Ludendorff, WWI

Posted on September 12th, 2009 by admin and filed under Ludendorff's own story, WWI

Ludendorff’s own story, August 1914-November 1918; the Great War from the siege of Li├Ęge to the signing of the armistice as viewed from the grand headquarters of the German Army (1919), by Ludendorff, Erich, 1865-1937, Harper, New York


“We were warmly welcomed by the population of [p. 137] Hungary, as we were later when we freed Transylvania. But, once we had done our duty, their gratitude soon waned. All sorts of things occurred that made life uncomfortable for our troops. The Magyars are a strong and masterful people, but they lacked understanding of the common interests of Austria-Hungary and the just wishes and needs of the numerous nationalities living in Hungary. Hungary was the stronger half of the Dual Monarchy, and misused her position
to further a disastrous foreign policy on the part of the Empire against Serbia and Rumania. Unfortunately, we made no protest. ”
p. 205:
“Most of the German troops returned by degrees to the Danube. Austria-Hungary also had fresh troops at her disposal. The Serbian army was severely defeated, though remnants of it escaped in the direction of Valona, and, owing to the high-handed action of France and England at Corfu, became once more a factor in the struggle to be feared by the Bulgarian soldier. They were transferred subsequently to Salonica, where they fought very creditably.

The Entente found itself forced to release drafts for Macedonia from other theaters of war. It also had to abandon the idea of continuing the Gallipoli operations, which, thanks to the effideocy of German leadership and the Mediterranean division, had cost the Entente very dearly. The position of the Expeditionary Force had now become untenable. Communication with [p. 2o6] Turkey was established by the defeat of Serbia and the alliance with Bulgaria. We were no longer obliged to smuggle our war material through Rumania ; it was possible to give Turkey direct assistance. The railway running to Constantinople was opened on January 16. On January 8 and 9 the Entente troops evacuated the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The blockade of the Straits was assured. If the enemy fleets, by occupying the Straits, had commanded the Black Sea, Russia could have been supplied with the war materials of which she stood in such need. The fighting in the East would then have assumed a much more serious character. The Entente would have had access to the rich corn supplies of South Russia and Rumania and would have persuaded this kingdom to yield to its wishes even sooner than she actually did. Russia’s communications with the outside world for the transport of war materials were, at that time, via the trans-Siberian railways, along the Murman coast, to which the railway from Petrograd was still in course of construction, but not yet completed, and, in summer, by the White Sea. The traffic through Finland with Sweden was important, but the latter would not permit the transport of war material. Sweden interpreted the duties of a neutral state correctly. These details clearly show the importance of the Straits, and therefore of Turkey, for the Eastern front and our whole military position.”

p. 209:

“The fighting on the Caucasian front did not bring us the relief we had hoped for as regards Russia.

Owing to the occupation of vast regions in the East, the opening of the Balkan Peninsula and our through [p. 209] communications with Turkey, our army administration had been greatly facilitated. Rumania had become much more accommodating as regards the delivery of supplies, as she was unable to dispose of her materials elsewhere. The year 1915 ended with a distinct advantage to us. We had strengthened our position for the coming year, but we did not by a long way get everything we could or ought to have expected from the home country.”

reasons to press Rumania to join one side:
“To make the offensive against Verdun possible, heavy artillery had to be transferred from the German Eastern front to the West. The High Command had withdrawn more divisions from Serbia, and in order to reinforce the Italian front the Eastern front had been greatly weakened by the Austrian General Staff. Both offensives suffered from the fact that inadequate reserves prevented the first successes from being followed up. At Verdun, perhaps, as the offensive was limited, from a tactical point of view, we might have obtained a moderately favorable conclusion at not too high a cost.

But in Italy it was a question of an operation on the grand scale, which in its nature demanded for success much more man-power than we had at our disposal. Yielding to this demand led to a very serious weakening of the Eastern front, where the position was already critical on account of the great numerical superiority of the Russians, even if a decisive victory were won in Italy. In any case, we were under the impression that the successful repulse of the Russian winter offensive had made Austria-Hungary safe.

