About the Author
Jean-Charles Augustin Bernis (1874-1964),
French officer, he took part in the First and in the Second World Wars. Colonel of the French Army, Supreme Commandant of the Public Force (Force Publique) in 1936 -1940. He was active member of the French Resistance, one of the founders of the intelligence net ”Alliance”, led by Georges Loustaunau-Lacau and Marie-Madeleine Fourcade. Colonel Bernis was arrested in Monaco in the beginning of 1943. After the Second World War he was an active member of the veteran organizations of the French Resistance. Colonel Bernis was a theoretician of the military intelligence, author of the book “Le Service de Renseignement, le rôle et la méthode des 2èmes Bureaux en campagne“ with the foreword of General Weygand, published 1934.
In discussing the general question of military Intelligence in time of war, the author starts from the undisputed premise that information of the enemy is absolutely essential and must be available in time for use. In any situation there are three factors involved; namely,
1. The mission as laid down or deduced.
2. The possibilities which our forces can execute.
3. The possibilities which the enemy can execute.
The first two of these factors are commonly known and appreciated.
The third, the one for which information of the enemy to necessary, is more likely to be neglected, as is shown in the following examples.
The Action of the 40th French Division on August 22, 1914.
Indifference to the enemy and too much reliance on the taking up of standard dispositions on the part of the French, resulted in ineffective piece-meal actions when the enemy was suddenly encountered. The German orders on the contrary, showed a full appreciation of what the enemy might do and their action in accordance with these orders cost the French a decisive defeat.
The Maneuver of July 15, 1918 on the German Side.
Ludendorff used, against the French Fourth Army, in the attack of July 15, 1918, the same offensive tactics which had been successful on other occasions without taking into consideration that the French might change their defense accordingly.
The result was a crushing set back for the Germans.
The French were so imbued with the spirit of offensive that the idea that the enemy might not react as foreseen by the French plan of maneuver was entirely lost to view.
Thus is demonstrated how essential it is that what the enemy may do be considered. What the enemy may do must be figured out for that time when our maneuver is to be executed. It is based on his present situation and this is the situation on which we collect information. Passing from the present situation to the future situation gives rise to the divergence of method with which this essay is largely concerned. The first system is the method of enemy intentions, much favored by the German school of thought and the second is the method of enemy capabilities of which the author is a staunch advocate. The first seeks to determine a priori among all the maneuvers which the enemy might make, which one he intends to execute and lays plans with this as a basis. The second method, that of enemy capabilities, limits itself to grouping all the maneuvers which the enemy might execute into a small number of wide and distinct hypotheses each to be considered by the commander in his conception of his own maneuver.
Examples of the Method of intentions.
The German maneuver of August 16, 1870 in the Franco-Prussian war was based entirely on the assumption that Bazaine, the French commander, intended to retreat on Verdun. This example becomes of singularly striking interest when it is considered that historians are still in doubt as to whether Bazaine at the time even had an intention. The fact that Bazaine ended up inside the fortifications of Metz, adds nothing to the credit of German arms, but is merely a blot on the page of French Generalship. In connection with this incident, the author brings out that often the method of probable intentions blinds one to realities because a commander in his anxiety to accomplish his mission, permits himself to be convinced that the enemy intends to do that which will permit the accomplishment of the mission.
The battle of Guise, August 28-29, 1914.
When the retreat of the French Fifth Army crossed the Oise closely followed by von Bülow’s German Second Army, von Bülow received his definite pursuit order. At 5:30 PM August 27, he decided to await the assistance of the German Third Army, available on August 29 and so notified German GHQ.
New information that the German First Army was to move to the southwest decided him to extend his right flank so as not to lose contact with the First Army. Later information indicated that the Third Army would not be in position to assist him so he decided to cross the Oise to the south, contracting the left on the center. Finally, on the information of a single air observer, he decided to push forward all along the line. Four distinct intentions in twenty-four hours, all based on the assumed intention of the French to continue the retreat! A rapidly moving problem for the French intelligence section had it been trying to deduce his probable intention!
On the French side, General Lanrezac had decided, to retire the 26th to the line: Ribemont - Marle – Montcornet when he received an order to counterattack his pursuers to the north. Further orders directed his counterattack toward the northwest. Three distinct intentions in twenty-four hours. One chance in three that the German Intelligence sections would guess the maneuver actually executed!
The inevitable result was that the Germans were utterly surprised by the French making a stand and opposing their pursuit. Thus we see that no matter how accurately any given intention may be guessed, and the word guessed is used advisedly, it indicates little of what the actual maneuver will be.
The Method of Enemy Possibilities.
The method of enemy possibilities, reduced to a practical basis, consists in setting up hypotheses so that:
1. Every possible maneuver of the enemy which is capable of having a reaction on the plan of the commander will surely be included.
2. All the maneuvers grouped in the same hypothesis will have reactions of the same type on the plan of the commander.
The idea is not to guess at what the enemy wants to do, but to measure surely what he is capable of doing.
For example, on the French side, the German attack against the Fourth Army on July 15, 1918, was a model of building up from information received what the enemy could do and making preparations thereagainst. The deductions culminated in an effective artillery counterpreparation against the massed assaulting troops which defeated the attack almost before it was launched. The two methods may be summed up thus: the method of intentions guesses; the method of capabilities enumerates.
Building up the enemy situation. Securing data and drawing conclusions.
Large units are interested in types of information of a more general nature than are small units and, as the conception of a maneuver grows into its completed form, the information necessary becomes more and more precise. Thus we may start with a General Plan of Information corresponding to the generalities of the situation and a general knowledge of the enemy. Then for the project under consideration, we may evolve a Plan of Particular Information more specific in its details. The titles are unimportant.
The important thing is that the search for information be so guided as to produce the desired knowledge. For this, the two or three questions to which the commander must, know the answers in order to plan his maneuver are communicated to the staff in order that the facts which will build up the answers may be discovered.
The Intelligence Staff, working from these questions, allots to the Collecting agencies, each according to its capabilities, the various tasks involved.
A table is a convenient method. Column 1 contains the general questions; Column 2 contains the specific questions to be answered by each agency; Column 3 indicates the agency responsible for each answer and Column 4 gives the particular details as to hours of reports, areas, routes end similar incidentals. The use of this form has a double advantage in that it not only provides a convenient substructure for the writing of orders, but it also furnishes a handy and accurate check to see that nothing has been omitted.
Information collected item by item, is usually not usable as such, but must be studied, evaluated and verified before it becomes military intelligence. This is a. function of the G-2 section, which receives its data from all the collecting sources.
The article proceeds with a description of the methods to be employed by all agencies, Including combat troops, in gathering information and a discussion of the use of advanced intelligence centers of which the author does not approve. The prompt dissemination of intelligence is accomplished through bulletins, reports and sketches. The point is brought out that the value of intelligence sketches is frequently underestimated.
In conclusion, the author reverts to the principal role of a commander, that of making decisions. The factors involved in making a decision must necessarily include those introduced by the enemy opposition. Therefore, the more accurately the commander can calculate the enemy capabilities, the more certain he is of being able to make decisions which will lead to success.
(1) This article, except for its historical examples, deals with opinion not fact. It brings under discussion the relative values of the method of probable intentions and the method of enemy capabilities and by logical methods clearly establishes the superiority of the method of enemy capabilities.
I believe it to be of great value, for, wither or not the reader is entirely convinced of the principles set forth therein, it stimulates in his mind a comparison on to the values of the two methods.
(2) Although the subject matter is of primary interest to the G-2 section in its Military Intelligence Course, both the Command Section and the G-3 Section would also find it of interest and value.
(3) This article, in its various parts, should be of useful application, not only in the Military Intelligence Course, but directly or indirectly, in connection with any courses in which the making of decisions are involved, largely on account of the valuable methods which it outlines for the process of arriving at decisions. It contains ideas of value which, to my mind, are well worth incorporating in our present system for the Estimate of the Situation.
The fact that knowledge of the enemy is a factor of success in war is so well proved that no one would dare to deny it seriously. There are still too many, however, who, in spite of the evidence, maintain that this knowledge of the enemy cannot be acquired except by long and difficult research - so long and difficult that the information obtained is almost never of use when it arrives, often incomplete, sometimes false, and that it is just as likely to deceive us as to inform us. They add, moreover, that with the use of rapid means of transportation and the common employment of night movements, the difficulty of getting information in time for it to be used with certainty and precision increases to a pure impossibility. Numerous also are these who are still haunted by the memory of certain notable errors attributed – oftentimes wrongly - to certain G-2 sections, during the war or previous to the war, accused of having misled either the commander or the subordinates. Certain knowing ones, real or so-called, cite Napoleon who said once that "It needs an army to reconnoitre an army" from which it would logically follow that we are already conqueror or vanquished by the time that we have received our full information. All these, no matter how convinced they may be of the interest, which is theoretically attached to knowledge of the enemy, are resigned in advance to do without it, because they are persuaded that, practically, it is impossible to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the enemy in time to make use of it. They would fight, then, somewhat after the manner of a blind man, learning the ground over which he is advancing through the end of his cane and striking wildly with the same cane each obstacle against which he tumbles, or which bumps into him.
Do we not see examples of this in numerous exercises?
We march along in the given direction studying very carefully the terrain which will lend itself here to the offensive, there to the defensive, etc., and then we bump into an enemy who manifests himself by a continuous firing line. From then on, it is only a question of applying the procedures which have been well catalogued since the last war. The succession of phases, of bounds and of times, is regulated; the dosages are known, the formulas approved. It is no more then a question of mechanics. The blind man repeats the lesson learned - taught him by his cane.
We think that there is, in a disparaging appreciation of the results obtained by reconnaissance, a manifest exaggeration and in the tactical methods, which are the consequence thereof, an evident danger. If reconnaissance requires sometimes a long tine, that means simply that it should be foreseen, organized, and set in motion well before the time when we will have need of its results. If it is often difficult, that involves as a consequence, that its organization ought to be highly developed and that it is necessary to devote the necessary effort to it. If the results established by the reconnaissance give only an incomplete conception of the enemy situation, it is because they are not numerous enough and because it is necessary to increase the reconnaissance to obtain additional facts. If the reconstruction of the enemy situation is erroneous, it is because an imaginative interpretation has deformed the information. Imagination should be inexorably excluded from interpretation.
So far as the rapidity of transportation, which motorization now permits is concerned, it has not brought any serious modifications to the problem of intelligence. The organization of motorized units and the progress realized by aviation, utilize to the profit of reconnaissance the same advantages which motorization has placed at the service of secrecy. One compensates the other. The common use of night movements is only an insufficient palliative to escape aerial observation. Even camouflage, with which we may deceive our poor human eyes, is more often then not powerless before scientific procedure. Between reconnaissance and camouflage the battle will continue as it has for centuries, between the means of offense and the means of defense. So long as the Olympian mother of Eneas has not revealed to us the secret of the cloud, invisible to simple mortals, with which she concealed her son from mortal regard, the manifestations of man will not cease to be in some way perceptible to man.
The Napoleonic quip? If Napoleon himself believed it, why then did he take so much care to obtain information? We will see later that he did not await for his information until the battle was gained or lost, and that the consideration of the enemy always has a place in his idea. At times, he succumbed to superior numbers of the enemy, but we do not know of an example in which he was ever really surprised. He knew how to make use of intelligence - which is some thing that those to whom information is furnished, do not always know how to do.
On this point, we agree entirely with the adversaries of intelligence.
If the intelligence furnished to the commander is going to be interpreted, deformed, twisted out of shape by him, or by his immediate subordinates, to transform it into an uncertain factor, sometimes flatly contradictory to the reality - and we will see some examples of this - or to extract from it problematical knowledge of the projects of the enemy, it is better that the commander should not receive any information. Not only in effect does this deformed information expose him to surprises full of catastrophe, but the habit of trying to oppose the projects of the enemy - supposed to be known - draws him little by little, and this is more serious, to subordinate his own projects to them. He subordinates his will to that of the enemy.
How then should intelligence be utilized, and how, in consequence, should reconnaissance, study and interpretation of intelligence be organized? That is what we have tried to outline in this essay, which is almost entirely theoretical.
We have tried to make this theory less arid by sowing in it several wartime examples. We know that it would be more attractive if it were presented by an application to a concrete case setting up all the documents which normally bear the stamp of the G-2 section. Such a study has been prepared for a
long time, but would it not be exhibiting to everyone the inconvenience inherent to tables, models and schemes, which are so favorable to indolence of mind?
The action of a large unit is only the resultant of the particular actions of the elements which enter into the composition of this unit. The action of a division, for example, is only the resultant of the individual actions of its regiments of infantry, of a certain number of battalions of artillery, of companies of tanks etc. This resultant is variable in its form and in its effects, as the particular actions which compose it and the methods of combination, to make the actions mutually supporting, are themselves variable.
Defining what these particular actions should be, outlining how they should combine among themselves, to constitute the resultant desired by the commander, is the principal role of the commander because that is the object of his decision.
The commander cannot choose the action, which is a combination of the efforts of his subordinates, by chance; it has to be such that, from its execution, pursued in spite of the opposing efforts of the enemy, it will result in the accomplishment of the mission which has been entrusted to him.
The discovering in his imagination of the combination of efforts, which will give this result - the mission fulfilled in spite of the enemy - that is the purely intellectual operation which our regulations call "the conception" and which is the personal labor of the commander. The decision is only the translation of the conception.
The Factors In the Conception.
The conception presents itself to the commander as a sort of problem in which the given quantities are never identical because in war the same situation never reproduces iself exactly. These given quantities, which are never identical, are always of the same nature. They can always be grouped under the three following titles:
1. Mission assigned by superior authority.
2. Our own possibilities; possible value of the efforts which it is a question of combining, account being taken of the circumstances under which they will be exercised.
3. Enemy possibilities; the means which the enemy will have to oppose - account being taken of the same circumstances - to the setting in motion of our own possibilities.
Character common to these three factors
These three factors are all essential. For example:
1. If the mission to be fulfilled has not been defined for the commander of the unit he will not know, except by chance, how to take action following his inspiration of the moment. Accordingly, the large unit which he commands being a part of a larger unity, it would be an exceptional piece of good fortune if the action which he orders should combine with the actions of the other large units to produce precisely the action desired by the commander of the superior unit. In short, this latter action would not be realized.
2. If the commander has no idea of the efforts which he can demand of his subordinates it will be very difficult for him to organize the combination of these efforts.
3. If the commander in his conception, does not foresee how the enemy can oppose the various combinations by means of which he expects to carry out his mission, the number of these combinations which are acceptable being generally considerable, the problem will be in a way indeterminate and the commander would be exposed to adopting a maneuver which en expected disposition of the enemy might turn into a disaster. The commander who has neglected in his conception any one of the three essential factors would be comparable to the geometrician who is trying to solve a triangle with only two elements given.
Of these three factor's, the first - the mission - is an absolute factor which is not susceptible of any modification on the part of him who receives it. It is realizable by definition because if it were not, that would prove that the superior authority was wrong in its own conception. It ought to be realized in spite of everything because if it is not, it might cause the ruin of the maneuver conceived by the commander.
The two other factors: our possibilities and the enemy possibilities are subjects for estimation and are scarcely ever known exactly especially the latter. In spite of this Imperfect knowledge of their value the commander has to determine how he will exercise his own capabilities to attain the end assigned by his mission, no matter what use the enemy may make of his powers.
Requirements of a proper conception
The pretention of trying to apply a mathematical method to the solution of such a problem is evidently absurd. It is not falling into this error at this point to state, however, that according as the commander has the proper qualities of imagination, his conception will lead him certainly to the desired end if he has used as a base in his mental calculations his own possibilities which he is sure have not been exaggerated and the enemy possibilities which he is certain he has not underestimated.
If these certainties are lacking the result of the maneuver which he conceives will remain doubtful to the extent to which he has based it upon uncertainties.
Reasons why the factors are thus grouped
If this grouping of the factors of the problem, which combines them into three headings only, varies somewhat from the usual grouping of our regulations, it is because it offers the advantage of not dispersing the attention over too many objects at once and of putting each thing in its place. In particular, the circumstantial factors (terrain, temperature, etc.) will be studied in their proper place and there will be no temptation to attribute to them, as is seen too often, an absolute value which they do not have. They will enter into the conception only - but often, it is true, in a very important way, - by the modifications, which they introduce into the possibilities of action of one or the other of the two adversaries. The "tyranny of the terrain" for example, may be considerable in any given case. It is always relative; an obstacle has value only insofar as it is exploited by the defender; the best road net is of interest only as it is of use to the attacker.
The factors being thus determined, one will not be tempted for example, to dispatch a column of cavalry into a region occupied by the enemy, for the sole reasons that he will thereby use a good road unless this cavalry will be in position the next morning to fulfill its mission. There will not occur, as has happened in the past, the assigning of several divisions to attack an accident of the terrain, which the enemy rightly or wrongly is riot occupying. The long stabilization of fronts during the last war, has led us to consider the question of the terrain to the exclusion of the enemy. This habit is not peculiar to the French. It existed also among our enemies because it was, in a way, in the logic of things. The enemy was everywhere, he defended everywhere with the same stubbornness; it was therefore a uniform factor always identical, a constant which did not have to be examined further. All the attention then was placed on the study of the principle circumstance, the terrain. There remains only to be said that one of the most severe lessons of the war was the one administered the fifteenth of July 1918 to Ludendorff for having initiated an attack, not against the enemy, but against the trenches, which the enemy had evacuated.
We can now consider that when we attack lines of trenches, woods, organized villages, as the orders say, it is not in reality these trenches, these woods, these villages which we are attacking, but the enemy - the enemy, who is utilizing them to augment his capacity for defence. If there is no enemy, the circumstantial factor of terrain, like a coefficient, is, as far as the enemy possibilities are concerned, to be multiplied by zero and the product is zero. All the combinations, which can be imagined for its employment with reference to our possibilities, are valuable. No trench, no organization, no obstacle will prevent an attacker from passing if the enemy is not there to oppose him. In the inverse sense, if there is an enemy, it would be an error to believe that recipes, formulas or procedures will be found which will permit conceiving a maneuver capable of leading to the desired end without having to worry about the possibilities of this enemy. If the enemy takes in the maneuver a place which the commander has not foreseen in his conception, it becomes a surprise with its train of catastrophes.
The following examples of the 40th Division on August 21, 1914, the maneuver of Ludendorff of July 15, 1918 and that foreseen by Plan XVII have no other end in view but to emphasize, by placing before the Division, the army and GHQ, the evidence of this proposition.
The 40th Division, August 22, 1914.
(As Colonel Etienne, from whom we have borrowed largely what follows, wrote in the Infantry Review (Vol. 68, page 259) "there is no idea here of criticizing either the commanders or the troops who did their best according to the ideas of that epoch.” It would be truly regrettable however, inasmuch as the events permit bringing to light what there is dangerously false in certain of these ideas, that personal consideration should force us to leave undiscussed errors, the knowledge of which may be capable of preventing some day new misfortunes.)
August 21 in the evening the 40th Division, arriving from the south, went into bivouac as indicated in Sketch No. 1.
SKETCH 1. 43d Division, 22 August 1914
Command Post: Bouligny.
79th Brigade, Staff and one battalion of the 155th at Bouligny.
Two battalions of the 155th at Affleville.
154th at Dommary, Baroncourt.
80th Brigade, Joudrevllle, Norroy-le-Sec, Pienne,
Divisional Cavalry squadron at Norroy-le-Sec.
Outposts on the line Bertrameix - Hill 316 (northeast of Mainvllle)- Norroy-le-Sec - Hill 286 (east of Affleville).
It was echeloned to the south of the 42nd Division, which had its outposts on the line: Mercy-le-Bas - Boudrezy - Higny.
It had behind it the 54th Reserve Division, with which its outposts connected in the woods northeast of Gondrecourt.
With the 12th and 42nd Division it constituted the 6th Army Corps which belonged to the Third Army. The 54th Reserve Division was part of a group of reserve divisions.
The Mission of August 22
August 22, the Third Army was to continue the march of August 21 toward the north. The 6th Corps was to place the 12th Division at Cosne to outflank the position of Differdange and the 42nd Division on the front Mexy - Villers-la-Montagne to mask this position. The 40th Division was to proceed to the vicinity of Pillieres and Mercy-le-Haut ready to counterattack any enemy coming out of Fontoy.
What information about the enemy did the General commanding the 40th Division have the evening of the 21st to plan his maneuver of the 22nd? The 40th Division had had no contact during the day of the 21st; none of his reconnaissance agencies therefore had been able to gather any important information. But in front of it, the 42nd had had contact since the beginning of its march the 21st, and the 19th Battalion of Chasseurs belonging to this Division had had north of Higny a very serious engagement (eleven officers, including four captains, three hundred chasseurs killed or wounded) in which artillery was used. This division and the 6th Army Corps knew then, the 21st, that the enemy had, as a minimum, some infantry (there had been identifications) supported by artillery, south of the Crusnes River. However, to read what the General commanding the 40th Division transmitted to his subordinates - his order for the day of the 22nd, it certainly seems that no one above him, or around him, took the trouble to give him any information. Was he himself concerned the 21st with finding out what was going on so near to him? We do not know, but his order is written as though he was ignorant of the engagement which the 42nd Division had had in the evening some five kilometres in advance of his own outposts and of which he had himself heard the artillery fire.
But what does the absence of enemy information mean! Cannot knowledge of tactics supply it? Everybody knows that in the army, the army corps, as in the division a large unit placed at the right of an attacking element spreads out toward the right, the cavalry reconnoitring in the same direction.
From whence, in the circumstance, this order:
6th Corps Bouligny, 22 August 1914.
(No hour indicated)
Operations Order for 22 August
I. The 6th Corps will proceed, 22 August, with one division to the north of Longwy - Aubange - Athus, with the aid of the 5th Corps, which operates, facing east, to the north of the road: Musson - Halanzy.
The 12th Division, leaving Beuveille marches on Cosnes with the mission of outflanking the position at Differdange where the enemy has heavy artillery.
The 42nd Division is to establish itself on the front Mexy - Villers-la-Hontagne to mask this position.
The 40th Division as a flank guard in the vicinity of: Fillieres - Mercy-le-Haut will be prepared to counterattack any enemy coming from Fontoy. Its advance guards will reach the line: Preutin - Xivry-Circourt.
Its right column will advance from Preutin on Mercy-le-Haut; its left column from Joppecourt on Fillieres.
