Military Review

"Michael". The March offensive of the 1918 Kaiser army in France. Part of 3

22
E. Ludendorff found the direction of San Quentin - Amiens most appropriate, both for strategic and tactical reasons. In the region of S. Kanten, the English front was the most sparse, and the terrain did not represent any special tactical obstacles and was passable in early spring. The direction to Amiens ran through the recent battlefields on the Somme River - but this circumstance was not recognized as a serious obstacle.


In strategic terms, the proposed direction led to the junction of the British and French armies and made it possible to separate them and then, resting the left flank in the Somme, to throw the British in the north-west direction - to the sea. The plan promised the greatest strategic success and put the front breakthrough in optimal tactical conditions - and the last E. Ludendorff attached great importance.

These considerations, first revealed at a meeting in Mons, formed the basis of the plan for the upcoming operation.

At the end of November, 1917 was followed by a surprise attack by the British at Cambre and a counteroffensive by the Germans. The battle allowed to formulate a number of important tactical conclusions.

Now it became obvious to the Germans that a plan for a serious offensive operation cannot be built on the breakthrough of only one sector of the enemy front and on the offensive in only one direction. Only a combination of alternating breakouts could shake the positional front. Therefore, in December 1917 of the year, the High Command sends its considerations to the army groups, outlining the following areas of attack:

1) The breakthrough of the arc in the Ypres area - conditionally called “S.-Georges”;
2) Breakthrough north of Arras - conventionally called "Mars";
3) S.-Kanten breakthrough to Amiens - conditionally named “Michael” (fell apart into 4 local breakthroughs);
4) Breakthrough of the 3 Army from the Argon region to the south - “Hector” (connected with the breakthrough of the 1 Army in Champagne - “Achilles”);
5) Offensive in the area of ​​Luneville - "Strasbourg".

But since the focus was on defeating the British, the most important importance was given to S. - Kantensky ("Michael") and Hypersky ("Mars") breakthroughs. The latter was supposed to start on 14 days later.

The purpose of "Michael" was to straighten the arc going at Cambray and the wide breakthrough of the English front in the region of S. Kantin. It was supposed to divert the reserves of the British from Flanders and, by separating the British and the French, allow the entire English front to be pushed back to the sea.

The purpose of "Mars" was to break through the deprived reserves of the English front in Flanders - in the direction of Gazebrouck and in covering its left flank in order to cut off from the coastal bases.

Thus, the German command refused to attack only on one sector of the front.

The second equally important conclusion was in assessing the importance of the tactical element - in the positional war the latter prevailed. The strategic importance of the direction could no longer serve as the sole criterion for its choice - if the positional conditions, the massing of the enemy’s forces and the concentration of its reserves did not allow to count on the success of the front breakthrough. Under the influence of this condition, the idea of ​​the need to break through the front, where it is simply possible, is characteristic of a positional war.

“Tactics must be put above pure strategy,” said E. Ludendorff. And the bitter need to take into account the realities of positional warfare could not but affect the development of the operational plan. She forced E. Ludendorff to finally choose the front north and south of S. Kantin for the first strike - representing the enemy’s weakest position in tactical terms.

According to the Germans, the front from Arras to the Oise River was occupied by two British armies: 3 (from Arras to Guzokur; in the first line of 8 and in reserve 7 divisions) and 5-I (from Guzokur to Uaz; in the first line of 17 and in reserve 6 divisions). Total on the front from Arras to r. The Oise were 38 English divisions, of which 6 - cavalry. In the general reserve in this sector, only about 6 divisions were supposed, while to the north, according to the Germans, the total reserve was up to the 15 divisions. Thus, the section of the 3 and 5 of the British armies was the weakest point of the enemy. He was the same with respect to fortified positions that did not have any tactical advantages. The front of the 3 Army, however, was stronger fortified, having two well-equipped lines: the first and the line of support, but positions on the front of the 5 Army, taken by the British from the French only in January of the 1918, were still unfinished. The line r. Was also poorly equipped. Somme.

