Photo Credit: A seemingly endless procession of trucks brings American soldiers and supplies to the front at Chateau-Thierry in May 1918. Painting by William James Aylward.
By George T. Raach For the hard-pressed German Empire, New Year’s Day 1918 brought a compendium of evils. The Allied naval blockade, increasingly effective, depressed industrial production and stoked a war weariness made manifest in strikes and bread riots. Manpower reserves were dwindling; those called to the imperial colors were often in their middle teens. It seemed likely that one or more of Germany’s allies would soon seek a separate peace. And worst of all, the United States was now in the war on the side of the Allies, the first of its large, fresh divisions already in France. The only bright spot in the German gloom was the prospective peace with Russia, a move that already had begun to free up some 44 German divisions for use on the Western Front. These additional units would change the force ratio from 3:2 in favor of the Allies to 4:3 in favor of the Germans, thus making possible a series of last-ditch spring offensives. General Erich Ludendorff, acting commander of the German Army, believed it imperative to use these divisions quickly and decisively. Unless this was done, he warned in a year-end letter, increasing numbers of robust American forces would make it impossible for Germany to achieve complete victory or even a satisfactory negotiated peace that enabled the Kaiser to keep some of his territorial acquisitions. It was a desperate prognosis, but Ludendorff’s assessment had merit, and in March and April 1918, the German Army launched two major offen
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