World War I The Russian Revolution and Stalinism

Chapter 21: Verdun Metastasizes :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyers

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “The two sides were draining each other in a fight so huge and costly, so rich in drama, that it had captured the imagination of the world. Verdun had been elevated to such colossal symbolic importance that France needed only to hold on in order to claim a momentous victory. Falkenhayn, originally indifferent to whether Verdun fell or not, now desperately needed to take it. The trap that he had wanted to construct for the French now held him firmly in its grip.”
  • “The Russians responded with yet another expression of their almost touching readiness to try to come to the rescue whenever asked—an eagerness that contrasted sharply with the cynicism and contempt that so often tainted relations between the British and the French. It is difficult to imagine Joffre or Haig responding as the Russians did if the situation had been reversed.”
  • “It seems as though we are living under a steam hammer…You receive something like a blow in the hollow of the stomach. But what a blow!…Each explosion knocks us to the ground. After a few hours one becomes somewhat dumbfounded.”

Response Quotes – Airships and Landships

  • “But the war transformed aviation with dazzling speed. In a matter of months it changed the airplane from a novelty of uncertain value—“a useless and expensive fad,” Britain’s top general said as late as 1911—to an essential element in the arsenal of every nation.”

Thought Questions

  • What does the author mean by “Verdun Metastasizes”?
  • Describe the German attempt to “restart” the Verdun battle and the French response to it
  • At this point in the battle, what factors made the “balance” lean towards the French
  • Describe how the French advantage was used and wasted
  • How did the battle of Verdun settle into a stalemate?
  • Describe how the evolution of the French military staff impacted the French war
  • How did the fight at Verdun impact the fight in the East?
  • Describe the Russian “roadless” period and its impact on military operations
  • Describe the evolution of the Russian Army in 1916 and how this situation in the west impacted this evolution
  • Describe the turnover in leadership the year 1916 produced
  • In what ways were the reasons for leadership changes in 1916 related to each other?
  • Explain and Expand: “Pétain’s artillery too was taking a fearsome toll, but literally foot by foot the attackers were clawing their way forward in what was by now a war of attrition of the rawest and most savage kind.”
  • Describe the “Lake Naroch debacle”
  • Explain and Expand: “The Eastern Front had fallen quiet in the aftermath of Lake Naroch”
  • In what ways did Alexei Polivanov impact the Russian war effort
  • Who was Rasputin and In what ways did he impact the Russian royal family and government?
  • Who was Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov and how did he impact the Russian war?

Thought Questions: Airships and Landships

  • Describe the impact World War I had on the development of tanks. How did tanks impact World War I?
  • Describe the impact World War I had on the development on war planes. How did war planes impact World War I?
  • Describe the impact World War I had on the development of “Lighter than air” ships. How did “lighter than air” ships impact World War I?
  • Affirm or Refute: “The Great War did give birth to the tank”
  • Who was the Manfred von Richthofen – the “Red Baron”

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

World War I The Russian Revolution and Stalinism

Chapter 20: Verdun: Execution :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Anyone inclined to believe that some dark force beyond human comprehension intervened again and again to make the Great War long and ruinous would have no difficulty in finding evidence to support such a thesis.”
  • “Telling Langle de Cary to do as he thought best, he returned to his supper. Langle de Cary went ahead with the withdrawal. Almost as soon as he did so, German troops moved in from the north to fill the vacuum. It was another part of the spreading French collapse.”
  • “By 1916 the armies of Britain, France, and Germany were being diminished not just by the numbers of men killed and wounded but by something so new to human experience that the English had to coin a name for it: shell shock.”
  • “Always the objective was not to “cure” the victim, to identify and deal with the underlying causes of his symptoms, but to get him back into action.”

Thought Questions

  • In what ways was Verdun a “perfect microcosm of the war”?
  • Compare and Contrast: the strengths of the German plan for Verdun and the French weaknesses
  • Compare and Contrast: the strengths of the French and the weaknesses of the German plan
  • Explain and Expand: “The French for their part had little real need to hold Verdun.”
  • React and Respond: “During the first day’s bombardment an estimated eighty thousand shells had fallen on the Bois des Caures, an area measuring five hundred by one thousand yards”
  • Describe the French leadership during the battle of Verdun
  • Who was General Henri-Philippe Pétain
  • Explain and Expand: “The story of how it happened is like something out of Kafka”
  • Affirm or Refute: “The appointment of Pétain put Verdun in the hands of a man who, probably more than any other in the French army, was capable of organizing an effective defense while at the same time protecting his troops from unnecessary destruction.”
  • Describe the role transportation and logistics played in the defense of Verdun
  • What was the significance of: “In time three-fourths of the entire French army—125 divisions—would be rotated through Verdun, so that it more than any other battle of the war became a shared national experience.”
  • Explain and Expand: “The actions taken by Pétain, coupled with the Germans’ lack of reserves, changed the character of the fight.”
  • Explain and Expand: “And so the Germans, having in the space of a week thrown away two opportunities to capture Verdun, cast aside the chance to get out cheaply.”
  • Describe “Shell Shock” and the response to it
  • Explain and Expand: “Treatment was often indistinguishable from punishment.”
  • React and Respond: “The problem remained immense. This is an area in which data are scarce—little is known about the incidence or treatment of shell shock among the Austrians and Russians, though the continued fluidity of the Eastern Front may have limited the problem there.”

