The battle of Verdun
It was the longest and one of the most ferocious and bloodiest battles during World War I. The Battle of Verdun lasted from February 21st, 1916 until December 16th, 1916. It was fought on the Western Front between the German and French armies, on hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France.
The battle had begun with massive German bombardment. More than 1,220 guns around an eight-mile perimeter opened fire. The German artillery fired nearly1,000,000 shells, a rumble could be heard 160 km away. After that, a German infantry attack was launched. For the first time in history the flamethrowers and storm troops were used. After 3 days the Germans had advanced 3 kilometres; French losses were 24,000 men and German – 25,000 men.
The French commander at Verdun, Gen. Joseph-Jacques-Césaire Joffre, was set aside in favour of Gen. Philippe Pétain.
The Germans captured important, but undefended Fort Douaumont. On February 26–29 500,000 German soldiers attacked Douaumont village, but the French defenses held.
Fighting degenerated into numerous isolated struggles for shellholes, forcing the French into successful defense-in-depth. The bloody stalemate continued through April.
At the beginning of June, the Germans took another key stronghold, Fort Vaux. On June 4th, Russian Gen. Aleksey Brusilov, launched a devastating offensive in the Eastern Front. Germans were forced to divert attention to the Eastern Front. On June 24th, the great Franco-British offensive on Somme started and so German command decided to stop the offensive operation at Verdun.
In October, the French began their offensive and recaptured Douaumont and Vaux. By the end of December French troops were close to the line, where the battle had started ten months earlier.
During this battle both sides lost nearly 800,000 people, including 300,000 killed. It was one of the most costly battles in human history. As the result, French repulsed a major German offensive. After that, Germans concentrated on defensive operations at the Western Front of World War I.