Military Review

"Michael". The March offensive of the 1918 Kaiser army in France. Part of 6

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March 27 was the last day of the Germans' advance on the Arras-Albert front, on which, in accordance with the initial planning, the main attack was to be launched in order to defeat the British.


The offensive between Skarpa and Somma stopped. Later, there were still battles, especially fierce on the Ankr River, where the British 3 Army, reinforced by Australian divisions, tried in vain to return Albert. But these were local fights.

South of the Somme, the left flank of the 2 Army and the 18 Army continued their offensive, and the March 27 achieved serious success by taking Mondidier. This moment became critical for the allies. In the area of ​​Mondidier there were no reserves - and here again a breakthrough was formed, closed only the next day.

After the capture of Mondidier, the Germans formed (along the course of the river Avr) a significant protrusion — in order to straighten it, an attack was carried out in the direction of Amiens in the following days.

The center of gravity of combat operations from March 28 moved to the area between the Somme and Avra, where the left flank of the 2 and the right flank of the 18 armies were advancing with a noticeably weaker pace. During the heavy fighting, the Germans managed to push the Allies in the Morell region by 30 March. With the tension of the last forces, the Germans launched an offensive in a southwesterly direction, but were soon stopped by the French.

The offensive froze south of the Somme. Here along the flow of the river. Avr Germans stopped only 15-km from the main strategic point, Amiens, which is under fire from their artillery. The capture of Amiens was of strategic importance - and the German command made another, last, attempt to seize it.

After three days of relative lull in April 4, it struck between Somma and Avrah - the last reserves concentrated behind the Michael front were put into battle (92 divisions were involved in the operation in total). The Germans managed to push the Allies back a few kilometers, but the advance was finally stopped.

The strategic goal - Amiens - remained the goal, and this meant the salvation of the allies.

"Michael" is over. The total losses of the allies in this operation reached 212000, and the Germans - 240000 people.

F. Foch wanted to immediately launch a counteroffensive — in order to throw the Germans away from Amiens as far as possible. In the area of ​​the latter, he even managed to concentrate the 5 and 10 army. But, starting the 9 April offensive on the front west of Lille, the Germans thwarted this plan.

The tactical success of the Germans was significant. They advanced to Amiens and Paris on 60 - 80 km, having occupied an area of ​​almost 3,5 thousand square meters. km 90000 prisoners and 1300 guns were captured, and the 10 British divisions disappeared from the theater, appearing on it only in the fall. The fact of how great was the human damage of the British proves the fact of the call of several tens of thousands of workers employed in current production - in coal mines and military factories.

"Michael". The March offensive of the 1918 Kaiser army in France. Part of 6

3 schema. Offensive and its results

The moral and political significance of the operation was also great. The German army demonstrated tremendous offensive power, capable of crushing blows. D. Haig described the situation of the Allies after the March offensive of the Germans: “although the enemy’s attack did not reach the Allied front, it nevertheless forced them to use all their reserves and brought the Germans closer to the important strategic point of Amiens ... In these circumstances, the resumption of the Germans the offensive was to be greeted by the Allies with the greatest anxiety. "

But no matter how great the successes of the Germans were, the operation did not bring the expected decisive results. Quite the contrary: tactical successes, viewed from a strategic angle, had more negative consequences for the Germans. Their front increased by 200 km and the tip of the triangle went deep into the enemy's position. True, this was a threat to the British - especially if the German offensive succeeded in Flanders. But, in the absence of reserves sufficient to ensure the security of the new front line, this situation was undesirable.

There was something that G. Wetzel tried to warn against in his views on November 9 1917 of the year: the mesh-like expansion of the front and nothing more. The strategic goal of the operation - the decisive defeat of the British - was not achieved.

The second time on the French front of the First World, the impressive tactical success of the Germans did not achieve a decisive strategic goal: the first time it happened in September 1914 on Marne, and now in March 1918 in Picardy.

