Alfred Graf von Schlieffen (28 February 1833 - 4 January 1913) was a German field marshal and strategist who served as Chief of the Imperial German General Staff from 1891 to 1905. His name lived on in the 1905 Schlieffen Plan for the defeat of the French Third Republic and the Russian Empire. In his youth, he served under Helmuth von Moltke the Elder during the Franco-Prussian War. Within two years of Schlieffen's death, World War I began, and the German high command badly bungled the Plan he had left them.
Alfred von Schlieffen in "Uncle Alf"
Despite his advanced age, Alfred von Schlieffen personally oversaw the implementation of his plan for two-front war in 1914, leading Germany's strong right-wing advance through Belgium and France, despite the quick invasion from Russia. France and Britain immediately sued for peace, and Russia was in turn defeated.
Alfred von Schlieffen in Southern Victory
In 1881 and 1882, Alfred von Schlieffen served as Germany's military attaché to the United States and had the opportunity to observe firsthand the American prosecution of the Second Mexican War. During the evacuation of Washington, DC, his horse nearly killed little Nellie Houlihan inadvertently. He observed firsthand Orlando Wilcox' disastrous siege of Louisville, Kentucky. He was shocked by the incompetence he witnessed on every level of the badly run and badly organized US Army, and was disappointed that he was able to find nothing in the US strategy which he could recommend that his own army adopt.
Schlieffen also recognized a potential military power in the US with its large population and enviable industrial capacity. He further recognized that, in Britain and France, the US and Germany had common enemies. He became an early advocate of the Teuto-American alliance which eventually became the Central Powers. His postwar discussions with American General-in-Chief William Rosecrans enabled the latter to see that the decentralized army he commanded made strategic coordination on multiple fronts a near-impossibility and that the US would do better to adopt a command structure on the Prussian general staff model. It was this reorganization which finally allowed the US to tap its military resources and win the Great War.
In his office, Schlieffen kept photographs of Kaiser Wilhelm, Chancellor Bismarck, Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, and his own late wife Anna von Schlieffen, who died in childbirth in 1872. The last was the one bit of sentimentality he permitted himself.
Alfred von Waldersee
|Chief of German General Staff
Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke