Planning A Conquest…Maybe?

Do you pre-plan everything, make hundreds of to-do lists, and strategize your errands around town to avoid traffic?  I do.  In fact, one of the things I’ve had to learn through the years is readjusting my plan as events unfold.  Well, pre-planning is great.  Check lists are wonderful.  And strategy is a good idea.  Sometimes…

You see, before World War I started, one nation had spent a lot of time pre-planning a military strategy for quick success.  We can applaud them as planners and strategists, but, in the end, their plan didn’t turn out well.

This is the Imperial German Army in the decades before WWI.  Count von Schlieffen is the second soldier from the right.  (Image from Wikicommon, Public Domain)

This is the Imperial German Army in the decades before WWI. Count von Schlieffen is the second soldier from the right. (Image from Wikicommon, Public Domain)

May I introduce our topic for this week?  Germany and the Schlieffen Plan.  (If you missed last week’s intro to the pre-WWI world, here’s a quick link.)

With all the alliances that the European powers had been creating, Germany felt threatened.  France and Russia were allies, and Germany was sandwiched between.  Yikes!  To combat this threat, the Germany military developed a strategic plan in 1905, eleven years before the war started.  Named after Count Alfred von Schlieffen, the highest ranking military commander at the time, the Schlieffen Plan hoped to cripple both France and Russia.

Here’s how it was supposed to work:

1. Invade France  The German army was supposed to attack toward the west, first.  The invasion route called for some troops to swing north through Belgium and come down on Paris, while other units entered along the central French border and headed north toward Paris.  The maneuver through Belgium was to avoid strong French fortifications along the German/French border.  This invasion had a six week timetable, which required strict adherence because…

2. Race East  Count von Schlieffen calculated that it would take Russia about six weeks to mobilize for war.  In 1905 Russia was still a developing country, lacking good communication and transportation.  Thus Germany planned to have six weeks after a declaration of war before Russia could present a military threat.  In six weeks, France should be captured and the army would move east.

3. Defeat Russia  An army with one great victory already should be able to quickly defeat Russia.  The war ends and German wins…simple, right?

4. Hmm… The plan was militarily strong, except at one point.  Belgium was a neutral country since 1839 and didn’t want wars or armies within her borders.  Perhaps Count von Schlieffen assumed the Belgians wouldn’t mind an army only running through, maybe he forgot – but this was the weak link in the plan.

In 1905 the Schlieffen Plan looked good on paper, but how would it turn out in actual combat?  Eleven years later the world would find out the extent of Germany’s secret plan.

However, Germany failed to “update” the plan and reassess current situations, leading to serious problems and war a larger scale than they had ever anticipated.

Join us next week for THE START of WWI – how did the conflict begin and how successful was the Schlieffen Plan? (Look for the post on Sunday…see you then).

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Does the Schlieffen Plan seem strategically sound?  What variables do you think Germany failed to recognize?



4 thoughts on “Planning A Conquest…Maybe?

  1. Interesting plan. Certainly bold, and there may have been enough shock factor to grab success in 1905. After all, the rest of the world likely wasn’t thinking that Germany would try something so risky. It seems that Germany brazenly guaranteed that she could defeat France in six weeks. While it may be reasonable to assume that possibility, what if Murphy’s law takes effect? The whole scheme was based on the idea that France could be defeated on that strict time schedule. What happens when delays occur? France reacts more efficiently and fights harder than expected? How can you expect an enemy to surrender “on time?” There are certainly a lot of things that could go wrong. Anyway, it is interesting to think about. While I may not agree with their motives, I certainly applaud the Germans to their bold (if outdated) plan.

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