Joffre, Joseph Jacques Césaire (1852–1931), a French army officer. Joffre took command of French armed forces at the opening of World War I. Joffre had the courage to take responsibility and act decisively in times of crisis, but he lacked brilliance or imagination. Like most French officers, he believed in mass frontal attacks on the enemy. These attacks were almost always repulsed with heavy losses.
Joffre was born at Rivesaltes. While a student at the École Polytechnique, he took part in the defense of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). As an engineer corps officer Joffre served in many French overseas colonies. In 1911 he was made vice president of the War Council and chief of the” general staff, a position that made him commander in chief on the Western Front when war began.
During the first month of World War I the Germans advanced to within 20 miles (32 km) of Paris. In the First Battle of the Marne (September 5–12, 1914), Joffre rallied his forces, counterattacked, and sent the German right wing fleeing back across the Aisne River. This battle ruined any chances of a quick German victory and both sides prepared for a long struggle.
In late 1915, Joffre was given supreme command of French armies in all theaters of war. As the war continued, the French suffered disastrous casualties without gaining ground. In December, 1916, Joffre was made a marshal of France (the first since 1870), but was reduced to the status of a technical adviser.
Joffre was made a member of the French Academy in 1918 for literary merit—specifically for his general order on the eve of the First Battle of the Marne, demanding no further retreat. After the war Joffre retired to private life. He wrote Personal Memoirs of Joffre (2 volumes, 1932).