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

Week 19 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 19: Verdun: Preparation

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “The forces of France will bleed to death.”
  • “From time to time an aerial torpedo passes, making a noise like a gigantic motor car. With a tremendous thud a giant shell bursts quite close to our observation post, breaking the telephone wire and interrupting all communication with our batteries. It seems quite impossible that he should escape in the rain of shell, which exceeds anything imaginable; there has never been such a bombardment in war. Our man seems to be enveloped in explosions, and shelters himself in the shell craters which honeycomb the ground; finally he reaches a less stormy spot, mends his wires, and then, as it would be madness to try to return, settles down in a crater and waits for the storm to pass.” 
  • “In the Gorlice-Tarnow campaign alone, a hundred and fifty thousand Russians had been killed, six hundred and eighty thousand wounded, and nearly nine hundred thousand taken prisoner. … Though the French had been on the attack repeatedly during the year, they had accomplished essentially nothing and had done so at almost incredible cost. In the Champagne and Artois regions alone, three hundred and thirty-five thousand of their soldiers had been killed. … Some two hundred thousand British were dead—nearly twice the number with which the BEF had begun the war.”
  • “The assembled generals had no difficulty in agreeing that the Germans, fatally weakened, could be finished off with one great symphonic offensive involving all the major combatants on every major front.”
  • “She is staking everything on a war of exhaustion,” he wrote. “We have not been able to shatter her belief that it will bring Germany to her knees. What we have to do is dispel that illusion.” 
  • “France has arrived almost at the end of her military effort,” he told the kaiser. “If her people can be made to understand clearly that in a military sense they have nothing more to hope for, the breaking point will be reached and England’s best weapon knocked out of her hand.” 
  • “a plan aimed not at capturing Verdun but at bringing the French army within range of the German artillery and, in the general’s words, bleeding it white. His goal at the start of the campaign was simply to mass his artillery in the hills north of the city, force the French to try to drive those guns away, and blow them to pieces as they did.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the German plan and goals for the Verdun offensive
  • How did Germany expect the western allies to react to Verdun?
  • In what ways was the battle of Verdun the product of 1915?
  • Describe the impact the Italian entry into the war had on the Central Powers?
  • React and Respond: “The certainty that the Entente’s numerical advantage could only increase with time was obvious in Berlin.”
  • Compare and Contrast the German beliefs about the role of Britain in 1915-16 with their beliefs about the role of Britain in 1941-42
  • What two strategies did Falkenhayn see to knock Britain out of the war?
  • Describe the military history of Verdun. Why did the French people hold Verdun as significant? 
  • Describe why Verdun was significant to the Germans in 1916?
  • What was the initial German objective for the Verdun offensive? 

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

Week 18 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 18: Gallipoli Again, and Poland, and …

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Perhaps a scapegoat is needed to save Russia. I mean to be the victim.”
  • “The fall of Warsaw—and so of all Poland—had been followed by continued German advances and increasing evidence that the Russian armies were on the verge of disintegration. The Russian retreat was turning into not just an alarming mess but a wave of crimes against humanity.”
  • “For generations most of Russia’s Jews had been forcibly confined to eastern Poland, where they were required to live in ghettos and shtetls and almost entirely barred both from farming and from the learned professions. In late 1914, claiming to be addressing security concerns, the Russians had driven more than half a million of these people out of their homes and left them to the tender mercies of the long central European winter. In the first months of 1915 another eight hundred thousand of them were put out onto the roads of Poland, Lithuania, and Courland by the tsar’s Cossacks, who often did not even permit them to take whatever possessions they might have been able to carry or cart away.”
  • “He began warning London that failure to give full support to France’s next offensive could lead to the fall of Joffre and Millerand—and to France making a separate peace. Not surprisingly, Kitchener informed Hamilton that he should expect no more troops at Gallipoli and gave the BEF unambiguous new orders for the autumn. Britain must support Joffre’s offensive to the utmost, he said, “even though, by doing so, we suffer very heavy losses indeed.””
  • “duty to the country which God has committed to my keeping” to “share the burdens and toils of war with my army and help it protect Russian soil against the onslaught of the foe.” The grand duke, when he got the news, was more succinct. “God be praised,” he said. “The Emperor releases me from a task which was wearing me out.” 
  • “The King rode along the first three or four ranks, then crossed the road to the other three or four ranks on the other side, speaking to an officer here and there. Our instructions had been that at the conclusion of the parade we were to put our caps on the points of our fixed bayonets and wave and cheer. So that’s what we did—‘Hip, hip, hooray.’ Well, the King’s horse reared and he fell off. He just seemed to slide off and so of course the second ‘Hip, hip’ fizzled out. It was quite a fiasco and you should have seen the confusion as these other high-ranking officers rushed to dismount and go to the King’s assistance. They got him up and the last we saw of him he was being hurriedly driven away.” 
  • “Coming back over the ground that had been captured that day,” one Tommy wrote, “the sight that met our eyes was quite unbelievable. If you can imagine a flock of sheep lying down sleeping in a field, the bodies were as thick as that. Some of them were still alive, and they were crying out, begging for water and plucking at our legs as we went by. One hefty chap grabbed me around both knees and held me. ‘Water, water,’ he cried. I was just going to take the cork out of my water-bottle—I had a little left—but I was immediately hustled on by the man behind me. ‘Get on, get on, we are going to get lost in no man’s land, come on.’ So it was a case where compassion had to give way to discipline and I had to break away.” 
  • “Horses and men stumbling into the abyss; Albanian attacks; hosts of women and children. A doctor would not dress an officer’s wound; soldiers would not bother to pull out a wounded comrade or officer. Belongings abandoned; starvation; wading across rivers clutching onto horses’ tails; old men, women and children climbing up the rocks; dying people on the road; a smashed human skull by the road; a corpse all skin and bones, robbed, stripped naked, mangled; soldiers, police officers, civilians, women, captives. Vlasta’s cousin, naked under his overcoat with a collar and cuffs, shattered, gone mad. Soldiers like ghosts, skinny, pale, worn out, sunken eyes, their hair and beards long, their clothes in rags, almost naked, barefoot. Ghosts of people begging for bread, walking with sticks, their feet covered in wounds, staggering. Chaos; women in soldiers’ clothes; the desperate mothers of those who are too exhausted to go on.” 
  • “I’m twenty-one years old, my hair and beard are already gray. My mustache is white. My face is wrinkled and my body is rotting. I can’t bear these hardships and privations any more.” 

