With the centennial of World War I just a little more than two years away, Americans will become more and more focused on the “Great War,” and a Wetzel County resident undoubtedly will be one of the military historians who will play a part in that observance.
The writing of Dr. Terence Zuber, retired U.S. Army major of New Martinsville, is being featured by the library at the New Martinsville campus of West Virginia Northern Community College. Zuber is an adjunct faculty member on the campus, teaching geography and global communities.
Janet Corbitt, staff librarian at the New Martinsville campus, who has arranged a display of Zuber’s work, explained the author’s books are controversial but are slowly being accepted. She said the author has been invited to address several conferences.
Corbitt also pointed out that Zuber has donated a copy of each of his books to the New Martinsville campus library “in recognition of the assistance we’ve given him” in his research.
His writings include Inventing the Schlieffen Plan: German War Planning 1871-1914 (Oxford, 2002); German War Planning 1891-1914, Sources and Interpretations (Boydell and Brewer, 2004); The Schlieffen Plan Debate 1999-2011; The Battle of the Frontiers, Ardennes 1914 (Tempus, 2007); The Moltke Myth: German War Planning 1857-1871 (University Press of America, 2008); The Mons Myth: A Reevaluation of the Battle (History Press, February 2010); articles in War in History, History Today, Intelligence and National Security; The Real German War Plan 1904-1914.
In explaining his philosophy of writing military history, Zuber said, “My approach to military history reflects my career as a professional soldier, all of which was spent either with troop units or as a tactical instructor, and my training as a historian at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany.
“The study of history at Wuerzburg emphasizes the careful analysis of primary source material. In military history this means above all the evaluation of training, doctrine, plans, intelligence estimates, orders, weather, terrain and tactical combat. As a professional infantry officer, I am able to apply twenty years of military experience to this analysis including three years with a German panzer division. I work through military history as though it were an actual war plan or military operation.”
Corbitt explained that Zuber’s fluency in both French and German has given him access to primary source materials “which challenge many of the long-held theories of military strategy and planning held by historians of World War I.”
Zuber said, “I have found that many histories of the German army from 1864 to 1914 are based on old secondary sources that do not meet professional military standards and frequently have a nationalistic, patriotic or political agenda. The myths they have established are satisfying to the layman, but militarily absurd.
“Many of the most widely accepted books on the German army repeat this ‘common knowledge,’ however militarily unlikely. ‘Great Generals’ are emphasized instead of doctrine and troop training. ‘Little maps, big arrows’ substitute for the painstaking study of plans, orders and tactical combat. Sweeping and unfounded generalizations take the place of attention to detail.”
Zuber proudly says that he “can promise that my work will never merely repeat ‘common knowledge,’ that it is thoroughly researched in primary sources reinforced by professional military standards. There is no deference paid to patriotic or political myth or the unsupported opinions of important historians. I seek to establish German military history according to the standard of Leopold von Ranke: ‘as it actually was.’”
The historian received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1970 from the University of Minnesota; a Master of Arts degree in History in 1996 from the University of Wuerzburg, Germany; and is a 2001 summa cum laude doctorate graduate of that same institution.
From 1970-90, Zuber was an infantry officer in the U.S. Army and received the Legion of Merit for counter-intelligence operations.