Could Germany have Won World War 1?

Like World War 2 much of the historiography on World War 1 suggests Germany could not have won.  Given the considerable advantages her enemies had in manpower, industry, resources, finance, and naval power, as well as her obvious crushing defeat in 1918, it can be hard to fathom how she could have triumphed.  However, Germany arguably could have pulled off a victory at key moments, or at least accomplished a negotiated peace to her advantage under certain circumstances.  Certainly Germany’s impressive battlefield victories, her overrunning of countries and territory during the war, that she knocked Russia out of the conflict, as well as inflicting disproportionate casualties on her enemies, suggests this is not impossible.  German prospects of victory may not have been great but were better than is usually supposed.

What is sometimes forgotten, or downplayed, in histories of the war is that while Germany may have been inferior against her enemies overall she was considerably superior to her enemies individually.  Her army in 1914 was by far the best trained, equipped, and led in Europe while her navy was second only to the Royal Navy.  Her economy, and industry, were superior to Russia and France combined, and although Britain titled the advantage towards the Entente it took years for the British Army to build itself up and become strong, or her war industries to be developed.  In a one on one conflict Germany would have beaten France or Russia while a war with Britain would have been a standoff given the power of the Royal Navy.  However, Germany would have also probably won a war against both France and Russia since during the war she brought the former’s army to mutiny in 1917 and the latter to Revolution during the same year even though Britain, and eventually America, were on their side.

Additionally, for the first half of the war the Germans had a considerable edge in weaponry (especially heavy artillery and machine guns) and the French did not catch up until 1916, the British in 1917, while the Russians never did.  This combined with superior German military skill and leadership for most of the war, and the fact that the Germans, and their allies, had the advantages of interior lines and the central position gave Germany some opportunities to challenge the manpower and material advantages the Entente had as a whole.  Essentially this meant Germany using these advantages to win battles, and campaigns, to knock Entente countries out of the war, or at least convincing some of them to agree to a separate peace with Germany and thus give the latter a better chance to fight on better terms against other powers.  Thus Germany tried to defeat France outright in 1914, defeat or bring Russia to terms in 1915, bleed the French Army white at Verdun, starve the British into submission with her submarines in 1917, and bring the French and British to terms in 1918.  It is debatable how likely any of these aims were but they were not impossible, and in some cases the Germans could probably have had more success if they had adopted other strategies, or made different decisions, at certain points in the war. 


Could Germany have Won the War in 1914?

Perhaps Germany’s best chance of winning the war was in 1914 at the outbreak of hostilities.  Germany faced a war against Russia and France and whereas the former may have been militarily weaker than France she was also vast and it was doubtful a quick campaign could have knocked her out of the war.  Therefore Germany attacked France using the infamous Schlieffen Plan.  The plan involved bypassing the strongly fortified French frontier by sending the majority of the German Army through Belgium and then marching behind Paris to hit the French armies from behind who were expected to mass for an attack to retake Alsace-Lorraine, which the French had lost to the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War.  There is considerable debate whether or not the Schlieffen Plan could have succeeded due to many considerations but the plan itself had been modified from an earlier version, and arguably could have gone better had many of these changes not been made.

In the event the Schlieffen Plan as modified in 1914 resulted in disproportionate French casualties and gave Germany a considerable slice of French territory, which captured a big chunk of French industrial capabilities and resources, as well as giving Germany a buffer zone to defend German territory (indeed the war on the Western Front would be fought on French and Belgium soil for the rest of the war).  However, it failed to defeat France in 1914 and was therefore a strategic failure.  General Moltke the Younger, the German military leader at the beginning of the war, told the Kaiser in its aftermath:  “Your majesty, we have lost the war.”

Yet with the original plan, or at least some variations, the Schlieffen Plan would probably have had better prospects of success.  In the original plan the right wing of the attack was much stronger and had it been so in 1914 it probably could have handled the British Army much better and maybe not have had to turn east of Paris instead of trying to outflank it as originally planned.  Also the German forces in Alsace-Lorraine were supposed to not only have stayed on the defence but even pull back to lure the French further into the trap the German advance through Belgium was facilitating.  Instead Moltke bowed to pressure to allow German commanders to attack in that region as well which gave the French (who were still terribly bled in the operations) enough time to double back and protect Paris once they saw the threat from the northern German armies.  Additionally, the Germans were originally supposed to have invaded Holland, or at least the Maastricht region, which would have greatly eased the logistical problems of the Schlieffen Plan.  Had they done so it would have helped the German Army’s advance but on the flip side it would of had to deal with Holland and her army; though it is doubtful the latter would have had the capacity and enough aggressiveness to seriously challenge German plans.

