How devastating World War 3 would be

August 3, 1914 Attack on France - The Schlieffen Plan

On August 3, 1914, the German Reich declares war on France. The armed conflict that broke out between Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Russia and Germany after the assassination attempt in Sarajevo on June 28th is finally turning into a world war.

Invasion of neutral Belgium

On the day of the declaration of war, German patrols - as they did the day before in Luxembourg - also move into neutral Belgium. On August 4th the mass of five armies of over a million men followed. The aim of the arching towards the southwest over Belgium and northern France is to encircle the French capital Paris. The aim is to capture the French army in the rear and press it onto its own fortress belt in eastern France, which the Germans are attacking at the same time as three other armies.

Schlieffen and his plan

The basic idea for the pincer movement, the aim of which is the containment and destruction of the French army, comes from the long-time chief of the general staff, Field Marshal Alfred Graf von Schlieffen. He had put it on paper in 1905 as a so-called memorandum. The disregard for the neutrality of Belgium, Luxembourg and originally also the Netherlands is an essential part of the Schlieffen Plan from the start. This is intended to bypass the strong French fortress belt between Verdun and Belfort, the overcoming of which is considered to be tedious and costly.

Disastrous political consequences

The political consequences for the German Reich are, however, devastating. The invasion of Belgium, in violation of international law, whose neutrality Prussia-Germany itself had guaranteed in 1839, provoked the entry of another guaranteeing power, namely Great Britain. On August 4th, London declares war on Berlin. The German Empire has not only made the British mother country with the strongest navy in the world, but also the entire British Empire with all its resources its opponent.

Worry on the deathbed

Schlieffen himself no longer witnessed the attempted implementation of his plan in 1914. The Field Marshal General, who left office in 1906, died in 1913. The last words of the old Chief of Staff are said to have been: "Make my right wing strong." His successor, Colonel General Helmuth Johannes Ludwig von Moltke (the younger), nephew of the brilliant strategist and guarantor of victory in the German Wars of Unification from 1864 to 1871, Field Marshal Helmut von Moltke, doesn't care. He weakened the right wing of the attack of the German western army advancing through Belgium in favor of the left wing of the army, which was provided for the security of Alsace-Lorraine, from an original ratio of 7: 1 to 3: 2.

Not a quick win

Whether that is actually the reason why the German offensive at the beginning of September 1914 on the Marne - the French "fateful river" - comes to a standstill, or whether the Schlieffen Plan is doomed to failure from the outset remains to be seen. The consequences are well known: The rapid war of movement against France planned for a few weeks has turned into an extremely loss-making war of positions and attrition for many years.

In the end, several million dead are left on the battlefields of France. The battle for Verdun - called the "blood mill" - which raged from February 21 to December 19, 1916 alone cost the lives of more than 300,000 soldiers on both sides. And that's just one gruesome chapter of the war that turned into World War I on August 3, 1914.