II. The Execution of the Movement.
The 79th Brigade, with its three groups of artillery, will advance by way of Bouligny - Hill 309 (west of the woods Tresbolis) - Domprix on Xivry-Circourt. The artillery will take up, to the west of Domprix, a position in readiness facing to the east end will be passed through by the 2d Regiment of the 79th Brigade, which will continue on Xivry-Circourt under orders of the Brigade Commander commanding the left column marching from Xivry-Circourt on Fillieres.
The 79th Brigade will clear Boullgny at 3:15 AM.
The right column will be under the command of the Colonel commanding the 80th Brigade. A regiment of the 80th Brigade will proceed from Joudreville via Piennes and Landres on Preutin and will constitute the right column.
It will clear Joudreville at 3:15 AM.
The 2d Regiment will proceed via Piennes on Bertrameix, where it will be placed at 5:30 AM at the disposal of the Division Commander.
The company of engineers to be in reserve at Domprix at 5:30 AM.
Medical units will be parked at 5:50 AM to the west of Bouligny on the Landres Road.
The Cavalry will proceed to Murville and from there toward Malavillers to reconnoiter in the sector: Malavillers - Audun-le-Roman and Malavillers – Trleux.
III. The Division Commander will leave Bouligny at four o'clock en route to Domprix.
Command posts …..
IV. The 26th Battalion (Chasseurs) upon its arrival at Bouligny will proceed toward Bertrameix where it will receive new orders.
V. The 29th Battalion (Chasseurs) is placed at the disposition of the 7th Cavalry Division effective at 4:50 AM at Landres.
VI. The regimental trains and second section of the combat trains (baggage and rations) will leave camp after the departure of the troops and will park to the west of the railroad at Baroncourt …..
VII. The sick and wounded will be evacuated toward Billy-sous-Mangiennes.
It is possible that the dispositions, which would result from the execution of this order, can escape criticism.
How does it happen then, that he did not evade the catastrophe which was to follow? It is because consideration of the enemy, missing in the order, was absent from his mind. The traditional paragraph relative to information of the enemy is not there.
The word "enemy” itself it mentioned only in the mission assigned the division by the army corps - to counterattack any enemy from the direction of Fontoy. Just as though he could not come from any other direction than Fontoy! The conduct of the column commanders in case of meeting the enemy is not foreseen and those column commanders regain free to organize their security as they see fit. The role of the divisional cavalry squadron, the only agent capable of securing the information, which is indispensable to the conduct of the maneuver, is laid down in brief at the end of the order, after the missions for the engineer company, put in reserve, and the medical troops. It is true that it would have been necessary, in order to foresee the role of the divisional cavalry, that the maneuver which was to take place should be planned according to the various eventualities which might occur. What would be done if the enemy should attack the 42d Division in flank during its march to the north?
If, on the contrary, he should attack the 40th Division via Trieux or Audun-le-Roman? If he should attack in both directions at once? How was the position to be attacked if the enemy already occupied it or if he should arrive at the same tine as the division?
Why all these reflections? A formation is accomplished; a maneuver is not foreseen. If the enemy appears, one will act "according to the situation". There can actually be found in the course of our military history many examples in which such a disposition has perfectly fulfilled its role. Against an enemy who uses the same doctrine or a poorer one there is no reason why it should not fulfill it. Unfortunately, here, the enemy who was operating in the region was using another doctrine.
It will be sufficient to realize this merely to glance at the following German orders:
Forges d'Aumetz, 21 August,1914.
I. Division Order for 22 August.
1. The enemy has started his march from Spincourt on Longuyon with troops of all arms. On the roads farther east there are only detachments of a few battalions with some cavalry.
2. The Sixth Reserve Army Corps will be on 22 August near Hussigny to the east of Trieux.
3. The 34th Division on the line Aumetz – Ludelange will hold itself in readiness to advance.
The 86th Brigade will have its advance guard on the line: Errouville - Mines Reichsland (the Reichsland mines are eighteen hundred meters east of Beauvillers toward Bassonpierre Woods; 1/80,000 map.) At 7:00 AM its main body, the 2d Battalion 160th Pioneers, 3d Battalion 14th Uhlans, 69th Regiment, Field Artillery with light supply columns, in firing position.
The 68th Brigade with the 4th Battalion 14th Uhlans will march in two columns to the southeast and near the road: Ottange - Aumetz the head of the column to be near Aumetz at 6:30 AM.
On the flank the 70th Field Artillery with its light supply column on the above mentioned road, head of the column near Aumetz, then a battery of 100mm guns with the 33rd supply train, the 3rd Battalion 16th Pioneers and the 2d Medical Company.
4. The 14th Uhlans will reconnoitre in the direction indicated and toward Bolismont.
Signed: von Heynemann
22 August, 7:15 AM.
I. The Aumetz - Beuvillera Road.
1. The enemy is near Joppecourt - Mercy. Fillieres is not occupied by the enemy.
2. The 14th Uhlans will march on Fillieres.
3. The 30th and 173rd Regiment will take possession of the line: Serrouville - Beuvillers both inclusive. This line will not be passed pending further orders. Continuous liaison with the artillery.
4. The 34th Artillery Brigade will go into firing position behind the 86th Brigade. The 69th Regiment of Corps Artillery will support the 173rd Regiment of Infantry. The 70th Regiment of Corps Artillery will support the 30th Infantry.
5. Regiments will report when they have attained their objectives.
6. I will be with the 30th Regiment.
II. Hill 391, east of Serrouville, 10:00 AM.
1. Two enemy columns en-route toward Mercy-le-Haut, Ville-au-Montois. An enemy cavalry division south of Murvllle.
2. The Vth Reserve Corps will place itself with its left wing from Brehaln to Ville-au-Montois; the 33rd Infantry Division, with its right, wing from Sancy-le-Bas to Andreny.
3. The 34th Infantry Division will take possession of the line: Joppecourt - Mercy-le-Haut - Malavillers and will organize this line.
4. The 68th Infantry Brigade will place itself, via Fillieres, on the line Joppecourt (inclusive) – Boudrezy (exclusive). Execution to be at once. Two battalions, the 2nd and 3rd of the 145th will remain at my disposition north of Serrouville.
5. The 86th Infantry Brigade will proceed from the line: Serrouville - Beuvillers on the line: Boudrezy - Malavillers (inclusive).
6. The 14th Uhlans will cover the right flank of the division and maintain liaison with the left wing of the Vth Reserve Corps.
7. The 54th Field Artillery Brigade will support the advance of the Division with one group in the vicinity of Fillieres and the others in the zone of action of the 86th Infantry Brigade.
8. Command post of the 34th Infantry Division initially on Hill 391 (east of Serrouville).
These orders lend themselves perhaps, to certain criticisms. At least, the enemy therein is not considered as a negligible quantity and the maneuver organized is, in part, a function of what is known about him. With troops equally brave on either side events are the logical consequence of initial orders and the manner in which the action is conducted.
The Left Column 40th Division.
The leading Regiment, the 154th, after having repulsed the cavalry patrol and some infantry forces, passed Fillieres, but was attacked about 10:30 AM by infantry coming from the north (Morfontaine) and from the east (the woods) supported by heavy artillery fire coming also from the north and from the east. The 154th, the objective of these attacks, was poorly supported by the artillery in spite of two efforts of this arm engaged on terrain and under conditions which were unfavorable, and was forced to fall back toward noon on Joppecourt, after having suffered, heavy losses. The 2nd Battalion of the 154th had all of its officers put out of action.
The possibility of this combined action of the enemy in the vicinity of Fillieres had not been foreseen, or at least the means of meeting it had not been planned. The maneuver, accordingly, was improvised under enemy fire.
As to the 155th, it was engaged almost in its entirety more to the west in the vicinity of Fille-au-Montois to support the action of the 42nd Division which had been attacked all the morning, almost as it came out of its bivouac area. Still another improvised maneuver to meet unforeseen events and which had no better success then that of the 154th.
After an heroic battle, against very much superior forces, the 155th retreated and we find it at night on the road: Saint-Supplet Noulllon-Pont.
On the right the 40th Division in the beginning took advantage of a fortunate chance. The 29th Battalion (Chasseurs) support of the 7th Cavalry Division, and on whose action the 40th Infantry Division had not counted, was scattered by the cavalry. It took position on the line: Malavillers – Anderny where it covered the 40th Division on its right flank. There it barred the road to the attacks of the 33rd Prussian Division.
Although without artillery support, it opposed a vigorous resistance to the enemy but toward noon it had to retire before the attack of superior forces and the danger of an envelopment which developed on its right flank. At 2 PM we find it at Xivry-Circourt having lost one hundred and seventy men. Its retirement left open a gap at Malavillers and uncovered the 80th Brigade which was now in the vicinity of Mercy-le-Haut.
About twelve o'clock the enemy artillery bombarded the village, which was attacked at 2 PM by columns of the 34th German Division coming out of the Communal Woods to the north of the road: Mercy-le-Haut - Malavillers. The 80th Brigade opposed a most energetic resistance to this attack, but threatened with an envelopment on the south it had soon to abandon the village of Mercy-le-Haut, its principle point of resistance, in order to retire toward the west. About 5 PM in a vigorously led counterattack it reentered the village. The 144th German Regiment of the 34th Division advanced without difficulty by way of Anderny and Murville toward Preutin and Higny and during the night entered Xivry-Circourt which was no longer occupied.
Retreat was necessary. The 80th Brigade also improvised its maneuver under enemy fire. The lack of a covering force on its right flank rendered its resistance in vain.
There remains only the 26th Battalion (Chasseurs) at Boudrezy. It was engaged toward 4:30 PM to permit our artillery to disengage and to stop the advance of the Germans coming to the attack from the Mare crest - Mercy-le-Haut debouching from the woods of Grand-Rimont. This counterattack was very vigorously led, as on a maneuver field, reports Colonel Etienne. It succeeded in reacting for a moment the southern border of the woods but could not remain there. The artillery nevertheless, profited fry this to disengage itself.
At 6:00 PM the 26th Battalion to the southwest of Chanois farm again protected the withdrawal of the artillery. At 7:30 PM it fell back on Xivry-Circourt where it was greeted by rifle fire from the enemy who had burned the village. It lost twelve officers and five hundred men. Toward 6:30 PM the General gave a verbal order to retire behind the Othain, an order which was, it is said, transformed in passing from mouth to ear as a retreat on Etain., The battle was finished. The bravery of the executing troops, the energy and decision of the commanders prevented it from turning into a disaster.
However, the penalty was severe. The morning of the 22nd the 40th Division, one of the best in the entire French Army, came out of the region Piennes - Bouligny to establish itself as a flank guard in the vicinity
of Fillieres and Mercy-le-Haut some fifteen kilometres farther north. Everyone was full of enthusiasm, confident of succeed indifferent to the enemy but they found that they were engaged everywhere under unfavorable conditions, that they had to deploy everywhere under enemy fire, fighting one against two without artillery support against infantry well supported by artillery and they found themselves outflanked, enveloped, their retreat cut off, when by superhuman efforts they thought they had finally re-established the situation. And they found themselves the next day, after an exhausting night of retreat, at Billy-sous-Mangiennes twenty-five kilometers farther to the south, where the orders for the 22nd had foreseen that the sick and wounded would be evacuated. And In what a state!
It is painful to keep on after evoking such a series of events, but the 40th Division spilled so much blood this day, that we should seek to lose nothing of the lessons which its example can furnish us. It fought well and did not fail to live up to what was expected of it in the way of courage, the will to win, or the spirit of sacrifice. The impression that may be drawn from its action is that everyone got out of it as well as the circumstances permitted. It not really a case of speaking of the action of a division, organized and led by its commander, bit only of local actions without coordination. It is necessary in order to organize and lead such an action, to see it as a function of the various hypotheses which can be foreseen as to the enemy action.
It is only when this work has been done, that we can speak of taking action according to the situation, that is to say, according as such or such hypothesis already foreseen becomes a reality and we can meet it immediately, in consequence, with an organized maneuver. Can we say in this case that there was a certain intellectual laziness on the part of the command function? Nothing would be more false. There was perhaps, on the contrary, too deep a knowledge of mechanics and a blind confidence, in formulas. The order of the 40th Division on August 22nd sounds like a veritable act of faith. It marks a blind confidence in a disposition which would always permit, is such a circumstance, attaining the desired end whatever the enemy might do. It lowers the art of war to the level of a trade in which one would have the greater finesse according as he had at his disposition a greater number of dispositions. This is an error. War is not a trade. To believe that there can exist a recipe for conquering, which will spare the Commander the indispensable intellectual effort, which he ought to furnish, and which will permit him to arrive at a logical conclusion without having considered the basis on which it must necessarily rest, is absurd. When this recipe, or this disposition has failed, it is vain to come invoking the superiority of the enemy, bad luck, the chance of battle.
Poor excuses for all of those who have not been able to foresee!
Even had the executing troops been more courageous this day, the 22nd of August, and that seems difficult, the enemy having taken in the maneuver a place, which the commander had not foreseen in his conception, It was inevitable that the Commander should be surprised.
The Maneuver of July 15, 1918 on the German Side.
The Germans had executed with equal success several attacks - that of Riga on the Russian front, that of March 21 on the English front, that of May 27 on the French front. These repeated successes further convinced Ludendorff of the correctness of the directives and the principles which he had himself cut forth as incorporated in an instruction dated June 9. The enemy each time had been surprised by the attack and destroyed simultaneously with his first position by a short and violent artillery preparation. He did not have time to bring up his reserves and the few elements which escaped destruction were encircled and captured by the second line units marching in trace of the attack divisions. The method is accordingly good, thought Ludendorff, because it has withstood several times with success the proof of experience. We have only to stick to it.
The results to be expected from it are all the surer and greater according as surprise is better. Ludendorff persuaded himself that it would be sufficient to obtain this surprise to remain calm and carefully avoid all manifestations capable of furnishing thy enemy any Indication whatsoever. There was accordingly, no offensive reconnaissance, not even a serious raid sent into our lines during the twenty days preceding the attack and the most minute precautions were taken in all units to maintain secrecy.
Here is, for example, ah extract of an order given by a Battalion Commander, whose unit was assembled in woods not far from the front, a short time before the attack. "All daylight movement is prohibited. It is forbidden to leave the woods. The lighting of fires is prohibited, rolling kitchens will not be used. No noise whatever will be made. It is likewise forbidden to use electric flashlights or to smoke." In short, secrecy took precedence over information. Concern over what the enemy would do was placed in second priority. There was, however, an hypothesis which Ludendorff might have foreseen - that of an enemy who, after all these attacks, executed in conformity to a single method, was able to determine what this method was and find an effective defence against it.
Would it not, be enough if he should change his defence method?
Ludendorff would place himself in vain in the same condition as prevailed in the previous experiences if the enemy on his side failed to respect these conditions. This idea does not seem to have occurred to him, but he may have been influenced by it because the precautions which he took to maintain secrecy may have furnished him the necessary feeling of confidence: he may have thought that before the enemy could apply a defense, he would have to have information of an attack.
However, on July 14, 1918 about eleven o'clock in the evening, one or two hours before the hour chosen by Ludendorff to start his preparation, the Fourth French Army opened the artillery duel. It laid down its counter preparation before the preparation was started. It was not surprised.
Accordingly the morning of the 15th of July, when the German Army advanced over the terrain, which it had just ploughed up with its shells, it did not run into an adversary half dead of shock and more than half destroyed because it was not upon the enemy, bat upon trenches without defenders that ho had poured the tons of munitions accumulated to prepare his attack. The adversary drawn back to a position further in the rear, pinned the assailant down with all his fire, intact and well adjusted, to the terrain which he had just bombarded so uselessly.
The Warlord himself was there to enjoy the spectacle of the "Peace Thrust", to which he had been invited. The failure of the directives end the principles of the Chief of Staff, was proved totally and completely. The grand assault from which peace was to come showed itself to be a formidable setback of which Ludendorff with somewhat of clairvoyance was already able to calculate the terrible consequences. The surprise surpassed the deception because he, who expected to achieve surprise, was himself surprised.
The result is perfectly logical because he only is surprised who neglects to inform himself. A deep reconnaissance into our lines the nights preceding the attack - a simple raid perhaps - without giving away the projects of Ludendorff, would have disclosed to him the trap into which he fell so clumsily.
He who neglects to inform himself, who does not consider the enemy possibilities as a basis for his conception, or who, like Ludendorff, accenting the change without realizing it, ends up by substituting in his conception the idea of terrain for that of the enemy.
The veneration which the memory of a man whom the victory of the Marne made so great, and an undeserved disgrace accepted with so much nobleness rendered still greater, might be belittled in the eyes of those whom he led to victory by sneaking of Plan XVII. Would it be any slur however, to this pious sentiment to point out a fundamental error of this plan?
In what measure may General Joffre be considered as the responsible author? The reading of the fine work of Lieutenant Colonel Fabry "Joffre and His Destiny" leaves considerable doubt on this subject. Whoever its author is, we can consider Plan XVII as being a direct issue of the harmful doctrines which were current at that time in the army by way of reaction, according to Colonel Fabry, against Lieutenant Colonel Foch and the instruction which he had given at the Ecole de Guerre.
It was no longer, as in the time when Lieutenant Colonel Foch was teaching, that the principles of war were sought in a profound study of the Napoleonic campaigns. It was in vain that the great master had written at St. Helena for the use of future strategists "A plan of campaign should have foreseen everything which the enemy can do, and should contain in itself the means of checkmating him.”
It was Moltke, Alvensleben, the offensive spirit, the German rashness and brutality, which should now be admired and imitated. It was understood that vigour and energy of execution should make up for all errors and reclaim all feebleness.
Accordingly - again the laziness of the human mind - of what value is the conception and why become involved in complex, questions about hypotheses of the enemy? Attracted by the violence of the straight blow, which was to be out maneuver, it could not help but come to pass that he would offer himself to our blows.
That the enemy might figure the same thing on his side, and that it might be us who would be attracted by his maneuver, in place of his being attracted by ours, that was a hypothesis which they refused to consider. In 1914 Napoleon was forgotten, even Moltke who still worried about knowing what the enemy was doing, was out of style. If anyone still thought of the enemy, it was to state that we would beat him. How? They are not too clear as to that, but we will beat him. The offensive, the will to win, the spirit of sacrifice are magic words on which all the world was intoxicated. Let those who have never been more or less led astray by them raise their hands. The directive which bears the name of Plan XVII is the result of this frame of mind. It was addressed on February 7 to the army commanders. We will consider only the first two paragraphs of it.
I. General Situation.
From information gathered and from comparative studies made, the conclusion is drawn that a large part of the German forces will apparently be concentrated on the common border. It is possibly that they will have crossed this border at certain points before our general intervention can take place.
II. Intention of the Commander in Chief.
In any case of necessity it is the intention of the commander in chief to use all the concentrated forces against the attack of the German forces. The intervention of the French armies will manifest itself in the form of two principal actions, developing as follows:
One to the right in the terrain between the forest masses of the Vosges and the Moselle the other side of Toul.
The other to the left, north of the line: Verdun - Metz.
These two actions will be closely connected by forces operating on the heights of the Meuse and in the Woevre.
Let us consider that paragraph I relative to the enemy would not have been different, even if the G-2 Section of the period had never studied the peace time stations of the German Army, nor the conditions of its mobilization, nor the possibilities of transport nor the detrainment from the German railroad system and if it had not made the slightest hypotheses upon the importance of the effectives which the adversary could put In the line, nor the nature of the projects which he night conceive, nor anything about the violation of Belgian neutrality.
It might even be thought that a suppression of the G-2 Section, if made around 1911, might have spared the General Staff some criticism. Was it not because of the studies presented by this G-2 Section that General de la Croix in 1908, envisaged different hypotheses on the foundation of Plan XVI and General Michel, in 1911, took account of the 40 to 42 Corps, active and reserve, which the German Army had at its disposal. What good were all these considerations with the doctrine in vogue?
Paragraph II of the Directive says, without mincing words: "in any case," that is to say, no matter what the enemy may be, what he does or may do - and consequently, Information? Hypotheses? Ail this is useless; we will attack with all our forces united. Certainly, but attack what? It says "the German forces" but the difficulties commence there because we know positively nothing of these forces and we have envisaged in respect to them a single and mediocre hypothesis. We are going to have to find something else to explain to the executing forces what they are supposed to do. Recourse is made to the usual artifice - substitution for the idea of the enemy, which is considered too movable, idea of the terrain. They feel on solid ground, there. From then on, it is written out in Paragraph II of the directive - the French Armies are no longer launched for the attack of the enemy - they are going to operate on various "terrains." Thus, right in Napoleon’s own country, there has been set up a plan of campaign in which what the enemy may do is not foreseen, except perhaps the maneuver which from his point of view would consist in engaging successively all his armies In the terrain which spreads out between the Vosges and the Moselle the other side of Toul.
In particular, a flanking movement by the Germans by the left bank of the Meuse was foreseen so little that the reconnaissance plan, annexed to the Directive, limited to the Meuse on the west, the transversal lines on which this reconnaissance was organized. It was, however, just this maneuver which the Germans were going to execute. Not having been foreseen it was accordingly a surprise, a strategic surprise with the catastrophic consequences which usually accompany such events.
It was logical that a plan not having foreseen what the enemy might do, should not contain in itself any means to counteract him and this plan was no exception to the rule. It was not the actions which were going to be developed in the terrain between the Vosges and the Moselle and to the north of the line: Verdun - Metz which would check this maneuver.
Not only experience,- we have proved that, alas - but the studies of before the war, possibly those aimed at in paragraph I of the directives, would have left nothing unknown of the check to which any French maneuver would have been exposed in the trap between Metz and Strasbourg. (Lieutenant Colonel Fabry in "Joffre and his Destiny” (p. 180 and 181) proves that the French General Staff foresaw the violation of Belgium by the German Armies. The plan, itself, unfortunately, takes no account of this bit of foresight nor of others mentioned in Colonel Fabry's document.)
When the information indicating the enemy maneuver on the left bank of the Meuse arrived at GHQ at the same tine as the actions were developing as foreseen by the plan it was perceived that the "in any case" of the directive was only an illusory defense. Something had to be improved in great haste and this was the attack in the Ardennes. This might have succeeded, up to the evening of the 13th when the first information disclosing that the maneuver of the enemy was on the left bank of the Meuse and that Plan XVII was a failure.
