Was World War I
an avoidable debacle ?
July 15 – August 6, 1918
Marne River, France – Western Front
Allied Powers – British Empire
Allied Powers – France
Allied Powers – Italy
Associated Powers - USA
Central Powers – German Empire
German General Erich Ludendorff planned a diversionary offensive in July 1918, in an attempt to distract the Allied troops from Belgium and to win World War I. The two-pronged attack on the French Fourth Army and the French Sixth Army was carried out by the German First and Third Armies, and the German Seventh and Ninth Armies respectively. The attack against the French Fourth Army was led by General Bruno von Mudra and General Karl von Einem at the Reims while the attack against the French Sixth Army was led by General Max von Boehn. The French Army was supported by 85,000 U.S. soldiers and troops from the BEF.
The attack to the east at Reims was quickly repelled and was not resumed by the German Army. The German Seventh and Ninth Armies to the west, met with some success. The crossed the Marne River, but were ultimately stopped by the French Ninth Army under the command of General Antoine de Mitry on July 17, 1918.
French Commander in Chief, Ferdinand Foch quickly organized a counter attack. The Italian troops supported twenty-four French divisions of the French Sixth and Tenth Armies and over 350 tanks in this counter-attack. By July 20, 1918, the German troops thought it wise to retreat to the Aisne-Vesle valley. The Allies were stopped in the onslaught on August 6, 1918.
The Second Battle of the Marne was a disaster for the Central camp. The Germans recorded a loss of 168,000 soldiers. The losses in the Allied ranks were also high. The French lost 95,000 men and the BEF lost 13,000 soldiers. The United States recorded 12,000 casualties. The loss of morale for Germany was probably the more scalding outcome of the battle. Most German commanders saw the failure at the Second Battle of the Marne as the beginning of defeat with respect to the war as a whole.