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Old September 13th, 2016, 12:19 PM   #1

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Review of Paul Jankowski's "Verdun: the Longest Battle of the Great War"


A while back, I posted a chapter by chapter review on John Mosier's book on the Battle of Verdun. That you can find here: Review of John Mosier's "Verdun: The Lost History of the Most Important Battle of WWI While there were some small portions of the book that could be useful for study, Mosier's combative writing style, ineffective explanation for his points, and over reliance on random quotes made me feel that book really wasn't worth the paper it was printed on and that Paul Jankowski's book, Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War would be a better read.

I have now gotten reading Jankowski's book and will post a similar chapter by chapter review as I had done for Mosier's book. It will cover not just the events of the battle but will also compare against Mosier's book to see if the end judgement that I had reached in that review was valid...

INTRODUCTION
Jankowski states that his prime effort for the book will be to try and balance what he calls the "old history" in the sense of talking about the logistics, numbers, plans, and movements of the battle as well as the "new history" of how the war impacted the people and the societies that fought the battle for a more complete history. In this, it would appear that Jankowski's primary emphasis is on the 1916 Battle of Verdun and not the battles that took place in the same general area in 1914, 1915, 1917, and 1918 that Mosier claimed to include in his book. Given that both books are about the same size and have about the same number of pages, this could mean that Jankowski has included more detail in his analysis of the 1916 than Mosier did.

The introduction also lays out various points to try and discuss the nature of the topic that the book will cover. Jankowski makes some reference to other books and histories, but unlike Mosier, he doesn't do so in a combative manner and doesn't seem to be fighting some personal war with these other histories. The point that Jankowski focus' around in his introduction seems to flow around what made the Battle of Verdun what it is, for all sides...

He notes that a French novelist and war veteran, Maurice Genevoix, made the comment that it made France and reflected France's entire WWI experience. Jankowski then raises points to ponder on this comment from the French point of view:
  • The Battle of Verdun was a defensive battle that the French didn't choose, while for the most part their battles on the Western Front were predominantly offensive in nature.
  • The Battle of Verdun, while a victory was not a decisive one on par with the likes of Waterloo or Sedan and other major battles that shaped the French government in the past. Unlike Waterloo which toppled Napoleon I or Sedan which toppled Napoleon III, the French Third Republic suffered no governmental shakeup from the Battle of Verdun. It's political leaders remained unchanged and that the removal of Joffre could be put on the Battle of the Somme just as much as on the Battle of Verdun, if not more so.
  • Even within WWI, the Battle of Verdun's decisiveness to the Allied victory can be questioned when one looks the massed German attacks of 1918 and the efforts needed to counter and stop these offensives as well as with the strategic impact of the First Battle of the Marne in 1914. So it isn't as though Verdun was the battle that won the war for the Allies.
  • While Verdun was certainly the longest battle of the war, it was far from the bloodiest with French losses in 1914, 1915, and even in 1917 having higher fatalities than the 1916 Battle of Verdun did.

These are issues from the French point of view that Jankowski will need to explain in the course of the book to answer the question on whether or not Verdun "made" France and how it did so.

He also includes elements on how the Germans viewed the battle, which he has found to be in a more melancholy type atmosphere and lacking the sort of heroes like Ernst Junger that the Battle of the Somme produced and would lead to the sort of arguments in which the German soldier turned on the high command after the war and in extreme cases on the German civilian populace after the war. These will also be issues to cover over what the Battle of Verdun would mean to Germany.

Jankowski concludes his introduction with the discussion of symbolism in history and how that has lead to how we've looked at the history of battles and wars in Old and New history. "Old history" is identified with a battle analysis that has made books like Alistair Horne's The Price of Glory and Gerard Canini's Combattre a Verdun being considered among the best of the type. "New history" is identified with the cost of the war on society and the culture that many newer histories have focused on. Jankowski then finishes with the intent to try and provide the best of both old and new.
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Old September 22nd, 2016, 12:06 PM   #2

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The Review continues with CHAPTER ONE:

The chapter outlines the fighting that begins in February 1916 and goes until 1917 when the last territory that the Germans took in 1916 was retaken by the French. Jankowski does not go into any great detail, but he continues to raise rather interesting questions with regard to the 1916 Battle of Verdun.

