the battle of verdun
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The Battle of VerdunMadison Cooley, Audrey Huang,
and Kathy Lin
(Doran) ThesisAs an effort to take down Britain, whom the Germans viewed as their biggest rival, Germany attacked their ally, France. The Germans launched an attack on the area where French valued the most, Verdun, France’s symbol of national prestige. Classified as the longest and most devastating battle in WWI, the Battle of Verdun disturbed the national French psyche, exemplifying society’s change of opinion towards war and the horror of trench warfare. Furthermore, extreme German pressures towards France impelled the British to take action on the Somme, resulting in another lengthy, costly war.
Overview• One of the costliest wars of WWI• Exemplified “war of attrition”• German siege of Verdun and its ring
of forts• Longest war in WWI• Lasted from February 21, 1916 to
December 19, 1916• Over 700,000 casualties• Battlefield was not even ten km2
German General Erich Von Falkenhayn thought that England was Germany's most important enemy
Von Falkenhayn believed that France’s defeat would inevitably lead to England’s collapse
The Setup: Location Planning
Verdun was an important fortified stronghold at the E. border of France, b/c:1. Part of the line of defense2. Northern gate to Paris (Schlieffen Plan)
Verdun was part of the French psyche & had historic sentiment; thus, The French “would be compelled to throw in every man they have”
The Plan: Take Down France
French knew Germans were
coming, but didn't know they would choose Verdun, so
French were unprepared once the battle started.
The Plan: Take Down France
Feb. 21, 1916: Start with heavy German bombardment on the French
Feb. 25: Germans take Fort Douaumont French reinforcements, led by General Henri
Pétain, counterattacked and slowed German advance
March & April: Hills and ridges W. of the Meuse R. & N. of Verdun were bombarded, attacked, counterattacked, taken, & retaken (overall not much progress)
June: Germans try to assault heights along Meuse but couldn’t maintain an advantage
July: (Britain launches attack on the Somme Battle of the Somme) Germans realize that their plan resulted in terrible losses with little gain
Oct.-Dec.: French took offensive & regained forts/territories lost
*Note: Technically the French won, but since they suffered such as tremendous loss, the
victory did not feel like a true triumph.
Intense German pressure on the French made British action on the Somme increasingly urgent Battle of the Somme
The horror of the fighting had a traumatic psychological effect on France's national psyche
Longest & most devastating battles in WWI
“...I have returned from the most terrible ordeal I have ever witnessed...Four days and four nights...in ice-cold mud...kept
under relentless fire, without any protection whatsoever except for the
narrow trench, which even seemed to be too wide...I arrived with 175 men, I
returned with 34 of whom several had half turned insane....”
Witness Account~French captain
"...the soldiers fell over like tin soldiers. Almost all our officers get hurt or killed and many of our men
get killed because of their own artillery fire which is too close and therefore causes many victims..."
Witness Account~German soldier
"Battle of Verdun." Encyclopedia Britannica. N.p., 19
June 2013. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
"Battle of Verdun Ends." History Channel. A&E
Television Networks, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.
Palmer, Peter J. "The Battle of Verdun, 1916." The
Western Front Association. Hendersonline, 17
Mar. 2010. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.