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Spring Offensive

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1918 Spring Offensive, or Kaiserschlacht ("Kaiser's Battle"), also known as the Ludendorff Offensive, was a series of German attacks along the Western Front during the First World War, beginning on 21 March 1918, which marked the deepest advances by either side since 1914. The Germans had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and matériel resources of the United States could be fully deployed. They also had the temporary advantage in numbers afforded by the nearly 50 divisions which had been freed by the Russian withdrawal from the war by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

There were four German offensives, codenamed Michael, Georgette, Gneisenau, and Blücher-Yorck. Michael was the main attack, which was intended to break through the Allied lines, outflank the British forces (which held the front from the Somme River to the English Channel) and defeat the British Army. Once that was achieved, it was hoped that the French would seek armistice terms. The other offensives were subsidiary to Michael and were designed to divert Allied forces from the main offensive effort on the Somme.

No clear objective was established before the start of the offensives and once the operations were underway, the targets of the attacks were constantly changed according to the battlefield (tactical) situation. The Allies concentrated their main forces in the essential areas (the approaches to the Channel Ports and the rail junction of Amiens), leaving strategically worthless ground, which had been devastated by years of conflict, lightly defended.

The Germans were unable to move supplies and reinforcements fast enough to maintain their advance. The fast-moving stormtroopers leading the attack could not carry enough food and ammunition to sustain themselves for long, and all the German offensives petered out, partly for lack of supplies.

By late April 1918, the danger of a German breakthrough had passed. The German Army had suffered heavy casualties and now occupied ground of dubious value, which would prove impossible to hold with such depleted units. In August 1918, the Allies began a counteroffensive with the support of 1–2 million fresh American troops and using improved artillery techniques and operational methods. This Hundred Days Offensive resulted in the Germans retreating or being driven from all of the ground that they had taken in the Spring Offensive, the collapse of the Hindenburg Line, and the capitulation of the German Empire that November.

