halialkers: Tyrannosaurus side view with S-curve, long deep muzzle (Tyranos)
In the rest of 1918 the fighting in the Russian Civil War would begin to accelerate. The Reds, learning from the unfolding disasters in the Caucasus, were to begin the first steps to establishing the Red Army, as this Red Army in turn faced its first severe trials in the region of the Volga and the Don. It was during this fighting that a certain Bolshevik Force including the 1st Cavalry Army would find itself facing the Battle of Tsaritsyn. As the AFSR was to consolidate and form itself during the fighting that followed the victory at Ekaterinodar, the Bolsheviks forestalled attempted Red Army defections, beginning the Red Terror which together with its counterpart White Terror were to make this a violent and pitiless war of remorseless and evil mutual enemies.

The Whites in the East were to find themselves in a bind, as were the emerging White Army in northern Russia under General Yudenich: White Armies were dependent solely on foreign aid, specifically in the form of equipment. This equipment was contingent on successful advances into the teeth of superior numbers against an enemy who was only able to defeat himself. However these advances, pursued on the basis of a rational military logic were unable to overcome an insuperable division of numbers and superior equipment was never able to address this disparity, which in turn would mean that the Whites would be left with an impression of incompetence that belied the facts. The trap for the Whites was that in pursuing all this their armies were handicapped by severe problems of leadership, and in the case of "civil" government by rejecting any such thing and thus fatally weakening any claim to government outside the reach of their arms.

Thus, in 1918, as the Red Army, slowly growing in size and skill, was to begin its first use of Blocking Detachments to begin providing discipline to bolster its superior numbers, was to begin drives east, a group of Don Cossacks was to push to the Volga River and the city of Tsaritsyn, where the Bolshevik Commissar, Stalin, was to be instrumental in the ultimate triumph of superior Bolshevik numbers and logistics against the Kossacks, this providing one of the reasons 1st Cavalry Army soldiers would escape Stalin's purges.

In the East the attempted All-Russian government linking the Right and Left was to begin to crack under the strain of a Social Revolutionary civilian government paired with reactionary generals. When the General commanding the professional core of the AFSR, Aleksyeev, died of a heart attack, his successor, Denikin, would wind up securing his predecessor's victories, which destroyed an entire Red Army and won one of the greatest triumphs of White Arms during the War, and as Kolchak deposed his civilian overlords in the wake of a Bolshevik advance that saw the Red Army reverse one gain made by the Whites and capturing another big city of the Eastern government, the Russian Civil War's pattern was set:

Local nationalist movements in Finland and the Baltic States would successfully break off from overall Russia. The Whites were stuck on the periphery, tied to foreign aid, and thus committed all along to doing too much with too little. The Bolsheviks had the best overall position and always numerical superiority and developed an increasingly able and disciplined leadership under first Trotsky and then Kamenev. The result of these twin realities was compounded by the superiority of both Bolshevik Terror and Bolshevik exploitation of White political mistakes would be the triumph of Soviet arms, but White superiority in terms of leadership and equipment would mean that in 1919 the Soviet state faced its gravest crisis in its overall history, when the Finns and Baltic states broke off, and Yudenich, Denikin, and Kolchak began joint offensives. The problems both sides would face in Ukraine, seen in the emergence of Right-Wing Ukrainian nationalism, the brief-lived Makhno Army, and the White and Bolshevik all-Russian forces were a hint that as in the Great Patriotic War and aftermath the USSR's problems with Ukraine would be a continual theme of its early history.

For all this 1918, with the first large-scale fighting in the south and a Red Tide rolling in the east was just the prelude. The war and the fate of the 20th Century were decided in the next year......
halialkers: Louis XIV, man in elaborate robes and tights, looking straight on, brunette wig (Azlain Gerigstandgros)
For a history of the fighting in the Russian Civil War, we must briefly detour back into WWI proper, in order to explain a crucial irony of what was, after all, a great *Russian* war. The Russian Civil War as recorded initially was a triumphal, virtually uninterrupted drive by the Bolshevik workers' militias and Latvian Riflemen, which between them had been brushing aside all the initially feeble attempts at resistance. Then the Germans and Turks had stepped in and this prompted Brest-Litovsk and led to temporary Turkish hegemony in the Caucasus. This was the crucial breathing spell that allowed for native White Russian forces to gather strength and to form a bloc as noted of both anti-Bolshevik Leftists and local nationalists, plus the reactionary all-Russian armies that made up the core of the White Russian armies.

It was thanks to this that the Armed Forces of South Russia, the most formidable and militarily powerful of the White Armies, were to assume their own offensives, however a renewal of fighting would begin first in May. The Czechsolovak Legion, a product of the WWI enmity of Tsarism and Habsburg rule, was intended to be the core of a Czechoslovak army, formed of POWs of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Army. The Bolsheviks, desiring to show they were more than German puppets, were to begin maneuvering to get these troops out of their territory, however the communications on all sides broke down. After the start of armed clashes the Czechsolovaks, seeking to get out of Russia, began an Anabasis intending to reach the Pacific and ruthlessly and efficiently pushed aside Bolshevik resistance. As a result of this incident the Omsk Government, an uneasy union of Social Revolutionary masses with White, reactionary military leaders was formed. In the south the first serious campaign by the AFSR began, which would see the end of the Workers' Militias and Trotsky''s decision to found the Red Army go through. Trotsky can be fairly said to be the USSR's George Washington in that he formed the basis of its military might, though he was in Braxton Bragg levels of inability to get along with anyone.

