War of Attrition: Fighting the First World War

War of Attrition: Fighting the First World War

by William Philpott

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A Wall Street Journal Best Non-Fiction Book of 2014!The Great War of 1914†“1918 was the first mass conflict to fully mobilize the resources of industrial powers against one another, resulting in a brutal, bloody, protracted war of attrition between the world’s great economies. Now, one hundred years after the first guns of August rang out on the Western front, historian William Philpott reexamines the causes and lingering effects of the first truly modern war. Drawing on the experience of front line soldiers, munitions workers, politicians, and diplomats, War of Attrition explains for the first time why and how this new type of conflict was fought as it was fought; and how the attitudes and actions of political and military leaders, and the willing responses of their peoples, stamped the twentieth century with unprecedented carnage on—and behind—the battlefield. War of Attrition also establishes link between the bloody ground war in Europe and political situation in the wider world, particularly the United States. America did not enter the war until 1917, but, as Philpott demonstrates, the war came to America as early as 1914. By 1916, long before the Woodrow Wilson’s impassioned speech to Congress advocating for war, the United States was firmly aligned with the Allies, lending dollars and selling guns and opposing German attempts to spread submarine warfare. War of Attrition skillfully argues that the emergence of the United States on the world stage is directly related to her support for the conflagration that consumed so many European lives and livelihoods. In short, the war that ruined Europe enabled the rise of America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781468312317
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 07/21/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

William Philpott is Professor of the History of Warfare in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. He is a specialist in the operations on the Western Front and has published extensively on the subject. He is the author of Three Armies on the Somme: The First Battle of the Twentieth Century.

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations ix

Note on Military Organisation xi

Prologue: Seizing the Hindedburg Line xiii

Introduction: 'the War is Everything' 3

1 Ready and Willing 13

2 Into Battle 37

3 Stalemate 61

4 A People's War 95

5 Mobilising Manpower 113

6 Waging War 135

7 War Machines 165

8 Controlling the Seas 195

9 Attack 211

10 Counterattack 231

11 Allied Hopes 255

12 The Will to Victory 285

13 Germany's Last Cards 301

14 Victory on All Fronts 323

Epilogue: 'The Great War for Civilization'? 341

Notes 355

Acknowledgements 383

Index 385

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A Wall Street Journal Best Non-Fiction Book of 2014!

Praise for War of Attrition:

“Philpott argues persuasively that the stunning victories of the last hundred days of the war were the result of a steep learning curve necessitated by earlier bloodbaths.” —The Wall Street Journal

"An astute examination by an expert war historian that sifts through the collective “theatres of attrition” in this unprecedented slaughter."—Kirkus Reviews

"'The armies have outgrown the brains of the people who direct them,' French general Ferdinand Foch worried before the war and, initially, he was correct. William Philpott has written an incisive, colorful book that details the race by both sides first to understand and then to master a long war of attrition that had been planned by every power as a short war of annihilation. War of Attrition succeeds both as an argument and as a gripping narrative of the dreadful process by which the armies (and navies) swerved from the objective of breaking though to that of killing men in a vast, globe-spanning war of exhaustion."—Geoffrey Wawro, author of A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire and Director of the University of North Texas Military History Center

“A work of truly impressive and documented scholarship, War of Attrition is a strongly recommended contribution to the growing library of World War I literature.” —The Military Shelf

Praise for Three Armies on the Somme

“A thoughtful and important book by a first-rate historian” —Literary Review
“Philpott displays a great mastery of detail. . . . He can certainly claim to have made a solid contribution to what has been an extraordinarily long-running debate.” —The Times
“Philpott brushes aside traditional mythmaking by Winston Churchill and Basil Liddell Hart for a fresh appraisal of this four-year ‘massacre of the innocents.’ . . . A knowledgeable, all-encompassing dissection of this supreme example of ‘the consummate killing power of the machine age.’” —Kirkus Reviews 


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The War of Attrition: Fighting the First World War 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Brad-Bradford More than 1 year ago
One more World War I book released for the 100th anniversary of the start of the War. Unfortunately I cannot recommend William Philpott’s War of Attrition: Fighting the First World War. For starters, this book should be called “War of Attrition: The Secondary War”. A war of attrition is an actual military strategy in which the belligerents attempt to win a war by wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse. Mr. Philpott’s thesis is WWI was a war in which the strategy of the belligerents was to wear each other out by taking out as many enemy troops as possible. Unfortunately the book does a poor job at connecting the strategy of attrition to the belligerent’s actual conduct of the war. He states over and over that the War was a war of attrition, but he does not explain how the belligerent’s strategies were attritional. At several points the book even contradicts itself by stating the strategy of battles was for a “knock out” blow. This is not an attritional strategy by definition. Mr. Philpott quotes various sources as saying the War was one of attrition, but a lot of the sources of the quotes were people not involved with military strategy. It seems as if they were expressing their personal opinion on a grim situation instead of a reflection on actual military strategy. Also, some of the sources used to back up the thesis were from material written after the War. The problem with this is a lot of people, after the war, wrote about fighting a war of attrition as a way to combat their critics and justify the huge casualty lists. Attrition is a natural outcome of war. What Mr. Philpott explains in the book is the natural attrition that occurs during a war, especially one lasting over four years. Just because a war has a very large body count over the course of four years does not make it a war of attrition. Instead of making a connection between an actual attritional strategy and a four year war with a large body count, Mr. Philpott seems like he’s trying to convince readers that WWI was a war of attrition by saying the word “attrition” over and over again. From a military perspective he does not explain how the strategy was attritional outside of battlefield casualties that naturally occur in war. As a general history of WWI, War of Attrition leaves a lot to be desired. This book is too general of a history of WW I to be a good narrative of the War. There are many other books on WW I that are better historical narratives.