3437 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
whether the Germans would be able to
inoculate their compatriots with their
own determined, conquering spirit.
Officially Germany and France began
to mobilize on the same day, August 2d,
but, in reality, both had begun preparations
some time before. The Germans had
declared "Kriegsgefahrzustand", or "state
of danger of war", on the 31st, and had
secretly been making preparations at
least a week earlier. For years the German military authorities had been looking
forward to this call to arms, and no detail
was too petty to have received their careful attention. Every trained man not
already in the service knew exactly where
he must go to find his outfit, complete
from rifle to shoes and spiked helmet,
and the problem of transporting the troops
to the frontiers had been worked out long
before. So complete were Germany's preparations in advance that she was able to
gain several precious days upon even her
best equipped opponent, France. Still
the task of mobilizing and transporting
three or four million men was too vast
to be executed in a few hours, and it was,
in fact, about two weeks before the Germans were completely in readiness for
their grand stroke.
This does not mean that fighting did
not begin for two weeks. German patrols
crossed the French border even before
war was declared, and, before mobilization
was completed, thousands of men had
been killed or wounded, but these early
conflicts were preliminary operations.
From a comparison of the resources
of the belligerents it at once becomes apparent that it was a vital matter to the
Teutonic Allies to make the war a short
one. On land they were for the moment
better prepared, and it behooved them
to reap the fruits of that preparation as
quickly as possible. Men, money, and
sea-power, either actually or potentially,
were all upon the side of the Entente Allies. The German army was undoubtedly
the most powerful military machine in
existence, but common sense dictated
that its power should be made the most
of in the shortest possible time. The
people of the Entente Allies belonged to
fighting races; and the history of a thousand years showed that, given the same
training, equipment, leadership, and determination, an Englishman or a Frenchman makes as good a soldier as a German.
Individually the Russians might not be
quite so good, but what they lacked in
quality they made up in numbers; and,
even in quality, they might be expected
to be fully as good as the Austrians and
Hungarians, perhaps better. If a decision
was not quickly obtained, Great Britain
and Russia would raise and train overwhelming armies; while, in case the struggle should become one of exhaustion, the
greater wealth of the Allies, and particularly of Great Britain, might prove to be
the decisive factor.
Closely allied with this aspect of the
matter was the subject of sea-power.
History shows that in most long worldwide conflicts control of the sea has proved
decisive. In the present case the Central
Powers might expect to see their ships
and commerce swept from the seas, their
communications with the rest of the world
cut off, while their enemies, with business
less deranged, could continue to draw
upon the world for supplies and munitions.
Unless some unknown factors should develop, it was clear that if the Central
Powers were to win in any large way, they
must do so quickly.
Their military plan was, in fact, based
upon this idea of forcing a speedy decision.
In a few words, it was as follows: Austria-Hungary was, if possible, to hold the slow moving Russians in check, while Germany,
with virtually her whole army, should
descend like a thunderbolt upon France.
The Germans hoped in a few weeks' time
to strike such mighty blows in the west
as to paralyze France and render her helpless for the rest of the war, after which
they could turn eastward and assist their
ally to dispose of the Russians. A six
months' war at most was the Teutonic
It was for this reason that the Germans
determined to violate the neutrality of
Belgium and to seek to overwhelm France