Although both battles took place in different conditions, they were discussed in detail in the light of a complex problem - the ratio of tactics and strategy in military operations. At that time it was believed that the classic forms of military art were determined maneuvers and the crushing blows of Napoleon. The German military school educated itself on these samples - moreover, in fact (Sedan) and in theory (“Cannes” by A. Schlieffen) imbued with them, creating Schlieffen’s crushing strategy.

With this doctrine, the German army in 1914 came to war and conducted its first strategic operations, both in the east and in the west.

But life has made its own adjustments. Battle of the army turned into a battle of the peoples. The front line turned into a continuous, unwieldy wall, and the maneuver turned into a frontal pressure of the armed masses in a situation of positional warfare (whose classical forms appeared just on the French front).

The agile war in 1914 already carried the germ of a positional war - striving for the continuity of a solid front. And when there was a breach in the wall, which had grown into the ground, it was closed by the rescued reserves. The wall sometimes fingered, but soon burrowed again into the ground.

The battles took that indecisive, protracted nature of frontal attacks, which A. von Schlieffen dubbed "ordinary battles." The art of war seemed to once again hit the blinkers of a linear strategy, having lost the freedom of maneuver, the implementation of which brought German troops from the times of G. von Moltke.

The strategy of defeat A. von Schlieffen met her antipode in the face of the strategy of starvation in world war (Smash and starvation). And the faithful follower of the first, undoubtedly gifted commander, E. von Ludendorff had a very difficult time.

G. von Moltke argued: “You cannot draw up a deployment plan for troops if there is no clear operational plan” - that is, the plan of operation predetermines the deployment plan. And the concentration of the main forces on the main line is the old truth of the art of war. It is unlikely that E. von Ludendorff forgot about these elementary requirements of military art and, nevertheless, while concentrating forces on the eve of Operation Michael, they were violated by him.

The decision to completely defeat the British demanded an advance, first of all, between Scarpa and the Somme. But the positions of the enemy in tactical terms were most accessible in the S.-Kanten direction. And in order to ensure the unconditional tactical success of the breakthrough, E. von Ludendorff introduced a strong 18 army here and gave the left flank of the 2 army direction of attack also south of the Somme current - west of Perron. Thus, half of all forces were turned off from the main line, which largely determined the development of the operation just south of the Somme. As a result, a) the deployment predetermined the plan of the operation, and b) only half of the available forces were allocated for an attack on the main line.

The impact on the strategy of the tactical conditions of a positional war has affected - they forced the deployment of their forces not where it was necessary in accordance with the strategic goals of the operation, but where it is possible under the tactical conditions of breaking through a fortified position.

E. von Ludendorff considered such concentration necessary only to ensure the tactical success of the enemy front breakthrough. But the tactical successes achieved in the southern sector attracted him so much that 23, and then 26, in March, the center of gravity of the operation was shifted to the south-west. As a result, the operational plan was changed, although in this case the conditions of a positional war did not play the role of a factor forcing this transformation.

E. von Ludendorff at this moment was unable to overcome the heavy energy of positional warfare, showing the flexibility of operational thinking to implement the original plan - to defeat the British, covering them in the north-west direction.

Of course, there is no crime in changing the operational plan, from the point of view of the art of war. “Only a fool can believe that it is possible to carry out operations from beginning to end according to a previously accepted, detailed, fully-developed plan,” said G. von Moltke. The whole question is in the necessity and expediency of changing the planning.

If the British 5 army defeated by the Germans retreated to Amiens, and the area north of the Oise occupied a new fresh enemy - the French, it seemed that they should, leaving a barrier against the latter, throw all free forces along the river. Somme and north - and, advancing in the north-west direction, finish off the living force of the British, as it provided for the original plan.

