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The Transformation Of Battlefield Tactics During World War I

1110 words - 4 pages

The First World War witnessed an appalling number of casualties. Due partly to this fact some historians developed the perception that commanders on both sides depended on only one ineffectual approach to breaking the stalemate. These historians attributed the loss of life to commanders’ reliance on soldiers charging across no-man’s land where they would be mowed down by enemy machineguns. The accuracy of this, however, is fallacious because both the German’s and Allies developed and used a variety of tactics during the war. The main reason for battlefield success during World War I came from the transformation of battlefield tactics; nevertheless, moral played a key role by greatly affecting the development of these new tactics.
Tactics during the early stages of the war led to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and a huge loss in moral by the Allies. Originally the Allies employed Napoleonic Era tactics that relied heavily on infantry lining up shoulder to shoulder and advancing across open fields. The French further claimed that if they attacked with superior moral they could overcome any foe. Due to the widespread utilization of machine guns and long-range rifles, these tactics resulted in enormous casualties. The French and British, as well, continued to funnel soldiers into failed offensives. They would do so even if the battle resulted in little or no gain, which further led to a decline in moral. With thousands of soldiers’ dead, the armies could not continue to fight with these tactics or the armies would cease to exist or soldiers would refuse to continue to fight.
When Allied soldiers began to refuse to return to the front lines their officers, in response, made compromises to retain what little moral still lingered, because if they failed the Germans’ could possibly overrun allied positions. Initially, officers attempted to reason with the soldiers to get them to return to the front lines. These officers claimed that the German’s would subjugate France to a similar punishment that Russia received in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The soldiers concurred with their officers and agreed to return to the front lines (Smith 190). The French High Command, however, did not value the treatment of enlisted soldiers as equals and order the executions of a number of the mutineers. The French Command, also, decided that the prudent decision to stop impending mutinies would be to prohibit “any new large-scale offensive…” (Smith 195). With the comprehension that moral could collapse further, the Allies turned to a handful of new tactics to minimize the number of deaths that occurred and build moral.
From observations and experimentation the Allies developed a number of tactics that allowed them to gain substantially more ground than in the past while reducing the number of casualties. To reduce wastage, the number of soldiers killed during a normal day, the French adopted the use of “difeme en profondeur (defence in depth) [which]...

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