As a result the first major fighting in the southern front was the Kuban Campaign of the AFSR, which saw them tear through larger Bolshevik forces (remember at all points in time the Bolsheviks outnumber their enemies in Russia proper at a minimum of 10:1, though none of these forces are necessarily large by WWI or WWII standards). and thus the AFSR's first major battle, the Battle of Ekaterinodar was a success, bringing by August 3 the fall of the city and of a major Bolshevik force with it.

With this we now can speak of a sustained clash of multiple military movements in the territory once the old Romanov Empire, though as will be related this war is a massively convoluted series of events.
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
The last entry of this series on WWI, yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers! ^.^
 
Anyhow, the German Empire as noted had run into a buzzsaw at the Second Battle of the Marne, when US, UK, and French troops had defeated their strategic offensive. The German Empire at this time still retained a large number of troops in the East, intending to exploit its conquests carved from Russia. It had set for itself a desperate gamble and lost, while the Allied Hunger Blockade was by now causing high mortality in German civilians (as was the Spanish Flu but that's for the first entry in The Center Cannot Hold). The German offensive had failed, and now the Allies, under Ferdinand Foch, assumed their own offensives. This Hundred Days Offensive saw use of armor, infantry, artillery, and air power to strike at the Germans and push them back in a continual, endless retreat. Only Erich Ludendorff, Silent Dictator of Germany, was blind to the encroaching process and reality of defeat, the other generals saw damn well what was going on and were panicking about it.

This retreat and sequence of Allied victories lasted from August of 1918 to November of 1918. Complicating matters was the role of the 14 Points, used by Europeans as a means to limit the gravity of defeat and by the Germans assumed to be the basis of negotiations where the Allies saw them as starting points  to be neutered and watered down (UK and France) and the starting point to be expanded upon (USA). These victories were a testament to improved skill on the part of Allied generalship, and the statement that due to not being driven over the Rhine that the Germans were not defeated is a blatant lie. The Germans had indeed been curbstomped. They were not driven into Germany in 1918 because it was not necessary. By the time of the Armistice Request and the November fighting the German military was on the verge of disintegration ala Russia-in-1917, and would have fallen apart in a similar pattern. The Allied advance regained all ground gained by the Germans, but had reached the area of Mons by 11 November, which is when the Armistice, having already been set in date, went into effect. The triumph seems less total than WWII because WWII was a total war of annihilation, WWI was a total war of exhaustion, the defeat in scale was more than equivalent.

And with this, I finish WWI. Now, for a gif (for non-sighted Calvin and Hobbes dancing):


halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
This is the first entry in a new subseries, named "The Future Casts Its Shadow." In this subseries the Turkish War of Independence will receive full attention as WWII in embryo. The process of creating Turkey, however, was contemporaneous with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. In the Ottoman Empire losses in terms of battle losses and surrenders had mounted through the war, and the start of the Arab Revolt and the attempts in Transcaucasia by Armenians of the old Russian Gubernaia of Erevan to grab parts of eastern Anatolia under claims that territory where Armenians were a minority were rightfully Armenian were bringing that empire down. It would not be long before the withdrawal of Ottoman power (which during 1918 had a temporary period of hegemony due to the collapse of the Russian Empire and the first stages of the Russian Civil War) created no less than two rival states on that Empire's fringes, while the retreat after the offensives in Mesopotamia and Palestine that began was both gradual and assuredly continual.

The combination of military defeat and the collapse of the CUP's last shot at Ottomanism brought about the capitulation at Mudros, the start of a process that would culminate in a foreshadowing of WWII: defeat of a power with insufficient means to enforce a draconian treaty and will on the part of that power to restore its power leads to a multi-sided war where the winning state is a militarized dictatorship. The Turkish War of Independence in this sense is a prototype of WWII, but one where the fascist-equivalent state won. That process will be covered in this series, as will the expansion of the British Empire in the Blood In Rivers Running Deep (Israel-Arab Wars) and in general (A Terrible Beauty is Born). Russia's Civil War is in the Red Storm Rising subseries, and the whole will from this point blend into the broader series, The Center Cannot Hold.

Last but not least, the end of the Western Front and the start of The Center Cannot Hold, where the first entries will chronicle the convoluted political chaos of the Weimar Republic. China's Civil War, incidentally, will receive coverage in a subseries called "All Under Heaven Burns Red."
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
When the fall of the Habsburg Empire came it was relatively sudden. As will be covered in the case of the Germans the issuing by US President Woodrow Wilson of the 14 Points meant that the Allies were committed to ending the concept of multi-national empires to replace them with shiny new nation-states. Referred to in idealistic terms, this in practice meant dismembering the empires of the losers to serve the ends of the victors. Nowhere was this clearer than in the cases of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, though it also applied to Russia (where the Russian Civil War and rise of the Soviet Union complicated matters). The Habsburgs under Kaiser Karl von Habsburg had briefly attempt to shift to full-fledged centralization but this did not work well. Instead the emergent, new nationalisms were beginning the process of seeking to carve entirely new states out of the Empire whose disintegration into multiple separate states was a backhanded tribute to infrastructure-building and nation-building in the old regime.

In Zagreb, an attempt was made to form Yugo-Slavia, a link of Serbs and Croats into a single, massive South-Slavic states. In Budapest the state of Hungary became an independent state for the first time since the Battle of Mohacs, and in Prague the first steps were taken to the establishment of Czechoslovakia, the barometer-state for the health of first democracy and second of the Communist Empires. Simultaneous to all this the Italians were launching the offensive that marked the final end of the Habsburg state and its army, the simultaneous ending of which was no co-incidence. The Battle of Vittorio Veneto, launched over the Piave, pitted a joint Allied force under Italian command against General von Boroevic, the last Habsburg General (and a South Slav). The Austro-Hungarians initially fought valiantly but their army completely collapsed, and by 3 November the last ruler of the House of Habsburg was indeed the last.