Thought Questions 

  • Expand and Explain: “But the great prize, the heights that men from Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand had for more than three months been trying and failing to reach, was now just yards away. And it was undefended: just the previous afternoon air reconnaissance had found no sign of Turkish forces anywhere in the neighborhood.”
  • Why did the Western Allies and especially the British feel compelled to act on Gallipoli in the summer / fall of 1915? 
  • Describe the Battle of Scimitar Hill and its significance in the Gallipoli campaign
  • Describe the landing at Suvla Bay 
  • What was / is Tekke Tepe? 
  • React and Respond: “Fewer than fifteen hundred Turkish troops, armed with little more than rifles, stood between Suvla and Tekke Tepe —the key to everything beyond, the whole point of the landing.” 
  • Who was General Sir Frederick Stopford?
  • What role did Irish units play in the final stages of the Gallipoli campaign?
  • Describe the military contribution Italy provided the Entente in 1915?
  • Who was General Luigi Cadorna?
  • What was Anzac Cove and why was it significant in the final battle of Gallipoli?
  • Explain and Expand: “When they were driven off, the second invasion of Gallipoli was essentially finished.”
  • Describe the conclusion of the Gallipoli campaign
  • What steps did the western allies take in response to the end of the Gallipoli campaign?
  • How did the end of the Gallipoli campaign impact Russia?
  • Who was General Nikolai Yanushkevich?
  • Who was General Vladimir Sukhomlinov? 
  • Who was General Alexei Polivanov? 
  • Who was General Mikhail Alexeyev? 
  • Explain and Expand: “… ushering in a meat shortage that would persist in Russia beyond the end of the war. The refugees were ravaged by starvation, cholera, typhus, and typhoid. The number of lives lost will never be known.”
  • Describe the developments on the eastern front in summer / fall 1915?
  • Describe the role Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and Rasputin played in 1915
  • Describe the geography and location of the Pripet Marshes
  • Describe how Bulgaria became involved in World War I and what role Serbia played in their involvement?
  • What were the three stages of the Second Battle of Champagne?
  • How did the plan for the Second Battle of Champagne unfold?
  • What was the role of the Third Battle of Artois?
  • How did the plan for the Third Battle of Artois unfold?  
  • What was the role of the Battle of Loos?
  • How did the plan for the Battle of Loos unfold?
  • React and Respond: “In the end the casualties of Second Champagne totaled a hundred and forty-three thousand for the French, eighty-five thousand (including twenty thousand men taken prisoner) for the Germans. … The Loos and Third Artois offensives cost the British sixty-one thousand casualties (two generals and twenty-eight battalion commanders among them), the Germans fifty-six thousand, and the French forty-eight thousand.”
  • Explain and Expand: “Nineteen-fifteen was finished at last.”

Articles and Resources

Maps

 

Week 17 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 17: The Ground Shifts

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “As usual, the fight went on long after any chance of success had evaporated,”
  • “We relieved our fourth battalion in here, these are the trenches which they lost so many men in capturing, & is just one vast deadhouse, the stench in some places is something awful, the first thing we had to do was dig the trenches deeper & otherwise repair them & we came across bodies all over the place, you know the Germans occupied these trenches nearly the whole winter and have been losing heavily & has had to bury their killed in the trenches, there were legs and arms sticking out all over the place when we arrived but we have buried the most of them properly now. The ground behind us us [sic] is covered yet by dead Camerons and Germans who fell on the seventeenth of May & we go out at night & bury them, it is a very rotten job as they are very decomposed, but it has to be done.”
  • “At eight in the evening we are on the march again. We come out onto the road. It is dark. But what’s that noise? Oh my God, what’s happening on the road ahead? It is blocked by carts, full of kids and household stuff. The cows are bellowing, the dogs are barking and yelping. The poor people are going God knows where, anywhere to get away from the fighting. But the old nags don’t have the strength to pull the loads; the air is filled with the sound of horses being whipped and the Polish ‘tso,’ and still the carts won’t move. We don’t have the heart just to drive through them. It’s such a heartbreaking scene, we drag one cart after another out of the mud, get them onto the main road and then onto the bridge over the river Narew. I pity them all, particularly the little children, sitting in the carts or in their mothers’ arms. They don’t understand what is happening around them. My thoughts turn to my own family, I feel depressed and before I know it tears run down my cheeks.” 

Thought Questions The Ground Shifts

  • How did Falkenhayn use the new Eleventh Army and what factored into his choices?
  • What was the intention of the Germans on the eastern front in 1915?
  • What was the intention of the Germans for 1916 on the eastern front based on the perspective of 1915?
  • Describe the Second Battle of Artois
  • What was the result at the end of the Second Battle of Artois?
  • What was the logic behind continuing / restarting the Artois offensive?
  • How did the Second Battle of Artois change the political situation in France, England and Germany?
  • What strategy developed to fight a “war of attrition” in 1915?
  • What role did railroads play in the battles around Artois?
  • Describe the situation Winston Churchill found himself in 1915
  • Describe the significance of the Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive 
  • How did Italy become involved in World War I? What were the Italian interests and objectives?
  • Describe the significance of the Courland campaign and its impact on Russian forces and political stability
  • How did Constantinople factor into Russian thought and planning?

