2nd Battle Of The Marne – Turning Point On The Western Front I THE GREAT WAR Week 208

2nd Battle Of The Marne – Turning Point On The Western Front I THE GREAT WAR Week 208

This week, after nearly four months of withstanding
the might of the Kaiserschlacht, the German Spring Offensives, week after week after week,
the Allied counter attack finally comes. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week there was a lot of action far to
the east in Siberia, but it was primarily a week of planning, as the Germans finalized
plans for their next Western Front Offensive, even in the face of a deadly flu epidemic. That offensive, which would be known as the
Second Battle of the Marne, kicked into gear this week. The Germans were going to attack with Crown
Prince Wilhelm’s 49 divisions. One of the goals was to open a second railway
line to the Marne, and also to draw off Allied reserves from Flanders in the north for an
attack up there that would happen in just a few days. The Allies knew exactly when this week’s
attack was coming, though, so French and American artillery bombarded the German front lines
and jumping off points half an hour before the German bombardment began. The German barrage was still pretty strong,
though, for example raining 17,500 rounds of gas on the sector of front held by the
American Rainbow Division. Then the Germans went over the top east of
Reims… and found that the French trenches weren’t exactly trenches. Well, okay, they WERE trenches, but they were
only lightly manned, and the German bombardment had been wasted on them. The Germans overran these and killed what
few defenders there were, but the “real” trenches further back were basically untouched,
and of course, full of French soldiers. French General Philippe Petain, after pushing
so hard for so long for the French to use a defense in depth system to neutralize the
German shock troop advantage, had finally gotten his wish and General Henri Gouraud
had implemented it, and as the Germans advanced on the manned trenches, they came under heavy
fire from French and American artillery. The Chief of Staff of the Rainbow Division,
Douglas MacArthur, said, “When they met the dikes of our real line, they were exhausted,
uncoordinated, and scattered, incapable of going on without being reorganized and reinforced.” That was east of Reims. West of Reims where the French under Jean
Degoutte, and the French and Italians under Henri Berthelot were using the old system
with the men too far forward, the Germans were quickly successful, though their failure
in the east meant that those successful troops were dangerously exposed, so they called off
the attack in the west. But it had to keep going somewhere, because
it was essential to draw Allied reserves away from Flanders before the German attack up
there. On the 16th, the German bombardment was renewed,
now against the French and Americans in Champagne – including half a million gas shells. Over the next two days, it seemed like the
Germans would break through – and that could’ve been the decisive breakthrough, but (Gilbert)
in one sector French gunners knocked out all 20 German tanks, in another fewer than 4,000
Americans- outnumbered three to one- held their ground in vicious hand to hand fighting,
while overhead, 225 French bombers with 40 tons of bombs dropped them on the bridges
the Germans had set up across the River Marne. Near Chateau-Thierry, the American 3rd Division
managed to blow up every single pontoon bridge the Germans set up in the whole sector, earning
itself the sobriquet “the Rock of the Marne.” But the Germans kept on coming, pouring into
the river in the face of machine guns and infantry, to the point that, by noon that
day, as American General Joseph T. Dickman would write (Gilbert), “There were no Germans
in the foreground of the Third Division except the dead.” The Americans also took heavy casualties holding
back the tide. On the 17th, Italians troops that had been
brought in stopped the Germans at Nanteuil-Pourcy. On the morning of the 18th, German Quartermaster
General Erich Ludendorff had a conference with his command where he the first thing
he did was dismiss any possibility of an Allied counterattack in the south. Then they talked about tactical options if
the British in Flanders used the same new defense system the French just had. And then around noon came the word that Allied
Supreme Commander Ferdinand Foch had in fact launched an Allied counter attack. It kicked off with a 2,000 gun artillery barrage
along just over a 40km front. French General Charles Mangin led 23 divisions
– four of them American – following nearly 500 tanks in an attack to try and recapture
Soissons and seal off the German salient. David Stevenson writes in “With Our Backs
to the Wall”, “Not for the last time, the Germans were wholly surprised. Part of the reason was overconfidence: Crown
Prince Wilhelm had thought the Allies too weak both to defend Reims and to counterattack.” But the Allies had agreed that surprise was
absolutely crucial for success, so concentrating the forces leading up to the attack was done
in just four days – well, nights, since it was all done in darkness, and the tanks were
hidden in the forest. This counterattack was huge, on a total front
of over 100km by four armies, but the spearhead was the 1st and 2nd American Divisions and
the 1st Moroccan Division, who were largely Senegalese. The bulk of the tanks were light Renaults,
armed with machine guns, that could go, like, 13-14 km/hour, and they attacked out of the
mist. The German lines broke and they were driven
back some 7 km. 20,000 Germans were taken prisoner, as well as 400 big guns. As the week came to an end, though, Mangin
was stopped before he could reach Soissons, and there were some seriously heavy Allied
casualties – for example, the Italian Corps fighting on the 19th lost a third of its strength,
but after just the first two days, now the Germans might have no realistic hope left
of taking Reims, and the German threat to Paris would then be no more, but more importantly,
if the Marne salient became unholdable, Ludendorff would have no real choice but to postpone
the Flanders offensive indefinitely. There is a story from this week, maybe true
maybe not, of a ruse devised by a couple of American engineers. A briefcase with fake plans for the counterattack
was handcuffed to a man who had died of pneumonia, right? Then they put him in a vehicle that looked
like it had run off the road at a German-controlled bridge. The Germans found the plans and believed them,
then adjusted their own plans to stop the fake Allied plan. So when the Allied attack came, it came elsewhere
and hit an exposed part of the German lines, leaving them no choice but to retreat. Again, I don’t know if this is true or not. Something that is true from that front is
that on the 16th, a German Flying Ace named Hermann Göring shot down his 22nd plane,
and three days previously had taken command of the Richthofen Squadron. That squadron was named after Baron von Richthofen,
the Red Baron, who’d been killed in April. There was Central Powers action on other fronts
this week as well. On July 13th, using mainly German troops,
General Liman von Sanders attacks British General Edmund Allenby’s bridgehead on the
east bank of the Jordan River, Northeast of Jericho, but Australian troops push back the
attackers. This attack worried the British command though,
who thought that if Sanders made such an attack on the Arab Revolt forces east of the river
and won, the British flanks would be exposed and their plans for an autumn offensive ruined. One Central Powers offensive had hit some
snags, though. Nuri Pasha’s Army of Islam was advancing
at a crawl through the Caucasus toward Baku. The summer heat, the lack of sufficient drinking
water, and poor supply lines would’ve slowed any army, but his was now wracked by an epidemic
of dysentery. By the time his forces reached Kurdamir, he
estimated he had only 4,000 soldiers that were really fit for active fighting. Add to that that the Azeri militia were deserting
in droves, so he had only around 8,000 men at the moment available to try and take Baku
and its oilfields, but he would try at the end of the month. As for those defending the city. On the 15th, after skirmishing west of it
and nearly being encircled, Colonel Bicherakov comes to the conclusion that his Cossacks,
even bolstered by the Armenians and the Red Guard, cannot stop the Ottomans with their
artillery in the open field. They retreated toward the city’s environs
to plan the defense there. And here are two notes to end the week. On July 16th, 1918, Tsar Nicholas Romanov
and his family were executed at Yekaterinburg, capital of Red Ural, by order of the Ural
Regional Soviet. Deposed by the February Revolution last year,
Nicholas had been the force that guided Russia into this war four years ago. There was also news this week from another
initial guiding force of the war; on July 15th, after the huge failure of the July Austrian
offensive in Italy, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf is dismissed and placed on the retired list. He is also raised from Freiherr to Graf, so
like from Baron to Count, but for Conrad this war is over. And this week of the war ends, with yet another
German offensive, but a mighty Allied counter attack that, as the week ends, is a success. A German failure in the Middle East, setbacks
in the Caucasus, and the death of a Tsar. Well, he was no longer the Tsar. You know, when you think about it, there’s
nearly no one left. The leaders – the men who guided the world
into this war or led the armies, or both, 3 years and 50 weeks ago – they’re almost
all gone. Call the roll: Nicholas, Conrad, Franz Josef,
Moltke, Joffre, French, Putnik – they’re all gone. Only Enver Pasha and Kaiser Wilhelm remain
at their posts from those 1914 days, and even the Kaiser’s power has been reduced by army
command. It’s now different men, fighting with different
weapons and different tactics, and it’s also a totally, totally different world. If you want to learn more about the Allied
tactics in response to the German spring offensive 1918, you can click right here for our special
episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Kolja
Hartmann. Thank you for your support on Patreon. Please support us on Patreon if you can, even
1$ really counts and allows us to make this show better and better. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next


