from aircraft and balloons.89 In a single day, the 75s of Martial Verraux’s VI Corps destroyed eleven batteries (sixty-six guns) of Bruno von Mudra’s XVI Corps. To silence the “black butchers,” Wilhelm, like Hausen two days before, decided on a nighttime bayonet attack by VI, XIII, and XVI army corps. Using his telephone line from Varennes to Luxembourg, he obtained Moltke’s sanction.90 But as Bavarian casualties before Nancy mounted dramatically, the chief of the General Staff rescinded his approval. Wilhelm and his chief of staff, Konstantin Schmidt von Knobelsdorf, took the matter to Chief of Operations Tappen and again threatened to seek an imperial ruling.

Moltke relented. At 2 AM on a cold and rainy 10 September, almost one hundred thousand Landser, with rifles unloaded and bayonets fixed, stormed French positions around Vaux-Marie, north of Sainte-Menehould.91 The charge, like that of George Pickett at Gettysburg in July 1863, was shattered by enemy artillery. Well into daybreak, the 75s of Micheler’s V Corps and Verraux’s VI Corps poured their deadly fire into the packed gray ranks of German infantry. At 7:45 AM, the French counterattacked a demoralized and decimated enemy. Some German units panicked; others ran about in the darkness leaderless and in utter confusion; few dared return the enemy’s fire for fear of shooting their own men.92 A large proportion of Fifth Army’s fifteen thousand casualties over the first ten days of September occurred that night. At the company and battalion levels, officer losses were as high as 40 percent.

The war diary of Max von Fabeck’s Württemberg XIII Corps reveals the full terror of that dreadful night.93 Hinko von Lüttwitz’s 12th RID “failed completely to reach its assigned line,” in the process blocking the advance of 38th Reserve Infantry Regiment (RIR). In the confusion, the two units fired on each other almost at point-blank range. The aforementioned French counterattack “totally demolished” 38th RIR. Elsewhere, Bernhard von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth’s 27th ID also failed to reach its assigned target line. Mudra’s XVI Corps blindly shot at German units advancing on its flanks. By morning, Fabeck’s units were in total disarray, hopelessly intertwined with those of XVI Corps and 52d Infantry Brigade. Most were down to one-third of full strength. “Nowhere,” the war diary of XIII Corps concluded, had the original goal of silencing the French batteries “been achieved.”

Near the end of that savage butchery, at around 9 AM, Lieutenant Colonel Hentsch arrived at Varennes on the return leg of his tour of the front. Arguing that Second Army had been reduced to “cinders,” that the enemy had driven a wedge between German First and Second armies, and that a full withdrawal was under way, he ordered Fifth Army to fall back to the line Sainte-Menehould–Clermont. Crown Prince Wilhelm and Schmidt von Kobelsdorff vehemently refused to obey the order and demanded such written instruction from Wilhelm II or Moltke.94 On the French side, Sarrail tersely assured Joffre at the end of the day, “Situation satisfactory.”95 At 2 PM on 11 September, Joffre was sufficiently confident of victory to inform War Minister Alexandre Millerand, “La bataille de la Marne s’achève en victoire incontestable.”96 The clarity of the statement requires no translation.

AT 4 AM (GMT) on a cold and damp 11 September, Moltke left Luxembourg with Colonels Tappen and von Dommes to visit his field armies. Heavy northerly winds prohibited travel by air, and even the horses had trouble finding their footing in the “bottomless” mud. At Varennes, Moltke and Crown Prince Wilhelm conducted what eyewitnesses termed “an agitated and embarrassing” interview. The crown prince was in no mood for the chief of staff’s pessimistic assessment of the situation. He cheerily informed the gloomy Moltke that the attaque brutal with the bayonet on the morning of 10 September had been a “great success” and that Fifth Army was ready to “exploit” this triumph.97

The trio motored on to Suippes and at 11 AM briefly conferred with Hausen. The mood at Suippes was “depressing.” Hausen’s 32d ID had recently been shattered by Foch’s violent counterattacks, and his 24th RID had been battered by Ninth Army’s advance guards the night before near Connantray-Vaurefroy. If the word cinders (Schlacke) applied to anyone, it was to Third Army, which had lost 14,987 men in the first ten days of September.98 There was nothing to fall back on, as Dresden had already sent out all available reserves—111 officers, 351 noncommissioned officers, 4,050 ranks, and 330 horses.99 Incredibly, Hausen stated that Third Army, stretched across a forty-kilometer front, could hold its position until the new offensive with Seventh Army commenced. Moltke, although convinced that the French were about to mount a major assault to “pierce the right and center of Third Army” and afraid that Hausen’s forces “were no longer combat effective,” concurred.100