Finally, Moltke’s decision to transfer significant troops from the Western Front during the campaign to the Eastern Front, due to pressure by the Russians against East Prussia, proved to be a big mistake in hindsight.  They were in transition between both fronts when Germany won the decisive Battle of Tannenberg, as well as losing the even more decisive Battle of the Marne, which halted the momentum of the Schlieffen Plan, pushed the Germans back, and led to trench warfare which brought the end of maneuver on the Western Front until 1918.  Had these choices, and modifications, not been made perhaps Germany could have encircled Paris, destroyed the French armies on the frontier, and knocked France out of the war.  While this is not necessarily probable given the complicated logistics of the Schlieffen Plan, the unanticipated strong resistance of the Belgians, or Britain’s intervention, but its chances of success would have been better than how the plan unfolded in 1914.

Or what if Germany had not invaded Belgium in 1914 which gave Britain an excuse to intervene and thus making Germany an enemy of the world’s greatest empire, financial power and strongest navy.  On one hand without the chance to invade Belgium Germany would have lost her best chance to defeat France quickly and a long war would be inevitable.  However, superior German industry, finance and military skill (assuming Britain was neutral), along with her allies, would have likely beaten France and Russia.  On the other hand it is possible Britain would have found an excuse to intervene on the Entente’s side anyway considering it was usually a British goal in foreign policy to prevent any country from dominating mainland Europe, and that Germany’s attempts to build a fleet to match the Royal Navy made them Britain’s obvious military rival.  However, Britain did not have an alliance with Russia or France in 1914, a war against Germany was not popular amongst the British populace until the unprovoked invasion of Belgium, and governments do not always go to war even when their interests are at stake (certainly Britain and France would have been better off attacking Germany over the Rhineland in 1936, or Czechoslovakia in 1938, when they had a much better chance of success than in 1939).

As such, depending whether or not Britain entered the war if Germany did not invade Belgium anyway, or if she delayed doing so long enough to give Germany a decent military victory, or advantage, against France or Russia, are the main considerations.  For example the small, but professional, British Army sent to France in 1914 certainly bloodied the German right wing of the Schlieffen Plan and potentially gave France the edge during the Battle of the Marne that saved Paris and pushed the Germans back.  Likewise British money financed a disproportionate amount of the Entente war effort and her navy blockaded Germany (which was one of the main factors for Germany’s defeat).  However, much like almost everything else to do with what if history the conjecture regarding the outcome of Germany not invading Belgium is ultimately guesswork.

Could Germany have Kicked Russia out of the War in 1916?

After 1914 it was arguably not until 1916 that Germany had a decent chance of winning the war.  While Germany admittedly had a very successful year in 1915 by decisively beating the Entente’s offensives on the Western Front, overrunning Serbia and thoroughly smashing several Russian armies (inflicting perhaps 2 million casualties on the Russians), she realistically had no chance of knocking one of her major enemies out of the war.  Germany did not have the military means, or sufficient experience and doctrine, to beat trench warfare on the Western Front, or enough manpower and logistics to defeat the Tsarist regime in Russia in 1915.  Perhaps she could have tried all out unrestricted submarine warfare in an attempt to starve Britain but realistically she did not have the amount of u-boats to do so and it arguably could have made America enter the war much earlier than she did. 

However, Germany had a decent chance of beating one of her enemies in 1916.  In February General Falkenhayn, who had replaced Moltke in late 1914, reasoned he could bleed the French Army white at Verdun with a combination of French pride and superior German artillery.  Falkenhayn was correct that he could make the French fight at Verdun, and inflict more casualties, but he was mistaken in thinking he could bleed them out more quickly than the Germans, and their allies, considering the Entente had vastly superior reserves of manpower.  While he was also correct that the western powers of the Entente would have to be defeated to win the war the chances of an outright victory on the Western Front in 1916 were very questionable.

