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The Schlieffen plan was a battle plan that was proposed by Alfred, graf (count) von Schlieffen in 1905, which suggested that Germany could win a quick Franco-German war while fending of Russia. Helmuth von Moltke, Schlieffen’s successor, decided to implement this plan during World War I, but heavily modified it, greatly reducing the size of the army, which finally lead to its ultimate failure. The implementation of the Schlieffen Plan also led Britain to declare war on Germany to help defend France.

Basic Mechanics of the Schlieffen Plan

  • Attacking France via Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg with 90% of the German army as soon as Russia starts mobilizing
  • Holding the Russian/German border with the help of Austrian and Hungarian allies, if neccesary
  • Defeating France within 6 weeks
  • Moving troops back from France using trains to help defeat the Russians.

Failure of the Schlieffen Plan

The Schlieffen Plan was put into action by Von Moltke on August 2, 1914. It however had a couple of weaknesses, especially due to Von Moltke’s modifications which doomed it to failure. The Russians reached the border much sooner and in a greater army than expected, forcing Moltke to send more troops to the Russian Front than planned. He advanced with a much smaller attacking army than Schlieffen had recommended. He had bargained on Belgium not giving much resistance, but the Germans were held up a lot by the Belgians. The British Forces also came to the aid of Belgium and France much sooner than expected, forcing the Germans to retreat. Communication between commanders on the frontlines and the headquarters of the army was poor, making the army hard to control. They came very close to succeeding with the plan, but the Battle of the Marne was the turning point where it became evident that the plan would fail. 

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