He opens with the shelling that the Germans unleashed in February of 1916 and rapidly leads into the first real question that he has that would need to be answered. WHY did both sides feel the need to fight there? He marks that the Verdun sector of the line wasn't held to be strategically important, though his best evidence is a quote from a French officer who was close enough to the region to hear the shelling but far enough away that he wasn't in danger of being shelled. The quote gives the implication that the French did not hold the Verdun sector as strategically important...

Now, the quote can be supported by the fact that the French removed many of the heavy guns from the Verdun forts to support offensives elsewhere on the Western Front, but Jankowski makes no real mention of this close to the quote.He makes mention of artillery shortages, but that is later in the chapter and not with regard to the quote's context. In this, Jankowski makes the same mistake that Mosier did in the use of random quotes with a lack of explanation to put them in context. The difference between them is that Jankowski has only used one quote with an issue that those that are fairly familiar with World War I can rationalize whereas Mosier put in every "pro-German" quote he could find regardless of whether or not the quote was either relevant or could be checked against other sources.

The question of why the soldiers fought there Jankowski largely seems to answer that the reasons were more for morale and history rather than any major strategic questions. He makes the reference to films made after World War I, such as Leon Poirer's 1931 film Verdun: Souvenirs d'histoire describing Verdun as a gateway to France along with the lengthy history of the Verdun region in French and German history. That the region once belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, typically seen as part of what is now Germany until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 with references to a line from the German national anthem: "von der Maas bis an die Memel" translated as "from the Meuse to the Memel" in the book. Mentions of the sieges that the Germans had made of Verdun are also made with ideas that the battle, for Germany at least, would carry the historical significance as something of a revenge for old victories that the French had had in the 1600s in the region that would put the Battle of Verdun on par with the victory at Tannenberg in 1914 for Germany. For France, it would seem that history would simply mean to try and prevent the Germans from gaining the city.

And issues of morale and history can be important with regard to warfare, especially in cases of total war in which countries throw everything they have for the sake of victory. The intertwined history of France and Germany would certainly give propagandists the material with which to inspire soldiers to fight for the region... either to crush the gate or defend it. It may not be why Falkenhayn attacked at Verdun and why Joffre, Petain, Nivelle, and the French government decided to defend it, but it may well have played some role in why the soldiers fought there.

The other major question that Jankowski raises in the course of outlining the battle in this chapter is on how do we define the Battle of Verdun. The fighting there certainly lasted longer than any other battle of World War One and Jankowski raises the comparison to the fighting at Mukden in the Russo-Japanese War being shorter than the fighting at Verdun. And in this the question is a good one, and touches slightly on the idea that Mosier tried to argue for that there was not one battle at Verdun but several. Jankowski makes an effort to describe on when battles end being based on when one side has managed to force its will on the other or when both sides have "moved away." However, the description still leaves questions as to how one would define the Battle of Verdun. Would it be divided into two battles in 1916 with the German offensive battle ending in August or September when their offensives were abandoned and the following fighting being a second battle? Would they be lumped together into one battle, and from there, where would the end be? In December when the Germans were pushed back toward many of their starting positions or into 1917 when the French reclaimed the last the territories taken by the Germans early in 1916? Unlike Mosier, who states that there were two battles in 1916 and both won by Germany, Jankowski leaves this question to be answered more by the reader in this chapter than by anything or anyone else.

For me personally... I can understand the reasoning for there being multiple battles at Verdun in World War I as a whole as Mosier claims, but wouldn't agree with Mosier's claim that there were multiple battles in 1916. There may have been some lulls in the fighting in 1916, but to me, the French offensives at the end of 1916 are on par with lulls in earlier battles in history as armies either re-positioned or regathered their supplies before resuming the fighting. The lull in 1916 may have been longer that previous battles of history, but then again, the battles of World War One were larger and often longer than many other previous battles. The material that went into battles like Verdun far outweighed battles like Austerlitz or Waterloo with regard to their scope, scale, and definitely length. It would thus stand to reason that lulls in the fighting would be longer as well to fill the requirements of the armies involved. However, the recapture of territory near Verdun in 1917 I would hold as a separate battle from the fighting in 1916 simply for the fact that the offensives at Verdun in 1917 came after the failed Nivelle Offensive of 1917, which was not in the Verdun sector. So, by my reasoning, the Battle of Verdun... or at least the one we know of... was from February to December 1916.

