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The Guns of August

May 18, 2014

The Guns of AugustBarbara Tuchman

This book was truly a great effort in research and a wonderful collation of various points of view on the start of World War I. After reading this book, I was not surprised that this book won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 1963.

The parts of the story that interested me the most were how the speed of military mobilization and speed of communication between commanders and armies contributed to many avoidable circumstances. At one point, the German emperor actually ordered a delay in mobilization to reconsider his position, but because the massive mobilization had already begun stopping it, although possible, would have devastated the armies in terms of fighting capabilities. Logistics constraints of transportation and supplies constantly plagued both sides, and speed of communication just slowed down the reactiveness of battle. All situations in the war were clouded by the fog of war.

Also very interesting was the financial detail of fighting such a war at a time that monetary markets did not have the sophistication of current times. WW1 was a time of indemnity payments by the loser and billeting by invading armies. The idea that a quick and decisive war could be fought and won was a very tempting idea to the Germans. Both sides understood a protracted war would be devastating far beyond the military casualties, and both sides also depended on the others’ motivation to keep the war short.

From → Books

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