Page 3435

3435 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.

civilized peoples, and frequently their

Maxim guns, which fired a stream of rifle

bullets, had mowed down the enemy by

hundreds. British wars, however, for

a century had been fought far distant from

the homeland. British military men were

inclined to think of battles in terms of

conflicts waged thousands and thousands

of miles from munition factories. In

such conflicts there was always danger

of running short of ammunition, and the

machine gun is a notorious expender of

cartridges. Therefore, the British military

authorities deemed it unwise to equip

their troops with more than two machine

guns to the battalion. This, however,

was a war which was fought almost at

the doors of munition factories, and cartridges could be delivered almost at the

battle front by the train load.

Even the Germans did not understand

the full possibilities of machine guns, but

it is beyond question that they gave more

attention to this weapon than did their

enemies. Some of their earlier victories

were in part due to the skill with which

they drew their enemies upon machinegun positions and then cut them down

with a withering fire.

Another important respect in which

the Germans enjoyed a marked advantage

over their enemies lay in the fact that they

were thoroughly organized for war. In

almost every activity of life consideration

had been given to the problem of how

that activity could be made to conduce

to military efficiency. Many of the railroads had been built primarily for strategic

purposes, and they could all, at a moment's

notice, be used to the fullest extent for

the transportation of troops. There was

even an arrangement by which the Government subsidized individuals or corporations who purchased motor trucks

of a type suited to war needs. At the

outbreak of war, these trucks were at

once available for the transportation of

supplies, and they were no small factor

in the unheard-of celerity of the German

invasion of France. And so it was in

other fields: Germany was a socialized

state, with everything under government

ownership or control. Manifestly such

a nation enjoyed a great advantage over

a nation like England, in which individualism was the rule. France, to be sure,

was centralized to a marked degree, particularly in government; but France was

a Republic, while Germany was, in the

last analysis, still under despotic rule.

The German authorities knew their own

minds, and were free from many impediments that detracted from French efficiency.

The Germanic powers also enjoyed an

immense military advantage because of

their central position. They could fight

on interior lines, and, by using their superb

network of strategic railways, could rapidly

concentrate their forces at any given

point. It was virtually an impossibility

for the Russians to reinforce the French,

or for the French to reinforce the Russians;

but it was possible for a German regiment

to be fighting on the west front in the

morning of one day and to be taking up

positions on the eastern front by nightfall

of the next day, though to transfer large

forces naturally involved more time.

In some respects the advantages of a

central position were greater than would

have been the case a hundred years before; in others, less. Thanks to railroads,

it was possible to send troops from one

front to the other with infinitely greater

speed, but it could not be done so secretly

as formerly. The watchful aerial scouts

of the enemy were always on the lookout

for such movements; and, if a corps or

two was detached from the east front and

sent to the west, Russian observers quickly

reported the fact, and the news was telegraphed to the French and British general

staffs. Any considerable weakening of

one front was liable to invite an attack

from the opposing enemy. In other words,

by pushing in at the right time, the widely

separated Allies were able to secure a

certain amount of cooperation. The Germans and Austrians, aware of this fact,

endeavored to make most of their transfers of troops at night.

So much for material matters, which

are important in warfare but which lack