Jabberwocky for 2002 May 12 (entry 2)

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: More wisdom from Ferguson:

Nothing can detract from the central fact that the Central Powers were significantly more successful at killing, wounding, and capturing the enemy than the Entente Powers_~ But what is even more astonishing is that they did so at much lower cost. One (admittedly rather callous) way of expressing the difference between the two sides in a way which takes not only military effectiveness but also economic resources into account - in other words, a way which measures integrated war efficiency - is to say that Germany succeeded far better than the Entente at inflicting ‘ maximum slaughter at minimum expense'. As we have seen, the Allies spent approximately $140 billion between 1914 and 1918, the Central Powers around 80 billion. Yet the Central Powers killed many more members of the Allies' armed forces than were killed of their own men. On this basis, a simple calculation can be made: whereas it cost the Entente powers $36,485.48 to kill a serviceman fighting for the Central Powers, it cost the Central Powers just $11,344-77 to kill a serviceman fighting for the Entente. To complete the macabre balance sheet, these figures could, of course, be related to Bogart's estimates of the notional economic value of each individual soldier killed to his country of origin. According to Bogart, an American or British soldier was worth 20 per cent more than a German ($1,414 compared with $1,354)1 but nearly double the cash value of a Russian or a Turk ($700). But no soldier was worth as much as it cost to kill him. Ultimately, the financial historian can therefore do no more than pose a question to military historians: why on earth did Germany and her allies-who were more than three times more efficient at killing the enemy--than Britain, and her allies–end up losing the war?

As I am wading through Ferguson I keep reminding myself that I'm not "wasting time wading through Ferguson; I'm "doing research for the novel I'll write about Grandpa."


© 2001-2006 Frances Whitney.