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Author Topic: The Blood-Miller  (Read 2241 times)

penguinsscareme

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The Blood-Miller
« on: September 14, 2006, 10:18:30 pm »

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y255/penguinsscareme/Erich_von_Falkenhayn.jpg

Nothing left to do now except make the pitch.

Erich von Falkenhayn shuffled through his papers again, not because they needed shuffling, but because he was somehow terribly aware of his hands.¬  He was craving a cigarette, but he didn't indulge for fear his hands were shaking too noticeably.

"Herr Falkenhayn," sighed the stodgy old man seated at the head of the table.¬  "Please do commence with your proposal."

With long-practiced military bearing, the general politely thanked his commander in chief and proceeded with only the barest hint of a tremble.
"Gentlemen," he began, "we cannot continue to carry out the war in this way if we expect to achieve victory.¬  We have seen the grim proof that frontal assaults yield nothing but dead, yet for the past two years we have wasted every initiative, squandered every advantage, in futile assaults on fortified trenchworks.¬  Every major offensive yet undertaken by either side has only brought that army closer to defeat.

"Our reluctance to come to terms with the advent of new weapons has cost us untold money, months, and boys."¬  His voice cracked slightly as he uttered that last.¬  Embarrassed, he cleared his throat before continuing.

"I believe that it is no longer realistic to plan a general offensive in the west.¬  I believe that mathematically our fate is sealed if we do not strike a decisive blow before the end of the year.¬  Simply, the enemy is able to replace combat losses faster than we are."

Now they would think he had lost his grip on reality.¬  Perhaps they would be correct.¬  No longer able to bear the pressure, he removed a cigarette from its case and lit it with exagerrated deliberatation to conceal his uncontrollable shaking.¬  "I believe we can draw France into a doomed campaign.¬  In fact, I believe we can smash them convincingly.¬  Indeed, we must.

"The string in France has reached the breaking point. A mass breakthrough‚ÄĒwhich in any case is beyond our means‚ÄĒis unnecessary. Within our reach there are objectives for the retention of which the French General Staff would be compelled to throw in every man they have.¬  At Verdun."

He could feel their breath leave the room.¬  The smoke hung still in the air, as if afraid to move.

"Verdun," chided Ludendorff, the most senior soldier in all of Germany.¬  "So, if I am hearing you correctly, you propose that we launch an all-out offensive against the greatest stronghold on the western front...and we should do this because we have a numerical disadvantage, and because past experience shows us that mass offensives are counterproductive?¬† The ancient Huns would tell you it is folly."

"Herr Ludendorff, if I may," Falkenhayn replied quietly.  "You are speaking from convention.  But convention is what has been killing us since Ypres.

"France cannot retreat from Verdun.  It is part of their national identity.  More to the point, it is the gateway to Paris.

"The material circumstances favor us. Verdun is isolated on three sides. Communications to the French rear are poor. We have a railhead only twelve miles away, while France will resupply by a single road, the Voie Sacrée.

"It's a death trap.

"Capturing Verdun is only secondary to the objective of destroying the French army.¬† We will -- " he nearly choked on what he intended to say.¬† His tongue felt too big for his mouth, and he tasted bile.¬† "We will bleed them white."¬  His own voice sounded unfamiliar to him.¬  It sounded like a hiss.

A long silence ensued.¬  Finally, the Kaiser spoke through the haze of cigar smoke.¬  "Herr Falkenhayn, do you really believe what you are saying?"

Swallowing hard, Falkenhayn tried to force his vocal cords to work.¬  "Sir.¬  I believe it can work.¬  Frankly, sir, I believe it is the last chance Germany has of winning this war."


*****

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y255/penguinsscareme/Verdun_burning_1916.jpg

"Herr Falkenhayn, the French have fallen back, but the cost has been greater than expected.¬  The mud is making it extremely difficult to advance the artillery."

"How is morale?"

"Morale is good.¬  The men have a new weapon they are using to clear the French trench lines.¬  It propels a stream of burning fuel several dozen yards and burns the soldiers to death.¬  They are calling it a flame-thrower."

*****

"Four entire regiments were utterly ruined today in the final assault on Douaumont.¬  Without our artillery to cover us, we are vulnerable to Petain's guns on our flanks.¬  To be candid, we have stalled.¬  Shall we pull back?"

