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The Kaiserschalcht (Kaiser's Battle) also know as the Ludendorff Offensive were a series of German attacks along the Western Front of WWI during the which led to the surrender of French and British forces in Europe. The German authorities had realised that their only remaining chance of victory was to defeat the Allies before the overwhelming human and resources of the United States could be deployed. They also had the advantage of nearly 50 freed by the Russian surrender (Treaty of Brest-Litovsk).
There were four separate German attacks, codenamed Michael, George, and Otto. While the first three were intended to draw forces away from the Channel ports that were essential for British supply and then attack the ports and other lines of communication, the last was also directed in capturing key point in France (including Paris).
The German armies involved were the Seventeenth Army under Otto von Bülow, the Second Army under Georg von der Marwitz and the Eighteenth Army under Oskar von Hutier, with a Corps (Gruppe Gayl) from the Seventh Army supporting Hutier's attack. Although the British had learned the approximate time and location of the offensive, the weight of the attack and the preliminary bombardment was an unpleasant surprise. The Germans were also fortunate in that the morning of the attack was foggy, allowing the stormtroopers leading the attack to penetrate deep into the British positions undetected.
By the end of the first day the British had lost near 20,000 dead and near 35,000 wounded and the Germans had broken through at several points on the front of the British Fifth Army. After two days Fifth Army was in full retreat. As they fell back, many of the "redoubts" were left to be surrounded and overwhelmed by the following German infantry. The right wing of Third Army also retreated, to avoid being outflanked.
On March 25, communications with the United Stated went blank sparking conflict among allied commanders in U.K. and France but this information was kept away from the general public and frontline troops to avoid unnecessary harassment of the war morale.
At Arras on March 28, a hastily prepared attack launched by Germans on the left wing of the British Third Army, trying to breach the Allied lines, is repulsed.
After three days, the German advance began to falter, as the infantry became exhausted and it became increasingly difficult to move artillery and supplies forward to support them. Fresh British and Australian units were moved to the vital rail centre of Amiens and the defence began to stiffen.
Despite the huge blow to their morale the stiff resistance of the Allied troops forced German commander Erich Ludendorff to call off Operation Michael.
The German attack consisted of six divisions which would quickly overrun the two Portuguese divisions holding the frontlines alongside the British emergency troops sent to reinforce them.
British defenders hold more firmly the southern flank but in the following day the Germans widened their attack to the North forcing the defenders to retreat to avoid being surrounded.
Further German advancements towards the critical logistics centre of Hazebrouck were slowed down by British defenders and almost came to a halt with the intervention of the Australian 1st Division but after intense fighting the Germans broke the stalemate and captured the town on April 15.
Delays of French reinforcements allowed Germans to overrun Allied defenders and take Mount Kemmel by April 17.
By April 21 Ypres was succesfully captured by the Central Powers leaving Channel ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk whitin attack range of the German forces, the operation was deemed successful.
With the fall of Ypres Allied forces amassed stiff defences around Dunkirk managing to stall the German advance from disrupting vital British supply lines.
With the advances from Operation George grounded to a halt, new attack on French positions was planned to draw forces further away from the Channel and allow renewed German progress in the north.
Operation Blücher-Yorck was planned primarily by Erich Ludendorff, who was certain that success at the Aisne would lead the German armies to within striking distance of Paris. Ludendorff, who saw the British Expeditionary Force as the main threat, believed that this, in turn, would cause the Allies to move forces from Flanders to help defend the French capital, allowing the Germans to continue their offensive past Flanders with greater ease.
On the morning of 25 May 1918, the Germans began a bombardment (feuerwalze) of the Allied front lines with over 4,200 artillery pieces. The British suffered heavy losses, because Duchene had ordered them to mass together in the front trenches, in defiance of instructions from the French Commander-in-Chief Henri-Philippe Petain. Huddled together, they made easy artillery targets.
