Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke

Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke was a Prussian professional officer who was instrumental in declaring Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, thus immediately triggering the First World War, which completely overburdened him and quickly ended his military career.



Origin and teenage years:

Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke was born on May 23, 1848 in Gersdorf, the son of Adolf von Moltke and Auguste von Molke in a noble family.




Military career:

Like many other high-ranking officers at that time, Moltke also began his military career early and attended cadet schools.

During the Franco-German War, he participated in the grenadier regiment "King William I" (2nd West Prussian) No. 7 in the war.
In 1880 he moved to the general staff and two years later adjutant of his uncle Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke.

The 1st Guards Division of the Guard Corps led Moltke as commander from 1902 to 1904 until he was subsequently Quartermaster General and in 1906 appointed Chief of the General Staff. This appointment was made by the German Emperor Wilhelm II, as he had a high personal opinion of the Moltke family. Due to this close relationship Moltke got 1909 awarded the Black Eagle Order.


Helmuth von Moltke during a troop maneuver in 1905


His successor to Alfred von Schlieffen as Chief of the General Staff Moltke access to the writings Schlieffens and its military elaboration on a war with France. This so-called Schlieffen plan was revised by Moltke after his personal assessment and then kept ready for a war.




The way to the first world war:

Moltke was regarded as a war enthusiast and a warrior both in the political and in the military circles. As early as 1912, he had expressed to the Emperor in a military-political discussion that the sooner the better was a warfare.

Even after the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and increasing tensions in the Balkans and with Russia, Moltke had pushed for war. After the declaration of war on the Danube monarchy to Serbia and following the Russian mobilization Moltke sent in the night of 30 to 31 July to the Austro-Hungarian chief of staff Franz Graf Conrad von Hötzendorf a telegram, the content of the demand for an immediate mobilization insisted, any rejection of British negotiation requests and the guaranteed support of the German Reich in the event of a war with Russia.

However, this well-known "blank check" on the war against Russia was not discussed with either the Kaiser or the General Staff, nor did Moltke have the power to do so.

Also in the West Moltke prepared the deployment of the German troops to implement the modified by him Schlieffen plan.


Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke




Moltke in the First World War:

When the First World War broke out and several fronts opened up, the load that had now entered Moltke became heavy. So he pushed the Ottoman Empire for a war against Russia, but was rejected. His condition also worsened when the Emperor stopped the invasion of Belgium when he had a misinformed report from the German ambassador from London, according to which England guarantees the neutrality of France, unless Germany invades Belgium. When this message turned out to be wrong, the deployment plan was delayed by days and Moltke had a dispute with the emperor, he was already facing a nervous breakdown.

Already in the first weeks of the war it became apparent that the execution of the Schlieffen plan had failed. Lack of communication between the General Staff and the army command at the front forced Moltke to give up the freedom of choice to the front officers. This meant that the divided armies did not march after the Schlieffen plan but had to choose or choose other routes. This led from 5 to 12 September 1914 to the Battle of the Marne, where the German advance was stopped, a breakthrough was no longer possible and the so-called "run to the sea" and thus the position war began.

After the failure of the advance Erich von Falkenhayn boss of the great general and Moltke was unofficially replaced. He was appointed Chief of the Deputy General Staff in Berlin in November 1914, from where he tried in vain to replace Falkenhayn.




The end of life:

Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke died in April 1916 while in Berlin, the state act for the deceased in the Ottoman Empire Field Marshal Colmar von der Goltz took place in a stroke.

His body was buried in the Invaliden cemetery in Berlin.