Thought Questions Background: Genocide

  • Please note: The Armenian Genocide is a fact of history. No living person is responsible for it. No one should attempt to deny, distort or defend the Armenian Genocide. 
  • Who were the “Young Turks”, what did they develop from, what were their motivations and intentions?
  • Who was Enver Pasha?
  • Who was Suleiman the Magnificent? 
  • Why was Armenia chosen as a target by the Young Turks?
  • Describe the stages and events of the Armenian Genocide (Հայոց ցեղասպանություն)
  • How was the American Red Cross involved in the Armenian Genocide? 
  • How was religion a factor in the outer manifestation of the Armenian Genocide?
  • What ware the political factors in the inner planning of the Armenian Genocide? 

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

Week 16 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 16: Gallipoli

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “As in Europe, the soldiers on both sides developed the familiar mixture of fear and respect, of hatred and admiration, for the men they were fighting. The Turks “came over in two great waves from their trenches, in great hulking mass,” an Australian private observed of one attack. “They were rather big men, the Turks, fine body of men. As they came over, they were shouting ‘Allah!’ and blowing their trumpets and whistling and shouting like schoolboys. As they got closer, within nice rifle range, we had the order to fire and opened up with rapid fire and brought them down in hundreds, hundreds of them fell, and in front of our trenches.” A corporal at Anzac Cove took a less admiring view: “The Turks suffer severely in their half-hearted bayonet attacks, usually delivered at night. They approach calling on Allah. We hold our fire until they are within twenty paces. Then they get a couple of stunning volleys and we hop out and bayonet anyone who cannot run away quick enough. I have not been lucky enough to catch one yet.””
  • “I don’t order you to attack, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can take our place.” 

Thought Questions Gallipoli

  • (Remember: Galli (double el) poli)
  • Describe the goals of the Gallipoli campaign
  • How did geography influence the Gallipoli campaign?
  • Describe the progress and conclusion of the Gallipolicampaign
  • What was ANZAC and what was its role in the Gallipolicampaign?
  • What impact did ANZAC have on the British Empire? 
  • Describe the mythology around the Dardanelles
  • What is the military significance of the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus channel? of  Cape Helles?
  • Who were Sir John Michael de Robeck and General Ian Hamilton?
  • Who were Enver Pasha, Mustafa Kemal and General Otto Liman von Sanders?
  • Beyond the military sphere, what role did Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal play in the Ottoman empire?
  • How did Allied confusion impact the Gallipolicampaign? How did the Central Powers use this confusion to their benefit?

Thought Questions: Background: An Infinite Appetite for Shells

  • In what ways did the machine gun become the defining image of World War I?
  • In what ways did artillery dominated the battlefields of World War I?
  • How did World War I institute a new form of industrial warfare? What caused the evolution from wars of the previous decade? 

Articles and Resources

Further Reading

 

Week 15 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 15: Ypres Again

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Just rat holes! One hell of accommodation! Got to the trenches as a fatigue party with stake & sandbags, and though they were reserve trenches, they were so rotten. No trenches at all in parts, just isolated mounds. Found German’s feet sticking up through the ground. The Gurkhas had actually used human bodies instead of sandbags. Right beside the stream where we were working were the bodies of two dead, since November last, one face downward in full marching order, with his kit on his back. He died game! Stench something awful and dead all round. Water rats had made a home of their decomposed bodies. Visited the barbed wire with Rae—ordinary wire strung across. Quit about 1 A.M., came back to our dugouts and found them on fire. Had to march out to St. Julien, & put up in a roofless house—not a roof left on anything in the whole place. Found our sack of food had been stolen and we were famished. Certainly a most unlucky day, for I lost my cherished pipe. Bed at 4 A.M.”
  • “The advancing Germans were shocked by what they found: five thousand enemy soldiers on their backs, struggling for breath, suffocating in agony and terror.”
  • “There is nothing more bizarre about the great war than the way in which, for four years, millions of citizens of Europe’s most advanced nations lived in holes in the ground. The Western Front was unlike anything the world had seen before or has seen since.”

Thought Questions

  • Describe the events around the Second Battle of Ypres
  • What was the end result of the Second Battle of Ypres for the Germany, France and Britain?
  • What was the condition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time of the Second Battle of Ypres
  • What was the position of Italy in Europe before the war and how did they use their position to their national advantage?
  • What was the course of events that led to Italy joining the Entente?
  • Describe the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and its impact on the participants
  • What was Hill 60?
  • How was chlorine gas used in the Second Battle of Ypres
  • What role did Indian troops play in the Second Battle of Ypres?
  • What impact did the use of poison gas at the Second Battle of Ypres have on German American relations?
  • Describe the trench warfare system for the Western Allies and Germany
  • What was Trench Foot? What was Trench Mouth? How was it a life long injury?
  • How does the cliché about war: “it is tedium punctuated by eruptions of sheer terror” expressed in Trench warfare?. 