But what if the Germans had concentrated against the Russians in 1916, as they did in 1915, instead of attacking Verdun?  Given that the combined British-Franco offensive on the Somme that year, as well as an even stronger one in the Spring of 1917, were contained, it is hard to see the Germans suffering a major defeat in the West in 1916 had Verdun not been attacked, had the Germans concentrated on the Eastern Front, and if the French could focus on the offensive on the Somme instead of the defence of Verdun.  The Germans suffered nearly the same casualties as the French at Verdun when they were on the offensive, certainly they would have suffered less had they remained on the defensive in the west in 1916 (as indeed German losses were almost inevitably lesser when on the defence).  It took until the latter part of 1917 for the western powers of the Entente, principally the British, to gain the necessary experience, doctrine and tactics to seriously contemplate defeating trench warfare, and as such the Germans would have arguably been smarter to focus on Russia in 1916 attempting to knock her out of the war.

For despite Russia’s considerable superiority in manpower, and territory, she was still relatively backwards versus the Germans in industry, military skill and political stability.  This latter factor was especially relevant considering the despotic, oppressive, and frankly incompetent nature of the Tsar’s regime.  German victories in 1914-15 had not been sufficient to destroy Russian political will, or her military means to resist, but certainly it exposed the backwardness of the Russian state, the corruption of its leadership, and its military inferiority versus the Germans.  In 1917 it led to a revolution in the spring that toppled the Tsar, as well as a later one in the autumn that brought the communists to power (who quickly sued for peace allowing the Germans to mass most of their army on the Western Front).  

Had the Germans and their allies moved aggressively against Russia in 1916, say overrunning the Baltic States to threaten Petrograd (the Tzar’s capital), moving towards Moscow (the Russian railway hub), or the Ukraine (Russia’s food basket), or some combination of these, it is conceivable the Russian could have been knocked out of the war in late 1916 or early 1917.  Given that Russia did have a revolution in early 1917, after which she never recovered her determination to continue the war, it is conceivable German pressure could have been decisive in 1916.  As an added bonus it would have preempted the Brusilov Offensive which was a near death blow to the Austrian Army, as well as either deterring Romania from entering the war (which she did in the latter part of 1916 against Germany) or even perhaps getting her to join the Central Powers.  All of these potential gains were of course better than the fallacy of bleeding out the French at Verdun.

What this arguably could have accomplished was give Germany an extra year to fight Britain and France alone (had Russia quit the war in early 1917 instead of actually doing so in early in 1918).  An added benefit would be that America would still not be in the war, especially if Germany would have been happy enough by the collapse of Russia not to embark upon the disastrous U-Boat campaign against England which provoked the Americans.  Additionally, while the French would not have had to endure the slaughter of Verdun, but given that she would have gone all out on the attack on the Somme she probably would have suffered as much at Verdun, and perhaps even more considering she would be on the offence instead of the defence (the defence of course having a major advantage for most of the war).  What this means is that had the Germans stood on the defence again in 1917 behind the Hindenburg line (as they did in 1917) the French Army may have conceivable mutinied just as she did after the disastrous Nivelle Offensive in early 1917.  With Russia out of the war, America neutral, and the French Army mutinying it is not hard to imagine either Britain, or France, agreeing to a separate peace, or perhaps a joint compromise peace with Germany.

Or Germany could have gone on the attack on the Western Front in 1917 and hoped for a decisive victory.  Of course this is before she had developed her sophisticated stormtrooper tactics and crushing artillery techniques, and it is hard to see them being better than the western powers at offensive operations on the Western Front had Germany been on the defensive in 1915 and 1916.  Then again the German Army learned dangerously quickly, and had they not gained a decisive advantage Germany could have always attack again the next year as she did in 1918.  The main point is that America would probably not be in the war and whatever skeptics say it is unlikely the Entente could have won an outright victory without her.  Thus attacking Russia in 1916, instead of France, could theoretically have given Germany an extra year to fight the Western Entente, prevented America from joining the war, and either given Germany a negotiated peace to her benefit or perhaps even an outright victory.


1917: Could Germany have Starved Britain into Submission, or What If America had Not Entered the War?

As the war actually unfolded it is hard to see what the Germans could have done in 1917 to outright win the war.  However, there are perhaps two ideas that would have seemingly give them an advantage.  Had they built enough submarines by the beginning of 1917 to have a reasonable chance of sinking enough British shipping to starve out England, or conversely had they not launched the submarine campaign, which brought America into the war, at all.  The first one is perhaps unrealistic; it is hard to see the British not knowing if the Germans were constructing so many submarines (given the former’s excellent naval intelligence) and as such simply focused their superior ship building capabilities on smaller, lighter vessels like destroyers, and other ships, adept at taking out submarines instead of larger, and more clumsy, battleships and cruisers.  Additionally, the main reason the Germans did so well initially in their submarine campaign was that the British foolishly did not adopt the convoy system to protect their merchant shipping until later in the spring.  Perhaps the Germans would have inflicted more losses with more subs but Britain still had enough escort ships to enact convoys, and protect her shipping, as soon as she realized it was the correct thing to do.  Frankly it has always been unlikely for a predominately land power to decisively defeat a a superior naval power via naval means (besides Sparta managing to do so during the Peloponnesian War it is hard to think of another example).

