Allies begin major counter-offensive in Second Battle of the Marne

Jul 18, 1918:

Allies begin major counter-offensive in Second Battle of the Marne

Three days after a German offensive near the Marne River in the Champagne region of France meets with failure, Allied forces launch a major counterattack on July 18, 1918, ending the Second Battle of the Marne and decisively turning the tide of the war toward an Allied victory.

After forces commanded by the German general Erich von Ludendorff fall painfully short of their objectives near the city of Reims on July 15–largely due to the deceptive Allied strategy of planting a line of false, lightly-manned trenches in front that would leave their real front line undamaged by the preliminary German bombardment–the Allied supreme commander, Ferdinand Foch, authorized a major counteroffensive. The Allied attack, which began in the early morning hours of July 18, 1918, was carried out by 24 divisions of the French army, as well as troops from the United States, Britain and Italy, pressing forward in some 350 tanks against the German salient.

As Crown Prince Wilhelm, a commander of the German forces at the Marne, recalled of the events of July 18: “Without artillery preparation, simply following the sudden rolling barrage, supported by numerous deep-flying aircraft and with unprecedented masses of tanks, the enemy infantry–including a number of American divisions–unleashed the storm against the 9th and 7th Armies at 5:40 in the morning.” The French 6th and 10th Armies led the infantry advance, pushing forward five miles on the first day of the offensive alone. Meanwhile, the French 5th and 9th Armies launched supplementary attacks to the west. By the time the Germans ordered a retreat on July 20, the Allied counteroffensive in the Second Battle of the Marne had driven the Germans back from Chateau-Thierry to Soissons on the Aisne River, effectively reversing all the gains made in the region during the entire German spring offensive of 1918.

Casualties at the Marne were staggering, with Germany losing 168,000 soldiers to death or injury, compared with 95,000 for the French, 13,000 for the British and 12,000 for the U.S. After the disaster at the Marne, Ludendorff was forced to call off a planned German offensive further north, in the Flanders region stretching between France and Belgium, which he had envisioned as Germany’s best hope of victory. In the end, the Second Battle of the Marne marked the last large-scale German offensive of World War I.

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Marshal Petain becomes premier of occupied France

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H25217,_Henry_Philippe_Petain_und_Adolf_Hitler

Jun 16, 1940:

Marshal Petain becomes premier of occupied France

On this day in 1940, Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, World War I hero, becomes prime minister of the Vichy government of France.

As Germany began to overrun more French territory, the French Cabinet became desperate for a solution to this crisis. Premier Paul Reynaud continued to hold out hope, refusing to ask for an armistice, especially now that France had received assurance from Britain that the two would fight as one, and that Britain would continue to fight the Germans even if France were completely overtaken. But others in the government were despondent and wanted to sue for peace. Reynaud resigned in protest. His vice premier, Henri Petain, formed a new government and asked the Germans for an armistice, in effect, surrendering.

This was an ironic position for Petain, to say the least. The man who had become a legendary war hero for successfully repelling a German attack on the French city of Verdun during the First World War was now surrendering to Hitler.

In the city of Vichy, the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies conferred on the 84-year-old general the title of “Chief of State,” making him a virtual dictator–although one controlled by Berlin. Petain believed that he could negotiate a better deal for his country–for example, obtaining the release of prisoners of war–by cooperating with, or as some would say, appeasing, the Germans.

But Petain proved to be too clever by half. While he fought against a close Franco-German military collaboration, and fired his vice premier, Pierre Laval, for advocating it, and secretly urged Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco to refuse passage of the German army to North Africa, his attempts to undermine the Axis while maintaining an official posture of neutrality did not go unnoticed by Hitler, who ordered that Laval be reinstated as vice premier. Petain acquiesced, but refused to resign in protest because of fear that France would come under direct German rule if he were not there to act as a buffer. But he soon became little more than a figurehead, despite efforts to manipulate events behind the scenes that would advance the Free French cause (then publicly denying, even denouncing, those events when they came to light).

When Paris was finally liberated by General Charles de Gaulle in 1944, Petain fled to Germany. He was brought back after the war to stand trial for his duplicity. He was sentenced to death, which was then commuted to life in solitary confinement. He died at 95 in prison. The man responsible for saving his life was de Gaulle. He and Petain had fought in the same unit in World War I and had not forgotten Petain’s bravery during that world war.

