Battle of Verdun


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Verdun, battle of,

the longest and one of the bloodiest engagements of World War IWorld War I,
1914–18, also known as the Great War, conflict, chiefly in Europe, among most of the great Western powers. It was the largest war the world had yet seen.
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. Two million men were engaged. It began on Feb. 21, 1916, when the Germans, commanded by Crown Prince Frederick William, launched a massive offensive against Verdun, an awkward salient in the French line. The outlying forts of Douaumont and Hardaumont soon fell, but the French rallied under General PétainPétain, Henri Philippe
, 1856–1951, French army officer, head of state of the Vichy government (see under Vichy). In World War I he halted the Germans at Verdun (1916), thus becoming the most beloved French military hero of that conflict.
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 (with the cry "They shall not pass") and resistance stiffened. A British offensive on the Somme relieved the pressure on Verdun in July, 1916, and by December the French had recovered most of the ground lost. The intention of the Germans had been a battle of attrition in which they hoped to bleed the French army white. In the end, they sustained almost as many casualties as the French; an estimated 328,000 to the French 348,000.

Bibliography

See studies by A. Horne (1962), W. Hermanns (1972), and I. Ousby (2002).

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The Battle of Verdun nearly rang the death knell for the French Army.
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