As for the idea of Germany not enacting the unrestricted submarine campaign in 1917 the advantages are plain in hindsight:  No American troops to beef up the Entente in 1918, no potential American Army of millions had the war gone into 1919, and no devastating psychological blow to the Germans once they realized they had to face another massive army which they had no chance of beating.  The Entente of course benefited from this as British and French forces were outnumbered by the Germans on the Western Front in 1918, and the arriving American forces tilted the numerical balance in the Entente’s favour.  Had the war continued into 1919 without American intervention then the Germans would have faced considerably smaller British and French armies than a year ago; their manpower reserves finally thinning out (as Haig and other Generals memoir’s can attest to).  Of course the German Army’s manpower was also thinning out and perhaps they could have still cried uncle first given the increasing domestic upheaval in Germany and widespread starvation due to the Royal Navy’s blockade.  Either way it seems hard to believe the French Army and Haig’s British forces accomplishing such a decisive military feat as the Hundred Days Offensive in 1918 without American manpower to back them up and replace losses.  Perhaps Germany could have won in 1918 had the Americans not been in the war, or still lost, but given the mutual exhaustion of both sides, and Germany’s massive territorial gains on the Eastern Front, Germany would have been in a good position to effect a negotiated peace to her advantage had she not gambled on all out attacks to win the war. 


1918: Germany’s Last Chance

Germany’s last chance to win the war was during Ludendorff’s Spring Offensive in 1918.  After Russia quit the war in early 1918 Germany had a brief window on the Western Front where she significantly outnumbered the British and French forces regarding soldiers.  The British had been bloodied, and disappointed, by the battles of 3rd Ypres and Cambrai, the French were recovering from the mutinies the year before and the Germans had refined their stormtrooper tactics, and special artillery techniques, which they hoped would solve the problems of trench warfare, break through the front and win a decisive victory.  There remains some question is to what Ludendorff was trying to accomplish by his offensives in 1918.  Was he trying to split the British and France armies then defeat them in detail, or overrun Amiens and other vital logistical chokepoints to cripple the British Army in France?  Or was he simply attempting to “punch a hole and let the rest follow” as he stated himself to win some victory and see what happened.  Certainly the first two strategic options made sense; using Napoleon’s classic use of the Central Position to separate allies, and thus hopefully splitting the French and British armies, and then pushing back the British Army to the English Channel to evacuation or destruction.  Likewise overrunning Amiens in the spring would have been a crippling logistical blow to the British armies and could have potentially crippled them. 

The last option of blowing open the front and then improvising is less valid and perhaps intellectually lazy.  No one denies that a “battle plan never survives contact with the enemy,” to quote Moltke the Elder, or that war requires considerable adaptation but to have no overarching strategic plan to defeat the enemy, or to not deliberately focus on a Clausewitzian centre of gravity like destroying the British Army, overrunning Amiens or even taking Paris was foolish for the Germans.  It seems to confirm the military stereotype of the battle-centric German Army that focused too much on winning battles at the expense of planning how to conclude campaigns to reach victory in a long war.  Perhaps this could be labelled as the Curse of Cannae where Generals were so focused on winning tactical, and operational, successes that they ignored more important concepts like logistics, politics, manpower, and even strategy!

Either way, whatever Ludendorff was planning, it is conceivable that given the German Army’s numerical superiority and new battlefield tactics in the spring of 1918 that it had a brief chance of winning the war.  When the offensive began on March 21, 1918 it hit the British 5th Army hard, inflicting 38,000 casualties (though the Germans suffered approximately 40,000 of their own), taking almost 20,000 prisoners and breaking quickly through the British defensive lines which were undermanned, under-fortified, and not properly used with the concept of defence in depth.  In the subsequent days, weeks and months the Germans made spectacular advances (10s of miles versus the few mile advances the British and French made from 1915-17), inflicting terrible reverses on the British, and later French armies, and bringing the Entente to the edge of despair. 

