July 14, 1918 – Second Battle of the Marne Begins with Failed German Attack
Pictured – French soldiers take position in a ruined house.
The last German offensive of 1918 came near the Marne on July 14, 1918. It was a disaster. The French had anticipated the German plans and smashed the enemy assault trenches with a devastating bombardment, killing hundreds of Germans awaiting the order to go over the top. Then when the Germans advanced, they found the French trenches completely abandoned – a ruse. The French General Pétain had dug trenches in front of their lines and placed only a skeleton garrison in them. The German bombardment was wasted on nothing, and when the infantry continued to advance they were gunned down by a hail of machine-gun fire from fully manned French and American positions. The Germans ran. In another sector of the front French artillerymen knocked out a score of German tanks. Fourteen miles to the east, the Kaiser stood at a German First Army observation post at Ménil Lepinois, fourteen miles northeast of Reims, to watch as his armies tried to reach Paris for the last time.