Robert T. Foley's new book, "German Strategy.." is an examination of German military ideas from the end of the Franco-German War to the First World War. It culminates in an in-depth investigation of Falkenhayn's strategy for 1916, including the role of the Verdun battle in his overall plan.
The book is extremely well researched, and a look at the book's
bibliography shows the hard work, and amount of research the author put into his study. Sources include many unpublished documents from various archives in multiple countries.
On the salient point of Verdun, and Falkenhayn's true intentions, the author weaves a larger picture of German strategy for 1916, with the Verdun battle being but a piece of an overall larger plan. Foley himself admits that reconstructing Falkenhayn's true plan is difficult, due to the amount of secrecy and disinformation involved-that being said he does an admirable job.
Most interestingly Foley does not include Falkenhayn's famous "Christmas Memorandum," of 1915 as one of the pieces in reconstructing the Verdun puzzle. He states that because the authenticity of the Memorandum has never been established, and in fact, has been disputed, he does not include it. Instead, he relies on first hand accounts of conversations with Falkenhayn, and plans requested from, and submitted by, various German armies along the Western front.
He builds a picture of Falkenhayn's strategy for 1916 which is compelling. Verdun was to be the means to draw the French reserves into battle, inflict casualties on them, and weaken other areas of the French front by drawing troops to the Verdun battle. The Verdun battle was also to provoke a premature Allied counter-attack, which would be bled white by German forces on the defensive. Once these aims had been achieved Falkenhayn would use his own reserve forces to launch attacks at other points along the front. Foley also gives a detailed description of the execution of the Verdun battle and how it went wrong.
His book ends by explaining how the failure of Falkenhayn's strategy led the German military to abandon its attempt at a strategy of attrition, and return to the strategy of annihilation.
Foley's book it well written, with copious notes on sources, and well balanced. He even includes footnotes such as, "For a differing view see."
By presenting a comprehensive view of Falkenhayn's strategy for 1916, with Verdun as only one aspect of that strategy, the author goes a long way towards removing the shroud of mystery that has surrounded Falkenhayn and objectives for Verdun.