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The Great War

News Reports From the Front
100 Years Ago This Month

April 1918

Germany Drive on Western Front Stalls

April 5

German Drive On Amiens Stalls

The Germans’ great drive into the Allied lines in northern France seems virtually at a standstill. Her first great onrush, an advance towards Amiens and a push out from the Montdidier salient, appears to have been stymied. While large gains of territory have been scored, final victory is no nearer in sight, and Germany’s resources in men and material is depleted.

Experts say the lull in the battle is a result of the need for the Germans to consolidate their positions and bring up their heavy artillery. There seems increasing hope that the Allied line, reinforced and under coordinated command, will prove an impassable barrier even against the heaviest assaults the enemy may bring to bear.

In the days of desperate fighting since they launched their attacks, the German command apparently has learned that massed infantry attacks without great artillery preparations are fruitless and most costly. The German artillery fire is reported to be weak, indicating that the enemy has not yet been able to move its big guns across the barren regions recently captured.

The cessation of the German onslaught is welcomed by the British and French, who are busy preparing for the next great effort after their victorious defense against the enemy drive. Both armies are confident that the German effort to separate the British and French will continue to prove fruitless. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 American troops, eager for the fray, are marching forward to the front.

Reports of heavy German losses, when compared to the losses of the Allies, have demonstrated to many that the Germans will be defeated in their efforts to win the war by military means. Having once again sought victory by military means, and having failed, the Germans again have put out lies through their propaganda machines to placate the people of the Central Powers, who must feel disappointed at the failure to obtain all that was promised by the drive that cost so heavily in human lives. German newspapers declared that the German drive was halted by bad weather and not by the French and British defenses.

Experts believe Germany's recent drive brought about two things, which will strengthen the Allies’ resistance tremendously. The first is the assumption of the supreme command by General Foch and the second is the effect it has had on speeding up the participation of American troops in the actual fighting.

American Troops Move Onto Battle Line

Participation of American troops in the fighting on the Western Front is expected at any time. 100,000 Americans are moving towards the battle lines. Some unseasoned American units will be placed side-by-side with hardened British and French veterans. Troops who are not yet sufficiently trained to fight as divisions or Army corps will form part of the seasoned divisions until such time as they have completed their training, or until General Pershing wishes to withdraw them in order to build up the American Army.

Allied newspapers deemed the decision, which placed American units in brigades with French and British battalions for immediate participation in the fighting on the Western Front, a historic step. It proves, says the London Daily Express, that America is in the war for victory Allies.

The fact that such a move was made has been known for some time by the commanding officers, who anticipated important results from it and accord the highest praise to the Americans for the attitude of self-sacrifice they have adopted in placing themselves under foreign divisional command.

This action means that, for the time being, the American officers and men may be giving up much in the way of a possible promotion, which they may have been able to secure if they were fighting under their own command. The American troops are highly reputed, among the best men in the field, and it is believed that they will fall neatly into their niches, thereby swelling each British and French division affected.

April 12

Germans Make Another Effort To Take Amiens

The battle for Amiens is on. Firmly checked upon both flanks, the Germans are now making a desperate effort to break through the Allied center in the direction of Amiens. Two weeks ago, they attacked on the front of 50 miles; now they are taking on a front of less than twenty miles.

The sudden switch in the attack to a front of twenty miles may have been made to catch Field Marshal Haig napping, but if so, the attempt was futile. British artillery is maintaining a terrible bombardment of the German assembling places, and it is possible that this may have delayed the onslaught.

The German casualties in the fighting were very heavy. At numerous places it was possible to see the Germans forming for the attack, and in every case the British artillery and machine guns wreaked havoc among the assembling troops.

Press dispatches stressed the fact that, so far, the Germans have been unable to widen the salient they have projected into the Allied lines where the British and French armies overlap. Officials here agree, as long as the flanks of this main operation are checked, it is highly improbable that the attempt to cut the two armies apart can come to any success.

The opening moves consist of the renewed German offensive to drive west upon Amiens by the old Roman road from St. Quentin. The successful advance on this front would accomplish two things. First, Amiens would fall, and second, there would be a general dislocation of important British transport lines. It is unlikely now, however, that there would be any separation between the British and French forces. This would only be possible if a wide gap were open between the French and British Armies, but the Germans are not at the moment attempting to open a wide gap.

It seems fair to conclude that the present German offensive is a localized effort to get Amiens, and to be able to point to some definite achievement as a reward for the great expense of the latest German effort to win the war in a single battle. Amiens taken, the Germans might base many claims upon their achievement. A failure to get Amiens, on the contrary, would leave them with little to show for their great casualties, other than possession of the blood-soaked and devastated battleground of the Somme.

The question of Allied strategy is now squarely raised. Any further considerable advance of the Germans toward Amiens will put that city in the peril and the Allies will have to choose between counterattack or the evacuation of the city. On the other hand, it may easily be seen that Foch is waiting until the Germans have made the greatest possible sacrifice in trying to get Amiens before counterattacking.

The Germans still have ten miles to go in order to reach Amiens. If the Germans cannot succeed in breaking through to Amiens in the next two or three days, it will be safe to conclude that the second phase of this great offensive will have been permanently checked.

