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The Schlieffen Plan (1905)

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To advance against the Aisene-Oise-Paris line, the Germans can be expected to require:

Army corps 25
Reserve corps
Newly formed corps 6
33½ corps

More than one-third will be needed to bypass Paris – seven army corps for the actual circumvention maneuver and six new corps to encircle Paris on the [western and] southern fronts. Chart 3 shows how we plan to advance on and attack these positions.

[If the enemy holds his ground, the attack] will be launched against the entire line, particularly La Fère, which is enclosed on two sides. If successful, it will continue against both Laon and Reims, which is open to the west. [Along the entire line, the corps] will move on the enemy from position to position as in a siege, advancing by day or night, digging in, advancing again, digging in, etc. They will use all the instruments of modern technology to shake the enemy’s confidence behind his lines. The attack must never be permitted to come to a standstill, as in the East Asian war.


France must be viewed as a single large fortress. The Belfort-Verdun section of the outermost enceinte is almost impossible to take. Yet the Mézières-Maubeuge-Lille-Dunkirk section is not completely fortified and for the time being hardly manned at all. It is here that we must attempt to penetrate this fortress. If we succeed, we will encounter a second enceinte, or at least part of one, namely the enceinte adjacent to Verdun: the line behind Aisne-Reims and La Fère. But this section can be circumvented in the south. The builder of the fortress will likely have expected a German attack to come from south of the Meuse and the Sambre, not from north of this line. The extension of the fortified Reims-La Fère line along the Somme via Péronne will have resulted in shortcomings that cannot be remedied at this late stage. The defenders can counter the imminent bypass maneuver by mounting an offensive around the left flank of the position near La Fère. Hopefully this counterattack, which might be backed by an advance along the entire length of the Verdun-La Fère front, will end in failure. The defeated defenders may still attempt to hold the Oise between La Fère and Paris, but it is doubtful that they will be able to defend this stretch of the river. If such doubts are justified or the French decide against defending the Oise and allow the Germans to cross the river in large numbers, they will not be able hold the second Verdun-La Fère enceinte. La Fère, Laon, and Reims, which is open to the west, will be taken – the entire elevated line that is designed to withstand an attack from the northeast. The Aisne position will also have to be evacuated. With it, the enemy will expose the Meuse fortresses between Verdun and Toul, which can only offer meager resistance to an attack from the west. The fortresses of Verdun and Toul will become isolated. The entire system of French fortresses directed against Germany will threaten to collapse. This is why it is conceivable that the French will essay to hold the Oise despite all the position’s flaws and even mount a successful resistance. In this case, Paris must be bypassed to the south. This will also prove necessary if the French abandon the Oise and the Aisne and pull back behind the Marne, the Seine, etc. If the Germans allow them to proceed farther in this direction, the result would be an endless war. We must by all means press the French eastward against the Mosel forts, against the Jura and Swiss terrain, by attacking their left flank. The French army must be annihilated.

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