"Nein.¬  Turn their flanks.¬  We must force France to stand and fight."

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y255/penguinsscareme/verdun.jpg

*****

"Sir, reports indicate that General Petain has suffered a nervous breakdown and been relieved by Nivelle."

"I know just how he feels."

*****

"Sir, the Tommies are attacking at the Somme.¬  We must withdraw artillery from Verdun to defend against the British."

"The Somme?¬  ...It's brilliant.¬  Don't you see?¬  They're coming to the relief of Verdun without meeting us on our terms.¬  They're using an offensive maneuver to achieve a defensive objective."

*****

"The losses have been appalling, sir.¬  For both sides.¬  We simply do not have the human materiel to deal the decisive blow."

"Human materiel?"

"I mean men, sir."

"Then say men.¬  Not 'human materiel.'"

"Yes, sir."

"I hear word from the lines that I have been dubbed with a nickname.¬  Do you know what the men are calling me?"

"Yes."

"The Blood-Miller of Verdun."

"Yes."

*****

"Ils ne passeront pas."

"'They shall not pass'...¬  They'll be launching their counteroffensive soon."

*****

"Herr Falkenhayn, Herr Ludendorff has re-assigned you to the Ninth Army in Transylvania.¬  Herr Hindenburg will relieve you as Chief of Staff."

*****

"11 November, 1918.¬  Gentlemen, they have signed the Armistice.¬  It's over.¬  Well done, Herr Falkenhayn.¬  A most happy birthday gift, is it not?"

"It was over in 1916.¬  It was over after Verdun."

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y255/penguinsscareme/verdun04.jpg










I didn't write this in particular as a treatise on freedom or the senselessness of war.¬  I've always been fascinated by military strategy.¬  Even though World War I isn't the most interesting war from a strategic standpoint, to me it has always been the most poignant example of indifference to human life, or death, or suffering.¬  With the exception of the unforgivable assaults conducted by Allied commanders in the closing hours of the war, Verdun stands out to me as the most horrible battle of the war.¬  Its primary design feature is that it was meant not to capture territory, but to inflict casualties.¬  It lasted from February until December, and ended with both sides back to their original starting points, only minus 700,000 souls.¬  Both commanding generals would suffer nervous breakdowns.¬  Falkenhayn developed a facial tic that stayed with him the rest of his life.¬  This piece I have written, I suppose, to try to put into human context something that defies humanity.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2006, 04:24:19 am by penguinsscareme »
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

cowardly lion

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Re: The Blood-Miller
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2006, 06:19:23 am »

Very well written, PSM.

Looking at the human race in a positive manner, it does defy humanity.  Looking in a negative manner, it 'defines' humanity.

cl
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Sic semper tyrannis, baby!    - Joel Simon

As much as we may not want to consider it, we must have a mindset that enables us to do instant and devastating violence in defense of self and/or loved ones.   -Dave Champion

It's not unusual to run into folks in the internet that are dense enough to have event horizons.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November . . . .

Don't mistake my silence for weakness - no one plans a murder out loud.

penguinsscareme

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Re: The Blood-Miller
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2006, 01:47:17 pm »

Thanks.  I fictionalized it, obviously, but the only place where I knowingly strayed from historical fact was Falkenhayn's quote about "the string in France."  That's a direct quote, but he addressed it to the Kaiser in a letter, not in person.  And I have no idea if Falkenhayn smoked, or if Ludendorff supported or opposed the attack.  But "we will bleed them white" is a direct quote, and the term "human materiel" is a term that was in use at the time.  I included the last line about Falkenhayn's birthday only because I found it interesting that his birthday was the same day as Germany's surrender.  The flamethrower really was first used at the Battle of Verdun.  And purely as a study in strategy, I thought it was brilliant of the British to relieve Verdun not by rushing to its defense but rather by applying offensive pressure elsewhere along the front.

By all biographical accounts, Falkenhayn was well liked by those in his command and by his contemporaries, and was known as an honest and loyal friend.  He was also feared and respected by his adversaries, considered by many allied strategists to be the greatest commander of the Central Powers.  It was an interesting challenge to reconcile that portrait to the bloody hell that was his idea, all without doctoring the historical record.
Logged
O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.
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