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MH-12: Breaking Hold of the Trenches 1918. Breaking the Hold of the Trenches – 1918 Strategic Overview. Nov –Dec 1917: prospects looked bad for Allies: Russia soon collapsed after Battle of Riga Italian Army routed at Battle of Caporetto

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Breaking the hold of the trenches 1918 strategic overview l.jpg
Breaking the Hold of the Trenches – 1918Strategic Overview

Nov –Dec 1917: prospects looked bad for Allies:

Russia soon collapsed after Battle of Riga

Italian Army routed at Battle of Caporetto

Unrestricted SS warfare taking severe toll on Brits

Germans also developing improved infiltration tactics:

Confirmed effective at Caporetto & Eastern Front

Potential for application on Western Front

Impact on Battlefield if proved correct?

Mobility and possible breakthrough

But window of opportunity was closing rapidly:

Time to exploit this opportunity was running out – why?


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Unfulfilled Expectations & Domestic Discontent

  • Impact of growing German domestic discontent & unrest:

    • Food shortages, Naval mutinies, & political strikes;

    • Motivation for German military leaders to end war:

      • Search for strategy & tactics to achieve victory

  • Impact of German success on Eastern Front:

    • What treaty resulted & what was its initial impact?*

  • Heightened expectations of ?________ ________Treaty:

    • Hopes for relief – increased foodstuffs & raw materials

    • Unfortunately for Germans – + fall significantly short

    • Result? Impact on German people?

      • ?___________________ => increased pressure to end war


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Ludendorff’s Strategic Aim

  • Ludendorff’s growing power, agenda, & strategy:

    • By late 1917 – Ludendorffdominates German Gov.

      • (Doctrines of von Clausewitz are stood on their head):

        • Now Political officials are subordinated to Military

  • Mons Strategy meeting (Nov’17) –

    • Ludendorff presides:

    • Sets agenda - Goal: strategy for major military victory

  • Strategic aim: prove to allies US can’t help them:

    • Assumption: US arrival will be too late & won’t matter

    • Take action to convince allies military success unlikely

    • Persuade the allies to this conclusion & decide:

      • Stop the war & negotiate a peace settlement


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1918 Spring Offensive Objectives

  • Tactical &operationalmotives? Overall strategic aim?

  • Ludendorff convinced major offensive needed:

    • Reverse German despair & restore fighting spirit

    • Drives decision for major offensive in spring 1918:

      • Packaged as series of assaultsat various times & points

  • Ludendorff’s tactical & operational motives:

    • 1. Restore battlefield ?_____________

    • 2. End static trench stalemate on Western Front

  • Germany’s Operational strategy & overall strategic aim:

    • 1. ?_____________ the French & British allies

    • 2. Drive ?_____________ from the war

    • 3. Force ?_____________ to give up & negotiate a settlement


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Initial Operational Objectives

  • Initial Operational Objectives (focused in ?_____________):

    • Aim: Sever BEFfrom their LOC to Channel with Britain

  • Impact of tacticalconcerns force Operational changes:

    • Weather, terrain, & enemy force dispositions;

      • Flanders: rains soak terrain – must delay attack until May

      • Arras: too well defended to penetrate;

  • Above concerns drive search for more vulnerable pointfor assault:

    • Somme (to South) appears most vulnerable- why?

    • BEF (5th Army)looks ?___________ & unprepared with weak defense lines


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Adjusted Operational Strategy

  • Operational Strategy modified:

    • Drive wedge between Brits & French

      • In and around St. Quenton & Cambrai

    • Divert attention away from prime AOobjective: Flanders

  • Operational and Strategic Objectives:

    • Push Brits to English Channel (Operational)

    • Force them out of War (Strategic)

  • Tactical considerations & logistic requirements:

    • Adequate assault forces & equipment a must in order to prevail:

      • Requires Force build up: from 150 to 192 divisionson Western front

      • Also requires necessary arms, equipment, & supplies for support

  • Observation - for Ludendorff:

    • Tactical considerations drive military strategy

    • Just as – Military Strategy drove Germany’s policies

      • The very reverse of von Clausewitz’s assertion=>

      • i.e. war is an extension of politics by other means…


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New Infiltration Tactics

  • To accomplish the desired breakthrough:

    • New innovative assault tactics were essential

  • Military’s extensive review:

    • Focus: innovative assault methods

    • Goal: breakthrough=> restore mobility to the battlefield

    • Result: “Attack in Position Warfare” – ground breaking tactical study

  • What was the new tactic used for infiltration?