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

 

Week 14 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 14: The Dardanelles

 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “To attack Turkey would be to play the German game, and to bring about the end which Germany had in mind when she induced Turkey to join the war.”
  • ““I was wounded in the battle and taken to a casualty clearing station,” said Cavalryman Walter Becklade. “I was beside a fellow who had got his arms bandaged up—I’d simply got my right arm bandaged. He was trying to light his pipe but couldn’t get on very well so I offered to fill and light it for him. But when I’d lit it I suddenly realized he had nowhere to put it, as he’d had his lower jaw blown away. So I smoked the pipe and he smelt the tobacco, that was all the poor chap could have.””
  • ““The first ammunition dump exploded with a terrifying boom, the ground shook and the glass fell out of all the windows,” a Polish woman who had gone to Przemysl in an effort to save her family’s house wrote. “Clouds of ash cascaded from chimneys and stoves, and chunks of plaster fell from the walls and ceilings. There was soon a second boom. As the day dawned the town looked like a glowing, smoking crater with pink flames glowing from below and morning mist floating above—an amazing, menacing sight. These hours were perhaps the only hours like this in the whole history of the world. Countless people died of nervous convulsions last night, without any physical injuries or illnesses. By the time the sun climbed into the sky everything was still. Soldiers knelt on their balconies, praying…There is a corpse in our house, on the floor above the Litwinskis’. The man seems to have died of fear. I have to do something about him, but nobody wants to get involved, they are all leaving it to me. I persuaded one of the workmen to go down to the army hospital to ask what to do…he was told they would deal with it tomorrow, they’ve got too many corpses today as it is, littering the streets awaiting collection.””

Thought Questions

  • Describe the events that led up to the Ottoman entry into the war
  • What were the proposed objectives of the Salonika offensive?
  • How did different agendas impact the allied powers war plans?
  • What role did Winston Churchill play in the Dardanelles offensive?
  • Describe the geographic features of the Dardanelles and how they impacted the conflict
  • What was the symbolic importance of Constantinople to the allies?
  • How did the neutrality of some Central and Eastern Europeans impact the war in 1915?
  • Describe the fighting around Neuve Chapelle
  • In what ways did British naval power influence the course of the war?
  • How did the naval balance of power before the war influence events?
  • Compare and Contrast the role new weapons (poison gas, submarines, tanks, etc) had on World War I with the impact of new weapons in previous European conflicts 

Articles and Resources

 

Week 13 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer Chapter 13: The Search for Elsewhere

 

Thought Questions

  • What does the author mean with the chapter heading “The Search for Elsewhere”?
  • How did various actors answer the question “What do we do now?”? 
  • What was the situation in France at the beginning of 1915? What was their goal? 
  • What was the situation in Austria Hungary at the beginning of 1915? What was their goal?
  • What was the situation in Germany at the beginning of 1915? How did they have competing priorities? How did they make the decision on how to proceed? What was that decision?
  • What was the situation in Russia at the beginning of 1915? How did they have competing priorities? How did they make the decision on how to proceed? What was that decision?
  • What was the situation in Britain at the beginning of 1915? How did they have competing priorities? How did they make the decision on how to proceed? What was that decision?
  • Why are the situations of each of the fighting powers important at this point in the war?
  • How did the events at the beginning of 1915 unfold and how did it impact the priorities of each of the fighting powers? 
  • In what ways was the war impacting the political and military systems in each of the fighting powers?
  • What role did agriculture and food supplies play in decision making at the beginning of 1915? (harvest yields and food supplies are the single most important thing to consider when looking at a war. Bad harvests mean things are going to get worse)
  • How did conflict within German military leadership impact their war at the beginning of 1915?
  • Who were the Young Turks? 
  • How was Turkey motivated into the war? 
  • In what ways did the entry of Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) into the war alter the situation for the major fighting powers? 
  • How did conflict within Britain military / political leadership impact their war at the beginning of 1915?
  • How did Western Industrialization impact World War I? 
  • What is xylyl bromide and how was it deployed as a weapon in 1915?
  • How did Industrial warfare impact the Artillery and Cavalry branches of military services?
  • How did Industrial warfare impact the Infantry branches of military services?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “I can only love and hate, and I hate General Falkenhayn,” Ludendorff declared. “It is impossible for me to work together with him.” Even Hoffmann, whose temperament was far better balanced than Ludendorff’s, told his staff that Falkenhayn was “the fatherland’s evil angel.”
  • The Great War did not end in 1914—or In 1915, 1916, or 1917 for that matter—in large part because of the state of technology in the second decade of the twentieth century. The war had broken out at the end of almost a century of dizzily accelerating advances in metallurgy, chemistry, and high-precision mass production, at a moment in history when weaponry was immeasurably more advanced than it had been a few generations before. And the war itself accelerated everything still further. The nations involved were not only the world’s military giants but its industrial leaders as well. They rolled out one innovation after another year after year; whenever one side produced an implement of destruction that promised to tip the scales, the other came up with a way to preserve the deadlock.

 

Week 12 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 12: Flanders Fields

Thought Questions

  • How did the First Battle of Ypres unfold? 
  • What was accomplished by the different sides in the First Battle of Ypres?
  • What lessons did the different sides learn in the First Battle of Ypres? 
  • How did the Battle of the Yser fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did the Battle of Langemarck fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did the Battle of Gheluvelt fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did the Battle of Nonne Bosschen fit into the First Battle of Ypres
  • How did terrain and geography effect the First Battle of Ypres? 
  • How did communication, information and transportation effect the the First Battle of Ypres?
  • What were the two goals that the German forces needed to accomplish in the eastern theater as the First Battle of Ypres unfolded? 
  • How did the 1914 First Battle of Warsaw (the 1914 Battle of the Vistula River) unfold? 
  • What was accomplished by the different sides in the Battle of Warsaw and contemporaneous engagements?
  • What was the state of Austro-Hungarian forces at the end of 1914? 

Note: There are a multitude of Battles of Warsaw in history. Warsaw is grievously a necropolis that people live on top of and nations fight over.

