June 8, 1918 – Operation Gneisenau:
Ludendorff Throws Last Reserves at Allies, Confident of Breakthrough
Pictured – Germany plays its last card.
Weeks of battering the Allied lines on the Western Front had finally paid off. Hundreds of thousands of Entente troops and almost one thousand guns had been captured. German shock divisions had torn a hole in the enemy lines west of Paris. On June 8 Ludendorff began Operation Gneisenau, an attack on the Matz river, south of the penetration on the Aisne. Ludendorff hoped to link the two salients and increase his foothold in the enemy lines.
The German army’s remaining unused 21 divisions were thrown into the breach. Unlike at the Aisne, this time the French used a defense in depth that allowed them to survive the initial German attack. However, they were still caught by surprise, over-run and pushed back four miles.
Despite his victory on D-Day Ludendorff had just committed a grave military error. He had reinforced a tactical success on the Western Front, but there was still nowhere where his troops had come close to his initial goal of driving the British back to the sea. Now he had used his last reserves. Allied reinforcements rushed to seal the puncture in their lines.