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Update 7-13 : New Pictures Added to the Website

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New pictures have been added to the Pages:

  • Bundeswehr
  • Luftwaffe – After WW2
  • Tiger 1
  • The Bovington Tank Museum – England
  • Battleship Bismarck
  • Sd.Kfz. 2, 4, 6-11, 222, 231-232, 234, and 250-254
  • Messerschmitt Bf 109
  • WW2 Allies – Kingdom of Hungary
  • Other Museums, Artifacts, and Vehicles
  • Heinkel He 115 Recovery
  • Tiger 1 Replica
  • World War 2 Generals
  • World War 2 Officers, NCO’s, Etc.
  • Annexation of the Sudentenland
  • Eastern Front
  • Paintings &  Art
  • Allied Forces of World War 2
  • Sd.Kfz. 2, 4, 6-11, 222, 231-232, 234, and 250-254
  • Jun 6, 1944: D-Day
  • Battle of Normandy
  • Falaise Pocket
  • December 44 Historical Museum – La Gleize, Belgium
  • Deutsches Panzermuseum – German Tank Museum
  • Musée des Blindés – Tank Museum – France

Enjoy!

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Soviet General Konev establishes a new western border for the USSR

Konev_ivan

Jul 13, 1944:

Soviet General Konev establishes a new western border for the USSR

On this day in 1944, General Ivan Konev, one of the Soviet Union’s most outstanding officers, pursues an offensive against 40,000 German soldiers to capture the East Galician city of Lvov. When the battle was over, 30,000 Germans were dead, and the USSR had a new western border.

Joseph Stalin had declared that he wanted the western border of the Soviet Union to be pushed back across the River Bug, territory that was part of prewar Poland, but was now occupied German territory. General Konev, who had led the first offensive against the Germans when they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 (and who had created the “Konev ambush,” a strategy by which troops retreat from the center of a battle area, only to allow troops from the flanks to close into the breach, used to defeat German General Heinz Guderian’s tank offensive against Moscow), led the Red Army’s new attack westward. He encircled 40,000 German soldiers in the town of Brody. After seven days, 30,000 German soldiers were dead, and Lvov was Soviet-occupied territory and would remain a part of the new postwar Soviet map.

General Konev would go on to cross Poland into Germany and, meeting up with U.S. and other Soviet forces, enter Berlin to see the final downfall of the Axis power.

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Austrian investigation into archduke’s assassination Concludes

Jul 13, 1914:

Austrian investigation into archduke’s assassination Concludes

On July 13, 1914, Friedrich von Wiesner, an official of the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office, reports back to Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold the findings of an investigation into the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife Sophie the previous June 28, in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary had long feared its waning influence in early 20th-century Europe, and was particularly threatened after the two Balkan Wars of 1912-13 confirmed the growing influence and ambition of Serbia, backed by its mighty Slavic ally, Russia. In fact, even before Franz Ferdinand’s death, Berchtold’s office had been preparing a memorandum for the archduke, as well as for Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II, proposing an alliance with Bulgaria to shore up Austrian influence and isolate Serbia in the tumultuous Balkans region. When Gavrilo Princip, a young Bosnian Serb nationalist, shot Franz Ferdinand and Sophie at point-blank range in their car in Sarajevo on June 28, Berchtold—along with most in Vienna and the rest of the world—assumed the Serbian government had some complicity in the plot. Two days after the assassination, Berchtold proposed a “final and fundamental reckoning with Serbia” to the Austrian emperor, 84-year-old Franz Josef, who agreed to send a personal note to Kaiser Wilhelm, along with a revised and more aggressive version of the memorandum. On July 5, the kaiser gave Berchtold’s ambassador what has become known as carte blanche or “blank check” assurance that Germany would back Austria-Hungary in any punitive action it chose to take against Serbia.

By July 8, both Berchtold and Conrad von Hotzendorff, the bellicose chief of staff of the Austrian army, had come to believe that a military invasion of Serbia was both desirable and necessary to capitalize on the situation and crush the upstart rival. Even as Austrian investigators worked to sort through the evidence in Sarajevo, then, Austria-Hungary, with German encouragement (in fact, Berlin was pressing Vienna to act more quickly) plotted the next step: the presentation of an ultimatum to Serbia that would be worded in such a way as to make it practically impossible for the other country to accept.

