Field Marshall Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (26 October 1800 – 24 April 1891) was Chief of Staff of the Prussian General Staff from 1857 to 1871 and then of the Great General Staff (GGS) from 1871 to 1888. He was an architect of Germany's Wars of Unification (1864–71). He is often referred to as Moltke the Elder to distinguish him from his nephew, Helmuth Johann Ludwig von Moltke.
- The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle. In this sense one should understand Napoleon's saying: "I have never had a plan of operations."
Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.
- "On Strategy" (1871), as translated in Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993) by Daniel J. Hughes and Harry Bell, p. 92
- Paraphrased variants:
- No plan survives contact with the enemy.
- Paraphrased in The Swordbearers : Studies in Supreme Command in the First World War (1963) by Correlli Barnett, p. 35
- No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
- As quoted in Donnybrook : The Battle of Bull Run, 1861 (2005) by David Detzer, p. 233
- Strategy is a system of expedients; it is more than a mere scholarly discipline. It is the translation of knowledge to practical life, the improvement of the original leading thought in accordance with continually changing situations.
- "On Strategy" (1871), as translated in Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993) by Daniel J. Hughes and Harry Bell, p. 124
- War is a matter of expedients.
- As quoted in "Nothing Went According To Plan" by Jim Lacey in TIME magazine (15 April 2003)
- If in war, from the beginning of the operations, everything is uncertain except such will and energy as the commander carries in himself, there cannot possibly be practical value for strategy in general principles, rules derived from them and systems built up upon the rules. … Strategy is a system of expedients. It is more than science, it is the translation of science into practical life, the development of an original leading thought in accordance with the ever-changing circumstances.
- As quoted in Government and the War (1918) by Spenser Wilkinson
- We may add that the Poland of the fifteenth century was one of the most civilised states of Europe.
- 'Poland. A historical sketch'