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 After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Russians had withdrawn from the war and the Germans had secured new territory in the east.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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Why did the Gallipoli Landings fail in WWI?

british_troops_on_v_beach
British and Australian Troops Ashore on “V Beach” at Camp Helles

The Gallipoli campaign was an amphibious landing in the Dardanelles Strait in modern Turkey, that sought to knock the Ottoman Empire out of WW I. The landings were exceptionally daring for the time, but they failed to achieve their objectives. The Gallipoli campaign lasted from April 1915 to January 1918, it cost tens of thousands of lives and it was was regarded as a complete failure for the allies. Why did the allies fail to achieve their objectives? The Gallipoli campaign was hampered by poor planning, inadequate intelligence and stubborn Turkish resistance.

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Why did the Battle of the Somme fail to achieve its objectives?

British_Mark_I
British Mark I tank at the Somme

The Battle of the Somme or the Somme Offensive was a series of battles that occurred during the Summer and Autumn of 1916. It involved British and French forces launching a massive assault on the German lines in an effort to break the stalemate on the Western Front. The Battle was primarily a battle between the Germans and the British. The offensive achieved very little and both sides suffered heavy casualties. The British only advanced a few miles and the German lines held. The stalemate was not broken by the offensive. Historians have argued whether the Somme was a failure or a partial success. It is clear that the British and French did not secure their main objectives during the battle. Why did the Somme offensive failed to achieve its planners’ primary goals? This failure at the Somme was due to poor leadership, planning and a stubborn German defence.

Since 1914, the war on both the eastern and the western front had become a war of attrition. Both sides had established a series of defensive lines, involving thousands of miles of trenches and they regularly attacked and counter-attacked each other for little or no strategic or tactical advantage.[1] The western military and the governments were eager to end the war or at least to be seen as delivering a victory. There were concerns that the public would not tolerate a war indefinitely.

The resources of France and Britain had become stretched and they needed a victory to demonstrate that they were winning the war to their public. There was a genuine desire to end the stalemate which was costing thousands of lives per week.[2] Then there was the strategic situation on both the eastern and the western front. The Russians had been planning their own assault on the Austro-Hungarians in the east, an attack from the west would mean that the Germans could not come to the aid of their allies in Vienna. Then there were the almost simultaneous massive battles taking place in Verdun.[3] The Germans and the French were engaged in a bloody battle for the fortress of Verdun. The French army had found itself hard pressed and many feared that they would break and this could result in the Germans driving a wedge between the British in the north and the French armies in the south. The Somme was seen as necessary to alleviate the pressure on the French and to assist the Russian offensive.

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