  1. "225 French bombers with 40 tonnes of bombs dropped them on the bridges the Germans had set up across the River Marne."
    Gotta love the French bomber crews. They performed consistently well and never got the credit they deserved.

  2. I had a fairly decent knowledge of WW1 before this series but watching these videos every week really drives home how grim it looked for the allies even so close to their ultimate victory. Only now the war starts beginning to turn in favour of the Entente.
    This week to week dripfeed of new events really paints a fascinating picture of the war one doesn't get from reading books.
    Thanks again to the whole The Great War team!

  3. Nothing like hearing a bit of history about how my unit earned its title the "Rock of the Marne." Thank you to the guys at The Great War channel for a great show, I will be saddened to see it end in November.

  4. The story about the execution of the Romanovs has sent a chill down my spine the likes of which you can only see in a horror movie

  5. Ludendorff used up all of his reserves – the guys brought over from the eastern front – trying to rescue the Germans who did manage to make it across the Marne. Trying to exploit that salient took a whole lot more men and materials that the flu-suffering Germans really didn't have at that point. They had lost air superiority as well. Their assumptions in spring were fatal ones. The Allied blockade was starting to put the hurt on them too. Doesn't look like the American's are going to be knocked out early before they can get enough troops over I'm afraid.

  6. The 'rolling barrage' artillery tactic that the Germans had created also was their curse as it was used against themselves with great successes. It requires precise spotting which requires eyes in the sky – which by that time the Allies owned. The Allies started using their field artillery like front line infantry to escape the German stormtrooper break-through tactics. Many times artillery was leading the counter-attacks. If you were a guy in an Allied arty unit you had two choices – either sit in the back getting shelled or hunted by German stormtroopers or move up and away from that.

  7. Indy? Guys? Wheres the dumbest moves list for 16/17? 17/18? Been awhile and they are great episodes, " and Princep shot him, that was just plain stupid". Lol, thanks for the show, you guys are awesome.

  8. Sometimes i don't get tactical thinking (or how it is done by commanding people): The defense in depth was incorporated by the germans very effective for a long time now. So 1. Why did it take the allied commanders so long to understand and use it themsleves? 2. Why were the germans so surprised by the allies using the same thing they did for so long. If i deploy some tactic that works, and i can assume that my opponent understands what i'm doing, i would expect him to do (or try to do) the same thing. As the allies had air superiority and tried several times to overcome this defense they would have known and understood it.

  9. IMHO renault ft-17 does not go at 14+ km/h. There is video with Gunny driving it and ft-17 owner walking along. Walk speed is less than 10km/h. Although Gunny was driving ft-17 with 37mm gun

  10. Henri Gouraud was perhaps the only one-armed general of WW1 because he lost his right hand during the Dardanelles campaign in 1915. But he's so famous in the Middle-East for being the High Commissioner of France to Lebanon & Syria after the Great War.

  11. Indy & Co there is a book "Last Days of the Romanovs" By helen Rappaport deal with the final days and murder of Nicolas II and family. There are also a number of documentaries on him and family. Add to this a lot of comemerative videos and videos on Nicholas II daughters see OTMA videos

  12. I've still got my money on Germany. If your citizens are revolting, just shoot them if they revolt lmao. Ezpz. Cmon Germany, gotta step up your internal stability game.

  13. with the size of the american expeditionary force growing by hundreds of thousands, would taking paris even matter? say if france was effectively knocked out of the war like russia was, americans and british wouldnt stop fighting and while britain was certainly feeling the strain of 4 years of war, america was the allies' second wind. it may have taken another year, but if the warring sides grinded each other down in france pound for pound germany would run out of meat far sooner than the allies, not to mention austria and the ottomans were more exhausted than any major allied power. plus the soviets were consolidating more and more power everyday and given chance in 1919 could have made plays for reclaiming lost territory if every single able german soldier was sent into france to hold paris rather than defend finland or poland

  14. Please remember Major Jesse Walton Wooldridge as the most decorated line Officer in the AEF for his actions at the Second Battle of The Marne.

  15. What am I supposed to do with my Cristmas Conrad von Hotzensocks now Indy?! My life will never be the same again!

  16. Can you imagine what meetings between the Queen and Jeremy Corbyn would be like?  "Go away, you bad man! You and your friends killed Uncle Nicky!"

  17. Great video as always. You mentioned the heavy Allied casualties during the Soissons Offensive. Here's an example of that: the US 26th Infantry Regiment, part of the 1st Infantry Division, endured about 50% casualties as they advanced forward with French tanks. The regiment's commanding officer died during the attack as well. The fighting was extremely intense.

  18. I keep expecting someone to mention the irony that Conrad von Hötzendorf was born on 11 November. So I guess I have to.

  19. What was the plan for the soldiers in the front line of an in depth defense? Were they supposed to pull back before the enemy reached them? Or hold out until the counter attack came?
    At 1:36 Indy says that the Germans killed what defenders were in the front line trench. But surely, it wasn't expected in the French planning that these men would be killed or captured, right?

  20. 6:25 …didn't the British used the same trick to distract German defenses at the invasion of Italy in WW2…?

