of World War I
. Just before the outbreak of The Great War
military schools were adopting the notion that the offensive
was the only way to win the war. Only the offensive would inspire men to fight their hardest and with the most elan
, or ardour. The French decided that Germany would attempt a weaker version of the Schlieffen Plan
and leave themselves weak in the middle. It was there that the French would focus their attack and cut the German army in half. This would give them a decisive
victory that would quickly end the war
and give them back the Ardennes
The Plan also called for attacks along the southern German front to capture the Lorraine. Plan 17 was basically accepted as doctrine by the French leaders even though evidence pointed to a massive German right-wing army moving through Belgium to attack from the North. The motto of the day was that the stronger the German right-wing, "so much the better for us" since the center should be weaker.
Plan 17 failed miserably. The German army in the center ended up being larger than attacking French army. On top of this were the obsolete fighting style of the French against a modern dug-in army. They attacked with minor backup artillery in a bayonet charge. The idea was that in the time it took to charge only a few shots could be fired. They completely ignored the speed and power of machine guns which mowed down the oncoming soldiers. The Germans employed airplanes as spotters to do devastating damage with their artillery. In the few places were the offensive was successful the surrounding armies had not been, so a retreat was necessary to prevent envelopment. Overall nothing was gained for more than a day by Plan 17 and over 140,000 French soldiers were dead.