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Efforts To Break The Stalemate On The Western Front

849 words - 3 pages

Efforts to Break the Stalemate on the Western Front

There are five main factors that are crucial in explaining the
development of a stalemate on the Western Front. All the armies and
navies of Europe faced each other across fortified front lines. The
pre-war plans had succumbed to the technological surprise of 1914-15:
that the withering firepower of machine-guns, cartridge rifles, and
rapid-fire artillery favoured the defence. Infantry in deep trenches,
fronted with mines and barbed wire and backed by artillery, could not
be dislodged by frontal attack. Accordingly, military and political
leaders spent the war groping for means of breaking the stalemate in
the trenches. First, neutrals might be enticed to enter the war,
perhaps throwing enough weight into the balance to provide victory.
Second, new weapons, tactics, and theatres might break the deadlock or
achieve strategic goals elsewhere. Third, more and more men and
material might be squeezed out of the home economy to tip the balance
of forces or wear down the enemy by economic attrition. The first of
theses means determined much of the diplomatic history of the war. The
second stimulated technological developments such as poison gas,
tanks, and submarines, as well as the peripheral campaigns of southern
Europe and the Middle East. The third determined the evolution of war
economies and the character of what came to be called total war.

In 1916 German strategists again turned west with the expressed
intention of bleeding France white and breaking her army's spirit. The
object of attack was to be the fortress of Verdun, and the plan called
for substitution of ordnance for manpower as much as possible, thereby
using Germany's industrial might to kill Frenchmen in the most
efficient way. On February 21 an avalanche of shells and poison gas
rained down for five months without interruption. In December 1915 an
allied conference at Chantilly had decided to co-ordinate simultaneous
attacks on all fronts. Given Verdun, responsibility for the Western
assault fell to the British. After elaborate preparation and a week of
bombardment the cream of Kitchener's New Army went over the top on
July 1 1916, and strode in formation...

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