Sometime before 1 PM, Moltke arrived at Fourth Army headquarters at Courtisols. The mood there was “confident.” Duke Albrecht assured Moltke that although he had lost 9,433 men in the last ten days, he could spare forces to shore up Hausen’s battered Third Army. His chief of staff, General Walther von Lüwitz, lectured Moltke that a major withdrawal would have a decimating “moral effect” on the troops.101 Then the proverbial bolt from the blue: Just as Tappen was drafting orders for Fifth, Fourth, and Third armies to maintain their positions, his staff overheard a relayed radio message from Bülow at Second Army headquarters to the OHL. “Enemy appears to want to direct his main offensive against the right flank and center of Third Army” in an obvious attempt to break through at Vitry-le-François.102 A “deeply shaken” Moltke saw no reason to doubt Bülow. The only countermeasure was to withdraw the entire German center to the line Suippes–Sainte-Menehould until the new offensive (with Seventh Army) could be launched on the right wing. Moltke and Tappen, appreciating that Second Army had sustained 10,607 casualties between 1 and 10 September, agreed. It was only fitting that Bülow, who had set the retreat in motion on 8 September, likewise initiated the final decision to undertake a general retreat all along the front.

Moltke was fearful that not only his right wing but now also his center stood on the point of collapse. He rushed back to Suippes. Hausen was incapacitated due to illness, now correctly diagnosed as typhus. Hoeppner, his chief of staff, was at the front. Thus, a Major Hasse on Third Army’s staff confirmed Bülow’s dire prognosis: Foch’s Ninth Army was threatening the entire front of Third Army. No sooner had Hasse completed his briefing than Third Army’s radio operators intercepted a call from Duke Albrecht’s Fourth Army to the OHL: “Strong enemy forces marching against Vitry-le-François and Maisons-en-Champagne.”103 There was not a moment to lose. At 1:30 PM, Moltke made what he later called “the hardest decision of my life, [one] which made my heart bleed,”104 the general order to retreat in echelon. He instructed Second Army to fall back to Thuizy (southeast of Reims), Third Army to the line Thuizy-Suippes, Fourth Army to Suippes–Sainte-Menehould, and Fifth Army to east of Sainte-Menehould. This would essentially become the stationary trench line of the Western Front.

Moltke dispatched Dommes to bring the unwelcome news to Fourth and Fifth armies, where Dommes in horror discovered that their army corps were down to but ten thousand infantrymen each. Moltke, for his part, motored on to Bülow’s headquarters. Lieutenant Colonel Matthes, who basically had taken over operational decisions from the “sick, almost pathetic” Lauenstein, never forgot the chief of staff’s shaken state. “Constant nervous facial twitching betrayed his extremely strained condition to all those present.”105 Moltke declined to motor on to First Army. Perhaps finally acknowledging the lack of leadership on the German right wing, he placed Heeringen’s new Seventh Army at Saint-Quentin under his most senior army commander—Karl von Bülow.106

Moltke returned to his headquarters in the Hôtel de Cologne at Luxembourg in a driving downpour around 2 AM on 12 September. His first order was to relieve the severely ill Max von Hausen of command of Third Army. He next briefed Wilhelm II on his tour of the front. According to Hans von Plessen, chief of Imperial Headquarters, the kaiser became enraged, “slammed his fist on the table and forbade any further retreat.”107 Moltke then went to bed, where he was comforted by several of his staff officers—and by his wife, Eliza.

In a belated bid to reverse what they considered to be the rapidly escalating disaster occasioned by Moltke’s order to retreat, Deputy Chief of Staff von Stein and Chief of Operations Tappen set off early in the morning of 13 September on a tour of army headquarters. At Montmédy, they came across Dommes, returning from Fourth and Fifth armies. The trio quickly agreed on a last-ditch effort to save the German campaign in the west: They would plug the still-twenty-kilometer-wide gap between First and Second armies by withdrawing one army corps each from Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies. They informed Wilhelm II of their plans by telegraph at 8 PM. There is no record of the kaiser’s response.