This one is before the other one due to the Habsburgs asking for an armistice on 29 October.
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
The fighting in and around Salonika is fraught with irony, not least because it involved the UK, which entered to "secure Belgian neutrality" entering the port of a neutral country, and a series of complicated negotiations and intrigue to involve neutral Greece when its attitude to entering WWI was "Do Not Want." At the same time the fighting was drawn into the Third Balkan War and Serbian desires to reclaim territory belonging to the Serb state. The result was what the Germans termed "their largest internment camp", a huge Allied army immobilized by rank intrigues, changes of command, and by militarily rational acts that politically invalidated Allied claims to hold any kind of moral high ground. On this front the Allies opposed both the Austro-Hungarians and the Serbs, and the fighting had been mostly stagnant and relatively small-scale and primarily intrigue among the Allied high command at the expense of the war against the Central Powers.

By 1918 Bulgaria was in an odd bind of having accomplished all its military objectives, having been screwed by the German treaty with the Romanians, and unable to quit the war quite as it would have wished to have done so. By 1918, too, the Allies were much-improved in tactics and operational skills, and were under General Franchet D'Esperey (known to British Empire troops as "Desperate Frankie"), while as noted Bulgaria's enthusiasm for the war had well......virtually collapsed. The result was a massive offensive known as the Battle of Monastir, which saw the Allies inflict sufficient defeat on Bulgaria that it, 29 September, was the first of the Central Powers to seek an armistice at Saloniki. This offensive was a tactical, operational, and strategic success, and with it began the collapse of the Central Powers and the end of the war. The first of the Central Powers had fallen, and the end of the war was approaching.
halialkers: Man with wing-like clothes on plane-thing caption "I reject your reality and substitute my own," (I reject yours for mine is better)
Cookies for anyone that gets the reference here.

In the Second Battle of the Marne, from 15 July-6 August 1918 the Germans failed to capture Paris and the Allies once again threw their offensive back. Here, in this fight, the illusion of 1918 on the part of the Terrible Two was to be permanently dispelled. The German offensive was already running out of steam, and this was confirmed again in the course of the fighting here, when the Germans sought to push past the Marne against a mixture of French, UK, and US troops. The fighting raged for two days and the German offensive stalled east of Reims on the first day, but west of it only on the second. The stalling came from both exhaustion on the part of the Germans and superior Allied use of their reserves, as US troops were beginning to actually take roles in combat that mattered.

As had been previously noted, nowhere did the German offensives achieve their actual objectives, and nowhere did the Germans actually seriously damage Allied positions anywhere on the Front. The Allied ability to use their reserves had proved critical in forcing the disjointed and herky-jerky process of German action in the spring, and in the attempt to cross the Marne the Germans finally were forced to accept what had already begun prior to that as final. Then, the next day, 19 July the Allies began a dramatic attack. Under Ferdinand Foch in a matter of approximately a couple of weeks the Allies regained what for the Germans had taken moving Heaven and Earth to capture.

It's worth noting given the myth of the lethal trench war that the highest casualties on the Western Front were in 1914 and 1918 when the war was mobile. For US, French, UK, Belgian, and German troops alike to fight on a WWI battlefield where ammunition flew freely in the open was extremely lethal, trenches were an effective means of *preserving* lives. This is a forgotten element of precisely *why* the Germans were running so low on manpower by 18 July, though the costs of Foch's victory were equally steep for the Allies.

With this Second Battle of the Marne, however, we see the US Army starting to play major roles in fighting, and we see the beginning of the end. The next entries shall chronicle the fall of Bulgaria, the armistice with the Ottoman Empire, and then the end of both Habsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties, culminating with 11/11/11/18, the end of one war and one of the most profound moments in 20th Century history......
halialkers: Picard looking left and gesturing with caption "WTF is this shit?" (WTF is this shit)
For the Germans, the 1918 offensive was the moment where if they were going to win, now was the time to really go and do it. Their weapons were at their strongest, and they had a temporary window of opportunity to capitalize on superior numbers. With this they would strike the first time with Operation Michael, aimed at capturing Amiens as a prelude to reaching the English Channel and dividing the Allies. This was intended to foster division between the Allied armies and thus to strengthen Germany's positions. This was the plan. What actually happened was after an overpowering bombardment the Germans made great gains in the wrong sectors, failing to capture Amiens, and continued Operation Michael too long, derailing their own plans, while the French put up a better showing than the British.

The next offensive, Operation Georgette, was thus smaller and weaker than intended, and to add insult to injury it, too, failed. The Germans again made great, sweeping gains in all the wrong sectors and failed to capture their objectives, while the Allies established a unified command structure under the French general Ferdinand Foch. Too, in both offensives German Stormtroopers (and yes, Virginia, these stormtroopers really could aim and hit somebody) were inadvertantly fostering the creation of Allied reserves that left Germany weaker and the Allies stronger even as the Germans were winning.

The last offensive, Operation Blucher-Yorck, made its initial gains off of the successes of the other two, having the strongest bombardment of all the offensives (artillery was the most decisive single arm, after all, of the Western Front) and striking British armies exhausted and depleted from defending against the other two offensives. Most ideas of the German almost-victory-that-never-was come from here. Once more the offensive failed to capture its actual objectives, and this time the German generals screwed up far more: they sought to transform this into an offensive to capture the French capital, Paris. The next entry will cover the Second Battle of the Marne, where it all went south, and then the Long Dark Night's Endgame will be covered, followed by the transition into the interwar era, which happened at different rates in different places, as well as the peace treaties.

