The Schlieffen Plan 1905 and 1914

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Map Code: Ax00156

Postwar Germany overwhelmingly ascribed their ultimate defeat to the failure of Field Marshal von Moltke to adhere to the Schlieffen Plan. This plan, prepared in 1905, dictated a lightning strike with overwhelming force on the western front, rapidly capturing Paris and neutralizing France, thence enabling German forces to concentrate on the defeat of Russia in the East. Von Moltke diluted the plan, using less troops than specified and tilting the balance of the assault eastward. As later analysts have pointed out, the revisionist thesis neglects certain key factors: von Schlieffen, working in 1905, was envisaging a one-front war, against France alone, and a counteroffensive rather than a unilateral strike. In practice, improved French defences and limitations of transport and communications would have meant that even a ‘pure Schlieffen’ battleplan would have failed to make a decisive breakthrough.

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