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During the First World War Verdun was a fortified French garrison town on the River Meuse 200km east of Paris In December 1915 General Erich von Falkenhayn Chief of Staff of the German Army decided to attack Verdun Although he admitted he would be unable to break through at these point on the Western Front he argued that in defending Verdun the Germans would bleed the French army white The German attack on Verdun started on 21st February 1916 A million troops led by Crown Prince Wilhelm faced only about 200000 French defenders The following day the French was forced to retreat to their second line of trenches By 24th February the French had moved back to the third line and were only 8km from Verdun On 24th February General Henri-Philippe Petain was appointed commander of the Verdun sector He gave orders that no more withdrawals would take place He arranged for every spare French soldier to this part of the Western Front Of the 330 infantry regiments of the French Army 259 eventually fought at Verdun The German advance was brought to a halt at the end of February On the 6th March the German Fifth Army launched a new attack at Verdun The Germans advanced 3km before they were stopped in front of the area around Mort Homme Hill The French held this strategic point until it was finally secured by the Germans on 29th May and Fort Vaux fell on 7th June after a long siege Further attacks continued throughout the summer and early autumn However the scale of the German attacks were reduced by the need to transfer troops to defend their front-line at the Somme The French now counter-attacked and General Charles Mangin became a national hero when the forts at Douaumont and Vaux were recaptured by 2nd November 1916 Over the next six weeks the French infantry gained another 2km at Verdun Verdun the
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