Ferdinand Foch

Ferdinand Foch


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Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929) var en sentral fransk militærkommandør under første verdenskrig. Han begynte i infanteriet under den fransk-prøyssiske krigen, og ble til slutt leder for krigskollegiet. Foch ble utnevnt til sjef for XX Army Corps ved utbruddet av første verdenskrig, og hjalp til med å sikre seier i det første slaget ved Marne. Med de franske og engelske hærene i fare for splittelse, tok Foch kommandoen over de allierte styrkene i mars 1918 og motstod Ludendorff -offensiven. Senere samme sommer lette seieren i det andre slaget ved Marne slutten på kampene. Blant hans etterkrigstidens anerkjennelser ble Foch utnevnt til en britisk feltmarskalk og marskalk i Polen.

Ferdinand Foch var den mest inspirerte av vestfrontens generaler i første verdenskrig, noen ganger til skade for ham. Han kan være nesten mystisk hensynsløs med liv, starte angrep når tilbakeholdenhet ville ha tjent ham bedre eller forlenget offensiver utover alt håp om suksess. Hans egne uttalelser hadde en tendens til å ta igjen ham. Heldigvis for sitt permanente rykte, vil han bli husket mer for sin ledende rolle i seieren i 1918 enn for sin sanksjon mot de meningsløse hekatombene i 1915 og 1916.

Han ble født i 1851, sønn av en embetsmann. Sommeren 1870, under den fransk-prøyssiske krigen, meldte han seg som privatist i det franske infanteriet, men kjempet aldri. (Men han fikk berømmelse i fredstid for å ha samlet 100 000 mann ved en anmeldelse i et rektangel på 120 x 100 meter.) Han steg jevnt i rang og ble i 1885 professor ved [Eacute] cole Sup [eacute] rieure de Guerre, kommandoskole i Paris som han til slutt skulle lede. Han var nå i sitt element, og uttalelsene hans ville påvirke en generasjon franske offiserer, så vel som åpningsarrangementene i 1914. Foch skrev to mye leste paeans til offensiven, Krigens prinsipper (1903) og Krigets oppførsel (1905). "Et tapt slag," erklærte han, "er et slag som man tror tapt [ellipsis4] Et slag vunnet er et slag vi ikke vil erkjenne som tapt [ellipsis4] Viljen til å erobre feier alt før det [ellipsis4] Gode resultater i krig skyldes kommandanten. " I argumentet hadde Foch en tendens til å vinne med trusler og bevisst arroganse - uimotståelig, kanskje fordi han aldri innrømmet tvil.

August 1914 fant han kommandoen over et sprekk, todivisjonskorps ved grensen til Lorraine. Mens disiplene hans var katastrofale presset lovbrudd [agrave] outrance, angrepspostelen fant seg snart i defensiven. På Morhange 20. august hjalp den steinlignende standen til hans tjuende korps med å avverge en fransk katastrofe. Det kan ha vært den eneste gangen i livet-han manglet bare seksti-tre-at han så handling. Han ble ansvarlig for den franske niende hæren under slaget ved Marne, og blokkerte det tyske fremrykket ved myrene i St.-Gond. "Min høyre blir drevet inn, mitt senter gir etter, situasjonen er utmerket, jeg angriper," skal han ha sagt. Han sa sannsynligvis aldri disse legendariske ordene, men han hadde sikkert gjort det hvis han hadde tenkt på dem.

Foch tok deretter ansvaret for de franske hærene i nord; han koordinerte nå trekk med de britiske og belgiske hærene under det såkalte "løpet til sjøen." Hvis han ikke lyktes med å gå til offensiven, hjalp han med å kontrollere den tyske stasjonen for de siste sanne prisene i 1914, Channel -havnene. Flere ganger ble han tvunget til å styrke den nervøse britiske kommandanten, Sir John French, med det som hans biograf, B. H. Liddell Hart, kaller "en injeksjon av Fochian serum." Men da tyskerne sprengte linjen ved Andre Ypres i 1915, ga Fochs insistering på kontringer bare unødvendige allierte tap. Døden i enda større skala var det mest synlige resultatet av Fochs Artois -offensiver våren og tidlig høst av året; tap nærmet seg 150 000. Etter Artois the [eacute] lan av den franske vanlige soldaten, som han satte så stor pris på, ville aldri vært den samme.

I 1916 ledet han den franske delen av den 141 dager lange offensiven i slaget ved Somme. Han fikk mer territorium og mistet færre menn enn hans britiske motstander, general Sir Douglas Haig, men den kostbare mangelen på en beslutning syntes å ha ødelagt karrieren permanent. Foch ble fritatt for kommandoen. Han ventet på sin tid, en perfervid føniks som ventet på å sveve fra asken, og jobbet gradvis tilbake til en innflytelsesposisjon. Han var så heldig å ikke ha spilt en rolle i de allierte katastrofene i 1917.

21. mars 1918 brøt Erich Ludendorffs tyske hærer gjennom på vestfronten (se Ludendorff -offensiven) og virket klare til å splitte de franske og britiske hærene. Desperate utsikter krevde desperate tiltak - og den 26. mars gjorde de allierte lederne det de skulle ha gjort lenge før: de utnevnte en øverstkommanderende. Valget deres var Foch. Reaksjonen hans var karakteristisk. “Materielt sett ser jeg ikke at seier er mulig. Moralsk er jeg sikker på at vi vil få det. ” Fochs optimisme var smittsom. Han lånte uselvisk ut franske tropper til de beleirede britene, og de allierte forvitret Ludendorffs utrettelige vårstorm til amerikanske tropper begynte å ankomme i betydelige mengder. Ved midtsommer var den verste tyske trusselen over. Fra nå av, som Liddell Hart skriver: "Foch slo en tatovering på tysk front, en rekke raske slag på forskjellige punkter, hver avbrutt så snart den første impulsen avtok."

I slutten av høsten var den tyske hæren i ferd med å gå i oppløsning. Foch følte at krigen hadde pågått lenge nok. Den 8.-11. november 1918, i en jernbanevogn ved et skogsspor nær Compi [egrave] gne, dikterte han personlig en våpenhvilevilkår til en tysk delegasjon. Til slutt, men ikke for sent, hadde han lært seg når han skulle stoppe.

ROBERT COWLEY

Leserens ledsager til militærhistorie. Redigert av Robert Cowley og Geoffrey Parker. Copyright © 1996 av Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Alle rettigheter forbeholdt.


Første verdenskrig: Marshal Ferdinand Foch

Marshal Ferdinand Foch var en kjent fransk kommandant under første verdenskrig. Etter å ha gått inn i den franske hæren under den fransk-prøyssiske krigen, forble han i tjenesten etter det franske nederlaget og ble identifisert som et av landets beste militære sinn. Med begynnelsen av første verdenskrig spilte han en nøkkelrolle i det første slaget ved Marne og steg snart til hærkommando. Foch demonstrerte en evne til å arbeide med styrkene fra andre allierte nasjoner, og viste seg som et effektivt valg for å tjene som overordnet kommandant på vestfronten i mars 1918. Fra denne posisjonen ledet han nederlaget til de tyske våroffensivene og serien med allierte offensiver som til slutt førte til slutten av konflikten.


Ferdinand Foch Informasjon


Fødested: Tarbes, Frankrike
Dødssted: Paris, Frankrike
Troskap: Frankrike
Tjeneste/gren: Fransk hær
Tjenesteår: 1871-1923
Rangering: Marchchal de France
Slag/kriger: Battle of the Frontiers,
Våroffensiv,
Meuse-Argonne-offensiven
Utmerkelser: Marshal of France (1918)
British Field Marshal (1919)
Marskalk av Polen (1920)
Storkorset til Légion d'honneur
M daille militaire
Croix de guerre 1914-1918
Order of Merit (Storbritannia)
Virtuti Militari (1. klasse)
Distinguished Service Medal (USA)

Ferdinand Foch (OM GCB (2. oktober 1851 - 20. mars 1929) var en fransk soldat, militærteoretiker og forfatter som ble kreditert for å ha "det mest originale og subtile sinnet i den franske hæren" på begynnelsen av 1900 -tallet. Han tjente som general i den franske hæren under første verdenskrig og ble utnevnt til marskalk av Frankrike i sitt siste år: 1918. Kort tid etter starten på våroffensiven, Tysklands siste forsøk på å vinne krigen, ble Foch valgt som øverstkommanderende for de allierte hærene, en stilling som han holdt til 11. november 1918, da han godtok den tyske forespørselen om våpenhvile. I 1923 ble han utnevnt til marskalk av Polen.