Right then Flan XVII ceased to be intact and the improvised attack having fallen through Plan XVII ceased to be of value. What an ending to its career. The invasion and four years of war which a great victory in 1914 might have spared us. Let us not forget any longer the Napoleonic precept oh plans of campaign: Take into consideration everything which the enemy can do.
The adherents of Plan XVII have maintained that its execution faithfully carried out might have brought us to success and that in this case, if it had succeeded, no one could help but admire the spirit of audacity and the desire for offensive action which it inspired. There remains only the following certainty to interest us here. If Plan XVII had foreseen the flanking maneuver of the enemy by the left bank of the Meuse and had contained in itself the means of foiling this maneuver, the French High Command would not have been surprised and would not have had to abandon its plan to parry this notion. The fall of Plan XVII carried down with it for a tine at least, the false doctrines on which it was based and was an appreciable benefit. "The real Joffre shoed himself the day of Charleroi" wrote Colonel Fabry. From then on, the consideration of the enemy was no longer neglected so far as the French was concerned.
On the contrary our enemy, blinded by his success, underestimated both the commanders and the troops and neglected in his considerations the essential hypotheses about the enemy and received on the Ourcq and the Marne the penalty merited by his faults.
These three examples - the maneuver of the 40th division, August 22, 1914; that of Ludendorff on July 15, 1918 and that of Plan XVII - have as their aim, showing to what a degree it is dangerous to neglect the idea of the enemy in the conception, especially at a time when one is the most confident in his bravery and his own strength. It is there - in the conception - that the idea of the enemy finds its piece, there that information, which is the basis of the enemy factor may be called upon to play a capital role. It is, however, an error, to attribute to this information a value of its own, the existence of which a superficies study of the Instructions for Large Units night lead one to believe. These instructions have made of information an element of security in this proposition of affirmative forms "Security rests upon information"... This proposition expresses a correct idea only If there is re-established everything which a regard for brevity, exaggerated perhaps, has suppressed. It is evident, for example, that our security will not be assured at all because we know that an enemy division was at 3:00 AM today fifteen kilometres east of our route for tomorrow. It will be assured by the eventual action of detachments specially constituted under the name of advance guards, flank guards, etc. It will rest upon the eventual action of these detachments and not directly on the information. The composition of these detachments will be determined and their action prescribed by the commander as a function of the enemy possibilities which a study of the information received has revealed to him.
It is a similar matter in case the Information permits us to establish that there is no possible Intervention of the enemy in a given direction. The security rests then upon the fact that there is no possible intervention of the enemy from this direction and not upon the information which permits us to recognize this impossibility. The information, examined by the commander, during his conception will be the base of the decision taken by him not to organize any special guard in this direction.
A subtle distinction? Perhaps. If it were clear in all minds there would be less imagining that information does not play a certain role except in security and security would be figured as the function of needs and not as en application of empirical formulas.
I. The notion of the enemy to be considered In the conception is a future Idea. If we consider the situation of the energy at a given moment it is evident that his possibilities, that is to say, the collection of different maneuvers which this same enemy can execute in a limited time starting from his present dispositions, are founded on this given situation. It is also evident that it is this group of maneuvers, on the one hand, end on the other, those which the commander is planning to execute himself which should be compared in the conception.
By this comparison he can determine that such and such a maneuver which he is planning cannot succeed if a certain possible intervention by the enemy occurs; that another maneuver exposes him to dangers whose gravity he can estimate; while another maneuver, on the contrary should give the desired result because arsons all the maneuvers which the enemy can make there is none which can oppose him with a reasonable chance of success. Accordingly it is not on, the one hand, the past situation of the enemy which the commander will be able to reconstruct with his information and, on the other hand, the future maneuver which the commander is planning which should be compared in the conception. This comparison to be of any value should be made to contemporaneous events both in the future because the maneuver under consideration is necessarily in the future.
This necessity for foreseeing the maneuvers of the enemy beyond the present la clearly indicated in the criticism of Napoleon on the method employed by the Austrian tacticians:
"Their plans," he wrote, "were based on reports which even if they had been correct at the times the plans were being made, ceased to be so the next day or two, that is to say, when these plane were to be executed." In this short sentence two cases are laid down on the subject of the reports which served as a basis for the Austrian plans. They were true or else they were false. It must be said that in both cases, even in the most favourable one in which the reports were true, the method of the Austrian tacticians was absurd. It was absurd because, false or true, insofar as facts were concerned at the time when the tacticians were making their plans, the reports ceased to correspond to facts at the time when the plans were to be executed. There is no doubt that so far as Napoleon was concerned the absurdity consisted in basing a plan directly upon a report, no matter how true it was at the time the plan was made. It is necessary to base a plan upon what may be true at the time the plan will be executed. The exact sense of this passage from Napoleon is still further illuminated if it is approached from what he has said elsewhere concerning the plan of campaign, namely that the commander should have foreseen everything which the enemy can do, because the foreseeing is applied to future events. We shall see later how Napoleon went about it to introduce this idea into his conception.
Later on Rüstow again insisted upon this idea of the absurdity of planning a maneuver without taking into consideration what the enemy will be able to do while the maneuver is being executed. He brought it out in the form of a demonstration of scientific interest which at least has the merit on crystallizing the idea and fixing it in the memory.
Let there be a regular curve Y pursued by a moving body which we may call M (the master) who is calling his dog D, who we will arbitrarily assume has the sane velocity as the master.
The dog starts toward M, But as time goes on, when he gets to D', the master is at M’, and he corrects his course toward M'. Similarly, at D" he goes toward M", etc. The mathematicians assert that in joining the points D, D', D" etc. a curve will be obtained which will approach the curve K, but will never reach it. This curve which they call an involute curve is representative, according to Rüstow, of one of the most important ideas in the entire art of war. "Every time", he says, somewhat disdainfully, "that a general lays his plans, in the execution of which a certain time will be consumed, without considering what the enemy can do in the claimed time he is ignoring the involute curve." Of what benefit are long discussions and scientific demonstrations of the subject?
Talleyrand expressed this idea in the following very convincing statement, "The idea of what is, would have very little importance if it did not contain in embryo the idea of what is to be." Even the child who plays at "Thumbs Up" understands this idea, although he does not express it.
The events of the day of August 22, 1914 furnished us only too many examples of maneuvers planned without taking into consideration what the enemy, about whom there was more or less information, might do during the day. It is not necessary to go very deeply into our post war exercises to find theses in which the Idea of what the enemy may do while the general is making his plans and getting ready to execute then is so lost to view that we might believe that these theses were prepared by Austrian generals of a past generation. When a position is attacked two or three days after machine guns have been spotted at A, A' and artillery at B, B', and which the enemy has in the meantime evacuated, it is no less ridiculous than the spectacle of the genera), who, lantern in hand, was looking for an army where he had left it the night before. Simile common sense - that of a child which has not been distorted – leads us, naturally to the opinion expressed by Rüstow and Napoleon. The Idea of what the enemy can do in the future must be examined in the conception of the plan.
II. This future idea has its base in the idea of the past situation of the enemy as reconstructed according to the information received.
It is nowhere else but in the past situation of the enemy, such as we are able to reconstruct it with the latest information received thereon, that we must look for this idea of what the enemy can do in the future which is what the commander needs for his conception. It is there, according to the expression of Talleyrand, that it is contained in embryo.
This enemy situation reconstructed with the latest information received is then at the base of all the work. It is evident that if we start with an uncertain base all the deductions derived therefore including the conception of the commander will be vitiated by this same uncertainty. Is it possible to construct from a past situation of the enemy, as recent as possible, a knowledge complete and sure enough so that the commander will have the certainty that, the possibilities which he will deduce from it will not Introduce any element of hazard into his conception? It is always possible on condition that he is willing to take the necessary measures to collect a large amount of information - the only means of reconstructing this situation in a manner sufficiently complete and if he is willing to sacrifice for the benefit of certainty, which is necessary to him a certain amount of precision which is not useful to him to the same degree. No matter how poorly he is informed it will always be possible for him to include the enemy situation within limitations which he knows will encompass it. Suppose, for example, that it is a question of the space wherein the enemy opposing him may be found. No matter how badly he may be informed on the subject, he has at least the absolute certainty that he is not where he is himself, nor is it where his reconnaissance patrols can circulate without finding a trace of the enemy. If he is certain, for example, that the maximum number of large units which the enemy can put in the field is 15 and that 10 of these are occupied in other regions, he can be certain that the immediate force is not greater than 5 of these large units.
It is also evident that the limits thus adopted large enough to be certain to contain the enemy situation differ from the real limits which will exactly contain it. It is also evident that the possibilities of the adversary calculated on these limits are superior to those which would be calculated on the real limits. The maneuver conceived by the commander, which will permit him to attain his mission in spite of the enemy putting into play the possibilities calculated on the large unit will fit in a fortiori with the more limited possibilities calculated on the real limits. It is easy to see that, according as the amount of sure information permits the approach of the adopted limits to the exact limits of the enemy situation, the number and importance of the enemy possibilities to be considered in the conception will decrease. A maneuver, the success of which appears doubtful when there is not sufficient information, will reveal itself as absolutely sure when the information becomes more precise. The commander will have then more freedom of mind to plan and more assurance if he has better information.
III. The two methods used to pass from the past idea to the future idea.
Practically everyone is agreed in theory on the necessity of passing from the base of the enemy situation, reconstructed by means of the last information received, to the future idea of what the enemy will do, which is necessary to the commander. It is this passage from the past idea to the future idea which causes oil the divergencies of method even though they concern themselves primarily with the determination of the past situation. These divergencies arise essentially because one system sacrifices certainty to the deceiving search for precision while the other, without underestimating the value of precision, refuses to depart from certainty. The first seeks to determine a priori among all the maneuvers which the enemy might make the one which he will execute.
It bases itself for this determination upon indications, or upon purely academic discussions which lead it to discover (?) what the present intention of the enemy is. The intention being thus discovered, they concede that the maneuver which he will execute will necessarily follow. It is this maneuver which will be used for the comparisons during the conception.
It constitutes in consequence a precise base, but one of an evident uncertainty. The following examples have as their aim to show clearly the dangers to which this uncertainty exposes the commander. The other method, departing from this line of thought, which if it were correct would bring man up to the level of God, because it would give him the knowledge of the great mystery of the future, limits itself, for lack of being able to do better, to grouping all the maneuvers which the enemy might execute, that is to say, all the enemy possibilities, using as a starting point the known situation, into a small number of wide and distinct hypotheses. These are the hypotheses which the commander will consider in his conception, thus being sure that no enemy possibility is loft out. His problem is not thereby simplified. On the contrary. He will, however, have discarded all the elements of chance which it is humanly possible to discard. It is convenient to make a distinction between the two methods by calling the first the method of intentions and the second the method of possibilities.
The following examples have as their aim the illustrating of the choice to be made between the two methods.
The Method of Intentions.
The Maneuvers of 16 August 1870 and 23 and 29 August 1914.
"Everything must be put to Its use, borrowing from each one according to what he has because it will all be useful; the stupidity and weakness of others may be Instruction to us and will serve to create a liking for the good and a dislike for evil," (Montaigne)
I. The German Maneuver of August 16, 1870.
(Extensive use has been made of the work “Conduct and Principles of War” by Marshal Foch.)
The situation and the status of information.
August 14, 1870 about 3:00 PM, some distance from Metz, in the region to the east of Borny, the First German Army ran into French forces. It engaged three complete divisions, two divisions of the I Corps and the 13th Division of the VII corps and very small detachments of a fourth division, the 18th Division of the IX Corps. The battle lasted five hours, from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM. No trophies were obtained, few prisoners were captured, no terrain was captured. Yet, on August 15, at 11:00 AM the French columns wore in retreat toward Metz along the entire front.
The Method of Intentions as Applied by Moltke.
Such are the material facts which constitute the basis upon which Moltke had to consider the question of the enemy. He had certain principles which made him one of the most adept in the method of Intentions. He writes; "It is necessary, in any particular circumstance, to recognize the situation as it presents itself, enveloped in doubt and unknown factors, then to judge sanely on what you see, guess at what you do not see, make a decision rapidly and act in accordance therewith without vacillation", He is going, then, to judge sanely - that is interpret the idea which he has et present of the enemy and derive almost instantaneously the future idea which he needs to conceive his maneuver, that is divine what he does not see.
Interpretation of the present and future idea are given in this case by the telegram sent at 11:00 AM August 15 from the heights of Flainville to Prince Frederick Charles, commanding the Second Army. "The French have been completely thrown back on Metz" - that is the interpretation - "and it is probable that now they are in full retreat on Verdun" - that is the future idea which he derives. (It might be possible to quibble over the word "future". "They ere," it is admitted, is present tense). Let me make myself plain. The present is only an instant which marks the passage from the past to the future.
For Moltke, the retreat on Verdun is certainly the future idea which arises from the past which was the throwing back on Metz. He is constrained grammatically to speak in the present inasmuch as this retreat is not yet completed.) The strategic surprise of August 16 is contained in embryo in these few lines.
How could Moltke have been led to write them?
In order to interpret, to judge sanely, he goes back, perhaps unconsciously, to facts based on a cause which he attributes to them arbitrarily solely on the pretext, that this cause is reasonable, without asking if there might not be another cause. He thinks that it would be truly absurd on the part of the enemy to have bitterly disputed the terrain for 5 hours on the 14th and then abandon it voluntarily on the 15th. Accordingly he is not doing it voluntarily but because he cannot do otherwise, it is because he has been forced back on Metz.
The hypothesis that the enemy has simply retired, either because he wished to, or because the enemy command had different ideas than his on the art of war, or because be had in view a maneuver from which he might expect better results - this hypothesis of a free decision on the part of the enemy does not appear to have occurred to him. He has given to a single one of these possible hypotheses, to the one which he thought the most reasonable, and which at the same time flatters most his own desire in the matter, the positive value of a certainty; "The French have been completely thrown back on Metz."
In order to pass from the fact, thus established to the future idea which was necessary for the conception of his maneuver - to divine what he did not know - he chose, among all the consequences which might occur, that which seemed most reasonable to him, and there we have a pure application of the method of intentions. In effect, if he put himself in thought in the place of his adversary that is thrown back on Metz, what would he do? What would his intention be? To remain under the walls of the fortification? Absurd. The A B C of tactics: a field army should never immobilize itself in a fortification. Because the French army was beaten - he made formal report of this the 15th at 6:00 PM - and because it ought not to stay at Metz, it was going to retreat toward the region which was not as yet threatened, toward the west evidently. It would not oblique toward the north, which would bring it dangerously near the frontier and take it farther away from Paris; it would not oblique toward the south because that would accomplish nothing.
It was going to retreat on Verdun. It would find there good crossings over the Meuse. Such then was the intention of Bazaine, thrown back on Metz. His movement must have commenced already because to wait would permit him to be bottled up in the fortress which would be absurd. Therefore, the French are already in full retreat on Verdun. Actually, he tempered his statement with a shade of probability: "It is probable," he wrote, "that they are now in full retreat." He put this probability so close to certainty that he did not hesitate to set up his maneuver on the positive factor that the French were in full retreat on Verdun. It was by a vigorous offensive of the Second Army that he counted on reaping the fruits of the victory.
(Instruction addressed to Prince Frederick-Charles from Herny at 6:30 E. August 15)
The same method applied by Prince Frederick-Charles. Frederick-Charles, commanding this Second Array, who reasoned like his chief, could be deceived. Since August 13, the date on which the bridge over the Moselle at Pont a Mousson fell intact into the hands of the Germans, the Headquarters of the Second Army were convinced, according to the historical record of this army, that the commander of the Army of the Rhine would not have the idea (or intention) of accenting battle behind the Moselle, in the vicinity of Metz. It seemed equally unlikely that the French should choose the plateau between the Moselle and the Meuse as the site for the decisive action. (Unfavorable for the action of a numerically inferior force). It was rather to be supposed that the commander of the enemy army would have the intention of adopting the solution which appeared the best at this time, namely of withdrawing the Army of the Rhine intact behind the Meuse as rapidly as possible. Once arrived there, he would have at his disposal plenty of routes to successfully gain the west of France and join forces with the other forces of the Empire. It was this which had to be prevented. It was not necessary that the Army of the Rhine reach the Argonne; on the contrary it was necessary to force it to oblique toward the north and thus be separated from the portions of the army which had retired directly toward the west. The best means for the Second Army to controvert the projects (or intentions) which were attributed to the enemy seeded to be to secure the crossings of the Meuse as soon as possible and to oblige the enemy, to continue his movement without turning in a direction parallel to this river. Thus Frederick-Charles and Moltke, both imbued with the sane doctrine are practically in accord in a sort of romance in which their adversary behaves according to their wishes.
There was no restrictive shade of probability in the order of the Second Army dated at Pont a Mousson at 7:00 PM August 15.
"Yesterday afternoon portions of the First Army attacked the enemy below Metz and forced him back on the fortifications. The French Army has commenced its retreat toward the Mouse. Beginning tomorrow the Second Army will follow the enemy in the direction of this river."
The movements ordered, in consequence, had as their object preventing the enemy from carrying out the projects attributed to him. They were going to cause the Second Army, which ran for the crossings of the Meuse before it had cleared the Moselle to divide itself the 16th in the following manner:
(See sketch No. 2)
SKETCH 2. The operations around metz, August, 1870
(a) On the left bank of the Moselle:
1. A croup of two army corps faced toward the northwest in the direction of Verdun or farther north.
- Ill Corps proceeding from Noveant on Mars-la-Tour.
X Corps proceeding from Pont-a-Mousson via Thiaucourt on Maizeray, Saint-Hilaire.
2. A group of two army corps faced toward the west and southwest on Saint-Mihiel and Commercy.
- The Guard on Rambucourt, Bernecourt;
- IV Corps oh Saizerais, Jaillon.
(b) On the right bank of the Moselle:
1. In the forward echelon, two army corps.
- IX approaching Sillegny, faced toward Noveant.
- XII proceeding on Pont-a-Mousson.
2. In the second echelon, one army corps.
- II Corps between Nied and Seille, with the heads of columns Bucy and Solgne.
The French army, actually, was not forced back on Metz.
It retired by order. It was all together, with more than five army corps grouped to the west of Metz, on the left bank of the Moselle. Its morale had been raised by the combat of the 14th, which it considered as a victory. It awaited only the signal of its commander to throw itself upon an adversary of whom it was not afraid. With its face to the south, its left protected by the fortifications of Metz and the Moselle, it had only in its front, for more than a day only two German army corps, The situation was less favorable at Dresden August 26, 1813, at the moment Napoleon arrived. He also faced south and the ravine of Plauen which separated the army of the Allies into two distinct masses was less of an obstacle than the Moselle.
However, about 9:00 AM, the III Prussian Corps (General von Alvensleben) ran into the French army and a violent battle ensued. At 11:00 AM, when the battle was in full height the army corps, other than the III were en route as follows:
The X Corps at a mean distance of 19 kllometers from the battle field.
The Guard Corps, double this distance, about 40 kilometers.
The IV Corps, at three times the distance, 55 kilometers.
The XII, IX, and II Corps in the second or third line more than a days march away.
The dispersion was complete. The fate of the III and X Corps lay in the enemy's hands.
Neither Frederick-Charles nor Moltke had the slightest suspicion of the imminent catastrophe; they were pursuing their dream to the point where at noon, while the battle had been raging for three hours on the plateau of Mars-la-Tour, Frederick-Charles issued a new order for the dispositions of the 17th:
The III Corps to proceed on Etain.
The X Corps to proceed to the south of Verdun,
The IX Corps to proceed on Mars-la-Tour.
And he foresaw, in this order, that, if, as was to be expected, there was no serious encounter with the enemy the 17th, the III Corps should proceed the 18th in the direction of Dieue-sur-Meuse.
The IX Corps in the direction of Genicourt.
Events had occurred as was to be expected. That is what is known as, divining what you do not see. The encounter of August 16 was a complete surprise to the German commander.
Such is the result produced by a method which permitted Moltke and Frederick-Charles to determine with precision, what was - supreme derision - the intention of a man, of whom it is still wondered if he had on intention but of whom it is known that if he had had an intention, it would have been exactly opposite to that which they thought they had determined. It is fate that it should be thus. Each of their deductions, no matter how sanely it was obtained, was but one hypothesis among several others which were equally possible. At each link in the chain of hypotheses the chances of error are multiplied. The result cannot help but be the quintessence of uncertainty.
This method is based on pride. To have the presumption to "recognize the situation as it presents itself, enveloped in fog and uncertainty, to judge sanely what one sees and to divine what one does not see" is it not having too good an opinion of oneself. As Montaigne says, "These people who see so far ahead into the future, annoy me greatly." He goes on to say, “Too good an opinion of ones self is the wet nurse of the most false opinions." It blinds one to realities, even to those which are not surrounded by the slightest ambiguity.
Thus, the afternoon of August 15, Frederick-Charles received the following information:
From the X Corps. A squadron of the 5tv Cavalry Division, after having bivouacked near Chambley, advanced in the direction of the Metz – Verdun road, toward Mars-la-Tour. At Rezonville it encountered infantry fire, A platoon proceeded to Bruville; this locality was occupied by enemy chasseurs. It observed small hostile infantry detachments on the road from Metz to Etain with numerous cavalry patrols in the intervals. Repulsed by the chasseurs it retired on Mars-la-Tour, but, this locality had just been occupied by the enemy.
From the X Corps at Thiaucourt 3:00 PM. An aide sent on reconnaissance during the afternoon on the right back of the Moselle in the direction of Metz found no enemy outside the fortifications. Accompanying this report of the X Corps a report from General von Rheinbaben as follows:
I arrived in the vicinity of Tronville at noon with five regiments and a battery; I ran into enemy cavalry and a superior force of artillery, which now is retiring on Metz. The light cavalry is at this moment drawing in toward the city. Bredow's brigade will probably join me presently. I intend to stay at Tronvllle or to advance in the direction of Metz. Liaison with the First Army has not yet been established
Tronville, 1:00 PM Rheinbaben.
Marshal Foch says that the certain facts deducible at 1:00 PM from this information were:
1. There was no enemy column marching on the road: Metz - Verdun by way of Mars-la-Tour to the west, of Tronville.
2. To the east of Tronville, some cavalry with strong artillery retiring toward Metz - the inverse of a march to the Meuse,
3. Rheinbaben, who was in contact expected to retrain in place or even to advance toward Metz.
The uncertain points were the possible movements of the enemy on the road: Metz - Verdun by way of Conflans. Bruville was occupied by chasseurs; small columns of infantry were marching on this road. It is certain, nevertheless, that they were far from having indications of the movement of an army of a strength of more than five corps.
