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Stalemate in the West, Decision in the East 1914 -1917

trench warfare

Germany’s generals had for some time expected that they would have to fight both France and Russia, and Count Alfred von Schlieffen had devised a battle plan that took this into consideration. The Schlieffen Plan was a good one and it might well have brought the war to an early end — if General Helmut von Moltke, who succeeded Schlieffen as the German commander, had followed it. The plan called for the German army to be divided into an eastern force and a western force. Russia, vast and with few good roads or railroads, would need more time than France to bring up its troops; a fairly small German force could therefore hold off the Russians during the first weeks of the war. Meanwhile, a huge German force would invade France and would defeat it in six weeks. Then the victorious German troops in the west would be sent east to join their comrades in a massive thrust against Russia. The heart of the plan was the strike into France and at the start of the war, the huge German army in the west was poised along the French and Belgian borders. Its left wing, running north from Switzerland, consisted of only several divisions, each of 15,000 men, but its right wing, farther north, was made up of most of the German foot-soldiers under arms. The army was supposed to move like a gate swinging on a hinge. Its right wing was to advance rapidly across Belgium into northern France, catch the French army on its left and hurl it back. Caught between the German right and left wings, the French would have to give up or be destroyed. For the plan to succeed, the right wing had to be very strong. Count Schlieffen, had understood this; his last words …

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