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Old 28th January 2013, 08:05 PM   #1
StankApe
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World War One , wow

I have recently discovered the 26 part BBC series The Great War about WW1. I knew it was a vicious and terrible war, but the sheer number of casualties in a relatively small amount of conflicts is just staggering. 6 figure casualty levels in 8 hours of fighting? OMG!!!

I have learned a great deal about it via this program and I plan on grabbing a few books down the road to expand my knowledge of it. (as sadly, due to the USA's limited input, we don't spend much time on this war in school).

I know that the victors write the history and all that, but the Kaiser seems like an inhuman monster.
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Old 28th January 2013, 08:13 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
I know that the victors write the history and all that, but the Kaiser seems like an inhuman monster.
The highlighted part is untrue. First of all, history is usually written by historians. Secondly, I take it you mean that history is written from the point of view of the victorious country, but there have been plenty of German historians have written about the First World War, and also most of the books on Vietnam you will have read have probably been written by American authors and most of the books on the Crusades you will have read will have been by "Europeans".
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Old 28th January 2013, 08:18 PM   #3
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I was referring to the UK program I was watching. It being British and from their point of view.
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Old 29th January 2013, 04:52 AM   #4
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I'll second that wow..wow!

The massive amounts of causalities that would happen in the battles..they would just keep throwing men into the grinder.

The numbers are just staggering.

Not that wiki is the greatest source, but it was handy..
Quote:
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:01 AM   #5
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We talk about D-Day casualties and what a horrible experience it was. 10,000 casualties includig 2,500 killed. But the British lost 60,000 alone on the first day of Somme , and during the Hundred Days Offensive nearly 2 MILLION casualties!!! over 95 days which is over 21,000 PER DAY!!

it's mind boggling how terrible that war was.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
We talk about D-Day casualties and what a horrible experience it was. 10,000 casualties includig 2,500 killed. But the British lost 60,000 alone on the first day of Somme , and during the Hundred Days Offensive nearly 2 MILLION casualties!!! over 95 days which is over 21,000 PER DAY!!

it's mind boggling how terrible that war was.
I guess that's when they learned it was no longer appropriate to march in formation into the line of fire.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:13 AM   #7
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Wasn't much marching into the line of fire from what I have seen. Mostly constant bombardments of artillery fire followed by insane dashes across no man's land into the teeth of machine gun and rapid rifle fire. (think of doing this day after day for months)

Not to mention the diseases in the trenches.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:14 AM   #8
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It's interesting how international rules of warfare came out of WWI. It's a little odd once you think about it:

"OK, I know we're supposed to be killing each other, and so forth, but...JESUS! There's a LIMIT!"
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:16 AM   #9
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lots of little armistices too, guys taking a break and walking out into no mans land and hanging out with their enemies.... weird
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Spyke View Post
I'll second that wow..wow!

The massive amounts of causalities that would happen in the battles..they would just keep throwing men into the grinder.

The numbers are just staggering.

Not that wiki is the greatest source, but it was handy..


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

Some epidemiologists have opined that we can ascribe the transmission (if not the virulence as well) of the Spanish Flu to that war.

That would pump up the Wow Factor by several orders of magnitude. 50 to 100 million additional fatalities from 1918 to 1920 by most recent estimates. That was a significant chunk of the entire world population. (India alone had as many or more flu deaths than all of the WWI combat fatalities from all nations combined.)

It seems odd that this is barely remembered at all except by historians. At least most people know there was a WWI, even if they are a bit hazy on the details.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:32 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
I guess that's when they learned it was no longer appropriate to march in formation into the line of fire.
That ended fairly early on.
It reappeared in some sectors on the first day of the Somme, but usually with units who had taken the size of the bombardment to heart too much. The idea that there was a general order that they should march slowly forward is incorrect. Some units had this, but that was largely down to such things being left to divisions to decide. This is the reason for disparity of success between the northern sector and the southern of the British sector.

Doesn't, of course, mean that large parts of July 1st 1916 weren't a cock up, but look a fortnight down the line to the July 14th battle and you'll see a very different situation.

As for the large casualties, people are making the mistake of comparing figures between WW1 and WW2 on the western theaters. They should be comparing west with east. In WW1 the balance of ground combat was far more even, indeed arguably the western front was the major sector. And there were no tanks (not of any great mobility anyway) or ground attack/strategic aircraft. There was no way of avoiding hitting the other chap head on, by and large.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:33 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
Wasn't much marching into the line of fire from what I have seen. Mostly constant bombardments of artillery fire followed by insane dashes across no man's land into the teeth of machine gun and rapid rifle fire. (think of doing this day after day for months)

Not to mention the diseases in the trenches.
It's been a long time since I learnt about WWI, but I remember being taught something that I now wonder could have been a myth, which was that at the first battle of the Somme, after the artillery barrage on the German lines, the British soldiers were ordered to walk (not run!) across No Man's Land.

And that, by the time they were half-way across, the German soldiers, who had been in their bunkers during the barrage, had returned to their machine gun posts and were able to mow down the British soldiers with ease.

Originally Posted by aggle-rithm View Post
It's interesting how international rules of warfare came out of WWI. It's a little odd once you think about it:

"OK, I know we're supposed to be killing each other, and so forth, but...JESUS! There's a LIMIT!"
In fact, international "laws of war" and the concept of war crimes existed before WWI and had been codified in the Hague Conventions. A lot of them were flouted such as with the killing of prisoners and I think the British were just as bad, if not worse, than the German soldiers.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:37 AM   #13
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From what I recall from the film, they weren't ordered to walk as much as they did a bad job of protecting the troops with artillery fire, coming up short and filling the battlfield up with so much smoke that men were lost and getting picked off left and right. It apparently took the British a few days to get it all worked out properly.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:39 AM   #14
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I did some calculations for Prof. Robert's WWI class at Purdue. The standard German machine gun layout could put one bullet in every linear foot of front every second.
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:43 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
From what I recall from the film, they weren't ordered to walk as much as they did a bad job of protecting the troops with artillery fire, coming up short and filling the battlfield up with so much smoke that men were lost and getting picked off left and right. It apparently took the British a few days to get it all worked out properly.
Thanks. Well, I think I may have to watch that series and in the meantime I may have to order some books on the subject too.

Do any forumites have any opinions on the following:

The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning
The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson
The First World War by A.J.P Taylor
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Old 29th January 2013, 05:58 AM   #16
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All in all the amount of killing on the Western Front was un avoidable, provided the decision was made to not quit the war. The armies were simply too large and the amount of space to manouvre them in simply too little.

There was simply no way to go around the enemy. You had to go straight through him or not at all. With almost everybody having to walk and with the amount of machineguns, artillery and barbed wire this could only end in massive slaughters. Wich is what happened.
Of course there were disasters where little battles more or less took on a life on their own, removed from any conceivable rational (Butte de Vauquois) but all in all there was little else there could be done.

The disaster of the Somme was more or less unavoidable as well. The british army just wasn't ready for this battle at that time. It had grown from the tiny prewar professional army to this huge multi-million army in a very short time and almost all the experienced soldiers who could teach all these new soldiers lay dead in the trenches of '14 and '15 (the Old Contemptibles). No wonder the use of special tactics was very restricted.
Unfortunately the British had to attack, ready or not, to relieve the French who were getting hammered at Verdun.

Some times there just are no good answers or options.

But as said. One thing the British army did well during the entire war was learn and try to find new things which would work better then what was done before.
Unfortunately the only way to really find out whether the new tactics work was by trying and finding out.
And sometimes a new tactic would work two times briliantly (both final French counter assaults at Verdun) and when used a third time would turn into a total disaster (Chemin des Dames). Because the enemy is also learning and trying new things.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:00 AM   #17
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NatGeo did a nice segment on "excavating the trenches" that aired early last year....All about archeological investigation of the huge, stalemated trench emplacements along the front in Belgium.
It's hard to imagine how it must have been.... Millions of rounds of artillery firing, constant sniping, occasional pointless assaults to take a few hundred yards of blown-up soil only to loose it with the next enemy charge.
We're re-watching the excellent "Adventures of Young Indiana Jones" on Netflix, and a number of the episodes deal with WWI and the terrors attendant.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:02 AM   #18
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Mustard Gas....eeeeesh, flame throwers .....double eeesh (I have built a flamethrower, and it's just an evil thing) tanks.....probably a good invention really , it helped ensure this type of fighting never happens again.

but Mustard Gas? what evil bastard came up with that slice of horrible?

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Old 29th January 2013, 06:04 AM   #19
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Fritz Haber. WWI is sometimes called the chemists' war, in contrast to WWII, which was the physicists' war.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:17 AM   #20
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Taylor's work on WWI is pretty good.

Although more of a popular history Pierre Burton's Vimy is well researched.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:22 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
As for the large casualties, people are making the mistake of comparing figures between WW1 and WW2 on the western theaters. They should be comparing west with east. In WW1 the balance of ground combat was far more even, indeed arguably the western front was the major sector. And there were no tanks (not of any great mobility anyway) or ground attack/strategic aircraft. There was no way of avoiding hitting the other chap head on, by and large.
By the by. The more apocalyptic battles of the eastern front have 70th anniversary this year.

Last Sunday(27.01) was the anniversary of the end of the siege of Leningrad. I've heard that some people boiled and ate their leather couches. I wonder how much nourishment that gives.