I am unable to say whether the two general staffs could have embarked on different operations altogether, or have undertaken a joint offensive against Italy. In any case, the result of the war was not to be decided on the Itahan front. It could be fought
out only in the West, in France. And we should be strong enough for a decision on that front only when the Russians had been defeated.

My thoughts turned to Rumania. She was the feather in the scales. We had to know what her attitude was. Had Rumania, even under pressure, joined forces with us, the Russian Army would have been outflanked. This offered great possibilities. If, under pressure from us, Rumania turned to the Entente, we [p. 246] should, at any rate, have known how matters stood. We could act without delay with the troops on the spot at the time.

The Quadruple Alliance was on the defensive in the Balkans and Asia Minor. Only south of Bagdad FieldMarshal von der Goltz was preparing to attack the English at Kut-el-Amara.

As a result of the evacuation of Gallipoli by the Entente, the position of Turkey was considerably improved.”

p. 279 [ 294 in google books pdf file]:
“On August 27 Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary. The Dual Monarchy thereby reaped the reward of Hungary’s selfish policy and we the fruit of our passive acquiescence.”

p. 340 [ p. 355 in google books pdf file]:

“The plan of the Entente to owerwhelm us oce and for all in the autumn of 1916, a plan which in August and September still seemed possible of realization, was foiled for the time being. But the fighting on all the fronts was not yet over. At that time we did not know, as we do now in the light of subsequent events, whether the enemy’s endurance or our own would give out first. Rumania was not yet beaten. As I now saw quite clearly, we should not have been able to exist, much less carry on the war, without Rumania’s corn and oil, even though we had saved the Galician oil-fields at Drohobycz from the Russians.”

p. 353 [p. 368]:
“In the rear of General Kuehne’s forces the RUmanians, fighting bravely, had withdrawn from Orsova, down the Danube, and were still retreating, keeping close to the river. Though surrounded on all sides, they did not lay down their arms until they had reached the confluence of the Aluta at the beginning of December. Their hope that an attack on the Danube Army by parts of the Rumanian Army from Bucharest would save then was not fulfilled.”

the counteroffensive on the Arges: p. 354 [369]:
“On December 1 the left wing of the Danube Army was very heavily attacked southwest of the Bucharest and pushed back. The German troops who had already crossed the Nejlov were cut off. The situation was certainly very critical. The enemy’s enveloping movement was stopped only by a Turkish division, which was marching in the second line. The Rumanian attack was not pressed home; the right wing of the Ninth Army was brought up with all possible speed to [p. 355: ] meet it. On December 2d the cavalry of the Ninth Army was in position on the action front of the Danube Army. On the 3d we had infantry as well within reach, ans so the crisis was overcome. On the 4th we started a counter-attack, which was skilfully evaded by the Rumanians.

In the mean time General Kuehne’s left wing had effected a junction with General von Krafft’s group and forced back the Rumanian First Army eastward across the Arges. Henceforward the Danube Army an dhte Ninth Army fought side by side. The success of the operation was assured.

It had not been easy to bring the two armies into close tactical co-operation at the last moment on December 1. The attempt almost miscarried. Even in war, accidents of all kinds have to be reckoned with.

No sooner had this crisis been rumounted than we found ourselves faced with another. Would Bucharest be defended as a fortress or not ? Such a defense would have been very awkward for us, for it would have prolonged the campaign in RUmania considerably. The season was already far advanced. We had to make preparations for the following year. All kinds of material mecessary for attack had been placed in readiness, and everything possible had been done to hasten the fall of the fortress. A great load was taken off my mind when, on the 6th, the report was received that our cavalry divisions had in the night of December 5 found the northern works of the fortress unoccupied and blown up. On hte 6th we were in posession of Bucharest, Ploesti, and Campina. The Rumanians, under English orders and directrions, had effected a very thorough destruction of the oil-fields.

