With the Allies suffering from their own inexperience and low morale, German General Erich von Falkanhayn believed that if dealt enough damage the French would be forced to surrender and the war would be over. He planned a siege on Verdun to take the several French forts in the area. On February 21, 1916, more than 1,220 guns around an eight-mile perimeter opened fire. It was the sort of drenching shellstorm that would distinguish the battle. Verdun did act as a “suction cup” as three fourths of the French Western Front divisions would eventually serve there. But even from the start, the German soldiers did not achieve the five-to-two kill ratio Falkenhayn had predicted, and suffered heavy casualties. Orders went out to take French positions “without regard to casualties.” At the end of the first week, the Germans had advanced six miles; a few men walked into an almost undefended Fort Douaumont and took possession. Fighting degenerated into isolated struggles for shellholes, forcing the French into an impromptu but successful defense-in-depth. At the beginning of June, the Germans took another key stronghold, Fort Vaux, after hideous subterranean melees. A few of their troops actually reached a point from which the twin towers of Verdun cathedral were visible, two miles away, but they would never make it there. On July 14, the Germans called off their offensive, and the French recaptured the territory by the end of the year.