Next Saturday(2.02) is the anniversary of the end of the battle of Stalingrad.
Here's a national geographic documentary on that.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:24 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
...the Kaiser seems like an inhuman monster.
You're going to have to explain this, because I don't see how you get to this conclusion.
I don't see what makes him so particularly monstrous compared to any of the other commanders in that war, though admittedly I'm not overly informed on WW1.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:25 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
From what I recall from the film, they weren't ordered to walk as much as they did a bad job of protecting the troops with artillery fire, coming up short and filling the battlfield up with so much smoke that men were lost and getting picked off left and right. It apparently took the British a few days to get it all worked out properly.
It's also wrth mentioning that the experience was very different in different parts of the front on that first day. Local decisions, varying German defences, troop quality (on both sides). There is no one description for that day that would be accurate, especially if you take the French sector into account as well.

Originally Posted by angrysoba View Post
Thanks. Well, I think I may have to watch that series and in the meantime I may have to order some books on the subject too.

Do any forumites have any opinions on the following:

The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning
The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson
The First World War by A.J.P Taylor
I can't vouch for any of those. Taylors is rather dated I would say.
I would recommend Hew Strachan's The First World War (not the multi-volume behemoth, the single paperback).
Also Richard Holmes' Tommy for a good description of how the army operated and how tactics changed and evolved during the war.

Of course, it all depends what you actually want to read about. It was a fairly large war.

Originally Posted by erwinl View Post
The disaster of the Somme was more or less unavoidable as well. The british army just wasn't ready for this battle at that time. It had grown from the tiny prewar professional army to this huge multi-million army in a very short time and almost all the experienced soldiers who could teach all these new soldiers lay dead in the trenches of '14 and '15 (the Old Contemptibles). No wonder the use of special tactics was very restricted.
Unfortunately the British had to attack, ready or not, to relieve the French who were getting hammered at Verdun.
This is quite important.
Haig opposed the Somme initially, on the grounds that the location of the offensive was not chosen for strategic reasons, but purely political. It happened to be where the British and French sectors met. This decision was made prior to the German attack on Verdun.

Once the Germans had attacked, the focus of the Somme shifted from a French operation with British support to a British operation with French support. All well and good except it meant extending the British sector. Only the British did not have any extra guns to fill this with. So the artillery plan was (essentially) watered down, spreading the heavy guns over a wider front. Considering part of the French success in the south was down to their increased artillery density, it's pretty clear this was detrimental.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:28 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by H'ethetheth View Post
You're going to have to explain this, because I don't see how you get to this conclusion.
I don't see what makes him so particularly monstrous compared to any of the other commanders in that war, though admittedly I'm not overly informed on WW1.
He seemed , to me anyway, to have taken advantage of the assassination of the Archduke to pursue his agenda for war. It seems like he was the driving force in convincing the Austria-Hungarians to declare war on Serbia so to kickstart his little scheme of expanding his empire into Belgium and France. Heck his war machine had been grinding away for years (hence why the Germans were able to take such an early offensive lead in the war).

This isn't worse than Hitler or even Stalin really, but it's something I had never really read about before watching this rather in depth series.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:29 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by quadraginta View Post
Some epidemiologists have opined that we can ascribe the transmission (if not the virulence as well) of the Spanish Flu to that war.
Yes. The "Spanish" flu actually originated in Kansas and was spread to Massachusetts and other states via troop trains, then it went world wide because talking about it and trying to prevent it by slowing troop movements was counter to the war effort. History calls it Spanish because the Spanish press was the first to be able to openly report on it.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:36 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
lots of little armistices too, guys taking a break and walking out into no mans land and hanging out with their enemies.... weird
This reminded me of a documentary I watched in which they spoke about how the Germans and French constantly attempted to dig underneath enemy trenches in an attempt to blow them up. Over time, the competing groups of diggers communicated with each other. As the war drew to a close they actually would tell each other when and where the charges would be detonated. They had developed some odd brand of camaraderie.
Some of the German soldiers were disgusted by this sharing of information with the enemy, including a young Adolph Hitler.

(It has been a bit of time since I watched the documentary. I think have the basic info right, please correct me if I am wrong.)
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:38 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
From what I recall from the film, they weren't ordered to walk as much as they did a bad job of protecting the troops with artillery fire, coming up short and filling the battlfield up with so much smoke that men were lost and getting picked off left and right. It apparently took the British a few days to get it all worked out properly.
Early in the battle every fourth soldier had a shovel strapped to his back, thus wasn't able to take cover.

Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
I did some calculations for Prof. Robert's WWI class at Purdue. The standard German machine gun layout could put one bullet in every linear foot of front every second.
Isn't technology wonderful.

Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
Mustard Gas....eeeeesh, flame throwers .....double eeesh (I have built a flamethrower, and it's just an evil thing) tanks.....probably a good invention really , it helped ensure this type of fighting never happens again.

but Mustard Gas? what evil bastard came up with that slice of horrible?
Despretz probably first synthesised sulphur mustard, Hans Thacher Clarke noticed its potential and Lommel and Steinkopf developed the method for mass production.

