General Alexander Samsonov had allowed poor communication, a hatred of the man that protected his flank, fellow General Paul Rennenkampf, and a total misreading of the situation before him lead to his army's surrounding and annihilation by the German forces he faced. “The Emperor trusted me. How can I face him after such a disaster?” He is quoted as saying, moments before disappearing into the woods they were trapped in and putting a bullet in his head.
Rennenkampf, who was excoriated for not coming to Samsonov's aid at Tannenberg (the same thing Samsonov accused him of at the Battle of Mukden against the Japanese in 1905), went on to get trounced twice by the armies of Hindenburg and Ludendorf- once barely a month later when he fell into the selfsame trap at the Mausurian Lakes, and again in the heart of Poland at Lodz in November. Rennenkampf was forced into "retirement" after Lodz brought up questions of not only his incompetence but his Baltic-German heritage and his true sympathies. In 1918 the Bolsheviks asked him to lead a Red Army, and executed him for refusing. Samsonov, a German site on Tannenberg tells me, was at first lost in the pile of bodies; but an amulet he wore identified him, and his body was turned over to his wife for burial in Russia. He got a monument; Rennenkampf got an unmarked grave.
Another tale of two men came on the French front. The German advance, so close to victory on September 5th, was split by the heroic ( and disputed by some sources) efforts of the 10,000 Parisian taxis who bussed soldiers from the Paris garrison (at a blazing 16 mph) into the breach between General von Kluck and the rest of the German Armies. This would mark the end of the supreme command of Helmuth von Moltke the Younger. Moltke took a lot of blame from his contemporary superiors and from later historians for the failure of the modified Schlieffen Plan. But when looks at the facts a little closer, there were some interesting things the history books missed:
One was that it was an entirely different situation that Moltke faced than Schlieffen envisaged. Schlieffen's world had a Russia recovering from defeat by Japan and revolution. Thus, he did not game-plan for a two-front war. Also, his plan called for approximately 20 divisions more than even existed, and they weren't created by the time the keys to the war machine were tossed to Moltke. Finally, the fact of the matter is, the germans were gassed- it had been a long road, pitted by shells that they had fired, and the men were exhausted. Given that Schlieffen would have added a sweep through Holland to the mix, he wouldn't have made it, either.
But it's Moltke who gets the blame, and the credit for the apocryphal statement to the Kaiser, Majestät, wir haben den Krieg verloren! (Your majesty, we have lost the war!) The accuracy of this quote is debated; but nonetheless, the command of the war then passed to Erich von Falkenhayn.
Falkenhayn would fare little better than Moltke in the stalemate the war would become- the failure to completely destroy the French at Verdun was his legacy there- but he redeemed his legacy in a war of movement when sent to Romania where he easily defeated a numerically larger enemy. But the thing you don't hear about was an amazing story I read here, on how, when assigned later to Palestine, he saved the Jews from an extermination event like the Armenians were facing in the Caucasus and the Greeks in Smyrna. Here's an excerpt from than link.
Last month, Falkenhayn's biographer, Prof. Holger Afflerbach of Leeds University told me, "Falkenhayn had to supervise Turkish measures against Jewish settlers who were accused of high treason and collaboration with the English. He prevented harsh Turkish measures -- Jamal Pasha was speaking about evacuation of all Jewish settlers in Palestine."
"Falkenhayn's role was crucial, " Afflerbach explained. "His judgment in November 1917 was as follows: He said that there were single cases of cooperation between the English and a few Jewish radicals, but that it would be unfair to punish entire Jewish communities who had nothing to do with that. Therefore nothing happened to the Jewish settlements. Only Jaffa had been evacuated -- by Jamal Pasha."
Ironic, no? A German officer saving Jews in 1918... 20 years before his successors began murdering them. Moltke died before the war was over, during the funeral of another German commander in Turkey, one Marshall von der Goltz. Von der Goltz had been the one to suggest to Enver Pasha to deport Armenians from the war areas in the first place- scrambling to undo his recommendation when he realized the Turks saw it as the perfect opportunity to practice ethnic cleansing under German auspices. Let this be a lesson to those of you that wonder why the Turks today won't help against ISIS. The Turks have a history of preferring murdering their minorities to being of any useful purpose to the world.
Jeremiah 13:23 King James Version (KJV)23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Apparently Moltke left a scathing pamphlet on his take on who started the war. So scathing that it was "buried" with him in 1916; his widow failed in many attempts to have it published, and the full manuscript has never seen the light of day.