  21. Imagine if Rochtofen had lived and played an important role in the next war rather than German Goering.

  22. Wow, best episode yet. Love that reflection on how somehow in all this chaos we've transited across the threshold into modern war. The old guard that started the fight are out, this is a new kind of war, and history will never be the same. Never thought of WWI like that.

  23. Amazed that no mention was made of the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Czar & his family in the media

  24. It appears, for me, my fate in this war, and in this life, has been sadly decided. And it was not as fruitful as I would have liked it to be. Carry on, gentlemen.

    "Horatio, I am dead; Thou livest; report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied."
    – Hamlet from W. Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (c. 1599-1602)

  25. There's a story that the Italian mathmetician Vilfredo Pareto was discussing statistics with one of Italy's generals. Pareto asked, "What makes a great general?" and the answer was, "One who wins three major battles in succession."

    "And how many generals are great generals?" Answer: "About one in eight."

    Pareto: "If the chance of winning is half, the chance of winning three in a row is the reciprocal of two cubed, or one in eight. Statistics, my dear general, not generalship."

  26. It’s an interesting difference between the first and second World War that the first had almost all of the top leadership change but the second had almost none.

  27. FINALLY THE AMERICANS ARE FIGHTING ON MASS!!!🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🦅🦅🦅🦅🦅🦅

  28. Wow, i discovered you thru history buffs channel (indy made a guest appearance), and just finished binging all your previous weeks. You are awsome… i will try to support in patreon… keep it going… thanks!

  29. Finally pulled out my Great-Uncle's WW1 victory medal to check the clasps. Based on the clasps, he was present at 2nd Marne, or Aisle-Marne as the clasp is labeled.

  30. Those alleged counter-attack plans seem suspiciously similar to what happened in the Operation Mincemeat during World War II

  31. Has anyone noticed the guy at 1m 8s pointing up to the sky? It looks like he's pointing exactly at the flight path of the shell & I suspect it's to show his colleague how you can see the shell in flight from such a vantage point, right after the gun has fired.

  32. Odds are 9/10 that MacArthur convinced the French general 'F it, don't listen to French command. Defense in depth.' Just saying… the American presence was the only difference between the three generals, best I can tell.

  33. With the end of the war fast approaching what are your plans for after? Can I expect to see you 20years from now for ww2?

  34. "For Conrad von Hotzendorf, this war is over…is what Hotzendorf said when he got home and looked in the mirror. A single tear ran down his cheek, yet he balled his fists in a rage. Because Hotzendorf is gone, the war is now completely lost by the Central Powers. But Hotzendorf knows Hotzendorf did his best to bring victory………….Hotzendorffffffff!!!" – Conrad von Hotzendorf, to himself, 1918

  35. The EU UN all Zionist media, tech companies, NGOs, and borderless charities must be disbanded for Europe to keep it's European cultural, heritage, identity and have a peaceful future for our children.

  36. July 17, 1918, the RMS Carpathia, the ship that saved the survivors of the Titanic, is sunk by a German U-Boat off the Irish coast.

  37. You left of Kitchener as well. The British Army is now only partially the one he called for in 1914.

    So many dead. So much destroyed.

  38. My great grandma's brother, Private Evan Hawkes, died in the Second Battle of the Marne on the 21st July at just 18 years old.
    He was in the 1/9th Division of the Durham Light Infantry and I still have the letters his family got when he died. I struggle to find out where abouts he would have fought though and even exactly where he died.
    Any help would be appreciated so much!

  39. hello indy did you know? thailand had fought in world war 1 in the entente side and declared war on germany and austria-hungary and also fought in the second battle of marne too!

  40. What they dont say is that the french were retreating when the American 3rd Division stayed to fight the Germans. The French disgraced then stayed to attack. Hence the 3rd being nicknamed the Rock of the Marne

  41. My great grandfather fought in this battle

    He joined the army at 17 ( he pretended to be 18) and was sent to France. Eventually his mom was able to pull him out of the war. He would never talk about his experiences during the war.

  42. As Madame Foch remarked in her diary, 'The Marne doesn't like the Germans, for them the river is decidedly fatal.'

    (Source is the Cambridge History volume 'Foch in Command')

  43. I know, silly sentimentality, but it does make me a bit happy to hear over the last several episodes (and Specials) how the Americans went from a nothing of a force, with no air-force to speak of, seemingly ignorant of everything…to a force to be reckoned with, having high morale, determination, and ability!

  44. The Battalion that earned the name "Rock of the Marne" isnt in 3rd devision anymore, it was deactivated and reactivated in Fort Polk in (now) 3rd BDE 10th Mtn Div: 2-30th infantry regiment

    I was in their attached FSC for a few years

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