Ten U-Boats Sunk By Bombs Dropped From Air

Details concerning the recent destruction of ten German submarines by naval aircraft are as follows:

While on patrol in the English Channel, a seaplane sighted a submarine eight miles away, directly in the path of the oncoming convoy of merchant ships. The seaplane dived at 90 miles an hour. The submarine attempted to escape by submerging, but was just awash as the seaplane reached a bombing position and dropped two bombs, one of which exploded on the conning tower. The seaplane dropped two more bombs into the midst of the air bubbles from the collapsing submarine, which, carrying two guns, was one of the largest types.

In the second case, at dawn, a seaplane sighted a large submarine on the surface with a number of the crewmates standing by the guns. The seaplane dropped a bomb on the tail of the U-boat. A second bomb was dropped close to the submarine's bow, and the U-boat collapsed. The third case involved two seaplanes that attacked a large submarine traveling on the surface at fourteen knots. A bomb exploded close to the conning tower and the submarine began to sink stern-first. A bomb from a second seaplane completed the work.

The fourth case involved three patrol planes which sighted a large submarine as it was submerging, and dropped two bombs close to the conning tower, causing the submarine to turn turtle and disappear in massive oil and wreckage. The fifth case involved a seaplane, which sighted two submarines and dropped two bombs. One bomb was ineffective, but the other hit the deck fairly amidships. The submarine was hidden by the smoke of the explosion, and when the smoke cleared, the U-boat was sinking with both ends in the air. In the sixth case, a seaplane saw the track of a torpedo fired at a merchantman. It dove towards the surface and dropped two bombs, which both exploded close to the submarine, resulting in a large quantity of oil, bubbles and wreckage.

In the seventh case, two seaplanes sighted a U-boat and dropped a bomb each. The first bomb caused a heavy list to the U-boat, which began to sink by the stern. The second bomb exploded in the center, demolishing the U-boat. In the eighth case, a seaplane dropped a bomb on a submarine just submerging, and the U-boat disappeared with a heavy list to port. The pilot dropped a second bomb into the swirl, and a few minutes later a patch of oil 150 feet long and twelve feet wide appeared on the surface.

In the ninth case, a dirigible sighted a suspicious patch of oil. Suddenly a periscope broke the surface in the midst of the oil. The airship dropped a bomb close to the periscope and a series of bubbles appeared, indicating that the damaged submarine was moving slowly away under the water. Several more bombs were dropped in the past until satisfactory evidence was obtained of the enemy's destruction. In the last case, a dirigible dropped two bombs over a submarine that was engaging a merchantman. Great patches of oil bubbles indicated severe damage and trawlers made this complete by depth charges.

April 19

British Reeling From German Onslaught

We have reached the second great crisis of the German offensive - a crisis at least as grave as the first. Sometime within the next few hours, the question that will have to be settled is whether the British are to abandon the whole of the Ypres salient and fall back upon a new line between Dunkirk and Calais, or whether the French reserves will arrive in time to pin down the German advance on the eastern side of the Ypres River.

Three weeks ago, the Germans smashed the British Army, opening a wide gap between the British and French armies, and still another gap between the British fifth and second armies, and pushed forward into these gaps. From March 21 to 26 the great danger was that the British and French would not be able to join hands around the break and stop the Germans before they reached Amiens and permanently separated the two Allies. Today, the Germans are breaking a gap between the British First and Third Armies by driving in the Second Army.

What has happened is this: the Germans have pierced the center of the British Second Army. They have pushed this army back upon a broad front by thrusting through its center, and the result has been the creation of a steadily widening gap between the British Third Army at Arras and the First Army at Ypres.

In other words, the British Second Army is slowly giving way under the terrific pressure. The yielding army is beginning to imperil the communications of the whole British Army and there is great danger that the British second Army will collapse. If this should take place, all British forces in the north would be in peril and the evacuation of all the Arras positions might follow.

Unless the German thrust is stopped, as it was checked before Amiens, the British must consent to the greatest retreat that the Allies have made on the Western Front since the start of the war, and abandon all the positions for which they have paid so much in blood and effort in the past three and a half years.

The Germans are paying heavily for their advance – twenty-five trains loaded with wounded are passing through the German back lines every night. Reports state that, at Aachen a few days ago, the hospitals were crowded beyond their capacity and the wounded were being lodged in schools, public buildings and private houses. There was a great lack of medical supplies and no morphine. It is reported that about twenty-five hospital trains have been passing through Aachen every night. It is also reported from several sources that the morale of the German troops is not good, except among the new recruits and the very young.

Americans Holding Their Own

Commanders of American units, who participated in the fighting last week in company with the French, are finding it difficult to pick out men who especially distinguished themselves in the operations.

One of the most popular men with the soldiers is Rev. des Valles, a Roman Catholic priest from New Bedford, Massachusetts, who came to France as a representative of the Knights of Columbus.

