One hundred years ago the tide finally turned
August 8, 2018 2:34 PM   Subscribe

The Allies started the final offensive on the Western Front. On August 8, 1918 began what history would call the Hundred Days Offensive; it would end WWI's terrible Western Front before the year was out. In front of Amiens a Canadian, Australian, British, American, and French attack used tanks and air power to drive deeply into German lines, winning surprise, causing panic, and capturing many prisoners. Shortly afterward the German command realized the war was over.

After learning of his army's surrenders and morale collapse, Ludendorff would call this day "Der schwarze Tag des deutschen Heeres" (The German Army's black day).

All armies were suffering from the "Spanish" flu, which was becoming more deadly and spreading worldwide.

One documentary.

Excellent journalist Philip Gibbs summarizes the battle (he's better known for his harrowing book about 1914).

Accounts of Australians in the battle. A Canadian view.

Hindenburg describes Amiens.

Commemorations at Amiens Cathedral.

A discussion of the Australian and Canadian role at Amiens.
posted by doctornemo (23 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by ocschwar at 3:24 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


Following the failure of the Spring Offensive, and then this renewed Allied assault, the German armies basically melted away, as soldiers simply began to walk home.

Of course, by this point, the German economy had almost completely collapsed under the burden of war expenditures and the Allied shipping blockades, and cities like Hamburg were starving. Ludendorff may have called it the army's "Black Day," but the war had already been lost.

Hindenburg was, of course, completely delusional.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:34 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


That last link is just excellent as the presenter explains how Monash planned out the attack. (There's not so much about the Canadians in this talk but Currie did much the same thing. And both Australians and Canadians understood the value of explaining to the lowest squaddie his role in the upcoming battle, something the English were wary of doing.) But most interesting is how the unit commanders decided where to end the advance (well past their stated objective). Hindenburg never understood why the Allies didn't keep going, since the Germans were unable to resist in that sector. Dr. Hampton shows how Hindenburg's Spring offensive left an irregular line that was vulnerable in several places. Hindenburg himself says that the Germans were undermanned, under-gunned, under-supplied, exhausted, and demoralized, but he cannot connect that to his (and Ludendorf's) strategy of always pushing forward. The more I read about Hindenburg, the more disgusted I get. Not only was he Hitler's enabler, he was a lousy general!
posted by CCBC at 5:25 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


"but he cannot connect that to his (and Ludendorf's) strategy of always pushing forward. The more I read about Hindenburg, the more disgusted I get. Not only was he Hitler's enabler, he was a lousy general!"

There's a WWII historian (Robert Citino) who has at least one book on the history of Prussian and later German military strategy who tries to explain why the Germans kept fighting in WWI and WWII when they "should have known" that the various wars were over - his hypothesis is that Prussia was always an underdog, surrounded by larger countries that could outproduce them, so their only advantage was to attack and maneuver. Going forward is the only chance they had. So, charging right at the enemy to strike a blow that might disembowl the enemy even when the odds are hopeless was part of Prussian/German doctrine from the time of Frederick the Great. So, it's too easy to say "they were lousy generals" - they weren't. This is just what they were taught in the military academies and in the service.
posted by Docrailgun at 6:07 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Thanks for this. My great grandfather was buried just north of Amiens, dying on August 9th from wounds the previous day—I hadn’t picked up what action it was related to until now.
posted by cardboard at 6:52 PM on August 8 [17 favorites]


cardboard, with which nation?
posted by doctornemo at 7:25 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in the Dominion of New Zealand, a crowd greeted police when they arrived at Te Paina on 11 June 1918. The Crown needed more soldiers.
posted by haemanu at 7:42 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


UK, 9th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers
posted by cardboard at 7:59 PM on August 8 [5 favorites]


Let's recognise the role played by soldiers and citizens alike refusing to participate in and continue to condone the war. Mutiny in the French army, revolution in Germany, the folly of the Imperialist war was becoming obvious to all.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 10:44 PM on August 8 [6 favorites]


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posted by saturday_morning at 11:38 PM on August 8


If you have the stomach for it, Dan Carlin's podcast Hardcore History has an excellent series called Blueprint for Armageddon that lays out the horror of it all.
posted by Harald74 at 12:09 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Let's recognise the role played by soldiers and citizens alike refusing to participate in and continue to condone the war. Mutiny in the French army, revolution in Germany, the folly of the Imperialist war was becoming obvious to all.

Clearly all sides were exactly as bad as one another!
posted by atrazine at 5:46 AM on August 9


If you have the stomach for it, Dan Carlin's podcast Hardcore History has an excellent series called Blueprint for Armageddon that lays out the horror of it all.

