The morning of February 21, 1916, marked the beginning of one of the longest, bloodiest and costliest battles in World War I and history. For about 300 gruesome days, the French and German armies exchanged a brutal cycle of attacks, counterattacks and bombardments. The battle plunged the region around the Meuse River, not even 10 km radius, into what was later called the “Hell of Verdun”. Hundreds of thousands of German infantries, heavy artillery, and bombardments were unleashed upon French armies positioned around forts and inside the fortified city of Verdun. Although the Germans planned for their attack to bleed France to death, the battle pulled both of them into a long and expensive impasse. By December 19th, the French were able to get the upper hand and regained their territory, but not before sustaining heavy causalities. The French and German armies suffered 800,000 men or more between them. Come and explore ten facts about the longest battle of World War I.
10. The Germans wanted Verdun to be a battle of attrition.
German General Staff Erich van Falkenhayn came up with a plan that he believed would change the tide of the war. . He considered the Britsh to be the ones that formed the foundation of the Allied war effort. But the French were the shield that kept the British from defeat. So he wanted to kill as many French soldiers as possible to weaken the shield and either leave the British open to defeat or negotiation. He code-named the plan Unternehmen Gericht (Operation Judgement/Execution).
Due to previous heavy losses of French causalities in the first three days of the war, the strategy for Verdun was different from the battles that Germany was known for during the war. van Falkenhayn knew from the start that an attack on Verdun would be a long battle because the French would do anything to keep from losing Verdun. He knew that the French would simply keep sending in reinforcements rather than suffering the national humiliation that would come with a loss at Verdun. He wrote to the Kaiser William II that, “If they do so, the forces of France will bleed to death”. Von Falkenhayn knew that the Germans would suffer losses as well, but he believed that the French would have a worse time of it and that their forces would be so depleted that they would no longer be a threat in the war. Once the French were no longer a force on the Allied side, German victory in the war would be a certainty.