Han tok til orde for fredsvilkår som ville gjøre Tyskland ute av stand til å utgjøre en trussel mot Frankrike igjen. Hans ord etter Versailles -traktaten, "Dette er ikke en fred. Det er en våpenhvile i tjue år" skulle vise seg at profetisk andre verdenskrig startet tjue år og sekstifem dager senere.

Foch ble født i Tarbes, Hautes-Pyrenees som sønn av en embetsmann fra Comminges. Han gikk på skolen i Tarbes, Rodez, og Jesuit College i St. Etienne. Broren hans var senere jesuitt, og dette kan i utgangspunktet ha hindret Fochs oppgang gjennom den franske hærens rekker (siden den republikanske regjeringen i Frankrike var antiklerisk).

Foch vervet seg til det franske fjerde infanteriregimentet, i 1870, under den fransk-prøyssiske krigen, og bestemte seg for å bli i hæren etter krigen. I 1871 gikk Foch inn i x cole Polytechnique og mottok sin kommisjon som løytnant ved det 24. artilleriregimentet, i 1873, til tross for at han ikke hadde tid til å fullføre kurset på grunn av mangel på junioroffiserer. Han steg gjennom gradene, og til slutt nådde han kapteinens rang før han kom inn på Staff College i 1885. I 1895 skulle han tilbake til høyskolen som instruktør, og det var for sitt arbeid her at han senere ble anerkjent som "den mest originale militær tenker i sin generasjon ". Når han vendte seg til historien for inspirasjon, ble Foch kjent for sine kritiske analyser av de fransk-prøyssiske og Napoleons kampanjer og av deres relevans for jakten på militære operasjoner i det nye århundret. Hans undersøkelse av Frankrikes smertefulle nederlag i 1870 var blant de første i sitt slag.

I sin karriere som instruktør skapte Foch fornyet interesse for fransk militærhistorie, inspirerte tillit til en ny klasse med franske offiserer og forårsaket "den intellektuelle og moralske regenerering av den franske hæren". Hans tankegang om militærlære ble formet av den urokkelige troen, uvanlig den gangen, om at "viljen til å erobre er den første betingelsen for seier." Samlinger av forelesningene hans, som gjeninnførte begrepet offensiv mot fransk militærteori, ble utgitt i bindene "Des Principes de la Guerre" ("On the Principles of War") i 1903, og "De la Conduite de la Guerre" ("On the Conduct of War") i 1904. Dessverre, mens Foch ga råd om "kvalifisering og dømmekraft" i militær strategi og advarte om at "hensynsløshet i angrep kan føre til uoverkommelige tap og ultimate fiasko", hans konsepter, forvrengt og misforstått av samtidige , ble assosiert med de perverse offensive doktrinene (l'offensive x outrance) til hans etterfølgere. Til beklagelse av Foch kom kulten til offensiven til å dominere militære kretser, og Fochs bøker ble til og med sitert i utviklingen av Plan XVII, den katastrofale franske strategien for krig med Tyskland som brakte Frankrike så nær ruin i 1914.

Foch fortsatte sin opprinnelige sakte oppgang gjennom gradene, og ble forfremmet til oberstløytnant i 1898. Deretter akselererte karrieren, og han kom tilbake til kommandoen i 1901, da han ble sendt til et regiment. Han ble forfremmet til å bli oberst i 1903, deretter brigadegeneral (General de Brigade) i 1907, og returnerte til Staff College som kommandant fra 1907-1911. I 1911 ble han forfremmet generalmajor (General de Division) og deretter generalløytnant (Génal de corps d'Armée) i 1913, og tok kommandoen over XX Corps i Nancy.

Bilde - Foch med General Pershing (c. 1918).

Ved krigens utbrudd hadde Foch kommandoen over XX Corps, en del av den andre hæren til general de Castelnau. August avanserte korpset mot Sarrebourg-Morhange-linjen og tok store tap i slaget ved grensene. Nederlaget til XV Corps til høyre tvang Foch til retrett. Foch frikjente seg godt og dekket tilbaketrekningen til Nancy og Charmes Gap, før han satte i gang et motangrep som forhindret tyskerne i å krysse Meurthe.

Han ble deretter valgt til å lede den nyopprettede niende hæren, som han skulle kommandere under det første slaget ved Marne og løpet til sjøen. Med stabssjefen Maxime Weygand klarte Foch å gjøre dette mens hele den franske hæren var i full retrett. Bare en uke etter at han tok kommandoen over 9. armé, ble han tvunget til å bekjempe en rekke defensive aksjoner for å forhindre et tysk gjennombrudd. Det var da han sa de berømte ordene: "Hardt presset til høyre for meg. Senteret mitt gir etter. Umulig å manøvrere. Utmerket situasjon. Jeg angriper." Motangrepet hans var en implementering av teoriene han hadde utviklet i løpet av sine høgskoletid, og lyktes i å stoppe det tyske fremrykket. Foch mottok ytterligere forsterkninger fra den femte hæren, og etter et nytt angrep på styrkene hans, kontraangrepte han igjen på Marne. Tyskerne gravde seg inn før de til slutt trakk seg tilbake. September gjenvunnet Foch Marne i Chx lons og frigjorde byen. Befolkningen i Chxlons hilste mannen som allment antatt å ha vært med på å stoppe det store retrett og stabilisere den allierte posisjonen som en helt. Etter å ha mottatt takk fra biskopen av Chx lons, svarte Foch fromt: "non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam." (Ikke til oss, o Herre, ikke til oss, men gi ditt navn ære, Salme 115: 1)

Fochs suksesser ga ham en ytterligere forfremmelse, 4. oktober, da han ble utnevnt til assisterende øverstkommanderende med ansvar for å koordinere aktivitetene til de nordfranske hærene og ha kontakt med de britiske styrkene. Dette var en sentral avtale da det såkalte "Race to the Sea" da var i gang. Joffre hadde også ønsket å nominere Foch som hans etterfølger "i tilfelle ulykke", for å sikre at jobben ikke ville bli gitt til Gallini, men den franske regjeringen ville ikke godta dette. Da tyskerne angrep 13. oktober klarte de knapt å bryte gjennom de britiske og franske linjene. De prøvde igjen på slutten av måneden under det første slaget ved Ypres denne gangen og led fryktelige tap. Foch hadde igjen lyktes i å koordinere et forsvar og vinne mot oddsen. Den 2. desember 1914 utnevnte kong George V av Storbritannia ham til et æresridder Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. I 1915 krystalliserte hans ansvar seg til kommandoen over Northern Army Group, han ledet Artois -offensiven, og i 1916 den franske delen av slaget ved Somme. Han ble sterkt kritisert for sin taktikk og de store tapene som de allierte hærene led under disse kampene, og i desember 1916 ble han fjernet fra kommandoen, av general Joffre, og sendt til kommando i Italia Joffre ble selv avskjediget dager senere.

Bare noen måneder senere, etter at general Nivelle mislyktes, ble general P tain utnevnt til sjef for generalstaben Foch håpet å etterfølge P tain under kommandoen over Army Group Center, men denne jobben ble i stedet gitt til general Fayolle. Den påfølgende måneden ble general P tain utnevnt til øverstkommanderende i stedet for Nivelle, og Foch ble tilbakekalt og forfremmet til sjef for generalstaben.