Would a single 17 Army do this? Of course not. The 17 Army was advancing less successfully than its southern neighbors. On its right flank, the fortified area of ​​Arras remained, and the British 3 Army that opposed it was relatively shabby, and in addition received reserves. After the almost complete destruction of the British 5 Army, the blow had to be developed against the right wing of the 3 Army hanging in the air — and to solve this task it was necessary to use the entire German 2 Army. In conjunction with the strike of the 6 Army in the direction of Lens - Arras, such a development of "Michael" could lead to a decisive and annihilating victory over the British - in the Schlieffen sense of the term.

But this was not done - and again for considerations of a tactical nature. E. von Ludendorff believed that the greatest tactical success during the operation — on the front of the 18 Army — should not remain unused. If the further direction of the attack of the 18 Army coincided with the direction of finishing the defeated British, this would be an ideal option. But the area between Oise and Somme was occupied by fresh French reserves, and the defeated British pulled together to Amiens. And in order to achieve the strategic goal, part of the 2 and 18 army actually beat into empty space, since the strategic object of their offensive (3 and 5 armies) from March 25 was no longer there. On the contrary, the British 4 army and the French began to concentrate - that is, the fresh force that had to be held before carrying out the main task - the complete destruction of the British 3 and 5 armies.

Tactical success was considered only in terms of space, but not the destruction of enemy personnel.

At that moment, when the German armies reached the Somme, when, after three and a half years of severe positional warfare, the breakthrough of the fortified zone finally succeeded on a large scale, stagnant forms of positional war continued to influence the minds of some of the most advanced military leaders of the world war.

E. von Ludendorff’s weak strategy in the March 1918 offensive with regard to the deployment of forces was determined by the conditions of a positional war, and with respect to the operation it was due to the influence of positional forms of struggle, which the German command was unable to overcome. The “positional being” of the war determined its operational consciousness.

This is especially obvious if we consider the March offensive not as a separate operation, but as the central operation of the 1918 Big Offensive in the entire French theater.

When at the beginning of 1918 the military-political situation allowed and forced the Germans to try to achieve a military solution in the west, it seemed that the last fighter would be involved in this fateful operation, and the entire German armed forces would deal a crushing blow to the allies.

И что же?
Before the 50 infantry divisions, i.e. one-fifth of the entire army was left in the east. This alone ruined the idea of ​​an attack in France as “decisive”. Of course, the Germans needed Ukraine, there were also fears that the Eastern Front would be revived. But too large a group of infantry and all the cavalry remained in the east - this was the most important strategic factor that influenced the fate of Michael. In such situations, they sacrifice something, sacrificing secondary issues to key questions.

In France, on the 700-km front, a decisive offensive was carried out only on the 80-km sector and by forces of the 62 divisions — that is, on 11% of the front 32% of the forces on the Western front. The remaining two thirds of the divisions remained seated in the trenches, watching as a "handful" of their comrades trying to decide the fate of the war. Of course, the difficulty of breaking through an echeloned fortified zone, the need to concentrate a huge amount of artillery and technical means, the lack of combat support for the operation — these reasons made it difficult to break through on a wider front and simultaneous offensive in several sectors. But the fact of the matter is that the difficulty of an offensive in a positional war was not in the problem of a tactical breakthrough of the front, but in the operational-strategic development of the achieved breakthrough. After all, in order for the latter to succeed, it is necessary to keep the enemy's reserves chained along the entire front - not allowing them to concentrate on the threatened points and sooner or later stop further advancement of the one that has broken through. After all, A. A. Brusilov did just that two years earlier at the breakthrough of the Austro-German front. And if the simultaneous strike of the 4's armies of the Southwestern Front were supported by the strategic reserves of the Stavka, while the other fronts of the Russian Front and the Allies on the Entente synchronized their actions with it, the 1916 campaign of the year on the Eastern Front could have a direct impact on the outcome of world war.