When the attacks began, Father des Valles went to the casualty clearing station near the front line to minister to the wounded. He assisted in dressing the injuries of soldiers and gave each man a word of cheer. "He's as game as they make them, and every way a soldier," said a doughboy, while other soldiers spoke of the inspiration furnished by the priest.

Another popular man is a young banker of Springfield, Massachusetts, who was pressed into service as a stretcher-bearer. He was the smallest man in the outfit, and after several trips he became so exhausted that he was unable to hold the stretcher. He refused to give up and had his companions tie the stretchers to his wrist with ropes, so as to enable him to hold the stretcher on the journey from the front lines to the dressing stations.

The most pathetic story from the American lines is that of a young corporal who was fatally wounded after fighting for four hours. A piece of shrapnel struck him in the head. He had a grenade in each hand. Giving them to his companions, he said, "I guess I'm done. Please write to my mother and tell her how it happened. But here-take these grenades and for God sakes don't waste them!" The corporal fainted and died in a hospital the next day without regaining consciousness.

At one point on this sector, there was a space of only fifteen yards between the opposing trenches. A day before an attack, the Germans threw a note into the American trench. It read: "what are you? Canadians or Americans?" The American soldier’s cheeky reply was, "Come over and find out." The infantrymen who relayed the incident added, "I guess they know who we are now, and they would not be likely to forget it for some time."

April 26

Germans Resume Drive On Amiens

The drive on Amiens, for which the Germans plunged desperately but failed to reach in their final offensive last month, was resumed on Wednesday. This morning, after a two-week interval during which the main German effort was transferred to Flanders, the enemy launched a heavy attack on the 25-mile front in an effort to push toward the important junction and allied base.

It has been regarded as almost inevitable that the Germans would strike again here, as the advance of their right flank in the Amiens region was stopped short by the strong British resistance at Albert. The attack here represents a continuation of the persistent German effort to push between the French and British by striking heavy blows near the point of junction.

After the second German blow was pared earlier this week, the Germans found themselves in quite an awkward salient, as they were before Amiens, when they broke off the battle in the Somme region. It was no longer possible to advance either in the north or in the south until they had dealt with the British positions around Arras. Hence, the Allies were waiting for the third German blow, directed this time at Arras and delivered somewhere in between Amiens and Arras where the Germans made their bid for quick victory last month and failed in their larger purpose of dividing the British and French Armies at a single stroke.

The Germans’ purpose in attacking again in the Amiens area is the important railway center, the capture of which would badly disrupt the Allied communications.

Baron Richthofen Killed

Baron Richthofen, the famous German aviator, was shot down and killed last night, back of the British lines along the Somme fraud. Details of the death of the airman are lacking, but to show the temper of British officers, it may be said that the correspondent heard the British officers’ hopes that Richthofen died fighting in an air battle with a worthy opponent rather than being shot down by antiaircraft guns.

The German Flying Circus leader will be buried with military honors today near the spot where he crashed. An impressive ceremony is being planned by British officials.

An official air operations statement issued yesterday at Berlin said that Baron Richthofen, at the head of his trusty chasing squadron, gained his 79th and 80th victories. Since Capt. Boelke was shot down in October 1916, Baron Richthofen has been the most prominent and successful German aviator. On April 8, the German War Office announced that he had achieved his 78th aerial victory.

Captain von Richthofen first came into prominence as the leader of the Flying Circus, a squadron of German aviators that fought in a particular circular formation, following one another around so that in case one was attacked, the next flyer could sweep the antagonist from the rear. Recently, Emperor William conferred upon him the order of the Red Eagle.

Australian Airman gave a military funeral to the Red Baron

German Submarine Bases Attacked

British naval forces raided the German submarine bases of Ostend and Zeebrugge. Five old cruisers, which had been filled with concrete for use in blocking the channels, were run aground, blown up, and abandoned by their crews.

While the operation was in progress, British parties landed to distract the enemy. Two of the blockading ships were sunk and blown up at the entrance to the Bruges Canal. The pilings beside the mole at Zeebrugge were blown up by an obsolete submarine filled with explosives.

The ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge on the Belgian coast are the principle bases for submarine operations in their campaign against shipping in the North Sea and the English Channel. They are of great importance to the Germans for this purpose, and it has been recognized by the Allies that to deprive the enemy of them would be one of the most effective means of dealing with the submarines.

An attack on these ports by the British Fleet has been urged for quite some time, but British naval authorities apparently regarded the land defenses as too strong to make this practicable.

It has long been established that the principle basis of submarines, which operated warders around the British Isles, is in captured Belgian ports. The wharves, workshops and basins of these harbors have been frequently bombed by Allied airmen, in several instances with good results.

If the bottling operation is successful, it is believed that it will upset German submarine operations for some weeks and perhaps months. Usually about two thirds of the submarines are at their bases and one third are out. Not only would those at the bases be kept there, but those outside the bases would also find themselves in a precarious position and would be forced to find a new home base to which they could return.

Even if the Germans were to establish another base, it would have to be located at a point further to the northeast. The Netherlands would not permit such bases on her shores; hence the Germans would be driven to their own ports. Operating from German bases would mean much longer trips to reach their prey, and would lessen the effectiveness of the U-boats to a great degree.

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