Jankowski ends chapter one with some discussion on the efforts to remember and memorialize the Battle of Verdun and that deciding on a day to honor the battle has been a tough one, with over 300 days to chose from and that the efforts and memory only returned to the question that Jankowski raised early in the chapter: "Why?"
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Old September 27th, 2016, 03:45 AM   #3

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I'll be interested to hear how you find this book as you continue to read it. I just finished it about a week or 2 ago. I found it to be drawn out a bit too much. Perhaps that type of work is necessary when you are writing about Verdun.

All in all, WWI is a new topic of interest for me. Jankowski's work is one of a handful that I have read recently and it was probably my least favorite.
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Old September 27th, 2016, 08:23 AM   #4

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Originally Posted by leakbrewergator View Post
I'll be interested to hear how you find this book as you continue to read it. I just finished it about a week or 2 ago. I found it to be drawn out a bit too much. Perhaps that type of work is necessary when you are writing about Verdun.

All in all, WWI is a new topic of interest for me. Jankowski's work is one of a handful that I have read recently and it was probably my least favorite.
With what I've read so far, he has been informative though more interested in the social history and remembrances of the battle than an actual history of the battle...

That said, I'd find his work far better than Mosier's.
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Old October 1st, 2016, 04:35 PM   #5

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The review continues with CHAPTER TWO:

Chapter Two begins to try answering the questions of why the Germans fought at Verdun with the specific focus on the German plans and the man who planned the 1916, Erich von Falkenhayn...

This proves to be important in that there is little actual surviving proof of what the German plan was. The commonly repeated story, which has been widely accepted in many histories, was that Falkenhayn intended to "bleed France white" and sent this in a memorandum to the Kaiser on Christmas 1915, hence the "Christmas Memorandum." See: Christmas Memorandum

However, the use of this memo is a bit troubling as outside of Falkenhayn's post war memoirs, no copy of it was ever found. Jankowski even points out that official historians in the Reichsarchiv could find no trace of the original memo in they years immediately after the war and the destruction of the Imperial German army's archives in a bombing raid in 1945 has made any hope of finding the original memo impossible. Yet, many early on didn't question the memo's existence, regardless of whether or not a memo was actually presented. The supposed copy written by Falkenhayn after the war was accepted and found its way into history.

Jankowski ultimately makes the argument that the actual memo that was claimed to have been written on Christmas 1915 was false, primarily due to the fact that official historians couldn't find a copy of it in the years after World War I.

The questions that remain then relate to two important questions. First, if the memo didn't exist and Falkenhayn was lying in his memoirs... why did he lie? Second, if simply bleeding the French to death wasn't the German objective in 1916, what WAS the plan?

The First Question: If the memo didn't exist and Falkenhayn was lying in his memoirs, why lie?
The first of these is answered relatively easily answered as Jankowski presents Falkenhayn's personal history and how he interacted with others within Germany's military and government that had lead to resentment of Falkenhayn. This included three areas of resentment growing...

1) A Prussian landowner's son, Falkenhayn had a relatively atypical rise to command going through posts in China with the German legation that opened his eyes to political opportunities and may have helped earn him promotions over older and/or more senior officers. Jankowski also notes that by 1914 when he became chief of staff that Falkenhayn carried a very ambitious attitude. This would surely have the potential to raise resentment among others who saw him purely as someone who was looking to gain power.

2) It is also noted that among some of the commanders on the Western Front there was resentment of Falkenhayn for his handling of failed offensives on the Western Front during the race to the sea in 1914 and again at Ypres in 1915. That would have the potential to raise resentment and concerns as officers who feel they were put into unfair situations that cost them victory and got their men killed needlessly are not going to give the man who put them in that position much support to begin with. There have even been stories of arguments and criticisms of Falkenhayn from Crown Prince Wilhelm, who was one of the German front commanders at Verdun, during and after the war.

