The second marna. Part of 1
This article aims to consider the most critical period of operations for both warring parties in the 1918 campaign on the French front of the First World War - namely, the German army’s last major attack on Paris with the re-launch of the German forces to Marne, and a gigantic counterattack by the Franco-Anglo-American armies under the general command of the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Entente in Europe F. Foch.
Before considering the actual events of the Second Marne, we give a general assessment of the military-political situation in the 1918 campaign, and also look at the result of the German Big Offensive in France in March-July 1918.
By the beginning of 1918, the situation in the countries of the German block had reached extreme pressure. The economic nerves of four countries (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria) were stretched to the limit. "Quiet dictatorship" P. Hindenburg and E. Ludendorff did not bring results, and the needs of the armed forces absorbed all the juices of these countries that were in a state of "hungry blockade" (England continued to dominate the seas - despite the active submarine war from Germany) .
If by the beginning of 1918 in the countries of the Fourth Union there was an acute shortage of food, raw materials, artificial fertilizers, and the collection of bread reached 41% of the peaceful norm, then the production of shells increased, compared to 1914, 15 times, guns in 20 times, and machine guns in 230 times. France and England caught up with Germany in terms of military production - and France produced more aircraft than Germany (Zayonchkovsky A. World War. Ed. 2., C. 363, 364 and 369).
The situation was difficult and difficult for the countries of the Triple Consensus. It was hard for Russia to withdraw from the war. And the economy of the Entente worked at the limit.
For Germany in 1918, victory at the front was the only way out of the war - there was nowhere to wait for material, financial and strategic assistance. For the allies in this regard, every day the situation became more and more favorable. Monstrously enriched in 1914 — 1917. The North American United States was in full swing preparing the ground army for active armed participation in hostilities on the fronts of Europe.
What Germany was so afraid of was destined to come true. America, with its economic resources and army, joined the ranks of the enemies of the Fourth Union. The German and Austrian corps and divisions that moved to Romania and Ukraine for food brought very little relief to the exhausted economy of the German bloc, for example, the 250 thousandth (29 infantry and 4,5 cavalry divisions), abandoned only by the occupation of Soviet Ukraine, she fed only herself. Nevertheless, this mass was temporarily excluded from the food budget of the Central Powers.
Under these conditions, politics and economics dictated the German strategy to the need to show the highest exertion of forces in order to achieve decisive success at the front before the necessary mass of American forces reached the continent. So, for example, 24 June 1918, the German State Secretary of Foreign Affairs R. von Kühlmann, speaking in the Reichstag, said that the military knot cannot be cut with a sword - a compromise should be sought. As a result, at the categorical demand of E. von Ludendorff, he was immediately dismissed. The popular phrase of F. Foch of the 1918 edition of the year is also known - “the destruction of the Boshes will be completed”. From this it becomes clear that there could be no compromise about any compromises - each opponent believed in his victory.
The German High Command, after weighing the current strategic situation (withdrawing Russia from the war - and the actual liberation of the armies on the East European and Caucasian theater, the successful defeat of the Romanian and Italian armies, etc.) set about creating a resolute offensive against the Anglo-French - so so that by means of energetic strikes on the front of Reims - Château-Thierry - Klinion - until the moment when the American forces fully join the ranks of their adversary - try to snatch a military victory.
Offensive for r. Marne, defeating the Allied forces, overcoming the defensive lines, reaching the maneuvering space and capturing the most important operational railway section - Chalon - Paris - such was the main ideological core of the German command’s strategic plan for July 1918. in a new setting to implement what could not be done G. Moltke Jr. in September 1914.
The situation of the armed struggle was now different, the operational-strategic thought was constrained by the conditions of the reinforced concrete positional strips - but this, as E. von Ludendorff suggested, his experience, with appropriate training and organization, could be overcome. The March offensive against Amiens and the May offensive against Château-Tieri became the prelude to a new phase of maneuver war. After all, it is only necessary to wish even more strongly and to prepare more qualitatively in all respects - in order to overcome fortifications that are solid on the front and even more powerful in depth. It was necessary by all means and means again and again to strive for liberation from the shackles of iron and concrete with thousands of machine-gun nests and trench guns, with a mass of artillery and manpowers stuck to all this — divisions that seemed to have grown into the ground and were very tightly standing along the frozen front. Finally, it is necessary, through enormous accumulation of forces and technical means, through suddenness, rapid onslaught and the use of this blow to the depth, to shatter these fetters and turn a positional war into a war of broad creative ideas and freedom of action into a maneuverable war.
Bearing in mind that the second Marn is only a consequence, logically stemming from the previous operational-strategic activities of the German High Command and the work of his troops, we consider it expedient to remind the reader of this prior combat work of the parties.
The first in a series of large-scale German strikes was the March offensive on the river. Somme (we wrote about this in detail - see the series of articles "Michael". The March Offensive of the Kaiser 1918 Army in France. 1-6as well as an article "Germany's Last Hope. Former Russian Front and the Fate of the 1918 Campaign on the French Front of the First World War").
German infantry before the attack. Soldiers go over the channel En-Oise in the morning of the beginning of Operation Michael.
The grand German offensive in March on both sides of the r. The somme (from 21 in March to 9 in April) set the main goal to defeat the British - throwing their remnants to the coast and thereby achieve separation of the main forces of both key allies on the French front. Operation Michael was the first great experience of E. von Ludendorff in his desire to break free from the concrete shackles of a positional warfare - and to achieve an honorable peace by defeating a maneuverable war.
1 schema. The disposition of the parties to 21 March 1918 and the 3 offensive E. von Ludendorff.