“Tactical conditions and in the first place weak enemy forces,” wrote E. Ludendorff, “and forced me to choose the S.-Kanten direction for the first decisive attack.”

December 17 was followed by an order to occupy the new 18 army of infantry general O. von Gutier (who was known as the breakthrough specialist after the Riga operation) of the front south of the 2 army - between the Ominion creek and the Oise river, i.e. on the S.-Kanten direction.

"Michael". The March offensive of the 1918 Kaiser army in France. Part of 3
10. O. Gutier.

24 On January 1918, an order was issued to occupy the new 17 army (before that - the 14 army on the Italian front) of the infantry general O. von Belov of the front between the 6 and 2 armies from Lens to Cambrai.


11. O. Belov.

At the same time, the directive was followed, according to which the operation “Michael” of the 17, 2 and 18 armies on the Croisil-La Fer front was considered the first stage of the strategic offensive operation on the French front.

The task of "Michael" was to a wide breakthrough of the English front in the region of S.-Kanten - in order to cover the right flank of the British and throw them in the north-west direction. From the west and south-west, this maneuver was to be provided on the line r. Somme and the Crozat Canal. At the same time, the operation was to divert the reserves of the British from the region north of Arras.

18-I army was subordinated to the front of the German Kronprinz, which predetermined the operation at the junction of two army groups. The consistency of the operational actions from this should undoubtedly suffer. But E. Ludendorff was on the view that, having subdued the advancing army to two commands, the Main Apartment ensured its influence on the course of the operation. Obviously, in addressing this issue, dynastic interests were important: According to E. Ludendorff, the Main Apartment wanted to involve the Crown Prince in the victorious and decisive operation.

So, the main objective of the offensive "Michael" was to reach the line of the Somme River for further throwing the British in the north-west direction and coverage of their left flank. But the grouping of forces did not fully comply with the accepted plan. After all, the seizure of the line of the Somme River was only a means of securing the left flank of the armies, which then had to make a very difficult passage with the left shoulder in the direction of Albert - S.-Paul - to achieve the ultimate goal. But for the implementation of the secondary strategic task, half of the forces concentrated for the “Michael” offensive were intended - the left flank of the 2 Army and the 18 Army, which were aimed at the line of the Somme River.

Only the forces advancing north of the Somme to the Croisil-Perron front were the forces, that is, The 17 Army and the right flank of the 2 Army were aimed at the main line. Moreover, in the initial position, these armies, thanks to the front line, bent from the north-west to the south-east direction, had to then make a stop with their left shoulder almost at 90 ° - which was a very difficult maneuver in the conditions of combat contact with the enemy.

Thus, the grouping of forces adopted in January was in conflict with the adopted plan of operation.

The command of the 18 Army didn’t put up with the limited task assigned to it - to reach only the line of the Somme River and the Crozat Canal, where it had to provide the left flank of the 2 and 17 armies.

Already in January, the Chief of Staff of the 18 Army outlined his considerations to the Army Group headquarters - that the attack southeast of S. Kanten is tactically the easiest, and the 18 Army will reach the line p in two days. . Somme and the Crozat Canal. The command of the group supported these considerations, pointing the Headquarters to the desirability, in case of successful development of the strike of the 18 Army, to attract the right-flank divisions of the 7 Army to the attack, going for the Somme.

March 3 E. Ludendorff personally replied to the Crown Prince that “with a quick and successful attack, it is desirable that the left wing of the 18 Army advance beyond the channel, for which the largest number of 7 army divisions should be concentrated for transfer through La-Fer ". Thus, the German command, foreseeing the possibility of a great tactical success with S. Kantin, refused from the limited task assigned to the 18 Army and envisaged its advancement beyond the Crozat Canal in the western, and possibly in the south-western, directions. At the same time, the center of gravity of the operation noticeably shifted to the south. Here S. Kantin concentrated half of all forces assigned to the offensive.

