In April 1914 Ludendorff was promoted to Major-General and given the command of the 85th Infantry Brigade, stationed at Strassburg.
With the outbreak of The Great War, Ludendorff was first appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the German Second Army under General Karl von Bülow. His assignment was largely due to his knowledge and previous work investigating the dozen forts surrounding Liege, Belgium. The German assault in early August 1914, according to the Schlieffen Plan for invading France, gained him national recognition.
The Germans experienced their first major setback at Liege. Belgian artillery and machine guns killed thousands of German troops attempting frontal assaults. On 5 August Ludendorff took command of the 14th Brigade, whose general had been killed. He cut off Liege and called for siege guns. By 16 August all forts around Liege had fallen, allowing the German First Army to advance. As hero of Liege, Ludendorff was awarded Germany's highest military decoration for gallantry, the Pour le Mérite, presented by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself on 22 August.