The final match of the 1916 World Series was played on October 2nd. The Chicago Cubs won the game 3-1 in a game that was played in front of only 24,000 spectators. The Cubs’ victory gave them the World Series title in their first season in the National League. The Cubs’ success and excitement was short-lived, however, as the league’s other team, the White Sox, prevailed on the next two games. This World Series was the only one of the four played between Major League Baseball’s original two teams, the National League and the American League, that was not decided by a one-game playoff after the end of the season. Instead, the World Series was decided in a three-game series that was always
The evening of July 28th, 1918, was the last night of peace for the world. On the same day, the German army announced it had reached a peace deal with the Allies, and would soon have their terms accepted. This was the Berlin Peace Conference, and the world’s governments had assembled to discuss the future of the world in the wake of the Great War. The United States had just locked in the last votes in their election, and President Wilson had taken the stage to deliver his inaugural address. The world as we knew it was about to change.
When the 1st World War ended in 1918, the winners of the Great War were exhausted and in need of a change to their lives. Many of them rejected the idea of staying on the front-lines and instead used the time to write books about the war. It is these books that can be considered the starting points of the history of fiction. The first to be written was an account by Thomas Dixon, called ‘The War That Will End War’. This book is a historical account of the war from the German point of view, which was used and adapted in many works later on.
The German attempt to move troops through the Chemin des Dames in May 1918 was luckier than expected and subsequently turned into a logistical nightmare
In May 1918, the Germans had no chance of a military victory in World War I.
Two major German offensives against the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in Flanders, Operations Michael (21 March-5 April) and Georgette (9-29 April), captured large swaths of territory and inflicted 367,000 Allied casualties.
However, the German successes were purely tactical and did not lead to operational or strategic gains. In fact, the Germans’ operational situation worsened as they had to defend two very large and vulnerable areas against the British. Germany’s strategic position is even worse. These two offensives cost them 326,000 casualties, but unlike the Allies, they were unable to recoup their losses. Meanwhile, fresh, albeit inexperienced, American troops continued to arrive in France in large numbers.
The Germans have no choice but to go on the defensive and try to end the war through negotiations. But General Erich Ludendorff, who with Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg effectively held supreme command of the German forces, could not bring himself to accept a negotiated settlement, especially as the British insisted that Germany relinquish control of the Belgian coast, which both sides knew was crucial to control of the English Channel. Moreover, the overwhelming tactical successes of Operations Michael and Georgette Ludendorff only convinced him that he could force the Allies to collapse with one or two more hard blows.
He decided to direct these attacks mainly against the BEF in Flanders.
A few days after the end of Operation Georgette, Ludendorff ordered the Bavarian Crown Prince Rupprecht to prepare his eponymous army group for Operation Hagen, which Ludendorff had envisioned as a continuation of Georgette on a much larger scale. If Hagen succeeded in driving the BEF from the continent, Ludendorff was convinced that the French would fail despite the influx of Americans.
In fact, the Allied forces in Flanders were stronger than Ludendorff had anticipated. In response to the recent German offensives, French General Ferdinand Foch, recently appointed commander-in-chief of the Allies, brought a considerable number of French reinforcements to the north of the Somme. The Germans must divert these reserves before they can hope to attack the BEF again. Ludendorff therefore devised a large-scale diversionary attack in Champagne, south of Saint-Quentin and west of Reims, which was to resemble an attack on Paris. Ludendorff assumes that the French will withdraw all their reserve divisions from Flanders to form a blocking force to cover their capital.
German infantrymen cross the Channel on 27. May, the first day of battle. / Imperial War Museums
On the 18th. In April, Ludendorff ordered Crown Prince Wilhelm’s army group to begin planning and preparing for Operation Blücher. Wilhelm’s troops had to break through the ridge of the Chemin des Dames in the direction of Paris, advance about ten kilometres to the south, cross the Vézelay River and take the high ground on the other bank. As the French reserve divisions begin to advance south to defend Paris, the Germans will quickly turn north and launch an offensive on Hagen.
