[August 5th, 1918] France. Second Battle of the Marne ends with Allied victory.
More on that:
How the Allies Surfed to Victory on a Wave of Oil
(Counterpunch) The German advance towards Paris was halted by the French, albeit with considerable American assistance, in the famous “Second Battle of the Marne” between mid-July and early August 1918. Symbolically, however, the tide turned on August 8, when the French, British, Canadians, and Americans launched a gargantuan counterattack; the Germans troops were henceforth pushed back systematically and inexorably. Ludendorff was later to describe August 8 as the blackest day in the history of the German army.
A number of factors contributed to the failure of Ludendorff’s offensive. First, as the Germans made good progress and carved deep pockets in the Allied lines, they stretched the front line, requiring their resources in manpower and materiel to be dispersed rather than concentrated; this made their attacks less forceful, and their increasingly long flanks more vulnerable to Allied counterattacks. Second, while they inflicted huge losses on their enemies, the Germans also suffered considerable casualties: at least half a million, and possibly as many as a million, between March and July. Another factor was psychological. The German soldiers realized that the chances of victory on the Western Front were better than they had been since the beginning of the war in 1914. And they understood that their commanders had committed all available resources to ensure the offensive’s success. It was all or nothing, now or never. Paradoxically, the success of the attack was also responsible for its failure, at least partly. When the German soldiers overran British positions, they noticed that these were bursting with weapons and ammunition as well as stocks of food and drink that they themselves had not seen in years. The officers often tried in vain to incite their men to attack the next British or French line of trenches; the soldiers simply interrupted their advance to feast on canned meat, wine, and white bread.
These losses of momentum permitted the British and French to reorganize, shore up defences, and bring up reserves, many of them American soldiers, who surfaced just about everywhere to help plug gaps in the allied lines. That demoralized the Germans, who got the impression that the Allies disposed of unlimited reserves not only in food, weapons, ammunition, and all sorts of war materiel, but also in men, in “human material.” How many more times did the Germans have to attack allied positions before the enemy would capitulate? How could one defeat an enemy who commanded such inexhaustible reserves of men and equipment?
But another factor played the most important, and almost certainly most decisive role in the failure of the German offensive of 1918. If again and again the Allies succeed in bringing up the reserves in men and materiel that were needed to slow down and eventually stop the German juggernaut, it is because they disposed of thousands of trucks to do the job.
French troops are transported by truck to the front, as shown on a bas-relief of the Monument of the Voie Sacrée near Verdun.
Photo by J. Pauwels.