Peace with Russia has freed the Germans to transfer some 44 divisions to the Western Front. The Allies know that Ludendorff is planning an offensive to try to win the war before the Americans arrive in strength. But they do not know when or where the attack will come.
In fact, tomorrow is the day. German assault troops are now moving up to their attack positions, but doing so in conditions of utmost secrecy to mask their presence from the enemy. Troops have been marching by night, under strict orders to show no lights, and then hidden by day in forests or inside villages. Artillery pieces too are being moved to their firing positions, again camouflaged from the prying eyes of the British and French. German aircraft are patrolling above to chase away enemy observers and check that their men on the ground are keeping themselves properly hidden.
Ludendorff had hoped to attack in Flanders, in order to seize the Channel ports and cut off the British army, but it is too early in the year and the ground there is still waterlogged after the rains of winter. Instead the German blow will fall on British troops sitting astride the Somme, defending the gains of the 1916 battle and the territory abandoned by the Germans last year. Tomorrow’s offensive has no fixed objectives, which has disconcerted some of the field commanders who will have to command it. But Ludendorff hopes that a breakthrough will present opportunities that will allow him to destroy the Allied armies.
Officially the offensive is Operation Michael, but it has become known as the Kaiserschlacht, the Kaiser’s Battle. The morale of the assault troops is high: this is the attack that will end the war.
Erich Ludendorff (Wikipedia)