Blücher was led by the German Seventh Army under Colonel-General Max von Bohn, which advanced south with 29 divisions on a 43-mile front from Chauny on the Oise eastward to the Loire at the Esna-Marne Canal, north-northwest of Reims. As in the previous two spring offensives, the Germans used more artillery and again Colonel Georg Bruchmüller, an artillery expert, was responsible for planning the fire. The Germans used 5,263 guns against 1,422 French and British guns. The resulting ratio of 3.7 to 1 is the largest German artillery superiority achieved in a battle on the Western Front.
Until a few days before the battle, Fosch believed that the Germans would resume their offensive in the north. Meanwhile, the French defense in the Champagne sector concentrated on holding the Chemin des Dames ridge with the Ailette River to the north. The French took back this dominant position from the Germans during the Nivelle offensive in April-May 1917. The Germans’ main attack was repulsed by General Denis Auguste Duchesne’s weak Sixth French Army, which had 11 infantry divisions at the front and five in reserve. This troop also included the IX. The body of the British lieutenant-general Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon, which was heavily damaged during the German spring offensive.
After suffering more than 42,000 casualties in Flanders, the IX Corps was reorganized. The corps moved south to regroup in a supposedly quiet area. The Sixth Army was deployed as follows: on the left, the XXX French Corps occupied the line from Pontoise-le-Noyon east to Vosyon; in the centre, the XI French Corps extended east to Croonnel (just west of Croon); and on the right, the IX British Corps covered the line east to the Loire. Further to the right was the French 45th. Division, northwest of Reims.
The French elf. The corps under the command of General Louis de Moduy held the sector of 23 miles. From west to east were the 61st, 21st and 22nd. Division lined up in the front line between the Chemin des Dames ridge and Ailette. Behind them were 74th, 39th and 157th respectively. Division the main line of green defence, which extended roughly beyond the River Esne. The British 9th Line. Corps, in the hands of the 50th. (Northumbrian), 8th and 21st. Division, went from Bouconville-Wauclair (near Craon) to Bermericourt (near the Loire). From the heights of the Chemin des Dames, the British line descended in a southeasterly direction to Berry-aux-Bacs, where it crossed the Aisne and then, parallel to the Aisne-Marne canal, set out for Reims. The 25. Division remained in corps reserve, while the fifth British division, the 19th. (West), waited in the army reserve at Chalons-sur-Vesle. The task of the IX. Corps and the French 45. The army division on his right had to defend the California Plateau, the eastern spur of the Chemin des Dames. The Germans saw the plateau and the land around Craonne as the key area for their first attack. This sector was the border between the French 22nd and the British 50th. Division.
The German artillery opened on the 27th. May at 2 o’clock the fire and surprised the allies. Although Bruchmüller’s preparatory barrage lasted less than three hours, the German artillerymen managed to damage or destroy most Allied outposts, communications trenches, command posts and batteries. The firing was particularly devastating because Duchene had ignored the instructions of the French army commander, General Philippe Pétain, who advocated a very staggered defence.
When Pétain tried to force him to follow his orders, Foch supported Duchene, who had been his chief of staff when Foch commanded the XX Corps in 1914. The commander of the Sixth Army also casually ignored similar warnings from his British commanders, who had shortly before experienced Bruchmüller’s bombing at first hand, and arrogantly dismissed his Allied subordinates: I said. I said. Duchesne would not give up an inch of French soil without a fight and foolishly put his troops in the front line, making them easy prey for Bruchmüller’s guns. On the first day of Blücher, the German artillery fired 3 million shells.
After crossing the retreat line at 4:40 a.m., 20 minutes before dawn, the German infantry advanced, preceded by a double creeping barrage. They attacked along the northern base of the Chemin des Dames and took possession of the eastern part of the ridge in two hours. The first German attack was against the French 22 and 21. Division, which faced eight German divisions, while seven German divisions attacked three British divisions in the front line.
Around 7:30 in the morning. The British 9th. Corps sent its 25th Reserve Division. Four hours after the infantry attack began, the leading German units had crossed the Aisne, 4½ miles south of the Chemin des Dames ridge. They ousted the British to 50th and 8th place. Division crossed the river again and overran the 21st. Division on their right flank. In the sector of the XIth French Corps, the Germans defeated the 22nd and 21st. Division in the rear, while the 61st. The left division has held out for now. As a result, the right wing of the French XI Corps was pushed back to the southwest and away from the British IX Corps, leaving a gap in the Allied center.