Whoever hap the pretension to think that he has evaluated logically what he has seen, and has formed a conviction founded on the wisest reasoning of a general, has an opinion which has been made previous to the receipt of information and he will find confirmation in whatever other information may arrive; that is to say, he will interpret the new information in such a way as to establish this confirmation because he thinks he cannot be wrong.
(Marshal Foch, On the Conduct of War, page 303).
That is why Frederick-Charles, in spite of the information of the 15th persisted in his error for almost twenty-four hours more until 2:00 PM the 16th. Obstinacy in an error made, is the fruit of the pride which is at the base of the von Moltke method. Error itself, the mother of surprise, is a natural product of this method, just as weeds are the product of a poorly cultivated field.
However things turn out, error remains error. The lesson to be drawn from this example of the great German leader of 1870 is there. Nothing more remains to be said. This expose might rest there if it were not the proper place to warn against some of the dangerous lines of reasoning which were current before the war. Certain writers took the trouble at that time, using this same example to show that it was sufficient, if executing agencies like the commander of the III Corps, Alvensleben, imbued with an ardent offensive spirit, were present, to entirely reverse the situation. If followed then, and it was proved by this historical example, that vigor and energy in execution would make up for all errors and redeem all weaknesses. What did it matter what error von Moltke made, when he had an Alvensleben under his orders? A thousand times, No! It would be better never to open the page of a history than to study it thus. In each example which it presents to us, it is necessary to discover the bonds which link cause and consequence and to keep in mind that experience is a poor teach to use only when we lack reasoning power. Had Alvensleben been more audacious and a thousand times more aggressive, it was not in his power, as we have seen, to conduct himself in such a way that his commander would not have been authorized. Moreover, if he had acted more aggressively, his aggression would not only have been in vain but disastrous if the adversary, stronger them he, into whom he ran and who might also have been on the offensive, had been a better master of maneuver than he. If the Second German Army escaped the destiny toward which its leaders were conducting it, it was not because of the strong qualities of Alvensleben as a soldier, but solely due to the utter lack of ability on the part of the French, It is probable that, to employ another well known form of reasoning, that if Alvensleben had found before him a different adversary, the world, while admiring his courage would not have failed to blame his lack of skill.
II. The Method of Intentions and the Battle of Guise 28-29 August, 1914.
(Large extracts in this study have been taken from the work of Lieutenant Colonel Koeltz published by the Infantry Review, France, April to July 1927).
Sketch No. 3. The Second Army on August 27.
After the battle of Charleroi, the Second German Army, under General von Bülow, proceeded south west in pursuit of the Fifth French Army. The evening of the 27th it was located in the following order from west to east:
VII Corps; 14th Infantry Division at La Vallee-Mulatre.
X Reserve Corps; 2d Guard Division (Reserve), Wassigny;
19th Division (Reserve) Etreux.
X Army Corps; 19th Infantry, La Neuville-Dorengt; 20th Infantry Division, Lechelle.
Guard; 1st Division Buironfosse; 2d Division, la Capelle.
Behind his right, the cavalry corps of von Richthofen (5th Division of Cavalry and the Guard Cavalry Division was bivouacked in the area: Fesmy - le Sart - Catillon and behind him at Maroilles, the 13th Infantry Division, the second division of the VII Airy Corps which had left a mixed brigade before Maubeuge, At the right of the Second Army, the First Army (von Kluck), one days march in advance, had reached the line: Combles - Le Catelet - Joncourt. To the left of the Second Army the Third Army (von Hausen) is practically level with it on the front; Auvillers - Lechelle - Lonny but it is separated from it by a gap of at least 30 kilometers.
The few contacts made with the French and English rear guards had given no definite information of the enemy. Von Bülow, however, presumed that the British were in retreat in the direction of Saint-Quentin and he suspected the presence of the Fifth French Army behind the Oise, from Guise to Hirson.
The mission of the Second Army.
The High Command of the German Army had not sent any new orders since Charleroi but when the order of August 27 arrived, it did not surprise the Second Army which was already executing it. This order prescribed the pursuit of the retreating French in the direction of La Fere and Paris in the area bounded on the west by the line: Saint-Quentin - Jussy - Noyon - and the Oise (all exclusive) and on the east by the line: Vervins - Laon - Soissons - La Ferte-Milon (all inclusive).
The Conception of the Maneuver.
First Decision, 5:30 PM.
In this situation von Bülow had to give his orders for the next day. What should he do? Pursue? He believed that the French were behind the Oise, hence it would be a forced river crossing which his left corps would have to make. Ever since the Sambre, he knew that such an operation was costly. It would be infinitely more simple, it seemed to him, if he had the support of the Third Army. The Oise was no obstacle in the front of this army and it outflanked one by one the resistances which the French might oppose to him. The interval which separated him from the Third Army was unfortunately such that he could not count on its cooperation before the 29th and to accomplish this it would have to incline toward the west on the 28th. As a consequence, the four corps of the Second Army were to remain in bivouac the 28th in order to give the Third Army time to approach the Second. Report of this first decision was addressed to German GHQ by a radio message at 5:30 PM August 27.
The Second Decision, 8:30 PM.
However, from 5:30 on into the night there was still time for reflection. News had been received from the First Army indicating that this army which was going to continue its movement toward the southwest the day of the 28th would increase by another days march the lead which it had on the Second Army. Von Bülow wanted to await the Third Army to aid his own crossing of the Oise, but he did not want, because of the wait, to lose his contact with the First Army. Hence, the second decision at 8:30 PM, which was that the two corps on the right should make a short march toward the southwest, the two corps on the left to remain in their bivouacs. The order was written up accordingly.
Third Decision at 11:00 PM.
In the meantime more information arrived. First an intercepted radio from the Third Army to GHQ reporting at 8:50 PM that it would make its movement the next day, not to the southwest but to the southeast. There was no point then to waiting for his cooperation. Then at 10:00 PM a report from the Guard announcing that the outposts of the 2d Guard Division had been fired on with artillery fire at the close of the day at Froidestrees, that the entrance to Etreaupont was barricaded and that the heights to the south of Autreppe and Etreaupont were strongly held by the enemy. There was no other information from the rest of the front, but this was enough to confirm the contender of the Third Army that the French would oppose his passage of the Oise in force. It was necessary therefore, for the crossing of the Oise to set up an army operation with only his own resources. This operation could not be started without more precise information and it required, in any case a closer concentration of the two corps on the left toward the center of the arm. Hence the third decision at 11:00 PM.
The X Corps and the Guard to be ready at 8:00 AM between Iron and Buironfosse, to the north of Iron Creek, which would not be crossed until the formal order for the crossing was given by the army commander. The two corps on the right to gain as soon as possible the lines Saint-Quentin - Etaves (VII Corps) - Le Petit-Verly (X Reserve Corps).
The Fourth Decision, 9:00 AM 28 August.
The morning of the 28th, while the foregoing orders were being executed, the following information was received: First, the Third Army was to continue its march toward the southwest, its right in the direction of Rumigny and, second, the report of an air reconnaissance made the 27th between 7:00 and 8:00 PM, which gave the general impression of the enemy situation as, "In the valley of the Oise, there are only feeble rear guards." This report reversed completely the opinion which von Bülow had made of the enemy.
It was no longer a question, in his mind, of an enemy capable of defending himself behind the Oise, but of an enemy in full retreat. The cooperation of the Third Army was immaterial. Only weak rear guards, which he could overrun easily, could oppose the pursuit. Hence this fourth decision which was the object of the order dated at 9:00 AM August 28th, and completed toward noon by the Indication of the objectives to be reached at the end of the march.
The two corps on the right were to push through in a march to the line: Fluquieres – Grand-Serancourt - Urvilliers with on advance guard at this and Saint-Simon. The corps on the left to proceed as follows: Corps in two columns, via Guise, on Courjumelles and via Flavigny on Landifay to reach at the end of the march the vicinity of Ribemont - Chevresis; the Guard also in two columns, the right column via Wiege-Faty on Sains-Richaumont; the left column, no route prescribed.
From the above it will be seen that between 5:00 PM the 27th and 9:00 AM the 28th von Bülow had no less than four probable intentions.
1. 5:30 PM The Second Army was to remain in cantonments the 28th.
2. 8:30 PM The Second Army was to extend its right, to maintain contact with the First Army,
3. 11:00 PM The Second Army was to contract its left on its center.
4. 9:00 AM 28 August, Forward all along the line.
Of these four intentions, the first two were put into orders which were never executed, although one of them was put into a radio report to the High Command, The other two were executed.
A Hypothetical Application of the Probabilities to the above Incident.
Let us suppose that the G-2 Section of the French Fifth Army had attempted, the evening of the 27th and in the maneuver of the 28th to determine what the maneuver of the 20th was going to be or what von Bülow's intention to maneuver might be. On what indications could it base its opinion? It was not upon the dispositions of the German Army, which were unknown to it and which von Bülow himself did not know for the next day. It was not on the strength of having seen an enemy airplane over the valley of the Oise. It was not on the confused movements which our aviation might have caught the morning of the 28th to the north of the Iron and which were, moreover, of a deceiving nature. On the other hand, our radio intercept posts might have caught the message of 5:30 PM, in which von Bülow reported his intention not to move the 28th. The morning of the 28th, our aviation might have detected this indication of a defensive intention: the enemy was organizing a position north of the Iron, because trenches were dug in von Hutiers division (1st Division of the Guard). Now we have the intention of the enemy. He has given it away, and we can verify the first manifestations of its execution. Unfortunately, between dark and daylight, and without anything permitting us to foresee in this time, the repose in the bivouacs was transformed into great activity on the front of the whole Second Army. Nothing, it must be admitted, could have deceived us more completely as to the maneuver which was really going to be executed. Every operation based on the known intention of the enemy would have led us into a surprise. If there hade been other indications which would have permitted us to discover one or the other of the intentions of von Bülow, the maneuver based on this intention would have gone wrong twice out of four, since two out of four of his intentions were never carried out. We might just as well flip a coin. Fortunately General Lanrezac used other methods.
The Method of Intentions Applied to the Maneuver of the French Fifth Army.
If we examine the conditions of the example just cited, we must admit than von Bülow, irresolute, constantly at the beck and call of his neighbours, changing his mind four times in less than twenty-four hours, might be considered as an exceptional case. Let us remark, however, that von Hausen, just like von Bülov, executed a maneuver entirely different from that which he had planned and reported to GHQ. We shall see General Lanrezac pass in a perfectly normal manner from one intention to another twice in twenty-four hours.
The French Fifth Army the evening of the 27th and the Intentions of General Lanrezac.
Situation presumed the evening of August 27
SKETCH 4. Fifth Army, pm 27 Aug.
General Lanrezac knew that the French Fourth Army would withdraw its left towards Signy-l'Abbaye and that the English would retire on La Fere and Noyon, uncovering his left.
He estimated that the enemy whom he saw as in Sketch No. 2, could attack him after a brief delay with very much superior forces, Ho decided to retire the 28th to the line; Ribemont - Marle - Montcornet. The army corps had been informed of this first intention when General Lanrezac received the order to counterattack the troops pursuing him. He was preparing to execute this counter attack south of the Oise (second intention) facing the north, when he received from GHQ the directive that the counter attack should be directed against the German forces which were pursuing the British and in the direction of Saint-Quentin. Lanrezac made his dispositions to execute the change of front which would permit him to attack the 29th in the direction of Saint-Quentin (third intention). Hence, in almost the same lapse of time, we have seen von Bülow change three times from one intention to another and Lanrezac change from a retreat toward the south to a counterattack toward the north and from this to a counterattack toward the west. Suppose the G-2 Section of the Second German Army had received, or been able to receive, during the 27th, Indications or information of such a nature as to disclose one or the other of these intentions or so as to orient it on the maneuver which the enemy was going to execute. It seems, upon examination, oven more problematical than for the G-2 Section of the French Fifth Army. No intercepted radio here. The disposition, if it had been known, might have been open to criticism, but it is apparent that the last maneuver revealed would be that which actually took place - an attack toward the west.
A glance at sketch No. 4 permits seeing this immediately.
Von Bülow Applies the Method of Intentions to the Case of the Fifth French Army.
Von Bülow received information and treated it in the manner of von Moltke the Elder. He knows well how to deduce the enemy intention, The first information, that of the Guard the evening of the 27th: "The outposts of the 2d Cavalry Division have been cannonaded at Froidestrees, the northern entrance to Etreaupont is barricaded, the heights to the south of Autreppe and Etreaupont is barricaded, the heights to the south of Autreppe and Etreaupont seen to be strongly held by the enemy."
Bülow concluded from that, that the enemy was going to make a stand at the Oise - an intention. However, at the moment the information was known, the French Fifth Army still had the intention of retreating. The second information, that from the aviation the morning of the 28th: "only weak rear guards in the valley of the Oise." Von Bülow conduced from this an intention exactly contrary to the first. If the enemy, reasoned von Bülow, had the intention of disputing the crossing of the Oise, he would have something more on the river than weak rear guards, and if he did not want to take advantage of this obstacle to stop or slow down the pursuit, it was because he expected to nullify the effects of the pursuit by the rapidity of the retreat. This is exactly the line of reasoning employed by von Moltke on August 15. It led him to the same conclusion: "the enemy is already in full retreat." At the very moment when he was coming to this conclusion, the French army was making its dispositions for the attack in all haste. We see in consequence that there was not present the elements which would permit determining with certainty the intention of the enemy nor a fortiori the maneuver which he was going to execute. Von Bülow attempted it twice and twice he failed.
To sum up, inasmuch as there were on the French side, the 27th of August, three successive intentions of which two were not followed by any action, the maneuver which the enemy might have set up on any one of these intentions which might have come to his knowledge, had two chances out of three of being a failure. Had there been a greater number of intentions on the French side, the chances of failure for the Germans would have been even greater. The interpretations and discussions of von Bülow, as in the case of von Moltke, can give nothing more than a simple hypothesis which has no more chance of being transformed into reality, than other hypotheses utterly different. It is basing the maneuver on this hypothesis considered as a certainty, while in reality the contrary hypothesis is the one being carried out.
The Events of the 28th In the Second German Army.
He persisted in his error for more than twenty-four hours. In execution of the orders based on this erroneous conviction, which were issued at 9:00 AM and completed about noon:
His right corps, the VII and the X (Reserve) pursued their movement beyond Saint-Quentin to the designated objectives:
Fluquieres, Grand-Serancourt, Urvilliers and pushed forward their advance guards to Ham and Saint-Simon. They had only inconsequential contacts with some battalions of Territorials in formation. His left corps, on the contrary, encountered some resistance. In the X Corps, the 19th Division experienced serious difficulty in taking Guise and General von Emmich, commanding the X Corns estimated that he was opposed by superior forces and called the X Reserve Corps, uselessly, however, to his aid. The 19th Division exhausted itself in vain efforts during the afternoon trying to set a foothold on the heights to the south of Guise. The 20th Division, which did not succeed in (totting out of Flavigny, called to its aid the 1st Guard Division which was on its left. The latter took its time in intervening and when it was warned that a counterattack was in preparation against it retired to the north of the Oise.
The Guard Corps. So much time was lost in crossing the river that the regiments did not encounter any serious contact before nightfall. During the night, and for certain of them very late in the night, the troops of these two army corps went into bivouac, crowded into the bottoms along the Oise for the most part. The most advanced elements were not more than one or two
kilometers to the south of the river.
The Situation the Night of August 28-29.
The situations of the Second German Army and the French Fifth Army during the night of August 28 - 29, are shown on sketches No. 5 and No. 6 respectively.
SKETCH 5. Second German Army pm 28 Aug.
SKETCH 6. Fifth French Army, am 29 Aug.
When one knows how to evaluate what he sees and guess at what he does not see, there is no need for reports. Von Bülow required none and his subordinates did not undeceive him, inasmuch as he saw the situation not as it is indicated in Sketch No. 5 and No. 6, out only as indicated in Sketch No. 5, which was what his logical evaluation permitted him to divine. His error as far as his own troops were concerned is notable. It is complete insofar us the enemy is concerned.
A Conviction Stronger than Reality.
It is true that up to the time he submitted his report (false, it is true), to GHQ, he had had only one item of information from the commanding general of the X Corps, dated at 3:45 PM. General von Emmich was engaged south of the Oise, but he expected to reach by 9:00 PM the region of Ribemont - Chevresis and he asked for instructions to take the forts of La Fere, This report was perhaps reassuring enough In form. All the same this engagement at 3:45 PM to the south of Guise, only a few kilometres away from the vicinity which the X Corps had left more than six hours ago, should have occasioned some reflection on the part of the Army commander. Perhaps it did. For that, it would be necessary that he did not have an opinion already formed, and that his mind should be more occupied with the facts themselves then the circumstances which accompanied then.
Such was not the case. Von Bülow had his conviction already - the enemy was in full retreat. We know from having seen Frederick-Charles in a similar situation, that while judgment is overbalanced by prejudice, one cannot help turning and twisting events toward this bias. Von Bülow, animated by this conviction, sees only in the report which he received, an impression which is in accord with what he expected. His eyes are closed to everything else. As we have already indicated n the case of von Moltke and Frederick-Charles, this natural instinct of the mind to turn in the direction of its convictions, is a capital danger of this method. Inculcated with this false doctrine, von Bülow followed it without resistance. Because a pure discussion might lead him to the discovery of facts, he supplied what was lacking in the reports and ended up by reconstituting the situation as it appears in Sketch No. 5.
The Order of the 29th based on Conviction.
The actuation is such that he cannot possibly to overtake the French Army in its retreat. Accordingly he proceeded to the siege of La Fere. The order for the 29th said in substance: The Second Army will proceed tomorrow on the general line: Ham - Crecy-sur-Serre where it will dispose itself with a view to laying siege to La Fere. La Fere!
Just as Moltke and Frederick-Charles had said, "The Meuse".
A siege of La Fere. A piece abandoned which from the French point of view it was not intended to organize or defend. There was in the vicinity, a French Army comprising four army corps and a group of reserve divisions. It was ready to attack and this time it was not a Bazaine who commanded it. It remains to be seen what the result of this error was.
In the execution of this order the divisions were to reach, between 11:00 and 11:30 AM, the front: Essigny-le-Grand - Villers-le-Sec - Faucouzy – Marfontalne. Inasmuch as there was nothing to fear from an enemy who had fallen back so fast that he could not be overtaken there was not coordination, neither of movements nor of eventual actions of the various columns, nor even any sure liaison between them. At the left, for example, General von Plattenberg commanding the Guard, contented himself with giving itineraries to his two divisions which would form them in the zones indicated. General von Hutier, commanding the 1st Division of the Guard Corps, limited himself to prescribing that his brigades should be ready to march at 7:30 AM, since there was only three hours march between the valley of the Oise and Faucouzy - Marfontalne. On the right, the divisions took up the movement when they were ready, the 14th Division very early in the morning and the 19th Reserve Division not until 10:00 AM. This division did not attempt to establish liaison with the X Corps on the left and, inasmuch as it believed it to be in force on the other bank of the Oise, did not even have a flank guard on this side.
On his side General Lanrezac took up the following dispositions for the 29th: The Fifth Army was to attack the enemy columns in the direction of Saint-Quentin. This attack has to be executed by the XVIII Corps debouching from Rlbemont and Sery-les-Mezieres and by the III Corps debouching from Mont-d'Origny. It was to be covered on the left by the group of reserve divisions debouching from Moy and Hamegicourt toward Urvillieres, on the left by the X Corps which would prevent any crossing or the Oise above Guise. The I Corps was to march via Marle, to the vicinity of La Herle-la-Vieville ready either to support the attack or to assist the X Corps. The 4th Cavalry Division supported by the 51st Reserve Division in the region east of Vervine was to assure liaison with the Fourth Army and if opportunity offered to counterattack the German columns marching toward the south.
August 29 everything was calm at the headquarters of the Second Army at Etreux. It is true that there had been received the night before at 9:50 PM, after the order had gone out, a new report from the X Corps dated at 5:30 PM announcing that this corps had encountered resistance on the heights south of Guise and Flavigny, but the attack was progressing. As a matter of fact, the X Corps was not in possession of the heights before 6:00 PM, but it counted nevertheless on securing the line: Origny - Sainte-Benoite - Courjumelles - Landifay during the evening. Now more than ever a commander who put facts before convictions, would understand that it was not a weak rearguard which had presented the debouchment of the X Corps from Guise from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The conviction of von Bülow was so strong that the facts in the case entirely escaped him. There is only, he thought, a slight resistance, already foreseen, which is not of such a nature as to prevent fie divisions from reaching on the 29th, about 11:00 or 11:30 AM the prescribed line.
It would be sufficient if he arrived in person at Essigny-le-Grand, the contemplated command post, early in the afternoon in order to issue before night the last orders concerning the siege of La Fere. Shortly after noon he started out. It was nearly 1:00 PM when, arriving at the heights of Homblieres, firing broke out. Artillery fire both to the south and east made it appear that the affair might be serious. He stopped.
General von Bülow went up to the heights northeast of the village. There, he learned that the 19th Reserve Division, surprised about 11:00 AM while coming out of its bivouac area, had received a hard blow, that the X Reserve Corps, even though it had called to its assistance the 2d Reserve Division of the Guard, was holding on with difficulty before a strong French attack which was coming over the Oise on its left flank. "Where,” demanded von Bülow, "is the X Corps whose action should be making itself felt, and where is the Guard Corps, of which there is no news?" Then looking in the direction of Marcy he saw, marching toward the west and already very close a skirmish line... French. This time he understood. The Second Army was cut in two. Of the extent of the gap which separated it, he had no precise idea. The part on the right had received a blow which had broken it. It was commencing to weaken. Of the part on the left he knew nothing definite, but there was every to fear on the subject because it did not appear to have gone across the river. The force of the attack undergone by the Reserve Corps and the noise of the battle proved that a general attack by the French Army was in progress. To the Commander, the surprise was complete.
Marshal Foch, in his "Principles of War", condemned the error made by von Molthe when he based his maneuver of August 16 on what could be only a simple conviction; his condemnation holds good for the maneuver of von Bülow based in the same manner, The authority of the Master of 1918 has be invoked as well as that of Rüstow and Napoleon concerning the necessity for the commander to look beyond present circumstances.
It strengthens the lesson furnished by a careful study of the two maneuvers just related. Even in these, it would be enough to invoke the authority of plain common sense.