  • New German tactical assault innovations:

    • Small ?___________ unitswith extensive C2 latitude (SOF)

      • By pass strong resistance points of enemy

      • Push forward as far as possible

    • Tactical objective?

    • Mission of follow-on units? –clean up strong points left behind by SOF

    • Mission of Reserve units– exploit ?____________- how?

    • Fire support: mobile mortars &followin-depth artillery fire w/rolling barrage

    • Pulkowski method: Predicted fires w/improved maps:

    • Major emphasis onSurprise

    • Hurricanes of fire?

Enemy’s ?__________

?______ ______ _________ bombardment


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New Infiltration Tactics - C2

  • Leading from the front:

    • New location of Division Commanders? ?_____________

    • Exacting training, exercise, live fire rehearsals:

      • 56 division specially trained

      • Doctrine as guide for aggressive initiative

      • Rehearse & exercise as you would fight:

      • No simulation – what you see you’ve got

      • Live fire exercise a must

    • Beginning of special ops tactics for May 1940

  • These new tactics to be employed in Spring 1918:

    • Beginning at the Somme when 3 German armies strike


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1st Battle Offensive -1918: The Somme

  • 3 German Armies attack into Somme area

    • British 3rd & 5th -spread out:

    • German 17th on right, 2nd in Center, 18th on left;

  • 21 March 1918: 0440=> Arty Prep starts: Arty, gas, smoke, HE shells

    • 0940=> rolling barrage begins

    • 32 infantry divisions follow in wake

    • Additional 28 infantry divisions follow

  • Tactical Objective:

    • Brit artillery 5 miles to rear;

    • 18th reaches most objectives by dusk;

    • 17th meets stiff resistance from Brit 3rd Army


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1st Battle Offensive: results

  • Ludendorff decides to reinforce which Army?

  • 18th advances fwd 35 miles/captures Montdidier by D+6

    • Then Ludendorff halts offensive - why?

    • 18th overextended, out of supplies, exhausted;

    • Transportation problems (trains & Arty)

    • Reserves & support can’t keep up

    • Lack of troop discipline (like at Shiloh - troops pillage supplies)

    • Allies rapidly reinforce defenders by rail LOCs

  • Result: Germans fail to breakthrough– significance?

    • Tactical success (35 miles), but Operational failure

  • NTL – allies severely shaken – impact on Allies?

    • Allies meet in late March to strengthen their ?______________

    • Especially at the operational level=> objective?*


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Allied Unity of Command

  • Improved C2 unity made after Russia’s collapse & Caporetto’s rout

  • Allies commit to formal C2 system:

    • Coordinate strategy

    • Form Supreme War Council:

      • Comprised of national & military leaders

      • Also form board of military reps:

      • Task: “watch” day to day ops – but its effectiveness was mixed

    • Furthermore Allies fail to form needed Allied general reserve

  • Following shock of Somme=> Foch given more authority:

    • Charged w/coordination of allied action on Western Front

    • 3 April: Foch authority even further extended:

      • Assigned strategic direction of military Ops:

      • But with a limiting caveat – what is this caveat?

      • Allied commanders can ?______ __ ______National leadership authority


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Spring Offensive continues 9-29 April

  • April 9: Germans attackNorth of Somme:

  • Battle Offensive #2 => ?_____ river

    • German attack realizes significant gains by 12 Apr

  • Foch sends only token reinforcements to Haig:

    • Foch concerned about further attacks in French sector

  • Haig orders: backs to wall defense

    • Hard fighting & gallantry delivered by British troops

  • German’s 2nd offensive then stalls on 29 April– why?