Seconding this. I've listened to it all the way through 5 or 6 times now, and it's long as hell. Grisly, disturbing, sad, and absolutely fascinating.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:07 AM on August 9


100 years ago doesn't seem that long ago but it also seems like a really long time ago.
posted by PHINC at 6:16 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]



Clearly all sides were exactly as bad as one another!

It's not WW2. It's not a struggle against fascism, it's just a power struggle between nation-states and empires.

All sides were not as bad as each other. All the 'sides' that supported the war were not good. There was a lot of good work being done by anti-war activists. The govt tried twice to bring in conscription here, and if I look for people to celebrate from WW1, I think of all the campaigning they did, and the brutal repression they faced from their warring states. They crushed the IWW in Australia for their anti-war organising. They crushed them in the US as soon as the war was over.

That soldiers were willing to face court-martials and even directly rebel because they'd seen the destruction being unleashed and they saw that it was not in their interests to continue is certainly something of a redeeming factor for those who participated in such actions.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:18 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


Clearly all sides were exactly as bad as one another!
It's not WW2. It's not a struggle against fascism, it's just a power struggle between nation-states and empires.


As far as I recall, growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania, in elementary school WWI was presented as more or less prequel to WWII, with some sides being good and others being bad. But by high school, WWI was presented more as the result of all parties involved (except maybe the US) having had a history of on and off war for centuries and all marching blindly into WWI thinking it would be a quick war to reset the borders, with everyone hoping to come out ahead.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:32 AM on August 9 [3 favorites]


I’m not sure whether you’re presenting that as the truth or as an indictment of your teachers.
posted by Segundus at 6:55 AM on August 9


Remember what Clemenceau said, when it was suggested that no-one could know what future historians would say about the war;

“But one thing is certain: they will not say that Belgium invaded Germany."
posted by Segundus at 7:06 AM on August 9 [4 favorites]


If the war were actually caused by the invasion of Belgium then that might be something relevant to the larger picture.

My take is saying "France" or "Germany" or "Britain" wanted war is somewhat misleading because all sides had multiple factions even within governments who were split. But this was a case where the decisions everyone made in the run-up were really pro-war, not even counting the preceding decades of arms races and alliances.

More on topic, it is amazing how after nearly four years of bloody stalemate the war would end in 3 months.
posted by mark k at 7:26 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


More on topic, it is amazing how after nearly four years of bloody stalemate the war would end in 3 months.

Not really. The war was at the point where breaking the stalemate would tip things over. This was the rationale for the German spring offensive.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:08 AM on August 9


And yet the war went on, if we look beyond the immediate western front.
The Russian Civil War would persist through 1922, ranging from Mongolia (featuring this character) to Poland (which Lenin invaded).
Fighting in the former Ottoman empire rampaged through 192*3*, with Greece invading Turkey, the Turkish War of Independence, France and Britain trying to tear loose chunks of the Porte's old holdings (Britain bombing Iraq, for one), multiple international treaties before one took.
Ireland fights its own civil war (1922-23).
Meanwhile, Italy and Germany will be wracked by various insurgencies, and that won't end well.
posted by doctornemo at 8:09 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


> Meanwhile, Italy and Germany will be wracked by various insurgencies, and that won't end well.

It’s been largely forgotten how close we came to achieving worldwide socialism in the aftermath of the war. There was the thwarted Spartacist uprising, of course, but also the two red years in Italy, socialist uprisings in Ireland, and so forth. Even the northwest of the United States had widespread socialist and anarchosyndicalist action. When the Russian soldiers turned their guns around to point at the real enemy, they came so close to inspiring everyone else to follow suit.

And then it was all rolled back. Capitalists (and fascists) won back control in most of the world, and even though the Soviet state won the brutal civil war in Russia, the measures they took to win that war more or less destroyed the soul of the revolution.

The old order came so close to tipping over in the aftermath of their nightmarish stupid war. That old order deserved to die, and it’s tragic that it somehow — by brute force, by the development of fascism — managed to just barely hold itself together.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:59 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


Yeah. I can see that. Fucking Fordism. Did some research into the “Slacker Raids”. If one looks at old news clippings of raids, it is more then just a round up, it was a clean up as, for example, 'The Detroit News' would list females and males in separate columns indicating their state of health like " 35 females sent for examination for public health". The interlacing of Federal, state, and local government was loosely coordinated but effective in gathering information, catch illegals, prostitute's, communists, etc.

All in the name of patriotism.
posted by clavdivs at 7:15 PM on August 9


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