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Transcription

The Western Front has been pretty quiet since early December, but no more, for this week, Germany launches Operation Michael, the beginning of the Kaiserschlacht, their largest offensive of the entire war. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, the Germans continued to consolidate their victory in the east, even though their army lost in the field to the Czechoslovak Legion. The Allies requisitioned Dutch shipping, the Ottomans advanced as the Armenians retreated, and there were peace overture possibilities between the Allies and Austria. But that was last week. This week, Baron Burian, former Austrian Foreign Minister, wrote in his diary (Gilbert), “No one will now listen to the word peace. Everything is based on the forthcoming offensive, as if everyone were entrusting himself without a tremor to the decision of fate.” And that offensive, a German one on the Western Front, begins this week. German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff’s general objective was to drive the British from the Somme and the French from the Aisne, and to threaten Paris as the Germans had three and a half years ago. Then, though, Germany was fighting a war on two fronts, now it was just the one, and in spite of the enormity of the offensive, Ludendorff had the element of surprise. The Germans had been in motion along the whole front all winter. The final placement of the heavy guns began only March 11th. The assault divisions didn’t arrive until the 16th, and they marched only by night. Ludendorff even twice moved his own headquarters, once to Southeast Belgium and once to Avesnes in France. He now had 190 divisions on the Western Front - three million men - and more were coming. He had succeeded in making the British think the attack was coming in Flanders, where the British were strongest. British Commander Sir Douglas Haig even wrote in his diary after an inspection of his northern lines, “I was only afraid that the enemy would find our front so very strong that he will hesitate to commit his army to the attack with the almost certainty of losing very heavily”. Gotta be fair to Haig, though, the intelligence reports he got were often wrong, and confusing in general. Anyhow, for the British, Henry Horne and the 1st Army defended Arras in the north, Julian Byng and the 3rd army just south of them, and Hugh Gough and the 5th army on their right, at St. Quentin. The German 17th army under Otto von Below, victor of Caporetto, was opposite Horne and Byng. On his left was the 2nd army under Georg von der Marwitz, who’d led the counter attack at Cambrai a few months ago. To his south was the 18th army under Oskar von Hutier; the guy who really advanced German stormtroop doctrine and tactics, and after whom those tactics are named. Ludendorff’s drive now against the British 5th Army was unexpected, and Haig had built up his reserves behind the 3rd army to protect the Channel ports. Also, earlier in the week, the French 3rd army was moved 160km east of the British 5th, to guard against a sweep to the south. A sweep that proved non-existent. So the 5th army was in a pretty bad position. This was complicated by its divisions being under strength, as we talked about in January. Martin Gilbert says that those divisions, designed to be 12,000 men were in no case much more than 6,000 each. General Gough, a mile behind the front line, was awakened around 0500 by German artillery. (Gilbert) “I awoke in my room at Nesle to the sound of a bombardment so steady and sustained that it gave me an immediate impression of some crushing, smashing power.” That was because the Germans had over 6,000 heavy guns firing, backed up by over 3,000 mortars. The Germans were also firing gas shells to mess with the ability of the British artillery to counter attack. In the skies, 361 German fighters attacked 261 British; 16 British and 14 German planes were shot down that first day. The shelling began at 0440, and just after 7 AM the first waves of German infantry went over the top and smashed into the British lines. 44 divisions of storm troops, the cream of the German army, with the best mobile weapons Germany could produce, led the attack. Many of them were not even using their rifles. They were on the run in tiny groups using whatever cover there was. If they met the enemy, they tossed grenades or a light machine gunner laid down a field of fire. Anything to keep moving moving moving. They had colored flares to signal their comrades. There was no continuous line, and the pace was set by whoever was fastest. (World Undone) “Everything would depend on initiative, boldness, flexibility, and the ability to adapt to whatever developed. The main rule was that the old rules no longer applied.” They even had a new pamphlet that said the first day’s objective was the artillery, but the second day’s depends on the first day. And the reserves would be sent in where the attack was progressing, not where it was stalled, as was traditional. Behind the assault units were heavier battle units with flamethrowers, heavy machine guns, field artillery, and engineers. They were to wipe out the strongpoints bypassed by the shock troops and build defensive works to hold off counterattacks. Behind them was, of course, the mighty Hindenburg Line of defense, and behind that, the reserves. The whole plan would fail, though, if the storm troops couldn’t get past the front lines, and to make sure they did, the Germans had something the British had yet to encounter - Georg Bruchmuller. (World Undone) “the one true artillery genius of a war dominated by artillery... He was, in all likelihood, the most valuable individual in the entire German army during the great climax of 1918.” Bruchmuller was attached to Hutier and the 18th army. We have already talked at length about Bruchmuller’s barrage techniques, which had been so successful at Caporetto and on the Eastern Front, and he was no less successful here. In a heavy fog, the Germans came on. I said they smashed into the British lines, but in reality, they smashed through them. Just this first day, the Germans made advances of up to 7 km, and took over 20,000 British prisoners, and the British took over 50,000 total casualties including prisoners. It was a war of motion once more, for the first time since the fall of 1914. The 5th Army could not stand against the assault, not that they didn’t try their damndest. At Manchester Hill, a British regiment literally fought to the last man. This was not unique, and whole villages were obliterated as the British - again - literally defended to the last man. In the center, Byng’s army held on to the Flesquieres salient, but with Gough’s men falling back, they were in danger of being cut off. But the breakthrough into open territory, had only been achieved on the German left. Below’s army had reached the British second line, sure, and Marwitz had done a bit better even, but the real drama, the real action was where Hutier and Bruchmuller had implemented the tactics that bore their names. This was not what Ludendorff had expected, though. I mean, it was a brilliant success, but it hadn’t gone according to plan. So what would Ludendorff do? He could reinforce Below and try again to break through on the right, which is the sort of thing we’ve seen Haig and Falkenhayn do - try to turn a stalled offensive into a success by throwing more men at it, but he did the opposite. He sent his best reserve divisions to Hutier and none to Below. The last day of the week brought further German successes. The British counter attacked with 25 tanks, 16 of them were knocked out of commission. Thirty British planes were lost on day two, just 11 for the Germans. But again, the German progress that day was pretty much all on the left. Ludendorff’s plans, though, had been overtaken by the events of 48 hours. His supply system wasn’t prepared to follow Hutier’s men and even as the week ends, they were running out of essentials like water. You know what, though? The British actually launched their own offensive on the same day the German one began, but on the Palestine Front. They finally set out to try and take Amman. This began ominously. The Ottomans had decoded the British radio traffic and knew that an attack on Amman was coming. They had reinforced the town days before the British even began crossing the Jordan, which took until the end of the week, as the river was swollen from the rains. Before Amman, they would first make the muddy climb to Salt. And so the week ends, with the British beginning a small offensive, and the German beginning a colossal one. And make no mistake, the whole world was watching, and watching nervously. The Central Powers had won in the East, they had made huge gains in Italy, they were doing fine in Macedonia and the Caucasus, and holding on in Palestine, and Germany was now only fighting on one front. And was bringing hundreds of thousands of fresh troops from the east to the west. The French and the British armies were still exhausted from last year’s offensives, and the Americans had not yet arrived in force. And all hell broke loose this week on the Western Front as the Germans try to smash the enemy once and for all. It doesn’t get heavier than this. If you want to learn more about the evolution of German Infantry Tactics throughout the war, you can click right here to find our playlist including multiple episodes on that topic. Our Patreon supporter of the week are Tom and Mary Pat Lienhart. Consider supporting us on Patreon and get cool perks in return. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next time.