I would be remiss if I did not note that Blucher-Yorck is when the US Army first played a major role in the World Wars. In the Belleau Wood region US forces, both Army and Marines, were essential in reducing the momentum of the Germans, in fighting such as that at Chateau-Thierry. US troops, however, reflected the inexperience of their leadership and made basic errors European armies did not by this phase in the war. This fighting is where the Marines got their nicknames of the Devil Dogs, and the Marines here sustained higher casualties than in some of their more infamous WWII battles, reflecting both US inexperience and the sheer sanguinary nature of the Western Front. Incidentally, I might note that serving in this region were some of the WWII famous/infamous sorts, Dugout Doug and Blood and Guts Patton, Patton in particular learning nothing whatsoever and Dougie Doug learning all the wrong lessons.

For the USA the Belleau Wood campaign, where over the course of June the German offensive slowed was crucial, but the first US troops to serve in Combat were USCT regiments which served under French command during the war. In something that speaks volumes of US policy and handling of race during this time, Pershing who was so reticient to allow US troops to serve under European command had no problem with the 92nd and 93d divisions doing so. In another commentary this was the test of Booker T. Washington's ideals of civil rights, though how his idea of blacks distinguishing themselves and winning rights by that means (an over-simplification but then this whole thing lumps months into one post) met reality is for the Interwar era series, the Center Cannot Hold.

Almost done with WWI ^.^
halialkers: Man with wing-like clothes on plane-thing caption "I reject your reality and substitute my own," (I reject yours for mine is better)
Now, before covering the big German offensive of 1918 and why precisely it failed it's worth charting the process of ongoing political collapse in the German Empire of the time. The icon here adequately summerizes its coverage of military events and the way the Germans of the time thought of the process of the war. There was no understanding of how bad the situation at the front actually was getting. The chains of censorship in Germany (after all, there were a lot of people older than Germany still around in 1917, all Civil War veterans in the USA, for instance, who were in their prime back when Prussia, Saxony, and so on were all states in their own right so it's not like this was old as the hills) had grown ever tighter. Magnifying difficulties was the Silent Dictatorship. The vast German Empire was ruled by the will of two men, Hindenburg and Ludendorff. They did not overtly assume power, and as noted and noted again their attempt to overhaul the German economy for a total war ingloriously failed. It enabled the Germans to continue the war longer but did not amount to when it came to successes anything more than the Terrible Two's established practice of taking the credit for what others did.

In 1917-8 the Turnip Winter, the first time starvation hit Germany in a major way, darkened its impressions of the war. The growing problem of starvation would mark the last-ditch efforts of the German Empire in this year. Compounding this degeneration of Germany's economy was the growing influence of the Social Democrats and the beginnings of the Communist Schism that would lead to the various Communists revolts around the time of the Armistice. The German Kaiser was gradually becoming as irrelevant to Germans as his cousin had become to Russians before his deposition, and the German generals were aware that the great Spring Offensive was their one shot and if this failed, then the war was all over but the shouting. This of course created a paradox: fear and tension at the highest levels, blissful ignorance in terms of the body politic as a whole.

And this in turn is the root of the insidious Dolchstosslegende that would do so much harm in the 1920s and 1930s.....but that's for a bit later.
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
The massive Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary, encompassing 50,000,000 people across a fair-sized swathe of Central Europe represented one of the last phases of a dynasty whose power in Europe went all the way back to Radbot, 10th Century Count of Habsburg, a castle in what is now Switzerland. In that time the Habsburgs became an ever-more-influential European family. Their last great emperor, Franz-Josef had died in 1916, and in 1917 the damage caused by WWI was to accelerate the process of the breakup of this empire. At first the Habsburg army had fought well despite a dismal dirge of defeat. The death of Franz-Josef, whose individual person was the strongest centrifugal force in the Empire brought further degeneration as his successor, Karl von Habsburg, had the wisdom to see that ending WWI was wise, but not the strength to gain a separate peace.

When Karl took over the more industrialized western part of Austria-Hungary was increasingly starving due to the Allied blockade, while Hungary was able to feed but not to protect itself. Austria-Hungary was also becoming a massive, amorphous German satellite state, unable to decide its own policies, the Brusilov Offensive and Karfreit ensuring that the Germans controlled the Habsburg state's armies. The war was fostering both increasing reaction from Vienna, Karl continuing policies aimed to suppress local nationalist movements, and the emergence of new factions out of the power vacuum being created by the war itself. Too, the tendency of Austro-Hungarian generals to blame anyone but themselves for Habsburg military failure was at long last producing its evil fruit as scapegoating Slavs for the Empire's failures simply expanded the power of Slavic nationalists.

During the winter of 1917 Kaiser Karl had made an appeal for peace that alienated Germany and did not secure anything from any of the Allies. During the first part of 1918 Kaiser Karl thus sought to avoid actually fighting and awaiting the results of the German 1918 offensive. This, however, was occurring even as malnutrition and famine stalked the Empire and Cislethania and the Kingdom of St. Stephen were transitioning into their modern nation-state successors. When the collapse came it was relatively sudden and total, the process leading up to it had endured from the death of Franz Josef.
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
In examining the mythology of Germany in WWI, there is a myth that the Germans almost won the war in the West in 1918, and that they were defeated in a far less clear and decisive result than what happened historically. The reality is that Germany's victories here were built from the first on an inherently flawed idea, and the idea itself as the history of the offensives here will show was not at all properly executed. The Germans were focused on a strategic concept, what of it did exist, that involved splitting the Allies across the entirety of the Front. The tactics were an extension of Brusilov-Hutier infiltration tactics. Here the Germans had as a net benefit a primitive, rudimentary submachine-gun, and had adopted the Stalhelm that WWII made infamous. Indeed outside context 1918 photos actually could be mistaken for photos of WWII soldiers.

