World War I: War of Attrition

Figure 1.--The csualties during World war I were unprecedented in warfare. And unlike World War II, much of it ooccureef close to hime.Having failed to defeat France in a massive invasion lkaunching the Wr, the Germans decided to wage a war of attrition designed to crack the French Army. They chose Verdun, knowing that the French would stand at fight. The French Army did not crack, but it ws destoyed as an offensive force. What the Germand did not anticipate was how badly their own army woul be damaged in the war of attriion. The French text reads, "Que cette lettre, ô mon vaillant papa que j'aime, T'apporte un grand baiser où j'ai mis tout moi-même." That mean something like, "This letter, my brave dad I love, Brings you a big kiss where I put everything myself." This is a postcard actually sent during a critical pont in the War (February 1918). The Germans were preparing to launch what they believed to be their final, war winning offenive. Only they enciubtered in the Allied lines, American Doughboys not yt weakened by attrition. Click on the image to see the message on the back.

The German war plan, the Scliffen Plan, was designed to win the War quickly in a massive Western OIffensive before he Rusians could mobilize. The Russians mobilized fster than expected and thd French held on the Marne. Thus the war that the Germans launched turned into a deadly war of attrition. The professional armies of 1914 were devestated in the early fighting before commnders began to adjust tactics to the deadly new wepons. The professionals had to be replced with youthful conscripts. Even Britain had to eventually begin conscription. It was more of a controversy in the Dominions. The Germans having failed to win the War at th onset, decided to breal the French Army at Verdun knowing that the French would fight and not retreat. The Germans failed to break the French Army, but did destroy it as an offensive force. And the Germans also paid a terrible price. What began as a rapid war of movement soon settled down to static trench warfare and became a brutal war of attrition. While the Germans had the advantage at the beginning of the War, a long war of attrition was not to their advantage. The German Army was designed for aggressive, offensive campaigning. The German Empire was well suited to wage an exyended ar of attrition. Germany had the single largest industrial base in Europe, but lacked the access to raw materials and agricultural production available to the Allies. The Royal Navy's command of the seas was to proive a decisive advantage. This meant that the British and French with a larger combined industrial base nd who could obtain militry supplies, raw material, and food from the British overseas dominions and neutral countries like America had an advantage. German industrial and agricultural production fell as more and more men were drawn into the military. The drafting of agricultural workers would undermine the war economy of Germany and Austria as food shortage developed and becme increasingly severe. The neutral United States with its vast industrial capacity and agricultural production was especially important and gave the Allies with their command of the seas a virtually inexautible source of war materials and food. To redress this inbalance the Germans turned to their U-boats in an effort to cut Britain's sea lifelines. In the end, the Germans would not only fail to cut Allied supply lines, but disastrously bring America into the War on the Allied side. The Germans at enormous cost knocked Russia out of the War and crippled the French Army. The Kaiser then threw away these dearly won achievements and drew American into the War the only country with the manpower and resources capable of redressing the war of attrition that had stalematted the Western Front for 4 years. It was a action of stunning incomptence, only exceed by the next German war leader.



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Created: 9:50 PM 5/27/2014
Last updated: 9:50 PM 5/27/2014