General von Einem, until then commander of VII Corps and now head of Saxon Third Army, offered up XII Corps and Duke Albrecht’s XVIII Corps from Fourth Army. Chief of Staff Schmidt von Knobelsdorf of Fifth Army grudgingly agreed to release VI Corps—which was, in fact, fighting with Albrecht’s Fourth Army. Even then, he did so only on condition that it first be given a day of rest and not be subjected to “long marches.” Bülow, when informed of the plan, believed it might effect at least a “much desired moral success.”108 Whether the three corps’ exhausted men and horses could even have made the 100-to-150-kilometer march must remain an open question, as must their possible deployment once there, for the fronts were rapidly moving during the German retreat from the Marne. Whatever the case, by the time Stein, Tappen, and Dommes returned to Luxembourg “frozen through and through” at 5:15 AM on 15 September, events there had overtaken their plan.

For on 14 September, Chief of the Military Cabinet von Lyncker had informed Wilhelm II that “Moltke’s nerves are at an end and [he] is no longer able to conduct operations.”109 The kaiser had agreed and in what has been depicted as “a terrible scene” had ordered Moltke to step down on grounds of “ill health.”110 Deputy Chief of Staff von Stein, in Moltke’s words, was also “sacrificed.”111 The decision took Moltke completely by surprise. “I refuse to do this! I AM not sick. If H[is] M[ajesty] is unhappy with the conduct of operations, then I will go!”112 But in the end he accepted what he twice called his “martyrdom” to spare both his Supreme War Lord and the nation embarrassment.113 Prussian war minister von Falkenhayn was to succeed Moltke, but the change in command would not be made public until 20 January 1915 to conceal the defeat at the Marne. Indeed, when Falkenhayn on 28 September requested that the Foreign Office publish a General Staff report on the debacle at the Marne, Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg forbade such disclosure.114

On 11 September, Einem, en route to taking over Third Army, by chance had come across Moltke at Reims. “I met a totally broken and disconcerted man.” Incredibly, Moltke began the conversation by asking Einem, “My God, how could this possibly have happened?” Einem lost his composure. “You yourself ought to know the answer to that best of all! How could you ever have remained at Luxembourg and allowed the reins of leadership totally to slip from your hands?” Moltke was taken aback. “But, dear Einem, I could not possibly have dragged the Kaiser through half of France during our advance!” Einem’s “harsh” reply was meant to cut to the quick. “Why not? The Kaiser most likely would not have had anything against it. And if your Great Uncle could square it with his sense of responsibility to take his King right onto the battlefields of Königgrätz [1866] and Sedan [1870], you and the Kaiser could at least have come sufficiently close to the front to keep the reins in your hands.”115 For Moltke, the war thus ended as it had begun—with a brutal, negative comparison to his uncle, the Elder Moltke.

To the German soldiers at the sharp end of the stick, the order to retreat seemed grotesque. They did not feel like a beaten army. Georg Wichura, whose 5th ID for days had valiantly held up the advance of the BEF and the French cavalry corps between Monbertoin and Montreuil-aux-Lions, was “decimated” by the order. The “mood swing” among his men was “terrible, everywhere confused looks.” “A thousand serious thoughts went through their heads,” the division’s diary noted. “Legs like lead. Silent and exhausted, as if in a trance, the column plods on ahead.”116 Similar reactions were noted at Third Army. The order to retreat arrived like a “bolt of thunder” at 133d RIR. Its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Schmidt, recalled, “I saw many men cry, the tears rolled down their cheeks; others simply expressed amazement.” Lieutenant Colonel Wilke of 178th IR noted “understandable shrugging of shoulders, sad shaking of heads. … Finally, it all turned into a dumbfounded silence filled with ominous anticipation.”117 The general feeling among the Saxon troops was that “it was not our fault, we stood our ground.”118

At Second Army, Oskar von Hutier, commanding 1st Guard Division, refused to obey the order to retreat.

I ordered my mount in order to rush up to the front. I already had my left foot in the stirrup when the Division’s Deputy Adjutant … leaped from his horse and came over to me with a deadly pale look. When I asked him what was wrong, he whispered in my ear: “We must all retreat immediately.”