Mars 1918, på Doullens-konferansen, ble Foch utnevnt til øverstkommanderende for de allierte hærene med tittelen Génralissime ("øverste general") med jobben som koordinering av aktivitetene til de allierte hærene, og dannet en felles reserve og bruk av disse divisjonene for å vokte krysset mellom den franske og britiske hæren og for å tette det potensielt dødelige gapet som ville ha fulgt et tysk gjennombrudd i den britiske femte hærsektoren. Til tross for å bli overrasket over den tyske offensiven på Chemin des Dames, holdt de allierte hærene under Fochs kommando til slutt de tyske styrkenes fremskritt under den store våroffensiven i 1918 og i det andre slaget ved Marne i juli 1918. Den berømte setningen, " Jeg vil kjempe foran Paris, jeg vil kjempe i Paris, jeg vil kjempe bak Paris, "tilskrives både Foch og Clemenceau, illustrerte generalforsamlingens vilje til å holde de allierte hærene intakte, selv med fare for å miste hovedstad. August 1918 ble Foch utnevnt til marskalk av Frankrike.

Sammen med den britiske kommandanten feltmarskalk Haig planla Foch storoffensiven, som åpnet 26. september 1918, noe som førte til nederlaget til Tyskland. Etter krigen hevdet han å ha beseiret Tyskland ved å røyke pipa hans. Foch godtok det tyske opphør av fiendtlighetene i november, hvoretter han nektet å ta hånden til den tyske signatøren. På dagen for våpenhvilen ble han valgt til Acad mie des Sciences. Ti dager senere ble han enstemmig valgt til Acad mie franx aise. 30. november 1918 ble han tildelt den høyeste portugisiske utsmykningen Order of the Tower and Sword, 1. klasse (Grand Cross).

Bilde - monumentet til Ferdinand Foch i hans hjemland Tarbes.

I januar 1919 presenterte Foch på Paris fredskonferanse et memorandum for de allierte fullmektigene der han uttalte:

Fremover burde Rhinen være den vestlige militære grensen til de tyske landene. Fremover bør Tyskland fratas all inngang og samlingsplass, det vil si all territoriell suverenitet på elvens venstre bred, det vil si alle fasiliteter for å invadere raskt, som i 1914, Belgia, Luxembourg, for å nå kysten av Nordsjøen og truet Storbritannia for å ha flankert det naturlige forsvaret i Frankrike, Rhinen, Meuse, erobre de nordlige provinsene og komme inn i det parisiske området.

I et påfølgende memorandum argumenterte Foch for at de allierte bør dra full nytte av seieren ved å permanent svekke den tyske makten for å hindre henne i å true Frankrike igjen:

Det som befolkningen i Tyskland frykter mest er en fornyelse av fiendtlighetene siden Tyskland denne gangen ville være slagfeltet og åstedet for den påfølgende ødeleggelsen. Dette gjør det umulig for den ennå ustabile tyske regjeringen å avvise ethvert krav fra vår side hvis det er klart formulert. Entente kan i sin nåværende gunstige militære situasjon oppnå aksept for alle fredsforhold den måtte legge frem, forutsatt at de blir presentert uten særlig forsinkelse. Det er bare å bestemme hva de skal være.

Den britiske statsministeren David Lloyd George og den amerikanske presidenten Wilson protesterte imidlertid mot løsrivelsen av Rheinland fra Tyskland, men gikk med på den allierte militære okkupasjonen i femten år, noe Foch mente var utilstrekkelig for å beskytte Frankrike.

Foch anså Versailles -traktaten for å være "en kapitulasjon, en forræderi" fordi han trodde at bare permanent okkupasjon av Rhinlandet ville gi Frankrike tilstrekkelig sikkerhet mot en gjenoppliving av tysk aggresjon. Da traktaten ble undertegnet, sa Foch: "Dette er ikke fred. Det er et våpenhvile i 20 år".

Bilde - Ferdinand Fochs grav i Les Invalides.

Foch ble utnevnt til en britisk feltmarskalk i 1919, og for sine råd under den polsk-bolsjevikiske krigen i 1920, så vel som presset hans mot Tyskland under det store polinske opprøret, ble han tildelt tittelen polsk marskalk i 1923.

November 1921 var Foch i Kansas City for å delta i den banebrytende seremonien for Liberty Memorial som ble bygget der. Til stede denne dagen var også generalløytnant Baron Jacques fra Belgia, admiral David Beatty fra Storbritannia, general Armando Diaz fra Italia og general John J. Pershing fra USA. En av hovedtalerne var visepresident Calvin Coolidge i USA. I 1935 ble basrelieffer av Foch, Jacques, Diaz og Pershing av skulptøren Walker Hancock lagt til minnesmerket.

Foch døde 20. mars 1929, og ble begravet i Les Invalides, ved siden av Napoleon og mange andre kjente franske soldater og offiserer.

En statue av Foch ble satt opp på Compix gne Armistice -stedet da området ble omgjort til et nasjonalt minnesmerke. Denne statuen var det eneste elementet som ble igjen uforstyrret av tyskerne etter nederlaget deres mot Frankrike i juni 1940. Etter signeringen av Frankrikes overgivelse 21. juni herjet tyskerne området rundt jernbanevognen som både overgivelsene fra 1918 og 1940 hadde tatt plass. Statuen ble stående for å se noe annet enn en ødemark. Våpenhvileområdet ble restaurert av tysk krigsfangerarbeid etter andre verdenskrig, med minnesmerker og monumenter enten restaurert eller satt sammen igjen.

Bilde - statue av Foch, nær, Victoria jernbanestasjon, London, Storbritannia

En tung krysser og et hangarskip ble navngitt til hans ære, samt et tidlig distrikt i Gdynia, Polen. Sistnevnte ble imidlertid omdøpt av den kommunistiske regjeringen etter andre verdenskrig. Likevel holder en av de viktigste veiene i byen Bydgoszcz, som den gang lå i den polske korridoren, navnet hans som et tegn på takknemlighet for å kjempe for et uavhengig Polen. Avenue Foch, en gate i Paris, ble oppkalt etter ham. Flere andre gater har blitt navngitt til hans ære i Lyon, Krakx w, Chrzanx w, Grenoble, Quito, Beirut, New Orleans, Leuven, Cambridge, Williston Park, Milltown og Foch Road i Singapore. Fochville i Sør -Afrika ble også navngitt til hans ære. En statue av Foch står i nærheten av Victoria stasjon i London. Foch har også en druekultur oppkalt etter seg.

Ridder - 9. juli 1892
Offiser - 11. juli 1908
Kommandør - 31. desember 1913
Storoffiser - 18. september 1914
Storkorset - 8. oktober 1915.

Ridder - 9. juli 1892
Offiser - 11. juli 1908
Kommandør - 31. desember 1913
Storoffiser - 18. september 1914
Storkorset - 8. oktober 1915.

Medaille Militaire - 21. desember 1916.
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918
Minnemedalje for krig 1870-1871
Offiser for offentlig instruksjon.

Order of Merit (Storbritannia)
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (Storbritannia)
Distinguished Service Order (Storbritannia)
Order of the White Eagle (Polen) (15. april 1923)
Storkors av Order of Virtuti Militari (15. april 1923, Polen)
Storkors av Order of Polonia Restituta (Polen)
Storkors av Leopolds orden (Belgia)
Storkors av Order of Ouissam Alaouite (Marokko)
Distinguished Service Medal (USA)
Order of Lāčplēsis 3rd Class (Latvia)
Order of Saint George Second Class (1916, det russiske imperiet)

Foch mottok tittelen Doctor honoris causa ved Jagiellonian University of Krakow i 1918.

Les Principes de la guerre. Conférence faites x l'Ecole sup rieure de guerre (On the Principles of War), Berger-Levrault, (1903)
La Conduite de la guerre (On the Conduct of War), Berger-Levrault, 1905
M moire pour servir x l’histoire de la guerre 1914-1918 (The Memoirs of Marshal Foch, Posthumous), Plon, 1931.
Porte, R my og F Cochet. Ferdinand Foch, 1851-1929: Apprenez x Penser: Actes Du Colloque International, x cole Militaire, Paris, 6-7. November 2008. Paris: Soteca, 2010. ISBN 9782916385433

Doughty, Robert A. Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War (Harvard U.P. 2005)
Greenhalgh, Elizabeth. "Kommando i en koalisjonskrig: Revurdering av marskalk Ferdinand Foch" fransk historie og sivilisasjon. Artikler fra George Rud Seminar. Bind 2 (2009) s 91-100 online
Neiberg, Michael S. Foch: Supreme Allied Commander in the Great War (Brassey's Inc., 2003), kort populær biografi

Hærmanøvrer fra 1912
Foch Line
Marshal Foch Professor i fransk litteratur, en stol ved University of Oxford etablert til Fochs ære i 1918

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Hvorfor den første verdenskrig ikke klarte å ende i 1918

Mange konflikter forble uløste til år etter.

