Why did the German Spring Offensive of 1918 fail?

Westfront, Stellungskrieg
German troops take an allied trench in 1918

The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was one of the last great offensives of the First World War. The offensive ultimately failed and the allies were able to beat back the German attacks. The German Spring Offensive of 1918 was the last effort by Germany to win the war and its failure meant that the Central Powers had effectively lost. If the Spring Offensive had succeeded the outcome of the war and the course of history in the Twentieth Century would have been very different. The German Spring Offensive stalled for a variety of reasons including inadequate supplies, stubborn Allied defensive tactics, an over reliance on German Stormtroopers, and the German military overestimation of their offensive capabilities.

The German army was under the direction of General Erich Ludendorff, by this stage in the war, his old collaborator Field Marshall von Hindenburg was only nominally German Chief of Staff. He was the mastermind of the Spring offensive in 1918, which is often referred to as the “Ludendorff Offensive.”[1] On the face of it, Germany and the Central Powers were in a strong position in early 1918. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Russians had withdrawn from the war and the Germans had secured new territory in the east. Romania had been defeated and Italy and Greece were no longer a threat. By 1918, it was clear that the Great War would be decided on the western front.[2] The German command knew that after America joined the war they could potentially tip the balance in favour of the allies. By early 1918, the Americans had already begun to make a difference on the western front. Germany was concerned that if they were allowed to build up their strength the allies could inflict a decisive defeat on Imperial Germany.

Furthermore, as a result of the allied naval blockade, Germany was on the brink of starvation. Unrest and labor strikes had become common in German cities.[3]. Ludendorff was in a race against time. Germany had to defeat Britain and France or they faced almost certain defeat, Ludendorff believed that they had only one last chance to strike a decisive blow against the allies before it was too late. Ludendorff was a realist and knew that the situation was grave for Germany.[4] The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk allowed the German Army to transfer some 50 divisions from the eastern to western front, in early 1918. Ludendorff decided to use these divisions in his last offensive and force the Allies to sue for peace.[5]

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