Contents

German preparations

Strategy

Comparative numbers of German and Allied front-line infantry from April to November 1918.[6]
Comparative numbers of German and Allied front-line infantry from April to November 1918.[6]

The German High Command—in particular General Erich Ludendorff, the Chief Quartermaster General at Oberste Heeresleitung, the supreme army headquarters—has been criticised by military historians[who?] for the failure to formulate sound and clear strategy. Ludendorff privately conceded that Germany could no longer win a war of attrition, yet he was not ready to give up the German gains in the West and East and was one of the main obstacles to the German government's attempts to reach a settlement with the Western Allies.

Although Ludendorff was unsure whether the Americans would enter the war in strength, at a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff of the German armies on the Western Front on 11 November 1917, he decided to launch an offensive.[7] The German government and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, nominally the Chief of the General Staff, were not party to the planning process. Eventually it was decided to launch Operation Michael near Saint-Quentin, at the hinge between the French and British armies, and strike north to Arras. The main reason for the choice was tactical expediency. The ground on this sector of the front would dry out much sooner after the winter and spring rains and would therefore be easier to advance across. It was also a line of least resistance as the British and French armies were weak in the sector.

The intention was not to reach the English Channel coast, but to break through the Allied lines and roll up the flank of the British army from the south, pushing it back against the Channel Ports or destroying it if the British chose to stand and fight. Further operations such as Operation Georgette and Operation Mars were designed to strike further north to seize the remaining Allied ports in Belgium and France while diverting Allied forces from Michael. However, these remained only secondary and weaker operations, subordinate to Michael.[8]

The constant changing of operational targets once the offensive was underway gave the impression the German command had no coherent strategic goal. Any capture of an important strategic objective, such as the Channel ports, or the vital railway junction of Amiens would have occurred more by chance than by design.[9][10]