Sentralt punkt: Effektene av WWI lever videre til i dag.

I det minste tilsynelatende endte første verdenskrig først med opphør av væpnede fiendtligheter mellom de stridende maktene på den berømte "11. timen den 11. dagen i den 11. måneden", det vil si 11. november 1918. Den offisielle eller diplomatiske slutten på Første verdenskrig kom senere ved Versailles -traktaten, 28. juni 1919.

Konflikt raser videre i Russland

Konfliktene som forble uløste med våpenhvilen fra 1918 eller traktaten fra 1919 betydde imidlertid at første verdenskrig ikke tok slutt før en tid senere. Den politiske og ideologiske omveltningen som grep Russland i minst et tiår før første verdenskrig, opphørte ikke da den nye bolsjevikiske regjeringen i den nasjonen inngikk en egen fred med Tyskland, undertegnet Brest-Litovsk-traktaten i mars 1918 og forlot krig.

Tyskland hadde gjort det lettere for Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, den bolsjevikiske revolusjonære lederen, å returnere til Russland for å fremme sivil uro og slå Russland ut av første verdenskrig. Selv om den tyske taktikken lyktes, begynte den russiske revolusjonen i slutten av 1917, og i hælene på maktovertakelse i landet av bolsjevikene en borgerkrig var i gang. Den russiske borgerkrigen tok ikke slutt før i 1922.

Slutten på det tyske koloniriket

Etter slutten av fiendtlighetene i 1918 ble det tyske koloniriket spaltet. I Sør -Stillehavet, Tyske Ny -Guinea, Bismarck -skjærgården og Nauru kom under australsk mandat, mens tyske Samoa ble avstått til New Zealand. Av primær betydning tok Japan kontroll over øygruppene Marshall, Caroline, Mariana og Palau, og oppmuntret til japanske imperialistiske og territorielle ambisjoner i regionen. Japanerne etablerte permanente installasjoner og militære festningsverk på en rekke av disse øyene, som ble scenene for voldelig kamp med amerikanske styrker under andre verdenskrig.

Hva traktaten og Versailles betydde for Tyskland

På samme tid la vilkårene i Versailles -traktaten skylden for den første verdenskrigens ankomst rett og slett på Tyskland, fratok landet europeisk territorium som var rikt på naturressurser og satte store begrensninger for det tyske militæret mens de tvang svake tyske myndigheter til å betale millioner av dollar i krigserstatning. I løpet av 1920- og 1930 -årene ble Tyskland ødelagt av sivile og politiske uroligheter. Nazistpartiet og dets karismatiske leder, Adolf Hitler, grep den oppfattede urettferdigheten i Versailles -traktaten for å galvanisere tysk nasjonalistisk glød. Med generell støtte fra det tyske folket ledet Hitler nasjonen inn i andre verdenskrig, eller som noen kanskje hevder, en fortsettelse av den store krigen. Når jeg vurderer denne hendelsesserien uunngåelig på grunn av uløste problemer mellom verdens nasjoner, er det sannsynlig at første verdenskrig ikke tok slutt før 1945, da Hitler og nazistene ble beseiret i Europa og keiserlige Japan ble dempet i Stillehavet.

"Dette er ikke fred. Det er et våpenhvile i 20 år. ”

Den franske marskalk Ferdinand Foch karakteriserte det politiske miljøet som rådet med Versailles -traktaten ved å si: “Dette er ikke fred. Det er et våpenhvile i 20 år. ” Foch savnet spådommen sin med bare to måneder. Tyske stridsvogner og tropper strømmet over den polske grensen og antente andre verdenskrig 1. september 1939, omtrent nitten år og ti måneder etter at traktaten ble undertegnet.

Gjennom historiens linse er et utvidet perspektiv faktisk provoserende. I 1945 ble Tyskland delt, og forholdet mellom de tidligere allierte nasjonene ble brudd og polarisert, noe som førte til den halve århundre lange kalde krigen, en epoke med enestående politisk og ideologisk rivalisering mellom USA og Storbritannia på den ene siden og Sovjetunionen på den annen side, det var uten tvil i gang før våpnene ble stille under andre verdenskrig. De rivaliserende nasjonene førte fullmaktskriger og utøvde enorm global innflytelse i perioden.

Til slutt var en av hovedfaktorene som påvirket det keiserlige Russlands inntreden i første verdenskrig, dets langvarige ønske om en varmtvannshavn, fri for is året rundt for å lette handel. I 2014 innledet pro-russiske separatister konflikt på Krim-halvøya ved Svartehavet, territorium som tilhører den suverene nasjonen Ukraina. Deretter kunngjorde den russiske regjeringen sin annektering av Krim. Når tok første verdenskrig slutt?

Denne artikkelen av Mike Haskew dukket opprinnelig opp på Warfare History Network.


Marskalk Ferdinand Foch

Ferdinand Foch ble øverstkommanderende for de allierte styrkene i første verdenskrig. Foch ble sammen med Joseph Joffre og Philippe Pétain en av de tre mest fremtredende franske militære offiserene i krigen.

Ferdinand Foch

Ferdinand Foch ble født i 1851 i Tarbes i Hautes-Pyrenees. Foch kjempet i den fransk-prøyssiske krigen 1870-71 og ble artillerispesialist. I 1907 ble han utnevnt til sjef for École de Guerre, en stilling han hadde til 1911.

Da krigen brøt ut i august 1914, ledet Foch den franske andre hæren. Denne hæren stoppet det tyske fremrykket mot Nancy. Som et resultat av denne suksessen fikk Foch kommandoen over den franske niende hæren som kjempet i slaget ved Marne - slaget som stoppet det tyske fremrykket mot Paris. Etter dette slaget tjente han i Flandern og ble kommandant for den franske hærgruppen som kjempet i slaget ved Somme.

I 1916 trakk han seg, men kom tilbake til tjeneste i mai 1917, da han ble utnevnt til stabssjef for marskalk Pétain. Til en viss grad bar Pétain en grad av bagasje ettersom han hadde blitt erstattet av Joffre på Verdun og erstattet av Nivelle. De som var i en maktposisjon i det allierte militæret mente at Foch tilbød et mer dynamisk lederpotensial enn Pétain. I april 1918 ble Foch utnevnt til øverste generalissimo for de allierte styrkene på vestfronten - en posisjon som ga ham øverste kommando over alle allierte styrker på vestfronten. I juli 1918 satte Foch i drift en vellykket motoffensiv mot tyskerne langs elven Marne. I august 1918 fulgte Foch opp dette med en rekke operasjoner som førte til at tyskerne søkte våpenhvile i november 1918. Av denne grunn ble Foch kreditert for å ha sjefen for seieren over Tyskland.

Foch spilte deretter en fremtredende rolle i forkant av Versailles -traktaten der han prøvde å få Georges Clemenceau til å pålegge tyskerne langt strengere vilkår, slik at tyskerne aldri kunne utgjøre en annen militær trussel mot Europa igjen. Etter undertegnelsen av traktaten trakk Foch seg ut av det offentlige livet.

Hans vekst i fransk militærhistorie var sikret. Foch er den eneste franske militære kommandanten som har blitt gjort til æresfeltmarshall i den britiske hæren, og hans stilling ble sikret ved å plassere en statue av ham i London sentrum.


Høsten 1918

Det er høst igjen i La Belle France: Høsten 1918:

Midt i ruskene på veiene i Nord -Frankrike spiller lyskastere. Tre limousiner kryper inn i glimten av det strålende gjenskinnet, og når de nærmer seg, sees hvite flagg flagre fra kroppen. Inne er tyskere-tyskere som ser ut på tvers-de søker våpenhvile.
Overtrederne på Frankrikes jord blir møtt med høflig omtanke.

