Follow by Email

What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Monday, June 9, 2014

World War I this week

This week, I start out with a story I heard on one of the WWI documentaries I've been watching to bone up for these posts.  The story was about "Operational Plan Three"- A plan the German military had worked up for attacking the US of A.  What surprised me is not only that this plan wasn't the ONLY one- and not that it came about BEFORE the Great War- but how FAR before the war the were formulated.

Apparently Willie (AKA Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany) was jealous of the riches of the American brand of capitalism, and bothered that we were increasingly becoming a fly in the ointment of his plans for colonial expansion.  Germany was already trying to spread its influence in the Pacific, and was looking into challenging the Monroe Doctrine in the Caribbean.  And in 1897, he was looking at Germany replacing Spain in the Caribbean- and knew that American was also awaiting the chance.

Which meant Willie was looking for a way to take Cuba, or Puerto Rico, or both, before we did.  He assigned Navy Lt. Eberhard von Mantey to formulate a plan. The 28 year old junior officer was under the tutelage of Admiral von Tirpitz, and what they came up with was eventually called the Tirpitz Plan.  It called for drawing out the US Navy in a major engagement, and upon defeating them, to lay waste the Naval shipyards at Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton Roads.  Then they would blockade America into acquiescing to German acquisition of the Caribbean islands.  Unfortunately for Willie, long before they had the long range capability to make it a reality, the Spanish American War broke out.  The Caribbean for all intents became an American lake, and the only action between the two was a German flotilla in Manilla Bay that annoyed our navy just enough to make us fire some warning salvos.

In March of 1899, Willie had von Mantey re-devise.  Plan two once again stared with "a major naval battle which Germany wins", but then became a two pronged LAND invasion with 100,000 German troops landing at sites on Cape Cod  to take Boston, and (of all places) Sandy Hook, NJ to attack New York City.  Three problems came up with this plan.  By December 1900, Willie had been convinced that the German Navy could win the battle, but needed a base in, say, Cuba.  Which meant they would have to add another stop to the tour.  Second, there wasn't enough shipping under control of the German Navy to GET 100,000 troops to America.  And third, the famous General von Schleiffen told Willie that while 100,000 troops would be enough to take Boston, it was far too few to take a city of 3,000,000 like NYC- a population that only London, Paris, and Berlin approached in the Europe of 1900.

In mid 1901 a Army Captain named Charles Train issued a report on the military vulnerabilities of the Cape Cod area, and the results of which told von Schlieffen that the plans they had needed to be re-worked.  This time, von Tirpitz turned to Staff Officer Wilhelm Buchsel to work on it.  By November 1903, Buchsel came up with a naval-bombardment- heavy plan that required establishing a naval base in Puerto Rico.  But the two conditions they felt necessary to make any plan work- lack of war or threat of war in Europe, and America's unpreparedness, were fast becoming fading dreams by then.  A crisis in debt-strapped Venezuela almost led to a naval war between the US and Germany in 1903 (which I may touch on in a later episode), and taught the Germans that the US was ready to block any aggressive move in the hemisphere with iron.  As the shipping required for the plan still didn't exist (and never would), the Entente Cordiale was established in 1904, and the British launched their first dreadnaught in 1906, the whole thing was scrapped.

Back to this week, one hundred years ago, where we look at twin developments that began on the 12th.

Ferdie, you just need to use a little finesse, like I do...

The first was a visit by Willie to Austrian heir apparent Franz Ferdinand at FF's hunting lodge at Konopischt.  Austria had really kicked the Balkan hornet's nest with the Bosnian annexation of 1908, and Willie knew Austria needed an ally in the region to settle things down.  The logical candidate was Romania- but they were annoyed by Hungarian treatment of the Romanians in their half of the Dual Empire.  FF hoped Willie could help him convince Hungarian Prime Minister Count Tisza to "take a more enlightened approach" with the Romanians.  For two days FF told Willie that the Hungarians were unreasonable, and could he help; and Willie replied that the Hungarians were reasonably reasonable and he should work with them.  Willie left on Saturday the 13th, and Austrian Foreign Minister Leon Berchtold showed up on Sunday the 14th.  FF set him to the task of figuring a new paradigm, since it didn't seem like Romania and they would clear things up anytime soon.

Berchtold conferred with an under-official named Franz von Matscheko, and Matscheko reasoned that with the Romanian door shut, Bulgaria was the only other candidate.  He worked on the idea, finishing a memorandum on the 24th.  Bulgaria held a lot of advantages; but after just being burned by their Balkan allies in 1913, they were in a real "what's in it for me" mode.  The Austrians were too cash-strapped to pump enough payola to Sofia to turn their heads; it would be up to the Kaiser to "woo them with money."  The memorandum was floated to the Kaiser, and another copy was to go to FF; but it sat on his desk unread as he had already left for his fateful trip to Sarajevo by then.

The other development was the opening salvo of what would be a repeating pattern of massacres by Ottoman Turkey against her Christian population.  A Monsieur Manciet and some French buddies were on site at the Smyrna suburb of Phocea, a city of 80,000 Christians (mostly Greeks) and 400 Turks, when "bands of bandits" hit the city on a mission of looting, rape, and murder that wiped the city off the map.  The Frenchmen managed to get some people to Smyrna for transport to the Greek island of Lesbos, but many more were butchered by the Turks, who tried to cover their tracks by letting the "bandits" have their way the first day, then send in troops from Smyrna to "save the day"- which consisted of committing greater atrocities than the bandits.  I've always found it funny that German soldiers in Belgium wore "God is with us" patches while killing Belgian priests and allying themselves with a government spat from the bowels of hell.  It doesn't surprise me that the "God that was with them"  allowed them to lose any more than it surprises me that their nation would go on to commit even greater atrocities later.

By their fruits shall you know them...


  1. Chris:
    That's getting really good...
    I had heard of the Tirpitz Plan a long time ago, but it was in passing, and there was little substance to what it was about (then).
    You brought to light lots of information and filled in loads of blank spots in what I could recall (which isn't much until today).
    Love the plans to land TROOPS in Cape Cod, Norfolk, and (especially) SANDY HOOK, NJ.

    Used to now some owners of near beachfront property that would have a crapload to say about such an "invasion"...(wouldn't wanna mess with them)

    Excellent report (from the soon-to-be front).

    Carry on & stay safe up there.

    1. The Sandy Hook thing got me, too. But the neat after the fact thing I learned was that the berchtold memorandum was actually a modification of one Count Tisza wrote- with the intent of keeping the peace- back in March.

  2. WOW- good stuff!! I just cant wrap my head around the German soldiers killing all the Jews . Didnt it feel wrong to them in any way and for them to not turn against Hitler. Crazy!