Baptism of Fire
Well, we’re finally here. I posted the first episode of this podcast way back in the beginning of February, and now, some three months and 15 odd episodes later (including the supplementals), we are now finally at the opening battles of the First World War. This third arc of our show, the first to cover the actual war itself, is called “A Most Terrible August,” a line lifted from Sir Conan Doyle (he of Sherlock Holmes fame) who later reflected on the incredible amount of destruction and bloodshed that was caused in just the month of August, 1914, alone. By the end of this month, something like a million people will have been killed as a direct result of this war, and many, many more will have been grievously wounded or driven from their homes as refugees. And yet this “most terrible August” will not ultimately end in victory for any one side, but a stalemate that will prevail in Europe for four years, over the course of which many more millions will be slaughtered. These next few episodes are going to focus exclusively on the opening campaigns on the Western Front, and in our next arc, we will double back and cover the opening campaigns in the East. I think it’s fair to say that the tension for us to get into this war has been building for long enough, so without further ado, let’s get into this thing.
So, I think the first thing we should talk about today is a military strategy that I have hinted at several times already. This is the famous Schlieffen Plan, the name of the German Army’s plan for how they intended to deal with a two-front war against France and Russia. This plan was named after Count Alfred Schlieffen, who in 1905 was Germany’s Chief of the General Staff. In that year, 1905, Schlieffen proposed a strategy that would allow Germany to win a two-front war, by first crushing France to the west, and then turning east to crush Russia. This plan was quickly adopted by the German military, and would remain the basic plan for a potential war with France and Russia right up until 1914. Now the problem, as Schlieffen saw it, was that while he believed the German Army was strong enough to defeat France or Russia in a one on one fight, he did not believe that they could prevail if they had to fight both France and Russia at the same time. Fortunately, everyone believed that of the Great Powers Russia would be the slowest to mobilize, as they had the largest army in Europe, an army that was spread out across territory far greater than anyone else in Europe, and Russia’s internal infrastructure was far less developed than the other countries to the west. That was the good news, from the German point of view. The bad news was that while this would give the Germans some time to focus on France first, if Germany launched an attack upon the relatively small Franco-German border, they would be unable to overcome it in time. Given time, the German high command believed that they eventually could overcome the French defenses along their mutual border, but as that border was guarded with enormous forts and millions of French soldiers, the Germans would be unable to break though those defenses before the Russians were able to mobilize their army and invade Germany from the east. So what to do, what to do…
The plan Schlieffen came up with was rather brutally simple. The German land forces would be divided into eight separate armies, each of these armies being made up of hundreds of thousands of men. Seven of these eight armies would be sent to the west to fight France at the outbreak of war, with these seven armies made up of a combined 68 divisions. As a rough estimate, each of these divisions would be made up of around 18,000 men, so we’re talking about a combined force of more than 1.2 million men attacking just along the Western Front. Nine of these divisions would be stationed on the southern part of the Western Front around Alsace-Lorraine to hold off French advances there, with fully fifty-nine sent to invade the neutral countries of not just Belgium but also the Netherlands. Hopefully, the armies of these two nominally neutral countries would simply stand aside and let the German armies pass through, but even if they didn’t the combined force of this massive invasion would quickly subdue the tiny armies of the low countries. These fifty-nine divisions, around a million men strong, would then smash the relatively meager French defenses on the Franco-Belgian border, with most of the German forces than swinging around behind the French armies along the Franco-German border, while if possible some German forces would be sent to take the now all but defenseless capital of Paris. There is a map attached to today’s episode showing how this would look in practice.
Schlieffen predicted that this plan would take about six weeks to complete, which would give the Germans just enough time to crush France in time to send the bulk of German forces east to counter the Russians, whom Schlieffen predicted would need about six weeks to complete their mobilization. By the time 1914 rolled around, several changes had been made to this plan while keeping the general strategy in place. General Helmuth von Moltke, who succeeded to General Schlieffen’s position as Chief of the General Staff in 1906, was a more conservative man than the fairly reckless gambler Schlieffen, and his revised plan reflected this. First, the German armies in the west would number some 88 divisions rather than the 68 Schlieffen had accounted for, which was good, as though France had a population some 20 million less than Germany, due to her larger conscription effort she would still be able to match the German Army roughly man for man. Moltke placed some thirty-four divisions on the flanking force through the Low Countries, about twenty or twenty-one divisions along the center near the Ardennes forest to invade through Luxembourg, and now some twenty-three divisions down south in Alsace-Lorraine, which many German generals thought was folly as they believed that the flanking force through the Low Countries should be much larger. Further, in 1911 Moltke revised the plan to no longer invade the Netherlands, as it was decided that this would unnecessary and would only add more enemies against Germany and would take more time to completely occupy. This was completely sensible, although it now meant that the thirty-four divisions of the flanking force (perhaps as many as three-quarters of a million men) would now be crowded in the tiny state of Belgium. Generals at the time and historians ever since have debated whether or not this was a sound strategy, and all I will say on the subject is that many believe this would help the German plan while many others say it would hurt it. I leave up to you to decide whether this change in the plan was wise or not.