Whatever it was - Brusilovsky experience was before the eyes of E. von Ludendorff. But the Germans did exactly the opposite - they attacked first in Picardy, then in Flanders, and then in Champagne - and each time at considerable intervals. As a result, the allies could easily concentrate their reserves to the threatened areas each time and stop the advance of the Germans. After all, it is obvious that whatever the conditions of a positional war, a “decisive” attack on a limited sector of the front and only one-third of its forces will inevitably lead to failure.

The solution to this strategic issue was beyond the power of the German command. And "In 1918, Ludendorff carried out only separate private attacks - but nowhere did he combine them into a general grand attack by the whole mass of his armed forces." But the current historical the moment for the Germans was such that all that they had under arms was to get out of the trenches and rush into battle. In a battle that did not know of any other outcome, except for a complete victory or complete defeat.

But something happened that happened - and the 1918 campaign of the year ended with a known ending.


4. German infantrymen before the attack. 1918
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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 12 December 2017 07: 53 New
    +1
    Of course, the Germans needed Ukraine, and there were fears that the Eastern Front would revive. But the too large group of infantry and the entire cavalry remained in the east - this became the most important strategic factor that influenced the fate of Michael.
    ... And he was revived already, of course, not on such a scale, in the face of the actions of partisan detachments created by anarchists and Bolsheviks ... Yes, and the "Ukrainian" state created by the Germans had to be supported ...
    1. XII Legion
      XII Legion 12 December 2017 09: 16 New
      20
      This was no longer FRONT.
      Russian-Romanian.
      No wonder it was called - The Veil. And the troops of the Veil even were unable to slow down the German offensive.
      About the anarchists with their Brownian movement in general I am silent. And these gangs cannot replace the army of a large state on an extended front.
      The “Ukrainian” state, of course, needed to be supported - but this is clearly not 70-50 German divisions (the volumes are akin to those used by Michael), all the more so since a wider range of tasks could also be transferred to the Austrians. And even more so - do not leave the entire cavalry in the east.
      1. parusnik
        parusnik 12 December 2017 09: 57 New
        +2
        About the anarchists with their Brownian movement in general I am silent.
        ... It could not, but it was holding, and to fight the partisan detachments, the cavalry units were needed exactly ... Which were not enough in the Michael ...
        The "Ukrainian" state, of course, needed to be supported - but this is clearly not 70-50 German divisions (the volumes are akin to those involved in the Michael)
        ..This is a question for the Germans .. apparently there were reasons ..
        1. XII Legion
          XII Legion 12 December 2017 10: 29 New
          16
          Could not, but held, and to fight the partisan detachments, the cavalry units were needed

          The Germans needed such a volume of troops, first of all, to control a vast territory, plus they feared the troops of the old army — some resisted. They, and not anarchist gangs, feared the Austro-Germans.
          Ever since the 1915 campaign, cavalry was concentrated mainly in the east - spaces demanded increased mobility.
          These are questions for the Germans .. apparently there were reasons
          The same reasons did not allow them to squeeze the allies. 50 divisions in March 18 in the east - and German generals write about this as one of the key reasons for the collapse of the big offensive.
          1. antivirus
            antivirus 12 December 2017 12: 55 New
            0
            50 divisions in March 18 in the east - and German generals write about this as one of the key reasons for the collapse of the big offensive.


            - in this case heat and (?) flies with manure (?) prevented, in 41 frost was severe.
            "a strong headwind was blowing in my chest and I turned home, did not go to work ..."
    2. Gopnik
      Gopnik 12 December 2017 11: 51 New
      +9
      Quote: parusnik
      And he was revived already, of course, not on such a scale, in the face of the actions of partisan detachments created by anarchists and Bolsheviks ..


