First Battle of the Marne

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The First Battle of the Marne was a battle of the First World War fought from 5 to 12 September 1914.[3] The German army invaded France with a plan for winning the war in 40 days by occupying Paris and destroying the French and British armies (sometimes called the Entente). The Germans had initial successes in August. They were victorious in the Battles of Mons and the Frontiers and overran a large area of northern France and Belgium. In what is called the Great Retreat the Germans pursued the retreating Franco/British forces more than 250 km (160 mi) southward. The French and British halted their retreat in the Marne River valley while the Germans advanced to 40 km (25 mi) from downtown Paris.

First Battle of the Marne
Part of the Western Front of World War I
German_soldiers_Battle_of_Marne_WWI.jpg
German soldiers (wearing distinctive pickelhaube helmets with cloth covers) on the front line at the First Battle of the Marne.
Date5–12 September 1914
Location
Marne River near Brasles, east of Paris, France
49°1′N 3°23′E
Result

French victory

Belligerents
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg France
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Joseph Joffre
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Joseph Gallieni
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Michel-Joseph Maunoury
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Louis Franchet d'Espèrey
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Ferdinand Foch
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Fernand de Langle de Cary
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg Maurice Sarrail
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland John French
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Helmuth von Moltke
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Alexander von Kluck
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Karl von Bülow
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Max von Hausen
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Albrecht von Württemberg
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg Crown Prince Wilhelm
Units involved
Strength
1,080,000[1]
64 French divisions
6 British divisions}
750,000[1]
51 German divisions
Casualties and losses
Flag_of_France_%281794%E2%80%931815%2C_1830%E2%80%931974%2C_2020%E2%80%93present%29.svg 85,000 casualties[2]
Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg 1,700 casualties[2]
Flag_of_Germany_%281867%E2%80%931918%29.svg 67,000 casualties
38,000 captured [2]

With the battlefield reverses of August, Field Marshal John French, commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), lost faith in his French allies and began to plan for a British retreat to port cities on the English Channel for an evacuation to Britain. However, the French commander Joseph Joffre maintained good order in his retreating army and was able to reinforce it by bringing in additional manpower from his eastern flank and integrating military reserve units into the regular army. By early September, the Franco/British forces outnumbered the Germans who were exhausted after a month-long campaign, had outrun their supply lines, and were suffering shortages. On 3 September the military governor of Paris, Joseph Simon Gallieni, perceived that the German right flank was vulnerable and positioned his forces to attack.

On 4 September Joffre gave the order to launch a counteroffensive. The battle took place between Paris and Verdun, a west to east distance of 230 km (140 mi). The point of decision and the heaviest fighting was in the western one-half of that area. By 9 September, the success of the Franco–British counteroffensive left the German 1st and 2nd Armies at risk of encirclement, and they were ordered to retreat to the Aisne River. The retreating armies were pursued by the French and British. The German armies ceased their retreat after 40 mi (65 km) on a line north of the Aisne River, where they dug in on the heights and fought the First Battle of the Aisne. The German retreat from 9 to 12 September marked the end of the German attempt to defeat France quickly. Both sides next commenced reciprocal operations to envelop the northern flank of their opponent in what became known as the Race to the Sea which culminated in the First Battle of Ypres and led to a bloody four-year long stalemate of trench warfare on the Western Front of World War I.

The battles of August and early September 1914, culminating in the Battle of the Marne, involved more than two million soldiers and resulted in about 250,000 casualties on each side. The Battle of the Marne alone from September 5 to 12 resulted in an estimated 85,000 French and British casualties and 67,000 German casualties. Holger Herwig called the Battle of the Marne the most important land battle of the 20th century.[4] The battle is described in French folklore as the "miracle on the Marne."