Tactical change

The German army had concentrated many of its best troops into stormtrooper units, trained in infiltration tactics to infiltrate and bypass enemy front line units, leaving these strong points to be "mopped-up" by follow-up troops. The stormtrooper tactic was to attack and disrupt enemy headquarters, artillery units and supply depots in the rear areas, as well as to occupy territory rapidly.[11] Each major formation "creamed off" its best and fittest soldiers into storm units; several complete divisions were formed from these elite units. This process gave the German army an initial advantage in the attack, but meant that the best formations would suffer disproportionately heavy casualties, while the quality of the remaining formations declined as they were stripped of their best personnel to provide the storm troops. The Germans also failed to arm their forces with a mobile exploitation force, such as cavalry, to exploit gains quickly. This tactical error meant the infantry had to keep up an exhausting tempo of advance.[12] Notwithstanding the effectiveness of the stormtroopers, the following German infantry often made attacks in large traditional waves and suffered heavy casualties.[13]

To enable the initial breakthrough, Lieutenant Colonel Georg Bruchmüller,[14] a German artillery officer, developed the Feuerwalze [de], (literally: rolling fire, rolling barrage)[15] an effective and economical creeping barrage scheme.[16] There were three phases: first, a brief bombardment on the enemy's command and communications (headquarters, telephone exchanges, etc.); then, destruction of their artillery; lastly an attack upon the enemy front-line infantry defences. Bombardment would always be brief so as to retain surprise. Bruchmüller's tactics were made possible by the vast numbers of heavy guns—with correspondingly plentiful amounts of ammunition for them—which Germany possessed by 1918.

Allied preparations

Defensive tactics

In their turn, the Allies had developed defences in depth, reducing the proportion of troops in their front line and pulling reserves and supply dumps back beyond German artillery range. This change had been made after experience of the successful German use of defence in depth during 1917.

In theory, the front line was an "outpost zone" (later renamed the "forward zone"), lightly held by snipers, patrols and machine-gun posts only. Behind, out of range of German field artillery, was the "battle zone" where the offensive was to be firmly resisted, and behind that again, out of range of all but the heaviest German guns, was a "rear zone" where reserves were held ready to counter-attack or seal off penetrations. In theory, a British infantry division (with nine infantry battalions) deployed three battalions in the outpost zone, four battalions in the battle zone and two battalions in the rear zone.[17]

This change had not been completely implemented by the Allies. In particular, in the sector held by the British Fifth Army, which they had recently taken over from French units, the defences were incomplete and there were too few troops to hold the complete position in depth. The rear zone existed as outline markings only, and the battle zone consisted of battalion "redoubts" which were not mutually supporting (allowing stormtroopers to penetrate between them).

Operation Michael

On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a big offensive against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.

The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on March 21. The bombardment [hit] targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours...[18]

German A7V tank at Roye on 21 March 1918
German A7V tank at Roye on 21 March 1918

The German armies involved were—from north to south—the Seventeenth Army under Otto von Below, the Second Army under Georg von der Marwitz and the Eighteenth Army under Oskar von Hutier, with a Corps (Gruppe Gayl) from the Seventh Army supporting Hutier's attack. Although the British had learned the approximate time and location of the offensive, the weight of the attack and of the preliminary bombardment was an unpleasant surprise. The Germans were also fortunate in that the morning of the attack was foggy, allowing the stormtroopers leading the attack to penetrate deep into the British positions undetected.

By the end of the first day, the British had lost 7,512 dead and 10,000 wounded and the Germans had broken through at several points on the front of the British Fifth Army. After two days the Fifth Army was in full retreat. As they fell back, many of the isolated "redoubts" were left to be surrounded and overwhelmed by the following German infantry. The right wing of Third Army became separated from the retreating Fifth Army, and also retreated to avoid being outflanked.

Ludendorff failed to follow the correct stormtroop tactics, as described above. His lack of a coherent strategy to accompany the new tactics was expressed in a remark to one of his Army Group commanders, Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, in which he stated, "We chop a hole. The rest follows." Ludendorff's dilemma was that the most important parts of the Allied line were also the most strongly held. Much of the German advance was achieved where it was not strategically significant. Because of this, Ludendorff continually exhausted his forces by attacking strongly entrenched British units. At Arras on 28 March, he launched a hastily prepared attack (Operation Mars) against the left wing of the British Third Army, to try to widen the breach in the Allied lines, and was repulsed.