So long as the intention of the commander is only an intention, that is to say, a volition still in his mind and has not been indicated by any act, how can we discover it if he does not indicate it to us himself? Even in the case where the intention has demonstrated itself by some exterior manifestation, what is more changeable than an intention? Is even he who has formulated it certain that he can realize it? The method in question can have no other pretension than to lead us to the discovery of an intention of the adversary which is logical, if the reasons in the same way we do, end which if he adopts it will be realized, on condition that the men or the events which oftentimes depend neither on him nor on us do nothing to oppose it. From the point of view of reason and god sense that is not a sound basis on which to build a strong conviction.
Unfortunately, in the multitude of examples which the history of war offers us, it is not impossible to discover such and such a case in which what the enemy wanted to do, but also in which he actually carried out his intention. We might be tempted to find such an example in the maneuver of July 15, 1918.
We shall go further on what to think of it. A fortunate example, nevertheless, does not keep the method from being extremely dangerous. It offers to the commander who employs it as accurate a basis as he can desire, it permits him to add to the mass of anterior deductions any new deductions; it will introduce each time only a few chances of new errors. Necessarily, this basis is as uncertain as the number at which the roulette wheel will stop. The commander, who bases his maneuver on it, plays the most hazardous game of chance, and it is appalling to think that the stake may be the safety of the army or even the existence of the country.
Will this other method give us an infallible system of winning? No, because those who practice it do not think that war is a game and they intend, on the contrary, to cull out from chance everything which calculation makes possible. How then can we succeed with this method in introducing into the conception of the maneuver, in a manner which is usable practically, this Indispensable notion of what the enemy might do? Will it be necessary for the commander to balance two by two and successively each of the maneuvers which he has in mind against each of those which the enemy is in a situation to oppose to them? That would seem at first glance very difficult. Fortunately, if we look more closely, we will see quickly that the number of comparisons necessary is not as great as we thought at first.
a. We can say at once that it Is not necessary to examine in these comparisons the maneuvers of the enemy which even a summary examination of the circumstance in which he finds himself reveals as impossible; there may be obstacles which under certain conditions of times and means are really insurmountable; the presence of friendly troops in a given region may render impossible all surprise operations which have no other route of access.
b. We must consider moreover, that among all the maneuvers which the enemy can execute, the commander does not have to examine, at least immediately, those which are not opposed to his own. Accordingly, this is generally taken care of in his execution by conditions of time and space. It is therefore basic to discard from the calculations all the maneuvers of the enemy which would result in placing the enemy outside of these conditions of time and space.
In eliminating from his comparisons those maneuvers of the enemy which are impossible, or which cannot affect his own maneuver, the commander must always keep in mind the certainty of not having introduced into his conception any matter of chance. He must he certain, of course, that the eliminations made, are based only upon sure material factors and perfectly established calculations to the exclusion of all those considerations which have only the appearance of reason, and which we are sometimes surprised to find in serious treatises. In his "Testament of Count Schlieffen" for example, General Groener believes that there was no necessity for the Germans to concern themselves in 1914 with an enemy concentration on the front Verdun - Lille, for the reason that the enemy would thus find himself in the necessity of weakening his right wing in order to strengthen his left wing; the problem which in the inverse sense, was precisely that imposed on the Germans, but for which the Schlieffen plan had given a solution. “In war,” says General Groener, "great ideas such as those contained in the Schlieffen plan, no matter how simple they may appear, do not ordinarily occur at the same time to both sides. Only a real commander in chief, whose foreseeing mind is capable of such ideas, sees in advance what should and will arrive, as history shows us in numerous examples." (Major Dupont, Review of Artillery, Title 110, September 1932).
Here then is a good pupil of von Moltke, a great admirer of the spirit of "foreseeing", according to whose idea, there was not to be found in France anyone who could conceive of weakening the right flank to the profit of the left flank, because, simple as it may appear, there is in Germany a Schlieffen who is capable of it and because, to use a common expression, there cannot be another like him. What scarcity. And how surprised Groener would be if he should read the 1911 project of General Michel which contemplated precisely this reinforcement of the left flank at the expense of the right, and of which a German, General von Kühl was able to write: "There is no doubt that the displacement of the French concentration toward the north, such as General Michel proposed, would have been a great embarrassment for the German operations In 1914", (In short, the Michel plan foresaw a concentration of this form: 490,000 men covered by the I Army Corps from Lille to Avesnes; 280,000 men covered by the II Army Corps between Hirson and Rethel; 300,000 men on the defensive from Belfort to Montmedy supported by the fortifications of the East.)
Let us keep ourselves from these phantoms of reasoning dear to the adepts at divination, even when they accompany themselves with invocations to History, because History does not let itself be easily approached. How many commanders might have been able to cry out, the evening of a defeat: "Oh, History, how many crimes are committed in thy name?" Let us keep ourselves also from all those reasoning whose point of departure is one of those general statements which has only the appearance of truth. How many times have we not heard this exclamation, which is worth no more than the expression of Groener in spite of being its inverse: "The enemy, who reasons just as well as we do…?” In the first place, are you sure of it? Moreover, by what right do you agree to your own sufficiency, to a greater or lesser degree, than to that of your enemy? Do you see two commanders like Mack and Napoleon in 1805 judging his adversary and his projects each according to himself?
To act thus, is to follow the natural downward path to the idea of attributing to the enemy only projects which are believed reasonable, whereas they might appear to us as absurd if our judgment rested on the same bases as his. This is the German method, by means of which we risk neglecting certain possible maneuvers, which are all the more dangerous in that they have not been foreseen.
Melas, if he had foreseen a crossing of the Alps by the First Consul, would have decided that it was not reasonable to engage a whole army with its trains on a bad mountain trail.
The Bulgarians and their masters the Germans, certainly thought that an attack by Franchet D'Esperey through the mountains to the east of Tcherna would not be possible.
Melas, the Bulgarians and the Germans were surprised.
No, it matters little to the commander whether a maneuver of the enemy is stupid or reasonable. It is possible or it is impossible. If it is possible, it is merely a proposition of his measuring the effect which it may have on the maneuvers which he is planning.
The maneuvers of the enemy which the commander needs to consider, even limited to those which will have an effect on those which he is considering executing, may still be too numerous to lend themselves practically to the necessary comparisons.
Let us suppose however, that even if the commander were required to make the innumerable comparisons between the maneuvers which he has in mind, and all those which the enemy might oppose to them, he would not be long in seeing that these latter arrange themselves in several distinct groups, such that all the maneuvers comprised in a single group, would have upon the maneuvers he was planning, the same type of reaction.
Accordingly, this classification of the various enemy maneuvers into groups, such that all the maneuvers comprised in a group, would have a similar reaction upon the maneuvers which the commander is planning is entirely possible before hand; it is even easy to do. As soon as the grouping is made, the commander in working out his idea, will no longer have to compare the maneuvers which he is planning, with all the maneuvers which the enemy might make, but only with a small number of hypotheses with regard to the enemy.
These hypotheses will be chosen beforehand in such a manner as to fulfill these two conditions:
1. Every possible maneuver of the enemy, which is capable of having a reaction on the plan of the commander, will be surely included.
2. All the maneuvers, grouped in the same hypothesis, will have reactions of the same type on the plan of the commander.
This method is less easy to explain than to apply. But in the extract from the works of General Colin on the metamorphoses in the art of war which follows, the author, comparing this method, which is that of Napoleon to the method of Moltke, throws new light on the subject.
"Certain generals, before and after Napoleon, have sought to foresee the maneuvers which their adversaries would execute. They have worked hard at this labor of divination, trying to discover among the possible operations of the enemy, those which would be the most dangerous or the most probable. Napoleon, on the contrary, like Descartes, makes enumerations so complete that he can omit nothing, and it is a much simpler process. Let us follow, for example, according to the notes which he published, his calculations for the campaign of Moravia in 1805. The allies are at Olmutz; they will not stay there forever, and when they move it will be either to retreat or to assume the offensive. In either of these general cases, they can make their movement following the direct line which will take them away from the French, or bring them toward the French, or they can turn to their right or their left. Accordingly then, there are six cases to be considered, which embrace all the possible hypotheses and Napoleon in his calculations foresaw what he would do in each of these six cases. "Is he on the offensive?" He reasons in the same manner and does not reject a single hypothesis no matter how unlikely it is.
On another page, which is from Napoleon himself, we shall see how he introduces into his plan the idea of what the enemy might do.
"It is claimed," he writes to Minister of War Clark, on August 18, 1813, "that 60,000 men of the Russian and Prussian army have entered Bohemia and that the Emperor Alexander arrived the 15th at Prague. If that is true - First hypothesis: The enemy will either assume the offensive by way of Zittau, the only debouching place on the right bank, in which case they will be stopped by the camp at Zittau and the Corps of General Vandame as well as the reserve of Goerlitz, which I can place there in a day and a half or else; second hypothesis: the enemy will maneuver on the left bank of the Elbe and will debouch at Toeplitz and Peterswalde to march on Dresden; Marshal Saint-Cyr can concentrate 60,000 men and in four days I can be there with 150,000. Or finally: third hypothesis - (even though it was an absurd maneuver, the Emperor did not exclude it from his consideration) the enemy will take up an operation which is unreasonable and will enter Germany, marching either on Munich or Nuremberg, in which case they will deliver all Bohemia into my hands for an offensive.
If, on the contrary, the entry of the Russian and Prussian army is a false rumor, or if they have not entered in force, then in two days I can concentrate 200,000 men against the enemy In Silesia,"
And the Emperor comes back to a maneuver which he considers as unreasonable.
"There remains to be considered," he says, "the possibility that the enemy, forgetting the lessons of the past, will march with 40,000 men on Munich, and with 25,000 or 30,000 on Würzburg, which would weaken him by 70,000 men. Here then is my decision in order that you may issue the necessary orders ………………..”
Finally, in order that it may not be imagined that since Napoleon's time this idea of the enemy possibilities serving as a base for planning has fallen into disuse, let us cite this study of October 15, 1918 in which the G-2 section of the French General Headquarters examines the possibilities of transport which the enemy might use if he Is thrown back on the Hagenstellung position.
GHQ G-2 Section 15 October 1918.
Note: Reference the enemy falling back on the Escaut and the Meuse.
The hypothesis is that the enemy is falling back on the line marked by the Gand Canal - the Escaut -Valenciennes - Avesnes - Hirson - Mezieres (the Hagenstellung). This line is prolonged by the defensive system; Thionville - Metz - the present front, or in the case of the abandonment of upper Alsace by the enemy, by the supporting line: Wolsheim -Strasbourg and the Rhine.
This line does not appear to be fortified along the Escaut.
It is only partially fortified from Valenciennes to the vicinity of Thionville.
In this second part it does not cover the principal transversal railroad.
(2) Utilization of the railroads by the enemy, once establish- on the Hagenstellung.
(a) For lateral movements behind the front between the two regions separated by the woods-mass of the Ardennes, there are available three lateral lines. These laterals together, permit the transporting of one division per day. The enemy has now about 150 divisions out of 187 between the Meuse and the sea. He can change this proportion only very slowly. The transversal railroads, as has just been said, permit the transporting of only one division per day, and the transversal road net is very poor in the Ardennes forest.
(b) For supplies: The enemy has available on the front from the sea to the Vosges six lines. A, B, C, D-1, D-2, E. Experience has proved that these lines are amply sufficient. However, if the lines А, B are used exclusively for the supply of the troops west of Mezieres, the line C only can supply the troops on the Mezieres (inclusive) - Longuyon front. It will not be sufficient as long as the transversals from west to east on line 3 are used, as line 3 uses the same tracks from Libramont to Luxembourg. The enemy will be in a dilemma; to supply the Hirson-Longuyon front only partially, or to deprive himself of a transversal line for transportation from west to east.
The rapid retreat of the enemy to the line: Escaut - Meuse will put him in a very difficult situation from the point of view of effectives to confront a French attack launched in force in Lorraine. A concentration of Franсо-American forces made as quickly as possible on the Nancy - Avricourt front would permit planning, with the greatest chances of success, a breakthrough in the annexed portion of Lorraine whose military significance (outflanking the Metz - Thionville region) and whose political significance (the invasion of a German territory the other side of the Saar) would be of the greatest consequence.
Other studies made, parallel to this and in the same spirit, measured the degree of attrition of the large enemy units, Precise calculations showed to what last sure limit the possibilities of the enemy might extend..
And thus we have again in application, after an unreasonable admiration of the German methods, the French method - a method which concerns itself less with trying to guess what the enemy wants to do, than to measure what he can do. This measure obtained, the commander will no longer lack the freedom of spirit for making his plans or the assurance for making decisions.
The French maneuver of July 15, 1918.
We have indicated above that it would be possible to consider the successive decisions which resulted in the French maneuver of July 15, 1914 as the result of conceptions which the High Command established, not on the maneuvers which the enemy might execute (possibilities) to oppose to its mission, but on maneuvers which it had been established, by the aid of certain indications, that the enemy intended to execute. It could be proved thus experimentally, first that it is possible, by the interpretation of certain signs or indications to arrive without error by means of them at a certain intention of the enemy, and secondly, that the execution by the enemy is necessarily in conformity with the intention which has thus been determined.
It would be easy to object to this method of reasoning, since by good logic; first, one cannot conclude from the fact that one has discovered in a particular instance the correct intention of the enemy, that he would not go astray another time in his interpretation. The study of the battle of Guise alone shows that one may be deceived by the best established indications and by the surest information. Secondly, we cannot conclude from the fact that an intention thus determined has been followed by its proper execution that such will always be the case. We can give any number of experimental proofs that nothing is more subject to change than an intention.
There is less reason in this instance for drawing such conclusions because the example of July 15, 1918 presented itself under conditions so peculiar that it might be considered, if it were a laboratory experiment, as prearranged. It was, in effect, a very particular circumstance that the happenings took place in Champagne, on a front which had been stabilized for a long time, known to the defender in its minutest details and where the assailant could not plant a rod nor take a step without its standing out like black on white. How then could any modification of organization or activity in the sector, no matter how slight it might be, escape a watchfulness as active, as vigilant, and as perfectly organized as that on the French front? The preparation of any maneuver could not escape this watchfulness and by crediting the enemy with the intention of executing this maneuver, there is less chance of being wrong than if only vague indications of this preparation had been discovered.
It is also a peculiar circumstance that the adversary, to whom was credited an intention corresponding to a preparation which was observed, was the commander in chief who was not taking orders - not even observations from anybody, his government included - and that this commander had enjoyed since the Russian debacle such a superiority of means that he held incontestably the power of initiating operations. Why should he not stick to an intention once he had deliberately decided upon it?
Whatever circumstances may be, we can say that in this particular case, the commander would have arrived at the same correct decisions which he made, whether he had applied the method of intentions or that of possibilities. But if you wish in this particular discussion, to interpret certain indications, you will be led to admit that» in fact, It was certainly upon the possibilities of the enemy, rather than upon his intentions, that the high command made the decisions which were to lead to the bloody repulse of the German attack. That is what we will now show.
In June 1918 the Fourth Army occupied a strongly organized position on the Champagne front, although having only field fortifications at its disposal. This position comprised three lines known as the first position, intermediate position, second position. The Fourth Army had available three army corps (a total of ten divisions) to defend these positions, but the General knew that he would receive several supplementary divisions and a sufficiently large quantity of reinforcing artillery in case he should be threatened with an important attack by the enemy. Opposed to this, the enemy had available eight divisions and an organization either offensive or defensive which was well known to us. The mission of the Fourth Army in case of attack was to stop the enemy on the intermediate position chosen as the principal line of resistance. Following is the manner in which the high command used the principal information which came to him.
1. An instruction from Ludendorff dated June 9 on the subject of the lessons drawn from the last offensives by the German command, had fallen into our hands. The Quartermaster General said therein, not without some vanity, "The correctness of the directives and the principles laid down by the High Command for the instruction of troops and methods of attack has been confirmed to the smallest detail by the Blucher offensive, (that of May 27th)." It indicated with precision what the successive stages of an attack organized and conducted according to these principles ought to be. Should it be concluded from this document, which had fallen into our hands, that in the future, the German attacks would always be conducted strictly as indicated in the directive of Ludendorff? The method of intention says, "By all means. It is Ludendorff himself who has given us his idea on the subject." The method of possibilities says, "We know the opinion of Ludendorff on this subject as of the ninth of June. He may, since this date, have changed his opinion and varied his procedure, but it is possible that the attack will be conducted in this manner and that is sufficient for the commander to organize, if he had not already done so, the disposition suitable for such an attack."
As a matter of fact, before the document came to the French command, there had already been prescribed the use of a method of defense which corresponded to an enemy attack conducted according to the directives and principles repeated in the document in question, because the information gathered in the course of the preceeding attacks had permitted the reconstitution of the enemy method of attack. The French commander knew that it was possible for the assailant to annihilate, before the attack, the defenders of the first position at the same time as the position itself. This French method of defense had not always been well understood up to now by the executing troops. It would be better understood from now on. The Commander of the group of armies and the Commander of the army were going to insist again upon it.
2. From the 27th of June to the 7th of July, the G-2 section of the Fourth Army collected with admirable skill, a very complete framework of information. Prisoners were unanimous in declaring that an attack was being prepared against us. There were even some who claimed to know the front and the objectives. Circulation on the roads, traffic in the depots revealed that preparations were certain. We had found out with certainty, that supplies and munitions had been accumulated by the enemy up to his front line. What can we conclude from that? Is the enemy going to execute an attack on a large scale in Champagne? The method of intentions says "Beyond a doubt. The Indications obtained are sure guarantees of his intention." The method of possibilities replies, "In truth, the enemy still may change his mind and renounce the attack, but it is certain that he has made preparations and that it will now be possible for him to make an attack on a large scale on the front of the Fourth army, which he could not have done before making these preparations." And that is enough for the Commander.
The General in command of the Fourth Army took the necessary measures in consequence, to meet this eventuality; he asked and obtained the reinforcements as planned. Anxious to maintain the morale of the troops at the high level that it was, he issued on the 7th of July this order which indicates how well he appreciated the situation.
We may be attacked at any moment. All of you know that a defensive battle has never bееn undertaken under more favorable conditions. We have been forewarned and we are on our guard. You will crush this attack."
He did not say "We are going to be attacked." The mere fact that we may be attacked was sufficient reason for his undertaking all the measures which he did and whatever might arrive would not expose him to ridicule like the "We may count on" issued by Frederic-Charles the 16th of August at noon.
3. The information gathered the following days, permitted the determination of the front over which the preparations for the attack were spread - nothing to the east of Main de Massiges and to the west Reims is outside of this front (aviation, prisoners) - the maximum effective (thirty divisions) which the enemy may put in the attack (GHQ). This information verifies the preceding. The relation between the front and the force thereon corresponds to the normal attack on a large scale: - the state of completion of the preparation and the date July 14, at which time it will be completely finished (GHQ, aviation, prisoners).
What can we conclude? Will an attack on a large scale be made the 14th on the front; Reims - Maison de Champagne? The method of intention says "Yes." The method of possibilities replies, "In any case, it is possible." And that is enough for the commander to make ready. He says, "All these precautions have beеn taken." But the main thing for him to know in this information, is that because of lack of sufficient preparation, the enemy cannot make an important attack on Reims nor to the east of Main de Massiges.
Finally on the 14th of July, between eight and nine PM, a magnificent raid, conducted by a Lieutenant of the 366th Infantry, brought back to our lines twenty-seven prisoners from the 19th reserve division. These prisoners, like those of the preceding days, commenced at first by not wanting to say anything; all appeared however, satisfied with their fate. One however, was an exception. Visibly disturbed, he requested a gas mask to replace one which he had lost. Naturally, he was asked why he was so anxious to have a mask since there was nothing to fear; he was thus led into stating that the German bombardment was going to commence in a few hours, with a heavy proportion of toxic gas shells. The other prisoners, after the indiscretion of their comrade, no longer tried to keep the secret, and informed us that the start of the attack was only a question of hours, that the artillery preparation was to last from 12:10 AM to 4:45 AM, that the assault would take place at 4:45 AM under cover of a rolling barrage. They finally confirmed that the front of the attack was to be between Reims and Main de Massiges.
What shall we conclude? Is the enemy attack going to be executed as the prisoners say? The method of intention says, "It is absolutely certain." The method of possibilities says, "What is certain, is that the attack order has arrived among the troops and that it is already In the course of execution. Only a countermanding order, and that might arrive too late, can stop the attack already launched."
The Fourth French army itself gave an example of a countermanding order Issued under similar conditions, the 12th of February 1915, in its attack to the north of Pertes les Hurlus. But the certainty acquired, proves only that it is time to start the offensive counter preparation and that is enough to justify the order given by the Commanding General of the Fourth Army. Suppose however, that Ludendorff should give the countermanding order? The commander, who leaves nothing to chance, will always have this hypothesis in his mind until events actually happen.
It is for this reason doubtless, that in the course of an interview, during which it was asked of certain men, who played an Important role in the great events of this period, what had been the most tragic instant of their existence, that General Gouraud indicated, that which had passed between the moment from when he issued the counterpreparation order, and the arrival of the first shells indicating the start of the German attack. This last fact, the tenor of the order of the 7th of July, “We may be attacked," and the ensemble of the measures taken by the French command, tend to prove that in reality, it did not play on the prognostications furnished by the method of Intentions. But it is established that it always took in ample time, the necessary measures to cause all the possible maneuvers of the enemy to fail, according as certain information proved that they could be executed, or more exactly that they had ceased to be inexecutable. Well Informed, sure of mastering everything that was possible, he was never doubtful of success and was well justified in saying, "You will crush this assault."
The examples studied in this chapter, have had for their object, bringing to light the fundamental opposition which exists between the two methods, by means of which we can obtain an idea of what an enemy who may be capable of being introduced into the calculations of the commander, will do. In a word, General Colin has characterized this opposition of the two methods; one guesses, the other enumerates. They correspond to the temperaments of two commanders of whom one, preoccupied In finding out what the enemy wants to do, contents himself with acquiring a conviction, and the other solely preoccupied In fixing the limit of what the enemy can do, searches for a certainty. Both of these make an appeal to the imagination, but the first is susceptible of letting itself be distorted by considerations of pure sentiment; it opens wide to chance the door which the second keeps hermetically closed to chance, because the imagination in the second method is always held in check by reason.