Now of course, this plan of Germany’s, whether you want to call the Schlieffen Plan or the Schlieffen-Moltke Plan or whatever, was absolutely top secret. But the French had suspected for quite a long time that the Germans might pull something like what became dubbed by history “The Schlieffen Plan.” Just looking at a map of Western Europe, it’s not that hard to guess that if Germany wanted to invade France, doing it via Belgium would bypass a lot of France’s defenses facing towards the Franco-German border. What would come to deeply surprise the French was not the fact that Germany sent an invasion force through Belgium, but just how large that invasion force was, and how wide this force would try to sweep around their flanks. The French probably assumed that a relatively small force of just a few divisions would try to outflank them via Belgium, which is why they felt comfortable leaving the border facing Belgium much less defended. Instead, General von Moltke would send fully thirty-four divisions, nearly a million men as his flanking force. And remember, many generals at the time and historians since criticized Moltke for not making this force even larger than it wound up being.
Now, just like the Germans, the French had a plan for how they would launch a war against Germany developed beforehand. This was the much less memorably named “Plan XVII.” This Plan XVII was designed to be a bit more flexible than the German Schlieffen Plan. The idea was to divide up French forces into five armies. Two of those armies would be stationed along the Franco-German border, ready to strike into and retake the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. One army would be placed along the border with Luxembourg while another was placed along the eastern half of the border with Belgium. The last army would be placed in reserve behind the other four, ready to either move east to counter a German flanking move through Switzerland (deemed highly unlikely but possible), or west to counter a German flanking move through Belgium. Now this plan left the western half of the Franco-Belgian border completely undefended, but the French planned to have that part of the front covered by their British allies. There were, however, two major problems with this plan. First, was that it relied on the British to cover the far-left flank of the French armies, and Britain’s support in this nascent war was not necessarily guaranteed. Fortunately for France, Britain did join the war in their defense. The second problem though was that it would take some time to get the British into position to the west of the French armies, meaning that there would be a critical few days or even weeks where the French left flank was dangerously unguarded. Even with that reserve army in place to counter this move, this would probably take too long as though the French did predict a German move through Belgium, they both underestimated the size of that invasion force and rather inexplicably did not account for the possibility of the Germans sweeping in a wide arc around through the western half of Belgium. If the Germans did this, and that was the German plan, they would be able to smash into the left flank of the French armies before anyone could stop them, and either roll them all the way up to the Swiss border completely destroying them, or turn south and take Paris itself virtually without a fight.
Now before we get into how these various plans would be implemented in practice, let us quickly introduce the man commanding the German Army. Next week we will discuss the British and French leadership, but today let’s keep our focus on the Germans, their plan to invade Belgium, and the man who would be tasked with overseeing the all-important Schlieffen Plan. General Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, as we call him, was born back in 1848 in a small German principality, which was eventually absorbed by Prussia and later the German Empire. This made him 66 years old when war broke out in 1914, and so while nearing the end of his career, he was not exactly in his dotage (though his health would rapidly decline in the coming months, and he would die just two years later). Now this Helmuth von Moltke is pretty well known among historians and enthusiasts of the First World War, as he played an absolutely critical role (for good or ill) in the opening campaigns of the war. But at the time, General Helmuth von Moltke the Younger was far outshone by his much, much more famous uncle, Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. The Elder von Moltke was easily one of the best and most famous generals Germany had ever produced, overseeing the absolutely smashing successes of the Prussian Army in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and, even more impressively, in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. The Elder von Moltke was very much a household name in Germany, and the Younger von Moltke had a massive reputation to live up to when he was appointed Chief of the German General Staff in 1906, succeeding the position of none other than General Alfred von Schlieffen.
