World War I: One The Western Front, CBS Video Library VHS tape
Five out of five stars
In 1915 and 1916 on the western front of the First World War, there was very little in the area of advanced and intelligent tactics. There were massive artillery bombardments followed by waves of men running across ruinous terrain towards a well-entrenched enemy. Hundreds of thousands of men were killed and wounded with only trivial rearrangement in the amount of territory held by both sides.
Two very significant points in the video accurately describe the situation. The first is the reasoning of the German commander to attack the French salient point at Verdun. Expecting the French to hold the position at all costs due to the preservation of “national honor” the German reasoning was that they would kill so many French soldiers that France would be bled white. The problem with that position was that to kill large numbers of the enemy it was necessary to accept massive losses of your own forces. Even though French losses were greater than those of Germany, the German losses were also so high that the battle for Verdun could not be considered a victory.
The second was fatalistic and factual. When British soldiers were counting down to the time when they were to go over the top and attack the Germans, they would look at their watches and say to themselves, “In twenty minutes I will be dead, . . . , in fifteen minutes I will be dead . . . and so on.” For many of them it was true, the numbers of casualties per minute of time during the mass attacks were incredible.
It is a black joke among people that follow management tactics that “A reorganization is what managers do when they don’t know what to do.” On the western front in World War I, a frontal attack with thousands of men charging the enemy was what commanders did when they didn’t know what to do. The only imaginative and inventive aspects of that style of warfare was in the logistics of massing men and material to the front. This video describes the senseless and simplistic tactics employed by unimaginative commanders that really did not know what to do, other than sacrifice their men in attacks that did nothing other than make men die.