Germany focuses on on the Eastern Front in 1916

How do you get Germany to go on the offensive in 1916, would the offensive succeded? How far would it penetrate into the Russian lines and how would it affect the rest pf the war and the Russian Revolutions?
 

Riain

Banned
How do you get Germany to go on the offensive in 1916, would the offensive succeded? How far would it penetrate into the Russian lines and how would it affect the rest pf the war and the Russian Revolutions?

It was at least partly political, Falkenhayen hated Hindy and Ludy and didn't want to be near them and boost them up with a successful offensive. That said Falkenhayen has a better concept of how modern war should be waged in the east, he didn't have dreams of sweeping maneuvres that inevitably failed; rather he would fix the enemy in place, smash them and then advance as far as logistics would allow, then repeat for the rest of the campaigning season.

As for a PoD, well that could be anything at any time, all the way back to a better 1914 for the Germans or even a better 1915, it's hard to pin down.
 
The only tricky part about going east in 1916 is it's may or June before the weather gets good. Not necessarily an obstacle as Verdun was done in February, but that didn't require as much movement as an east front offensive would.

The obvious choices are Riga, or on the extreme southern end to impress Romania and to take a grain producing area.

It would be a grind, and nothing necessarily war winning.

If Germany was willing to settle for a pre war status quo kind of peace, it might be a decent strategy to do east in 1916.
 
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I wonder if the best strategy would be instead of a slow advance favorable attrition strategy at Verdun, try to rush an take the city in February. Shorten the line a bit, then do a eastern offensive with the Austrians in Galicia near the Romanian border in May, the Austrians forgo their OTL offensive to reinforce this. Then forward a peace proposal of no annexations. Germany wins such a peace really, beat off the encirclement, punished Serbia with a years occupation, fought the British to a draw at Jutland, Still holding out in East Africa, demonstrated a blockade breaker in the merchant sub. Germany demonstrated it's military is still efficient and the Russians a paper tiger.
 
It was at least partly political, Falkenhayen hated Hindy and Ludy and didn't want to be near them and boost them up with a successful offensive. That said Falkenhayen has a better concept of how modern war should be waged in the east, he didn't have dreams of sweeping maneuvres that inevitably failed; rather he would fix the enemy in place, smash them and then advance as far as logistics would allow, then repeat for the rest of the campaigning season.
Maneuvers were a good way to fight the Russians. The main thing holding back the German war effort in the East was the prioritization of the Western Front, which meant that the Germans often did not have the resources to fully capitalize on opportunities.
 

Riain

Banned
Maneuvers were a good way to fight the Russians.

WW1 was not a war that was friendly to maneuvre, horse cavalry was far too easy to stop and the logistics limit was far too short to allow any great wide, deep sweeps. Hindy and Ludy were wrong in their conception of the war and falkenhayen was right.

The main thing holding back the German war effort in the East was the prioritization of the Western Front, which meant that the Germans often did not have the resources to fully capitalize on opportunities

Britain and France economically dwarfed Russia, they were the biggest threat and Germany was right to focus on the west. Additionally the CP allies were in the East not the West.
 
WW1 was not a war that was friendly to maneuvre, horse cavalry was far too easy to stop and the logistics limit was far too short to allow any great wide, deep sweeps. Hindy and Ludy were wrong in their conception of the war and falkenhayen was right.
The Western Front was special because it presented an unprecedented concentration of material on a short front, not because it wasn't possible to maneuver successfully in war anymore. The campaigns on all European fronts in 1914/15 opened with a large amount of maneuvering. The Eastern Front is illustrative of the feasibility of maneuver battles. While they were harder, they were still feasible with enough material commitment.
Britain and France economically dwarfed Russia, they were the biggest threat and Germany was right to focus on the west. Additionally the CP allies were in the East not the West.
I'm saying that the main thing holding back CP progress on the Eastern Front was commitment of forces to the West, not that it was a mistake (although the fiasco of bringing Britain into the war can definitely be called one).
 

Riain

Banned
The Western Front was special because it presented an unprecedented concentration of material on a short front, not because it wasn't possible to maneuver successfully in war anymore. The campaigns on all European fronts in 1914/15 opened with a large amount of maneuvering. The Eastern Front is illustrative of the feasibility of maneuver battles. While they were harder, they were still feasible with enough material commitment.

Maneuvre, in the sense of trying to outflank the enemy, was only possible in WW1 where there was no enemy present. This rule was so hard and fast that a force of 2 divisions of French territorials was enough to keep the powerful 1st German Army from spreading its forces too far West off its line of march. Once even the most feeble lines had been established the war was a matter of breaking those lines and advancing, rather than wide sweeps to find flanks. This applies to the Eastern front as well, although the density of troops meant the trench lines weren't nearly as formidable and thus far more easily broken and advances up to the limits of logistics could be undertaken.