Franske offiserer møter dem, smiler søtt, går inn i bilene deres og leder dem over de mørke veiene til Château Frankfort er nådd. Det er i den dype skogen i Compiègne, og det stoppes her for natten.

Tyskerne snorker høyt. De lar ikke nederlaget bekymre seg.

Dagen etter kjører motoren til Senlis, der den samme offiseren i en jernbanevogn befant seg ved kapitulasjonen av Sedan, nå en grizzled mann. Han er generalissimo-sjef for de allierte hærene.

Tyskerne kommer inn i bilen, hatter i hendene, og han reiser seg for å møte dem.

Stemmen hans er spent, rolig, klar.

"Hva ønsker dere, mine herrer?"

"Vi har kommet, marskalk, for å ordne vilkårene for et våpenhvile," sa en av dem. “We accept President Wilson’s fourteen points. Germany is beaten.”

We do not know what the gallant Field-Marshal said, but we imagine that it was something like this:

“The terms, gentlemen, will be severe, owing to the barbarous manner in which your people have waged this war. They are as follows:”

Then he read to them the program already agreed upon by the Allies, and no more crushing ultimatum had ever been delivered to a beaten power.

The keen-eyed Marshal had no tone of sneering or of overburdening triumph in his voice as he read. Yet — away back in his mind — he had the scene of another surrender indelibly engraved upon his memory — that of Sedan, when his Emperor was humiliated. And, as he read on, the great Generalissimo of the French and Allied armies, smiled — not leeringly, but good- naturedly — into the stolid eyes of the crestfallen German emissaries.

What had the Marshal to do with the final triumph?

This is well expressed by the words of Premier Clemenceau, who, when approached by several Senators with the words:

“You are the savior of France,” replied: “Gentlemen, I thank vou. I did not deserve the honor which you have done me. Let me tell you that I am proudest that you have associated my name with that of Marshal Foch, that great soldier, who, in the darkest hours, never doubted the destiny of his country. He has inspired everyone with courage, and we owe him an infinite debt.”

SO, THREE TIMES THREE FOR GENERAL FOCH!

He is the man who never lost his cheerfulness in spite of the fact that the soldiers of his country — bleeding and distressed — have been fighting a grueling war and struggling for a long time against terrific odds.

The signing of the armistice terms, submitted by the Allies, practically brought to an end the greatest war in the history of the human race — a war which brought suffering and misery to the people of every land: which cost $224,303,205,000 in treasure, and nearly 4,500,000 lives.

The end of hostilities 1,556 days after the first shot was fired, tendered to civilization the assurance that never again shall people be threatened with the slavery of a despotically autocratic rule.

Cheerful when things were blackest, cheerful when events were brightest, let history record with truthful significance, that here — at least — has been one soldier who is the living personification of that ancient doctrine:

“When things look darkest: SMILE! SMILE! SMILE!”

Charles H. L. Johnston, Famous Generals of the Great War Who Let the United States and Her Allies to a Glorious Victory, Boston: The Page Company, 1919, pp. 87-108.


Ferdinand Foch

(Tarbes, Hautes Pyrenees, 1851-Paris, 1929) French military.After studying with the Jesuits and at the Polytechnic School, he pursued his military career spurred by the national humiliation suffered in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71).He became a brilliant artillery officer and immediately a professor at the War School (1885), of which he was commander from 1907 contributed to elaborate the military doctrine that France would follow in the First World War (1914-18), expressed in his works as Principles of war (1903) or Conduct of war (1904).

When the war broke out, he assumed command of an army corps in Lorraine, which participated in the unsuccessful initial French offensive on German territory.Later he helped to stop the advance of the Germans towards Paris (Battle of the Marne, 1914) and towards the sea (Battle of the Yser, 1914) and led the counteroffensive of 1915, which failed to break the enemy front.

Faced with the stagnation of the "war of positions", in 1917 there were changes in the French military leadership, which led Foch to be appointed head of the High General Staff and military adviser to the government With the eastern front disappearing due to the Russian withdrawal as a consequence of the Bolshevik Revolution, Foch dedicated himself especially to strengthening the coordination of the war effort of the allies on the western front, with the institution of an Anglo-Franco-Italian Supreme Council (1917).


‘Foch’s Grand Offensive’: the biggest battle you’ve never heard of

Between 26 September and 9 October 1918, the biggest battle ever fought in western Europe took place. Involving more than twice as many men as would fight at Normandy in 1944, the bloody series of concentric attacks on the German lines in France known as ‘Foch’s Grand Offensive’ was decisive in the outcome of the First World War, says historian Jonathan Boff. Skriver for Historie ekstra, he explores the events of the Allied offensive and how it pointed the way towards modern warfare…

Denne konkurransen er nå stengt

Published: September 26, 2018 at 8:44 am

One hundred years ago, the Allied armies* in France and Flanders unleashed the biggest battle ever fought in western Europe. It’s a battle of which few of us may ever have heard, but it (and the Hundred Days Offensive of August and November 1918, of which it was a part) helped decide the outcome of the First World War. Over the course of five days, nearly two million American, Belgian, British and French soldiers climbed out of their trenches and, picking their way between shell bursts and clouds of poison gas, overran German trenches from the River Meuse to the English Channel.

Within just 48 hours at Ypres, which had long been the site of terrible fighting, the British captured ground that had taken nearly four months of mud-bound agony to seize the previous year. Further south, the Allies stormed the vaunted defences of the Hindenburg Line [the final line of German defences on the western front], shocking the German high command so deeply that it decided to demand an armistice without delay. Peace took another six weeks to come, but its foundations were laid in the fighting known as Foch’s Grand Offensive, which took place between 26 September and 9 October 1918. Yet this battle remains unknown to all bar the most keen of military historians.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1918, the German army, desperate to end the war before the US Army arrived in strength, had launched repeated hammer blows at the British and French forces on the western front. The Allied line had buckled and been forced back, but crucially it hadn’t broken. The weakened German army was poorly equipped to resist the Allied counterattack which followed. This began on the Marne in July, continued at Amiens on 8 August, and extended across the old battlefields of 1916 and 1917 along much of the front later that month. In heavy and bloody fighting, the Allies pushed the Germans back.

Allied leaders, led by the pugnacious French general Ferdinand Foch, had stumbled across a new and effective operational method: instead of trying to break through enemy lines and drive deep into the rear – an approach which had not succeeded in four years of trying – they now suspended even successful operations after a few days and shifted the point of attack to somewhere else on the line. This saved the attackers’ energy, while sucking in and chewing up German reserves. Under the relentless pressure of this ‘rolling attrition’, in early September the German high command, led by Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg, ordered their men to fall back to the positions they had occupied at the beginning of the year, in the formidable defences of the so-called Hindenburg Line. Here, they hoped to hold out until winter forced a pause in the fighting.

Breaching the German lines was going to be no pushover: their positions, perfected by years of siege warfare, were deep and strong. Carefully sited fortifications with overlapping fields of fire, built around concrete pillboxes and dug-outs and protected by belts of barbed wire, stretched back in line after line of defences, often several miles deep. German units might have been starting to run low on infantrymen, but they still had plenty of machine guns and artillery, and the troops’ morale had recovered from the toughhit in the summer. The Allies had every reason to believe that they faced a very tough challenge.

Nonetheless, Foch was determined to give the Germans no respite. Together with the national contingent commanders – Philippe Pétain for France, John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing for the United States, and Sir Douglas Haig for Britain and its empire – Foch began putting together a grand offensive to bounce the Germans out of their defences and liberate France and Belgium. They spent most of September repairing the shattered roads and railways leading up to the new Allied positions, stockpiling matériel, and moving up the men and machines they would need. Foch intended to unleash a flurry of rapid blows up and down 350 kilometres of the western front, from Verdun almost to the English Channel.