So far the Russians had not taken any serious part in the fighting. A Russian thrust on December 5, southeast of BUcharest, was of no importance. It is [p. 356:] not easy to understand why they could very easily have sent forces to Wallachia. It was only because the Russians were not there that we were successful. From this time onward the Russians brought up reinforcements. They now seemed to fear for their own flank. They reduced their forces in the Dobrudja in order to be stronger in Wallachia. For the rest of the campaign the object in view was to strike an even more crushing blow at the Rumanians, defeat the Russians, whose arrival was now a certainty, while they were assembling, and bring the operations to a conclusion by reaching the mought of the Danube-Sereth-Trotusk line. This was the shortest line we could take up. Our military-economic situation made it imperative we should secure it.”

p. 411 [p. 426]:

“Besides coal, iron, and steel, the material for submarines, lorries and aircraft, and lubricants, created some of our greatest problems. For lubricants we had to rely upon Austria-Hungary and Rumania. As the former country could not supply enough oil, and every effort for sufficient increases in her output failed, the Rumanian oil was of decisive importance. But even when we had this source, the question of rolling-stock remained very serious and impeded both the carrying on of the war and life at home.”

question of food supply
p. 414 [p 429]: “The question of food-supplies was of equal importance to the people and the army,m to man and beast.

The work of the army in the field depended in a high degree upon their rations. That and leave are the two decisive matters in morale. I thous had to give to the question of food my foll attention.

The reduction in morale at home was equally due to the food situation. The human body did not receive, especially in albumen and fats, the necessary nourishment for the maintenance of physical and mental vigor. In wide circles a certain decay of bodily and mental power of resistance was to be seen, producing an unmanly and hysterical attitude which enabled enemy propaganda to encourage the pacifist leanings of many Germans. In the summer of 1917 my first glimpse into this situation startled me considerably. This attitude was a tremendous element of weakness. It was all a question of human nature. IT could be eliminated to some extent by strong patriotic feeling, but in the long run could be finally defeated only by an improvement in nourishment. More food was needed. We had to find new sources of supply, to conserve our stocks, and, above all, to increase our own production. This last was the most important.

The occupation of Wallachia was a definite step.”

p. 419 [p. 434]:

“The occupied territories helped us with foodstuffs. The lines-of-communication ispectorate drew on them in particular for meat, and saw to it that their agriculture was carried on along the best lines. Wherever troops were stationed for any length of time they themselves worked hard both in cultivating and harvesting; but frequent movements prevented us from gaining much benefit from this. In the year 1917 only [p. 420] Rumania enabled Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Constantinople to keep their heads above water.

The measures taken by the Entente relieved us of anxiety as to the feeding of Belgium.

We obtained substantial supplies from neutral countries, and in particular from Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland. In our purchases we acted through a special German company, and did not deal, like the Entente, with the inhabitants of the country in question, allowing them to make a profit. Rightly or wrongly, this caused considerable discontent and indignation among our allies and the neutrals, and ultimately also at home.

The food situation in Austria-Hungary was always exceedingly strained. Hungary had enough. I did, it is true, undertake the supply of a very considerable part of the army, but it gave no assistance to starving Austria. In the latter country the Czech farmers refused to supply the more scantily supplied districts inhabited by Germans. The clumsy Austrian system of government created additional difficulties, so that, in spite of orders of Draconian severity, there was never any real hope of procuring the necessary supplies of of distributing them properly. I shall never forget the way in which a high Austrian official begged me to help him against Hungary in the question of supplies. The army starved in part, as did German Austria, and especially Vienna.

Although agriculture was very primitive, the situation in Bulgaria was better, but the system of government was rotten, control on the lines of communication was bad, and the army supplies were managed on antiquated lines. The army often ran short of supplies. It was, nevertheless, possible to hope that Bulgaria would be self-providing in the long run.

