Academic Master


How was Germany’s so-called “Schlieffen Plan” supposed to work in 1914, and what were the major reasons for its failure?

General Alfred Von Schlieffen invented and acknowledged the “Schlieffen Plan” in December 1905 as a key strategy in World War I for the Germans as a backup system to help them win if they had a war with Russia and France. In actuality, the plan was created to wipe out France from the war to avoid the Germans fighting on the two fronts. The Schlieffen plan allowed Germany to invade as many countries as possible by not fighting on the two fronts, Russia and France. Schlieffen knew that Germany could not invade the Triple Entente of France, Russia, and Britain at the same time and if France would have been defeated, Germans would not have had a war on the two fronts. Therefore, Alfred Schlieffen devised the plan to invade France’s strong defense, first through Germany’s best railway system. The Germans’ plan went like Germany had one of the world’s best railway systems in the world which enabled them to take an easy and quick route as well as transport the troops by rail efficiently to the France front line. In 1906, they changed the Schlieffen plan, and later in 1914 when the war had started a German general Moltke ordered troops to take the way through Belgium, Holland, and Luxemburg to enter France without being noticed. Schlieffen planned to divide the German army into two groups, the Southern and Northern armies. He planned to use 90% of the German army for the fall of Paris by commanding the Southern army to attack France/German border first and the Northern army which was 10 times bigger than the Southern armed group comprising 1.3 million troops to wait for the orders to enter the fight from the Belgium/German border. They achieved so by encircling Paris from all sides and different angles from East and West Paris by making the power of the German armed forces eight times stronger than the army of the Ardennes Region. The northern army was sent a message to launch a surprise attack on France when the Southern army would draw their troops back upon the orders to attack Paris from behind. France subsequently surrendered and made peace with the Germans in just 39 days and then German troops got over to the Russian borders through their railway system after the capitulation of France in 3 days. (Showalter et al., 2019)

As Alfred Schlieffen and Moltke took down Belgium because they could not invade Russia and France at the same time, they did so by defeating France in 3 weeks while the Russians only took 10 days to get ready for the war against Germany. Therefore, Moltke had to withdraw 1 million of the German troops so they could not take the chance to conquer France. Meanwhile, the deployed troops met the French army at the Battle of Marne and Britain stood with Belgium by its guarantee of neutrality which halted the advance of the German army. Britain in response to the Germans’ invasion declared the war on Germany on August 4, 1914, and shipped its 1 million and 20 thousand troops secretly to France against Germany from the British forces as Britain felt itself all-powerful at that time. Belgium resisted but its capital Brussels fell on August 20, the following year. British army held German troops for a short amount of time in Belgium while Russia invaded and eventually Germany stationed a large number of troops to fight Russians which resulted in 300,000 causalities in France. German commander General Joseph Joffre had to hold back German troops in the east of Paris because France wanted to take revenge and the Alsace-Lorraine lands back from Germany. Consequently, the British army moved quickly and mobilized millions of troops in France which resulted in an unforeseen counterattack from the French and British forces. Germans’ army generals at that time came to the doomed realization that they had been outsmarted as they were surrounded by an alliance of enemies (France, Britain, and Russia) during the First World War. (Showalter et al., 2019) In the nutshell, the factors which cost the Germans an essential element of haste were their choice to avoid their entry through Holland, poor management of troops on the Western front against Britain, and the poor regulation and coordination of Southern and Northern German troops in the hands of Moltke who never was a confident general like Alfred Schlieffen.



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