Why Was the German Drive Successful?
By A. Michailovsky.
Ever since Mackensen began his terrific drive against the Russian positions in the Carpathians, people have not ceased to wonder why the huge Russian armies, that had taken Lemberg and Przemysl and had climbed the Carpathian passes in winter, suddenly crumpled up and began their hasty retreat.
As a general thing, we are apt to attribute the Russian retreat from Galicia, and the subsequent Polish campaign, to lack of ammunition, dearth of commanding officers, and the inefficiency of strategic railroads, due to their poor construction and the insufficient supply of coal. But the Russian military writers, reluctantly admitting all this, tell us that there are specific points in the German military organizations which made the tremendous drives through Galicia and Poland possible.
In the first place, it is claimed that in her preparations for the war, Germany, which was, until 1914, the supreme authority on military affairs, preached doctrines of military tactics which she herself has not followed during the war. The German military writers have always, for example, argued against fortresses and even field fortifications as means of defense, emphasizing the principle that it is the human factor that wins a war, since no fortress can withstand properly directed artillery fire. Yet, it is clear that without field fortifications of the kind constructed in France, Germany would not have been able toher war on three battle fronts.
There are other factors, of course, that conspire to make such a campaign possible for Germany. The chief one is the German plan of artillery service. Before the war, the Germans had each army corps supplied with 144 pieces. But their experts always claimed that this number is too large and praised the methods of other countries, which reduced the number to from 96 to 120 pieces, on the ground that overloading a corps with artillery makes it too slow and unwieldy in motion. Nevertheless, the Germans themselves kept their army corps supplied with 144 pieces of artillery each. Since the beginning of the war, they have even increased each unit by sixteen heavy pieces, thus bringing the whole number up to 160, as against the much less numerous artillery of the Allies.