The German breakthrough had occurred just to the north of the boundary between the French and British armies. The French commander-in-chief, General Pétain, sent reinforcements to the sector too slowly in the opinion of the British commander-in-chief, Field Marshal Haig, and the British government, though Elizabeth Greenhalgh disputes this, convincingly arguing that Petain sent the six additional divisions quicker than had been arranged with Haig – in 2 days instead of 4 – and arranging for extra divisions several times – 12 divisions on 23 March and 13 on the 25/26 March – before requests came in from Haig.[19] The Allies reacted by appointing the French General Ferdinand Foch to coordinate all Allied activity in France, and subsequently as commander-in-chief of all Allied forces everywhere.

The success of Operation Michael led German infantry to advance too far from its supply bases and railheads. The stormtrooper units leading the advance carried supplies for only a few days, to avoid being overburdened, and relied on supplies delivered quickly from the rear. The advance was slowed by supply shortages, which gave Allied commanders more time to reinforce the threatened areas and to slow the advance still more.[20] German supply difficulties were made worse by the direction of advance, which crossed the wasteland created during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and by Operation Alberich, the German retirement to the Hindenburg Line from February to March 1917.[21]

Germans passing a captured British trench
Germans passing a captured British trench

After a few days, the German advance began to falter, as the infantry became exhausted and it became increasingly difficult to move artillery and supplies forward to support them. Fresh British and Australian units were moved to the vital rail centre of Amiens and the defence began to stiffen. After fruitless attempts to capture Amiens, Ludendorff called off Operation Michael on 5 April. By the standards of the time, there had been a substantial advance. It was, however, of little value; a Pyrrhic victory in terms of the casualties suffered by the crack troops, as the vital positions of Amiens and Arras remained in Allied hands. The newly-won territory was difficult to traverse, as much of it consisted of the shell-torn wilderness left by the 1916 Battle of the Somme, and would later be difficult to defend against Allied counter-attacks.

The Allies lost nearly 255,000 men (British, British Empire and French). They also lost 1,300 artillery pieces and 200 tanks.[22] All of this could be replaced, either from French and British factories or from American manpower. German troop losses were 239,000 men, many of them specialist shocktroops (Stoßtruppen) who were irreplaceable.[22] In terms of morale, the initial German jubilation at the successful opening of the offensive soon turned to disappointment, as it became clear that the attack had not achieved decisive results.

Georgette

British Lewis gun team on the bank of the Lys canal during Battle of Hazebrouck, 15 April 1918
British Lewis gun team on the bank of the Lys canal during Battle of Hazebrouck, 15 April 1918
German prisoners being guarded by Australian troops, 23 April 1918.
German prisoners being guarded by Australian troops, 23 April 1918.

Michael had drawn British forces to defend Amiens, leaving the rail route through Hazebrouck and the approaches to the Channel ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk vulnerable. German success here could choke the British into defeat.

The attack started on 9 April after a Feuerwalze. The main attack was made on the open and flat sector defended by the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps. After an entire year spent in the trenches, the Portuguese were tired and had suffered heavy losses. They were being replaced in the front line by fresh British divisions, an operation that was planned to be completed on 9 April, the same day as the Germans attacked the sector. The process of relief in place was poorly organized by the British First Army's command, and the Portuguese 1st Division had been withdrawn to the rear on 6 April, leaving the Portuguese 2nd Division to defend the entire sector alone. They were left with an extensive 7 mi (11 km) front, without natural obstacles which might benefit the defence.

