Battle of Verdun

Essay by bareturtCollege, UndergraduateA+, January 2009

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The World War I Battle of Verdun (Feb. 21-Nov. 26, 1916), an unsuccessful German effort to take the offensive in the west, was one of the longest and bloodiest encounters of the war. Total casualties have been estimated at about 542,000 French and about 434,000 Germans.

At the background, on June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb nationalist. The assassination soon triggered World War One. As soon as the war began, Germans began to implement their war plan, the Schlieffen Plan . However, due to the inflexibility of the plan as well as the incompetence of the German commander von Moltke, the Central Powers failed to capture Paris and knock France out of the war.

As a result of the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, the rapid war of movement expected by the great powers before 1914 soon bogged down into a stalemate in the Western front.

Trench warfare was developed and neither sides could achieve a breakthrough. Following the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, both sides attempted to break the trench lines and ended in vain. In September 1914, Falkenhayn succeeded Moltke as Chief of Staff after the Battle of the Marne. Falkenhayn intended to impose a ruinous battle of attrition on the French armies in Verdun as the city held great strategic and symbolic importance to the French.

The BattleThe battle of Verdun was the longest battle of war and cost both sides many thousands of casualties. It was fought between the Germans and French from 21 February to 19 December 1916. The German assault, directed by Gen. Erich von Falkenhayn, began with a furious bombardment followed by an attack on the region surrounding Verdun, which lay in the middle of...