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Thousands of schoolboy recruits, many of them as young as sixteen, followed almost equally inexperienced reserve sergeants and officers in heavily massed formations directly at the waiting BEF. They formed a wall of flesh—British soldiers recalled them advancing arm in arm, singing as they came, wearing their fraternity caps and carrying flowers—that blind men could hardly have missed. They were mowed down in rows. Where they somehow succeeded in driving back their enemies, they often didn’t know what to do next and so milled around aimlessly until hit with a counterattack. Many thousands of these youngsters lie in a single mass grave a short distance north of Ypres. At the site is a sculpture, the figures of a pair of parents kneeling in grief, created after the war by the mother of one of them.”
  • “Even the barest chronology of how the villages near Ypres were taken and surrendered and taken again is enough to show why, in the end, hardly a stone was left standing upon a stone. Lombartzyde was captured by the Germans on October 23, retaken by the French a day later, recaptured by the Germans on October 28, taken yet again by the British and French on November 4, recaptured by the Germans on November 7, only to change hands twice more before finally and permanently ending up in the possession of the Germans.” 

Articles and Resources

 

 

Week 11 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 11: Back From The Marne

Thought Questions

  • What was the condition of the western forces in early September 1914?
  • What was the condition of the eastern forces in early September 1914?
  • From the perspective of Germany, how did the situation appear at this time?
  • From the perspective of France and Russia how did the situation appear at this time?
  • From the perspective of the fighting soldiers how did the situation appear at this time?
  • How would military operations following the Battle of the Marne proceed? 
  • What role did staff planning play in early September 1914? What role did the planning at field level play in early September? 
  • What was happening in East Prussia as the Western front maneuvered after the Battle of the Marne? 
  • What role did cavalry play in the opening campaigns of World War I? 
  • How was the Austro-Hungarian Empire fighting a completely different war from the one the major powers were fighting? 
  • In what ways did the BEF and the French army cooperate and clash in the follow up to the Battle of the Marne?
  • What does the author intend when he says the follow up to the Battle of the Marne was a “series of crisis” until a breakdown occurred? What was the “breakdown”?
  • How did the Schlieffen Plan conclude? 

Thought Questions The British Commanders 

  • What were the circumstances under which British commanders gained military experience and developed their careers?
  • Who were Herbert Kitchener, John French and Douglas Haig? 
  • What was the “cult of amateurism” in Victorian Britain?
  • How was the BEF organized on the entry to World War I?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Attack, whatever happens! The Germans are at the extreme limit of their efforts…Victory will come to the side that outlasts the other.”
  • “What a mess!” he exclaimed. “What a shambles! It was a terrifying sight…no order in the ranks…straggling along…Men emaciated, in rags and tatters, most without haversacks, many without rifles, some marching painfully, leaning on sticks and looking as though they were about to fall asleep.”
  • “One of our battalions was marching wearily forward, All at once, while passing a crossroad, they discovered a signpost, on which they read: Paris, thirty-seven kilometers [twenty-three miles]. It was the first signpost that had not been erased. On seeing it, the battalion was as though shaken up by an electric current. The word Paris, which they have just read, drives them crazy. Some of them embrace the wretched signpost, others dance around it. Cries, yells of enthusiasm, accompany these mad actions. This signpost is their evidence that we are near Paris, that, without doubt, we shall soon be really there. This notice board has had a miraculous effect. Faces light up, weariness seems to disappear, the march is resumed, alert, cadenced, in spite of the abominable ground in this forest. Songs burst forth louder.”
  • “Our soldiers are worn out, For four days they have been marching forty kilometers a day. The ground is difficult, the roads are torn up, trees felled, the fields pitted by shells like strainers. The soldiers stagger at every step, their faces are plastered with dust, their uniforms are in rags; one might call them living rag-bags. They march with closed eyes, and sing in chorus to keep from falling asleep as they march. The certainty of victory close at hand and of their triumphal entry into Paris sustains them and whips up their enthusiasm. Without this certainty of victory they would fall exhausted. They would lie down where they are, to sleep at last, no matter where, no matter how. And, to give their bodies a drunkenness like that of their souls, they drink enormously. But this drunkenness also helps to keep them up. Today, after an inspection, the General [Kluck] was furiously angry. He wanted to put an end to this collective debauch. We have just persuaded him not to give severe orders. It is better not to be too strict, otherwise the army could not go on at all. For this abnormal weariness abnormal stimulants are needed. In Paris we shall remedy all this.”

Articles

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Week 10 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 10: To The Marne

Thought Questions

  • Describe the events leading to the First Battle of the Marne? 
  • How did the events around the First Battle of the Marne begin to “favor” Joffre?
  • How did the relationship between Sir John French and the British high command evolve and how was the French high command involved?
  • What was the German plan that led to the First Battle of the Marne? 
  • In what ways did the French surprise the Germans during these events? 
  • How did the BEF work with the French forces in the First Battle of the Marne?
  • What critical mistakes did Moltke make in this period? 

Thought Questions Background: The French Commanders

  • Who was Louis Loyzeau de Grandmaison and what role did he play in 1914?
  • What was the French “cult of the offensive” and how did it impact French military thinking during the opening of World War I?
  • Why was the use of reserved troops for frontline service controversial in France?
  • How did religious practice effect the French military decision making?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “We must not deceive ourselves. We have had successes, but we have not had victory.”
  • “When French replied that he was indeed withdrawing south of the River Seine and that “my confidence in the ability of the leaders of the French Army to carry this campaign to a successful conclusion is fast waning,” Kitchener shot back another message informing him that he was expected to “as far as possible conform to the plans of General Joffre for the conduct of the campaign.” In response, French again gave vent to his disdain for his allies and emphasized how unready the BEF was to withstand further combat.”
  • “Farther to the east, the front was aflame. Moltke was hurling his Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Armies against the French Fourth, Third, Second, and First. The Germans were repulsed, fell back, and were counterattacked in their turn.”

