By Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D., college of Tennessee

Developed long before the battle itself, the German Schlieffen arrangement was part of an extensive military preparation. Unfortunately, it was doomed come fail.

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Map of to work of Schlieffen setup (Image: Tinodela/Public domain)

The Schlieffen Plan


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Alfred von Schlieffen, 1906 (Image: picture studio E. Bieber/Public domain)

Developed long before the war itself, the German Schlieffen setup was part of considerable military preparation.

The man who do it was the German basic chief the staff, general Alfred von Schlieffen. He served as cook of staff from 1891 to 1905 and also excelled precisely at cautious preparation and also thinking in summary terms around the military difficulty that Germany’s geopolitical position represented.

Simply put, Germany’s geopolitical challenge was the opportunity of battle on two fronts simultaneously. In ~ the facility of Europe, it might find itself required to fight versus both France in the west and also Russia in the east.

Schlieffen’s arrangement was a sweeping, bolder conception of exactly how to accomplish victory in a two-front war. Essentially, speed would it is in of the essence: first, by very quickly ruining France, and also then turning on the Russian good power, a nation that was meant to be slow to mobilize and much more ponderous in that is preparations because that war.

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The Schlieffen plan disregarded the political effects of what was regarded as essentially a technical systems to a military problem. It called for the violation that Belgian and Dutch neutrality by invading both those countries to achieve surprise in a vast attack ~ above France.

A large German pressure would come swinging through north France after invading Belgium and Holland, arcing approximately Paris to accomplish decisive success within a timetable of about six weeks. It to be hoped that Paris itself would be surrounded—French armies and also French leadership—and the this would represent a military masterpiece, a battle of annihilation.

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The Schlieffen Plan’s emphasized a vast concentration of pressure on the best wing, whereby the German activity would come plunging through north France. ~ von Schlieffen died, this arrangement was further operated on and also altered through Helmuth von Moltke, his successor.

Von Moltke changed particular aspects of the plan. The did not solve the political difficulty of violating neutrality, but he decreased it by decreasing to invade Holland. He likewise took troops away from the large movement the was projected for the intrusion of north France; the instead drew off some of those troops come the east Front and also others for the defense that the territory of Lorraine come the south.

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The French Plan


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Joseph Joffre, French Marshal, CiC the French military in 1914 (Image: Unknown/Public domain)

At specifically the exact same time the Schlieffen arrangement was put right into action, that opposite, the French’s arrangement XVII, was enacted.

The French plan, endorsed by command Joseph Joffre, dubbed for an all-out attack into Germany to regain the lost territories of Alsace-Lorraine, avenging the humiliating loss of 1871, and redeeming French honor. Stressing the “cult the the offensive,” plan XVII often tended to underestimate German to make reservation that can be deployed in the defense the these regions and, in a an extremely real sense, played into the expectations of the Schlieffen Plan.

An assault of the south would certain what the German planners hope for: that their sweeping motion would catch even much more French troops. In practice, however, both plans broke down in disaster.

Plan XVII, i beg your pardon was launched on august 14, 1914, broke against German defenses in Lorraine and also suffered massive losses. The fate the the Schlieffen arrangement proceeded a little an ext positively at an initial and appeared to be succeeding, but then it broke down in what climate was dubbed the “Miracle the the Marne” through French patriots, a important remarkable minute of salvation and national mobilization to expel the German invader.

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The invasion of Belgium

On respectable 4, 1914, German troops attacked Belgium. They relocated through Belgium, then plunged into France. By early on September, they had reached the Marne River, part 20 mile from Paris.

It is claimed that German development troops might see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. The German advance, however, had been slowed, through the Schlieffen plan running behind schedule at vital moments. The German breakthrough had been hampered through fiercer Belgian resistance than had been anticipated—as well together by the destruction of railroads and other strategic assets by the Belgians or the French—and was likewise slowed by German anxieties through the fear of snipers.

