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The Great War
Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Timeline Maps & Battles The Shaping of the 21st Century Historians
Historians OverviewTrevor Wilson

The March Offensive - A German Blitzkrieg
Trevor Wilson
"Germany's March Offensive was an attempt to win the war in a hurry by a blitzkrieg offensive.

"The German High Command said that they had to do it because the Americans were coming. But if you look at the Germans in WW1, they're always trying to win by a blitzkrieg offensive.

"The March Offensive is Schlieffen Mark Two. It's just the Germans doing again what they tried to in 1914, only this time, they're going to do it against the British – they're going to drive the British out of France. If they do that, the French will collapse, and the Americans will never come in.

"So all they've got to do is drive the British back hundreds of miles from the Somme all the way into the sea. That's Ludendorff's grand objective. Now, in order to do it, he employs enormous skill because, like the British army, the German army has been going through a learning curve.

"The Germans have been achieving great things in the artillery field.

"In addition, they have been developing new infantry tactics, marrying movements of infantry with the artillery.

"As long as the German offensive is in its opening phase, it does well. The attack of 21 March, and the next few days, drives the British back a considerable distance. But Ludendorff wants his forces to advance so far and so fast, that there is an inevitable result. His infantry have to outrun his artillery.

"Once his foot soldiers leave their big guns behind and keep on attacking without massive support from the artillery, they are doomed.

"Within a week, the German offensive on the Somme has been stopped in its tracks.

"So Ludendorff turns north and attacks in Flanders. Then he turns south, against the French. Always it is the same story: early success, mounting losses of men, and an attack that runs out of steam.

"For all his use of gunnery, basically, Ludendorff in 1918, is trying to win an infantry victory. The Germans are now running desperately short of manpower, and here is the German commander trying to win by means of his infantry. It is lunacy – a prescription for disaster. His advance in the March Offensive gets him deeper and deeper into the old Somme battlefield, extending his line, costing him dear in manpower, and securing no worthwhile objectives – certainly not a glimpse of the sea."

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