Verdun, Battle of

(Feb. 21–July 1916) Major engagement of World War I between Germany and France.

As part of its strategy of war by attrition, Germany selected the fortress of Verdun as the site it believed France would defend to the last man. After a massive bombardment, the Germans advanced with little opposition for four days before the reinforced French army under Philippe Pétain slowed their advance. For two months the hills west of the Meuse River and north of Verdun were bombarded, attacked, and counterattacked. By July, Germany, which was also engaged in the Battle of the Somme, had abandoned its strategy of attrition, and France gradually regained its forts and territory. The devastating losses included more than 400,000 French casualties and nearly as many German casualties.

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World War I [1916]
 (Feb. 21–July, 1916), one of the most devastating engagements of World War I, in which the French repulsed a major German offensive.

      German General Erich von Falkenhayn believed in a strategy of attrition and argued that Germany should bleed France to death by choosing a point of attack “for the retention of which the French would be compelled to throw in every man they have.” The fortress of Verdun and its surrounding fortifications along the Meuse River was the point selected. The Germans massed huge amounts of artillery and troops for the attack, which the French knew was impending but believed would occur elsewhere. Thus, Verdun was unprepared when one of the heaviest bombardments of the war rained down on the area. From the offensive's start on February 21, the Germans advanced with little opposition for four days until they reached Fort Douaumont, which they took. French reinforcements arrived just in time and with them General Henri Pétain (Pétain, Philippe), who took command and managed to slow the German advance by several French counterattacks. In March and April the hills and ridges west of the Meuse and north of Verdun were bombarded, attacked, counterattacked, taken, and retaken. In June the Germans again assaulted the heights along the Meuse but were unable to maintain an advantage. By July they realized that their plan to seize Verdun and undermine France's will to resist had failed with a terrible loss of men—about 400,000 French casualties and nearly as many German—and material for both sides. From October until the end of the year, the French took the offensive and regained the forts and territory they had lost earlier.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Verdun — /ver dun , verr /; Fr. /verdd dueonn /, n. 1. a fortress city in NE France, on the Meuse River. A German offensive was stopped here in 1916 in the bloodiest fighting of World War I. 26,927. 2. a city in S Quebec, in SE Canada. 68,013. * * * (as… …   Universalium

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