On July 13, Wiesner reported the findings of the Austrian investigation: “There is nothing to prove or even suppose that the Serbian government is accessory to the inducement for the crime, its preparation, or the furnishing of weapons. On the contrary, there are reasons to believe that this is altogether out of the question.” The only evidence that could be found, it seemed, was that Princip and his cohorts had been aided by individuals with ties to the government, most likely members of a shadowy organization within the army, the Black Hand. Realizing he would have to go ahead without evidence of Serbian guilt, Berchtold declined to share these findings with Franz Josef, while his office continued the drafting of the Serbian ultimatum, which was to be delivered on July 23 in Belgrade.

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Allied attack on Achi Baba

Jul 12, 1915:

Allied attack on Achi Baba

On July 12, 1915, Allied forces make a sixth and final attempt to capture Achi Baba, a prominent hill position featuring a commanding view of Cape Helles, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, from its Turkish defenders.

Though many modern-day historians have questioned the actual strategic importance of the hill in the grand scheme of the Gallipoli invasion, Achi Baba was seen by the Allied command at the time as a crucial objective in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire s forces and their German allies. Because of this, Sir Ian Hamilton, chief commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, had set the capture of Achi Baba as a priority from the first day of the Allied land invasion, on April 25, 1915. In addition to the disorderly landing itself, three separate unsuccessful attempts had been made to capture the heights, as well as the nearby village of Krithia, by that June. On June 28, another attempt met with similar failure, at the cost of heavy Allied casualties, in the Battle of Gulley Ravine.

The attack of July 12 began after the arrival of Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, a regional commander sent from the Western Front to aid Hamilton on the front lines in Gallipoli, along with an additional division of Allied forces. Yet again, the Allies were unsuccessful, gaining a total of only 350 yards over two days of heavy fighting before Hunter-Weston called off the attacks. The Allied casualty figure–4,000 dead or wounded–was lower than the Turkish one–some 10,000 men–but Achi Baba remained in Turkish hands. From then on, the bulk of Allied operations in Gallipoli were focused further north, around the so-called Anzac Cove (named for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) and Suvla Bay.

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Russians halt German advance in a decisive battle at Kursk

Jul 12, 1943:

Russians halt German advance in a decisive battle at Kursk

On this day in 1943, one of the greatest clashes of armor in military history takes place as the German offensive against the Russian fortification at Kursk, a Russian railway and industrial center, is stopped in a devastating battle, marking the turning point in the Eastern front in the Russians’ favor.

The Germans had been driven from Kursk, a key communications center between north and south, back in February. By March, the Russians had created a salient, a defensive fortification, just west of Kursk in order to prevent another attempt by the Germans to advance farther south in Russia. In June, the German invaders launched an air attack against Kursk; on the ground, Operation Cottbus was launched, ostensibly dedicated to destroying Russian partisan activity, but in reality resulting in the wholesale slaughter of Russian civilians, among whom Soviet partisan fighters had been hiding. The Russians responded with air raids against German troop formations.

By July, Hitler realized that the breaking of the Russian resistance at Kursk was essential to pursuing his aims in Soviet Russia and the defense of Greater Germany, that is, German-occupied territory outside prewar German borders. “This day, you are to take part in an offensive of such importance that the whole future of the war may depend on its outcome,” Hitler announced to his soldiers on July 4. But on July 5, the Russians pulled the rug out from under Hitler’s offensive by launching their own artillery bombardment. The Germans counterattacked, and the largest tank battle in history began: Between the two assailants, 6,000 tanks were deployed. On July 12, 900 Russian tanks clashed with 900 German (including their superior Tiger tanks) at Prokhorovka—the Battle of Kursk’s most serious engagement. When it was all over, 300 German tanks, and even more Russian ones, were strewn over the battlefield. “The earth was black and scorched with tanks like burning torches,” reported one Russian officer. But the Russians had stopped the German advance dead in its tracks. The advantage had passed to the East. The Germans’ stay in Soviet territory was coming to an end.

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German Military History with a focus on World War II History including other areas of German History