SCHLIEFFEN PLAN IN WORLD WAR I
The Schlieffen Plan was the German plan of attack at the beginning of World War I in 1914. The Schlieffen Plan was designed by and named after the Germany Army Chief of Staff, Alfred von Schlieffen. He had been asked to design a plan of attack to help ensure German victory at the outbreak of war in Europe. Since Germany was facing both France and Russia in World War I, Germany would have to deal with a two-front war and the possibility of its total armed forces being split to fight on both its western and eastern borders. The Schlieffen Plan was Germany’s response to this problem and at its heart the Schlieffen Plan was designed to prevent Germany from being forced to fight a two-front war.
The Schlieffen Plan was designed such that Germany would first attack France through Belgium. France had fortified its border towns with Germany and in order to avoid this, Germany hoped to bypass them completely by invading French territory from Belgium. The German forces were then to make their way across the French territory until they captured Paris, which was the capital of France. By capturing Paris, Germany hoped to end the war with France and come to peace or surrender terms with the French. Next, German forces would turn their attention to its eastern border and begin the assault against Russia. In the early 1900’s Russia was primarily an agricultural-based economy and lacked the heavy industry required to manufacture weapons and tools for war. As such, Germany believed that Russia would be slow to mobilize for the war and take as long as 6 weeks. The Schlieffen Plan was designed such that Germany could knock France out of the war before that time and then turn its attention to fighting Russian forces. For instance, Germany first invaded France, through Belgium, but also fought Russian forces in the East at the Battle of Tannenberg.
In reality, the Schlieffen Plan failed to deliver the result that the German’s hoped for. The overall plan failed for several different reasons. First, Germany did not plan on the British forces (British Expeditionary Force) arriving in time to help the Belgium forces defend against the German offensive. This slowed the German push towards France and allowed France to prepare for war in the north. When the Germans finally did push into France they failed to capture Paris and were stopped at the First Battle of the Marne. At the same time, Russia was able to mobilize its war effort in the east in less than 2 weeks, and forced Germany to begin to fight a two-front war.
In the end, the Schlieffen Plan failed to bring a quick end to World War I and instead led to trench warfare in Northern France. For instance, following the First Battle of the Marne in 1914, the Allies raced against Germany to ‘outflank’ the other in an event known as the ‘Race to the Sea’.
The ‘Race to the Sea’ occurred throughout September and October of 1914. The German Army was successfully stopped at the First Battle of the Marne in early September and each side raced north in an attempt to flank the other. British and French forces countered the German push north throughout September and October until the two sides reached the North Sea in Belgium on October 19th. What resulted was a line of trenches that extended throughout much of northern Belgium and France. It was along this line of trenches that some of the most significant battles of World War I took place.
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