Who Won the Second Battle of Marne?
On July 15, 1918, the German military would partake in what eventually would become their final offensive attempt to win World War I. Lasting several days, this battle between German and French, British and American forces – eventually named The Second Battle of Marne – featured heavy casualties on both sides, so much so that many often find themselves wondering: who exactly won the second battle of Marne?
Early in July 1918, German militant Erich Ludendorff developed an extensive military plan to overtake the region between northern France and Belgium known as Flanders. This plan consisted of a major offensive attack within the Flanders region, as well as a diversion that was designed to take place near France’s Marne River. German forces hoped that the initial diversion would pull French, British and American troops away from their primary targets.
Upon receiving approval on July 15, 1918, 23 divisions of the German Army set out to attack the French military from the east, while 17 divisions attacked from the west. Initially, attacks began with preliminary bombardment, which the Germans considered to be extremely successful as they heard little to no return fire. Assuming that they had wiped out a large number of their enemies, the Germans advanced only to find that they had been tricked. Led by French General Henri-Philippe Petain, the French had utilized the military tactic of setting up false trenches, and thus, the German’s bombardment had killed only a few of the French military.
The French’s strategy proved to be extremely successful in not only saving their military power, but also in deeply confusing the Germans. Having wasted much of their personnel and military resources on false trenches, the Germans were now looking ahead in doubt, as they knew their worn military unit was about to face a full-strength enemy far too soon.
With the German military discouraged and worn, Allied supreme commander, Ferdinand Foch, sent the Allied troops for a counter-attack early on July 18th. This group of Allied troops – which consisted of 24 divisions of the French Army, an estimated 85,000 U.S. troops, members from the British Expeditionary Force, Italian troops and approximately 350 tanks – battled with the Germans over a span of several days. There were heavy casualties on both sides during the battle. In particular, the Germans suffered approximately 168,000 casualties, while the Allied forces lost 120,000 military members (France: 95,000; Britain: 13,000; United States: 12,000). Despite the heavy casualties, the Allies eventually won the Second Battle of Marne when German commanders demanded a retreat on July 20th.
Due to the clever military tactics leveraged by the Allied forces, German General Ludendorff’s initial plan to take over the Flanders region was postponed, and ultimately canceled, as the German military found themselves overpowered, trapped and surrounded.
Key Figures Involved
- Ferdinand Foch, French Military Commander – Commander Foch (1851-1929) played an essential role within World War I and is often known as being one of the most inspirational military generals of the time. While known for his desire to be on the offense, Foch’s aggressive military style played a large role in the Allied forces ability to win the Second Battle of Marne. After identifying weaknesses within the German military, Foch’s aggressive style allowed the French militia to attack these flaws before Germany could correct them.
- Erich Ludendorff, German Military Commander – Commander Ludendorff (1865-1937) was one of Germany’s top military leaders, especially during the end of World War I. His multi-faceted military operations initially earned him much respect, but eventually led to his 1918 resignation, the cause of which was primarily his loss in the Second Battle of Marne.
- Henri-Philippe Petain, French General – One of the older French military leaders, General Petain (1856-1951) initially began World War I as a colonel, but soon found himself rising in the ranks after a series of impressive victories for the French. Despite his success in World War I, General Petain was eventually found to be assisting Germany during World War II, and thus was sentenced to death in 1951.
The Allied forces victory of the Second Battle of Marne played a pivotal role in them winning World War I. After the Second Battle of Marne, the German military would never again be on the offensive, and despite a series of defenses, they formally surrendered on November 11, 1918, ending World War I.
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Second Battle of the Marne begins with final German offensive
Battles – The Second Battle of the Marne, 1918
Allies begin major counter-offensive in Second Battle of the Marne