The plan that was actually designed revolved around a concept of destroying the British army in a succession of staggered offensives, Michael, George, Blucher, Yorck, and Gneisenau. These offensives were to be preceded with far more organized and effective artillery bombardments, and all focused on being limited in goals, time, and scale to tactical objectives. Again, in military science tactics is the level of fighting battles, operations a pattern of battles, strategy the goal tactics and operations achieve, grand strategy the concept of winning wars. In this offensive the Germans chose to fight battles alone with no real purpose. This was a bad, bad concept of warfare as it meant they would do well and get nothing from it. Further complicating matters these infiltration tactics were to be done by the best, hardiest, brightest soldiers left. Meaning the fighting would reduce them to cannon fodder for the initial successes, leaving Germany's defense in what even the high command considered relatively low-quality troops. Above all this was the single shot for a strategic victory. If this failed, Germany's war was over.

This plan is not in itself a good one, however this is not what was really fatal in 1918. German defeat as it evolved as will be shown was what happened when it was unable to adhere even to its own poorly-conceived plans. In this there is a direct precursor of Operation Barbarossa in WWII: a bad idea worse-executed, the combined result enabling initially dramatic gains to start falling apart. Germany was completely trounced in this war, and this is why they were.
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
The Russian Civil War is one of the most complex phases in history, though it ultimately proved decisive for the course of 20th Century politics and the spread of totalitarianism. A Civil War sparked by the collapse of the Russian Empire built by the descendants of Filaret and Michael Romanov, that Empire had spanned everywhere from Warsaw, today's Finland, to Outer Mongolia and for a time Alaska. By 1914 the Empire still included a vast many proto-states and the largest, most ethnically diverse minority populations in Europe. Ironically ethnic Russians were a smaller percentage of population in Imperial Russia toward its collapse than they were at the time of the USSR's collapse in the 1990s. These populations were very different, as one might expect.

Russian Poland would be the core of interwar and subsequent Polish states, the three partitions of Poland having failed to suppress the idea of Poland, which would be refashioned in a nationalist sense as opposed to the late medieval/Early Modern imperial state. The interwar state, however, is simultaneously within and without this Civil War proper, if the Polish-Soviet War had ended with a Soviet victory at Warsaw Poland would have been a successful re-annexation of Russia''s boundaries, the actual state was a mishmash of German, Austro-Hungarian, and German territory. Transforming this into a new and viable Polish state was not an easy task, the decisions made by Polish leaders proved a particularly bad way to go about it.

In terms of the three Baltic states and Finland, their factions, as will be related, are akin to those of Menshevik Georgia, the Armenian Republic of 1918-22, and Azerbaijan, as well as both Makhno and the Rada. Specifically all of these factions are the third, and most diverse group of the factions in the war: local nationalists, of varying degrees on both the Left and the Right, who were committed to carving out their own states. In Transcaucasia and Ukraine these attempts failed, though Ukraine is the most convoluted part of the war, while in the northern territories these attempts succeeded. The Baltic States and Finland were tied to Germanic culture, due to a German-speaking nobility in the case of the Baltic states (see Carl Gustaff von Mannerheim and Pavel von Rennenkampf), and in the case of Finland due to having been an extremity of the Swedish Empire. In the case of Latvia, Latvian Riflemen were the strongest force in the Red Army for until the midpoint of 1919, while in the case of Finland the triumph of White-Russian nationalists led by that ethnic German born in what at the time of his birth was St. Petersburg (and at this time is Petrograd) would ultiimately triumph over Red Finns. In all these cases the Imperial German regime was a decisive force, and this would be ratified at Versailles. This was one of many reasons Germans were skeptical of the Versailles Treaty as this was not really any different than the theft of Alsace-Lorraine from a Russian viewpoint, this in turn is *why* Stalin does what he does in 1939, this and Poland as mentioned above. In the Caucasus internal divisions among Armenian, Georgian, and Azeri nationalists and wars between these rival nationalists were what enabled the USSR to establish Soviet Socialist Republics in the region.

The all-Russian factions are two separate groups in turn: Whites and Bolsheviks.

The Whites were a mixture of republican Leftist and Rightist movements, both of which found reasons to oppose the new Bolshevik state.  The Rightist faction prevailed, however it's important to remember Leftist ones did exist. The Social Revolutionaries, a moderate Leftist Party was the most popular movement, indeed the only popular movement of all of these in Russia. They, however, had no army. The Mensheviks also had an all-Russian faction that appeared in the late part of 1919 and didn't have much chance, influencing a wave of labor unrest too late to save any of the non-Bolshevik factions. The Whites as they're properly remembered, however, were the creation of a group of generals who were opposed to Bolshevism, but had no platform beyond opposing Bolshevism.

In this there is not really a paradox, the pre-war Russian Army was deliberately de-politicized by Tsarism. The Decembrist Revolt is the only exception to this rule. Civil Wars are by their very nature ruled far more by politics than military logic, and so these men wound up in a trap, their focus on military logic meant they were able to do far better than their numerical disparity should have allowed for, their political non-appeal meant they could do nothing to follow these victories up. General for general, the Whites were far better than the best Bolshevik generals of this war from a military viewpoint. Politically their complete absence of appeal meant this meant a great deal of nothing.