For his famous strike, or as some French researchers called it, a strike in the style of "buffalo strategy", E. von Ludendorff gathered 70 divisions on a section of 65 km (front of the Croisilles-Arras-La-Fer). These 65 divisions of the XVII, II and XVIII armies, supported by 6800 guns, 1000 aircraft and 10 tanks hit 36 English divisions, which had 3000 guns, 500 aircraft, 216 tanks.
The blow of the Germans was sudden. The latter was achieved not only thanks to the perfectly organized transfer of divisions to the strike area that remained unnoticed by the enemy, but also thanks to the new method of artillery preparation used by G. Bruchmüller (head of artillery of the German army). German shock divisions went on the offensive after a five-hour artillery preparation - while on all fronts in the last period of World War 6 and more days were spent losing the surprise factor.
“During the battle,” writes E. Ludendorff, “we started shelling Paris from a cannon with a range of 120 km from the Laon area. This weapon was a miracle of technology and science, a masterpiece of the firm Krupp and its director Rauzenberger. A part of the population has left the capital - and this has further increased the anxiety our success has brought. ” ("My memories". T. II. C. 173.).
By the way, from the point of view of analyzing the issue of technical surprise (we wrote about this - see Paris cannon ; New weapons - this is only half the battle) during the use of ultra-long-range artillery, an interesting story of an eyewitness to the shelling of Paris - an English officer - artillery Miller, who wrote, as in 07. 15. 23. 03. 1918 d. 1-th shell of unprecedented force fell on the banks of the Seine. A second explosion thundered through 15 in the street of Charles V, and then on Strasbourg Boulevard. At first, the population decided that there was a bombing from a new type of airplanes, invisible from the ground. Total that day thundered 21 explosion. The subway partially ceased to operate, and the huge crowds of people filling the streets, peering into the sky, dreading to see the alleged bomb-dropping airplanes there. It seemed likely that another assumption was that shells were fired from guns hidden in abandoned quarries or in dense woodlands near Paris - but this was not confirmed either. According to the third theory, the projectile was fired from a pneumatic gun located within Paris itself. But soon, after investigating the fragments, the allies understood what was going on. As is known, the shelling of Paris took place not only during the March offensive, but also during the May and July offensive. The shelling was carried out from seven 21- and 24-cm guns from the region of S.-Gabin (110 km). The weight of the projectile was 120 kg. The length of the housing 19 dm. The initial speed is up to 1600 m per second, the final speed when falling in Paris is about 700 m per second, and the flight duration was about 3 minutes. Total Germans fired 303 projectile. As far as the moral effect was significant at the first moment, in a few days this firing was of little concern to anyone. Each shelling of the day gave no more than 20 people killed and 50 injured, while producing minor damage.
Nevertheless, this huge mass of people and technical equipment (for one kilometer of the front there was an 1 infantry division, 90 - 100 guns, 15 airplanes) could not carry out the main task of the operation plan.
About 18 days there were stubborn fights. After a few days of fighting, the Allies responded to this blow with a series of counterattacks.
The 25 reserve French divisions approached the battlefield. Here, 15 of the French divisions was also removed from other sectors of the front. The transfer of new forces by the Allies automatically demanded the same transfer by the advancing Germans.
By 8, April 25 of the new German divisions was also redeployed to the ram attack area. As a result of a series of battles for 18 days, the maximum advancement in the center of the upcoming front reached 65 km (with meager advance on the flanks of the breakthrough - 4 - 5 km). Thus, despite the enormous energy expended, the rate of daily advancement averaged no more than 3 - 4 km.
3. German Kaiser welcomes passing troops. Next - Kronprinz.
The British were not only not driven back to the coast, but Amiens, this most important strategic junction of the railway lines to Paris and Calais (the landing port of British troops) was not taken. As a result of all the efforts, the Germans received only a bag-like extension of the front and nothing more.
4. In the liberated village
The maneuver of the German army, stumbling upon the stubborn resistance of the British, and then joining the last French, scattering their efforts against two opponents at once and entangled in wire, concrete, iron, craters, warped fortifications, 31 March stopped 15 km from Amiens. The German units who left for 65 km from the initial boundary lived on a half-starved ration, since it was extremely difficult to bring all the necessary supplies due to the specific features of the area.
The exhausted offensive impulse stopped in front of Amiens, frozen here for a full four months - that is, right up to F. Foch's August counterattack. The March offensive, disabling about 180 thousand British with the loss of 1000 guns, required huge casualties from the German army (160 thousand), for which, at the end of manpower, every soldier in 1918 was of particular value.
5. Throw grenades into German trenches
The breakthrough of the Allied defense was undoubtedly the decisive factor for the future policy and strategy of the Entente. Eternal misunderstandings and disputes on issues of high command were finally resolved - in April F. Foch became the commander-in-chief of the allied armies. There was one more difficult question - lack of manpower. But in this matter too, the German offensive was the last straw that overwhelmed America's wait-and-see. And the USA agreed to monthly send thousands of infantrymen and machine-gunners to 120. Somewhat later, on May 2, F. Foch expressed to the American Commander-in-Chief D. Pershing the following (and very significant) plan for the use of American troops:
“The crisis experienced by all the belligerents is above all a crisis of the army personnel. We need people and people. If we have them, we will win, because Germany will not have them soon. American artillery, materiel, general staff, administration and institutions can be seen later. Let the infantrymen and machine-gunners arrive. April 21 1918 in France was 335000 Americans. In April, 65000 fighters landed. It is necessary to continue their arrival on 250000 per month. If we lose the battle, if the British are driven back to the sea, and the French to the Loire, where, when and how is the American army formed? ”
As we see, this plan does not require any special comments.
In operational and tactical terms after the March breakthrough of the Germans, the Allies gradually began to believe in their own strength - and in the ability to maneuver their reserves to respond with a blow to the blow.
6. After attack
Продолжение следует ...
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.