Operation Michael

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The Nivelle offensive was an example of the German's perfect defense. Operation Michael was an example of the perfect German attack strategy. In preparation, Ludendorff created an entirely new strategy. The idea was to send out specially trained "stormtroopers," who would then keep moving as fast as they could into enemy lines. Any enemy force was to be dealt with by grenade or machine gun or anything that wouldn't take much time. When they got to a certain point, the troops would be allowed to choose what to do themselves. "The objective of the first day must be at least the enemy's artillery. The objective of the second day depends on what is achieved on the front, there must be no rigid adherence to plans made beforehand," said Ludendorff's new pamphlet, which was handed out to all the stormtroopers. Also, equipped with crippling new artillery strategy that did more than any day long-barrage did, the infantry were sure to make it to the frontline almost unscathed.

The Beginning

Surprisingly, the British had almost no idea operation Michael was going to take place. Also, fog made it hard for British troops to see their enemies coming. In the beginning, the artillery bombardment was astounding, blowing holes in the enemy lines everywhere. Then came the first line of troops, which quickly overran the first line and the second came after. Gough, the army's commander, was in full retreat with his soilders. Amazingly, the Germans had done something never before seen on the Western front: a breakthrough. However, at the same time everything had gone wrong. On the German right, where Ludendorff predicted the biggest penetration, there was no real penetration, and the middle had better luck, but on the left was where the enemy was running for the hills. Ludendorff would have to shift his entire strategy to compensate for his awkwardness in placing his supplies. Already his troops were beginning to run low on food and water. However, Ludendorff was undaunted, and sent an additional six divisions into the battle on the left. Gough asked for reinforcements and got seven divisions from Petain, which, when arriving, couldn't find their way around the retreating men. On the third day of attack, the Germans were in position to take a bona fide strategic prize: St. Quentin, a town that is an intersection for many roads and railroads. Strangely, Ludendorff sent his troops in directions that would not take St. Quentin. It appeared as if he was trying to flank attack and encircle an entire army, but he did not have enough troops to accomplish this goal. Also, Ludendorff could move forward only at the speed of his troops, and his troops at this time had been walking four days and four nights. The next day, Ludendorff changed his thinking and went after Amiens, an almost equally important city. However, by this time 24 divisions had arrived from Petain's army and had increased the French and German defense capabilities. The German advance stopped, leaving their troops with no defensive line and short rations.

The Middle-Georgette

The troops that had gone into defending against Michael left some weakness along the line. Ludendorff intended to take advantage of this weakness, except Ludendorff himself was hard pressed to find enough troops to defend the ground he had taken, let alone launch an offensive. His answer was to launch a scaled down version of his offensive, St. George. This attack was mockingly renamed Georgette by Ludendorff's staff. When the attack came through however, it was surprisingly well done. The British intelligence had concluded that the attack would come elsewhere, predawn fog prevented defenders from seeing well, and blowing a hole in the lines. The German troops marched until the end of the day, when they hit some resistance. Around this time, Field Marshal Haig demanded "Every position be held to the last man. There must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each man must fight to the end." Soon after this statement, General Plumer retreated, causing thousands of casualties to the Germans as he did. At this point, Ludendorff had some choices: he could try and capture the town of Amiens or Hazebrouck, or he could attack high ground that, if taken, would provide him with control over the entire surrounding area. As usual, Ludendorff tried to do everything. His attack on Amiens failed, and his attack on Hazebrouck failed. He succeeded in taking part of the high ground and breaking a hole in the enemy's lines, but ordered his troops to stop for the day. If they had gone forward, Germans might have been able to break an even larger hole in the line. It could have saved the Germans quite a lot, although after that failure, operation Georgette came to an end.

The End- Soissons-Reims

Now that all of Petain's troops had been sent to help other generals, Petain himself was not well-defended. Ludendorff saw this and immediately started transporting his artillery and worn out troops to Petain's part of the Western front, preparing yet another assault. Petain saw the signs, but could not predict where the enemy would strike. Worse, Petain was at odds with other generals over his willingness to retreat. Another amazing thing was that, yet again, the Germans managed to keep much of their operation secret. British troops on Petain's front thought that the Germans were still preparing when, an hour later, they were attacked. The artillery barrage mainly fell on the unfortunate British. In a few hours, the Germans were through.
However, the Germans took Soissons, a city of value, but failed to take Reims, which made it hard to supply their own troops. Ludendorff threw everything he had against Reims, but unfortunately couldn't take it. The German army simply petered out and a calm lasted for a week. That was the end of the last major offensive pulled off by the Germans in World War 1.