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Jacob Meckel
Jacob Meckel
Born (1842-03-28)28 March 1842
Died 2 July 1905(1905-07-02) (aged 63)
Place of birth Cologne, Prussia
Place of death Gernrode, Imperial Germany
Allegiance Kingdom of Prussia Prussia
German Empire Imperial Germany
Japan Japan (1885-1888)
Service/branch Prussian Army
Rank Major General
Battles/wars Franco-Prussian War

Klemens Wilhelm Jacob Meckel (March 28, 1842 – July 5, 1905) was a general in the Prussian army and foreign advisor to the government of Meiji period Japan.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Meckel was born in Cologne, Rhine Province, Prussia. He graduated from the Prussian Army Staff College in 1867. He was a veteran of the Franco-Prussian War, during which he was decorated with the Iron Cross.[1]

In Japan[edit | edit source]

After the government of Meiji period Japan decided to model the Imperial Japanese Army after the Prussian army, following the German victory over the French in the Franco-Prussian War, Meckel (with the rank of major at the time) was invited to Japan as a professor at the Army Staff College and as an advisor to the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff. In response to a Japanese request, Prussian Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke selected Meckel.[2] He worked closely with future Prime Ministers General Katsura Tarō and General Yamagata Aritomo, and with army strategist General Kawakami Soroku. Meckel made numerous recommendations which were implemented, including reorganization of the command structure of the army into divisions and regiments, thus increasing mobility, strengthening the army logistics and transportation structure, with the major army bases connected by railways, establishing artillery and engineering regiments as independent commands, and revising the universal conscription system to abolish virtually all exceptions. A bust of Meckel was sited in front of the Japanese Army Staff College from 1909 through 1945.[3]

Although his period in Japan (1885–1888) was relatively short, Meckel had a tremendous impact on the development of the Japanese military. He is credited with having introduced Clausewitz's military theories[4] and the Prussian concept of war games (Kriegspiel) in a process of refining tactics.[5] By training some sixty of the highest-ranking Japanese officers of the time in tactics, strategy and organization, he was able to replace the previous influences of the French advisors with his own philosophies. Meckel especially reinforced Hermann Roesler's ideal of subservience to the Emperor by teaching his pupils that Prussian military success was a consequence of the officer class's unswerving loyalty to their sovereign Emperor, as expressly codified in Articles XI-XIII of the Meiji Constitution.[6]

Meckel's reforms are credited with Japan's overwhelming victory over China in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895.[7] However, Meckel's tactical over-reliance on the use of infantry in offensive campaigns was later considered to have contributed to the large number of Japanese casualties in the subsequent Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.[citation needed]

On the German General Staff[edit | edit source]

On his return to Germany, Meckel was assigned to the Second Infantry Regiment in the fortress of Mainz, and was subsequently promoted to major general, and placed in command of all German forces in the Rhine area. He was named editor of the 2nd and 3rd editions of Schellendorf's Duties of the General Staff ('Der Dienst des Generalstabes).[8] He became Deputy Chief of Staff of the German Army in 1895. However, he was disliked by German Emperor Wilhem II, who opposed his elevation into the ranks of Prussian peerage.[citation needed] He was reassigned instead to command the German 8th Infantry Brigade, but retired from active service shortly thereafter. He died in the spa town of Gernrode at the age of 65.[citation needed]

Notes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


United Kingdom

German Empire



French military mission to Japan (1867–68)
French military mission to Japan (1872–80)
French military mission to Japan (1884–89)
French military mission to Japan (1918–19)
Tracey Mission
Douglas Mission
Sempill Mission
Meckel Mission
Pels Rijcken
Pompeo Grillo

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