3) There were also major strategic differences over how the war as a whole was to be fought. From what we do know, Falkenhayn seemed to focus heavily on the Western Front with the thought that Russia couldn't be truly beaten outright, as they could always withdraw into their massive country and draw the Germans into a trap and save face. However, Jankowski notes that Hindenburg, Ludendorff, various members of the Kaiser's government all fancied great sweeping movements, mostly in the east, but even with a few that seemed to indicate a desire to go into Britain's African colonies from the Turkish controlled areas in the Middle East. He also notes pressures and disagreements with his counterpart in Austria, Conrad von Hotzendorf over the Eastern Front and Italy. The fact that Falkenhayn often disagreed and largely tried alternatives that he favored over these eastern offensives would also be sure to breed resentment... as jealousy can lead to trying to undermine the person one is jealous of.

These three factors created the resentment of Falkenhayn and would thus create a real reason for Falkenhayn to lie in his memoirs... To cover his failures at Verdun in 1916. If the original plan wasn't to bleed the French white and was to take the city, the failure to do so and the casualties sustained in the process would only be another failure that Falkenhayn had had on the Western Front and would tarnish his reputation as a commander, which a highly ambitious officer wouldn't be able to stand. Thus the justification of the battle as to be one of attrition and that if the French could be forced to suffer heavier losses than Germany, Germany would win and thus Falkenhayn's only error in the planning of Verdun was his underestimation of how well the French would fight "for" the city.

And I would tend to draw the same conclusion that Falkenhayn was covering his butt for the failure at Verdun in 1916. Ambitious generals often want to be remembered well and as grand heroes, even when they failed. George B. McClellan was famous for this in the American Civil War by excusing his defeats on being outnumbered. Lost Cause historians of the American Civil War do the same thing in claiming that the Confederacy ONLY lost because the Union had more men than they did. To me, the claim that the Battle of Verdun was never about the city and that there was never an intention to take the city so long as the French were bled white has always struck me personally as the same sort of argument.

Second Question: If simply bleeding the French to death wasn't the German objective in 1916, what WAS the plan?
This question has commonly been harder to answer because of how quickly the Christmas Memorandum was accepted into the history of the Battle of Verdun even without proof of its existence. And with the Imperial German Army's archives destroyed in World War II there is no easy way to prove that it never existed... As the fact that it is not there now does not necessarily prove that it didn't exist at some point and simply wasn't found and those who fully believe in its existence are not likely to change their opinion that there might be an alternative to the memo...

Unfortunately, Jankowski does not reveal anything that would truly prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the memo was never written. His source of proof is that it was never found after WWI. I personally would agree, but must admit that Jankowski doesn't provide enough proof to convince someone like Moiser who argued that the memo DID exist in his book. That said, Jankowski does do a good job in working with what the German plan would actually be outside of "bleeding the French white."

Jankowski makes the point that the likely intention of the 1916 offensive at Verdun probably was in fact to actually take the city and the forts around it, but that the ultimate intentions weren't actually limited to Verdun.

He makes the point that Falkenhayn's attention was focused on the Western Front with various offensives that looked to either Belfort or Verdun or potentially even at the juncture of the French and British armies on the Somme in the hopes of splintering the French and British apart based on conversations Falkenhayn had had with various officers and commanders on the Western Front. In the end, Falkenhayn choose Verdun as being the least difficult to attack based on terrain and for logistical control.

From there, the question becomes what is the purpose of taking or at least attacking at Verdun? After all, the town and its forts weren't closer to Paris than other sectors of the line...

Jankowski again points to various conversations and orders that were issued by Falkenhayn that seem to have ordered many sectors of the Western Front to prepare for Allied attack. In this, Jankowski mirrors Mosier's claim that the intention was to draw an Allied offensive against the German lines. However, unlike Mosier, Jankowski does not do so by pointing to Allied casualty rates or other Allied battles, nor does he actually spend time praising Falkenhayn's ability in the process. He points to specific conversations and orders issued that seem to have survived or were also mentioned in the memoirs of other German generals that gave the command for the German army outside of Verdun to take up a defensive stance...

In this, Jankowski has made the argument that much of the intent on Falkenhayn's part was akin to the British would call "bite and hold." The attack at Verdun was to take the area or at least a small portion of it and the Germans consolidate their gains. If the French counter-attacked at Verdun, they'd be prepared to catch the French in the open and if the Allies attacked elsewhere the Germans would likewise also be ready. In this, Jankowski argues that "bleeding the French/Allies white" was a possibility, but not necessarily the intention of the German armies in 1916 though it could be a possible result and ultimately that the attack at Verdun was not intended to be as big of a move as some might have thought...Perhaps nothing more than clearing the salient that the French occupied and not much more than that. Anything more than that would simply be extremely good luck coming Germany's way.