Upon assuming the office of Chief of the General Staff, Moltke thus inherited the Schlieffen Plan from his predecessor, and as previously noted he altered the plan to both no longer invade the Netherlands and to somewhat weaken the force that would invade France via Belgium. As we shall see, though a perfectly competent general in most regards, and just as concerned with the all-important field of logistics as his more famous uncle, Moltke was a somewhat cautious and conservative commander, and was probably uncomfortable with the incredibly bold gamble of a plan he inherited from Schlieffen.
The German invasion of Belgium began on the morning August 4, 1914. This invasion was carried out by three of the seven German armies massed along the western front; First Army commanded by General von Kluck, Second Army commanded by General von Bülow, and Third Army commanded by General von Hausen. These three armies were also supported by an independent cavalry corps under General von Marwitz. The Germans had somewhat naïvely hoped that the Belgian Army would either stand aside or, in a display to preserve their honor, fire a few token shots into the air before surrendering. Instead, King Albert I of Belgium assumed command of the tiny Belgian Army, and began to hastily assemble a defensive ring to protect the capital of Brussels from the German invasion. The three German armies were, as mentioned before, composed of thirty-four divisions, and they would be facing the entire Belgian Army composed of just six divisions. Beyond their numerical disadvantage, the Belgian Army was scattered all across the country and would need time to assemble along the eastern border with Germany. So the Belgian King Albert I ordered one division each to stay garrisoned at the fortress cities of Liège and Namur to hold off the Germans while the rest of the Army was moved to a defensive position along the River Meuse centered around the city of Louvain. Feel free to look at the maps attached to today’s episode to get a sense of this. The Belgians knew that there was no way that they could ever stop this German force, but hopefully they could hold out long enough for French and British reinforcements to come and rescue them before all of Belgium was completely overrun.
Now despite the fact that Liège, the first major city in the German’s path, was going to be garrisoned by just a single division, and they would be facing the entire German First and Second Armies, the Belgians had reason to believe that they would be able to slow the Germans long enough for help to arrive. The city of Liège was surrounded by a dozen massive forts built in the 1880s that, at the time, were strong enough to defend against any munitions then known in the world. These fortresses were actually mostly buried underground, covered by several feet of earth and concrete, and housed rotating turrets that could rise up out of the ground, shoot, and then be lowered back underground to be reloaded. Combined the twelve forts housed more than 400 pieces of heavy artillery, the smallest of which were fairly large 210mm howitzers. Each turret housed a few machine guns to defend against oncoming infantry, and these turrets all covered one another fields of fire so that, in the distance, there was nowhere to hide from the guns. In between these forts were trench lines connecting the forts together, filled with infantry with machine gun support. Even outnumbered ten to one, the Belgians were confident that these forts would be able to halt any force that came their way.
The Germans were deeply upset that the Belgians were not simply giving way, as the schedule for them to move through Belgium and smash the armies of France was razor thin. General von Moltke had promised the Austro-Hungarian commander Conrad von Hötzendorf that German forces would be on their way from the western front to the eastern front within forty days. So these Belgian forts needed to be reduced as quickly as possible. The vanguard of the First Army was made up of several infantry brigades under General von Emmich, composed of about 60,000 men. Their job was to seize the forts around Liège should the Belgians resist the invasion. The Belgian forces opposing them, numbered around 25,000, though most of them were garrisoned in the city of Liège itself, with only about five thousand in the forts surrounding the city.