Originally Posted by Border Reiver View Post
Taylor's work on WWI is pretty good.

Although more of a popular history Pierre Burton's Vimy is well researched.
I'd like to recommend the eighties British comic series Charley's War. Fiction but well done and well researched.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:39 AM   #28
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Quote:
This reminded me of a documentary I watched in which they spoke about how the Germans and French constantly attempted to dig underneath enemy trenches in an attempt to blow them up. Over time, the competing groups of diggers communicated with each other. As the war drew to a close they actually would tell each other when and where the charges would be detonated. They had developed some odd brand of camaraderie.
Some of the German soldiers were disgusted by this sharing of information with the enemy, including a young Adolph Hitler.

(It has been a bit of time since I watched the documentary. I think have the basic info right, please correct me if I am wrong.)
Hey that's a cool little bit of info! Thanks1
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:39 AM   #29
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Anybody else think the Kaiser had ADHD?
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:42 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
He seemed , to me anyway, to have taken advantage of the assassination of the Archduke to pursue his agenda for war. It seems like he was the driving force in convincing the Austria-Hungarians to declare war on Serbia so to kickstart his little scheme of expanding his empire into Belgium and France. Heck his war machine had been grinding away for years (hence why the Germans were able to take such an early offensive lead in the war).

This isn't worse than Hitler or even Stalin really, but it's something I had never really read about before watching this rather in depth series.
Thanks. I didn't know that; I'll have to read up. I guess it takes a special kind of person to start a war.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:50 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by FenerFan View Post
This reminded me of a documentary I watched in which they spoke about how the Germans and French constantly attempted to dig underneath enemy trenches in an attempt to blow them up. Over time, the competing groups of diggers communicated with each other. As the war drew to a close they actually would tell each other when and where the charges would be detonated. They had developed some odd brand of camaraderie.
Some of the German soldiers were disgusted by this sharing of information with the enemy, including a young Adolph Hitler.

(It has been a bit of time since I watched the documentary. I think have the basic info right, please correct me if I am wrong.)
That was actually at Vauquois.
Fascinating place, just west from the Verdun Battlefield. Posterchild of a battle dynamic taking a life of it's own.
In the end and after 519 underground explosions (an average of two every week!) the Butte (hill) of Vauquois was split completely in two.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:52 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Anybody else think the Kaiser had ADHD?
Don't know about ADHD, but certainly a large dose of a feeling of insecurity combined with an equal large dose of a feeling of entitlement.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:55 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by erwinl View Post
Don't know about ADHD, but certainly a large dose of a feeling of insecurity combined with an equal large dose of a feeling of entitlement.
Some of his quirks remind me of people I've known for a long time who were ADD or ADHD. Not an expert, just an informed layman here.
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Old 29th January 2013, 06:59 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Some of his quirks remind me of people I've known for a long time who were ADD or ADHD. Not an expert, just an informed layman here.
What would those quirks be?

Just curious. ADHD for me means someone who is so energetic, that they can't slow down, sit still or concentrate. But I'm not even certain whether that is even a good description of ADHD.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:03 AM   #35
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And a feeling of inferiority. He wanted an Empire like his British Cousins and a Navy to match.

My Grandad was in the Horse Artillery in WW1. He was Gassed and hospitalized for several months then sent back to the front.
When he died in the early 70s Effects of the Gas on his heart and lungs were put down as a contributing factor.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:05 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by erwinl View Post
What would those quirks be?

Just curious. ADHD for me means someone who is so energetic, that they can't slow down, sit still or concentrate. But I'm not even certain whether that is even a good description of ADHD.
That's the most extreme cases, but a general problem with paying attention, difficulty staying on task, unfocused attitude, and hyperfocus on some things are classic symptoms.

I don't want to get into whether or not ADHD/ADD exists, btw.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:13 AM   #37
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There has been speculation that he felt the need to overachieve to prove his worth due to his withered hand.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:21 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Ian View Post
Fritz Haber. WWI is sometimes called the chemists' war, in contrast to WWII, which was the physicists' war.
I thought Haber's gift to the war was chlorine, rather than mustard gas (aside of course from his process for fixing nitrogen which greatly assisted mass production of explosives).
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:29 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by StankApe View Post
There has been speculation that he felt the need to overachieve to prove his worth due to his withered hand.
The man who was going to be king?

I remember reading about one incident where he sketched out an entire battle cruiser on a napkin at a dinner party. He lectured on the superiority of that (untested) design for most of the meal.
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Old 29th January 2013, 07:37 AM   #40
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episode I watched last night had him safely behind the lines during Verdun as he watched (via periscope) what he assumed was going to be the final moments of the battle and the lynchpin to securing victory in France.

Didn't quite turn out that way
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