Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Systematic attention to detail was not a notable characteristic of the Russian Army

From the Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.
“The Allies did not seriously concern themselves with Russia’s military defects, although Ian Hamilton, Britain’s military observer with the Japanese, had reported them pitilessly from Manchuria. They were: poor intelligence, disregard of cover, disregard of secrecy and swiftness, lack of dash, lack of initiative, and lack of good generalship. Colonel Repington who had pronounced judgment weekly on the Russo-Japanese War in The Times arrived at opinions which caused him to dedicate a book of his collected columns to the Emperor of Japan. Nevertheless the General Staffs believed that simply to get the Russian giant in motion, regardless of how he functioned, was all that mattered. This was difficult enough. During mobilization the average Russian soldier had to be transported 700 miles, four times as far as the average German soldier, and Russia had available one-tenth as many railroads per square kilometer as Germany. As a defense against invasion these had been deliberately built on a wider gauge than those of Germany. Heavy French loans to finance increased railroad construction had not yet accomplished their goal. Equal speed in mobilization was obviously impossible; but even if only half the 800,000 Russian troops promised for the German front could be put in position by the fifteenth day for a lunge into East Prussia, however faulty their military organization, the effect of their invasion of German territory was expected to be momentous.

To send an army into modern battle on enemy territory, especially under the disadvantage of different railway gauges, is a hazardous and complicated undertaking requiring prodigies of careful organization. Systematic attention to detail was not a notable characteristic of the Russian Army.

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