By securing the various forts and earthworks of the Région Fortifée de Verdun, General Falkenhayn intended to exploit the area’s historic place in the French psyche in order to draw in French forces and bombard them, causing mass casualties so that France would ‘bleed to death’. Underestimating the German threat in the area, the French were utterly overpowered in the first few days of the offensive and were slow to mobilize reinforcements. French morale was shattered by incessant artillery bombardment and the first appearance of the Germans’ infamous flamethrowers. Due to the stripping of most of the defensive guns and troops across the RFV in 1915, the Germans were able to overrun the fort at Douamont which was only defended by a maintenance force of about 60 men. Despite initial German superiority, bad weather saturated the battlefield, making it difficult for the artillery to advance and provide cover.
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