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This study investigates the German spring offensive of 1918 to determine how the Germans achieved tactical success, yet failed to reach their strategic objective. The study covers the development of new German infantry tactics during limited offensive operations and conduct of the “elastic defense” on the western front It investigates the development of artillery tactics on the eastern front, and the incorporation of these artillery and infantry tactics into larger scale offensives at Caporetto. The study describes the preparation of both the infantry and artillery units for the “Michael” offensive. The relationship between the infantry and artillery tactics combined with the British defense is the key to determine the causes for success and failure.
The German tactical system used in “Operation Michael” was a brilliant adaptation to the lethality of the World War I battlefield. The German techniques were superb tools for conducting a breakthrough of a defensive zone. However, the lack of German mobility following the breakthrough foiled the German strategic goal to envelop the British Army.
German techniques and lessons learned in this offensive have direct application to U.S. Army infiltration doctrine.