I'm saying that the main thing holding back CP progress on the Eastern Front was commitment of forces to the West, not that it was a mistake (although the fiasco of bringing Britain into the war can definitely be called one).

Fair enough, I've seen the German advanced position in France described as the engine that drove the war. Certainly as the strategic offensive and tactical defensive it was the strongest form of warfare.

As for bringing in the British, the Germans had decided by 1912 that they'd be fighting the British in the next war regardless of the circumstances. Therefore nothing was lost by bringing in the British.
 
Maneuvre, in the sense of trying to outflank the enemy, was only possible in WW1 where there was no enemy present. This rule was so hard and fast that a force of 2 divisions of French territorials was enough to keep the powerful 1st German Army from spreading its forces too far West off its line of march. Once even the most feeble lines had been established the war was a matter of breaking those lines and advancing, rather than wide sweeps to find flanks. This applies to the Eastern front as well, although the density of troops meant the trench lines weren't nearly as formidable and thus far more easily broken and advances up to the limits of logistics could be undertaken.
Our definition of maneuver is different then. I adhere to the definition of maneuver warfare that is composed of achieving an advantageous outcome by moving your forces rapidly to create and exploit vulnerabilities. That applies as much to the maneuvering of overwhelming force to achieve a penetration of the enemy line (as at Sedan in 1940), to an initial wide outflanking movement like at Leuthen.
 
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Shorten the line a bit, then do a eastern offensive with the Austrians in Galicia near the Romanian border in May, the Austrians forgo their OTL offensive to reinforce this.
Austria would be even more bent on going on the offensive in Italy if Germany was picking up their slack in the East. They’d probably strip the front even more.

Then forward a peace proposal of no annexations.
Not gonna happen. And the Entente wouldn’t accept anyway.

The problem with attacking in the East after 1915 is where does it go? Riga is the only really attainable objective, and taking it is not going to be decisive. Same with an offensive in Galicia. Retaking it won’t be decisive, and going further would just be striking into the enemy’s depth. It’s just going to lengthen the Central Powers lines.
 
Austria would be even more bent on going on the offensive in Italy if Germany was picking up their slack in the East. They’d probably strip the front even more.


Not gonna happen. And the Entente wouldn’t accept anyway.

The problem with attacking in the East after 1915 is where does it go? Riga is the only really attainable objective, and taking it is not going to be decisive. Same with an offensive in Galicia. Retaking it won’t be decisive, and going further would just be striking into the enemy’s depth. It’s just going to lengthen the Central Powers lines.
It's the danger of attacking in the east, that nothing much might achieved that is war winning, but it's the POD put out in the OP and even Winston Churchill in his "World Crisis" book thought the Germans should have gone east in 1916. An offensive near Romania to bring the Romanians in on the side of the Central Powers. (Of course Churchill might have had an ulterior motive to justify his own peripheral campaigns).

On Italy, another thought would be to just reinforce the Austrian 1916 effort with a few good German divisions 1917 style, backed with some artillery, out course OTL the Germans weren't at war with Italy until August 1916, but unsure if they would just supply a DOW if they needed to, i.e. not sure what advantage was gained by continuing German Italian neutrality at this point.

At some point a peace conference will end the war because Britain doesn't have to make peace. No annexations is a pretty good start for getting the Americans to help. Hopefully some minor successes in 1916 will convince the Allies to take such a peace. German civilian leadership was still talking a no annexations peace in 1916, so I don't think it's beyond plausible, maybe just unlikely???
 
Hopefully some minor successes in 1916 will convince the Allies to take such a peace. German civilian leadership was still talking a no annexations peace in 1916, so I don't think it's beyond plausible, maybe just unlikely???
If knocking Russia out of the war didn’t make the Entente amenable to a status quo peace, minor gains on the Eastern Front definitely would not. Also obviously the views of the civilian leadership didn’t reflect the views of most of those in power. Either way the Entente governments were never willing to negotiate.

As a funny/odd note, “Peace without annexations” had differing meanings depending on who you asked. At Brest-Litovsk Kühlmann, who made a habit of getting into pedantic long winded debates with Trotsky, argued that Germany’s initial offer (Russia loses Poland and Lithuania-Courland) was a peace without annexations, since the Central Powers weren't annexing anything.
 
I have heard that the A-H Trentino offensive was moving forward before the Brusilov offensive wrecked their Eastern front, so getting some German assistance either with taking more front in the East or directly adding troops to Trentino or Isonzo would help that offensive move forward.
 