    • 2nd offense stalls due to lack of ?_______________:

    • Brit supply dumps attract troops’ focus

    • What serious problem is indicated?


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Battle Offensive #3 => ?________ des Dames

  • May 27: Germans attackvicinity of Champagne:

    • Enjoy significant penetration:

    • Operational Objective: Diversion:

      • Divert Allied reserves from Flanders

      • Then resume attack in North on British

  • French Cmdr Duchene unprepared for assault:

    • No defense in depth – Germans overrun on D-day

    • Relieved of command as a result

  • The AEF would play a key defensive role during this period


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US Actions & German Results

  • US actions at Chateau Thierry & Belleau Wood key:

    • Help halt German advance by 4 June;

    • Germans establish salient near Marne & halt;

  • German progress to date: 3 large salients (see previous map):

    • Somme, Lys, & the Marneare tactical victories only

  • Operational & strategic impact?

    • No ?______ _______or ?____________ gain

    • But does deplete German troops & their logistics support


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Battle Offensive #4 => ?___________ & Marne

  • June 8 Germans attack between Somme & Marne

    • Another attempted diversion

  • Operational Aim?

    • Draw Allied Reserves away for where?

    • ?___________________

  • Tactical Objective:

    • Expand salient into 1 large one

  • Problem for Germans?

    • Allies ?________ German attack preparations

    • Establish defense in depth:

    • French preempt w/counter-arty & attack w/tanks & surprise Germans

  • Result:

    • German advance halted w/only limited gains


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Battle Offensive #5 (15-17 July)

  • Final attack #5 made along Marne east of Chateau Thierry:

    • Problem: Alliesaware of German plans inadvance received from German deserters

    • Enables allies to prepare defense in depth;

    • Also preempts German arty prep w/counter battery;

  • US 3rd Division holds

    • US 38th regiment on Left Flank remains solid

    • Withstands assaults by 2 German divisions

    • Earns title of “Rock of the Marne” for 3rd Division

  • Results of Ludendorff’s Offensive:

    • Desperate gamble fails: Tactical gains only

    • Cost in German casualties very high:

      • Depleted army’s reserves, supplies, & morale;

      • No Strategic or operational gain to show for it

    • Resumption of attack in the North cancelled

  • Foch now prepares for a counter-offensive


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Allied Offensives - 1918

  • Foch’s initial Operational objectives:

    • Reduce the 3 German salients resulting from the gains made by German Spring Offensive

    • Marne, Somme, St. Mihiel (Map)

  • 2nd Battle of the Marne(18 July):

    • 1st Battle in a series of allied drives to push Germans back

    • French 10th main attack into west side of salient:

      • While 6th, 9th, & 5th attacked east side

  • US role in 2nd Battle of Marne:

    • 9 US divisions participate as part of 3 Fr. armies

    • 1st & 2nd US divisions play key role at 2nd Battle of the Marne:

    • Attack Soissons

    • Threaten German main supply line

    • Germans forced to withdraw

  • Operational impact:

    • Initiative now shifts to ?_______________


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Reduction of Somme Salient (August 1918)

  • Battle of Amiens (Map p. 359)=> turning point:

    • Open warfare & maneuver resumes since war’s start;

    • Ludendorff: Black Day for German army

  • Execution:

    • Brit 4th (Rawlinson)hits salient North side:

    • 1 Corps consisting of 4 Canadian & 5 Ausie Divisions

    • Supported by 12 tank battalions (414 combat)

    • OPSEC: no prep arty or pre-registration to alert Ger.

    • Canadians advance 10 miles & capture 16K POWs

  • French begin 45 minute prep at H-Hour:

    • 1st Fr Army attacks remaining part of salient:

    • Makes slow but steady progress

  • Haig continues to press & force Germans back as they conduct an orderly withdrawal:

    • By late Aug, Germans fall back to Hindenburg line

  • Significance of German Army’s forced withdrawal?