Operating on such a broad front had the political advantage of balancing out the contribution of each ally, as Eisenhower would find in a later war. Militarily, it also created multiple threats at once, which might both overstretch German reserves and overload the capacity of Ludendorff and his generals to react. In all, on the active front from the River Meuse to the sea, the Allies mustered 171 divisions – probably around 1,750,000 fighting men – supported by artillery guns, tanks and aircraft in their thousands, against about 1,250,000 Germans in 165 divisions.

The western front ablaze

The ‘Grand Offensive’ opened just before dawn on 26 September 1918 with a powerful Franco-American force driving into the Argonne forest and along the left bank of the Meuse in France. The next day, the British Third and First armies crossed the Canal du Nord and drove through the thickest part of the Hindenburg Line toward Cambrai. On Saturday 28 September, French, Belgian and British forces attacked at Ypres. The spotlight returned to the centre on 29 September, where the British Fourth and French First armies stormed over the St Quentin Canal and penetrated deep into the Hindenburg Line, while the River Aisne was the site of a further major French attack on 30 September.

Within five days, Foch had set the western front ablaze. The German defenders fought hard: not one of the attacks opened a clean break in the German lines, and progress was often slow. General Pershing suspended his offensive in the Argonne Forest after just three days, for instance, having lost 45,000 men and advanced at best only 12 kilometres, while the British attack on Cambrai stalled. It took several days of bitter fighting to clear the defenders from the Hindenburg Line in the St Quentin area. Only at Ypres did the defence collapse, but even here the Allied advance soon ground to a halt: it was simply too great a task to move supplies across the shattered ground of the salient [a part of battlefield which juts out or bulges into enemy territory].

The beauty of Foch’s plan, however, was that it didn’t depend on achieving a breakthrough at any one point, much less all of them. Instead, it relied on cumulative effect, and it proved spectacularly successful. The evident inability of the German army to hold its ground, even in the strongest trench defences ever constructed, raised alarm throughout the ranks. A captured German non-commissioned officer admitted that “Germany is defeated, and the sooner we recognise it, the better”.

Likewise, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, the field marshal commanding the defence in northern France, wrote in his diary on 29 September: “We must absolutely make peace: there’s nothing else for it”.

Rupprecht could not yet know it, but at six o’clock the previous night, Ludendorff and Hindenburg had already come to the same conclusion. In his memoirs Ludendorff pretended that it was news of the imminent collapse of Bulgaria, rather than the military situation in the west, which provoked their decision. This was a transparent lie, told to deflect blame away from himself: at the time he told his staff officers that he wanted to save the army from total collapse in case it was needed to suppress a Bolshevik uprising back home. The generals told the Kaiser it was time to approach US president Woodrow Wilson and request a ceasefire. Within a week, a peace note was on its way to Washington. So began a process that soon ran out of the German high command’s control, with far-reaching and disastrous consequences: by the middle of November, the army had disintegrated, an armistice had been signed, and revolutions had swept crowned heads from thrones all over Germany and central Europe.

In the meantime, the offensive ground bloodily on. By about 8 October, the German army was falling back once more. It was soon fighting a semi-mobile war in much more open country, without trench lines to rally on, improvising defences where it could, in one desperate rear-guard action after another. This kind of combat was far from the trench warfare of earlier years, and the German army began to crumble under the pressure. By 5 November it was thoroughly beaten and retreating towards the German frontier as fast as it could march.

The impact of the battle

Casualties during the last phase of the war are hard to calculate, not least because record-keeping was poor. In the ‘Grand Offensive’ itself, British and empire forces alone probably lost nearly 100,000 men, though the total could easily have been as high as a quarter of a million for each side.

The Allied victory was built on weight of numbers, especially in manpower, artillery, tanks and aircraft, as well as on old-fashioned human virtues such as guts and determination. A major contribution, however, was made by the Allies’ ability to out-think their enemy. They had better learnt the lessons of previous years. Experienced commanders now led formations capable of integrating new technologies into combined arms tactics and operational approaches far advanced from those of even 18 months previously. The Germans, quite simply, ran out of responses as their command system seized up under the pressure Foch was exerting.

Foch’s ‘Grand Offensive’ was much more than the battle which, more than any other, doomed Germany to defeat in the First World War. It was also the biggest battle ever fought in western Europe, involving more than twice as many men, and twice as bloody, as, say, the battle for Normandy in 1944. More importantly still, together with the other operations of autumn 1918, it pointed the way to the future of modern warfare. When British and American generals sat down to plan the artillery-intensive, combined arms set-piece attacks of the Second World War, they took their inspiration from the battles they had fought as subalterns in 1918. The ‘Grand Offensive’, along with the other battles of the so-called Hundred Days campaign, established a template that survives today. It is no coincidence that in autumn 2018, officers from the American, Australian, Belgian, British, Canadian, French, German and New Zealand armies will once again meet on the battlefields of 1918, this time as friends, to see what lessons modern armies can learn from the events of 100 years ago.

Why, then, is this battle so little known? A combination of factors are at work. Even at the time, these events were not well reported: partly because self-censoring journalists were being purposely vague about details, and partly because the appetite for military news was waning after four years of war. More recent neglect is perhaps due to the failure of this phase of the war to conform to ‘mud, blood and futility’ stereotypes, a fascination with remembering those who died even at the expense of those who made their sacrifice in other ways and survived, or a desire to avoid anything that might look like celebration, rather than commemoration. We can all agree that there is no place for triumphalism in our history of the First World War. But we should remember the war as it was. The Allied victory won as a result of Foch’s ‘Grand Offensive’ was an important part of that war, and it deserves to be better known.

Dr Jonathan Boff is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Birmingham. Bøkene hans inkluderer Winning and Losing on the Western Front (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Haig’s Enemy: Crown Prince Rupprecht and the German Army on the Western Front(Oxford University Press, April 2018).

*Technically, the United States was an Associated Power, rather than an Ally, of Belgium, Britain and France, but for convenience they will all be referred to here as ‘the Allies’.


Modern War for Romantics: Ferdinand Foch and the Principles of War

There are three reasons Americans should study French military strategy. The first is that the French military has an intellectual tradition that stretches back at least to the 18th century, and more than a few French military theorists draw on that tradition and are enriched by it. Their work is sophisticated, and they write well. Second, the disastrous losses that Americans too often associate with the French military and that encourage them to dismiss the French should do the opposite the failures make the French worth reading. Every generation of French officers since the catastrophe of the Franco-Prussian War has had to grapple with failure and think hard about the challenges of modern warfare. Third, relatedly, the French view everything from the perspective of scarcity, meaning they assume they have to compensate for a lack of resources with smarts and courage, and by making the most of what they have.

All three factors were apparent in June of last year, when the French army’s doctrine center, the Centre de doctrine et d’enseignement du commandement, organized a conference on the “Principles of War in 2035.” The focus of the conference obviously was on the future, but one could not talk about the future without drawing on the wisdom of the past, even if only for conversation’s sake. The conference location made it hard to do otherwise: The center is located on the 18th-century campus known as the École Militaire, in central Paris near Les Invalides (the site of Napoleon’s tomb and the army’s excellent history museum). The École Militaire is also home to France’s École de Guerre, where generations of rising French officers have come to study (and where Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was stripped of his rank and had his sword ceremonially broken, but more on him later). Engaging with the French military’s intellectual tradition, however, was also part of the point of the conference. The giveaway is the title, for when the French talk about the “Principles of War,” they are referencing a line of thinking that stretches back to a specific book and the man who wrote it.

Boken er On the Principles of War, first published in 1903. It is the touchstone of modern French military doctrine, a primary reference for the French army’s most recent high-level doctrinal publication, Future Land Action (2016), and the beginning of French conversations about strategy regardless of whether or not readers agree with the book or like it. Indeed, some of the book’s influence is due less to its intrinsic qualities than to the prestige of its author, Marshal Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929). Foch was the Supreme Allied Commander in 1918, making him France’s most accomplished general of the past century and the man who led France to victory at the end of its bloodiest war. He is France’s Eisenhower and Grant rolled into one. He also had intellectual predilections: He served as a professor at the École de Guerre, and later was its director (his office when he was director currently is occupied by the commanding general of the Centre de doctrine et d’enseignement du commandement). For those of us who wish to understand French military thinking, the place to start is with Foch.

