Verdun, Siege of 1916

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Verdun, Siege of (1916)


battles fought from February to December for the fortified region of Verdun between the German and the French troops during World War I.

The German high command decided in 1916 to strike the main blow on the Western Front against the Verdun salient, which formed the pivot of the whole French front. The 112 km front of the fortified region of Verdun was defended by eight French divisions under the command of General Herr. On the 15 km sector of the breakthrough against two French divisions the Germans deployed 6½ divisions with 946 guns, including 542 heavy guns, from the German Fifth Army of Crown Prince William (a total of 17 divisions). The attack of February 21-25 on the right bank of the Meuse River encountered stubborn resistance from the French troops, and the breakthrough was not achieved. The French command moved up the Second Army, commanded first by General H. Pétain and from May 1 by General R. Nivelle; to ensure an uninterrupted supply of troops, it organized motor traffic service on the Bar-Due-Verdun highway, which came to be known as the Sacred Way. Transfer by the Germans of the main blow in March to the left bank of the Meuse River was also unsuccessful. In 70 days (February-April) of fierce battles, the German troops advanced only 6-7 km. Subsequently the battles of Verdun assumed the character of a struggle of attrition.

In June the German troops made another unsuccessful attempt at a breakthrough. The successful offensive of the troops of the Russian South-West Front and the offensive of the allies on the Somme River forced the German command to pass to the defensive at Verdun (September 2). On October 24 the French troops launched a counteroffensive and by December 21 reached the line they had held on February 25. As a result of the offensive of Aug. 20-26, 1917, the French troops completely restored the situation at Verdun.

In the battles of Verdun the German command achieved neither a breakthrough of the French front nor the grinding down of the French reserves, planned for later in the summer using limited forces. Germany deployed up to 50 divisions from a total of 125 and lost up to 600,000 men. France deployed 65 divisions out of a total of 125 and lost 358,000 men.


Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Mirovaia voina 1914-1918, vol. 2. Moscow, 1938.
Popov, V. T. Boi za Verden. Moscow, 1939.
Rébold, J. Krepostnaia voina v 1914-1918. Moscow, 1938. (Translated from French.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.