Page 3638


prodigally, and so great was the sound

of the bombardment that it was heard at

times for a distance of over 180 miles.

The French defenders held on stoutly in

their hidden positions, often at a depth of

forty or fifty feet below the surface of the

ground, and whenever the German infantry attempted to advance, they were

invariably met by a terrific "curtain of fire"

from the French artillery and a withering

hail from the French rifles and machine

guns. When circumstances demanded it,

the French themselves would take the

offensive, and were able repeatedly to

throw back the Germans with heavy losses.

By the beginning of April, after five

weeks of continuous attack, the Germans

had succeeded in virtually destroying

the little town of Verdun, but they had

reached the main French defenses in only

a few places, and had not yet seriously

threatened them. It was the general

opinion among the Allies and in neutral

countries that whatever successes had been

attained had been won at a price that was

much heavier than the Germans could

afford to pay.

The operations had now taken on the

aspect of a race against time. It was

expected that the Allies would undertake

a general offensive on many fronts as soon

as the weather and the ground became

favorable for the movement of troops.

If, therefore, Verdun could hold out until

about the 1st of May, it would be safe,

for the Germans would have urgent need

of much of their artillery and many of their

troops elsewhere. Unwillingness to confess defeat and the desire to bring prestige

to the Crown Prince, however, led them

to persist long after it had become apparent

that the attack upon Verdun had been

a military blunder.

The Germans had undoubtedly hoped

that by concentrating such a tremendous

attack upon Verdun they could quickly