It is hard to grasp the sheer scale of the Great War. Americans have become accustomed to war being fought far away and done with low numbers of men from our volunteer forces. The Iraq War involved less than 200,000 American soldiers. The figures from the Great War boggle the mind and show the changing shape of war.
A hundred years ago this past month (August), 90,000 Russians surrendered at Novo Georgiviesk. The fortress was not evacuated despite being west of Warsaw as the rest of Poland was evacuated. Russia could not hold the Germans or Austro-Hungarians back at all. Why? Because on August 17th, 1915, the Russian fortress of Kovno fell to the Central Powers. There about 20,000 Russians were captured. This was then compounded by the loss of Brest-Litovsk. The staggering number of POWs was nearly 1.5 million Russians at that time.
|Germans pose with Russian gun at Kovno|
This all capped the "Great Retreat". If American students learn of failed efforts in 1915 (that's a big if), they hear of Gallipolli. The Great Retreat basically killed the Russian Army as a fighting force that had any energy to defeat the Central Powers. Germany sent feelers out to Russia to offer a truce as the situation was so bad for the Russians. One snag: the Germans wanted all territory it had captured. Russia said no. Considering what Germany had taken and how the map looks now 100 years later, this would have been a good exit for Russia. Even worse for Russia's future, on September 2, 1915, the Tsar took over direct command of the army.
|Captured guns at Novo Georgiesvk|
Air power in WW2 would show that fortresses were no longer impregnable. Bataan was reduced to nothing despite its amazing defenses as were other fortress cities in Asia in WW2. Thousands of men in such close proximity would not be used after air power was refined. Even Eisenhower noted that the atomic bomb had made troop clustering like the pre-Normandy invasion a relic. It is a risk no one would take.
|Fall of Brest-Litovsk|