If knocking Russia out of the war didn’t make the Entente amenable to a status quo peace, minor gains on the Eastern Front definitely would not. Also obviously the views of the civilian leadership didn’t reflect the views of most of those in power. Either way the Entente governments were never willing to negotiate.

As a funny/odd note, “Peace without annexations” had differing meanings depending on who you asked. At Brest-Litovsk Kühlmann, who made a habit of getting into pedantic long winded debates with Trotsky, argued that Germany’s initial offer (Russia loses Poland and Lithuania-Courland) was a peace without annexations, since the Central Powers weren't annexing anything.
That makes sense, I guess the only difference here vs OTL 1918 is America is not in. Maybe the Americans can squeeze some financial on the Entente to help achieve a peace???

It may just be that compromise peace isn't possible in modern total wars. Too much politics involved. The people in power have to achieve total victory, even if only a 5 percent chance, because a compromise peace means a loss of power for them, and that is more important for them, then what is good for the country at large.

So risky plays for total victory is all Germany has, OTL Verdun, OTL unrestricted submarine warfare, OTL west front 1918 offensive???
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
The obvious choices are Riga, or on the extreme southern end to impress Romania and to take a grain producing area.

It would be a grind, and nothing necessarily war winning.

The problem with attacking in the East after 1915 is where does it go? Riga is the only really attainable objective, and taking it is not going to be decisive. Same with an offensive in Galicia. Retaking it won’t be decisive, and going further would just be striking into the enemy’s depth. It’s just going to lengthen the Central Powers lines.

It's the danger of attacking in the east, that nothing much might achieved that is war winning

I guess of the two, Riga or Galicia, Riga is the safest, and surest German move in the east.

As everyone is saying, nothing is guaranteed to be a war winner, or even an accelerator of Russian decay, but Riga could be helpful.

It has a few things going for it:

a) it is on the road to St. Pete, so the Russians might feel more compelled to fight for every inch of the Baltic ground, and lose more forces in the process

b) taking Riga increases the threat to St. Petersburg, probably raising the tension level there, requiring maintenance of a large garrison there, but highlighting the prospect to garrison members they may be sent forward at any time.

c) It worked in OTL 1917, was not a supply line stretch at all for the Germans, and obviously didn't get in the way of Russian decay and revolution and maybe helped it along for the reasons cited above. If actually breaking through to a pursuit battle, the Germans *can't* get carried away too far north, they would run headlong into a battle for Petrograd, or the Gulf of Finland, or Lake Ladoga before they get so thin they are vulnerable to actual defeats by flanking Russian units. Whereas in a plunge east into Ukraine or Belarus toward the Dnepr, they could spread too far and get too isolated with too many Russian forces around to be safe.

--- That said, if the Germans did do a Galicia attack, I think we could safely say they could recover all Austrian ground in Galicia and Bukovina, and advance further. An advance to occupy all the lands up to the Dnepr river in a single campaign or series of operations in 1916 seems to require more mobility than 1916 WWI technology allowed, and it need not vitally destroy the Russian Army or powers of resistance. On the other hand, I can't say that we could rely on the 1916 Russians to have competence and cohesion to effectively spring a trap back on the Germans (and Austrians) and truly punish them hard for extending into western Ukraine. Another big retreat by the Russians would make the Romanians feel outflanked and probably quiescent, and would do no favors to the already damaged Russian internal transport system and food situation in major cities.

So, Germany could have the good fortune that vigorous attacks, and rounds of Russians counterattacks and retreats, do all have the cumulative effect of unraveling the Tsar's reputation and that of a successor regime, that many more months quickly, and lead to Russia's earlier exit from the war. A potential side benefit for the CP from this is that Russian troops that were OTL deployed to advance in the Caucasus and Turkish Armenia and Anatolia may not be directed to go on such an aggressive offensive, thus reducing pressure on the Turks.

The flip side of any German (and Austro-Hungarian?) offensive concentration on the east, is that the Germans will have to spend the whole of 1916 responding to withering French and British assaults in the west. Defense being less challenging than attacking doesn't mean it is not challenging. The British and French will be innovating their techniques, and the Germans will have to be making their defenses ever more deep and flexible, and expending ever more reserves in counter-attacks, to keep restoring the integrity of their western front lines during the year.
 
I guess of the two, Riga or Galicia, Riga is the safest, and surest German move in the east.

As everyone is saying, nothing is guaranteed to be a war winner, or even an accelerator of Russian decay, but Riga could be helpful.

