Primary Documents - Erich Ludendorff on the Second Battle of the Marne, 4 August 1918

Erich Ludendorff The Second Battle of the Marne - which ran from 15 July to 4 August 1918 - was intended as Germany's final major attempt at breakthrough on the Western Front prior to the arrival of ever-increasing U.S. troops on the battlefield.

In the event the battle proved a significant Allied victory.  Once it became clear that the Germans had not only failed in their aim to win the war in the offensive, but had in fact lost ground, a number of German commanders, including Crown Prince Wilhelm, believed the war was lost.

Reproduced below is the text of the official statement issued by chief German strategist Erich Ludendorff on 4 August 1918.  In his statement Ludendorff reiterated that the Allied counterattacks at the Marne had not been unexpected and had proved of little consequence.  Click here to read a subsequent 1919 statement by Ludendorff in which he candidly admitted the opposite.

Click here to read General Gouraud's appeal to his forces at the onset of the battle.  Click here to read an extract from U.S. Commander-in-Chief John J Pershing's official report summarising U.S. participation in the battle.  Click here to read a German memoir focusing on the events of 15 July.  Click here to read Pershing's Special Order of the Day, dated 27 August, in which he praised the role played by his forces.  Click here and here to read semi-official German press statements published in July and August 1918 on the outcome of fighting at the Marne.  Click here to read the official address given by French General Charles Mangin on 7 August 1915, directed to U.S. First and Second servicemen who, assisting Mangin's French Tenth Army, participated in the Allied counter-attacks launched on 18 August.  Click here to read the view later given by Mangin concerning the turning point of the Allied counterattack at the Marne.  Click here to read the official address given by French Sixth Army General Jean Degoutte to French and U.S. troops towards the close of the battle, on 9 August 1918, in which he praised the conduct of American forces.  Click here to read an account by Karl Rosner of how news of the battle was received by the Kaiser.

Erich Ludendorff's Official Statement, 4 August 1918

Foch's plan was undoubtedly to cut off the entire arc of our front south of the Aisne by a breakthrough on the flank.  But with the proved leadership of our Seventh and Ninth Armies that was quite impossible.

We figured with an attack on July 18th and were prepared for it.  The enemy experienced very heavy losses, and the Americans and African auxiliary troops, which we do not underestimate, suffered severely.

By the afternoon of the 19th we already were fully masters of the situation and shall remain so.  We left the abandoned ground to the enemy according to our regular plan.

"Gain of ground" and "Marne" are only catchwords without importance for the issue of the war.

We are now, as before, confident.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

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