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Operation Michael - the Somme Offensive

An aerial observer or pilot in flight helmet and overcoat reports to a German General and his staff at a division's combat headquarters on March 21, 1918, the first day of Operation Michael, Germany's spring offensive, the first of five German drives in 1918.
Text:
Reverse (handwritten):
21. 3. 18.
Division Combat HQ

An aerial observer or pilot in flight helmet and overcoat reports to a German General and his staff at a division's combat headquarters on March 21, 1918, the first day of Operation Michael, Germany's spring offensive, the first of five German drives in 1918.

Image text

Reverse (handwritten):

21. 3. 18.

Division Combat HQ

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In early 1918, as many as 250,000?? American troops arrived in Europe each month. German command expected them on the front line by the fall. Germany's campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare had failed to prevent supplies from reaching Great Britain. With shortages of food and supplies in Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Turkey being pushed back in both Palestine and Mesopotamia German general Erich Ludendorff's window for victory on the Western Front was small.

Ludendorff planned an offensive to knock the British out of the war, separating them from the French, then pressing them back against the Channel. Ludendorff's three armies would advance against two British armies north and south of the Somme River as the Allies had in 1916. Ludendorff saw the offensive as Germany's last chance for victory, and recognized defeat would precipitate a military??? and political??? crisis.

On March 21, 6,000 German guns fired along a 60-mile front from Arras south to La Fère. Fog concealed advancing German troops and limited the effectiveness of British machine guns. Using tactics they had first used in 1917, and with specialized attack, mobile, and trench units, the Germans pressed where the enemy was weakest, infiltrating their lines, advancing past areas of resistance, leaving them to others to mop up.

In the first day, the Germans drove the British back along the entire front, but they advanced only half the distance planned, and suffered their worst casualties of the war.

The German advance continued regaining much of the territory abandoned in their strategic retreat of 1917, but British and French reinforcements (some of them replaced by American troops in other parts of the line) slowed the advance by the end of March.

Operation Michael had failed. Casualties were comparable with Germans, 239,000 lost to 248,000 Allied soldiers

1918-03-21

1918-04-05

Operation Michael - the Somme Offensive is part of Germany's 1918 Offensives on the Western Front.