The Reds, ironically, would be tapping most fully into the legacy of the old Romanov Empire. Their logistics were provided by the last years of Tsarist and the short-term Provisional Government war production. The Red Army consisted of the old Sukhomlinovite faction of skilled peasant-leaders, the Imperial Russian versions of Napoleonic generals promoted in the new regime where they would have been obscure in the old one. while the Bolsheviks inherited a great deal of former Tsarist officials. Indeed the continuity of the Bolsheviks with the old regime established during this phase that proved essential to their ultimate victory by prevailing politically and by weight of numbers was to give the USSR its traits of being simultaneously an ideological state and the true heir to the Romanov Empire. This paradox dated to the earliest days of the Soviet regime and was essential to its survival in this war as it was to its victory in WWII.
halialkers: A chimp looking serious. You'll never make a monkey out of me. (H'vorxixnon)

As previously related the triumphal march of Soviet power, so long as its enemies were inhabitants of the Russian Empire alone, had marched without cease to capture a region totalling 60 million people and the greatest military treasures left over from the regime of Nicholas I. The attempts to resist it, at this point limited to a few Cossacks along the Don River were ruthlessly brushed aside and even in Ukraine nothing was really stopping them. How did all that change? One phrase: Imperial Germany. The Bolsheviks had entered into negotiations with the Germans, but the Council of People's Commissars (which is what SovNarKom is short for, Soviet = Council, Narod= people, Kommissar = Commissar) was unwilling to give up any territory. This reflected a fundamental irony of the Soviet regime: its ideological-apocalyptic nature meant it was more unwilling to cede territory than Tsar Nicholas II arguably would have been.

To further complicate matters, this is where the concept of World Revolution came in. In 1918 the SovNarKom thought of global revolution as the inevitable and *only* result of Communist revolt in Russia. The Russian steps to withdraw from the war, it was hoped, would transition WWI into a massive general civil war of revolutionaries and the Establishment, consolidating the Triumphal March of Soviet Power further. The Bolsheviks were never pacifists, their concept of revolution initially, however, was pan-European, not specifically Russian. Lenin, however, alone of the Bolsheviks (here's one case where Stalin and Trotsky both agreed with each other and disagreed with Lenin) viewed an accommodation with the Germans as a means to buy them tuime, to consolidate the SovNarKom. Thus the Bolshevik attempt at no war and no peace, meaning they'd stop shooting at the Germans but not sign a peace treaty or even an armistice. Thus also the negotiations here would result in the first Panmunjom-diplomacy, showboating for propaganda as opposed to serious negotiation.

Hindenburg and Ludendorff eventually went "Fuck this shit" and decided to do their own railway war, the First Soviet-German War as I call it. In eleven days the Germans advanced deep into Russia, and secured by March the rather draconian Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that left them controlling the Baltic States, Finland, and large chunks of Belarus and Ukraine, as well as setting up a puppet Polish state. In the process the Germans derailed the Soviet advance and bought the time and space needed for the first White armies to begin forming. And a month later as will be related the war got much bigger and nastier. Had for whatever reason this not happened, the Russian Civil War would have ended rather sooner than it did and with no real, serious fighting. Instead this action ensured that the Council of People's Commissars would face a variety of enemies, and that list requires a post in itself. The Russian Civil War as a whole, however, from this point blends into three rough patterns: Bolsheviks and fellow-travelers, in the overall strongest tactical-strategic position, White Russians, on the periphery with far smaller armies but much better-equippped ones with freebie logistics from foreigners, and local nationalist movements of a Leftist and Rightist variety both trying to carve out new states. As that next post will show this is an extreme simplification of *all* the factions.

At the same time, however, the Germans for the first time gained a temporary superiority on the Western Front, though they left a full million soldiers in the former Russian Empire.....
halialkers: Raven in Blue hood, glowing white eyes, right hand with palm stretched upward (Raven)
Through 1917 aerial warfare became ever-more sophisticated. Combat became far less dependent on individual fighter-pilots and far more focused on developing formations of ever-more-sophisticated planes. By 1917 airships as a tool of strategic bombing were going the way of the dodo, though the most severe WWI raids are pinpricks by the standard of later wars. Bombers in WWI were far less accurate than the none-too-accurate WWI versions, and this essentially showed strategic bombing was a great big lie in WWI. Unfortunately nobody except Hitler realized this going into WWII. By 1917 both sides had an increasingly diverse and specialized set of airplanes, and were developing tools and methods of air power.

In Allenby's campaign there's the first aerial interdiction campaign in military history, and it was an utter and unmitigated success, bringing the British Jerusalem by Christmas as they'd sought. For both sides at least local air superiority was a crucial prerequisite for a successful offensive. There was no means now to attack on the ground without control of the sky, and by 1917 it was becoming more lethal to be a pilot tan it was to serve on the ground on all fronts. Aerial attack was integrated with ground combat well before armor was, and ironically air power suffered from the first from a drastic and ultimately disastrous overestimation of what it was reasonably possible for it to do. Suffice to say that b 1917 aerial combat was no longer experimental, it was now a combat arm in its own right as sophisticated as any of the others.
halialkers: Raven in Blue hood, glowing white eyes, right hand with palm stretched upward (Raven)
With the fall of German Southwest Africa (today called Namibia), the war in Africa was left to East Africa, where a mixture of South African and Rhodesian troops continued a vain attempt to capture General von-Lettow Vorbeck. This is by another irony *the* most mobile theater of World War I, fought with machine guns and rifles as a giant irregular war. Lettow-Vorbeck's concept of war here is a direct precursor to that which will pop up again and again in the 20th Century: irregular-conventional warfare, neither purely guerrilla war nor purely conventional war. The fall of Kilimanjaro, however, marked a new phase of this war where the Allies would find themselves devoting literally astronomical efforts to capture one guy waging guerrilla war in the bush.