Hit hard by the Feuerwalze bombardment and under the assault of eight German divisions, the Portuguese 2nd Division made a desperate defence, trying to hold their positions, which, however, were rapidly enveloped and overrun by the masses of German forces. The 2nd Division was virtually annihilated, losing more than 7,000 men. The British 40th Division, on the northern flank of the Portuguese, also rapidly collapsed before the attack, opening a gap that further facilitated the envelopment of the Portuguese by the Germans. However, under much less pressure from the Germans and occupying good defensive positions protected by the La Bassée Canal, the British 55th Division on the southern flank of the Portuguese were able to hold much of their position throughout the battle.

The next day, the Germans widened their attack to the north, forcing the defenders of Armentières to withdraw before they were surrounded, and capturing most of the Messines Ridge. By the end of the day, the few British divisions in reserve were hard-pressed to hold a line along the River Lys.

Without French reinforcements, it was feared that the Germans could advance the remaining 15 mi (24 km) to the ports within a week. The commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, issued an "Order of the Day" on 11 April stating, "With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end."

However, the German offensive had stalled because of logistical problems and exposed flanks. Counterattacks by British, French and Anzac forces slowed and stopped the German advance. Ludendorff ended Georgette on 29 April.

As with Michael, losses were roughly equal, approximately 110,000 men wounded or killed, each.[23] Again, the strategic results were disappointing for the Germans. Hazebrouck remained in Allied hands and the Germans occupied a vulnerable salient under fire from three sides. The British abandoned the comparatively worthless territory they had captured at vast cost the previous year around Ypres, freeing several divisions to face the German attackers.

Blücher–Yorck

French and British troops marching back through Passy-sur-Marne, 29 May 1918.
French and British troops marching back through Passy-sur-Marne, 29 May 1918.

While Georgette ground to a halt, a new attack on French positions was planned to draw forces further away from the Channel and allow renewed German progress in the north. The strategic objective remained to split the British and the French and gain victory before American forces could make their presence felt on the battlefield. The Americans were originally deployed in the quiet Saint-Mihiel sector in Lorraine where they had their first significant engagement in the defence of Seicheprey on 20 April.[24] After the British had held off the Michael advance on the Somme, the US 1st Division was moved to reinforce the line in that sector in mid-April and launched their first attack of the war on Cantigny on 28 May 1918.[24]

The German attack took place on 27 May, between Soissons and Reims. The sector was partly held by six depleted British divisions which were "resting" after their exertions earlier in the year. In this sector, the defences had not been developed in depth, mainly due to the obstinacy of the commander of the French Sixth Army, General Denis Auguste Duchêne.[25] As a result, the Feuerwalze was very effective and the Allied front, with a few notable exceptions, collapsed. Duchêne's massing of his troops in the forward trenches also meant there were no local reserves to delay the Germans once the front had broken. Despite French and British resistance on the flanks, German troops advanced to the Marne River and Paris seemed a realistic objective. There was a frenzied atmosphere in Paris, which German long-range guns had been shelling since 21 March, with many citizens fleeing and the government drawing up plans to evacuate to Bordeaux.[26]

Yet again, losses were much the same on each side: 137,000 Allied and 130,000 German casualties up to 6 June.[27] German losses were again mainly from the difficult-to-replace assault divisions.

Gneisenau

Although Ludendorff had intended Blücher-Yorck to be a prelude to a decisive offensive (Hagen) to defeat the British forces further north, he made the error of reinforcing merely tactical success by moving reserves from Flanders to the Aisne, whereas Foch and Haig did not overcommit reserves to the Aisne.[28] Ludendorff sought to extend Blücher-Yorck westward with Operation Gneisenau, intending to draw yet more Allied reserves south, widen the German salient and link with the German salient at Amiens.