The bombardment was followed by a poison gas drop. Once the gas had lifted the main infantry assault by 20 German Sturmtruppen divisions commenced, led by Crown Prince Wilhelm, the eldest son of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Taken completely by surprise and with their defences spread thin, the Allies were unable to stop the attack and the German army advanced through a 40 km gap in the Allied lines. Reaching the Aisne in under six hours, the Germans smashed through eight Allied divisions on a line between Reims and Soissons, pushing the Allies back to the river Vesle and gaining an extra 15 km of territory by nightfall.
Within three days Germans captured over 45,000 allied soldiers and more than 680 guns. On the First of June they were only 32 km of Paris.
French commanders requested emergency reinforcements to be deployed against the German offensive closing on their capital but the commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force refused to move troops from Flanders as the channel ports had priority on the Allied war effort.
In the place of British reinforcements four divisions were moved from the French First Army in Somme and reservists were called en masse to hold on the German offensive.
Despite delays in bringing the reinforcements to the front French troops managed to mount up and hold a perimeter 20 km from Paris and due to overextention of their supply lines the German army stalled.
Ludendorff realizing Blücher-Yorck didn't achieve its diversionary purpose of weakening British positions in Flanders ended the offensive on June 6.
The allied defences in Dunkirk remained stiff despite but since the United States left the conflict their resources started to became dimmer and the Germans could take their next step knowing their gains wouldn't be twarted back by the arrival of a fresh reinforcements of a greater power.
If they could end the conflict now they would put all their efforts carefully in a way to win all they could because the war cost high and they needed a huge acquaintance to make up for it.
Planned to be the offensive to end the war it was named after Otto von Bismarck the German statesman who carried out the German unification to simbolize the rise of the German Empire to the most powerful nation on Earth.
The attack involved over 10600 artillery pieces and 102 divisions which advanced against all allied positions on Belgium and France.
The British and French had gathered information of the time and location of the attacks and had their positions reinforced in the hopes of countering such an enormous force.
The battle began on morning of 16 June with nearly seven hours of constant bombardment of the allied lines followed by offensives towards Arras, Amiens, Dunkirk and Paris.
The Channel port of Dunkirk was heavily damaged by the artillery strike but a great deal of the defences in the outskirts were missed by the barrage so the defenders inflicted heavy casualties in the 10 divisions of the Sixth German Army while retreating towards Calais. After exhausting twelve days of battle the German advance stalled halfway to Calais.
In Amien 30 divisions of the German Second, Seventh, Seventeenth and Eighteenth armies fought over nine days to take the city and slowly pushed back the British managing to reach the mouth of the Somme after two months and thus encircling the British Expeditionary Forces around the Channel ports.
At Arras 17 divisions of the German Seventeenth Army fought the fierce resistance of the British Third Army which took two weeks (the longest of all initial objectives) to fall, the Germans then advanced more 40 km towards Calais by 27 July before stalling.
In the Marne 25 German divisions of the First and Third armies assaulted the French Fourth Army east of Reims. Meanwhile, 20 divisions of the German Seventh Army aided by the Ninth Army attacked the French Sixth Army to the west of Reims. The defenders on the south bank of the Marne suffered heavily from the bombardment so that the Germans succeeded in defeating them by the first day and advanced further towards Paris. The attack on the east of Reims didn't had the same luck and took three days to break the French lines whilst suffering heavy casualties. The French were split in two and the Germans began the slow and painful process of reaching Paris. The French Fourth Army was forced back towards Champagne were it remained encircled until the end of the war and the French Sixth Army retreated towards Paris being reinforced by an increasing number of reserve divisions. Despite the French offensive on Alsace through invading Switzerland which caught the Germans by surprise and wreaked havoc in the rearlines by 1 August the German First Army was near the gates of Paris and artillery shells began raining on the French capital. In 3rd of August the French surrendered and Paris was captured.
With the French surrender the British troops realized the war in Europe was lost and began retreating the BEF through the ports of Calais and Boulogne while striking a diplomatic armistice with the Germans alleging that they would surrender within three days.
However by the time the armistice expired and the Germans resumed the offensive with full force they captured all British positions within one week only to discover most of the BEF was evacuated back to Great Britain leaving the Germans without a considerable amount of prisoners to force peace with the British Empire.