Paths of Glory eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 340 pages of information about Paths of Glory.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“War is different now,” he said.  “Truces are out of fashion.”

I stood there and I smelled that smell.  And I thought of all those flies, and those blood-stiffened stretchers, and those little inch-long figures which I myself, looking through that telescope, had seen lying on the green hill, and those automobiles loaded with mangled men, and War de Luxe betrayed itself to me.  Beneath its bogus glamour I saw war for what it is—­the next morning of drunken glory.

Chapter 12

The Rut of Big Guns in France

Let me say at the outset of this chapter that I do not set up as one professing to have any knowledge whatsoever of so-called military science.  The more I have seen of the carrying-on of the actual business of war, the less able do I seem to be to understand the meanings of the business.  For me strategy remains a closed book.  Even the simplest primary lessons of it, the A B C’s of it, continue to impress me as being stupid, but none the less unplumbable mysteries.

The physical aspects of campaigning I can in a way grasp.  At least I flatter myself that I can.  A man would have to be deaf and dumb and blind not to grasp them, did they reveal themselves before him as they have revealed themselves before me.  Indeed, if he preserved only the faculty of scent unimpaired he might still be able to comprehend the thing, since, as I have said before, war in its commoner phases is not so much a sight as a great bad smell.  As for the rudiments of the system which dictates the movements of troops in large masses or in small, which sacrifices thousands of men to take a town or hold a river when that town and that river, physically considered, appear to be of no consequence whatsoever, those elements I have not been able to sense, even though I studied the matter most diligently.  So after sundry months of first-hand observation in one of the theaters of hostilities, I tell myself that the trade of fighting is a trade to be learned by slow and laborious degrees, and even then may be learned with thoroughness only by one who has a natural aptitude for it.  Either that, or else I am most extraordinarily thick-headed, for I own that I am still as complete a greenhorn now as I was at the beginning.

Having made the confession which is said to be good for the soul, and which in any event has the merit of blunting in advance the critical judgments of the expert, since he must pity my ignorance and my innocence even though he quarrel with my conclusions, I now assume the role of prophet long enough to venture to say that the day of the modern walled fort is over and done with.  I do not presume to speak regarding coast defenses maintained for the purposes of repelling attacks or invasions from the sea.  I am speaking with regard to land defenses which are assailable by land forces.  I believe in the future great

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Paths of Glory from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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