Flu Pandemic Affects German Planning

July 11 1918, Tournai–The flu pandemic had, by mid-summer, crossed the Atlantic with the Americans and was afflicting soldiers on both sides of the war.  The effects were more pronounced for the Germans, who were shorter on manpower in the first place and were planning two large offensives for the near future.  It should be stressed that the flu in the summer of 1918 did not follow the same pattern as the more famous and deadly flu that hit in the fall; mortality was not unusually high, and young people were not disproportionately affected.  Nevertheless, the first cases had already caused issues during Operation Gneisenau in June.  The next offensive, directed mainly at Rheims, would go forward on July 15 regardless, but worries began to mount for the long-delayed Operation Hagen, aimed at the British in Flanders and currently planned for August 1.  On July 11, Crown Prince Rupprecht, in charge of executing Operation Hagen, seriously considered postponing it due to the flu; too many soldiers were incapacitated by it, and it would certainly interfere with the large movement of men back to Flanders that would be necessary over the next three weeks.  Rupprecht decided against a postponement, and troop transfers would go ahead as planned, beginning as early as July 16–and by August, the flu pandemic had subsided for the time being.  While ultimately Operation Hagen would never take place, it would not be because of the flu.

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