Grave stone Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke




  • 1878 wedding with Eliza von Moltke-Huitfeldt






You can find the right literature here:


Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings

Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings Hardcover – August 1, 1993

Field Marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke is best known for his direction of the German/Prussian campaigns against Austria in 1866 and France in 1870-71, yet it was during his service as chief of the General Staff that he laid the foundation for the German way of war which would continue through 1945.
Professor Daniel Hughes of the Air War College, in addition to editing and assisting with the translation of this selection of Moltke's thoughts and theories on the art of war, has written an insightful commentary on "Moltke the Elder" that places him in the broader context of Prussian and military thought. Hughes notes that Moltke's writings helped shape the practical application of influential Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz's sometimes abstract philosophical ideas.
The book also contains an extensive bibliographic and historiographic commentary that includes references to Moltke and his theories in the current literature in Germany, England, and the United States - a valuable aid to anyone doing research on the subject.
This volume, in addition to its appeal to scholars, serves as an introduction to the theory of the German army, as well as a summary of Moltke's enduring theoretical legacy.

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The Myth and Reality of German Warfare: Operational Thinking from Moltke the Elder to Heusinger (Foreign Military Studies)

The Myth and Reality of German Warfare: Operational Thinking from Moltke the Elder to Heusinger (Foreign Military Studies) Hardcover – September 5, 2018

Surrounded by potential adversaries, nineteenth-century Prussia and twentieth-century Germany faced the formidable prospect of multifront wars and wars of attrition. To counteract these threats, generations of general staff officers were educated in operational thinking, the main tenets of which were extremely influential on military planning across the globe and were adopted by American and Soviet armies. In the twentieth century, Germany's art of warfare dominated military theory and practice, creating a myth of German operational brilliance that lingers today, despite the nation's crushing defeats in two world wars.

In this seminal study, Gerhard P. Gross provides a comprehensive examination of the development and failure of German operational thinking over a period of more than a century. He analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of five different armies, from the mid–nineteenth century through the early days of NATO. He also offers fresh interpretations of towering figures of German military history, including Moltke the Elder, Alfred von Schlieffen, and Erich Ludendorff. Essential reading for military historians and strategists, this innovative work dismantles cherished myths and offers new insights into Germany's failed attempts to become a global power through military means.

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Moltke and his Generals: A Study in Leadership

Moltke and his Generals: A Study in Leadership Paperback – June 7, 2018

When Helmuth von Moltke took over as Chief of the Prussian General Staff, the Prussian army had not fought for more than forty years. Yet within a decade and a half he had brought it to the point where it was the strongest in Europe. His successes on the battle field led to his methods being painstakingly analyzed by commentators and slavishly imitated by Western armies.

His success was not only due to far sighted strategic planning, the comprehensive reorganization of the General Staff and his grasp of new technologies; it was also due to his leadership of a talented, if disparate, group of subordinates, even if some of them sometimes failed to grasp his overall intentions.

This book examines these key relationships. Foremost among these was his collaboration with the able though choleric Karl Leonhard von Blumenthal; their correspondence reflected every aspect of their campaigns. He was also close to the Crown Prince, whose aide de camp he had been. Moltke was Chief of Staff to Prince Frederick Charles in Denmark in 1864; his admiration for the ‘Red Prince’ was perhaps not maintained when the latter’s caution caused problems. Albrecht von Stosch, Intendant General in 1870–1871, proved brilliantly successful when he had the chance to demonstrate his talents in the field. Edwin von Manteuffel, on whose recommendation Moltke was appointed, was at the centre of Prussian politics for a decade and a half before becoming a successful army commander in 1866, and 1870–1871. Perhaps the most talented of Moltke's subordinates was August von Goeben, a successful commander in all three wars of German unification. August von Werder never enjoyed Moltke's confidence to the same extent, but was extremely reliable. On the other hand both Eduard Vogel von Falckenstein and Karl von Steinmetz caused Moltke considerable difficulty by their stubborn disobedience of his explicit orders.

Behind these relationships there existed the vital rapport which Moltke had with their Chiefs of Staff and his own general staff officers. It was on his ability to rely on these men to execute his intentions that his success ultimately depended. Theophil von Podbielski, Julius Verdy du Vernois and Paul Bronsart von Schellendorf were some of the brilliant individuals who constituted one of the most powerful teams in military history.

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