      Nude Nude. This is from the Second Front series in the face of the French Resistance in 1941-42
  2. antivirus
    antivirus 12 December 2017 08: 10 New
    0
    In conjunction with the blow of the 6th army in the direction of Lens-Arras, such a development of Michael could lead to a decisive and destructive victory over the British - in Schlieffen's understanding of this term

    IS THIS DIVERSING DIRECTIONS?
    SHOULD ONE ATTACK FLANKS SHOULD TURN BACK FROM FRIEND TO FRIEND?
    who and where is pushing (and then) Ludendorff now?
    In France, on the 700-km front, a decisive offensive was carried out only on the 80-km sector and by 62 divisions - i.e. 11% of the length of the front 32% of the forces available on the Western Front. The remaining two-thirds of the divisions remained in the trenches, watching how a "handful" of their comrades were trying to decide the fate of the war.
    ZHYUKOV WITH HIS RZHEVSKY MEAT GRINDER WAS RIGHT ?????? - Where is Rezun? -
    total football (pressure throughout the field) Cruise is also correct ?????
    and the last: the army and its actions are war, only a part of the life of the state va, and the last is only a part of the life of the people, ethnic group, nation, civilization (German).
    it was required to sacrifice a part of the people (army), having saved the life of the Germans, they saved. better than WWII.
    The war was fought for the loot (+ colony), but it does not imply fanaticism "until the last soldier" - many soldiers have been saved for revenge.
    left the stock, the cat is not pulling
    1. XII Legion
      XII Legion 12 December 2017 08: 56 New
      19
      In conjunction with the blow of the 6th army in the direction of Lens-Arras, such a development of Michael could lead to a decisive and destructive victory over the British - in Schlieffen's understanding of this term
      THIS IS DIVERSING DIRECTIONS

      No, then the strike flank was successful. The blows of the 17th and 6th became convergent on Michael's right flank.

      The war was fought for the loot (+ colony), but it does not imply fanaticism "until the last soldier" - many soldiers have been saved for revenge.

      No revenge was subsequently anticipated.
      Ludendorff and Hindenburg REALLY tried to WIN - at the current moment in history, before the mass concentration of the Americans. Yes, we made mistakes.
  3. BRONEVIK
    BRONEVIK 12 December 2017 08: 38 New
    19
    The Germans did not take into account the experience of their opponent in the east
    No other patterns of martial art
    The result is logical
    Good article loop
  4. XII Legion
    XII Legion 12 December 2017 08: 51 New
    18
    Yes, the Germans violated the most important principles - on the concentration of forces in the decisive direction and on the specifics of the breakthrough in the conditions of positional war.
    Instead of one powerful offensive from a series of crushing blows, a series of offensives scattered in time and space was obtained.
    In the end - is it any wonder that
    the 1918 campaign ended with the finale we know.

    Thank you!
    1. Cartalon
      Cartalon 12 December 2017 15: 02 New
      0
      Artillery was not enough for a simultaneous offensive; pauses were caused by the need to transfer heavy artillery.
      1. XII Legion
        XII Legion 12 December 2017 15: 46 New
        16
        Germany is the record holder for heavy artillery.
        What then to talk about others.
        Nevertheless, others did nothing, it turned out (methods of Foch and Brusilov).
        1. Cartalon
          Cartalon 12 December 2017 22: 54 New
          0
          Foch had one and a half superiority in power, the Germans attacked with general equality, but rather a slight superiority of the allies.
          1. XII Legion
            XII Legion 13 December 2017 07: 08 New
            15
            We are talking about artillery and not about numbers
            And is that just the point?
            And how did Brusilov attack?
  5. Ostrovsky
    Ostrovsky 12 December 2017 13: 18 New
    18
    The result was an excellent, informative series of articles. It is interesting to read for both professional and amateur. Respect to the author, keep it up
  6. Some kind of compote
    Some kind of compote 12 December 2017 18: 08 New
    15
    The total losses of the allies in this operation reached 212000, and the Germans - 240000 people.

    A good ratio for the advancing and defending, and even in a positional war.
    But the strategic result ...
    The command of the best army of Europe squinted too, and the experience of others didn’t count hi