3638 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE MODERN WORLD.
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