As this vanguard under General von Emmich marched through the Belgian countryside on the way to Liège, they found themselves under increasingly intense sniper fire from Belgian civilians. This enraged the German soldiers, and whenever they were attacked by, what they called, “Freischützen” or literally “free-shooters,” from a Belgian village, they would often respond by summarily executing any civilians they suspected of either firing the shots or hiding the snipers, or sometimes even burning whole villages to the ground, killing whom they could and sending the rest fleeing in panic. This was partly the result of the individual rage of individual German soldiers, but as often as not German officers would order these reprisals out of a desire to prevent one of the key problems the Prussians faced during the Franco-Prussian War. After the Battle of Sedan in the early stages of the Franco-Prussian War, after which point the French Army was all but destroyed, the Prussians had dealt constantly with what the French called “franc-tireurs,” which is a French word that loosely translates as “sniper.” These were French civilians who would on their own initiative raid and harass Prussian columns marching through the French countryside, with eventually tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of these franc-tireurs wreaking havoc on Prussian supply lines and slowing down the pace of the Prussian invasion at every step. German officers in 1914 were determined to not let that sort of thing slow down their advance on the Western Front, as time was of the essence in this war. From lieutenants and captains commanding individual German platoons and companies all the way up to the commander-in-chief, General von Moltke, a policy of intentionally terrorizing Belgian (and later French) civilians into submission was instituted. “Our advance in Belgium is certainly brutal,” Moltke wrote on August 5, “but we are fighting for our lives and all who get in the way must take the consequences.” Worse yet for the Belgian civilians was that the reports of snipers attacking German columns were often figments of the German imagination. Many historians have concluded that these German soldiers, most of them young and never having heard a shot in anger in their lives, would often cry out “Freischützen!” at the sound of any rifle going off, not realizing that in many cases these were fired by German soldiers in the distance. So many Belgian civilians were killed and many villages burned to the ground for no other reason than jumpy soldiers jumping at shadows.
On August 5, the day Moltke openly called the advance through Belgium “brutal,” General von Emmich’s brigades launched their first attack on the forts to the east of Liège. Despite the fact that these were hand-picked, elite troops of (arguably) the greatest army in the world, attacking an outnumbered force of what the Germans sneeringly referred to as “chocolate soldiers,” this initial attack was an unmitigated disaster. The Germans began the attack with a brief bombardment of the eastern forts with light field artillery, which the Belgian forts were completely impervious to. After this, thousands of German soldiers charged the forts, only to be decimated by the massive artillery within the Belgian forts. When a few survivors of these charges managed to get within a few hundred yards of the forts, close enough so that the Belgian artillery could not be lowered enough to hit them, these survivors were massacred by Belgian machine gun fire. Again and again the Germans attacked, and again and again they were slaughtered, in the words of Barbara Tuchman “spending lives like bullets,” with but a few survivors straggling back to the German lives. A Belgian officer who was present at this massacre later wrote, “As line after line of the German infantry advanced, we simply mowed them down. It was terribly easy…They made no attempt at deploying, but came on, line after line, almost shoulder to shoulder, until, as we shot them down, the fallen were heaped one on top of the other, in an awful barricade of dead and wounded men that threatened to mask our guns and cause us trouble…it was slaughter, just slaughter! So high became the barricade of the dead and wounded that we did not know whether to fire through it or to go out and clear openings with our hands…But would you believe it? This veritable wall of dead and dying actually enabled those wonderful Germans to creep closer, and actually charge up the glacis? Of course, they got no further than halfway, for our maxims and rifles swept them back.”
A couple of things to note about this quote. First, as has been pointed out by, among others, the eminent podcast historian emeritus Dan Carlin in his wonderful series on the First World War “Blueprint for Armageddon,” did you catch that reference the Belgian officer made to “those wonderful Germans?” The idea of gallantry and heroism in combat that you could respect even among your enemy in a war was still ingrained in the European consciousness. Remember, this is during the very early days of the war, before millions of people had been senselessly slaughtered in a never-ending, never-moving, trench warfare. Soldiers could still admire and cheer on the gallantry of their opponents, and see not only their own successes but even the bravery of their opponents as glorious. Second though, is the amount of slaughter caused in just a few hours of fighting here is simply stunning. So many German soldiers were killed in these attacks that literal walls of corpses were being created that other soldiers could actually hide behind and shoot from. Can you imagine being a member of this assault, having never been in combat in your entire life, being in a situation where you are taking cover from rifle, machine gun, and cannon fire behind a wall of corpses, some of whom may have been people you knew? Already, just days after the war had started, the god of war was being propitiated with rivers of blood, and this river would be turned into a flooding torrent within just a few weeks.
By dusk on August 5, General von Emmich had called off the attacks on the eastern forts of Liège and ordered his brigades to fall back and regroup. He planned to launch an assault that night when, hopefully, his troops would be concealed from the Belgian artillery and be able to approach the forts in sufficient numbers to take them. The attack began at midnight, with German companies slowly approaching the forts hoping not to be spotted. When the German advance was noticed the Belgians began sending up flares and star shells to illuminate the battlefield so they could see the enemy. German soldiers would rush from one piece of cover to another in the interval between the Belgian flares, all the while being blasted by heavy artillery and hosed by machine gun and rifle fire.