However, the Germans did not split the British and French armies, conquer Amiens or other logistical hubs, take Paris, or frankly conquer any vital ground, or strategic point or objectives, to give them a decisive victory.  Between March and July the Germans suffered nearly as many casualties as the Entente (which they could afford less due to the arrival of American soldiers) and the casualties were much larger than offensives from 1915-17.

The battles in Artois and Champagne in autumn 1915 resulted in around 390,000 French, German and British casualties overall with a daily average rate close to 4000 casualties.  Verdun cost the Germans and French approximately 700,000 casualties in total with a daily average of 2300.  The Somme was even bloodier with nearly 1,100,000 British, German and French casualties and a staggering 7800 daily average.  In 1917 the losses ebbed and flowed with 300000 British and German casualties at Arras (7500 daily), 350,000 French and German casualties in the misguided Nivelle Offensive (14,000 daily), and 500000 British and German casualties at 3rd Ypres (5000 daily).

These were dwarfed by the titanic battles of 1918.  The German’s first offensive that year resulted in 500,000 casualties between the various combatants in a matter of 16 days which gave a sickening daily rate of approximately 31,000 casualties.  All of Germany’s offensives combined (from March to July) produced perhaps 1,500,000 casualties for a daily rate of 12,000.  It is ironic that Ludendorff, although having overseen battles that killed a significantly larger amount of his own soldiers (in a campaign that sought no valid strategic objectives), than Haig’s battles had for his own that Ludendorff is often seen as a great military leader, despite being a lousy strategist and losing the war, while Haig is often seen as an incompetent butcher despite the fact his army was the best on the Western Front by the end of 1918 and won the war.

These casualties were so ruinous that the significant German advantage in manpower on the Western Front in the spring had been eroded by mid-June and ended up falling so much that it was barely over half of the Entente’s by the end of the war.

This is what happened but what if Ludendorff had shown more strategic acumen (he is universally seen as a great tactician but lousy strategist by historians, as well as his own colleagues) and smartly focused on perhaps the one objective his forces had the resources to achieve that spring:  Amiens.  Amiens was Britain’s most important logistical hub on the Western Front and its fall would have given the British Army a major defeat at worst or resulted in a rout at best.  Ludendorff was close to achieving this in late March 1918, and arguably could have done so before significant French reserves arrived to stop him, had he not foolishly launched attacks to the north of the British 5th Army near Arras to widen the German breach to protect its flank.  This was a classic example of failing (or it would have been had Amiens been the stated objective) to adhere to another Clausewitzian principle:  Maintain the objective by focusing on an important strategic centre, or objective, instead of succumbing to lesser distractions.  Ludendorff’s attacks against the 3rd British Army to the north was repulsed brutally, and his momentum towards Amiens eroded, and despite further attacks towards its direction, and getting tantalizingly close, it remained outside the Germany’s grasp.

After this the odds of breaking through were unpromising given the build up of French reserves, as well as logistical issues, and severe casualties, for the Germans.  Germany then launched several successful operations on the Western Front but never came as close to victory in 1918 as near Amiens.  Of course it is debatable if the British would have collapsed had Amiens been taken, and that if in such case either the British or French would have agreed to a peace benefiting the Germans yet in 1918 it was Germany’s last hope.

It is clear that German odds of winning the war were less than satisfactory.  Her chances of winning an outright victory were perhaps best had they adopted a better version of the Schlieffen plan in 1914, not invading Belgium at all in 1914, or focusing their attacks against Russia in 1916.  If Germany had somehow built many more submarines for her unrestricted submarine campaign in 1917 without the British knowing, along with the latter being foolish enough to have never adopted the convoy system to protect her shipping then perhaps Germany could have won another outright victory here as well but this was much less realistic.  Conversely, if Germany had not enacted the unrestricted submarine campaign America would probably not have entered the war, and Germany could have potentially won a decisive victory on the Western Front in 1918.  However, given her sad internal state Germany could have lost just the same while it is just as plausible she could have accomplished a beneficial negotiated peace for herself given her considerable territorial holdings in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Russia.  Finally, it is conceivable Germany could have taken Amiens in early 1918, routed the British Army, and gained a negotiated peace with one, or more, of the Entente powers before American soldiers arrived in strength to turn the tide.


How Likely Was a German Victory?

