From: Los Angeles
10 March 1918:
It was now almost eleven months since the United States had entered WWI on the Allied side. Though the U. S. Navy had promptly joined the effort against the U-boats, thus far there had been almost no effect on the land war: a rough rule of thumb is that it takes a full year of training to turn a group of raw recruits into an efficient fighting unit. There had of course been a small professional American Army before the war broke out, but nothing like the size that was needed in either manpower or equipment, and the expansion had taken considerable time. But division-sized units were now almost ready to be committed to battle, and German intelligence had guessed as much. If they were to win the war, it had to be soon, before hundreds of thousands of U. S. reinforcements could make their weight felt.
There was a narrow amount of time for a war-winning attack. The collapse of Russia and the resulting Treaty of Bresk-Litovsk had freed large numbers of troops from the Eastern theater of the war. The German railroad network made it possible to rapidly bring these soldiers to the Western front, where they might achieve what both sides had been dreaming of since the German onslaught of 1914 had been stopped: a breakthrough. And a break in the lines was needed: for one of the few times in military history, it was impossible to flank either side. The lines ran all the way from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps. The tremendous firepower given by machine-guns and quick-firing artillery had made frontal attacks staggeringly costly, as Germans and Allies alike had discovered.
However, both sides were evolving weapons and tactics to deal with this situation. Be it said that the first attempts to solve the problem had been failures. The obvious method of dealing with the entrenchments and barbed wire had been to blast them with artillery. However, even when the production of the hundreds of thousands of shells required had finally been managed, the blasted landscapes after the bombardments had proved a powerful obstacle in their own right. It was difficult to move wheeled vehicles through the ruined terrain even when dry, and when the frequent rains came, it was virtually impossible. This meant that the immense quantities of supplies needed by the armies for an advance could not be provided.
The next step had been to use poison gas. The Allies’ outrage at this tactic had not prevented them from responding in kind, and both sides had soon developed chemicals that did grim damage to human beings even when they did not kill outright. But the result was still stalemate: wind, weather, and gas masks had limited the strategic effects to mere local gains in ground.
The methods of 1917 had shown more success. After the usual difficulties with prototypes, tanks had been made fairly reliable and were being produced on the Allied side in quantity. The Germans produced a few tanks of their own, but the British sea blockade limited the stocks of iron available. Therefore the Germans turned to specialized infantry called Stosstruppen or Storm-troopers, trained and equipped with flamethrowers and other high-firepower weapons. They could use infiltration tactics or, more often, follow a carefully orchestrated artillery bombardment dubbed the "Firewaltz". This opened with shells dispensing a form of tear gas which was not blocked by gas masks, and usually made the defending troops remove their masks. Then came shells with mustard gas and other lethal agents. Finally came a barrage of high-explosive shells with instant fuses, causing them to detonate before they had time to bury themselves into the ground, which made them more effective at bringing down barbed wire and also avoided making deep craters. This allowed the Stormtroopers to advance and overwhelm the defenders in their trenches. A minor Allied success at Cambrai, and a spectacular German-Austrian success at Caporetto, had shown that the bloody stalemate on the Western Front might finally be broken.
There was, of course, the alternative of making peace. The Germans had offered terms of "no annexations and no indemnities", which meant that they would withdraw from Belgium and northern France, and in return would pay no penalties for having invaded in the first place. Also, they would keep Alsace and Lorraine. The major Allies vehemently rejected this idea. The French were adamant about reclaiming the two provinces, and Britain and Japan were not about to let go of the German colonies they had captured. Italy, once a member of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria, had been persuaded to join the Allies by promises of territory from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Further, there had been several atrocities such as the burning of Louvain and its world-famous library, for which the Allies were determined to exact penalties. President Woodrow Wilson had countered the German proposal in January with his "Fourteen Points", which called for not only the return of Alsace-Lorraine but the effective breakup of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. This was of course unacceptable to those empires, and would also leave Germany without an effective alliance, while Britain and France would be strengthened by their alliance with the U. S.
And so, on this date General Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff, now effectively the chief general of the German army, had his orders issued in the Kaiser’s name. The KaiserSchlact, or "Kaiser's Battle" would be launched in eleven days. First would come the offensive code-named Operation Michael. The objective would be the British forces in the St. Quentin sector, which had been the general area of the Battle of the Somme.
< Message edited by Capt. Harlock -- 3/10/2018 2:58:04 AM >
Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?