Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Though Germany's carefully planned strategy in the first weeks of World War I was initially successful, it never achieved its twin goals of capturing Paris and sweeping across Europe to defeat the Allies quickly. Within 10 days of this attack in Belgium, the two sides had become stalemated at battle lines that remained unchanged for the next 3 years. The result was horrible, costly and inconclusive trench warfare. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 25, 1914:
Admitting defeat, with terrible losses and a complete change in its plan of campaign, the French war office tonight gave out a statement of the disastrous battle in Belgium, saying:
"West of the Meuse the English army on our left was attacked by the Germans, but behaved admirably, holding its ground with traditional steadfastness.
"The French assumed the offensive with two army corps. An African brigade in the front line, carried away by its eagerness, was received by a murderous fire. They did not give an inch, but, counterattacked by the Prussian guard, they were obliged to retire, only, however, after inflicting enormous losses. The Prussian guard especially suffered heavily.
"East of the Meuse our troops advanced across an extremely difficult country and made a vigorous attack when they emerged from the woods, but were obliged to fall back after a stiff fight south of the River Semois.
"On order of Gen. Joffre, our troops and the British troops withdrew to the covering positions. Our troops are intact; our cavalry has in no way suffered, and our artillery has affirmed its superiority. Our officers and soldiers are in the best of condition, morally and physically.
"As the result of the orders which have been issued, the aspect of the struggle will change for a few days. The French army will remain for a time on the defensive, but at the right moment, to be decided upon by the commander-in-chief, it will resume a vigorous offensive.
"Our losses are heavy; it would be premature to enumerate them. It would be equally so to enumerate those of the Germans, who suffered so heavily that they were obliged to abandon their counterattacks and establish themselves in fresh positions in Lorraine.
"We delivered four attacks yesterday from our positions north of Nancy, inflicting very heavy loss on the enemy.
"In regard to the general situation we have the full use of our railroads, and retain command of the seas. Our operations have enabled the Russians to come into action and penetrate the heart of west Prussia.
"It is to be regretted the offensive operations planned failed to achieve their purpose as a result of difficulties impossible to foresee. It would have shortened the war, but our defenses remain intact in the presence of an already weakened enemy.
"Every Frenchman will deplore the temporary abandonment of portions of Alsace and Lorraine, which we had occupied, and certain parts of the national territory will suffer from events of which they will be the theater.
"The ordeal is inevitable, but temporary. Thus detachments of German cavalry belonging to an unattached division operating on the extreme right have penetrated to Roubaix (6 miles north of Lille), and the Tourcoing district, which are defended only by territorial reservists.
"Our valiant people will know how to find courage to support this trial with unfailing faith in final success, which is not to be doubted. In telling to the country the whole truth, the government and military authorities give it the strongest proof of their absolute confidence in victory, which depends only on our perseverance and tenacity."
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