The French had been warned of this attack (the Battle of Matz (French: Bataille du Matz)) by information from German prisoners, and their defence in depth reduced the impact of the artillery bombardment on 9 June. Nonetheless, the German advance (consisting of 21 divisions attacking over a 23 mi (37 km) front) along the Matz River was impressive, resulting in an advance of 9 miles (14 km) despite fierce French and American resistance. At Compiègne, a sudden French counter-attack on 11 June, by four divisions and 150 tanks (under General Charles Mangin) with no preliminary bombardment, caught the Germans by surprise and halted their advance. Gneisenau was called off the following day.[29]

Losses were approximately 35,000 Allied and 30,000 German.

Last German attack (Marneschutz-Reims/Friedensturm)

Ludendorff now postponed Hagen and launched the German Seventh, First and Third Armies in the Friedensturm (Peace Offensive) of 15 July, a renewed attempt to draw Allied reserves south from Flanders and to expand the salient created by Blücher–Yorck eastwards.[29] An attack east of Rheims was thwarted by the French defence in depth. In many sectors, the Germans, deprived of any surprise as their fuel-starved air force had lost air superiority to the Allies, advanced no further than the French Forward Zone, and nowhere did they break the French Battle (Second) Zone.[30]

Although German troops southwest of Rheims succeeded in crossing the River Marne, the French launched a major offensive of their own on the west side of the salient on 18 July, threatening to cut off the Germans in the salient. Ludendorff had to evacuate most of the Blücher–Yorck salient by 7 August and Hagen was finally cancelled.[31] The initiative had clearly passed to the Allies, who were shortly to begin the Hundred Days Offensive which ended the war.

Aftermath

Analysis

The Kaiserschlacht offensives had yielded large territorial gains for the Germans, in First World War terms. However, victory was not achieved and the German armies were severely depleted, exhausted and in exposed positions. The territorial gains were in the form of salients which greatly increased the length of the line that would have to be defended when Allied reinforcements gave the Allies the initiative. In six months, the strength of the German army had fallen from 5.1 million fighting men to 4.2 million.[32] By July, the German superiority of numbers on the Western Front had sunk to 207 divisions to 203 Allied, a negligible lead which would be reversed as more American troops arrived.[29] German manpower was exhausted. The German High Command predicted they would need 200,000 men per month to make good the losses suffered. Returning convalescents could supply 70,000–80,000/month but there were only 300,000 recruits available from the next annual class of eighteen-year-olds.[33] Even worse, they lost most of their best-trained men: stormtrooper tactics had them leading the attacks. Even so, about a million German soldiers remained tied up in the east until the end of the war.

The Allies had been badly hurt but not broken. The lack of a unified high command was partly rectified by the appointment of General Foch to the supreme command, and coordination would improve in later Allied operations.[34] American troops were for the first time also used as independent formations.[35]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Churchill, "The World Crisis, Vol. 2", p.963. German casualties from "Reichsarchiv 1918"
  2. ^ Churchill, "The World Crisis, Vol. 2", p.963. French casualties from "Official Returns to the Chamber, March 29, 1922"
  3. ^ Churchill, "The World Crisis, Vol. 2", p.963. British casualties from "Military Effort of the British Empire"
  4. ^ Edmonds, Davies & Maxwell-Hyslop 1995, pp. 147–148, 168.
  5. ^ "Le souvenir de la 1ère GM en Champagne-Ardenne – Le cimetière italien de Bligny présenté par Jean-Pierre Husson". www.cndp.fr. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  6. ^ Leonard P. Ayers, The war with Germany: a statistical summary (1919) p 104 online
  7. ^ Blaxland, p.25
  8. ^ Middlebrook 1983, pp. 30–34.
  9. ^ Brown 1998, p. 184.
  10. ^ Robson 2007, p. 93.
  11. ^ Simpson 1995, pp. 117–118.
  12. ^ Simpson 1995, p. 124.
  13. ^ Simpson 1995, p. 123.
  14. ^ Bruchmüller biography.
  15. ^ (Anon.) (1918) "Organization of a rolling barrage in the German Army," The Field Artillery Journal (U.S. Army), 8 : 417–421.
  16. ^ Zabecki, 2006, p 56
  17. ^ Blaxland, p.28
  18. ^ "Second battle of the Somme, 21 March-4 April 1918". www.historyofwar.org. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  19. ^ Greenhalgh 2004, pp. 771–820.
  20. ^ Brown 1998, p. 184
  21. ^ Middlebrook 1983, pp. 347–348.
  22. ^ a b Marix Evans, p.63
  23. ^ Marix Evans, p.81
  24. ^ a b Richard W. Stewart, ed. (2005). American Military History (PDF). II. Center of Military History, US Army. p. 30.
  25. ^ Edmonds 1939, pp. 39–40.
  26. ^ Hart 2008, p.296
  27. ^ Marix Evans, p.105
  28. ^ Hart 2008, p. 294
  29. ^ a b c Hart 2008, p. 298
  30. ^ Hart 2008, p.299
  31. ^ Hart 2008, p.300
  32. ^ Edmonds 1939, p. 306.
  33. ^ Herwig 2014, p. 407.
  34. ^ Baldwin 1962, pp. 141–143
  35. ^ Marshall 1976, p. 57

