1918: March 21
On March 21, Germany launched its Spring Offensive, aware that it was its last chance before the Americans arrived en masse and that its own military presence on the Western Front was soon to be reinforced by troops coming from the now-peaceful Eastern front. The offensive consisted of four phases:
The largest operation of the Spring Offensive was Operation Michael or 2nd Battle of the Somme (March 21-April 5). For a week, the Germans marched towards Paris, bombing the city from a distance of 130 kilometers with their “Big Bertha” cannons. Four days after the beginning of the offensive, the German troops had crossed the Somme and perforated the Allied lines. However, unable to supply the front line and faced with hardening Allied defences, General Ludenforff’s men became exhausted. By the end of March, their advance had been halted by British and French troops and the first major deployment of American soldiers. When General Ludendorff stopped the attack on April 5, his troops had advanced 65 kilometers and captured 70,000 prisoners. Almost 200,000 casualties had also been inflicted on either side. Lacking the fresh supplies the Allies enjoyed following the US’ entrance into the war, Ludendorff went on to launch three more similar operation that Spring, in a desperate last offensive on the Western Front: Operation Georgette or Battle of the Lys (April 7-29), Operation Blücher-Yorck or the 3rd battle of the Aisne (May 27-June 6) and Operation Gneisenau or Battle of Matz.
In each phase the Germans break through the Allied line but the offensive peters out as the Germans are unable to supply the front line troops and are left vulnerable to counter attack.