Hutier’s reply: “Have they all gone crazy?”119 Paul Fleck, commanding 14th ID, VII Corps, likewise was dumbfounded. “This could not be. … Victory was ours.” He obeyed the order only after having it confirmed by Second Army’s chief of staff, von Lauenstein.120 Colonel Bernhard Finck von Finckenstein, commanding the prestigious 1st Kaiser Alexander Guard-Grenadier-Regiment, remonstrated that the enemy was “in wild flight” from the front. The order to retreat “hit us like the blow of a club. Our brave troops had to give up the bloody victory only so recently achieved and to surrender the battlefield to the enemy. That aroused bitter feelings.”121 Major von Rantzau of 2d Grenadier Regiment even toyed with insubordination: “Colonel, I respectfully report that we have lost confidence in our leadership [OHL].”122 Captain Walter Bloem of 12th Brandenburg Grenadiers with Kluck’s First Army dismissed the French “Victory of the Marne” as an “utter fraud.” He and the men of B Company took solace in draining ninety bottles of claret in four hours.123 Only the hope in a new offensive brought some relief.

The first order of business for the German armies after their retreat from the Marne was to resupply the troops and salvage whatever war materials had been damaged or abandoned. By 10 September, the Prussian War Ministry issued formal orders for full-scale scavenging to begin.124Cavalrymen were to be buried only in their “underwear and pants,” with boots, tunics, and equipment gathered for reuse. Dead and wounded infantrymen were to be stripped of all ammunition and weapons “already in the front lines.” Casings from artillery shells, broken machine guns, shattered artillery pieces, caissons, and harnesses were to be gathered up. All parts from downed aircraft and Zeppelins likewise were to be retrieved. “War Socialism” was in full flower at the front.

FOR JOFFRE, the order of the Day was straightforward and urgent—“to pursue energetically and leave the enemy no respite: victory depends on the legs of our infantry.”125 Abandoning his plan to envelop the German right wing, Joffre now ordered French Third to Sixth and Ninth armies and the BEF to pursue the retreating Germans in echelon on a northeasterly course.126 Specifically, Sixth Army was to advance on Soissons, the BEF on Fismes, Fifth Army on Reims, and Ninth Army on Sommesous and Châlons. As well, he called Joseph de Castelli’s VIII Corps up from Charmes and Bayon in Lorraine to press the attack. For four days, Joffre’s armies fought a bloody battle of pursuit against dogged German rear guards over fields littered with the stinking remains of men and beasts, broken war equipment, burning villages, and streams of refugees. But the legs of the French infantry were as tired as those of the German, and slowly the enemy slipped out of Joffre’s grasp.

The Battle of the Marne ended in anticlimax. On 11 September, torrents of rain and a sudden cold snap further dogged the already exhausted troops. Heavy clouds and dense mist grounded Joffre’s aircraft. Deep mud slowed the horse-drawn artillery. In the confusion, Douglas Haig’s gunners mistakenly shelled their own infantry. All along the line, the Allied armies advanced barely fifteen kilometers a day against a retreating enemy. By 13–14 September, the erstwhile German pivot wing, reinforced by the new Seventh Army from Saint-Quentin, had dug in on the commanding heights along the northern bank of the Aisne River. On 13 September, Maunoury informed Joffre that Sixth Army, “which has not had a day of rest in about fifteen days, very much needs 24 hours rest.”127 Franchet d’Espèrey the next day refused to obey Joffre’s order to mount a major offensive northward toward Berry-au-Bac, Gernicourt, and Neufchâtel. “It is not rear guards that are in front of us,” he testily lectured the generalissimo, “but an organized [defensive] position.”128 Even the feisty Foch informed GQG the next day that Ninth Army was meeting “great resistance” along its “entire front.”129 And at the lowest stratum of command, Sub-Lieutenant J. Caillou of 147th IR matter-of-factly noted that while his unit had received 2,300 reinforcements since August, by the time it reached the Aisne it had suffered 2,800 casualties “out of a complement of 3,000.”130

The Valley of the Aisne constitutes a deep depression with the river running east to west and in many places too deep to ford. Its slopes consist of rough woods and thickets. A ridge, 150 meters above the river and traversed by a forty-kilometer road, the Chemin des Dames, built by Louis XV for his daughters, provided German artillery with superb observation posts. For four soggy and bloody days, Franchet d’Espèrey’s Fifth Army, Maunoury’s Sixth Army, and Sir John French’s BEF assaulted the German defensive line, moving over battle-scarred terrain littered with abandoned wounded, munitions, supplies, stragglers, and thousands of drained wine bottles—to no avail. By 18 September, a “surprised” Joffre scaled back the Battle of the Aisne as it became clear that frontal assaults on well-dug-in German artillery, machine-gun, and infantry positions (“very serious fortifications”) had dashed all “hope for a decision in open terrain.”131

