Primary Documents - Erich Ludendorff on the Loss of Forts Vaux and Douaumont, November 1916

Erich Ludendorff Reproduced below is the official announcement issued by Erich Ludendorff in the wake of German setbacks towards the close of the Battle of Verdun, namely the loss of Forts Douaumont and Vaux.

In his statement Ludendorff played down the significance of these French "local" successes, noting that they in any event no longer served any useful tactical purpose to German forces.  The German retreat was therefore "devoid of any important effect upon the situation" according to Ludendorff.

With the appointment of Paul von Hindenburg and Ludendorff to the military high command in Berlin in August 1916 - and Erich von Falkenhayn's dismissal - a decision was promptly taken to bring to an end the enormous German Verdun offensive.  While Falkenhayn saw it as a useful means of sapping French resources and morale, Ludendorff in particular regarded it as a largely pointless endeavour which had failed.

Click here to read Falkenhayn's justification for the offensive.  Click here to read Crown Prince Wilhelm's summary of the battle.  Click here to read Wilhelm's summary of its abandonment.  Click here to read von Hindenburg's decision to call off the offensive.  Click here to read Erich Ludendorff's dismissive view of the battle.  Click here to read Joseph Joffre's August 1916 summary of the battle.  Click here to read British newspaper baron Lord Northcliffe's despatch during the early days of the battle.

Click here to read a French memoir of the German attack on Le Mort Homme in May 1916.  Click here for a memoir of the struggle for Fort Douaumont the same month.  Click here for a memoir of the German assault upon Fort Vaux in June 1916.  Click here to read General Millerand's official account of the see-saw fighting at Thiaumont in July and August 1916.  Click here to read a semi-official German historian's account of the end of the battle.  Click here to read General von Zwehl's memorandum issued immediately before the French recapture of Forts Vaux and Douaumont.  Click here to read French General Pierre Dubois's view of the German approach at Verdun.  Click here to read a French staff officer's account of the recapture of Fort Douaumont in October 1916.

Announcement from German Headquarters Following the Loss of Forts Douaumont and Vaux by Erich Ludendorff, November 1916

The projected withdrawal of the first line in the Douaumont-Vaux sector of the front to prepared positions was accomplished on Wednesday night.

Although the French, favoured by foggy weather, were able on October 24th to advance just at the time when this withdrawal was in progress, and thus obtained a local success, the methodical retreat of the troops from Vaux Fort was carried out on the night of November 1st without the attention of the enemy being aroused.

Moreover, at dawn on November 2nd, the deceived French opened fire on Vaux Fort and maintained it into the daylight.  French assaulting columns made an attack into space and discovered the fort had been abandoned.

The forts of Douaumont and of Vaux played an important part in the battle of Verdun so long as they remained as French forts in the hands of the defenders.  In order to weaken the Verdun position they had to be rendered inoffensive; deprived of their fighting means and largely destroyed, they possessed only a limited value for the assaulting party from a tactical point of view immediately the attack upon Verdun had been interrupted.

Further, they gave the French artillery excellent objectives.  In consequence of local gains by the French in the neighbourhood of the former Fort of Douaumont the importance of Vaux Fort to the German troops had become less than nil and there was no reason to make great sacrifices for the maintenance of this advanced position.

As also the ground near Vaux was not suited for defence toward the south, the fort was abandoned and the German battle line was carried back to a more favourable line which had long ago been prepared.

It is less visible and less exposed to the enemy's artillery fire.  It is well to add that the abandonment of Vaux Fort is devoid of any important effect upon the situation before Verdun.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

'White Star' was a German mixture of chlorine and phosgene gas, so-named on account of the identification marking painted on the delivery shell casing.

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