    • Apparent to both sides that ?___________________


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Reduction of St. Mihiel Salient (Sept 1918)

  • Events rapidly unfolding dictate an acceleration of the allied timeline to 1918:

    • Dramatic allied gains push major offenses ahead from 1919 to Fall of 1918- why?

      • German army’s rapid ?_____________

    • Potential impact of orderly withdrawal:

      • German army & logistics in tact;

      • Destruction of bridges, roads & rail

      • Establish defense line close to border

  • Foch’sOperational Plan (Map):

    • 2 major simultaneous ?_____________

    • (giant pinchers from North & South):

    • 1st: employs combined Fr-Brit force advance:

      • Tactical objectives:

      • Cambrai, Le Cateau, & Aulnoye Rail junction

    • 2nd: employs combined Fr-American force advance:

      • Tactical objectives:

        • Mezieres Rail junction

        • Between Meuse & Argonne


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Pershing’s Counter Proposal

  • Pershing resisted Foch’s Plan – why?

    • US 1st Army only recently ?_____________ in July

    • Foch wants to split American forces to use in above

    • Pershing to keep unit cohesion –compromises - how?

  • Pershing agrees to conduct ?_____________ operations

    • i.e. Attack St. Mihiel, disengage & redeploy to NE:

      • To Meuse-Argonne for major offensive

    • Complex operational & logistic challenge during combat

    • Effectively planned & executed by who?

      • Col. George ?_____________


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St. Mihiel Execution

  • Pershing executed “as planned” in 2 days (Map):

    • 0500 12 Sept: assault follows 4 hour arty preparation

    • 4 corps (4 Fr & 8 1/2 American divisions);

      • Fire support: 3010 Arty & 267 tanks;

      • 1481 A/C (Fr) effectively commanded by Billy Mitchell

  • Results: Americans capture 450 guns & 16K POWs

    • Tactical success – Pershing halts at base of salient

    • Continue logistics planning & prep to redeploy to NW


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Meuse- Argonne Offensive

  • As promised, Pershing redeploys to relieve Fr 2nd:

  • Foch tasks American 1st & Fr 4th to attack NW (Map):

  • Tactical Objective:

    • Cut/interdict E-W rail thru Sedan & Mezieves

  • Operational Objective:

    • Prevent Ger lateral reinforce. & supply to front

    • Preclude orderly withdrawal of German supplies

  • Meanwhile- Marshall’s simultaneous logistics op is BZ


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Meuse-Argonne Offensive- Execution

  • Germans expect assault & reorganize & reinforce:

    • Prepared defense line to receive attack

  • Allied assault follows 6 hour arty prep:

    • 26 Sept: troops move out at 0500=>

      • Overwhelm German forward defenses;

      • Some units advance 4 miles

  • Then American Cmdrs lose C2:

    • Units become confused & disorganized;

    • Inexperienced officers lose control of troops;

    • No infantry-arty coordination;

    • Troops bunch up & die altogether – arty;

    • Traffic control problem emerges;

    • March discipline declines/units mixed up


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Friction & more of the same

  • 27 Sept: offense continues but suffers heavy casualties

    • 4 & 8 Oct: attack again with little effect – more casualties

  • 12 Oct: Pershing splits American Army in two:

    • Appoints himself as army group commander

  • 1st Armycommanded by Hunter Leggett:

    • Focus: Meuse-Argonne

  • 2nd Army commanded by R.L. Bullard

    • Focus: St. Mihiel Salient


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Crisis in the AEF?