In the center of the French line, neither Third Army nor Fourth Army made any appreciable progress. Once more, Joffre took out his frustration on Sarrail. “I do not understand how the enemy was able to get away 48 hours ago without your being informed of it,” he acidly lectured the general by telephone. “Kindly institute an inquiry immediately on this matter and let me know the results at once.”132 Sarrail evaded a formal inquiry by having his staff telephone GQG with a routine progress report.133 Foch, freshly invigorated, drove Ninth Army in pursuit north-northeast with the aim of “destroying” the German army.134 Pounding rain rendered the chalky roads of the Champagne virtually impassable. At Fère-Champenoise, Foch’s soldiers found ransacked wine cellars and the streets strewn with empty wine bottles. At 8 PM on 11 September, Justinien Lefèvre’s 18th ID entered Châlons-sur-Marne; at 7:45 AM the next day it began to cross the Marne.135 The Germans’ retreat had been so hasty that they had not had time to activate the demolition charges attached to the bridges. That night Foch dined at the Hôtel Haute-Mère-Dieu, where the night before the chefs had prepared a “sumptuous meal” for Saxon crown prince Friedrich August Georg and his staff.136

In truth, men, horses, and supplies had been exhausted. On 20 September, Franchet d’Espèrey dejectedly instructed his corps commanders simply to “stand and hold.”137 The next day Joffre in a “lapidary manner” instructed Foch by telephone, “Postpone the attack. Inform [commanders] to economize ammunition.”138 What the French official history of the war calls a “threatening ammunition crisis” had developed for the artillery. Les 75s had started the war with 1,244 shells per gun, but those stocks had been fired off and the daily production of at best 20,000 shells did not begin to meet the requirements for the three thousand soixante-quinzes in service.139 An obvious “shell crisis” was at hand well before the end of September 1914. To the great relief of British and French commanders, the Germans were equally fatigued. The III Corps of Kluck’s First Army, to give but one example, between 17 August and 12 September had marched 653 kilometers with full combat packs, had fought the enemy for nine full days, and had had zero days of rest.140

In a final bid for victory, Joffre used his superb railroad system to shift forces (IV, VIII, XIV, and XX corps) from his right to his left. In a feat of logistical brilliance, the Directorate of Railways moved the corps in about four to six days on roughly 105 to 118 trains each.141 Yet again, the sought-after final victory eluded Joffre. He blamed it on “the slowness and the lack of skilled maneuvering displayed by the two flank armies and Fifth Army.”142 His staff calculated that the French army in September had suffered 18,073 men killed, 111,963 wounded, and 83,409 missing.143Several belated attempts by each side between 17 September and 17 October to turn the flank of the other—the so-called race to the sea—ended in deadly deadlock.* The great war of maneuver turned into siege-style warfare in the blood-soaked fields and trenches of Artois, Picardy, and Flanders.

* Moltke had been forced out of office the day before, and the rest of the senior staff was occupied with the withdrawal to the Aisne; none initialed Hentsch’s report.

 Interestingly, Dommes was the “patriotic censor” who in May 1919 on behalf of the army and the Foreign Office convinced Moltke’s widow, Eliza, not to publish the general’s memoirs, titled Responsibility for the War, as their contents could bring about a “national catastrophe” at a time when the Allies were hammering out peace terms in Paris. Dommes (and Tappen) denied that Hentsch in September had been given “full power of authority” by Moltke. Both Dommes and Tappen after the war denied that Hentsch and Moltke had met privately shortly before Hentsch departed on his tour of the front. And both Dommes and Tappen were highly active in selecting materials for the Reichsarchiv to use in writing the volume dealing with the Battle of the Marne.

* Greenwich Mean Time. German accounts give German General Time (one hour later).

* A junior staff officer had accidentally ordered this configuration of the baggage wagons.

* Exophthalmic goiter, also known as Graves’, Parry’s, or Basedow’s disease.

* Grand Duke Nikolai Ivanov’s Russian army took 130,000 prisoners and inflicted 300,000 casualties on Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf’s forces between 26 August and 11 September 1914.

* In 1813–15, Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher had fought with the Duke of Wellington against Napoleon I.

* The French official history gives the dates 20 September–15 October for la course à la mer. AFGG, 4:127.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!