References

Books

  • Baldwin, Hanson (1962). World War I: An Outline History. London: Hutchinson. OCLC 988365.
  • Brown, Ian.(1998) British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914–1919. Praeger Publishers, 1998. ISBN 978-0-275-95894-7
  • Blaxland, Gregory (1981) [1968]. Amiens 1918. War in the Twentieth Century. London: W. H. Allen. ISBN 0-352-30833-8.
  • Edmonds, J. E.; Davies, H. R.; Maxwell-Hyslop, R. G. B. (1995) [1937]. Military Operations France and Belgium: 1918 March–April: Continuation of the German Offensives. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. II (Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-89839-223-4.
  • Edmonds, J. E. (1994) [1939]. Military Operations France and Belgium, 1918 May–July: The German Diversion Offensives and the First Allied Counter-Offensive. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents By Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. III (Imperial War Museum & Battery Press ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-89839-211-1.
  • Gray, Randal (1991) Kaiserschlacht, 1918: The Final German Offensive, Osprey Campaign Series 11, London: Osprey, ISBN 1-85532-157-2
  • Griffith, Paddy (1996). Battle Tactics of the Western Front: British Army's Art of Attack. 1916–18. Yale. ISBN 0-300-06663-5.
  • Hart, Peter (2008). 1918: A Very British Victory, Phoenix Books, London. ISBN 978-0-7538-2689-8
  • Herwig, Holger H. (2014). The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914–1918. A&C Black. ISBN 9781472508850.
  • Gerhard Hirschfeld, Gerd Krumeich and Irina Renz (2018). 1918. Die Deutschen zwischen Weltkrieg und Revolution, Chr. Links Verlag, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86153-990-2. (in German)
  • Keegan, John (1999). The First World War, London: Pimlico, ISBN 978-0-7126-6645-9
  • Marshall, George C. (1976). Memoirs of My Service in the World War 1917–1918, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, ISBN 0-395-20725-8
  • Marix Evans, Martin (2002) 1918: The Year of Victories, Arcturus Military History Series, London: Arcturus, ISBN 0-572-02838-5
  • Middlebrook, Martin. The Kaiser's Battle: 21 March 1918: The First Day of the German Spring Offensive. Penguin. 1983. ISBN 0-14-017135-5
  • Simpson, Andy. The Evolution of Victory: British Battles of the Western Front, 1914–1918. Tom Donovan, 1995. ISBN 1-871085-19-5
  • Robson, Stuart. The First World War. Longman. 2007. ISBN 978-1-4058-2471-2
  • Zabecki, David T. (2006) The German 1918 Offensives. A Case Study in the Operational Level of War, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-35600-8

Journals

Further reading

  • Pitt, Barrie (2013) [1962]. 1918: The Last Act. Pen & Sword Military Classics. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 9781783461721. OCLC 885305138.

External links

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