Despite the misconception that WWI was a purely European war, the war in East Africa actually wound up lasting longer than the war in Europe. Thus through 1917 the South Africans and Rhodesians kept trying to get Lettow-Vorbeck and they kept failing, even though he was having to home-make his own weapons. More ironically but typically the role of African porters in keeping both sides supplied was generally neglected by everybody on all sides. If you wish to see one root of de-colonization, here it is: without black porters neither WWI alliance would have been able in any sense of the word to sustain the war. With them they did, then their role was written out and they were made to be far more voluntary than was reality. More interestingly Lettow-Vorbeck was a complete exception, in terms of ruling blacks in Africa both the British and German Empires were rather monstrous as a general rule and for blacks there was very little to choose from between one evil overlord and the other evil overlord.
halialkers: Godzilla, Heisei. Right profile view one arm outstretched. (Set Molotov)
The First Battle of Cambrai figures significantly in the evolution of combined-arms warfare in terms of later warfare, though it crucially was not the first time that massed armor was used in a WWI Battle. That was actually the Nivelle Offensive. This battle, however, would play into the hands of Haig's critics. To emphasize an irony here, however, Sir Douglas Haig was actually an enthusiast for massing armor, he just did not have armor with sufficient speed and striking power to achieve operational or strategic breakthroughs. This engagement, ironically, followed the same patterns as French use of massed armor: breakdowns and artillery reduced the relevance of armor early on the fighting, slowing that armor down and bringing the battle into a simple artillery and infantry fight.

First Cambrai's early gains did not continue in terms of the later course of the battle and it was a mutual display of tactical skill to no strategic or operational purpose. The fighting here is more important in terms of its evolution by virtue of Liddel Hart (who incidentally is also part of the Sherman as Prophet mythology) having used it to create a British concept of combined-arms lightning warfare. The actual First Battle of Cambrai that happened in November and December of 1917 is for this reason less relevant than the warping of its earliest phases for historical purposes, the nature of the fight was to permit the Allies to establish the tactics that would bring them victory in 1918. However as 1917 came to an end, the Germans were to open negotiations for an armistice with the Bolshevik Council of People's Commissars, the Sovnarkom, the first Red Russian government (in the course of the Red Storm Rising subseries there will be three, Sovnarkom, the Russian Soviet Federated Republic, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), an armistice that as will be detailed will bring up a few of the more controversial details of 1918. Next Africa and Lettow-Vorbeck, then the air war, and then into 1918 and the last year of the war. It feels good to actually be getting somewhere with this now. *David Caruso sunglasses* 
halialkers: (Default)
This is where the Long Dark Night series blends into Blood In Rivers Running Deep, the subseries about the Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian wars. The Ottoman Empire had declared war in 1914 on the Allies, and would have a serial string of defeats at the hands of Russian generals such as Yudenich. It would also defeat British offensives in 1915 and 1916. In 1916, however, the Ottomans attempted to make gains at Persian expense, while the stalemate near the Suez Canal meant the British would build up for renewed offensives. The British, however, had found the old Empire to be a far more formidable enemy than it was made out to be. This is one reason that they appealed to Zionists and to Arab nationalists both. This and the Israel-Palestine scenario have already been covered, this is about the strictly military aspects of the renewed British offensives here.

From March onward the British Empire had tried to crack through Ottoman defensive lines, and twice, in March and in April, the attacks would fail. This failure owes more to Ottoman strength than British weakness, and the two failures also represent the problems of warfare, a psychologically and physically exhausting activity, in the desert in an age before motorized vehicles to strengthen striking power and enhance speed. In both cases as in the Western Front the Ottomans improved their defenses through all engagements. Use of Arab irregulars contributed relatively little to British victory, just as the appeal to the Zionists did two things, jack and shit, and jack left town long before the third battle. The Ottoman regulars bulldozed aside any attempted assaults by irregulars, and excepting certain circumstances this is the norm of irregular warfare, conventional and guerrilla warfare serve two very different purposes.

British victory was due to overwhelming numbers, 10:1, depletion of their enemies due to the prior battles, six months of preparing and working through all staff issues, to Allenby being that rare 20th Century democratic general who was really, really good at maneuver warfare and due to the other offensive begun at this same time in Mesopotamia, which forced Ottoman troops into a continual withdrawal. The result of the Third Gaza Offensive, including the first great aerial interdiction campaign (in everyday speech death from above, lots and lots of death from above) in human history was that the British punctured the Ottoman lines at Gaza and then would move upward, capturing Beersheba and by Christmas Day Jerusalem, surrendered in a famous scene by priests, rabbis, and imams walking up to the British Army (that sounds like the lead-in to a joke, doesn't it?). Up next Cambrai, Africa, and WWI in the air, then 1918 and the end of the WWI series and the start of the next supra-series, the Center Cannot Hold.
halialkers: Godzilla, Heisei. Right profile view one arm outstretched. (Set Molotov)
The Battle of Caporetto was one of the greatest German tactical triumphs of this particular war. I should note for all I do in terms of growling at the traditional myth of the German Marty Tzu I would never knock the tactical virtuosity of the Germans in either world war. Tactically they were perhaps the best armies of both wars, so in terms of winning battles they did very well indeed. Through 1917 the last battles of the Isonzo had droned onward and the Habsburgs had finally realized they were about to get curbstomped in another Battle of the Isonzo. With this, they appealed to the Germans, who set up an offensive with poison gas, heavy artillery, and the second major use of infiltration tactics against an Italian army that after eleven headlong attacks into superior firepower on the high ground was understandably just a wee bit demoralized.