The method of possibilities is essentially French. It has been applied, not only by Napoleon, in whose case it was a pure emanation of the Cartesian method. The great Condé, when he said that a skillful captain might very well be beaten, but did not have the right to be surprised, did not show himself inclined toward the method practiced by Moltke and his pupils, for whom surprises did not cease to be surprises, because they were able to demonstrate their errors some times with Impunity on the battlefields of 1870 and 1914. We have seen finally certain documents in which Marshall Foch has made decisions and who has not read in present generations, whether before or after the war, the eloquent pages in which he pits the realities of reason against the imagination of sentiment? Between these two methods, the choice should not be doubtful, for those who give preference to facts over hypothesis, to certainty over probability, to reason over imagination.
The slightest experience with information in time of war, is sufficient to show that there is always something useful in each item, no matter what the item is. We can conclude from this that no item should he neglected. On the other hand, it is easy to say, that the interest which is attached to any definite hit of information, Is extremely variable according to the point of view of the unit under consideration. For example: it will be very important for an infantry regiment to know the exact location of an enemy machine gun and the zone it can cover. This same item, while it is still important to the artillery unit charged with neutralizing or destroying it, will he practically a matter of Indifference to the army to which the infantry regiment and the artillery groupment belong. Again it will be of interest to the army to know the location of a distributing point or a refilling point for a large unit of the enemy while this item would have no interest for a regiment ordered to capture a strong point on the enemy front.
It is easy to realize that the items of information necessary to any particular commander are, like his plans, of a more general nature and of a more extended range, according to the size of the unit commanded. As a matter of fact, it is the indecision as to what the actions of the enemy are going to be after a certain time, which limits his planning. It is equally easy to realize that among all the items of information which are interesting to any particular commander, some of then are of more importance than others. It will he more important for an army commander to learn that the enemy may he able to introduce a new division on his front, than it will he for him to discover the location of a distributing point of a division already engaged.
This consideration, relative to the very different value to the various echelons, of information of the enemy, is very important, because the available means for finding the information being necessarily limited, it is essential to put the greatest efforts on the most important items. This is a new application of the Immutable law of the principle of economy of force imposing itself upon us.
Accordingly, the first thing to determine is, what are the points to be cleared up in their order of importance and, this decided upon, to organize the search for the Information which will give us the necessary items of intelligence. Classifying the necessary items gives us our determination of the essential elements and the organization of the search, i.e., the G-2 plan.
I. The Points to be cleared up: Essential Elements.
It Is understood that a commander charged with carrying out a certain mission, ought always to examine, in the planning of his maneuver, how the enemy may oppose himself to the maneuver: to envisage what the possibilities of the enemy are with reference to the maneuver, which he himself is planning.
However, it is not always possible for the commander, at a particular moment of his activity, to foresee all the diverse missions the execution of which may be entrusted to him, nor to determine a priori, the items which will enable him to calculate with a degree of precision the possibilities which the enemy may oppose to the accomplishment of his missions. But, if he is able to discover as exactly as possible the situation of the enemy, who is operating in his zone of action, he will have at any time the means of determining in a general way, more or less, the possibilities which the enemy can oppose to the execution of the mission, no matter what it may be, which may be intrusted to him.
The items which will bring out the situation of the enemy in the zone of action of a large command, may be determined beforehand and it seems normal to call this list the General Plan of Information of the large unit. This plan corresponds, in effect, to the generality of the situations which may present themselves. It is destined to furnish the elements of a general knowledge of the enemy.
Let us look now at the situation of the commander of a large force at the moment when a mission to be accomplished, has just been intrusted to him, and let us consider the two cases in which he may find himself with reference to the delays permissible in the carrying out of the mission. These delays are such that:
Case 1 - the decision has to be made at once, or on the other hand;
Case 2 - the decision may be deferred.
Case 1 - The decision has to be made at once. If it is a question of a very simple mission, the execution of which will take only a short time and will involve only a restricted space, it is possible that the elements which the commander will set up will give him sufficient information of the possibilities of the enemy so that he may establish a maneuver corresponding to all the possibilities and capable in consequence, of taking him directly to his objective without his having to make any modifications.
This will be the exception. Much oftener, especially when the mission is more complex and envisions an objective farther removed in time or space, it will not be possible for him to fix his maneuver except for his initial dispositions. The things the enemy can do will be capable of such variation, even during the course of the maneuver that the ultimate development of the maneuver cannot be foreseen except along general lines.
The commander accordingly, will reserve the ability to control the details of his maneuver, that is adjust it more exactly to the situation, in proportion as the Information received permits more precise determination of what actions the enemy can take.
Accordingly, no matter how varied the enemy possible actions may he, it will always he possible to group them beforehand, into several large hypotheses such that all the possible actions grouped in one hypothesis will have an influence of the same nature upon the maneuver. It remains then simply for him to collect, even while the maneuver is going on, the information which will permit him to define among the hypotheses which he has considered, those which are likely, and those which should be dropped. These bits of information, which we must seek out, correspond then to the hypotheses which are closely linked together, on the one side, to what we already know about the enemy and, on the other, to the foreseen development of the maneuver.
It seems normal therefore, to give to the list which enumerates these elements and which lay down as functions of the needs of the maneuver itself, the moment when they should be collected, the name of the Plan of Particular Information, because this plan corresponds to the execution of a particular maneuver, the details of which have been determined. It is dependent upon the existence of a general plan of maneuver fixed along general lines.
Case 2 - The delays of execution are such that the decision may be deferred.
This will not prevent the commander from foreseeing, but only in the form of projects, how, taking into consideration the information he possesses of the enemy, he will be able to fulfill his mission.
It will be difficult for him to push the problem any further forward because the enemy is using the same time of delay in the course of which the possible enemy actions are subject to variations which might have the most important repercussions on the projects planned, rendering certain ones impossible of execution and making others easier to execute.
It is necessary therefore, to turn the available delays to profit by using them to assemble items of information permitting us to narrow down the possible lines of action of the enemy, and to follow their variations in their relation to our projects planned. As, in the preceding case, these items will correspond to hypotheses closely linked on the one hand with what we know already of the enemy, and on the other hand with projects planned. They will permit the commander to make an intelligent choice between the various plans, to think up others perhaps, and in any case to fix upon one at the moment when he has to make his decision, which seems to him to present the maximum chances of success. Here again, it will be normal to call the list on which these items appear, and the time by which they should be found out, The Plan of Particular Information. This corresponds, actually, to the execution of a particular limited mission.
This plan will differ from the preceding one, in that it is not connected with the execution of a maneuver already fixed in a plan; it will be previous to a Plan of maneuver.
Of these various plans; general plan, specific plan - in consequence of a plan of maneuver, or destined to be the basis of one - our (French) Provisional Regulations on the tactical employment of large units seems only to have taken Into consideration the specific plan, the direct consequence of the plan of maneuver. Does this not constitute a vexing gap?
Is it perhaps because they wanted to put everything aside which might incline a commander, little by little, to subordinate his will to that of his adversary? Let us look further into this.
There is nothing more logical than that we should want above everything to beat the enemy. But is it not indispensable to have a certain acquaintance with the enemy in order to say how to beat him? that is to say, prescribe a maneuver. The maneuver is in part a function of the enemy, otherwise it is only a moving about. Whatever the situations may be, if the concrete consideration of a determined enemy is not present, a maneuver does not merit the name of such any more than do the evolutions which took place in the camp of Chalons in 1870.
In any case or in any circumstance, information of the enemy whom it is a question of beating, is at the base of the decision; it is therefore a prerequisite whether It is a question of the decision relative to the use of the main body or the employment of the reserve, or what not.
Annex No. IV of the Provisional Instruction for the Employment of Large Units has strongly distinguished a particular plan of information, but it does not appear that the distinction therein rests upon a perfectly clear criterion. That is to say, the search for the intention of the enemy, which it indicates as one of the alms to be attained with the plan for Information smacks too much of the faulty German method.
It has been proposed at times, to reserve the name of General Plan to the enumeration of a certain number of items relative to questions of a general, order, which might be useful at any moment and to anybody, such as information on the organization, the armament, the methods of fighting, etc. This plan might be established in a practical way by the General Headquarters. Applied by all the armies, it would justify its title of General Plan. All the other plans would be particular plans corresponding to particular needs for information of a unit determined at the moment when it established the plan in question. Whatever may be the solution adopted by those concerned as to what concerns the qualification to be given to intelligence plans, even though they should decide not to qualify them at all, if they found that more simple, this appears in any case less important than to see clearly the concordance which unites the search and the utilization of information in the execution of a given mission.
From the very moment when the commander is given a mission to accomplish, he has need of information which is related either to the projects which he is planning, or to the idea of maneuver already developing which will presently inspire his orders. It is therefore upon him that the duty falls of indicating to the staff the necessary information for establishing the gathering plan, even If he does not himself indicate, with greater precision, the information which he wants to get. Thus very often we see Napoleon before undertaking a campaign, put ting his questions to his intelligence agencies.
Form, dispersion, duration.
The form to be given the intelligence plan is purely a staff proposition and is not of great importance. It is better to have a simple succinct list of three or four elements corresponding accurately to the idea of the maneuver, than a titled and numbered document of numerous paragraphs which includes only the commonplace questions of general information without regard to the maneuver decided upon. Even though this list of two or three elements corresponding to the clear ideas of the maneuver risks revealing the intimate thought of the commander, even though he has added no word of explanation, there is no less interest in communicating it to the chiefs of the principal reconnaissance agencies. They will see better in what direction they should turn their efforts and they will understand better the necessity for certain requirements included in the intelligence plans of which we are going to speak.
This dispersion, thus limited, of a document which ought to remain secret will not present any inconvenience, since the recipients of the intelligence plan are identical with those of the scheme of maneuver. It is moreover, necessary above all else to inform his subordinates, while it is simply very desirable not to inform his adversary at the same time.
As far as the duration of an intelligence plan, it is very evident that this is dependent upon the events themselves and that it is not always possible to determine it before hand. The plan is of value up to the moment when the commander, in the face of new needs, judges it to be useful to modify it or renounce it completely.
II. Organization of the Task Intelligence Plans and Orders.
The commander having made known to the Intelligence Staff the points on which he desires information, it becomes a question of assigning to each intelligence agency the task which it is to accomplish. This ought to be determined in such manner that, without overtaxing the capabilities of any agency, it will be possible to extract from the mass of reports, necessarily fragmentary, brought in by each of them, the most exact and comprehensive idea of those items of which the commander has need. This is the object of the intelligence plan established by the G-2 Section of the staff. This document merits more the title of plan than does the plan of information of which we have just been speaking because it ought to be a precise guide for the agencies. They ought to find therein all the indications of which they have need on the mass of the task they are to fulfill, the precise questions which they are to answer and the time at which they have to furnish their replies.
People have worked up many widely varying forms for the presentation of this document. There is one of them which seems so convenient for the G-2 Section that they use it nearly always even if the actual presentation is to be different from it. This is The Table.
In the first column are written the questions of the information plan: what the commander wants to know.
In the second column, opposite each of these general questions, the series of detailed questions which will be put to each collecting agency, in order that from the coordination of the replies which will be made, the reply to the general requirement of the Intelligence Plan will stand out.
In the third column, opposite each detailed question, the indication of the agency charged with making the reply.
Finally in a fourth column, the particular details relative to the execution, such as, the hours and areas of reconnaissance, the routes to be followed, the limits to be reached or not to be passed. The rendering of periodic or special reports is laid down specifically.
The G-2 Section thus obtains a document which presents in a simple form the generalities and the details of the reconnaissance. Thus it avoids omissions, sees easily what verifications are to be obtained and without further waiting can prepare a methodical system of coordination.
If, from this form, it is necessary to pass to one with name or numbered paragraphs, nothing is simpler than to obtain an outline giving in Paragraph 1 the general aim of the intelligence to be collected - the extent of the essential elements which will be taken from column 1 of the preceding document. In paragraph 2, the distribution of the missions (a) to the large units (b) to the aviation, etc., which will be taken from columns 2 and 3 of the same document. In paragraph 3 the orders relative to the periodic or special reports which will be taken from column 4.
Whatever form is adopted, it is especially important that the Plan for Collection includes the Outline of Essential Elements in a manner broad enough to be sure that the answers brought in by the intelligence agencies will permit a reply in full to all the questions propounded by the commander.
The Outline of Essential Elements of March 28, 1914, annexed to Plan XVII, which was of use as a plan of collection, presents an example of a dangerous omission committed while passing from the Outline of Essential Elements to the Plan of Collection. There was actually given in the Outline of Essential Elements this prescription in general terms which indicates an idea of similar generality. "If the enemy penetrates into Luxembourg or Belgium, it is of essential importance to follow his progress and constantly keep track of the movement of his north wing.........." The above then became in the Plan of Collection, this suggestion: "In this respect it will be of interest to find out as soon as possible, the arrival of cavalry, then the columns of troops of all arms on the successive transverse lines of:
- Verviers, Stavelot, Dlcklrch, Resnich;
- Liege, Houggalize, Wiltz, Grosbons, Luxembourg;
- Huy, Marche, Bastogne, Arlon;
- Namur, Rochefort, Saint-Hubert, Neufchateau, Virton,"
None of these transversals extend beyond the Meuse to the west. Accordingly, there would be no information of the movement of the enemy north wing on the left bank of the Meuse to the west of the river. It is thus easy to explain why, around August 15 the French General Headquarters waited in vain for information from French sources relative to the outflanking movement of the Germans in Belgium, which the Belgian and English intelligence services were reporting. This information had not been asked for.
The Outline of Essential Elements is distinct from the Plan of Collection.
The establishment of a clearly separated outline of essential elements» and a plan of collection, is in general a function of the Army. The dissemination of the first is closely limited if not suppressed, whereas the second is much more widely diffused. In the army echelon there will usually be a considerable difference between the questions in the commander's mind, as stated in the outline of information desired and the detailed questions asked by the Plan of Collection of the various reconnaissance agencies. On the other hand, there may be at times, an advantage to the army from the point of view of secrecy in regard to the operations underway or to be undertaken in giving to the reconnaissance agencies only a collection of detailed questions, through which it will be more difficult to ascertain the real idea of the commander, than if these questions were reduced to two or three of a more general order corresponding closely to certain well determined ideas of maneuver.
The idea of two distinct plans, one comprising the ideas of the commander In regard to what he wants to know about the enemy, and the other corresponding to the means of reconnaissance at the disposal of the collecting agencies, is general. It is of value for all echelons of command.
The Combination of the Two Documents.
The farther down the scale of command one goes, the more closely the questions indicated by the commander in his outline of essential elements will correspond to the questions set up by the G-2 Section in the Plan of Collection. When, for example, the idea in the mind of the commander is concerned, because of the unit involved, with discovering the location of a machine gun, the question set up by the Plan of Collection will be identical with the question asked in the Outline of Essential Elements. In the lower echelons, the question of maintaining secrecy loses part of its value. it thus appears possible, In many cases, in the lower echelons of command, to combine the two documents into one which may be called The Plan of Intelligence and Information.
Duration of Validity. Signature.
In any case, the Plan of Collection is dependent on the Outline of Essential Elements. It comes under the same conditions of validity and it follows that a change in the essential elements involves a corresponding change in the plan of collection. The Plan of Collection derives its executive force either from the signature of the general or from being signed by his order under the conditions indicated in paragraph 6 of the Provisional Instructions on the Tactical Employment of Large Units. It is necessary, if the Chief of Staff has delegated the right to G-2 to sign certain orders, that the reconnaissance agencies be duly informed of this delegation of authority and the limits within which it may be exercised.
Annex No. 4 to the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units does not consider that the Plan of Collection should be an order in itself. It should constitute a sort of memorandum of tasks to be carried out by the agencies and ought to be put into execution by specific orders. It would be possible, if need be, in an organization thus constituted to give to the reconnaissance agencies neither the Outline of Essential Elements nor the Plan of Collection. They would execute the orders without having any large view of what was expected of them. This is a poor method. The agencies deserve more confidence and by treating them thus, one deprives himself of all the benefits which he might expect from their initiative, because they will not know along what lines they may exercise it.
Even if it is admitted that the Plan of Collection transmitted to the agencies, has the force of an order, it is possible that everything may not have been foreseen accurately, and. that there may arise suddenly a need for information which does not appear therein. It is also possible that certain foreseen items of the plan may not be in the nature of orders until the receipt of definite information. It must always be taken into consideration that results may be obtained which will lead to dropping certain items, limiting others or adding still others.
These adjustment of the Plan of Collection may be made the objects of particular missions given to the reconnaissance agencies in the form of orders. Annex No. 4 to the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units prescribes that these orders shall be given by the commander "directly or through the Chief of the G-2 Section." This is probably the only place in all the library of our regulations, where there is a question of orders being given directly or indirectly. It seems to us incontestable, first, that only the command has the authority to give orders to the agencies charged with reconnaissance and, second, that each order which he issues, regardless of the form, ought immediately to be registered by the General Staff according to the section which handles the subject matter of the order. It might well be asked what was in the back of the mind of the man who wrote this peculiar wording.
III. The Interpretation of Information Received. The Synthesis of Items of Information.
The reconnaissance agencies, whose role we will look into later, after performing the reconnaissance missions organized and ordered by the commander, bring in, at the same time as their reports, the prisoners which they have been able to take, objects and documents which they have been able to capture or gather - everything, in short, which might furnish an item of information or an indication, no matter how insignificant it may appear. The conditions which should be fulfilled in the reports of the various reconnaissance agencies may be found everywhere - truthfulness, brevity, precision, exact indication of sources - and it is always insisted upon that these agencies reply in their reports to the questions - Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Not only is it necessary that they have the spirit of these rules which they ought to observe scrupulously, always in mind, but more important, they should realize the crime which they would commit by transmitting in an unusable form an item of information which has cost several lives perhaps and which might permit the sparing of many others, and which might complete a conception on which the success or failure of the maneuver might depend.
It is the G-2 section which is charged in a large unit with centralizing all these reports in order to study them and Interpret them, after having added all the information which they have been able to extract from prisoners, documents, objects captured from the enemy or picked up in a zone occupied by him.
We are no longer in an age when Clausewitz might write: “A large number of the items of Information received in war are contradictory, a larger number are false, most of them are uncertain." Certainly, this discernment which "Judgment and a profound knowledge of men and things alone may give" according to the expression of the same Clausewitz, has not ceased to be necessary to the officers of the G-2 Section charged with the study and interpretation of information; but the sources from which they draw are more numerous and less impure than in the time of Clausewitz.
Method of Studying an Item of Information.
Our regulations lay out, to guide their discernment, a method of study of information, which according to their own say-so is rigorously scientific and. which ought to protect them from error. An application of this method of study to a concrete case will show us however, that, the necessary science borders most often on a discussion of plain common sense. Let us take for example, the item from the aviation, received the evening of May 27 and brought to von Bülow toward eight o'clock the morning of the 28th: "In the valley of the Oise, only weak rear guards."
What degree of confidence may be placed in this Information? Does it have the value of a certainty? Let us imagine ourselves in the place of the observer and observe just as he did.
What did he see? Enemy elements in the valley of the Oise. Since the observer saw them and has no interest In deceiving us, we can admit that it is certain: There are enemy elements in the valley of the Oise the evening of the 27th.
To admit however, that the elements are weak is to discard the hypothesis that the enemy would have taken such precautions in the valley of the Oise against aerial observation that even if he were In force in the Galley of the Oise, the hostile observer would have been able to see only small elements. We will admit only that it is probable that these elements are weak. This information will not suffice to throw out a bit of Information to the contrary which might come from another source. To admit that these weak elements are rear guards, is to reject a priori a whole series of possible hypotheses.
These weak elements might be:
Outposts, if the main body has halted.
Flankguards, if the main body is making a lateral movement.
Advance guards, if he has resumed the offensive.
Rear guards, if he is in retreat.
So long as there is no information on the main body - and the observer has reported none - it is impossible to choose between these various hypotheses with reference to the main body, which is actually the only interest of the commander. It is a question, then, of a simple supposition on the part of the observer « and the value of this supposition is practically nothing. This critical examination of the information, results in removing from it the purely imaginative factors which it contains. There remains only a material statement as certain as the human senses can obtain. It may be counted on.
Verification by resection.
The above information may be utilized as follows for confirmation. The mutual confirmation of items of information, recalls the topographical proceeding known as resection. It may even be the same thing when it is a question, for example, of locating exactly in space an object on which observation has been taken from two different points. As far as information goes, it permits the locating in a similar manner of an item with respect to time. Finally, it permits to a certain extent, giving a coefficient of certainty to an Item of information regarded up to then as doubtful when this item is in concordance in part, at least, with a certain item.
In the case of von Bülow the morning of the 28th, the possible confirmations were few because there was available along with the aviation report which he received only the report of the Guard the evening of the 27th: "The outposts of the 2d Cavalry Division were fired on at Froidestrees in the evening; the entrance to Etreaupont was barricaded and the heights to the south of Autreppe and Etreaupont appeared to be strongly held by the enemy." These two items, one coming from the aviation and the other from contact, from which von Bülow drew contradictory impressions were not in fact contradictory.
They agree perfectly in the part which they have in common - that which concerns the village of Etreaupont, whose northern exit was barricaded according to one source and which is in the valley, which the other source indicates is weakly occupied. The coefficient of certainty would be augmented if it were necessary to establish the fact of concordance.
If we try to bring these two items together to make one of them, we perceive that they are perfectly coordinated.
The outposts of the 2d Cavalry Division at Froidestrees might very well have been bombarded by artillery, which was not in the valley of the Oise, but on the heights to the south and covered by weak elements in the valley. Finally the aerial observer gives observation only on a poorly defined region which he calls the valley of the Oise. It is possible that he did not perceive that the heights to the south of Autreppe and Etreaupont were strongly held by the enemy. The study of these two items made according to the method outlines in Annex No. 4 to the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units leads to' the conclusion that the evening of the 27th, there were at least weak elements in the valley of the Oise and stronger elements having artillery on the heights to the south of Autreppe and Etreaupont.
Lacking positive Information on the rearward movements of the adversary, which the aviation and the cavalry might have obtained, and certain negative information on the presence of the enemy in the vicinity of Guise and the Oise salient, it was impossible for the commander to discard from his calculations the hypothesis of the presence of the French Fifth Army south of the Oise the evening of the 27th. He could have done so, even less, if going back to the information received the evening before, he had suspected that he was not confronted with a horde in flight, but with an army whose morale had not been seriously lessened.
