Brill’s Digital Library of World War I

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Planning for the Endgame: The Central Powers, September 1916–April 1917

(10,180 words)

Author(s): Sondhaus, Lawrence
Sondhaus, Lawrence - Planning for the Endgame: The Central Powers, September 1916–April 1917 Keywords: Central Powers | Erich Ludendorff | Franz Conrad | Paul von Hindenburg | Western Front ISFWWS-Keywords: International Relations during the War | Germany | Austria-Hungary | The Military and Naval War | Italian-Austrian Front | Russian Front | Western Front | Naval Warfare | Economy Abstract: Between September 1916, when Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff were granted sweeping authority over the war effort of the Central Powers, and Apri…

Holtzendorff, Henning von

(337 words)

Author(s): Herwig, Holger H.
Holtzendorff, Henning von (January 9, 1853, Prenzlau – June 7, 1919, Jagow [Uckermark]), German grand admiral. Holtzendorff entered the navy in 1869, took part in the war of 1870/1871, and in 1900 served as commander of a capital ship during the Boxer Rebellion. After various commands on land (commander in chief of the navy, chief of staff of the Baltic Division, commander of the dockyard at Danzig [Gdańsk]), from 1906 to 1909 he was commander of the First Squadron, and in 1910 took command of the …

Naval Arms Race

(1,316 words)

Author(s): Krüger, Friederike
Naval Arms Race When he ascended the throne in 1888, Kaiser Wilhelm II was determined to practice Weltpolitik. His instrument of choice to achieve this aim would be a strong battle fleet. With the appointment of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz as secretary of state for the German Imperial Naval Office in 1897, the Kaiser found an officer who was willing to implement the Kaiser’s ambitious plans, and to manipulate public opinion to that purpose. Already in the years prior to his appointment, Tirpitz had in several mem…

Two-Front War

(612 words)

Author(s): Afflerbach, Holger
Two-Front War The specific strategic situation of the Central Powers, surrounded by the “Iron Ring” (W. Groener) of the opposing coalition. This was mostly seen as a grave strategic disadvantage, and was instrumental in the emergence before 1914 of the hazardous Schlieffen Plan: the attempt to forestall a two-front war, and so avoid the dissipation of Germany’s strength. German policy during the Crisis of July 1914 has frequently been interpreted as having been motivated by the necessity to meet the threat of a two-front war, or “encirclement,” while i…

German War Plans against Denmark 1916–1918

(6,394 words)

Author(s): Paulin, C.
Paulin, C. - German War Plans against Denmark 1916–1918 Keywords: bureaucratic quarrels | Denmark | German war plans ISFWWS-Keywords: Germany | Scandinavia | The Military and Naval War | Politics | Naval Warfare | Britain | International Relations during the War Abstract: This chapter firstly uncovers wie es eigentlich gewesen regarding the planning and the German-Danish foreign policy relations. Secondly, it explores why the plans did not materialize. Historical analysis often runs the risk of getting deterministic because it i…

Armed Forces (United States)

(3,756 words)

Author(s): Showalter, Dennis E.
Armed Forces (United States) During the First World War the armed forces of the United States were crafted by national politics. The Russian Provisional Government of 1917 had promised resolutely to continue the war in the East. On the Western Front, the Germans were unequivocally on the defensive. In no way was America itself directly threatened. Nevertheless, the pattern developed in the World War would guide the United States in 20th century warfare. Politics would determine the strategy, the org…

Naval Blockade

(1,483 words)

Author(s): Neitzel, Sönke
Naval Blockade During the World War, the Allied naval blockade brought German foreign trade practically to a standstill, especially after 1916. It contributed significantly to the serious subsistence problems in Germany. On the eve of the World War Germany was one of the most important economic powers in the world. Obviously, accomplishing this required extensive trade relationships. This left the German economy highly vulnerable during such a long-lasting war. Indeed, Germany had to import 30% of all processed iron ore. The …

Scheer, Reinhard

(408 words)

Author(s): Herwig, Holger H.
Scheer, Reinhard (September 30, 1863, Obernkirchen [Kreis Schaumburg] – November 26, 1928, Marktredwitz [Bavaria]), German admiral. Scheer entered the German navy in 1879, and, after several overseas postings, was employed from 1890 in the torpedo service. Transferred to the Reichsmarineamt (Reich Naval Office) in 1903, in 1907 he became commander of the pre-dreadnought battleship Elsass and two years later became chief of staff of the High Seas Fleet. In 1911 he became the director of the general naval department within the Reich Naval office. Sch…

Falkland Islands

(756 words)

Author(s): Krüger, Friederike
Falkland Islands An archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean; a British colony since 1843. On December 8, 1914, a battle was fought near the Falkland Islands between the German East Asia Squadron under Vice Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee and a British battle squadron under Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee. After a sea battle lasting approximately five hours, only one light cruiser survived from the German squadron; four German ships sank; of some 2,200 men on the German ships, 1,985 per…

Brockdorff-Rantzau, Count Ulrich von

(740 words)

Author(s): Schwabe, Klaus
Brockdorff-Rantzau, Count Ulrich von (May 29, 1869, Schleswig – September, 8, 1928, Berlin), German diplomat. The first foreign minister of the Weimar Republic was descended from the ancient nobility of Holstein. After obtaining his doctorate in law Brockdorff-Rantzau chose to pursue a diplomatic career which took him from Brussels via Saint Petersburg to Vienna, where in 1901 he became embassy secretary, and the influential German ambassador Count Carl von Wedel was his mentor. It was also thanks t…