When the Germans struck they wiped out an entire Italian army, pushing the Italians very far south in one of their great triumphs. Here and in the Romanian phase of fighting mentioned in a prior entry one Erwin Rommel of the Wurtemberger army managed to score major triumphs. Rommel was a brilliant junior officer, and exemplified all that was good and all that would ultimately lose the Germans both wars. Here and in Romania his contributions to German victory were profound, and it was a curiosity of Rommel's experiences that he was always in WWI theaters where the fighting was able to be more mobile, not static and high cost for minimal gain. This inclined him to make good use of the German, all-tactical concept of combined-arms warfare in the next war.

For all its tactical brilliance Caporetto left the Central Powers no closer to a strategic victory than that alliance had been before it. Instead strategically the Central Powers were overextended and unable to transform a tactical victory into a strategic one in a peripheral theater against the same yokels who would do so much to inadvertantly aid the Allies in WWII. As I said, this is classic German world wars warfare: brilliant tactically but reflecting an inability to focus strategically or conduct offensives above the purely tactical level, so that their armies won a battle but had no idea how to make this into winning the war. Up next Cambrai, Africa, and the war in the air, then 1918. Almost done with WWI, w00t!
halialkers: Godzilla, Heisei. Right profile view one arm outstretched. (Set Molotov)
And now we come to the first indications of the future of 20th Century warfare and politics: Great October and the beginning of the rise of the Soviet Union. It was Trotsky who would prove the military genius of the Russian Civil War, discovering the first steps to creating an ideological army. The proclamation that began this new, escalated phase of Russia's Civil War was this:

Citizens:

The counter-revolution has raised its criminal head. The Kornilovites are mobilising their forces in order to crush the All Russian Congress of Soviets and to wreck the Constituent Assembly. At the same time the pogrom-makers may attempt to cause trouble and slaughter in the streets of Petrograd.

The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies takes upon itself the defence of revolutionary order against attempts at counter-revolution and pogroms

____________

The Bolshevik Founding Fathers were all of them unscrupulous, vicious, murderous, treacherous monsters. Stalin was just the most successful in this regard, and in a sense is the most well-known. The supposed Kornilovite mobilization did not in fact exist, but the Bolsheviks successfully neutralized both the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Government, driving Kerensky into exile. With this came the first big battle of the Russian Civil War, the second major strategic confrontation. This Battle of Petrograd saw no less than three separate factions seeking to fight a Bolshevik worker's militia and in this phase of the war the Bolshevik ace in the hole: a unit of Latvian Riflemen that were the most formidable military force left in Russia. It is crucial to understand that at no point in the war were the Bolsheviks ever inferior in terms of numbers, weaponry, or strategic positions. As in the Battle of Petrograd Bolshevik forces were by far superior to that of their opponents, which is all they had to be superior to. In November 1918, the Bolsheviks having altered Russia's calendar to suit the Gregorian one, their armies began the Triumphal March of Soviet Power via echelon warfare, Bolsheviks fighting a numerous set of smaller battles that in six weeks left the Bolsheviks in a perfect geographic position, ruling the largest subject population, and most crucially able to draw upon the last years of Romanov dynasty war production, designed for a larger army than the Red Army would ever become in size during the war, enabling the Red Army to rely on this where its enemies were all caught in traps.

In six weeks, thus, the advancing armies of the Bolshevik state would seem unstoppable. But then things turned around and the Bolsheviks faced coalitions nearly able to destroy them despite all these advantages. How this happened ties into the story of 1918. Suffice to say that without foreign intervention the Bolsheviks would ultimately have absorbed nearly all-Russia without anyone able to derail the Great October train.
halialkers: Godzilla, Heisei. Right profile view one arm outstretched. (Set Molotov)
From August into November the Allies would find themselves in a curious position in Ypres. Their advances were tactically inexorable and irresistible. The Germans were steadily forced to yield territory like Langermarck, the Menin Road, and the Polygon Wood. The Germans were in short being tactically defeated, but beyond winning the battle at a prohibitive cost, nothing seemed to be happening. Adding to the misery was a sequence of rains and a viscous mud in Ypres that ensured soldiers were often exhausted simply from marching before a shot was fired. The battle was one of continual small-scale tactical actions that saw the new Allied armies achieve successively by the end of the offensive the objective of the first day of the offensive. This tactical success, however, was bewailed at the time as being evil, without regard for cost or human life. This is not accurate, this was not the bloodiest battle of the war, nor were any other WWI generals as callous as Cadorna.The problem was that it was another attrition battle in a terrain that steadily wore down and exhausted soldiers without even having to have fighting to do that, and that this created a psychological state of endless, serial enervation and exhaustion.

The battle ended with an Allied tactical success but one sees here a problem of how the WWI generation wins victories: a victory can be as psychologically devastating as a defeat. And by the time the Allies had soldiered through here, the war was already turning successively darker. Upcoming, Great October and the escalation of Russia's Civil War with Echelon/Railway War, Caporetto, the three Battles of Gaza and capture of Jerusalem, the advance into Mesopotamia, WWI in Africa, in the air, and Cambrai. The Long Dark Night is coming to an end, but the story of the Red Dawn and Communism's transformation from pariah ideology sanctioned by pariah state into an ideology that swallows half of Europe and the greater part of Asia is starting. In the event, World War II is not a strictly European war, and its origins have nothing to do with the Long Dark Night, as will be related later on. And as will also be shown the problems of Soviet historiography and its truth or lies starts from the very beginning.

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