Its composition had been known since Charleroi. The number of casualties which it had suffered on the Sambre had been established. It amounted to 4,000 prisoners, б flags, 35 cannons, 53 machine guns, 6,600 rifles, 50 vehicles. The number of rifles and vehicles captured was particularly significant of an army which was retiring, but which was still able to fight.
Moreover, the X Corps, confirming an impression already-given by the VII Corps, reported that the enemy was putting up resistance and retiring in good order. Consequently, there was nothing in this information which would permit him to suppose that the enemy was hastening his retreat toward the south. His presence in force on the heights south of the Oise was not certain hut it was possible. The commander must take this possibility into account in making his decision.
For him who has the pretension, not only to evaluate logically what he sees, but also to guess what he does not see, this is not enough; he must submit an item of information to a new operation which some people call interpretation. We have seen above the interpretation of Bülow on the item received from the aviation the morning of the 28th. He has "made the item talk" as they say in certain G-2 Sections, He has done it reasoningly or logically, according to the expression of von Moltke, that is to say, he has drawn deductions therefrom believed to be logical.
He eventually finished by convincing himself, the morning of the 28th, by the interpretation of a single item of information from the aviation, which he had just received, that the enemy was In full retreat toward the south. The conviction thus obtained had upon him such a hold, that he forgot completely the information received from the Guard the evening of the 27th, the information received from the X Corps the afternoon of the 28th did not cause him to reflect and the evening of the 28th, having completely forgotten that he had in front of him even a part of the French Army, he ran into a stone wall - the fortified town of La Fere.
If, moreover, as von Bülow seemed to believe, Interpretation is the fruitful work of logic, why should the exercise of it be reserved to the commander-in-chief? Everybody has the right to consider logically what he sees and to guess of what he does not see. This is what the aviator did in the course of his reconnaissance the evening of the 27th. He saw small enemy elements in the valley of the Oise. But, he tried to draw deductions. The German army, since Charleroi had been in pursuit of the French army, therefore the first and small elements encountered in going south are rear guards. And von Bülow accepting this first interpretation without discussion, was able to continue to reason; if the enemy has rear guards, he is in retreat, etc. It seems useless to point out what puerility such an interpretation presents.
Our Annex No. 4 to the Provisional Instructions for Large Units, Chapter I, paragraph 6, and in paragraph 39 of Chapter III has however, foreseen an interpretation of information "which consists of drawing from its study conclusions which may be presented to the commander as intelligence." This interpretation is based solely on the critical analysis, the comparison of items (principal of verification) and the coordination of information. It ought, in order to maintain its value of certainty which will permit it to be used, to result in an irrefutable conclusion.
Let us return for example to the note of General Headquarters of October 15, 1918 already mentioned above, and we will find there a model of this synthesis which "constitutes, properly speaking, the interpretation of information" (Provisional Instructions, Annex No. 4, Chapter I, paragraph 6).
This says in substance:
"The enemy supposedly fallen back on the Hagenstellung will make use of three lateral railroad lines behind his front. The maximum efficiency of these transversals, by making sacrifices in supply on the Hirson - Longuyon front, is at the maximum one division per day. The road net in the Ardennes is very poor in a lateral direction. Accordingly, the enemy has 150 divisions between the Meuse and the sea and 57 west of the Meuse." Is this not an irrefutable conclusion which impresses itself on the mind with all the force of evidence? It is scarcely necessary to state it. The commander thus informed, knows where to strike; he may even measure the appropriate force for his blow.
This is a perfect model of the synthesis defined in paragraph б of Annex No. 4: "To give a commander information, is to present to him, in a single collection and in a form immediately exploitable, all the information which concerns the enemy, and is capable of determining or modifying his decision. It constitutes, in short, a reply, partial or complete, to the questions asked as essential elements of enemy information and furnishes one of the bases for the decision. Practically it gives the elements necessary for writing paragraph 1 of an operation order.
The manner of presentation is nowhere laid down and it would he useless to do so because it does not constitute in principle a document susceptible of any distribution. It may he a written report, or a verbal one, especially in the smaller units presented by G-2 to the Chief of Staff and the General. But, verbal or written, G-2 should retain a written copy on which is indicated the hour of its presentation to the Chief of Staff.
If a fragmentary bit of Information was enough for Bülow to guess everything on which he had no information, it is evident that with the methods which culminated in a synthesis such as that of 15 October, 1918, there is a necessity to centralize a large amount of information.
The operation of corroboration is more fruitful according to the number of items used; that is evident. It is not the importance of an item of information which plays the principal role, but its degree of certainty. It is only with numerous items which are certain that we can succeed in giving to the ensemble the character of certainty which is indispensable to the commander utilizing the information.
Coordination becomes impossible if certain items are missing. Thus, from the German point of view the evening of the 27th August and even the morning of the 28th, the amount of information which von Bülow had to use was distinctly insufficient to permit a coordination having a real value. It is impossible to answer in a satisfactory way his demand to know whether or not the enemy Intends to defend the crossing of the Oise - that would be impossible no matter what the information might be - but even to this question, which is more simple and the only one of interest: “Is the enemy in such a situation, the evening of the 27th that he can oppose, the 28th the crossing of the river?" He actually has only two items insufficient to give a positive affirmative. He has none which might give an indication inclining to the negative.
Finally, it is due to this centralization in the hands of G-2 of all the Information coming from all sources, that the commander may be put into possession of the general synthesis of which we have just spoken. Individual syntheses established by a reconnaissance agency, even with all the Items which it has deceived, will never present the same character of certainty as that established by an agency which uses all the items assembled by all the reconnaissance agencies. The war abounds in examples of erroneous conclusions drawn by certain reconnaissance agencies from Information fatally incomplete, conclusions which would risk leading the commander astray, if he had not had a sufficient amount of Information obtained from other sources. It is this consideration which gives all their value to the prescriptions given by Annex No. 4 of the Provisional Instruction for the tactical Employment of Large Units in Chapter III paragraph 44 on the subject of the synthesis of information.
We have admitted up to this point that the G-2 Section works on information immediately intelligible in the same form in which it is received. It is not always thus. It receives particularly from prisoners, objects, documents, these latter written in a foreign tongue or in code, in which are found Included certain items of information which should be extracted, if we may use the term, for the use of the G-2 Section.
This is the particular mission of certain technicians, interpreters, decipherers, interpreters of photographs within the G-2 Section. These technicians devote themselves to the accomplishment of their special task and so far as they are applicable to the tasks, make use of the rules given above. The same qualities of discernment, of judgment, of knowledge of men and things, are equally indispensable to them. They must not let escape a single iota of intelligence which might he deduced from the element which they are exploiting, they must not let themselves be deceived by any appearance, and they must furnish eventually intelligence whose degree of certainty is perfectly established. These technicians fulfill then a task of the study and Interpretation, and must not in any way be confused, as Annex No. 4 of the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units has done, with the reconnaissance agencies properly so-called.
The intelligence turned out by them intelligible to everyone, is then treated like all of those which come to the G-2 Section and is put into a form which renders it immediately usable,
Annex No. 4 to the Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units, and these Instructions themselves, place the responsibility of controlling the study and interpretation of information upon the Chief of the General Staff. It is certain that, with a G-2 whose imagination outruns his judgment, this control would he Indispensable, but if the necessity arises to limit him too much, it would be better to replace the G-2. It seems regrettable that our regulations in insisting upon this control, do not seem to have interested themselves enough in the necessity for orienting and organizing the research which nevertheless is a duty of the commander, It would be unfortunate for him to complain that the G-2 Section did not produce the intelligence which he desired if he had not given the indispensable indication as to what was expected of it. The chief of the G-2 Section of the staff of a large unit cannot in any way, replace a commander who falls down. From the other point of view he is not, as paragraph 18 of Article IV of Annex No. 4 to the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units might lead one to believe, the chief of a service who has the authority to set in motion the reconnaissance agencies. He is only an aid to the commander charged with writing of orders to which only a signature which is not his can communicate the force of authority. The chief of staff and the general must maintain their Interest in the Essential Elements and the Collection Plan and the orders which will actuate the troops and the services charged with procuring the Information which the G-2 Section only studies and prepares.
The G-2 Section
If the general and the chief of staff have their part as regards the direction and responsibility in the question of intelligence, their duty will be all the easier if the G-2 section is well chosen, better organized and if the chief of this section has an open mind on questions of operations and if he is well endowed from the point of view of those qualities which Clausewitz desires discernment, judgment, knowledge of men and things. We will not consider here the organization of G-2 sections, which is given with plenty of detail in various publications and even codified in the Instruction for General Staff Service. Neither will we speak of the numerical composition of G-2 sections: they may be found in war time tables of organization. It seems useful however, to say a word as to the qualities to be sought in the various categories of officers called upon to enter into the composition of G-2 sections.
Chief of the G-2 Section - Intelligence and imagination to understand the maneuver of the commander, to discover the various hypotheses which may be made about the enemy, to see the need for information corresponding to the projects of the commander and these hypotheses; a profound knowledge of the possibilities of each reconnaissance agency In order to prepare a wise distribution of the tasks among them; discernment, judgment, knowledge of men and things in order to study and Interpret the information without getting away from the conditions indispensable for certainty; patience, coolness in order not to be discouraged by difficulties nor upset by disquieting news; character to recognize the truth, no matter how disagreeable. The chief of section must have all of these profound qualities and perhaps he should have still others to make him merit the confidence of his chief and to assure his authority over his personnel.
But no one should be discouraged. It is with this chief of the Intelligence section, as it was with the valet of Beaumarchais. Few commanders reckoned thus would be capable of replacing this subordinate. But let us go back; our chief of the intelligence section will not have at any one time and to the same degree all of these qualities, hut he can still do good work in spite of that. He will find, for example, among his officer personnel, certain ones endowed with the most marvelous imagination, who will supplement what he may himself be lacking in this respect» others who will discover a usable item of Intelligence» which he might have missed.
What is really indispensable to him is what Clausewitz demands; discernment, judgment, knowledge of men and things, qualities which will permit him to connect causes and effects, to separate without being deceived certainty from uncertainty, the possible from the impossible; but above everything judgment without which all the rest will be useless to him. There is neither true discernment nor exact knowledge where judgment is lacking. It is judgment which will keep him from ready made opinions, from preconceived ideas, from false reasoning, which will conserve to him his freedom of mind under all circumstances and will save him from pride, from that pride whose misdeeds are legion with von Moltke and his students, from the pride which in the strength of his experience and perspicacity might cause him to receive untimely and unchangeable convictions.
One should be chosen who is free from pride and modest, but not so much so that it would be a detriment to his personality or who would not appreciate the importance of his role. The last war could furnish us all too many examples scattered from 1914 to 1918, in which the effacement of this important link in the general staff cost us cruel reverses.
The study section.
It is in this section that the chief of the G-2 section ought to find officers capable of assisting him and rounding out his knowledge. It is especially in the domain of imagination and in the knowledge of things which officers quick in understanding the maneuver in general and well posted on the peculiarities of certain arms, can give the chief of section really useful assistance. Charged with the study and interpretation of information, they must have judgment like their chief and a critical turn of mind to discern the true from the false, the certain and the possible from the uncertain and the impossible. They must combine a great modesty with a very keen desire to make the happiest discoveries. Pride and the desire to distinguish oneself are the foundation of a great many errors.
In the technical section, we find three categories of personnel; decipherers, interpreters of photographs and interpreters. Decipherers risk being the victims of the machine age and reduced to idleness not by the invention of deciphering machines, but by the adoption of enciphering machines. To the extent which their art is capable of giving results, the information brought to light by deciphering will be extremely useful. The fact that a document is in cipher, emphasizes its Importance. The operations necessitated by deciphering exclude chances of error. There is only one hypothesis, that of the document enciphered by the enemy for the sole purpose of having it get into our hands and deceive us, which it is necessary to examine in the study section. It is not impossible to find examples of this in the course of the last war.
The Interpreters of aerial photographs
We had some remarkable ones during the war. Nothing which might be found in a photograph escaped their magnifying glass and their stereoscope. They obtained results of incontestable verity which might appear surprising today, such as the discovering of preparations for an assault, the distinction between friends and enemies in the confusion of a battlefield, the routes of supplies, the limits of sectors, all the agencies of command and even details of the intimate life of units at the front. But is it believed that this is a matter in which one does not have to fear the dangerous effects of imagination? Certain interpreters, endowed with a large imagination, strengthened by their experience and desirous of distinguishing themselves, succeeded in discovering certain details whose existence remained doubtful for those who saw them only with their eyes even though aided by the best instruments - a fault of small importance - the work always being verified by the non-specialists of the study section and if need he by the chief of section.
Where the inconvenience might he more dangerous, is where the Interpreter risks solely from his photographs to produce a reconstitution of the enemy which claims to be complete and to draw therefrom deductions of a more general order. Would we have to fear these same inconveniences today? Have we photographic interpreters? Do they work in contact with our general staff? Are our G-2 sections themselves familiar with the reading of photographs, Interpreted or not, and are they capable of verifying the interpretations which would be presented to them? The interpreters - they make extracts of documents and question the prisoners, that is the essential part of their role, a perfect knowledge of the language of the enemy is therefore indispensable for them; and no matter how perfect they are from a general point of view, it is not enough unless they know the special jargon of military speech, its mass of abbreviations and even a little of its particular slang. To this profound knowledge of the language ought to be added sufficiently complete knowledge of a military order to see what is hidden beneath the words. How can the interpreter fulfill his role if the words company, battalion, group, battery, represent nothing more to his mind than a military formation without his taking into consideration the importance and the role of 1his formation in action. How will he perceive that the prisoner belongs to a new organization, that he speaks of a new arm if he does not have some notion of the organization of the enemy, of his armament, etc.? How can he study with all the speed often necessary, the documents taken from the enemy, if he is not familiar with the appearance of each of them; orders, instructions, reports, etc., and if he does not have a clear notion of the Interest which is Included in marks like bindings, dates, numbers which appear on these documents? These general items of knowledge are however, only the indispensable elements for the work of the interpreter. They are not enough by themselves to permit him to draw the maximum useful information which is concealed in a document or which is possessed - sometimes unbeknownst to him - by a prisoner.
Whether it is a question of one or the other, document or prisoner, the interpreter can not draw out useful information unless he is perfectly informed of everything that we know already about the enemy and of everything which we want to know. It is by rapid corroboration of what he learns, with that which he already knows, that he judges the degree of confidence which can be given to the new source and what an advantage he will have over the prisoner if, being trained to see everything like the prisoner himself, he can reconstruct with him an itinerary which the map and photographs have permitted him to reconstitute exactly. What an advantage he has if he can give the prisoner the impression that he knows so much that it is not betraying any secret to answer his questions. To be thus posted on everything which we know and everything which we want to know, the interpreter must live intensively the life of each section of the intelligence section. Only on this condition can he study with benefit the documents coming from the enemy or question with success a prisoner. General linguistic or military knowledge, particular knowledge of the situation and its needs, all this may he acquired by work. He ought to have in addition, a certain knowledge of men, which experience can develop, which Includes the natural qualities of tact, perspicacity and of authority. The prisoner may be brave, he may be cowardly, he will be patriotic or indifferent, modest or full of pride, indifferent to privations, or liking his ease. He will think of his people, or only of himself. But whatever the basis of his character, there will be a conflict in his mind of different sentiments - of danger and of security at least relative, the satisfaction of living and regret at not being dead, hope and despair. The interpreter must know how to choose his time and his attitude to find the sensitive chord on which he must play to register, without having the air of doing so, the information which the prisoner himself does not realize that he is giving.
All this demands extended knowledge on the part of the interpreter and much work in the exercise of certain natural qualities which are rather uncommon. One will not understand from this why an officer who has to be such a marvel should not be employed for all the functions of the G-2 section when the duties which he normally has leave him a moment of respite. The recruiting of the corps of interpreters as is now assured, permits visualizing their role as above, and we saw in the war interpreters which might easily have been taken for a good officer of the G-2 section. In certain units they alternated with one to assure the continuity of the service.
As in all other missions, the collection of Information missions ought not to he intrusted to agencies other than those authorized as responsible by the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of large Units; namely, the commanders of large subordinate units, commanders of troops and chiefs of services.
1. Commanders of large subordinate units.
It is possible that the idea of considering the commander of a large subordinate unit as a reconnaissance agency charged with furnishing information to his chief, marks a certain reaction in our habits. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of the last war, one would have thought more readily that it was for the rear elements to Inform those forward; for the commander to inform the subordinates. The misconception was so prevalent in 1914, that superior authority did not demand any information from the commanders of large subordinate units and the latter awaited Information from the rear with a patience which was only equaled by the blind faith in which it was accepted.
The contacts with the enemy which the corps of the French Third Army had August 21, did not open their eyes to the imminence of the general engagement. They pinned their faith without even verifying how old the information was to the intelligence bulletin of the army, which indicated only a weak and distant enemy. It was as if they had made no contacts.
Information of the presence of the enemy nearby, brought in by a Belgian Burgomaster to a Corps staff, brought about only a polite thanks followed by this reflection: ”А poor terrified old man who sees the enemy everyplace. The army has said that the enemy is behind the Lesse" (more than a days march away). Five minutes later shells were falling on the command post. This error was not peculiar to us. Let us recall that on August 28, the commander of the German X Corps, in the course of a battle which lasted not less than eight hours and in which he gained no marked advantage, sent to the army commander only two indefinite reports: that the commander of the Guard Corps sent none and that the commander of the German Second Army did not judge it necessary to require reports from them.
Such an error is easily explained on our part by the form given to the instruction at that time. But has the form changed perceptibly since?
Whether it is a map exercise or a maneuver we always have, as is logical, a general situation, a special situation and when the authorities want to take the trouble, the officer who has the decision to make is in possession of the order, which he would normally have received from superior authority. In truth, either in the order, or in one of the two situations or in an enemy paragraph may usually be found indications often more complete than could be obtained in reality, more complete and more exact sometimes than the enemy commander could give; They give us, for example, the mission of the enemy "to advance to such and such a line" or his intention - to delay us, to defend on a certain position, to envelop our flank; or better yet, what he is going to do, which is given in this form revived from Frederic-Charles and scarcely doubtful: "be-ready to......"
The Corps repeats in its order the indications from the Army order, the divisions reproduce them, and so on. And the superior authority which has foreseen in its entirety the maneuver of the enemy is never caught in error: the enemy observed will remain there several days without moving a machine gun or else he will execute exactly the maneuver we were "to be ready for" etc. So the idea is created: information as far as the enemy is concerned comes from up above.
On the contrary every one must know, that in this matter at least, information comes from down below and that the chief knows nothing except what his subordinates, the responsible collectors, have told him. It is very evident, for example, that no one is better placed than the commander of an army corps to furnish the army commander precise information which has been studied and if need be Interpreted about everything which exists, or is going on on the enemy side in the entire zone to which his investigations extend. He employs, to find out this information, the divisions who have observation facilities of their own, who may make actual contacts, etc., his artillery, his air force, and he has in his staff a G-2 section which centralizes, studies and Interprets for him all this information. It is all the less difficult for him to furnish this to the army commander since he has to assemble the greater part of it for the needs of his own maneuver. It was not until very recently, a custom in our exercises or our maneuvers, that the subordinate echelons should be given all the information which they would obtain by the realities of contact, or the reconnaissance agencies not represented in the maneuver nor that this information should be transmitted to higher authorities. Often, even now, the information given by the "enemy" sections organized for certain maneuvers is not always transmitted. Everyone knows that the exercise will be over before the information arrives at the superior echelon. Or else we think that it will be lost on the way and do not send it.
It is doubtless because they are imbued with this idea of a commander, who, not knowing how to demand from his subordinates the reports which they should furnish him, is reduced to enlightening himself - chasing Information - that certain officers have conceived the idea embodied in our regulations of an advanced intelligence center which would be set up in each large unit not far from the front. Such a conception is an evident contradiction with the wisest rules of organization of the military hierarchy. It ends up by creating an instrument which Is Inoperative or even harmful.
All of our wire systems are organized with the idea of giving easy communications from commanders to subordinates and vice versa. Axes of communication are therefore oriented in directions practically perpendicular to the front; it is technically, the best direction which they can be given. The axes parallel to the front, which fit in with the advanced intelligence centers are much more easily put out of action by enemy fire. How under these conditions can an installation close to the front centralize the information received from various parts of the front. It cannot. Can the authority of the commander placed with the advanced intelligence center supply this lack of means to draw information to it in spite of all these difficulties? It cannot. Because, if one thinks it over, one would be obliged to admit that, in a division staff for example, it would be impossible to send a qualified officer to the advanced intelligence center to accomplish it, because everyone who might do it has his indispensable place marked for him in the command post. This advanced intelligence center appears then to be useless. There is no point in regretting it, for it could not be otherwise than harmful.
Let us admit for an instant, that the chief of the advanced intelligence center has succeeded in collecting information coming for example from company or battalion commanders who are in contact with the enemy. His principal duty will be to find out their value, if any, and we know that he is not qualified for that, and to transmit it to the division commander. It is understood, of course, that the intermediate echelons should also be informed, but can he assure this always? Does not the grave danger to which such an organization exposes us become at once apparent? It risks taking from the commander most directly interested and turning to the profit of superior authority information on which the superior authority may form an idea of the situation at the front entirely different from that of the subordinate. Thus begins, among the men prosecuting the same task these misunderstandings a hundred times more undesirable than the use of the information might be profitable and which makes of the advanced intelligence center a dangerous institution.
No. It will always be bad and more so in the presence of the enemy than in any other case when the captain of a company makes reports to another than the battalion commander, when he reports to other than his colonel and so on for all the other authorities. It is a duty of a commander of any echelon to gather all the information he can about the enemy and to transmit it to the superior echelon with his own idea of it, a statement of what he has done, and the requests he wants to make, etc.
Let no one say that a commander should become so wrapped up in the combat which he directs, that he does not think of making reports to the rear and that it is better thus. It will always be bad to let anyone forget that he is part of the team. Moreover, there is always at hand down to and including the battalion, a staff to prepare these reports to higher authority. Should one say that he is not qualified to comprehend the information? In general, he will be better qualified for this than an officer who might be sent to the advanced intelligence center. Each chief should instruct his subordinates in their role with reference to information and give them clear orders on the subject that they cannot fall to comprehend. Finally, there is the experience of the war. At a certain epoch, when ignorance of the importance of information in war was general, when communications were possible from front to rear only by telephone wires widely separated and burled a meter and a half in the ground, it is believable that an advanced intelligence center placed at the end of this wire was indispensable. But, in the actual war, all those who were instructing regimental intelligence officers in their role and giving intelligence agencies precise instructions as to what was required of them, were surprised at the results obtained without having recourse to the abnormal channel which the advanced intelligence center makes.
