The History Place - World War I

Joseph Joffre, Commander-in-Chief of the French Army--a quiet man, carrying the weight of a nation on his shoulders. He took command in 1914 at age 63, the culmination of a military career that began as a boy cadet. As a young officer in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Joffre oversaw the building of defensive barricades at Paris, and was promoted to captain at age 22, for his success. Below: General Joffre, accompanied by Ferdinand Foch and Auguste Dubail, watch French troops marching off to battle.

Below: The Commander-in-Chief seen giving orders in the field. He believed an army commander should exercise total authority in the field while keeping personalities and politics at bay. Each day he sent a war messenger to update France's political leaders but there was no messenger sent by them to him. The French Army of 1870-71 had lost the Franco-Prussian war partly as a result of meddling by France's non-military elite rulers. As Commander, Joffre also took a dim view toward privileged officers who had achieved high rank through family or other connections. By December 1914, with the survival of France still at stake, he had sacked 24 generals for a variety of reasons including "weakness in maneuvers."

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