And in a sense that is believable as an alternative to simply attacking to inflict casualties on the other side. It would straighten out the line in that sector from St. Mihel, under German occupation since 1914 and the first attempts to take Verdun, and the German lines north of Verdun.

See and note the salient around Verdun:

Click the image to open in full size.

Straightening the line WOULD strengthen the German position and theoretically, if Allied counter-attacks came and were hastily rushed and thus lead to massive Allied casualties, the British and French MIGHT come to the bargaining table...

Of course, they didn't, and in that Falkenhayn's plan was a failure. He failed to take Verdun and despite the casualties suffered on the Somme and at Verdun by the Allies in 1916, neither came close to the bargaining table. Thus the need to defend his actions through a memo that might never have been written in 1915...
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Old October 1st, 2016, 10:33 PM   #6

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"Histoire magazine" did an excellent and long article about Verdun and notably about the memory (the nationalist myth?) of this battle, specifically french unlike the battle of the Somme for example (french army was involved in this one:60 000 death).
It seems that Jankowski doesn't talk about this in his book, doesn't it?
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Old October 2nd, 2016, 08:17 AM   #7

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Originally Posted by phil1904 View Post
"Histoire magazine" did an excellent and long article about Verdun and notably about the memory (the nationalist myth?) of this battle, specifically french unlike the battle of the Somme for example (french army was involved in this one:60 000 death).
It seems that Jankowski doesn't talk about this in his book, doesn't it?
He's made mention of various histories and changes of opinion with regard to the history of the Battle of Verdun. At the end of chapter 2, he does run down the historiography of the German planning for the battle with most accepting the claimed Christmas Memorandum at face value. The first one to challenge it in remembering the battle was Petain in his own memoirs, and while he did believe that the memorandum was a forgery, Petain's conclusions on what the German plans were were also false. Real questioning of the Christmas Memorandum didn't come until much later and closer to the sixties when it started and didn't gain real consideration until the 90s and early 2000s.

However, without an exact title for the article and a year in which it was written, I can't say for certain whether or not the article you refer to was mentioned in the book. If the article was written after 2013, the year the book was published, then it obviously wouldn't appear in the book.

As for mentions of the Battle of the Somme, Jankowski hasn't made much in the way of references to it, but then I've only gotten through the first two chapters so far and the second chapter dealt with the German planning for the Battle of Verdun... so obviously the Battle of the Somme, as it happened in history, would be mentioned there.
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Old October 3rd, 2016, 02:24 AM   #8

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I'm curious to know what he thinks about Pétain and Doumenc or Nivelle.
I wait you finish to read the book, because i didn't want to do it, too much sad.
About the date of the article of "histoire magazine":i don't remember, somebody lent me the magazine.

Last edited by phil1904; October 3rd, 2016 at 02:30 AM.
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Old October 5th, 2016, 09:22 PM   #9

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The review continues with CHAPTER THREE:

Chapter three is used to balance with chapter two by looking at France and its view on Verdun. Jankowski opens this by comparing the two commanders, Erich von Falkenahayn and Joseph Joffre.

Click the image to open in full size. Click the image to open in full size.

Jankowski does a lot to emphasize that Joffre was everything that Falkenhayn was not. While Falkenhayn came from at least a wealthy if not noble family, Joffre came from a more common background. While Falkenhayn poured over maps to think over specific targets to win the war, Joffre seemed to work more on intuition. While Falkenhayn often struggled with what might happen and often missing sleep and meals, Joffre NEVER missed meals or allowed his sleep to be disturbed. While Falkenhayn was often at odds with his subordinates, Joffre was well revered as "le grand pere" (the grandfather). While Falkenhayn was protected by the Kaiser, by 1915 Joffre began to face criticism from the French government.