  • 14-19Oct: 1st Army attacks & then halts

    • Suffers high casualties

    • 55K casualties & possible C2 problems

    • Clemenceau complains of AEF crisis

    • Foch defends Pershing –

      • Asserts problem at lower command levels

  • 1 Nov: 0530 1st Army attacks w/7 vet divisions:

    • 2 hour artillery prep & supported by 18 tanks

    • This time attacks goes smoothly

    • Most units reach tactical objectives

  • As Germans withdraw, Americans pick up pace:

    • 3-5 Nov: 5th Div fight across to Meuse east bank

    • Beat Germans to east bank & cut them off;

  • By 11 Nov Armistice:

    • 850K Americans participated in WWI

    • 1st Army captured 26K POWs

    • 875 arty, 3K MGs

    • Suffer 117K casualties & inflict 100K


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Final Allied Offensives

  • Meanwhile=> other allied offensives press Germans

  • North: Flanders

    • (Belgium, French, Brits) siege Ypres

  • Somme: (key operation) along West Front=> by early Oct=>

    • 1 Fr & 2 Brit Armies breakthrough Hindenburg line:

    • Force Germans to withdraw

    • Maintain pressure

  • South:French continue to press all along front

  • German Crisis: morale rapidly plummets

    • Hindenburg & Ludendorff tell Kaiser:

      • It’s all over => must seek armistice

      • Urge establish new democratic government

  • Ger/Austria-Hung request Wilson grant armistice

    • Based on what?

    • Wilson’s ?_____________ Points

    • Austria-Hung then seeks separate Peace


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Germany Collapses

  • 26 Oct:Kaiser relieves Ludendorff

    • (Had proposed continuing the war)

  • 8 Nov: German Armistice commission meet with Foch:

    • Foch has authority to conclude conditional armistice:

      • Not based on President Wilson’s 14 Points – why?

      • Allies too heavily invested in ?____________ and ?___________ to forget

    • Germany complains – but Foch stays tough:

      • Hostilities will resume unless harsh terms offered are accepted

  • Meanwhile- German people revolt=>

    • Kaiser then advocated

    • Provisional Government granted permission to accept terms

      • Delegates sign under protest- significance?

      • German people feel ?________ & don’t think they ?_______ WWI (Hitler)


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Assessment

  • WWI: 8.5 million soldiers killed & 20 million wounded

  • Total War: unlimited resources expended or dedicated:

    • New technology => advanced weapons =>

      • Endless cycle of violence & attrition ensues;

    • Draft provided millions of troops to fight;

    • Both men & women worked in factories, agro, etc.

    • Vast majority of $$$ resources dedicated to war

    • Massive logistical systems established

  • WWI was a “turning point” in history => why?

    • Central & Eastern European Empires ?_____________

    • Euro state system fundamentally ?_____________ forever

    • Former colonies & rest of world ?_____________ :

      • Close gap with former European industrial masters

    • Women worked in previously closed jobs:

      • Changed society’s view of women’s role in society


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Assessment- Major Changes

  • Although Central Governments remain dominate following War

    • And a major factor in peoples lives from then on- other things changed:

  • WWI changed the nature of land warfare:

    • Tactics & strategy, & Logistics & supply systems;

    • Reorganized Army & developed new methods:

      • organize, equip, supply, & deploy massive armies;

  • New tech. innovations & weapons systems developed:

    • Tank, flamethrower, light machine gun, plane;

    • Naval warfare: CV & naval air (initial), SS

  • Conceptual & Tactical changes introduced:

    • Close coordination of combined arms:

      • Infantry, arty, tank, aircraft (all integrated into Blitzkrieg of WWII)

    • Also Rolling barrage, predicted fire, hurricane fire

  • New Infiltration tactics

    • Limited offensives & tactical objectives

      • French would continue to maintain tight control of their advancing forces

    • Germans would draw opposite lesson (Local C2 as per their 1918 offensive)

    • Defense in depth & elastic defense became the main defense model by 1918


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Assessment- Tactical Lessons Learned?

  • Big difference between 1914 soldier & that of ?_________ & the tactics he employed

  • Still questions remained unanswered:

    • i.e. How best to break through well prepared defense

  • Germany especially would learn war’s tactical lessons:

    • Effectively apply these lessons, concepts, weapons, & tactics to next the war

    • The French would not & fight the last war in the next

      • This time: the Defense over Offense & the Maginot Line


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