Alexander von Kluck - History of World War I - WW1 - The Great War

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Alexander von Kluck Information

Alexander von Kluck

Place of birth: Munster, Westphalia
Place of death: Berlin, Nazi Germany
Allegiance: Prussia
Imperial Germany
Service/branch: Prussian Army
Years of service: 1866-1916
Rank: Generaloberst
Unit: 1st Army
Commands held: 1st Army
Battles/wars: Austro-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
World War I
Other work: Author

Alexander Heinrich Rudolph von Kluck (20 May 1846 - 19 October 1934) was a German general during World War I.

Early life

Kluck was born in Munster, Westphalia.

Military career

He enlisted in the Prussian army in time to serve in the seven-week Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War, where he was wounded twice in the Battle of Colombey-Neuilly. He was made a general of infantry in 1906, and in 1913 was appointed Inspector General of the Seventh Army District.

World War I

With the outbreak of World War I, Kluck was placed in command of the German First Army. According to the Moltke revisions of the Schlieffen Plan, the First Army was part of the strong right wing and positioned on the outer western edge of the German advance through Belgium and France. This western flank was to advance alongside Karl von Bulow's Second Army to Paris. Upon reaching Paris in concert, the First and Second armies were to threaten Paris from both the west and east.

After fighting the British at Mons and Le Cateau, the First Army pursued Lanrezac's French Fifth Army during the great retreat. However, thirty miles from Paris and anticipating an encounter with the French Fifth Army (commanded by Lanrezac), the cautious von Bulow halted his Second Army's advance and demanded von Kluck's direct support. By this time, the aggressive Kluck had advanced his First Army well south of von Bulow's position to 13 miles north of Paris. On August 30, Kluck decided to wheel his columns to the east of Paris, discarding entirely the Schlieffen Plan. Although frustrated by Bulow's caution, on 31 August Kluck turned his army southeast to support the Second Army. In so doing, Kluck exposed his own right flank in the direction of Paris and also created a 30-mile gap in the German line extending toward Bulow's stalled Second Army. Unfortunately Kluck did not realize that General Michel-Joseph Maunoury's Sixth Army was being put together in Paris. The French, however, had not quite learned of Kluck's change in course. On September 1, 1914 a French patrol captured a German dispatch car. Found in the car was a map showing the changed position. The French now knew that Kluck had changed course. The course of the war depended on what came next.

As a result of passing to the east of Paris, on 5 September General Maunoury's Sixth Army was able to launch an attack against Kluck's flank from Paris, thereby marking the opening of the First Battle of the Marne. The able Kluck was able to parry the blow, with a catch. To push back the flank attack, Kluck borrowed two corps filling the space between First and Second army. A surprise attack on 8 September by Franchet D'Esperey's (who had replaced Lanrezac) Fifth Army against Bulow's Second widened the gap which the British Expeditionary Force marched to exploit. The attack, as Winston Churchill said, "probed its way into the German liver." On 9 September a representative of the German Headquarters, Hentsch, considered the situation of Bulow's Army as very dangerous and ordered a retreat of all the armies, even though by that time von Kluck had overcome most of his own problems, (except presumably, the problem of keeping in contact with his headquarters and letting his chief of Staff, and therefore Hentsch, from knowing how he had solved his problems). The Germans retreated in good order to positions forty miles behind the River Aisne. There, the front would remain for years in the form of entrenched positions as World War I continued.

Kluck and Bulow's lack of coordination and the ensuing failure to maintain an effective offensive line was a primary contribution to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan which was intended to deliver a decisive blow against France. Instead, the long stalemate of trench warfare was ready to begin. The British at the time called him "old one o'clock". Many German experts, however, hold Kluck and especially his Chief of Staff, Kuhl, in the highest esteem. Germany could have won the Battle of the Marne, they think, if only Bulow had matched the courageous initiatives of Kluck's Army, although this doesn't explain the near encirclement of his army.

Retirement and later life

Kluck was seriously injured in the leg in March 1915 and retired from active service in October 1916. General von Kluck wrote of his participation in the War in the volume entitled Fuhrung und Taten der Erste (1920). His post war memoirs, The March on Paris and the Battle of the Marne, were published in 1920. Kluck died in Berlin.

In popular culture

Von Kluck's name was mentioned in a British army song (World War I Poem) that used rhyming slang:

"Kaiser Bill is feeling ill,
The Crown Prince, he's gone barmy.
We don't give a cluck for old von Fluck
And all his bleedin' army."

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Source: WikiPedia

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