This marks stark differences between both officers and in some ways you can also notice the things that marked the aspects Joffre's character that had been successful earlier in the war. In fact the "calm" that Jankowski describes Joffre carrying is widely considered one of the reasons France was able to take the defeats in the Battle of the Frontiers in 1914 and win the more decisive battle on the Marne. Perhaps in some ways it could also be why France didn't collapse when the Germans attacked at Verdun and how Joffre viewed the situation. This is further emphasized by a quote from Joffre to Petain on February 24th, 1916 saying, "Well! Petain, you know, things are not at all bad!" That could be a remarkably calm and/or confident statement given the situation that began to unravel at Verdun in 1916.

Much of the rest of the chapter then moves into what France's... or rather Joffre's plans were for 1916. Jankowski includes the standard information on the lines around Verdun actually being weakened in 1915 in the belief that the great siege guns that had smashed Liege and Namur had rendered forts obsolete and that the heavy guns of the French forts was needed to support French offensives elsewhere in 1915, which were often small and involved the Germans retaking much of the territory lost in the French offensives against the German lines, which Jankowski argues began to whittle at the confidence the French government had in Joffre. In this, as Joffre looked to 1916, he looked at something that didn't necessarily revolve around maps or specific locations but on points of facts that couldn't be denied. That together France, Great Britain, Italy, and Russia had more men than Germany and Austria-Hungary and that the Central Powers could not repel all of them attack. Thus the decision for a simultaneous offensive on ALL fronts by the Allied powers was reached at Chantilly in December 1915. By this, if ANYONE was planning to bleed the other white, in my opinion, it was Joffre planning to bleed the Germans white not Falkenhayn bleeding the French white. And Joffre even saw a potential offensive by the Germans, even against Verdun, as no major issue so long as the planned 1916 wasn't interfered with.

Of course the Germans did attack and responses had to be made to it. Yet the weakening of the French lines around Verdun had left the sector vulnerable and while efforts were made in early 1916 to strengthen them, they weren't complete and had only gotten as far as they did due to weather delaying the German attack, if only slightly... and with the line vulnerable, the Germans did advance, but that then begs the question of what to do about Verdun. Do they fight to defend Verdun and its forts or do they pull back to a more defensible line. And Jankowski even points out that General Fernand de Langle de Cary was readying he French forts for demolition and a withdrawal to a more defensible line. That then raises the question of WHY did the French decide to defend Verdun when so much was apparently being done to evacuate to a better position?

And here, Jankowski points to both Joffre and to the involvement of the French government in France's war effort, particularly France's Prime Minister Aristide Briand, who threatened to have various French general officers fired if Verdun was not defended. And Joffre shared the same opinion, though to Jankowski, it is likely that a lot of Joffre's reasoning was more to prevent a complete collapse of the French lines that would threaten the ability of his planned 1916 Offensive to be launched.

From there the chapter ends with Jankowski's mentioning of how newspapers of the day began to respond to the German attack at Verdun and how their coverage would help shape the legacies that survived the battle and primarily with France's papers comparing the fighting at Verdun to the Battle of Thermopylae in that the French were holding off a vast force that threatened the destruction of all of France. Though, Jankowski also makes the statement that at this early stage of the battle, France's efforts were to buy time to grow stronger as it passed.
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Old October 13th, 2016, 04:51 PM   #10

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The review continues with CHAPTER FOUR:

Chapter four discusses the problems that offensives in WWI had, and Jankowski is quick to point out that in 1916 no one had any decisive breakthrough or envelopment at Verdun. And this is really indicative of World War One as whole and on the Western Front in particular. There the trench system was never broken until 1918 when the tactical and technological lessons of World War I had been fully learned. In 1916, it should be clear that the lessons were still being learned.

Jankowski the covers the primary theory in which many commanders, both French and German felt would win the battles... By the use of massed artillery and starting the Germans. Jankowski notes Falkenhayn and his staff taking notice on actions in Champagne in 1915 when the French at least initially had success on the Western Front and at Gorlice Tarnow where the Germans attained great success against the Russians in that the massed use of artillery that would totally destroy the enemy before them to allow the infantry to advance. And Falkenhayn did apply his tactics at Verdun, which did level much of the French defenses before them...

