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Map 24: Verdun...the big one

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               Bloody battle at Verdun

Verdun was one of the longest and costliest battles of the Western Front, raging from February to December of 1916. About 300,000 people were killed for the sake of moving the front line about 5 miles. At the outset of the battle, German military officials had concluded that they had no way of puncturing Franco-British defenses and winning the war. Their plan, instead, was to take advantage of the fact that the battle lines were on French soil to trick the Allies into defeating themselves. As Western fighting degenerated into a stalemate, the French front lines in the vicinity of Verdun poked awkwardly into German-held territory. The plan was to seize some high ground on the Eastern bank of the Meuse from which Verdun could be shelled. German commanders hoped that rather than retreat from the town, the French would counterattack furiously in a way that allowed German defenses to inflict massive casualties. And, indeed, about 156,000 French soldiers were killed during the fighting. But so were 143,000 German soldiers.


It's a cliche' of long standing to accuse the military of bone-headed thinking. But in the case of Verdun, they earned every accusation hurled at them. It is said that 'attrition is not a strategy', but in WWI it was. It seemed to be a case of they-will-be-blown-to-bits-but-we-will-only-lose-both-legs-and-an-arm. I once read an account of how 'Blitzkreig' was invented in WWI, tho' without enough time to implement it. The account concerned a German  Lieutenant who saw his trench position overrun by massive infantry supported by tanks and aircraft. He never forgot it. His name was Heinz Guderian. [Hauksbee]


Edited by Hauksbee

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