The Turkish supply system was absolutely rotten, [p. 421] its agriculture was the most primitive possible, even iron prows being unknown. Our Minister of Agriculture, Baron von Schorlemer, had made offorts to improve Turkish agriculture, but the Government displayed not the least understanding or perception in the matter. It asked for motor plows to bring more land under cultivation, but never dreamed of taking proper steps to increase production. Turkey, especially Constantinople, was thus in need of help in supplies. In the autumn of 1916 the idea was mooted of establishing a central supply office for the Quadruple Alliance, under German control. It was a specious suggestion, but supply in the four countries really depended upon wholly different considerations and could never have been managed on the same principles. In the end they would all have lived on Germany. The idea was quite rightly abandoned.


The great importance of Rumania, or, more correctly, of Wallachia, has already been noticed in various connections. We had not the task of collecting from this territory what we needed, and of transporting it to the consumers. Rumania and the Dobruja were pt under a regular government. Having regard for the predominant part which we Germans had taken in the conquest of the country, I strove to have this government placed in German hands. In view of the peculiarities of our allies and their business methods, this certainly offered the best guaranty for the permanent proper consideration of our rights and interests, and our allies agreed to the course proposed.

A definite settlement of the Bulgars in the whole of the Dobrudja was not in our interests. That portion [p. 422] which was originally Bulgar, having only been ceded to Rumania after the second Balkan War, was immediately resumed by them, in accordance with the treaty of the autumn of 1915. It was thus settled with for the time being. In the then position of the world, handling over to BUlgaria the rest of the Dobrudja, including the line from Cernavoda to Constantza, would have been equivalent to handling over the third and last trade route from Central Europe to TUrkey, which already controlled the routes via Salonika and Sofia. This monopoly would be bound to have a bad effect upon our trade with Turkey, which suffered enough through the selfish attitude of Austria-Hungary.”

vol. 2

food supply in 1918:
p 144 [p.167]:

“Our economic position had also become more acute and raw materials became scarcer.

We had managed to struggle through the food troubles, but it hd been very difficult. In the winter of 1916-17 ther ehad been no means of carting potatoes. We had to fall back on kohlrabi. At that time many people were hungry. In spring and summer supplies improved; but they had sufficed only with the aid of Rumanian wheat and maize. By early threshing on a considerable scale we might yet tide over a period between the old harvest and the new. But that meant anticipating our credit.

[p. 145]
Forage had become very scarce; grazing started early and helped a good deal. The oat harvest had been bad and the hay crop scanty. Evidently the forage problem was going to become worse.

The coal-supply seemnd more certain than in the winter of 1916-17; that of house-coal was tolerable.

The stocks of oil were uncommonly low; it was urgently necessary to increase the supply from Rumania. In the country they would again have dark winter nights.”

p. 182 [p. 205]:
“At any moment, somehow or somewhere, the Russian front might become strong again. Nor would Rumania ever make peace until Russia had shown the way. This would make any attack in the West hopeless. And with that we should miss the opportunity of victoriously finishing the World War, a war we were still waging, supported only by weak allies, against enemies superior in numbers. We also wanted the Ukraine as an auxiliary against the BOlshevists, so it must not on any account be surrendered to them It had already appealed for help.

Whence were we to obtain the corn which, according to its experts, Austria-Hungary so badly needed ? Germany could not supply it; but that is what it would have to come to in the end. GErmany herself was extremely short; the year before she had anticipated credits for early threshing, and now needed extra supplies herself. Rumania was no longer supplying the anticipated quantity. The prospects would be still worse if the coming harvest with us and our allies should be bad, as well as in Rumania, which, as a matter of fact, experienced a complete failure. Left entirely to herself, whithout any outside help, Germany could not exist, as was proved by the great distress in the winter [p. 183] of 1918-19. Disaster would certainly have come without help from the Ukraine, even if the destruction of public order had not been a contributing cause.