However, the odds of a German victory in World War 1 were still arguably less than 50% overall given the considerable advantages the Entente had in manpower, resources, industry, finance and naval power.  Perhaps this does not include military proficiency and morale (which one could argue the Germans probably often had the advantage during the war), or the fact that numbers are not everything.  Yet in total war (a fight to the death) the side with material and numerical advantages will usually win, especially if the conflict is long and they can learn to adapt, innovate and compensate for whatever advantages a smaller, but initially more skilled, opponent has.  The ultimate defeats of Hannibal Barca, Napoleon, and Erwin Rommel, who were unmatched in generalship during their conflicts, provide some examples of this.  Additionally, Sun Tzu wrote that “there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare” and nothing illustrates this more than German military history from the Seven Years’ War, to both World Wars, where Prussian, and later German, superior military proficiency was slowly eroded into irrelevancy.

Yet perhaps this does not give the German Army in World War 1 its due.  Despite its considerable disadvantages it usually excelled:  Winning the most impressive battlefield victories, overrunning the most territory (in Europe where the main war was waged at least) and inflicting disproportionate casualties on not only the defence but even usually on the attack. 

No battlefield victory by any Entente forces was as spectacular as the Cannae like victory at Tannenberg, the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive which conquered Poland and inflicted 2 million Russian casualties, or the Battle of Caporetto which crushed half the Italian Army in late 1917 in forbidding, mountainous terrain. 

Regarding territory Germany and her allies took most of Belgium, as well as a significant sliver of France, and overran Serbia, Romania and so much of Russia that Lenin had to agree to a harsh peace which gave the Central Powers 1/3rd of Russia’s population (more than 50 million people), at least 1/4 of her heavy industries, the majority of Russia’s iron and coal stores, and a significant amount of her agriculture areas among other things (which by the way was extremely more punitive to Russia than the supposedly Carthaginian Peace against Germany made at Versailles).  Against this the few miles on the Somme, near Ypres, around Picardy, Artois and Champagne that the British and French took from 1915-17 appears inconsequential indeed.  The Entente’s territorial gains outside of Europe such as the economically dubious German colonies in Africa and the Pacific, the sand of the Sinai, the strategically useless sliver of Palestine and Syria, and the forbidding ground gained in Mesopotamia (aside from the Mosul oilfields gained at the end of the war when its acquisition did not matter anyway) were likewise of much less use to the Entente than Germany’s territory gains were to herself and her allies.

As for casualties the German casualty ratio versus Entente forces, as in how many of the enemy she killed, wounded or took prisoner, versus those that were inflicted upon herself, Germany almost always came out on top.  Of course it is easy to say that Germany’s superior casualty ratios versus her enemies did not matter given the exceedingly lopsided manpower the latter enjoyed.  However, it still shows that Germany usually had superior martial prowess.  In 1914 she inflicted more casualties on the French, and especially the Russians, but perhaps lost more casualties against the tiny British professional army (which unfortunately was largely destroyed by the end of the year).  Information and sources, regarding casualty ratios on the Eastern Front are not nearly as reliable as the war in the west but the Germans arguably inflicted as many as 3 or 5-1 (perhaps even higher) casualties against Russian forces during the war.  On the Western Front the Germans generally inflicted 2-1 casualties against the Entente forces in 1915, and while in 1916 the French narrowed this ratio considerably the Germans still inflicted disproportionate losses on the British at the Somme and inflicted more on the French at Verdun.  Even in 1917 when the British Army came into its own and scored notable operational victories at Vimy Ridge and Arras, Messines, and Cambrai, the ultimate exchange rate slightly favoured the Germans (though perhaps this is not that impressive given that the British accomplished this against a German Army used to the defence while her allies France and Russia gave her little help in the field that year).  Only in 1918 did the British match the Germans in inflicted casualties with the French Army slightly behind in this respect.

Besides this, the Germans brought the French Army to mutiny, Russia to revolution and later quitting the war, sank so many British ships she could have potentially collapsed, destroyed half of Italy’s Army in 1917 and prevented all major Entente offensives on the Western Front breaking through, and accomplishing major victories, from 1914-17.  Germany may have been at a distinct disadvantage regarding manpower, industry, resources, finance and naval power, and certainly some German war making capabilities (especially regarding strategy, economics, diplomacy and logistics) were less than satisfactory, but her military accomplishments were more impressive than her enemies, and should not be downplayed.  It is conceivable that with different decisions, and circumstances, Germany could have won the war.  Either way if Germany failed to win Wold War 1 she arguably came as close as she could have to do so.


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Hart, Peter.  The Great War:  A Combat History of the First World War.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2013. 

Keegan, John.  The First World War.  Toronto:  Vintage Canada, 2000.

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