2. Troop Commanders.
The cavalry commander, the artillery commander, the Engineer Officer, the Air Officer, the Signal Officer, are capable of furnishing information to the commander and are regarded Bу him as reconnaissance agencies.
The Cavalry Commander
The organization of our large units does not comprise a cavalry commander in the same way as it does an Artillery Officer, an Engineer Officer, etc. It would be, accordingly, more precise to regard the commander of a cavalry division, attached for example to an army as the commander of a large subordinate unit under the army commander. This division has moreover, this character In common with an army corps - it may "be considered as a combat unit and a reconnaissance agency at the same time. It differs in that its role as a reconnaissance agency stands out more clearly than does that of an army corps. The securing of information will frequently he the aim of the division or corps of cavalry; it will usually "be an incidental "benefit for the army corps engaged toward other ends. Since long ago, the cavalry has been considered as the agency par excellence for reconnaissance. Napoleon did not hesitate to employ it thus in large masses, and it is still in the Napoleonic campaigns that we search for the most typical examples of the employment of this arm in the collection of information.
If, from this point of view, the possibilities of cavalry are much diminished in the particular case of stabilized warfare no one doubts that in the case of war movement, this arm with its new organization would not see its possibilities increase in considerable proportions perhaps as yet unsuspected. It is even now on the way to overcoming difficulties in getting information at a distance and in the delays which have grown up, from the point of view of the capabilities of the enemy, due to the employment by the enemy of means of transport of great speed and efficiency.
Once again technical progress has added to the breadth of the problems to be solved in war without having changed its nature. The means perfect themselves in vain - attack and defense profit thereby equally. The acquisition of information, as much as the action itself profits from the advantages of power and speed which motorization places in the service of the adversaries.
The characteristics of the new machines being known, a deep study of numerous concrete cases ought to permit us to arrive at an exact idea of what the commander who wants information may require of the cavalry equipped as it is going to be. It would be a misfortune if its power and mobility in action made the commander forget the advantage to be obtained from it for reconnaissance.
The artillery commander
Exactly as the commander of any other large unit, he uses his agencies charged with collecting the peculiar information of which he has need to conduct his action. His units in the line, his sound and flash sections, the observation placed at this disposal furnish his particular information service with precise data and Information on the enemy organizations and movements which they are able to observe. Accordingly, he is in a position to furnish the commander of the large unit precise information, already studied and centralized and immediately usable. He will be particularly competent to appreciate everything which pertains to the enemy artillery and eventually to the capacity of resistance which his organizations can offer to our own projectiles.
The Engineer Officer
Outside of the listening posts for mines, which he may be called upon to establish, the Engineer Officer does not have at his disposal any real reconnaissance agency. Accordingly, it is only exceptionally, in the case of listening for mines, that he may he classified as a reconnaissance agency.
The Signal Officer
The Signal Officer has the listening-in telephonic or radio sections and the radiogoniometric sections. He can only furnish the commander what the imprudences of the enemy in the use of their communications permit him to receive. These imprudences of the enemy are almost inevitable and the results of the measures executed by the radiogoniometric sections and the information which they obtain are often of the highest interest for the commander. It devolves upon the Signal Officer to organize this service.
The Air Officer
He may be likened from the special point of view of organization to the cavalry commander of the large unit of which he forms a part. From the point of view of the air formations of the large unit considered, he commands actually only those formations which are at the disposition of the commander of the large unit to the exclusion of those which belong to the subordinate units. He may, then, be compared to the cavalry commander, to the commander of a large subordinate unit and he is, also, an agency of combat and of reconnaissance. But his character as a reconnaissance agency stands out more clearly than does that of the cavalry commander.
Aviation, still in its infancy at the beginning of the World War, was first used only for reconnaissance. It did its apprenticeship there and quickly produced valuable results. From 1915 on, aerial photography was completing, sometimes correcting, the reports of aerial observers and permitted the triumph in most cases over the artifices of camouflage. The results obtained by aerial reconnaissance, completed by those given by captive balloon observation, constituted, long before the end of the war, a most Important proportion of the information gathered by the various reconnaissance agencies. Aviation has effected, since the war, considerable progress, which like that effected in the equipment of the cavalry or by the organization of mechanized sections, gives the reconnaissance agencies the possibilities which it needs now that the enemy has at his disposal rapid and' powerful means of transport. Its role as a reconnaissance agency has not stopped growing. The air officer is thus in a position to assemble rapidly for the commander of the large unit both by his aerial observation and by his aerial photographs an accurate documentation extending over considerable territory and, in particular, Into regions where no other observation is possible.
The positive information which he can furnish by his aerial photography or by plain observation have a value of certainty of the first order. Numerous and wisely chosen, they permit getting from the enemy an almost complete description which the commander can consider at his leisure in all Its aspects; vertical projection, horizontal or oblique view, face view, profile or even from the rear. An attentive study of the oblique photographs of the gaps opened up on the reverse slopes of the Chemin des Dames before the attack of April 16, 1917 might have saved us a number of bloody deceptions. Negative information from the aviation is far from having the same value. War experience has shown that negative information from aerial observers should be used with the greatest circumspection. Is it necessary to recall the error into which von Bülow fell the 27th of August 1914? We know that on that same date the French observers saw nothing unusual in the region overrun by the German Third Army. On September 8th, a German aerial observer reported that there was absolutely nothing in the region north of Somsous en Champagne which he had just flown over and where, nevertheless an entire French Army corps in the approach march was doing nothing to conceal itself. We might multiply these examples to infinity. Aerial photographs themselves may be to a certain extent the victim of skillful camouflage. Does this mean that aviation is unable to give negative information of absolute value? We do not think so. But in order to do that, it is necessary that it should be gotten under well determined conditions of very low altitude which renders reconnaissance particularly dangerous. This would be again a matter for the commander to measure the risk to be run and the importance of the information to be gotten; danger is the daily bread of war.
The air officer finally is able, by employing a balloon, to add to his facility for furnishing information at a given hour and in a determined region - that of exercising a continuous surveillance in front of the front lines, extending some kilometers in depth.
3. Chiefs of Services.
The Chiefs of the various services are not in the habit of collecting information, nevertheless the commander will have at times, to call upon their particular ability to appreciate the value of certain information relative to matters pertaining to their specialty. On the contrary, we may say here, in order not to have to come back to It, that they may have need of certain particular items of information which it will be well to furnish them in order to favor the better execution of their service in the maneuver decided upon; for example information about the resources which still exist in the regions where the commander of the large unit plans to carry out his operations.
The Chief of the Secret Service.
Among the Chiefs of Services, there is one who ought to he considered in this place because, certain appearance to the contrary, he is really Chief of a Service and specifically of the service which has for its special mission under the title SECRET SERVICE finding out certain information about the enemy, He has charge actually through the resources whose administration is entrusted to him of assembling, paying the necessary price if necessary, certain items of information which it is impossible to procure by other means. We cannot outline his subject too precisely without increasing the danger of revelations which would be advantageous to an eventual enemy as well versed as anyone else in questions of espionage.
The Chief of the espionage service utilizes to get information, a personnel of extremely varied moral worth, going from the man nobly disinterested and whose impassioned patriotism will permit him to undergo the greatest suffering and to consent to the most sublime sacrifices down to passing through all the intermediate degrees to the most vile traitor, to whom you would like to give the price of his infamy, as M. Thiers did one day on a historic occasion with a pair of pincers.
The management of such a personnel requires naturally in those who are charged with it, a wide knowledge of psychology and those to whom are familiar all the human motives, from the most noble passions to the most hideous instincts of nature. But gifted with this profound knowledge of men, the Chief of the espionage service would still fail in his task, if he did not have sufficient knowledge of the needs of his Chief to regulate according thereto the employment of the means under his control. He must have in this respect, as in tactics, a conception of the principal effort. A sure judgment which will protect him from the ruses by which the enemy will try to deceive him and the traps, into which he might fall, is indispensable to him. He has to have finally, a strong character which will keep him from satisfying the impatience of his Chief by giving him a multitude of items foreign to the point and destined solely to make him forget that he has not yet obtained the essential information, or sensational items which he knows he will never be able to verify.
Such an agency should be oriented in general terms on what will be demanded of him at the time of need, in order that his agencies may be placed and ready to function when the hour comes for their use and that the transmission of this information, which is always a delicate matter, may be foreseen and organized in detail. If this precaution is lacking, one will await in vain in- the moment of need, information which will be indispensable to the maneuver. In this case, as in the case of the advanced intelligence center, it is much less a matter of chasing Information, than of demanding it at the proper time from him who should furnish it.
Other reconnaissance agencies
To the items of information furnished the Chief by his reconnaissance agencies, which he controls, there will come others which will complete very effectively his documentations, although they will be furnished to him by agencies which he cannot activate as he desires. These agencies are the superior echelon, neighbouring authorities and in a general way all the agencies having to do with questions of information.
The Superior Echelon
It is only in principal, practically, that each command agency uses the reconnaissance agencies which it needs. These latter may at times be lacking. This will be the case for example, in a division with no observation squadron and which needs to locate exactly the emplacement of an element of defense of the enemy which is invisible to its terrestrial observation and its balloon. In this case the subordinate authority, the division in question, will take account of this need in its intelligence plan and it will be a superior authority, duly advised, in this case the army corps, which will undertake the duty of furnishing the information requested. Outside of this type of information, which would be asked by the subordinate authority of the next echelon, or perhaps this latter would take the initiative in finding it out, there is another type of extremely important information which the superior ought to furnish its subordinate; that which concerns the general situation of the enemy who is operating in the zone where the maneuver is to take place.
By means of all the information furnished by all the reconnaissance agencies under its authority, the superior has been able in effect to reconstruct a general situation as regards the enemy in which the particular situation which Interests more especially each one of his subordinates will necessarily he included. Inside the limits thus traced, which limit eventually the field of its errors, the subordinate has only to put in the details corresponding to the needs of a task which is in itself more in detail.
In the course of their own reconnaissance, neighbouring commands discover certain items about the enemy in their front which will be of Interest, sometimes as much as to themselves, to the organizations beside them. Suppose for example, we are trying to determine the density of occupation of the enemy front and we have determined In front of us one limit of an enemy division. If the neighbouring command can tell us where the other limit of occupation of the same division is on their front, we will have the use of an element capable of assisting appreciably our own investigation. In the same way as above, the need will be indicated in the designation of the essential elements and the neighbouring command will not fail to give us the corresponding information as soon as it is knowledge and experience by which the ideas pertaining to the maneuver of the superior authority may be judged. Accordingly everything which is destined for the superior authority may well he prepared by his staff, hut should he seen by him.
Intelligence destined for subordinate authorities is of very different importance. If it is a question of detailed information received by the superior authority, hut which is really interesting only to the subordinate, it is possible to admit that the staff should transmit it without the chief of staff intervening. But, if it is a question of this general situation of the enemy, reconstructed by means of the delicate operation which we have studied above - a situation into the interior of which the subordinates are going to search to find the particular items which interest them, It is often useful for the chief of staff to know in what form it is presented to them. It is all too certain that the same situation, according as it is presented with an exaggerated optimism, or with too much pessimism, may engender a rash confidence or a paralyzing disquietude. Accordingly, the state of morale of the subordinates ought always to be the object of attention of the chief of staff.
Whether intelligence destined for neighbouring commands is applicable to details, or to more important objects, it does not seem in any way inconvenient that the staff should simply assure the transmission of it. If it is a question of details, that is evident; if it is a question of more important information, or of a more general order, it will appear anyway in the documents addressed to superior authorities of inferior authorities, which the chief of staff has seen and there is no reason why it should not be given to neighbouring commands in the same form.
Documents which Assure Distribution
We can put aside intelligence which presents an immediate interest for a particular echelon of command. This pertains In general, to the statement of a situation or a fact from which the benefit must be taken without delay. A brief report or memorandum of intelligence according to whether it is destined for the commander or a subordinate, clear, precise and answering the habitual questions, who or what, when, where, how is sufficient.
Information gathered by subordinate authority, studied, interpreted and if need be edited, are brought to the knowledge of superior authority by means of intelligence reports. These reports are presented in a methodical manner, grouping in distinct paragraphs the fragmentary items pertaining to the same objects, to the same zone etc. They are gotten out when there is a sufficient quantity of information to give an idea of the ensemble. But above everything, pains must be taken to distinguish carefully between the material facts stated and what is only the result of interpretation. It goes without saying, that the most absolute truth should be the rule in this report. The entire truth is due the commander, whatever it may be. To deceive him in any measure whatsoever is to make false the essential base of his next conception. Whatever may be the means employed of deceiving him, a lie, a deformation of the truth, or even simple dissimulation by silence, is to commit an action much more blamable and vile than simple dishonesty. It is a real betrayal.
The document by which superior authority communicates to subordinate echelons the intelligence which it has gathered about the enemy, is called Intelligence Bulletin. In this bulletin the fragmentary intelligence pertaining to the same objects, to the same zones, etc. and susceptible of interesting one or the other of the authorities for whom it is destined, is grouped methodically as in the intelligence report. There is found there also, when It is necessary, a reconstitution of the ensemble of the enemies situation as the commander sees it and extending to everything which might be of interest in the maneuver of the large unit. This reconstitution may appear either at the beginning of the bulletin in a paragraph, "General Situation" or at the end in a paragraph entitled "Resume or Conclusion." This question of form to give the bulletin is of small Importance, provided the two categories of intelligence - the ensemble and the details - can be found easily. It frequently happens, especially in certain echelons of command such as an army corps, that the bulletin and the report will be identical. There is then no inconvenience in replacing the report by a bulletin sent under the title of report.
The Difference between a Report and a Bulletin
The two documents may however, present a major difference which is indicated entirely in this manner: All the truth in the report, nothing but the truth in the bulletin. It is possible that it is necessary in certain cases - rather rare - not to give to the subordinates certain information which does not have any bearing on the conduct of their maneuver but which might exercise a bad influence on their morale. In our opinion, it is better to conceal nothing from them. Usually the executing agency may be told everything; it is sufficient to find the proper manner of telling.
In any case - It seems scarcely necessary to note this - it is never necessary to give false information, even under the pretext of raising morale. It always ends by being found out; accordingly, unless I am mistaken, the expression "feeding them taffy" was born in the last war and we have seen the deplorable consequences of the action so named. Lying destroys confidence; the temporary benefit to be derived therefrom is nothing compared to the moral prejudice which it surely brings about later.
Intelligence Foreign to the Maneuver
Finally, it goes without saying, that the bulletin so made up, as a document from the commander bringing to the subordinate authority, In part at least, one of the elements of his decision ought not to include any of the puerilities which have often encumbered war bulletins.
If It la desirable to keep up the morale of the troops to publish certain news having only a slight connection with the maneuver, let each army for example, publish a special sheet in which the G-2 section may set down beside these news items the overflow of their imagination. Thus would be obtained a publication which might assist with theater productions and all similar work in the armies in maintaining morale, but with which the intelligence bulletin should not in any manner be confused.
It is not a question of sketches capable of replacing completely documents as clear, plain, and vigorous as those of which we have just spoken when they are well presented, but a simple sketch, clear and expressive, may if it Is drawn by someone who understands the situation and the needs of each unit, do much to render them plainer. Everybody knows the opinion of Napoleon as to the value of sketches. The art of making them was carried in certain units during the last war to a degree of perfection which makes it regrettable that it has not received more popular use.
The "Enemy" Paragraph of the Order
Certainly it belongs to the signer of an order to give to this document the form which suits him. It is a tradition however, to consecrate one of the first paragraphs, if not the first to a discussion of the enemy question. This tradition seems to us to rest on a very logical perception of what an operations order ought to be. Actually, what is an order? The translation of the decision of the commander, explained and limited for the use of those who are to execute it. This decision itself is only the result of the mental operation called the conception of the idea in which the commander discloses his solution of the problem, which is always before him: being given a certain situation of the enemy to discover a combination of the forces of which he has control which will permit him to fulfill his mission in spite of everything which the enemy can do to oppose it.
When the chief has discovered this combination, how can he make his subordinates understand what he expects from them except by laying out exactly for them the conditions of the problem and the solution which he has made? Accordingly, the order presents itself in this form:
The mission received from superior authority
The maneuver conceived by the commander for the accomplishment of the mission received.
The missions given in consequence thereof to each one of his subordinates.
The Utility of the Enemy Paragraph
The order thus comprised, forms a whole in which all the parts are closely united by the relations of cause and effect. It is because the enemy is thus and so, and because the mission is thus and so, that the maneuver will be thus and not otherwise, and because the maneuver is thus the missions determined for the executing agencies are as they are. Take away from this whole, any one of its parts, and the ensemble becomes lopsided and one runs immediately into a very grave difficulty.
We know that the initiative of the subordinate is strictly limited as to the choice of the means which he will employ to accomplish the mission which has been entrusted to him, except in the case where he finds himself at the moment of execution manifestly in the presence of a situation different from that on which the order which he has received Is based.
From what we have seen, if the subordinate is not informed of the situation on which the order is based, the difference in cause will not appear to him and this initiative will remain unusable by him unless he makes an interpretation of the thought of his commander. This interpretation will always be dangerous; an error in this respect, no excluding good faith, would he an open door to all kinds of disobedience. Certainly as far as the enemy is concerned, precisions which might he very useful, might he left out at the moment of giving the order» hut It seems that especially, if one is afraid of being deceived in this respect, It would he most indispensable to say how one sees him In order to conserve the benefit of the initiative of his subordinates.
The first paragraph of the order relative to the enemy, may thus be considered as the expression of one of the causes which justifies the paragraph relative to the idea of the maneuver. It is evident that its writing ought to be presented in sequence. It will be the condensation in a few lines of a situation in which will appear the necessity to attain the aim of the maneuver indicated in the following paragraph.
It will be closely allied with the synthesis presented to the commander because this has precisely for its aim presenting to the commander "in a form immediately exploitable by him all the Information concerning the enemy capable of determining or modifying his decision." (Annex No. 4 to the provisional Instruction for large units, paragraph 6). That is to say, it serves as a base for an order. In general, it will be still more condensed than the synthesis presented to the commander.
Count Schlieffen, having discovered in the correspondence of Napoleon this remark; "In war the men are nothing, it is A man who is everything" judged It useful to interpret it. "This means, he wrote, "that the commander should impregnate with his spirit all the men which he will later command, all his soldiers" (Schlieffen, The Commander in Chief). This is another example of these interpretations which could not be presented as a model logical deduction to our G-2 Sections. May not this remark mean just as well, that, in the opinion of Napoleon, the chief who commands has a decisive influence on the final success and which is superior to that of the men? It is another interpretation of the idea of the Emperor, which is simpler than that of Schlieffen and which seems just as accurate. It seems even more the only accurate one when it is completed by this explanation given by Napoleon himself. "The General, he is the head, he is the whole of the army; it was not the Roman army which conquered Gaul, but Caesar: It was not the Carthaginian army at the gates of Rome which made the Republic tremble, but Hannibal; It was not the Prussian army which defended Prussia for seven years against the three greatest powers of Europe, but Frederick the Great." The idea of Napoleon which contrasts in these striking formulas the part which should be attributed in the success to the commander and to the soldier, is thus perfectly clear: the interpretation which Schlieffen gives to it is only a deformation.
Not only is the idea of the Emperor clear, but if we want to consider it by itself, an abstraction made of the exaggerated relief which the comparisons of pure rhetoric with which he has rendered it more evident, give it, it must be acknowledged that it Is correct.
Has not Schlieffen himself verified the truth of this statement in his study on the battle of Cannes? This battle in which the best, the most numerous and the strongest army was annihilated by Hannibal. By Hannibal, whose merit is much less in having applied the banal proceeding of a double envelopment than having known how to combine his strength and his weakness to make an ensemble capable of annihilating his adversary?
It belongs to Napoleon himself to administer experimentally the proof of the correctness of his idea, particularly in the campaign of 1813 where the French armies were alternately victorious or beaten according to whether there were commanded by the Emperor in person, or by one of his lieutenants. Popular opinion is not deceived; for it the Marne of 1914 is Joffre, as Rocroi is Condé, Rossbach is Soubise and as Metz is Bazaine.
This influence of the value of a commander upon the final success, of capital importance in the time of Hannibal, of Caesar, of Frederick the Great, cannot help but increase with the great organisms which constitute modern armies. The more the subordinate organs become important, numerous and complex, the more the coordination of-their efforts within a coherent action, exactly applied to achieve the desired end, becomes delicate and complex, the more the brain of the commander who has to put these efforts to work needs to be clear, well ordered and powerful.
Accordingly the principal role of the commander, the Provisional Instructions for the Tactical Employment of Large Units tells us, is to make decisions, these latter being only the result of the purely intellectual process called comprehension. This comprehension cannot devote itself to any other objective than to discover a combination of actions which the forces at his disposition can carry out which will be such that his mission will be carried out in spite of the efforts with which the enemy may oppose him.
Such an operation is possible to the commander only if he is in possession of certain given quantities fixing a limit to the strength of the efforts with which the enemy may oppose him. It he has no given quantities on the subject, he will never be able to know if the combination which he has in mind is capable of triumphing over the enemy opposition; the operation of war will present itself to him always as a gambling proposition, exposed to all the hazards no matter what covering stakes he may put up. Information of the enemy, which is at the base of the works by which the limit of the enemy possibilities is therefore of paramount interest.
It appears, with evidence to prove it, that the commander should not accept for introduction into his calculations this given quantity fixing the limits of the possibilities of the enemy if it is not a solid foundation upon which he can build with the most absolute certainty of not introducing into his conception any of the hazards inadmissible in such matters. This given quantity will not present the indispensable character of absolute certainty if it is the result of deductions in which sentiment has a place of equal weight with reason and if these deductions themselves have as an origin information which does not present the same degree of absolute certainty.
Accordingly at the base of the documentation of the commander relative to the enemy, we must have only certain material statements serving as bases for logical deductions or exact calculations to the exclusion of impressions, sentimental opinions, convictions serving as bases or, indifferently, as conclusions to interpretations where the art of guessing has an equal place with reason. Lacking this essential character -certainty - intelligence is nothing but a "tip". On such a tip a private individual has the right to risk his fortune gambling; a general does not have the right to risk the fate of the Fatherland.