Foch’s reputation in France is not without blemish, owing mostly to his association with Carl von Clausewitz’s Romantic vision of total war as well as his contribution to the “offensive à outrance” (offensive at all costs) school of thinking. These are often blamed for the carnage of the Western Front, especially the foolhardy campaigns of 1914 and 1915, which took place before many commanders on all sides, Foch among them, revised their methods and solved the tactical challenges that caused the stalemate. Foch’s most recent French biographer, Jean-Christophe Notin, quipped that “his teachings at the École de Guerre did more to lead to defeat than prepare for victory.”

Marshal Ferdinand Foch. (Library of Congress)

There is some truth to this, especially with regard to his belief in aggressive infantry assaults despite the strong evidence that the firepower of modern weapons greatly favored the defense. However, Notin’s view undervalues the extent to which Foch revised his own ideas about conducting offensive operations. By 1916 he had, for example, embraced Marshal Philippe Pétain’s (1856–1951) mantra, le feu tue (fire kills), and became a devotee of the methodical use of heavy artillery. He also renounced the Clausewitzian search for a decisive battle in favor of an operational approach that consisted of hammering the front at multiple points and obtaining, through the aggregate effect of many limited victories, the desired strategic effect, namely breaking the enemy’s will to fight. Foch, however, never abandoned his faith in the offensive, which distinguished him from the cautious, defensively minded Pétain. If we expand our scope to include France’s greatest military tragedy, 1940, we see that the problem was not Foch’s influence but rather the lack of it. As both Robert Doughty and Michel Goya have noted, it was the longer-lived Pétain, and not Foch, who had the greatest influence over military thinking on the eve of World War II. More specifically, it was the dour Pétain’s interpretation of the lessons of World War I that encouraged the French army to shelter behind the Maginot Line and renounce offensive capabilities. In Doughty’s words, “one only has to read the minutes of the Superior Council of War’s meetings in the interwar years to weigh the different effects of the two men and to consider how different things could have been had Foch wielded the most influence.” After 1940, the parts of the French army that reassembled themselves under the Free French flag restored the connection to Foch, with thinkers like Gen. André Beaufre (1902–1975) serving as a bridge.

Clausewitz and the Romantic Critique of the Franco-Prussian War

It is true that at the heart of Foch’s thinking about war is a Romantic interpretation of “modern” warfare that owes a lot to Clausewitz as well as ambient French Romanticism, which encouraged rejection of materialist or positivist philosophies and valorized spirit and will. Foch was no partisan of the French Revolution’s social-democratic and anti-clerical agenda. On the contrary he was a conservative Catholic who lost his first teaching job at the École de Guerre as part of an anti-clerical purge, and he was almost certainly anti-Dreyfus. (France at the turn of the 20th century split over belief in the guilt or innocence of Dreyfus, who was Jewish, accused of leaking military secrets to the German government. The dividing line, however, reflected a cultural war, as Jews in post-1789 France served as a stand in for modernism, capitalism, positivism, and the republic to be anti-Dreyfus was to be some combination of anti-Semitic, anti-liberal, and anti-modern.)

“The traitor: Degradation of Alfred Dreyfus, in the Morland Court of the École Militaire in Paris,” Henri Meyer. (Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France)

But like many conservative Catholics he nonetheless saw in the revolution an important world-historical event, which he celebrated in his Prinsipper as a triumph of the spirit. It was the birth of France as a nation, which he conceived of in terms of a spiritual community in a manner akin to the Romantic Johann Gottlieb Fichte, as opposed to the more rationalist and positivist Ernest Renan. The revolution was also, to borrow a late 20th-century term, a revolution in military affairs. The nation at arms, supercharged by spirit, swept aside the professional armies of the old monarchical regimes of the 18th century. Foch cited Clausewitz, who summed up matters in the following terms:

The French Revolution, through the force and the energy of its principles, through the enthusiasm to which it brought the people, threw the entire weight of the people and all its forces into the balance, where before only reduced arms and the limited revenues of the state had been felt.

Foch, like his peers, identified the root cause of France’s defeat in 1870 as a spiritual failing that translated into passivity and the lack of will to fight. Citing the conservative Catholic philosopher Joseph de Maistre, Foch wrote, “A lost battle is a battle one believes one has lost, for […] a battle is not materially lost.” For Foch, the opposite was also true: “A battle won is a battle in which one does not admit defeat.”

Wars for Foch were contests between wills the most obstinate wins. But they were also fundamentally about aggression. If you want to push your enemy back, “hit him, otherwise nothing is done, and to that end there is only one means: battle.” Foch, Clausewitz student that he was, declared the objective of battle to be destroying the enemy’s forces. “Modern warfare cannot understand arguments other than those that led to the destruction of the [enemy’s] army: the battle, the toppling by force.” With profound admiration he cited Clausewitz’s appreciation of Napoleon:

Bonaparte always marched straight to his goal without worrying about the enemy’s strategic plan. Knowing that everything depended on the tactical results and never doubting achieving them, he ceaselessly and always sought opportunities to fight.

The Principles of War

Notwithstanding Foch’s apparent endorsement of the “never mind maneuvers, always go straight at ‘em” approach so dear to Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, Foch believed that strategy boiled down to maneuver. But the maneuvering had to be for the sake of setting up the decisive attack. This was an important distinction for him, given his condescending view of pre-1789 commanders, whom he compared to fencers who maneuvered to score points rather than kill. In contrast, Napoleon maneuvered to kill. Foch believed he could teach the art of maneuvering to kill by studying not formulae for victory but rather fundamental “principles of war” that he believed should guide commanders’ analysis of how to proceed. Foch’s catchphrase was said to have been “De quoi s’agit-il?” meaning “What’s it all about?” The idea is to think and adapt rather than do anything mechanically, an imperative that gave commanders full license, for example, to abandon the disastrous tactics of 1914 and try something else.

Contemporary French military treatments of Foch associate him with three principles, which probably are what most French officers would say if quizzed about Foch: economy of force, concentration of efforts, and liberty of action.

This is a distillation of Foch’s 1903 work, in which he identified several more and hinted at the existence of others. Foch was, it must be said, a poor writer, and his work invites simplification. What he actually wrote is this: economy of force, intellectual discipline, liberty of action, security, strategic surprise, and the decisive attack.

Let us review these principles briefly.

Economy of Force

Foch explained “economy of force” with what he said was a Latin aphorism that “one does not hunt two hares at the same time.” Elaborating on the idea, he defined economy of force as the “art of [dispersing one’s efforts] [ in a profitable manner, of getting the greatest possible benefit out of the resources one has.” One must also be mindful of the corollary principle, which Foch never in fact names but discusses at length: concentration of efforts. He explained:

The principle of economy of force, it is […] the art of spending all of one’s resources at a certain moment at a certain point of applying [to that point] all of one’s troops, and, for this to be possible, of keeping them always in communication with one another instead of compartmentalizing them or affecting them to a fixed and invariable destination then, once a result is obtained, to have them once again converge and act against a new unique objective.

This approach also held the secret to taking down a larger opponent: One only needs superior numbers at a specific point and can keep targeting points where one has the advantage. He cited Napoleon:

When, with fewer forces, I was in the presence of a large army that threatened to overwhelm mine, I fell like thunder on one of its wings and I knocked it over. I then profited from the disorder that this maneuver never failed to create in the enemy’s army, to attack another part, always with all of my force. I fought him piece by piece, and the victory that resulted, was always, as you see, the victory of the larger number over the smaller.

Scaled up to the operational level, this form of martelage (hammering) describes Foch’s approach to breaking the Germans after turning the tide in August 1918.

Intellectual Discipline and Liberty of Action

Foch argued for what later would be referred to by Americans as mission command, and, in the French army, the principle of “subsidiarity,” which boils down to the idea that an officer should communicate his general intent to his subordinate officers, but leave to them the authority and autonomy to figure out the best way to fulfill it. For this to work, commanders have to be capable of “active discipline” as compared to “passive obedience.” Foch saw this as essential for maintaining “liberty of action.” Otherwise, commanders too often would be incapable of fulfilling the will of their superiors because of the circumstances in which they find themselves, or because of the actions of the enemy. They also needed to have the discipline not to think they knew better, or to take it upon themselves to attempt to achieve an objective other than what had been communicated to them.

