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Essay on the Schlieffen Plan

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"The Schlieffen Plan failed because the German high command made too many mistakes in August and September of 1914" The mistakes that the German high command made in August and September of 1914 did contribute to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan. There are however other factors to be considered; such as the Britain's unexpected protection of Belgium and involvement in the war. Many people would agree with the statement made in the title. Without Commander Von Moltke's alterations to the Schlieffen Plan, Germany would have won the war. This is a strong argument and supported by many influential decisions made after the death of the plan's creator General Schlieffen. The main argument for this side is that Schlieffen "brilliant" plan depended on a fast, punch like strike involving a huge percentage of German troops. The German forces guarding the Alsace-Lorraine border, between Metz and Switzerland would be left weak, encouraging the French to attack this land they desperately wanted back. With the majority of French forces focused on this area, the hugely backed northern army could gain entry to France through Belgium where the defences were weak. This way they could engulf Paris from the north. This would knock out the French in a predicted six weeks, giving the German forces ample time to head east and fight the slow Russian army. ...read more.


However if you share another view you may argue the failure of the plan was the fault of Von Moltke, Bulow (the 2nd army commander) and Hentsch (Moltke's liaison officer at the battle of Marne) because of its use, or even consideration in World War One. On the other hand, the alterations the German high command made in 1914 are seen by some as only a contribution to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan. Other factors need to be considered when forming an opinion. The first factor that needs to be considered is the building of railways in Russia. The plan depended on Russia being slow mobilising its huge army, giving German forces time to attack the French and have time to head east. Before the war, Russia began to build railways spanning the whole width of the country. This affected the outcome of the war as it gave mobility to the Russian army. With this new transport links large numbers of both troops and peasants could be bought in quickly from the countryside to fight. Another major event that lead to the failure of the Schlieffen Plan was Britain's protection of Belgium and involvement in the war. Schlieffen had not anticipated Britain's eagerness to defend a country of which the protectorate was signed almost a hundred years before. This contributed to the failure of the plan as it held up the German advance. ...read more.


The final factor that influenced the failure of the Schlieffen Plan was the "old" style of warfare employed by German troops early on in the war. Source D shows German soldiers walking across open fields in a flat line. The point is also illustrated in Source E, "On the 23rd of August we were attacked by waves of German infantry advancing over open fields. Such tactics amazed us..." the source continues to say how the first wave of men fell helplessly as they were hit. If a modern style of warfare had been in use at this battle near Mons, would Germany of lost as many men? This contributed to the failure of the Schlieffen, as it created unnecessary loses to German platoons early on in the war. This could of resulted in Germany not having the man-power to capture Paris quickly as they had hoped. On the whole I do not believe that the German high command can be blamed completely for the failure of the Schlieffen Plan. The mistakes they made in August and September of 1914 were a definite contribution, however I believe factors such as logistics, Belgium defending itself, Britain becoming involved, building of railways over Russia etc. are also major factors to be considered when forming an opinion on this topic. However if the original German plan was enforced; the predicted 90% of their forces had been sent through Belgium and Holland into France, who knows if the world of today would look as it does now? ...read more.

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