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Operation Michel 1918

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  • Operation Michel 1918

    I cannot find a thread to dump this on. But it seems that even with improved tactics, Ludendorff's strategy was still defective.

    Germans' must have run out of schnapps.

    Operation Michael ended for three main reasons. The first reason was German troops often stopped to loot captured British supply dumps. Captured rum led to widespread drunkenness. The delays caused by the looting allowed the British time to regroup. The second reason was the exhaustion of the German troops by the 9th day of the offense. Ludendorf’s attempt to make three separated drives deprived the main drive by Hutier’s 18th Army of any fresh reserves. Each drive became exhausted and fresh reserves could not support the attack. The third major reason was the British ability to move reinforcements by rail and motor transport. Each of the five offensives of the Spring Offensive followed the same pattern. Initially, the German assault inflicted a great number of casualties on the Allied forces and caused them to retreat. In the process, the advancing German infantry became exhausted both physically and numerically from their own losses. Each offense ended when the advance ceased because the attacking forces had lost the ability to conduct further offensive actions. [35]

    35 = Stormtrooper tactics, by Bruce Gudmonsson p167-168
    When looking for the reason why things go wrong, never rule out stupidity, Murphy's Law Nº 8
    Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. George Santayana
    "Ach du schwein" a German parrot captured at Bukoba GEA the only prisoner taken

  • #2
    Basic problem of storm-trooper tactics:
    It was after all inherently costly in terms of casualties. For the Germans in 1918 it adoption was making a virtue out of a necessity.

    The one remaining relative German advantage in early 1918 was manpower. Due to the British blockade they were falling behind fast in all other aspects involving artillery, planes, tanks, and the other mechanical paraphrenalia of a modern WWI style war. This was by Entente design. They had concluded they could win by simply outproducing Germany, eventually they should be able to mechanically crush it.

    It's arguable if the German gamble in 1918 failed for running out of men (dividing the forces) or if it was impossible in the first place due to German relative lack of firepower, machinery and mobility? What's seems for damn certain is that it chewed up the remaning German manpower but good, and with it gone, there wasn't really any comeback to offensive warfare in WWI for Germany. It simply lacked the hardware to try for the kind of victory-through-superior-firepower the French and the British were making work for themselves.

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    • #3
      The basic problem was even worse - there was no strategy, something Prince Rupprecht bemoaned. The book I want with an excellent quote in it is at work. Please bear with me for ~13 hours.

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      • #4
        Another problem was the inability to bring up artillery through the lines. The Storm troopers could infiltrate the lines and achieve the breakouts, but eventually they got too far away from the artillery so they were on their own.

        The British were retreating towards their supply and support areas. The Germans were advancing away from theirs. That is why the Bite-and-Hold strategy worked better. It was slower, but more effective in achieving momentum.

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        • #5
          The Brittish LTW (Leave Them Whisky) defense was successful beyond all expectations.
          O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy. And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs, sloths, carp, anchovies, orangutans, breakfast cereals, fruit bats

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Blair Maynard View Post
            The Brittish LTW (Leave Them Whisky) defense was successful beyond all expectations.
            Much better was the Leave Them Food strategy - stopped 'em dead.

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            • #7
              This operation failed cause BEF brought up reinforcements after inital shock & awe on 21 March 1918 . Also the German forces ran out of steam, supplies, both ordance & food . It was very much an precursor of what happened to the Germans in December 1944.
              Could it have worked ? Maybe if the ground had allowed them to bring their artillery close behind the infantry . But the whole operation fell apart, there was revolution brewing in Germany and the Germans were fed up with a war that was destroying the nation.

              "To all who serve , have or will serve , Thank You"

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              • #8
                David Stevenson (London School of Economics, author of numerous books and articles on WWI) has the best quote about the German Spring Offensives I've read in a while. In "With Our Backs to the Wall," he writes on pages 42-43:

                Although fear of the American build-up impelled Ludendorff to strike early, the Americans' tardiness had desperately disappointed the Allies, and only after - and in good measure due to - his offensive were shipments accelerated. To this extent the Germans committed suicide for fear of death, and by attacking they brought themselves closer to the very threat they feared while weakening their capacity to confront it.
                Brilliant.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by strathnaver View Post
                  This operation failed cause BEF brought up reinforcements after inital shock & awe on 21 March 1918 .
                  Perhaps some kudos should go David Lloyd George for holding back these replacements until absolutely needed by Haig after the costly campaigns of 1916-17?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Canuckster View Post
                    Perhaps some kudos should go David Lloyd George for holding back these replacements until absolutely needed by Haig after the costly campaigns of 1916-17?
                    Had they been in the line there would have been no breakthrough and casualties on the British/Commonwealth side would have been lighter as a result!
                    Signing out.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
                      David Stevenson (London School of Economics, author of numerous books and articles on WWI) has the best quote about the German Spring Offensives I've read in a while. In "With Our Backs to the Wall," he writes on pages 42-43:

                      Brilliant.
                      A bit of the 'damed if we do and damned if we don't' about it that seems to be an apt conclusion.

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                      • #12
                        Much of the areas the Germans overran in Michel were areas they had thoroughly destroyed before retreating. The drainage was destroyed and all roads and rail lines were gone. The English built new roads and rail lines into this area, but there was still large area of destroyed ground in between that German supplies and artillery could not cross.

                        Second, there were no long range objectives. All Ludendorf had was to destroy the British Army in Flanders. He was only able to destroy one Army out of five. The British were not the Russians and held.

                        Pruitt
                        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                          Had they been in the line there would have been no breakthrough and casualties on the British/Commonwealth side would have been lighter as a result!
                          That would be compounding the same mistake as Duchene as well as Gough to an extent. Defense in depth or elastic defense means the front lines should lightly held. Duchene ignored Petain and packed them into the front line only to have them obliterated by the artillery.

                          The font line should only provide a delaying action. The reserves, held out of artillery range can then counterattack once the enemy breaks through the initial zone.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Full Monty View Post
                            Had they been in the line there would have been no breakthrough and casualties on the British/Commonwealth side would have been lighter as a result!
                            Indeed, although the casualty count would depend quite a bit on how they were deployed. However, if the Germans caught wind that several hundred thousand British reserves been moved to the continent, its not altogether certain that "Michael" would have been the plan. Its plausible that, instead, Ludendorff would have selected the Schulenberg/Wetzell option of striking the French around Verdun. Part II of Kuhl's "Genesis, Execution and Collapse of the German Offensive in 1918" lays out the decisionmaking in this regard. Its available on line here: http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cdm/compound.../id/265/rec/11

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Ibis View Post
                              Indeed, although the casualty count would depend quite a bit on how they were deployed. However, if the Germans caught wind that several hundred thousand British reserves been moved to the continent, its not altogether certain that "Michael" would have been the plan. Its plausible that, instead, Ludendorff would have selected the Schulenberg/Wetzell option of striking the French around Verdun. Part II of Kuhl's "Genesis, Execution and Collapse of the German Offensive in 1918" lays out the decisionmaking in this regard. Its available on line here: http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cdm/compound.../id/265/rec/11

                              Haig, rather controversially for some, shared the view that too much strength in the British sector would not necessarily make strategic sense. Clearly though, aside from the men DLG thought were better employed helping to manage the nation's forests (or similar) there were still enough reserves to keep British divisions reasonably close to full strength and/or allow for GHQ to muster a decent reserve to counter any German attack!
                              Signing out.

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