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

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Week 9 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 9: A Perfect Balance

Thought Questions

  • What was the “Curragh Mutiny”?
  • Who was Sir John French and what role did the BEF play in the opening of World War I?
  • How did the scale of the conflict effect how it unfolded? 
  • What advantages did the BEF have that countered their small size? 
  • Who was General Alexander von Kluck and what role did the German First Army play in the opening of World War I?
  • Who was General Otto von Bülow and what role did the German Second Army play in the opening of World War I?
  • Who was General Max von Hausen and what role did the German Third Army play in the opening of World War I?
  • How did the French doctrine of the “offensive” effect the opening of World War I and how would this impact the French in 1940? 
  • How did the Battle of Le Cateau unfold and what were its consequences for the opening of the war?
  • In what ways did communications effect the opening of World War I?
  • Describe the 1914 siege of Paris?
  • How was the war in East Prussia disruptive to German and Russian war plans?
  • How did the geography of East Prussia effect military operations? 
  • How did the Battle for East Prussia and Tannenberg unfold and what were its consequences? 
  • Who was General Pavel von Rennenkampf and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia?
  • Who was General Alexander Samsonov and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia?
  • How did the relationship between Samsonov and Rennenkampf effect their performance at the battle for East Prussia?
  • Who was Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia?
  • Who was Erich Ludendorff and what role did he play in the battle for East Prussia? 
  • How did the 1914 First Battle of Masurian Lakes unfold and what were its consequences?

Thought Questions: The Junkers 

  • Who were the “Junkers” and how were they connected to the House of Hohenzollern?
  • What was the dilemma of “Old Prussia”?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “It will be obvious that the greatest care must be exercised towards a minimum of loss and wastage,” Kitchener had written. “I wish you to distinctly understand that your force is an entirely independent one and you will in no case come under the orders of any Allied general.”
  • “I will not allow General Samsonov to play the coward,” Zhilinski imperiously replied. “I insist that he continue the offensive.”
  • “without understanding what Wilhelm meant when he said that the creation of the new empire felt like a kind of death—that the day it happened was the most miserable of his life.”
  • “A culture emerged that was unlike any other in Europe, an army, it was said, that happened to have a country attached to it.” 

Articles

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Week 8 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 8: First Blood

Thought Questions 

  • Describe the Liège defenses, their importance and how the battle unfolded there
  • What miscalculations did France make in the disposition of their forces?
  • Describe the German siege guns at Liège
  • What were the German miscalculations regarding the eastern front? 
  • How did the 1914 Battle for East Prussia unfold? 
  • What effect the the opening of the war have on population centers?
  • How did the British surprise the Germans?
  • Describe the disposition of the French and Belgium forces at the opening of war? 

Thought Questions: London in 1914

  • What was the path the British took to involvement in the war?
  • What role did Ireland play in the opening of the war? 
  • Who were Herbert Henry Asquith, David Lloyd George and Edward Grey 
  • What was the Curragh Mutiny?
  • What was the reaction and schism in the British government before the opening of the war? 
  • What was the guiding principle of British foreign policy? 
  • What dilemmas did Britain face in the opening of war? How did Beligum and Ireland factor into these problems?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “A mass of infantry on the move is like nothing else in the world, but it may usefully be thought of as an immensely long and cumbersome caterpillar with the head of a nearsighted tiger.”
  • “the idea that Germany was in a life-or-death struggle and so had no choice but to take extreme measures.” 
  • -“with the public barely noticing, Britain was slowly being drawn into the European crisis.”
  • “It is curious,” wrote Asquith, “how, going to and from the House, we are now always surrounded and escorted by cheering crowds of loafers and holiday makers. I have never before been a popular character with ‘the man in the street,’ and in all this dark and dangerous business it gives me scant pleasure. How one loathes such levity.” 

Articles

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Week 7 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 7: The Iron Dice Roll

Thought Questions

  • What was the great fear of German leaders in international relations? How does this compare to Russia during the post World War 1 period? 
  • What was the “Schlieffen Plan” and how did it effect the opening of World War 1?
  • How did German geography and the European political situation favor military defense over offense in 1914? How was an offensive plan risky? 
  • How did the position of neutral nations effect the opening of the western front?
  • How did French history effect their preparations for war? 

Thought Questions: Background: Paris

  • What was the “Madame Caillaux affair”?
  • Who was Jean Jaurès and what role did he play in the opening of the war? 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “Bismarck had joked that if it ever invaded Germany, he would have it arrested.”

Articles

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Week 6: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 6: Leaping in the Dark

Thought Questions

  • Why were German war plans at the core of the start of World War II? 
  • Who was Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and the Younger and how were they involved in the beginning of World War I
  • How did communications and transportation effect the beginning of World War I? 
  • In what ways did the different priorities and constraints of the military and political leadership effect the start of the war?
  • What was Grey’s offer of neutrality and how did it effect the situation leading up to World War I?

Response / Thought Quotes

  • ““This was a criminal act of yours,” Sazonov said. “The curses of the nations will be upon you.” “We were defending our honor.” “Your honor was not involved.”” 

