The Battles of the Marne and the Aisne
The Battle of the Marne was not the ‘miracle’ of popular legend. It was a carefully prepared and hard-fought counter-attack in which the French army was able to take advantage of the dislocation of the German army’s over-ambitious sweep through France. By early September the over-extension inherent in the German offensive plan started to tell. As they retreated the Belgians had destroyed their railways, leaving the invaders reliant on horsepower. Food and ammunition, expended in unprecedented amounts in the early battles, had to be brought to the attacking troops along increasingly extended and vulnerable lines of communication. The detachment of troops to besiege Antwerp and Maubeuge, and to reinforce the exposed eastern front, had weakened the right wing. Moltke now concentrated his five eastern armies on defeating the apparently beaten French. His two western armies were to close up and envelop the French left wing. Anxious about the over-extension of his front, Alexander von Kluck, commanding the First Army on the extreme right, chose to advance to the east rather than west of Paris, to keep in touch with Karl von Bülow’s Second Army and reduce the distance his weary troops had to march. In this change of plan lay the seeds of disaster.