11:15 Duchene ordered the XI. Corps to retreat to the Green Line – but the position was not prepared for defense. Using the infiltration tactics they had mastered in Operations Michael and Georgette, the Landsers advanced so quickly that the French and British were forced to leave their artillery on the north bank of the Esna. The advancing troops captured about 45,000 prisoners and 650 cannons along the way. The British 9th. The Corps lost most of its artillery. The Allies also failed to blow up several important bridges over the Aisne, further facilitating the German advance. Hamilton-Gordon got permission to blow up the bridges in his sector at 12:30. Fortunately, he has already done so on his own.
German soldiers pose in front of a supply and accommodation cave captured by French troops during the June attacks on Reims / Imperial War Museums
At 8 p.m., the Germans held the French 22nd. Division and the 157th Division behind it. Division pushed back south of Wesle. The German forward units then crossed the river and advanced 13 miles, which was beyond the operational objective. It was the largest single-day offensive on the Western Front during the war. The French 22nd, 21st, 61st and 157th. The divisions lost more than a third of their guns.
The 28th. In May, the Germans pushed the French 22nd and 157th. Division even further southwest, increasing the gap between them and the British 25th Division to nearly 10 miles. British 19. Division under the command of Major General George Jeffreys was ordered to advance. The division is still undermanned after the spring attacks and has only 9,000 soldiers left. At the end, the 25. Division severely broken, with only the remnants of the 50th, 8th and 21st Divisions remaining. The divisions survived. The IX. The British Corps had been ordered to hold the Wesell Line, but because the British had virtually no artillery, the Germans were still able to bypass them on the left flank. By 18.00 hours the Germans had completed IX. Corps pushed back south of the river and concentrated at Jongcheri.
The German penetration at this point was nearly 15 miles deep and 42 miles wide at the base. Although Ludendorff reached his geographical objective much sooner than expected, there is still no sign of large numbers of French reserve units moving out of Flanders.
Ludendorff must make a decision. As with Michael and Georgette, he abandoned the original plan and tried to exploit local tactical successes. Without clearly stating new operational objectives, he ordered the Seventh Army to continue its offensive southward. In support he brought from Flanders the attacking divisions he had saved for Hagen. By this time, nine Allied divisions, including four British, had been virtually wiped out. Realizing that it was no longer possible to re-establish the line along the Wesle and launch a counterattack from there, Pétain directed the main Allied effort on the German flanks at 11 p.m. and concentrated on the Montagne de Reims, a plateau south of the city of the same name.
The 29th. In May, the French center collapsed and the Germans pushed the British left wing to the southeast. British 19. Division arrived in the area that day, and by the afternoon of the next day, the remaining units of the 21st, 8th, 50th, and 25th Divisions had joined the area. The Germans took the 29th. Soissons and the next day Fer-en-Tardenoix on the river Auurc. While the Germans advanced several kilometers towards the Marne, the Allied resistance seemed to weaken. Pétain sent the 16 reserve divisions at his disposal without much effect. When he had done what Ludendorff had originally planned, Peten demanded that the Allied reserves in Flanders be placed under his personal control. However, Foch recognized that Blücher was an operational dead end. Unlike Michael or Georgette, there had to be a climax before a meaningful goal could be achieved. He therefore provisionally rejected Pétain’s request.
The 30th. Let the French be XI. Corps, which had been steadily pushed back to the southwest, south of Soissons. 11 h 45. Finally, Foch decided to deploy part of his strategic reserve, the Tenth Army, consisting of four divisions, which was then behind the BEF, north of the Somme. This kept the BEF in Flanders, supported by a detachment of nine divisions of the French Army of the North. Pétain also asked for these troops, but Foch refused.
Although the German advance of 1 June. the north bank of the Marne at Chateau-Thierry, but the German advance stops on the shoulders of a huge fortress wall. So far the Allies had managed to hold the important railway centres of Reims in the east and Compiègne in the west. These important junctions controlled access to the only major railroad that led to the Blücher Ridge. Without access to this route, German logistics would quickly become problematic.
