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29 February 1916 - Verdun

Paul H1

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I apologize, I wanted to post something earlier to follow up on Chris' series of posts.

If I may go back to 29 February 1916 (1916 was leap year).

Faced with ever increasing losses on the east bank, both from the fighting there, and the flanking fire from the French artillery on the west bank, Falkenhayn releases reserves to broaden the attack to the west bank. These forces had been available in OHL reserve before the attack began, but were held out of 5th Army's control.

From the standpoint of the initial objective of the attack (Falkenhayn's objective)--namely the seizure of the Meuse heights on the east bank--the attack up to this point had failed to reach its goal. The attack had reached a virtual standstill at this point, and the Germans, facing ever increasing French strength, had lost the initial factor of surprise, though they maintained a considerable superiority in artillery strength at this point.

The weakness of the German position on the Western Front in early 1916 comes clearly into focus at this stage. Faced with increasing French strength at Verdun, and the requests of the commanders there for fresh troops and material, Falkenhayn was faced with the reality of fighting an offensive battle against a much superior enemy. He also wanted to husband his reserves to either meet an Allied relief offensive, or launch his own second offensive later, as the situation developed.

Faced with the reality of Verdun, he was forced to commit more troops. In hoping to spark a prestige battle with the French (in the hopes of inflicting attrition on a point the French would be unwilling to surrender) Falkenhayn sowed the seed of German defeat at Verdun. The battle became a matter of prestige for both sides, and the Germans were forced to throw more and more troops into the battle and the original concept of the battle was lost.

Falkenhayn's refusal to provide adequate infantry forces to maintain the attack meant that the stalled battle was essentially lost by February 29. From this point on the battle became a slugging match with growing losses on both sides. As the balance of forces shifted slowly in favor of the French the hoped for loss ration of 2 Germans to 5 Frenchman was never approached.


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