Just as when one walks through a dark house one extends one’s arm in front to guard against walking into obstacles, Foch wrote, an army must deploy a force ahead as well as to the sides and rear. The objective is to protect the major portion of the force, the gros, from being forced to react and thereby losing its liberty of action. One “constantly has to seek to create events, and not be subject to them.” If and when the avant-garde encounters an enemy force, it should be able to determine the nature of that force and thus the best response to it: Attack? Ignore? Block? De avant-garde needs to encounter the enemy far enough away to offer the gros time to react as the commander wishes. Any closer and the gros might be forced to react. Too far away and dispersed elements might not be able to concentrate, if desired.

Foch’s discussions of the avant-garde show the importance of his arguments about intellectual discipline. Detachment commanders needed to understand fully their role and how it contributed to the larger mission. Otherwise they risked straying too far, or too close, or mistaking their duty: resisting when they should maneuver or attacking when they should hold their ground. Foch himself made that mistake on Aug. 20, 1914, when he disobeyed orders and attacked German positions at Morhange, when he had been told to hold.

Strategic Surprise and Decisive Attack

Strategic surprise and decisive attack are closely related. Though Foch spoke of the need for decisive battles with language that evoked the physical destruction of the adversary’s armies, he was really interested in imposing upon the enemy a psychological effect that was analogous to the effect ideally brought about by a surprise: namely, a combination of terror and paralysis. You do not actually have to kill the enemy you do not even literally have to surprise them. You only have to make the enemy feel powerless in a way analogous to being surprised.

Foch envisioned a kind of warfare denoted by the term “battle-maneuver.” It combined his vision of striking at the right point with the principle of economy of force, and the idea of dividing up the forces to ensure that the gros is ready, in reserve, to provide the commander with a hammer to strike at the right place and right time. “In the battle-maneuver, the reserve is the mass prepared, organized, reserved and carefully maintained to execute the one act of the battle from which one expects a result, the decisive attack,” Foch wrote. His vision of “battle-maneuver” featured small units advancing under cover, protected by fires, supporting one another, and always working to preserve their liberty of action while denying it to the enemy, and organizing “…above all the [decisive] attack, with the rest becoming subordinate and only considered from the perspective of the advantage they would offer the attack.” The first rule, however, was to keep attacking. The worst thing to do would be doing nothing: “Of all mistakes one alone is infamous, inaction,” he repeated.

Foch at War

Using Elizabeth Greenhalgh’s masterful biography Foch in Command as our guide, we find that Foch, like World War I’s other successful commanders on both sides, adapted his methods over the course of the war as he learned to overcome its many tactical challenges (Michel Goya’s work on the French army from 1914 to 1918 also is highly instructive in this regard.) Foch backed away from the more enthusiastic arguments in Prinsipper regarding offensive operations and especially his article of faith that modern weapons gave the attacker an advantage over the defender. Though, to be fair, elsewhere in Prinsipper he acknowledges that because of modern weapons infantry could not attack as they had before. They had to eschew close formations and make use of all available cover their path, moreover, had to be prepared by artillery. The difference lay in his estimation of precisely how much firepower this required: As he himself came to realize in 1914 and 1915, he had been off by an order of magnitude at least. Meanwhile, in 1918 he made deft use of economy of force and concentration of force (thanks in large part to logistical capabilities that facilitated the quick movement of divisions by rail and truck up and down the front) to deny the Germans liberty of action. In the process he did not destroy the German army he convinced its commanders further resistance was futile.

Foch’s tomb at Les Invalides. (Photo by Guilhem Vellut)

Foch Today: Plus Ça Change?

Warfare obviously has changed a lot since 1918, not to speak of 1903, when Foch penned Prinsipper. In the preface to the fifth edition, dated September 1918, Foch looked back on all the innovations he had witnessed. So much had changed. And yet, nothing had:

The fundamental truths that govern the [art of war] remain immutable, just as the principles of mechanics always govern architecture, regardless of whether one is building with wood, stone, iron, or reinforced concrete just as the principles of harmony govern music whatever the genre might be. It is therefore still necessary to establish the principles of war.

The French army is inclined to agree, by affirming Foch’s premise that there are in fact principles of war and continuing to enshrine Foch’s. It places Foch’s principles at the heart of its doctrine, or rather at the pinnacle of its “hierarchy of norms” as spelled out in the 2016 Future Land Action. More specifically, the French army today recognizes five principles of war. The first three are straight Foch: liberty of action, economy of means, and concentration of efforts. To these the French have added two more, reportedly derived from the 1992 book on strategy by Adm. Guy Labouérie (1933–2016). These are “uncertainty” and foudroyance.

Uncertainty quite simply is something one most go to great lengths to cultivate among one’s adversaries: uncertainty about what one is doing and going to do, where, when, and why. Foudroyance, derived from the word for thunder (foudre), means a sudden crippling shock. In truth, it amounts to a rephrasing of Foch’s principle of strategic surprise. To cite Labouérie (who mentions Foch but does not take up his principles specifically):

The principle of foudroyance has as its goal not destroying everything, which is without interest in any conflict, but breaking the rhythm or rhythms of the Other in its diverse activities, in such a way as to keep it from pulling itself together and to keep it a step behind the action.

To do that, one must strike at the right moment, at just the right place, where the effect would be to block the enemy’s attempt to retake the advantage or restore cohesion.

At the 2019 “Principles of War in 2035” conference, participants discussed whether or not new technologies, new forms of conflict, and new contextual realities (such as new political landscapes, the role of the media, and the much smaller size of most militaries) had changed or would in the foreseeable future change warfare so significantly as to make Foch finally useless. In essence, the answer was no, although participants agreed that commanders today and in the near future would have to change how they applied Foch’s principles. To some extent, the old terms mean different things or imply different courses of action. Liberty of action, for example, now requires access to information and protection of information networks. It also requires political legitimacy, especially since often it is public opinion at home that limits commanders’ choices and confines their liberty of action. Indeed, politics weighs far more heavily on military operations now than in Foch’s day. Also, modern forces are smaller and more likely to be dispersed to a far greater extent than Foch had in mind, giving new importance to economy of means and concentration of efforts. Information networks can facilitate both, though they will challenge command-and-control practices while also becoming a potential vulnerability (Gen. Guy Hubin’s 2003 Perspectives Tactiques stands in the French army as the most influential vision of how networked technology will affect ground operations). Concentration of efforts must also take into account the fact that more often than not military operations are conducted by coalitions. Conference-goers also suggested that recent evolutions oblige the adoption of new principles. Proposed examples include agility, comprehension, proportionality, and resilience. Similarly, French army doctrine itself evokes “legitimacy of action” and “reversibility of action.”

Beaufre perhaps said it best when he wrote that Foch’s principles have the advantage of being sufficiently abstract as to remain universally valid, though he complained that they were too abstract to have any practical application. Nonetheless his own work reflects a strong influence by Foch, and it seems that today the French army at least has inherited a measure of Foch’s aggressiveness. France’s 2013 intervention in Mali, for example, featured a rapid series of aggressive maneuvers that demonstrated a will to deny the enemy liberty of action and, in effect, cripple it through sheer relentlessness and speed. In that sense, the Mali war bore a remarkable resemblance to Foch’s vision of future combat in 1903 and the great counter-offensive of the autumn of 1918. Foch’s principles also make particular sense given the French army’s lack of resources, compared not just to the U.S. military but even the French army of Foch’s day. Economy of means when means are limited is not a thought exercise. Foch above all counseled fighting smart, and trying always to answer “de quoi s’agit-il?” even if this amounts to nothing more than the imperative to take a moment and think through what one is trying to achieve. This seems self-evident, but recent American military history suggests civilian and military leaders could benefit from the reminder.

Michael Shurkin is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.


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