However, Jankowski then turns to what marked the "trap" in offensive operations in that while the Germans made strong initial gains, reaching even the second line in places and taking Fort Douamount, they still didn't completely break through the French lines. His main point relates to how the defense of Verdun was ultimately by General Philippe Petain.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Philippe Petain)

Petain was noted for favoring small scale attacks that were intended for small territorial gain but would ultimately favor the numerical advantages that the Allies as a whole had over Germany instead of all out offensives. While he would repeat the orders to defend Verdun, Jankowski's points out that Petain's efforts were intended build up the defense lines the French still had and in the lines behind the lines, as while the artillery barrage did damage to the first line, it didn't destroy everything and that by building more defenses at the second line and behind, the German offensive would be ground down. In a sense, it equals the concept of trading space for time. He also makes some commentary on Petain's efforts to keep Verdun supplied. In this Jankowski does agree with Mosier's praise of Petain's defense of Verdun, though Jankowski does not get into the blatant worship of Petain and the twisting of certain facts to still give Germany the victory that Mosier did.

Jankowski also spends time to discuss the capture of Fort Douamont, which would appear to be the prime point to prove Falkenhayn's theory of bombardment was working. He draws specific attention to the fact that the fort was under armed and poorly protected with only some colonial troops manning it. Caught by surprise, the fort fell without a shot and then compared it to the fighting at Fort Vaux, which held out for months before finally falling. If the theory of massed artillery bombardment truly worked, Vaux should have been destroyed, but it wasn't. Vaux only fell when the defending French troops ran out of water and that much of the fort survived the bombardment more or less in tact. In this, Jankowski argues that Douamont fell due to incompetence that had it been properly manned and armed, the Germans never would have been able to take it.

Jankowski's argument makes sense, but his references to the second line being the point that the blind faith in artillery has some trouble with regard to the dealing with the examples of this happening at Champagne and at Gorlice Tarnow. Now, he could very well be right that the French attack at Champagne failed to penetrate the second line in 1915 (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second...ampagne#Battle), but such a scenario couldn't relate to the fighting in Gorlice Tarnow.

Note the map and the advance the German army made in the Gorlice Tarnow offensive:

Click the image to open in full size.

Now, granted geography made the Eastern Front far more open in WWI than the Western Front, but given where the German army started in the Gorlice Tarnow offensive and where the offensive ended, I find it hard to believe that the Russian first line was in the northern part of Austrian Galacia and that the second line was all the way back in the Pripet Marshes (Pinsk Marshes) in Russia. That would be way too far to the rear for the Russians to have their second line, and Jankowski would have been better served when referencing the Gorlice Tarnow offensive to make the mention that despite the great advance that was made, it did not knock Russia out of the war, which was the offensive's ultimate intention.

Jankowski also discusses the risks and vulnerabilities of German decision making to at first only attack on one bank of the River Meuse. He does point to this being part of what allows Petain to strengthen his defenses by firing on the flanks of the attacking Germans, though his commentary on why the Germans did so at first seems to relate to the want on Falkenhayn's part to be ready in case the French or British counterattacked and thus, in a way, save German lives. This would mark a tremendously flawed thinking on Falkenhayn's part as it would leave the German forces east of the Meuse completely exposed to flanking fire . Jankowski's points on the second line of defense largely surviving attacks and the fact that there were other hills and ridges south of Cote 304 and Mort Homme, though, would also weaken any claim from those like Crown Prince Wilhelm, and others (including some that had initially supported Falkenhayn's plan), who felt that Germany needed to attack on both banks of the Meuse.

From there, Jankowski then moves on to France's offensives at Verdun and how France and particularly General Robert Nivelle, fared on the offensive at Verdun.

Click the image to open in full size.
(Robert Nivelle)

Like Falkenhayn, Nivelle supported the concept of massed artillery bombardment to soften up enemy positions, though seemingly concentrated on a more narrow front. Again, Jankowski makes mention that Nivelle's attempts to retake Douamont and Vaux initially failed and that French success only came when even more artillery was brought up, and again, Jankowski makes the point that the bombardment didn't level the forts or destroy the German defenses around them. It had done some damage and started fires, but didn't destroy the forts or the German defenses. The success that Nivelle had, was that the Germans at Douamont panicked and began to withdraw from the fort, and a similar conclusion was made by the Germans at Vaux. This tremendously limit's Nivelle's successes and represents an irony in that he would later run into similar issues in attacking the Hindenburg Line in 1917.
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