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The Schlieffen Plan (1905)

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To protect against encirclement from the north, the French intend to take up positions between Verdun and Mézières on the Meuse River; yet, there are reports that they will not put up actual resistance there but rather behind the Aisne River, roughly between St. Ménehould and Rethel. An intermediary line behind the Aire also appears to have been under consideration. If the German enveloping maneuver reaches farther around, it will encounter a strong elevated line that includes the fortresses of Reims, Laon, and La Fère.

The Germans will thus encounter:

1. The Belfort, Epinal, Toul, and Verdun line, which has been extended near Mézières along the Meuse. Positioned in front are troops at the Vosges Mountains, the Meurthe River, in Nancy, and in the Côtes Lorraines between Toul and Verdun.

2. The intermediary line on the Aire.

3. The line on the Aisne.

4. The Reimes-La Fère line.

Soldiers would feel little confidence attacking these strong lines. An attack from the northwest directed against the Mézières, Rethel, and La Fère flanks, across the Oise River and against the rear of the line, seems more promising than a frontal attack with attempts to encircle its left flank.

To achieve this, the Germans must take control of the Belgian-French border on the left bank of the Meuse, along with the fortified positions at Mézières, Hirson, and Maubeuge, three small defensive forts, as well as Lille and Dunkirk. To advance this far, they will have to violate the neutrality of Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

The violation of Luxembourg’s neutrality will have no significant consequences other than protests. From the Dutch perspective, an England that is allied with France is no less an enemy than is Germany. It will be possible to negotiate a treaty with them.

[Belgium will probably offer resistance.] Its army will withdraw to Antwerp according to plan if the Germans advance to the north of the Meuse. To sever the connection both to the sea and England, the Belgian army will have to be encircled there and, if possible, in the north by blocking the Schelde. Liège and Namur must only be placed under surveillance since the Belgians only intend to keep small garrisons there. The Huy Citadel can be taken or rendered inoperational.

If a protected German force advances against Antwerp, Liège, and Namur, it will encounter a border zone that has not been fortified as broadly and thoroughly as the one facing Germany. Should the French wish to defend it, they will have to shift corps and armies from the original front to the threatened area and transfer unused reserves such as the corps on the alpine border. There is reason to hope that they will not be able to do so on a large scale. They will perhaps decide against defending such an exceedingly long line and instead launch an offensive against the imminent invasion with all the troops they can muster. Regardless of whether they mount an attack or merely defend themselves, it is likely that there will be an encounter and a battle near the Mézières-Dunkirk border. It is precisely this battle for which the Germans must prepare themselves. Even if it does not take place and the French remain behind the Aisne, a strong German right flank will be of great value for other operations.

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