The Guns of August

Great look at the first 30-ish days of World War I and the events leading up to it. Tuchman assumes a baseline of historical knowledge which challenged me in a good way– I had to refresh my memory on the Dreyfus Affair, Rasputin, etc. She drops references in along the way that are a pleasure to recognize ( calling one officer from Gascon another “D’Artagnan”), or to look up (thinking I found a typo, I found that “Casabianca” refers to a poem where a boy stands on the burning deck). Thoroughly researched, written in an engaging style with great use of quotes sprinkled in from people who were there. It draws a clear picture of German militarism, their “right” to rule the world because they’re the most efficient and smartest, their battle plan perfected, but then human nature cracking perfectly laid plans. Fear crumbling the iron will of Headquarters when on the battlefield. Germany invades the neutral state of Belgium, which brings England into the war in name only. Four battalions are sent over to help France, but under the bumbling leadership of Sir John French, they hang back for the most part, until the end. Galleini’s defense of Paris, sending taxis with soldiers from the train station to the front. The Russian army providing a diversion for two critical German divisions that otherwise would have crushed the Western Front in the initial month. At the end, they settle down for a 4 year slog, but it is the critical push on the Marne that saves France from German rule.