Zimmermann Telegram

(358 words)

Author(s): Pöhlmann, Markus
Zimmermann Telegram On January 16, 1917, after the German government’s decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare (from February 1, 1917), Arthur Zimmermann, secretary of state at the German foreign ministry, sent a coded telegram to the German ambassador in Washington, Johann Heinrich Graf von Bernstorff, to be forwarded to the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt. The telegram instructed Eckardt to propose to the Mexican government an alliance against the United States. In re…

War Office

(452 words)

Author(s): Pöhlmann, Markus
War Office The War Office was established by a cabinet order of November 1, 1916, to administer the Hindenburg Program initiated by the Operations Branch of the General Staff. The War Office was to centralize war economy measures and serve as the enforcement authority for the Auxiliary Service Bill. Officially placed beneath the Prussian War Ministry, it was a peculiar mix of military war-economy staff and civilian government boards. Lieutenant General Wilhelm Groener was named the War Office’s fi…

Armed Forces (Italy)

(3,527 words)

Author(s): Massignani, Alessandro
Armed Forces (Italy) The defense of the Italian Kingdom proclaimed on February 18, 1861, was the duty of the Royal Army and the Royal Navy. The King was nominally the supreme commander of the military in peacetime, but the chiefs of the General Staff and the Admiralty functioned as the de facto Supreme Command in time of war. Italy’s new national army evolved from the Piedmontese Army that had fought in the Wars of Independence. Though gradually restructured into the Royal Italian Army, it maintained its traditional character, especially the imprint of…

Jackson, Sir Henry Bradwardine

(357 words)

Author(s): Herwig, Holger H.
Jackson, Sir Henry Bradwardine (January 21, 1855, Barnsley – December 14, 1929, Hayling Island), British admiral. Jackson entered the Royal Navy in 1868, and in 1878/1879 took part in the Zulu War on board the HMS Active. From 1890 he took an interest in wireless technology, and six years later met his idol, the Italian physicist Guglielmo Marconi. Jackson served as naval attaché in Washington in 1897 and became Third Sea Lord in 1905. In this position he experienced the revolution in naval armaments that led to the development of…

Jagow, Gottlieb von

(361 words)

Author(s): Kröger, Martin
Jagow, Gottlieb von (June 22, 1863, Berlin – January 11, 1935, Potsdam), German diplomat. Jagow was from a noble Brandenburg family. He studied law and served in the Prussian administration, until, in 1895, he succeeded in entering upon a diplomatic career under the protection of the later Reich Chancellor Bernhard von Bülow. He worked in various overseas legations and his career reached an initial high point with his appointment as ambassador to Rome on 28 March 1909. There, he achieved a diplomat…

Bethmann Hollweg, Theobald von

(1,133 words)

Author(s): Tiefel, Marcus A.
Bethmann Hollweg, Theobald von (November 29, 1856, Hohenfinow near Eberswalde – January 2, 1921, Hohenfinow), German politician (chancellor). After studying law in Strasbourg, Leipzig and Berlin, Bethmann passed his Referendarexamen (first state examination required to enter the Prussian civil and administrative services) in 1879. For ten years, from 1886 to 1896, he held the office of Landrat (chief administrator) in his home district of Oberbarnim. Promoted to the position of Oberpräsidialrat (dep…

Flanders

(2,611 words)

Author(s): Bourne, John M.
Flanders A province in northwestern Belgium. Western Flanders was the theater of three major battles in 1914, 1915, and 1917, and to these must be added the battles fought during the course of the German spring offensive in 1918. For the British, the battles are inseparably associated with the market town of Ypres. It is accordingly not surprising that the British commission charged after the war with naming the battles and engagements designated the battles fought here as the First, Second, and …

Dreadnought

(456 words)

Author(s): Herwig, Holger H.
Dreadnought British capital ship, and the name used for an entire type of modern battleships. By what has been termed the “Dreadnought leap” – superiority in firepower, protection, and speed – the Royal Navy rendered obsolete all large battleships built before that time. This qualitative advance in British naval technology was the consequence of military necessity. After the sea-battle of Tsushima on May 27/28, 1905, in which the Japanese fleet destroyed three Russian warships from a distance of …

Naval Warfare

(2,850 words)

Author(s): Salewski, Michael
Naval Warfare In all theoretical discussions of a future war the war at sea was expected to play a major, if not the decisive role. For this reason all leading industrial nations had from the early 1890s onward been building massive, homogenous battle fleets. The “naval race” played a central role in souring Anglo-German relations during Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz’ tenure as the German Naval Secretary. The fledgling détente in the maritime sector, which was noticeable two years prior to the outbreak of the war, came …

Armed Forces (German Empire)

(4,574 words)

Author(s): Deist, Wilhelm
Armed Forces (German Empire) In July 1914 the Army of the German Empire numbered 761,000 men, organized in 25 army corps. An additional 79,000 men served in the navy, and 9,000 in the colonial protection force. Those mobilized at the beginning of the war numbered 3.820 million in all, 2.086 million of whom made up the field army, divided into 40 army corps. Thus began a development that, during the years that followed, led to the general, extended mobilization of the German nation’s human resources for war. Some 13 million men served in the forces of the German Reich during the war. These figure…
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