Articles

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Optional Supplemental Reading

Notes

 

Week 5 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 5: Fear is a Bad Counselor 

Thought Questions

  • How was the situation of the Great Powers in the lead up to war similar to the situation Great Powers faced in the Cold War? 
  • How were the circumstances of the start of World War I different from the beginning of World War II? 
  • Who was Grigori Rasputin and how did he impact the Russian Tsar and his wife?
  • What was the “Stop in Belgrade” proposition? 
  • How did the attitudes of national leaders differ from the ministers of their government? 
  • How did the British Navy react to the crisis of July and what was Winston Churchill’s role and attitude? 
  • How was the role of national and military leaders at the outbreak of World War I different from the role of national and military leaders at the outbreak of World War II in Europe? 
  • How did Belgium become involved in the lead up to World War I? 
  • What was the “Double Ultimatum”? 
  • What was intended by the phrase “Fear is a Bad Counselor”? (Not what it means, but what does it intend to invoke in the listener)

Thought Questions: Background: The Ottoman Turks

  • How did the Ottoman Turks become involved in World War I?
  • What was the history of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans?
  • Why did the Ottoman Empire decline before World War I? 
  • What were the traditions of Ottoman succession? 
  • How did the Ottoman Empire “enter” the war? 

Articles

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Week 4 :: A World Undone by G.J. Meyer, Chapter 4: Secrets and Lies

Thought Questions

  • Why did Kaiser Wilhelm say Austria had won a great moral victory? 
  • Describe the events around the Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia and how it was crafted?
  • How was the process of Mobilization different in for Russia? 
  • How was the process of Mobilization different for Germany? 
  • What was Serbia’s response to Austria’s Ultimatum? 
  • How was transportation and communication a factor in different nations Mobilization?
  • How was the French-Russian Alliance alarming to Germany? 
  • What role did Britain play in the final days of July 1914? 

Thought Questions: Background: The Romanovs 

  • Briefly describe the history of the Romanov family.
  • Who was Peter the Great and how did he impact Russian history?
  • What events were taking place in British North America during Peter the Great’s reign?
  • Who was Cathrine the Great and how did she impact Russian history?
  • What events were going on in British North America during her reign? 
  • Who was Alexander I and how did he impact Russian history?
  • What events were going on in the United States during his reign?
  • Who was Alexander II and how did he impact Russian history?
  • What events were going on in the United States during his reign?
  • What was the “Stop in Belgrade” proposition? 
  • How did the attitudes of national leaders differ from the ministers of their government? 

Articles

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Optional Supplemental Reading

 

Week 3 :: A World Undone: Chapter 3 – Setting Fire To Europe

Thought Questions

  • How did the reaction to the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand differ in each power center in Europe and how were these reactions interpreted or misinterpreted?
  • Describe the events that took place between Germany and Austria Hungary in July 1914?
  • Why were Hungarians generally opposed to the war? 
  • What was “mobilization” of armed forces and what constraints did it place on actions? 
  • What were the “Nikky Willy” telegrams? 
  • Why was speed of action important to Austria Hungary and Germany in July 1914?
  • What demands were made on Serbia by Austria Hungary and what intentions did they include?
  • Why did Russia feel compeled to respond to the sitution between Serbia and Austria Hungary?

Thought Questions The Hohenzollern  

  • Who were the Hohenzollerns and how did they rise in Europe before 1914?
  • How was the development of power in Germany different from the development of power in Austria Hungary? 

Optional Supplemental Reading

 

Week 2: A World Undone, by G.J. Meyer – Chapter 2: Never Again

Thought Questions

  • Who were Emperor Franz Joseph, Conrad von Hötzendorf and Leopold von Berchtold and what were their roles in the beginning of World War I
  • Describe the nature and unique circumstances of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how the forces at work in Europe made it difficult to maintain.
  • Describe the role the Ottoman Empire played in the destabilization of the Balkans? 
  • What were some of the reasons the Hungarians feared additional territorial acquisitions? 
  • Describe the role Russian weakness played in the destabilization of the Balkans? 
  • What was the German Empire’s relationship with the Austro-Hungarian Empire? 
  • How did Emperor Franz Joseph say about loneliness and death? 

Thought Questions The Hapsburgs

  • Briefly describe the rise of the Hapsburg family
  • How was the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire similar and different? 
  • Who was the American President when Emperor Franz Joseph was crowned and who was the American President when he died? What does this tell us about his life experience?

Notes: 

Articles and Primary Sources 

Optional Supplemental Reading

 

Week 1 : A World Undone, Introduction and Chapter 1 June 28th: The Black Hand Descends 

Thought Questions Introduction

  • What does the author say about his purpose in writing his history?
  • What does the author say he hopes to convey to the reader? 

Thought Questions Chapter 1

  • Who was Archduke Franz Ferdinand and what were the circumstances of his family and the period leading up to his assassination? 
  • Describe the events that occurred on the day of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  • Along with the information about his life and marriage what do the final words of Franz Ferdinand tell us about his character in comparison with the Emperor and Imperial court? 
  • What were the circumstances in Serbia in the period leading up to the outbreak of war?
  • What is the significance of St. Vitus Day? 
  • How did Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicolas II and other governments initially react to the news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand? 
  • What was the Anarchist movement and what effect did it have on modern western history? 
  • How did conflict between the United States and revolutionary Mexico and the potential for a second Mexican-American war effect the United States response to the events leading up to World War I? 

Thought Questions The Serbs

  • What was the background of Serbia and “Greater” Serbia? 
  • How did Serbia effect the interests of the Russian, Ottoman and Austrian Empires?
  • In what ways were Serbian government officials involved in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand?

Articles and Primary Sources

Optional Supplemental Reading

Notes