The morning of the 1st. By June, the Germans had crushed the left wing of the British 19th Army. Division pushed back south of the River Ardre, although the British still held both banks below Bligny. Thanks to a stubborn defense, the 19th ranked team blocked. Brigade this day the German advance along the river Ardre, the main access to the mountain of Reims. If the Germans had captured this important plateau south of Reims, the city would have fallen. If this had happened, the Germans could have opened the main railway line for their massive advance.
Among the reinforcements Foch gave Pétain were the 2nd and 3rd American divisions. During the three days of fighting around Château-Thierry, which began on the 1st. In June, the Americans repulsed repeated German attempts to cross the river, earning them the title Rock of the Marne, which the 3rd Brigade won. Division to this day. The Germans’ worst nightmare has come true: The Americans announced their presence on the western front much earlier than expected.
The 6th. Finally, in June, Crown Prince Wilhelm Blücher’s army group held back and ordered the Seventh Army to retreat. Although Paris was never their final objective, the Germans came within 45 miles of the French capital. While the situation seemed hopeless for the Allies, the Germans were unable to take advantage. They did not have the combat power, mobility or logistics to reach Paris even if they wanted to.
During the 11 days of fighting, the Allies suffered 127,000 casualties. The Germans lost fewer men, about 105,000, but all they could show was another huge bulge to defend. Worse, the lines of communication in Blucher’s salt marshes were poor and unable to maintain the logistical flow needed to support the defending troops. Worse, Ludendorff wasted 13 of Hagen’s 26 punch divisions on Blücher, and these divisions had to be rebuilt. Before thinking of an attack on Hagen, Ludendorff had to take control of the Compiègne-Rheims railway line by seizing the junctions at both ends. This need was the driving force behind Ludendorff’s fourth and fifth offensive operations in 1918, Operations Gneisenau (9-13 June) and Marneschutz-Rheims (15-18 July). After the failure of these operations, the Germans were forced to abandon Hagen and on 18 July the Allies launched a massive counter-attack on Blücher Hill which had been overrun by the Germans, thus beginning the Second Battle of the Marne.
What happened to the units of the British Ninth Republic? Corps left was between the 19th and 30th. June transferred to Flanders. IX Corps losses in the Blücher battles amounted to 1,298 officers and 27,405 other men. The remnants of the 8th and 25th Divisions were formed into two combined battalions and the remaining 50th and 21st Divisions were formed into two combined battalions. Division merged into two combined brigades.
Despite Germany’s outstanding tactical success, Operation Blücher (Third Battle of the Aisne) not only deprived Ludendorff of another success in Flanders, but also operationally paved the way for a decisive Allied victory at the Marne by allowing them to attack an overburdened fortress, poorly protected by exhausted and under-supplied troops.
Had Reims fallen, the operational situation in early June 1918 would have been very different. The remnants of the British IX Corps prevented the Germans from taking the important plateaux of the Mount of Reims. Corps under the command of the 19. In doing so, the Germans lost their last real operational chance to win on the battlefield in 1918 – or even to reach a stalemate. The failed capture of Reims was the final nail in Germany’s strategic coffin. If the Germans’ failure to take Amiens in March was for them the strategic equivalent of Stalingrad in World War I, the failure to take Reims was for them Kursk. MH
Retired U.S. Army Major General David T. Zabecki is Historynet’s senior military historian. For further reading he recommends his book War of the Generals: Operational Level Command on the Western Front in 1918, and the Nineteenth Division, 1914-1918 by Everard Wyrall.
This article appeared in the May 2022 issue of Military History. For more content, subscribe here and visit us on Facebook :
In 1918, Germany suffered the first and last defeat of the First World War. After years of brutal fighting, the Germans had finally conquered France in a series of ferocious battles that became known as the “Great War” or the “war to end all wars”. They then proceeded to mop up the rest of Europe, taking back Belgium, Luxembourg, the Rhineland, Poland, and other countries before their victory in the war’s last major battle, the Battle of the Somme.. Read more about how did the spanish flu spread and let us know what you think.
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