One of the German brigades, the 14th, became lost and confused in the darkness, unsure of which road to march down after their commanding officer was killed. So a staff officer attached with the army assumed command of the unit, composed of about 1,500 men, and led it in between two of the forts guarding the city of Liège. As they were advancing, this brigade was hit on both sides by Belgian machine gun fire, and the staff officer leading the brigade heard the quote, “peculiar thud of bullets striking human bodies” for the first time in his life. Despite suffering significant casualties, the heavy artillery of the forts was unable to target this brigade, and so the German brigade managed to slip in between the two forts and began to march on the city itself. This lone brigade, completely isolated from friendly units but nonetheless having penetrated the Belgian defenses, then fired its light field guns at the citadel in the center of Liège, hoping to force the city to surrender.
The defense of Liège was in the hands of Belgian general Leman, who was directing the defense from within the citadel in the city center. When the citadel started to be hit by German artillery, Leman realized that the defensive ring around the city had been penetrated, though by how strong a force he did not know. The forts surrounding the city each had a garrison of about 400 men (so all twelve forts combined had a garrison of around five thousand), while the 20,000 men of the Belgian Third division, one of only six divisions that made up the entire Belgian Army, garrisoned the city itself. General Leman knew that Liège was a critical defensive stronghold that guarded vital bridges that the Germans needed to cross in order to move into the rest of the country, and that defending the city was imperative. Yet he decided that it was more important that the Third Division not be completely surrounded and cut off. So on the afternoon of August 6, General Leman ordered the Third Division out of the city to retreat towards the rest of the army assembling at Louvain. The forts would simply have to hold out by themselves and delay the Germans for as long as possible. After forcing the Belgian Third Division to withdraw from Liège, the staff officer leading the German 14th Brigade assumed that advance units of his brigade had taken the Citadel of the city. So he drove up to the citadel with a single aide in a car expecting to see German soldiers garrisoning it. Seeing none, this staff officer banged on the gates of the citadel with the hilt of his sword, demanding the surrender of the city. The few Belgian soldiers still inside the citadel, stunned at the bravado of this random German officer, formally surrendered the citadel, and therefore the city of Liège, to the Germans. This random German staff officer though had just established a name for himself that would soon be world famous, and of all the people mentioned in this episode, his is the name that you actually have to remember. That officer was named Major General Erich von Ludendorff. Thanks in part to the name he made for himself at Liège, and in much larger part thanks to his work on the Eastern Front in just a few weeks, by the end of the war General Erich von Ludendorff will be the dictator of Germany in all but name. Though critical to the story of the First World War, I think I’ll wait until Ludendorff really makes his name against the Russians in a few weeks to fully introduce him. But feel free to write that name down: Erich von Ludendorff.
Despite the fantastic success General Ludendorff had in taking the city of Liège itself, the job of the assault force was not done. The twelve forts surrounding the city had not yet surrendered, and they needed to be taken out of action as quickly as possible, as Liège was the only place the German forces in this sector of Belgium could cross the Meuse river. It was decided that launching another frontal infantry attack on the forts would be pointless; though with enough time and manpower the German commanders knew they could eventually overwhelm the forts, they had no time nor manpower to spare. So, they decided to play their trump card for the Belgian forts.
While the German First, Second, and Third Armies had been marching through Belgium in the first days of August, and while the First and Second Armies in particular had been halted by the stiff Belgian resistance at Liège, the German high command had secretly ordered about ten artillery pieces to be sent to the vanguard forces attacking Liège. Now, ten artillery pieces does not sound like very much, but these guns were unlike anything yet seen in human history. When the forts surrounding Liège had been completed in the 1880s, the designer of the forts had guaranteed that they could withstand bombardment from any cannon then known in the world. But German and Austro-Hungarian engineers had been hard at work over the last thirty odd years developing guns of absolutely staggering size. Specifically, the Krupp arsenal in Germany had designed a 420mm mortar while the Skoda arsenal in Austria-Hungary had developed a 305mm model. Now, telling you the diameter of the shells these things fired doesn’t in any way do justice to just how destructive these weapons were. So here’s some more specifics. Just looking at the German 420mm mortars, each of these cannons weighed [insert weight here]; each shell these monsters fired weighed [insert weight here]. Despite the fact that these mortars were not designed for long-range firing, they could still reign fire and death upon a target at a distance of seven miles. So high was the trajectory of the shells, which were designed to fire in a long arc so they could drop down upon a target, that it took 60-seconds after firing for each shell to traverse its 4,000-foot arc before slamming into the ground with unbelievable force.
