If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:6:32

Video transcript

at a very high level the period between 1915 and 1918 on the Western Front is usually considered to be a stalemate it's considered to be a stalemate because you did not have a major movement on the front there was some movement but the front pretty much looked the way that looks in this diagram right over here that's not to say that it was not incredibly bloody in fact it was so bloody that some of the most famous battles not just in World War 1 history but in world history occurred during this period in particular they occurred in 1916 in 1916 the first of these happened in February where you have the Battle of Verdun or Verdun Battle of Verdun where you have the Germans who want to do an offensive on the French that many history story ins believed was intended not to necessarily gain this territory but to try to make the French put so many troops here and inflict so many casualties on the French that they might not be able to overcome that and they might have to throw the French out of the war and they especially thought this part of the front was vulnerable because the French could be attacked from multiple sides this little bulge right over here and so in February of 1916 they attack primarily with artillery so they're shelling the French right over here this whole area the French keep bringing troops into the mix keep bringing troops into the mix and to get a sense of how ugly and how scary this whole scene was this is a quote from the Journal of a French soldier who was serving in Verdun during the Battle of Verdun or serving in the Battle of Verdun and he wrote and he was unfortunately later killed due to artillery fire humanity is mad it must be mad to do what it is doing what a massacre what scenes of horror and carnage I cannot find words to translate my impressions hell cannot be so terrible men are mad and this battle would continue through most of the year as you go into the summer that's what kind of the maximum of the German offensive this is some of the territory that they tweet that they are able to capture but as you get into the late summer in July of sixteen the British and the French decide to do an offensive on another part of the front right over here near the Somme River so this right over here is the Somme this right over here is the Somme River and so you have so this right over here is a German offensive German offensive in July you have the Battle of the Somme battle sometimes referred to as a psalm offensive of the Somme named after the Somme River it's where it occurred where the Somme River intersected with the front and this was an Anglo British and French anglo-french offensive and it's also famous both of these were incredibly bloody that's what really made them noteworthy but this was also famous for the first use of the tanks this was a picture of a British tank at the time but both of these were incredibly bloody it was lucky for the French at Verdun that the Battle of this that the offensive at the Somme happened because this forced the the Germans to go off of the offensive as we get into the late summer of 1916 they had to bring they had to bring troops back over here to help support it but the end result of both of these is you do not have a major movement of the front in fact by the end of 1916 because the Germans had to go fight at the Battle of the Somme the French were able to recapture much of this territory so the real end result of both of these offensives won on the German side one on the British side was just a massive massive massive loss of human life each of them it's estimated had on the order of a million casualties roughly half on each side at Verdun it was slightly more on the French side than the German but it was roughly you know fifty five forty five percent so a million casualties in Verdun a million casualties on both sides at the Somme I've seen estimates on the death toll being a third of a million to half a million for each of these battles so both of these were incredibly incredibly ugly battles for both sides the end result for the Germans though was even more interesting because you have to remember what was happening at the Eastern Front on the Eastern Front 1916 was the year that the Russians finally were kind of building up their war machine they were finally able to equip the moon missions necessary it was also the year that the Romanians joined on the on side of the ant ant along with the Russians on the Eastern Front the austro-hungarians were sort of suffering huge losses so 1916 the Germans were in a very tough situation huge losses at Verdun huge losses at the Battle of the Somme the the Russians are starting to get more aggressive on the Eastern Front the austro-hungarians are starting to have trouble so they decide to essentially re trench so they're going to start bringing more troops back to the Eastern Front but in order to not hold too much ground or not to lose too much ground on the Western Front they essentially try to try to hold a smaller front so they back up to this line they start preparing so they're hope this is this is this is the line at the end of the Battle of the Somme the Germans recognize that they can't protect this entire front they want to protect a shorter front so they began preparing to move back right over here and they essentially and this line right over here is named after the field marsian of the Jew of the of the German army it's called the Hindenburg Line Hindon Hindenburg Hindenburg line it's no coincidence it's the same name of the Zeppelin that blew up and in in the late 30s it was actually named after Field Marshal Hindenburg over for whom this line is named but the Germans do this in order so that they can they can take more troops to the Eastern Front and hold a shorter line so by the end of 1916 they start making the preparations for the Hindenburg line and in February of 1917 they actually move back to the Hindenburg line so this is 1917 1919 17 February you have the Germans the Germans move to the Hindenburg line in den Berg in den Berg line so 1916 incredibly incredibly ugly year two million casualties not a lot of movement of the actual front