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The Schlieffen Plan (1905)

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If the Germans want to attack the left flanks of the French positions near Mézières, Rethel, and La Fère, and if, in addition, they want to proceed from the enemy’s rear, it seems expedient to advance through Belgium only on the left bank of the Meuse and to pivot to the left after Namur, at which point they should ready themselves for the assault. The difficulty is that there are no routes for a march on such a narrow front, and, more significantly, there are no railways to carry the troops to this front. Due to railway constraints, the German army will primarily be deployed along the Metz-Wesel line. Twenty-three army corps, twelve and a half reserve corps and eight cavalry divisions will be assembled there and first pivot to the left against the Verdun-Dunkirk line. While the reserve corps in the northern wing protect the right flank, particularly against the threat from Antwerp, the reserve corps in the south wing will secure the left flank against an enemy advance on the left bank of the Mosel from the Toul-Verdun line. [The attack will not be directed exclusively against the flanks but also against the left section of the front.]

Three and one-half army corps, one and one-half reserve corps, and three cavalry divisions will remain on the right side of the Mosel. By attacking Nancy, they will first attract as many enemy forces as possible, preventing them from reinforcing the northern front. Later, they will help secure the left flank or reinforce the right.

Metz will provide a base from which to protect the left flank – not the Metz we know today, and not the expanded Metz envisioned in the last projects, but a Metz with extensive field fortifications, whose perimeter is generally defined by the course of the Mosel, the Saar, and the Nied. It will receive a large garrison, Landwehr troops, and many units of heavy artillery, and be given the capacity to draw a substantial number of enemy forces.

If possible, the German army should achieve success in battle by means of an enveloping maneuver with its right wing, which must be fortified as much as possible. For this purpose, eight army corps and five cavalry divisions will cross the Meuse below Liège on five roads and advance on Brussels-Namur. After crossing the Meuse above Liège, a ninth army corps will join them, but it must first neutralize the Huy Citadel, which is positioned near the point at which it will cross the Meuse.

The nine army corps will be followed by seven reserve corps. Most of these will be deployed to encircle Antwerp after first providing additional cover for the right flank.

Further, two of the army corps that have remained on the right bank of the Mosel can be deployed as reinforcements. They can be brought up by rail as soon as the train lines (German and Belgian) are clear and operational. They may play a decisive role.

Six army corps and one cavalry division, followed by one reserve division, will be deployed against the Mézières-Namur section of the Meuse. Once these forces cross the river, fifteen to seventeen army corps will be united.

Eight army corps and two cavalry divisions will advance on the Mézières-Verdun Meuse front. Five reserve corps will provide cover [for the left flank] [following the example of Metz].

Ten Landwehr brigades will follow north of the Meuse, six south of the river. Six will comprise the wartime garrison of Metz, three and one-half will be on the Upper Rhine, and one in Lower Alsace.

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