It has a few things going for it:

a) it is on the road to St. Pete, so the Russians might feel more compelled to fight for every inch of the Baltic ground, and lose more forces in the process

b) taking Riga increases the threat to St. Petersburg, probably raising the tension level there, requiring maintenance of a large garrison there, but highlighting the prospect to garrison members they may be sent forward at any time.

c) It worked in OTL 1917, was not a supply line stretch at all for the Germans, and obviously didn't get in the way of Russian decay and revolution and maybe helped it along for the reasons cited above. If actually breaking through to a pursuit battle, the Germans *can't* get carried away too far north, they would run headlong into a battle for Petrograd, or the Gulf of Finland, or Lake Ladoga before they get so thin they are vulnerable to actual defeats by flanking Russian units. Whereas in a plunge east into Ukraine or Belarus toward the Dnepr, they could spread too far and get too isolated with too many Russian forces around to be safe.

--- That said, if the Germans did do a Galicia attack, I think we could safely say they could recover all Austrian ground in Galicia and Bukovina, and advance further. An advance to occupy all the lands up to the Dnepr river in a single campaign or series of operations in 1916 seems to require more mobility than 1916 WWI technology allowed, and it need not vitally destroy the Russian Army or powers of resistance. On the other hand, I can't say that we could rely on the 1916 Russians to have competence and cohesion to effectively spring a trap back on the Germans (and Austrians) and truly punish them hard for extending into western Ukraine. Another big retreat by the Russians would make the Romanians feel outflanked and probably quiescent, and would do no favors to the already damaged Russian internal transport system and food situation in major cities.

So, Germany could have the good fortune that vigorous attacks, and rounds of Russians counterattacks and retreats, do all have the cumulative effect of unraveling the Tsar's reputation and that of a successor regime, that many more months quickly, and lead to Russia's earlier exit from the war. A potential side benefit for the CP from this is that Russian troops that were OTL deployed to advance in the Caucasus and Turkish Armenia and Anatolia may not be directed to go on such an aggressive offensive, thus reducing pressure on the Turks.

The flip side of any German (and Austro-Hungarian?) offensive concentration on the east, is that the Germans will have to spend the whole of 1916 responding to withering French and British assaults in the west. Defense being less challenging than attacking doesn't mean it is not challenging. The British and French will be innovating their techniques, and the Germans will have to be making their defenses ever more deep and flexible, and expending ever more reserves in counter-attacks, to keep restoring the integrity of their western front lines during the year.
Zytohmyr, Vinnysta line is probably all Germany should try to reach for in the Ukraine flanked by the Marsh in the north and the Rommanian border in the south, it would make it easier for the Romanians if they came in. Liberating and acquiring another agricultural area.

If doing Riga you could commit the Navy to Dago Osel at the same time to take the Sworbe peninsula.
 

raharris1973

Gone Fishin'
Zytohmyr, Vinnysta line is probably all Germany should try to reach for in the Ukraine flanked by the Marsh in the north and the Rommanian border in the south, it would make it easier for the Romanians if they came in. Liberating and acquiring another agricultural area.

If doing Riga you could commit the Navy to Dago Osel at the same time to take the Sworbe peninsula.
Interesting proposal regarding a west Ukrainian buffer. It would lengthen the front line, and I don't think the CPs should be betting on the Romanians entering the war on their side at all. While one cannot rule it out entirely, I do not think Romania's neutrality and favor was swinging 'evenly' between the two alliances, chances favored the Entente or neutrality far more than CP alignment.

That said, winning that ground in western Ukraine should logically encourage continued Romanian neutrality. It places a decent mass of CP forces, likely Austro-Hungarians augmented by a decent amount of Germans on the northern border of Romanian Moldavia, *east* of the Carpathians, so the Romanians know that any attempt to invade Transylvania will leave them vulnerable to a counterstroke from the north onto the Moldavian plain. The Entente, under pressure on that sector of the Russian front, may try to offset it by making Romania earlier and more generous offers of support and territory for joining the war, but Romania would probably see that as desperation rather than encouragement.

Grabbing an agricultural slice of Ukraine could have an advantage over seizing Riga, despite what I said earlier. It gains Germany a food surplus area, while not saddling it with responsibility for feeding an unruly urban population.

If it works as described, the Ukraine slice grab in 1916 can save Falkenhayn in two ways, by preventing both Verdun, and the Romanian entry on the Entente side.
 

Riain

Banned
There were two German naval operations to secure the Gulf of Riga, an unsuccessful one in August 1915 and a successful one in October 1917.

Perhaps instead of Jutland the HSF tried to capture Riga in 1916, if they persisted they'd certainly capture it.
 
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