On the eve of the offensive, March 20, E.Ludendorff, in a telephone conversation with the Chief of Staff of the Kronprinz Bavarian Army Group, explained that, if the breakthrough in the center was successful, he intended to give the 2 Army direction to Dulans-Amiens and then turn to the south-west. 17-I army had to continue the offensive south of the river. Scarpa alone. These considerations broke the original plan of the operation - instead of developing a breakthrough in the north-west direction, an offensive in the south-west direction was obtained. Tactical considerations again played a dominant role — the German command planned to develop a breakthrough in the direction where tactical circumstances were more favorable.

Strategically, the essence of the operation became uncertain - after forcing the Somme River and the Crozat Channel, the approach of the 18 Army became eccentric with respect to the northwestern approach of the 17 Army and part of the 2 Army. Expanding tasks and increasing forces (by attracting the 7 army in the southern S. Kanten area), the German command left the position of the 17 army unchanged — whose actions, from a strategic point of view, were of decisive importance. The 17 Army denied the extension of the front to the north requested by its command, under the pretext of the lack of sufficient forces. Everything again came up against tactics - on the front of the 17 Army, the massing of enemy forces and the terrain conditions did not promise such an undoubted tactical success.

The grouping of forces corresponded only to tactical conditions and from the very beginning made the possibility of strategic development of the operation dubious. And the main purpose of the operation - the decisive defeat of the British by dropping them in the north-west direction - remained only an abstract idea.


12. German artillery moves to new positions.

To be continued
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  1. Rotmistr
    Rotmistr 7 December 2017 07: 03
    19
    Tactical considerations again played a dominant role - the German command planned to develop a breakthrough in the direction where tactical circumstances were more favorable.

    No wonder Ludendorff is a better tactician than a strategist.
    At the forefront of the operation are the commanders from the Russian Front, O. Gutier and O. Belov. The German command on our front was brighter than in the French.
    1. soldier
      soldier 7 December 2017 09: 13
      18
      commanders from the Russian front O. Gutiere and O. Belov. The German command on our front was brighter than in the French.

      Yes, the guys are “Baltic”. Otto Gutier commanded the 8th army in the Riga operation, and Otto Belov - the same 8th army (only 3 years earlier - from the end of October 14), and then the Neman army, the Belov army group.
      It is not surprising that their opinions diverged somewhat from the operational planning of the "boss".
    2. antivirus
      antivirus 7 December 2017 17: 34
      +1
      Strategically, the essence of the operation became uncertain - after forcing the Somma River and the Krozatsky Canal, the direction of the 18th Army's offensive became eccentric with respect to the northwestern direction of the 17th Army and part of the 2nd Army.

      - after 20 years, Tukhachevsky, Zhukov, Shaposhnikov and Voroshilov should have understood the development of the thought of the Wehrmacht
      They are to blame for all the defeats of 41 g?
      1. soldier
        soldier 7 December 2017 18: 27
        16
        Who is blaming anyone?
        By the way, the example of Michael is not the best example of a German template of thought. Ludendorff broke the plan three times - chasing purely for tactical gain.
        And then - why be surprised that there is no strategic success?
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 7 December 2017 07: 36
    +6
    We approach the most interesting ...
  3. Nikitin
    Nikitin 7 December 2017 08: 49
    +4
    There were no chances for a strategic victory, even with the most favorable outcome of the operation.
    Therefore, it was a crime of the German military against its own soldiers.
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon 7 December 2017 10: 07
      +2
      There is always a chance, especially with complete tactical superiority; instead of attacking in the West, the Germans could liquidate secondary fronts and plant a government loyal to them in Russia.
      1. Nikitin
        Nikitin 7 December 2017 10: 16
        +3
        Quote: Cartalon
        There is always a chance, especially with complete tactical superiority; instead of attacking in the West, the Germans could liquidate secondary fronts and plant a government loyal to them in Russia.