The peace with the Ukraine rested, owing to the Bolshevist influence, then, on a weak foundation. That we should have to assist there with military force in order to get corn, unless the peace was to become a futile farce, was evident to the representatives of the Quadruple Alliance.

In order to prevent the Bolshevists themselves from forming a new Eastern front against us, we had to inflict upon their troops a short but sharp blow, which would, in addition, bring in a great quantity of stores. For the moment no extensive operation was in contemplation.

In the Ukraine we had to suppress Boshevism and create such conditions that we could get some military value out of it, and obtain corn and raw materials. In order to do that, it was necessary to penetrate deep into the country; there was no alternative.”

p. 254 [p. 276]:
“The food situation of Austria and the Austro-Hungarian Army was uncommonly seious. It had received its share of the Rumanian supply in advance and used it up, and was now extracting all it could get hold of from the occupied portions of the Ukraine, needless to say, without any consideration. But eve nthis did not suffice, and early in May Austria, being in great need, seized grain belonging to Germany, which was being forwarded us from Rumania, while it was in transit through the Dual Monarchy. As we had already given help in February, this high-handed action therefore aroused considerable astonishment and indignation. But indignation was no use; we had to give again, which was the more annoying, as the horses on the Western front depended for their meager corn rations on the Rumanian supply.”

Why did the Ukraine became bolshevik:
p. 258 [p. 281]:
“In the Ukraine, the German troops had, after taking Kiev on March 1, continued their advance more slowly. Odessa had fallen on the 12th, after a slight resistance. In this operation German troops, who had advanced through Moldavia after the conclusion of the preliminary peace with Rumania on March 7, had co-operated. In hte succeeding period General Headquarters had to bear in mind the objects for which the occupation of Ukraine had been undertaken, and to carry the advance no farther than those objects necessitated.

The Ukraine had asked for help. We ourselves, and even more so Austria and its army, needed corn; the country could not, therefore, be allowed to become a prey, and a source of strength, to Bolshevism. We had to strengthen it sufficiently to enable it to be useful to us.

The principal grain district we had occupied after the capture of Charkoff on April 8. The Commander-in-chief in the East now found that the railways could not be worked without the coal of the Donetz Basin. So, willy-nilly, we had to agree co occupy this part of the Ukraine as well, and to advance our lines as far as Rostoff, which was reached at the beginning of May. In spite of this we were obliget at first to send very [p. 259] considerable quantities of coal from Germany to the Ukraine; this import, however, decreased when more coal was procurable locally.”

same about Ukraine, depleting it of war materials and horses, and making it unable to defend itself against the Communists p. 262:
“The Imperial Economic Office pursued a peace-time policy in the Ukraine which anticipated a state of affairs that did not yet exist; to that no one could object, provided that with the more limited economic policy the purely military motive, for which I pleaded, was not thereby excluded. In its need, Austria-Hungary had taken drastic measures and, although it did not get anything like what Count Czernin, early in February, ahd stated to be necessary, the supplies it drew from the Ukraine, combined with our assistance, undoubtedly saved Austria and its army from starvation. Only the most urgent needs, however, were satisfied, and even then we did not receive the bread-corn and forage so urgently required to revive the strength of our people at home. Still, the Ukraine did help Germany. In hte summer of 1918 it supplied us with meat, and thos the scanty meat rations we had was made possible without encroaching upon our own livestock reserves and those of the occupied territories. The army was also able to get horses in great numbers; without them warfare would have been altogether impossible, for if Germany had been obliged to raise these horses our own agriculture would have been hard hit. We also obtained from the Ukraine raw materials of all kinds.

The hope that the corn of the Ukraine would prove to be an economic weapon which would improve our position in regard to the neutrals, and would bring us that further economic alleviation which was so important for maintaining our warlike capacity, has soon to be abandoned.”

Posted on Saturday, September 12th, 2009 at 11:51 AM and is filed under Ludendorff's own story, WWI. RSS 2.0 feed.