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Week 8- Total War Cont.: Verdun & the Somme

by: Austin McManus

Week 8- Total War Cont.: Verdun & the Somme HIST 388

Marketplace > George Mason University > History > HIST 388 > Week 8 Total War Cont Verdun the Somme
Austin McManus
GPA 3.78
World War I
Harry Butowsky

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This week's set of notes continues/expands on the idea of total war as exemplified at the Battles of Verdun & the Somme in 1916 in Europe that would pave the way for realization on both sides of th...
World War I
Harry Butowsky
Class Notes
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This 2 page Class Notes was uploaded by Austin McManus on Tuesday October 20, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 388 at George Mason University taught by Harry Butowsky in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 33 views. For similar materials see World War I in History at George Mason University.


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Date Created: 10/20/15
HIST 388 Notes Week 8 Verdun amp the Somme A Prelude 19141916 By the end of 1914 Germany s war plan to defeat France in two months is beyond wasted manpower and resources as a united AngloFrench front stopped the swinging arm of the Schlieffen Plan was halted at the Battle of the Marne and trudge right up to the west coast near the English Channel At this point over a million men on both sides have been killed and the warring nations had realized that it would not be a splendid little war as both lines dug in thereby sparking the prolonged three years of trench warfare that dominated France Following the failure of the Schlieffen Plan Helmuth von Moltke Alfred von Schlieffen s replacement in 1906 was fired by the Kaiser and replaced by Erich von Falkenhayn whose sole motivation behind his strategic thinking was to win the war by any means necessary Falkenhayn s vengeful and ruthless character culminates into his planning of Operation Judgment in which he plans to strike the illarmed illequipped and illmanned French town of Verdun in order to attract the attention of French General Sir Joseph J offre whom he anticipates will bring the French army into Verdun At that point Falkenhayn s troops will withdraw from Verdun and over 2000 pieces of German artillery will bombard Verdun in order to eliminate J offre s forces It was supposed to be a swift battle of attrition aimed to gain revenge for France s resistance to German maneuvers to win the war over a year earlier Falkenhayn meets with Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst crowned prince of Germanyeldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II and commander of the 5th Army to explain to him the workings Operation Judgment and met some resistance from Prince Wilhelm but he did convince him to comply with the plan with half of the men 350000 than Wilhelm requested B Battle of Verdun 21 February 18 December 1916 When the plan commenced in February Prince Wilhelm seemed to forget part of the plan as he ignored explicit instructions to NOT take the whole town and only focus his attack on a handful of the many forts surrounding Verdun Once Wilhelm had taken the town a prolonged battle of attrition began as the French moved in and the Germans now with a foothold in Verdun were unable to use artillery to the extent Falkenhayn wanted but did so nonetheless resulting in approximately 425000 French casualties and 360000 Germany casualties over the course of ten months As Alistair Horne argues in The Price of Glory Verdun 1916 Verdun was the First War in microcosm an intensification of all its horrors and glories courage and futility Horne 327 His argument is inspired by the fact that Verdun involved an intertwined relationship of attrition and trench warfare that included headon assaults against modern forts artillery bombardment and the first instance of aerial combat colloquially known as dog ghting in human history C Battle of the Somme 1 July 18 November 1916 At the end of 1915 General Sir Douglas Haig who had commanded one of the two corps of the BEF upon its landing into France in 1914 replaced his former superior General French as CommanderinChief While planning the AngloFrench war strategy in 1915 Haig called for a British offensive at Flanders in an attempt to push the German Army back from the Belgian coast and end the threat of German submarine Uboat warfare being pursued against Belgium Marshal Joseph J offre CommanderinChief of the French Army at the time agreed with Haig by January 1916 and decided the next month to meet the British along the Somme River before marching to Flanders One week after J offre s decision however the Germans launched an offensive against the French at Verdun and J offre was forced to divert much of the French forces promised to the offensive at the Somme to hold the line at Verdun leaving thirteen divisions to support the twentyone British divisions who were waiting at the Somme By the end of May with the Battle of Verdun raging on hopes for the Anglo French offensive of Flanders that would leave from the Somme regressed from an ambitious end to German dominance in Belgium to a relief effort of French forces in Verdun by engaging in a battle of attrition against the Germans With a break in the fighting at Verdun in July both Germany and France sent support troops to Picardy and the Somme respectively they both aimed to divert the intense fighting at Verdun and temporarily weaken their respective enemy in order to gain any advantage at Verdun The Battle of the Somme in icted more than 1000000 total casualties apr 800000 FrenchBritish and 500000 German over the course of four months and introduced a significant facet of modern warfare to the battlefield the tank Despite the British amp French gaining the most ground since the Battle of the Marne in 1914 the impact of the battle are inconclusive amongst historians today D The Toll of Total War Impact of Battles of Verdun amp the Somme The end of 1916 the end of Verdun amp the Somme proved to both the Allies and Germany that they could not go on fighting a war in which months resulted in millions dead purely based on logistics Britain France Germany and Russia would simply not be able to provide the manpower and produce the resources necessary to continue engaging in total war Luckily for these powers two major events in 1917 would turn the tide of the war initially in the favor of the Germans Russian Revolution amp subsequently the withdrawal of Russia from the war but would eventually bring the advantage to the Allies entrance of the United States into the war


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