        There was no chance. If they did not advance, then ON THEY would attack on the Western Front, no one would allow them to engage in secondary fronts.
        In Russia, they had an absolutely loyal government.
        1. Cartalon
          Cartalon 7 December 2017 11: 31
          +2
          They were attacked every year in the West, with equal success, the Bolsheviks were not loyal and were not useful.
          1. Nikitin
            Nikitin 7 December 2017 11: 44
            +4
            Quote: Cartalon
            They were attacked every year in the West, with equal success, the Bolsheviks were not loyal and were not useful.

            Success (Victory) was achieved.
            The Bolsheviks were absolutely loyal: they fulfilled all the requirements of Brest and, more. In addition, they signed additional secret agreements with the occupiers in August, taking on new enslaving obligations
            1. Cartalon
              Cartalon 7 December 2017 12: 43
              +3
              The victory was achieved after the collapse of the Allies and the exhaustion of the Germans on the offensive, the Bolsheviks could sign anything, but the German troops remained in the east in excess and I doubt that the Germans from Russia received a lot of resources, given the complete chaos in Russia.
              1. Nikitin
                Nikitin 8 December 2017 13: 32
                0
                Quote: Cartalon
                I doubt that the Germans from Russia received a lot of resources, given the complete chaos in Russia.

                tens of tons of gold, you don’t know?
  4. XII Legion
    XII Legion 7 December 2017 09: 23
    17
    Sometimes planning, preparing an operation is more interesting than its course.
    For even then a logical result is visible.
    And one can deviate from strategic goals both at the preparation stage and during implementation - and then the process is not doubly happy.
    Thank you!
  5. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 7 December 2017 11: 58
    17
    "Mars" means not only we had)
    Interestingly
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 7 December 2017 17: 36
      +2
      and Rome was ....................
      1. Some kind of compote
        Some kind of compote 7 December 2017 18: 24
        15
        In Rome, ento by itself
        I'm talking about WWII
  6. DimanC
    DimanC 7 December 2017 17: 44
    +1
    Somehow terribly reminiscent of the variations of the Schlieffen Plan before the beginning of the same Great War: at first everything was written down smoothly in paper, then the ravines themselves were made, and they themselves decided how to get around them. And the ravines were not there and not so ...
    1. The centurion
      The centurion 7 December 2017 18: 18
      +2
      Quote: DimanC
      Somehow terribly reminiscent of the variations of the Schlieffen Plan before the beginning of the same Great War: at first everything was written down smoothly in paper, then the ravines themselves were made, and they themselves decided how to get around them. And the ravines were not there and not so ...