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WWI Belgian soldiers resisting the German intrusion on the river Nethe slowed the German advance, disrupting the ‘Schieflen Plan’ timetable, which allowed French armies an essential time come mobilize in 1914. (Image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

Nonetheless, there to be remarkable and celebrated successes that gave a sense of optimism around enacting the Schlieffen Plan. On august 7, the main citadel of Liege, a an essential strategic point that was claimed to organize up the German advance, was captured.

Heavy German weapons were lugged up to demolish other forts. Soon this resistance was quelled. It appeared to part that this represented the triumph the military an innovation over old-style fortifications, a success, for the cult that the offensive. Together German armies approached Paris, the French federal government packed up and fled to Bordeaux.

Nonetheless, Paris to be to be defended. The bridges the Paris to be mined in ready for blowing them increase in instance the German troops reached the capital. At the same time, one more factor came right into play that had actually not to be expected quite so soon. The british Expeditionary force (BEF), mobilized quickly and was thrown into battle in northern France. The British pressures moved forward and reached Mons.

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600 Taxicabs come the Rescue

Upon learning that they to be overextended and also in hazard of being merely overwhelmed through the German advance, both British and French forces moved back in a fast retreat, seeking a location to make a concerted stand.

In the procedure of the German advance, as the Schlieffen plan continued to relocate through the stages of that is prospective sections, the was discovered that a space had opened up between the progressing German armies, in between the very first Army under basic von Kluck and also the second Army under basic von Bülow.

This ended up being a concern, the an outcome of which was the the German militaries moved closer together. The German armies, in an modification of the plan, did no come roughly Paris come encircle it however instead began their inward revolve that had been projected because that the Schlieffen Plan, additional east. The an outcome strategically was the the German armies had left your flanks exposed come Paris itself, no expecting the Paris would be the website of substantial resistance or military peril.


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French Infantry charge, 1914 (Image: Agence Rol – Bibliothèque nationale de France/Public domain)

This to be the chance the allies had actually been waiting for. French and also British pressures counterattacked top top the Marne indigenous September 6 to 10, 1914. They to be aided in this by a heroic and also legendary effort, which was commemorated ever afterward, as hundreds of taxicabs—600 the them, to it is in precise—brought troops that had been stationed in Paris itself the end to the battlefield, shuttling these men earlier and soon to get them come the locations where they essential to be.

The taxicabs and also their forces were not the sole decisive element, however it offers a feeling of the heroism the was affiliated in this mobilization come expel the invader. Complying with an order indigenous Colonel Hentsch, German forces fell back to the Aisne River and also began to dig in. This was a critical moment: it to be an join that the Schlieffen arrangement had ultimately not succeeded and was the beginning of trench warfare.

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Common Questions around the Schlieffen Plan


Q: What was the Schlieffen Plan and why did the fail?

In world War I, the Schlieffen arrangement was conceived by German basic General Alfred von Schlieffen and also involved a surprise assault on France. The plan failed since it wasn’t realistic, inquiry a flawless unfolding of occasions which never occurs in wartime.


Q: What was the function of the Schlieffen Plan?

The Schlieffen Plan, devised by Germany, was intended to force France into submission and also then attack Russia. The didn’t work due to the fact that Russian troops struck Germany while German troops were liven invading France.


Q: how would the Schlieffen plan work?

In civilization War I, both Russia and France wanted to battle Germany. To resolve this, Germany come up v the Schlieffen Plan, i m sorry would enable Germany to conveniently defeat France in a surprise attack before Russia had a opportunity to build up that is forces.

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Q: to be the Schlieffen arrangement used in WWII?

The Schlieffen plan was offered by Germany in WWI, however they employed a comparable (though not identical) version in WWII. Once again, Germany planned a surprise strike on France. This time, though, fairly than invading France by means of phibìc Belgium, Germany defied France’s expectations by invading rather from southern Belgium. This captured French troops off-guard and they shortly surrendered.


This post was to update on may 29, 2020

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