Building On the Past: Mid-July in World War History
One of the last great German offensives of World War I, the Second Battle of the Marne marked the end of the German spring offensives in 1918. These offensives were designed to defeat the Allies before substantial numbers of American troops could arrive on the Western Front. The offensive was designed by Erich Ludendorff, the German Chief-of-Staff. Ludendorff’s offensive at the Marne was to be a diversionary attack, drawing Allied troops away from the Flanders region. The plan was to launch a larger offensive at Flanders, splitting French forces and driving towards Paris.
The offensive was largely a failure. Backed by fresh American troops, the Allies blunted the German advance and mounted a successful counteroffensive. After the defeat, it slowly became apparent that victory for the Central Powers was almost impossible. Germany’s fate became reality when the Allies launched the offensive at Amiens on August 8th, 1918.
22 years later, the British were feeling the same dread that Germany felt in 1918. France had recently fallen to the Nazis. Operation Dynamo had managed to salvage what was left of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk. On July 10, 1940, Hitler launched the Battle of Britain. This offensive was designed for the German Luftwaffe to achieve air superiority over the British Royal Air Force (R.A.F) in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain.
While both the R.A.F. and the civilian population suffered immensely under the German bombardment, British resolve held out long enough to frustrate Hitler into turning his attention eastward towards the Soviet Union. This resolve not only saved their own nation, but also led to Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. In making the same mistake as previous conquerors such as Napoleon, this invasion would result in massive Nazi losses and the eventual defeat of Hitler’s seemingly unstoppable armies.