      "The first Lord of the British Admiralty, U. Churchill, wrote in an article in the Daily Telegraph:" The Marne was won by the Russian Cossacks, "but it was a pathetic exaggeration. the Cossacks sowed a lot of panic among the troops and the enemy population with their intelligence services, raids and raids in the front-line zone.
      For the sake of justice, it should be said that the failure of the Schlieffen plan to be credited exclusively with the activities of the Russian army, and even more so with the Cossacks, would be a clear exaggeration. The plan began to pop from the very beginning of the war in several important areas, namely:
      1. There was a refusal of Italy to enter the war on the side of the Triple Alliance, and this was an indispensable condition for the success of the whole plan. First, the Italian army, pushed to the border with France, was to divert a significant part of the French troops. Secondly, the Italian fleet, combined with the Austrian, would represent a serious threat to the communications of the Entente in the Mediterranean. This would force the British to keep large fleet forces there, which would ultimately lead to the loss of absolute supremacy of the sea. In reality, both the German and Austrian fleets were practically blocked in their bases throughout the war.
      2. Neutral Belgium had a sudden and stubborn resistance to the Germans. Despite the fact that the Belgian army was only a tenth of the German army, the Belgian soldiers steadfastly held the country's defense for about a month. The Germans used the giant “Big Bert” cannons to destroy the Belgian fortresses in Liege, Namur and Antwerp, but the Belgians stubbornly did not surrender. In addition, the German attack on neutral Belgium led many neutral countries to reconsider their views on Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm.
      3. The mobilization of Russia was faster than the Germans had supposed, and the invasion of Russian troops into East Prussia was completely discouraged by the German command. These events forced the command to transfer more troops to the eastern front. But this spraying was counterproductive. After winning the battle of Tannenberg in early September 1914 (defeating the 2 Russian army at the Masurian Lakes), the German army no longer won big battles on any front.
      4. In connection with some hitch of the Germans in Belgium, France managed to transfer more troops to the borders. The Germans greatly underestimated the ability of the French troops to be deployed, and this led to significant delays in their advancement in France. The French sent troops to the front by any means - even by taxi. At the critical moment of the battle for Paris, 1300 Paris Renault AG-1 taxis were mobilized by General Gallieni and overnight transported more 6000 soldiers from Paris to the banks of the River Marne. By morning, they dug in and closed the gap in the defense. Thanks to the irrepressible energy of General Galleny for the arrival of the Germans to the borders of Paris, France was already quite ready for military action. "
      https://topwar.ru/63856-kazaki-i-pervaya-mirovaya
      -voyna-chast-ii-1914-god.html

      Marne taxi
      1. soldier
        soldier 7 December 2017 18: 30
        15
        Exactly.
        And here's another
        https://topwar.ru/111130-marnskie-taksi.html
      2. DimanC
        DimanC 8 December 2017 04: 31
        +1
        Well, of course, we must not forget about the change in the balance of forces in the right and left wings of the German army, made even before the start of hostilities ...
  7. The centurion
    The centurion 7 December 2017 18: 06
    +2
    Quote: Cartalon
    There is always a chance

    Having entered the war, the United States sought to concentrate maximum forces in Europe. They set the goal of having 1 million soldiers in Europe and 1 million soldiers in the United States ready for shipment. The British Prime Minister spoke eloquently about the significance of American troops in Europe: “Studying German reports shows that it was the prospect of a growing influx of American forces that made the German command to put everything on the line and launch a reckless offensive in March 1918. They needed to win before the Americans arrived in Europe. ”
    In March, 1918 began the German offensive. The successful breakthrough and the threat of the capture of Paris called into question the whole strategy of the West. The threat has become real that from Georgia in the East to the Bay of Biscay in the West everything will become German ownership. Ludendorff’s operation was at stake. In the first week, the Allies lost 120 thousands of people. The last reserves were thrown into battle. But if the Germans were running out, the Entente had a fresh American army in the rear around 300 thousand people and new divisions arrived weekly. But not the Americans, but the British and French stopped this German offensive. But to underestimate the moral factor of the presence of huge reserves in the rear is impossible.
    In reality, the 22 American divisions participated in the last battles of the world war from September to November. Their presence gave the Allies a numerical advantage of 4 million. against 3,5 million from the Germans. More important was the psychological effect. Not inclined to exaggerate America’s role in defeating Kaiser Germany, Lloyd George recorded, however: “The American division is formed and trained by 21 behind our armies and that millions of people will be transferred from America when it becomes necessary, allowed the British and the French throw their last reserves to the battle without hesitation and strike the Germans with an ax that caused them to collapse. ”
    In the English army at that time served 4 million people, of which 2 million were in France. It was half the allied forces in France.
    https://topwar.ru/39796-kak-amerika-spasala-zapad
    nuyu-evropu-ot-prizraka-mirovoy-revolyucii.html
    https://topwar.ru/19526-k-ocherednoy-godovschine-
    okonchaniya-pervoy-mirovoy-voyny.html
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon 7 December 2017 19: 55
      0
      Remarkably, had the Germans not launched an offensive in the West, when the Allies would have considered that they had gained an advantage for the offensive?