Now obviously, you can’t just pull cannons of this size behind a few trucks or horse drawn carriages; each gun had to be disassembled into multiple pieces, driven by train to as close to the front as possible, each piece hauled down tiny winding roads, and then reassembled at the intended firing area. Before being assembled, soldiers would dig an emplacement trench more than a meter deep and then fill it with cement, which then had to dry, such was the power of the recoil of these cannons that they would shatter the ground upon which they sat, and eventually shatter even themselves, once fired.
The Krupp and Skoda siege mortars arrived at the German positions outside of Liège on the morning of August 12, and were assembled and ready to go by late afternoon. The first target was Fort Pontisse on the northeastern corner of the ring around Liège. The crew of one of the Krupp 420mm mortars, after loading the weapon (which had to be done my means of a special crane), then moved 300 yards away from the cannon, covered their eyes, nose, mouth, and ears with cotton wadding, and fired the cannon by means of an electronic switch. These measures were taken so that the concussion of the cannon firing would not blow out the eardrums of the crew, or even damage internal organs. That’s how monstrously powerful these guns were. The first shot, however, fell short of the fort. By now a few of the Skoda 305s were set up and ready, and the crews spent the next hour or so walking the shells up to the targeted fort, adjusting their aim with each shot. Finally, one of the shells struck home. These were not simple high-explosive shells mind you; these were armor piercing shells with delay-action fuses which would only detonate the explosive charge of the shell after penetrating the concrete of the fort. Now that the range had been found, the siege mortars proceeded to pound Fort Pontisse into submission. The feet of solid earth, concrete, and steel that protected the men inside was no match for these monstrous new cannons, and dozens of men were blown to bits with each hit. As one survivor recalled, men became “hysterical, even mad in the awful apprehension of the next shot.” Fort Pontisse, which had repelled numerous assaults by the German armies costing the attackers hundreds if not thousands of lives, was almost completely destroyed by 45 shells from the giant siege mortars. What few survivors there were of the fort surrendered on the morning of August 13. Two more forts were all but destroyed that day, and by the end of August 14 every fort to the north and east of Liège had surrendered. The German forces then moved into the now vacated city of Liège itself, while the siege mortars were dragged to within range of the western forts. A civil administrator of the city, who was there for the battle and witnessed the massive guns being brought through his city, was utterly stunned by their size and later wrote, “Hannibal’s elephants could not have astonished the Romans more!”
Finally, at the end of August 15 the cannons were all in place and began to fire upon the western forts. The first shot from one of the 420mm guns shook the very ground around the city, shattering every window nearby. By the next day, August 16, all twelve forts had fallen to the Germans. Though they had been delayed and lost thousands of well-trained men, the German Army had smashed through Liège, and were on their way to envelop all of Belgium, and ultimately all of France.
We’re going to leave things here for this week. One last thing I’d like to mention before we end today, is that, remember when I teased doing a supplemental episode about the famous Dreyfus Affair in France? Well, I just started a mini-series on the Dreyfus Affair, and the first episode of that mini-series is now available. However, it is only available for download for patrons on Patreon. So, if you’d like to listen to that, then feel free to head over to patreon.com/seminalcatastrophepodcast, or go to “Support the Show” on the website seminalcatastrophepodcast.com. The plan is to release a bonus episode for patrons on Patreon every month. Anyway, hopefully after today’s episode, you’ve started to get a sense of just how deadly warfare had become, just how powerful modern weapons now were. But the Battle of Liège was merely a small appetizer for the true slaughter that was about to erupt along the entire Western Front.
Doughty, Robert. Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2009.
Hart, Peter. The Great War: A Combat History of the First World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Horne, Charles F. Source Records of the Great War. Boston: Stuart-Copley Press, 1923.
Meyer, G.J. A World Undone: The Story of the Great War 1914-1918. New York: Bantam Dell, 2006.
Tuchman, Barbara. The Guns of August. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1962.
Schlieffen, Alfred von. The Schlieffen Plan. German History in Documents and Images. http://ghdi.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=796