Mission Command During the War of Movement in World War I Initiative and Synchronization of the German Right Wing in August and Early September 1914
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
Pagination or Media Count:
German planning prior to World War I relied upon a quick decisive defeat of the western armies in Belgium and eastern France through a large enveloping movement of the three armies attacking at the German right wing through Belgium and northern France. Compared to warfare in 1870, this required a change in terms of the required balance between initiative and synchronization. The thesis analyzes how the philosophy of Auftragstaktik, the command structure, and communications influenced the army level execution of the initial campaign at the Western Front in 1914 and contributed to its final failure. First, it constructs a theory of German command philosophy, command structure, and communications as a framework of reference. Secondly, it analyzes decision points during the opening weeks of the 1914 campaign and interactions between Moltkes supreme command and the army level. The decision points depict the tension between the art of command and the science of control and its causes. Finally, the thesis provides an analysis of theory and practice of Mission Command at the beginning of World War I as a basis for the deduction of lessons about the art of command and the science of control. It shows that the German Army possessed a doctrinal framework and a culture that endorsed decentralized execution and initiative. Preparation for the war, however, had failed to achieve clarity about the operational approach and omitted the development of a functioning command structure. Means of communications did not allow for adequate transmission of reports due to deficiencies in both the speed and volume of traffic. Exempt by doctrine from reporting during an ongoing battle, commanders culturally did not see an importance in keeping the OHL and their adjacent units informed about their own situation and intentions.
- Humanities and History
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics