<– Part 208 – July 14, 1918 | Part 209 – July 21, 1918 | Part 210 – July 28, 1918

Attack on the Marne

The final phase of Germany’s Spring Offensive, the second battle of Marne, began July 15. 52 German divisions attacked 58 Allied divisions along the Marne River near Paris. The artillery barrage to commence was scheduled for 12:10 am, but French aerial reconnaissance spotted the massing troops and began firing at 11:30pm, disrupting and unsettling the attackers. The eastern part of the front saw the French forward trenches nearly empty, and the German artillery hit no one; the German creeping barrage then outpaced the infantry as they encountered the main French line and were stopped, unable to advance further. To the west, much heavier artillery and poison gas fell for 3 hours before the German stormtroopers swam, waded, and boated across, taking a bridgehead. One US infantry regiment, the 38th, led by Ulysses G. McAlexander, held so strongly that both the commander and unit are now called the “Rock of the Marne,” as they not only held but also counterattacked. Nonetheless, despite the German bridgehead, this flank received nearly 100,000 reinforcements, stalling the German advance by July 17.

The Allies, led by Ferdinand Foch, had planned an attack on the 18th, as Foch had spotted weaknesses in the German lines. False plans were put into a suitcase, handcuffed to a soldier dead of pneumonia, who was placed in a jeep and run off the road near a German-held bridge. The plans were recovered by the Germans who prepared for the attack – leaving their weak points now even weaker when hit by surprise at 0445 that morning, as no artillery barrage preceded the attack, but instead, a rolling barrage began precisely at the Allies went over the top. The Allies took heavy casualties (including the Italian Corps losing 9,300 of 24,000 men), but by July 20 the Germans began to retreat. Floyd Gibbons, an American reporter with the US troops, remarked of the fresh American Expeditionary Force soldiers that “I never saw men charge to their death with finer spirit.” The lines intermingled, leading some American troops to find themselves technically behind enemy lines at Château-Thierry (where the Allies lost 1,900 to the German 5,300), but were able to reunite with other units and push the Germans back. The Allies haved seized the advantage, finally, on the Western front.

On July 17, fearing the nearby Czechoslovak legion and other loyalist troops, former Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and children were awakened early in the morning and told they were being moved to a new location. They were taken to the basement and told to wait for the truck. Bolsheviks entered and told them that the soviet had ordered their immediate execution. Nicholas, facing his family, turned, saying “What? What?” before the Bolsheviks opened fire, filling the room with such smoke that none could see. The neighbors were awakened, and the commander ordered them to finish the execution with bayonets and clubs. When the smoke cleared, only the Tsar and his wife were dead, and only one child injured. The children were bayonetted, clubbed, and shot at close-range. The entire execution took nearly 20 minutes, as many of the guards were drunk and poor shots. The bodies were disposed of in a mine after being stripped, molested, and disfigured with acid.

On July 19, Honduras declared war on Germany.

On July 21SM U-156 surfaced near Orleans, Massachusetts, and opened fire on a nearby tug boat, damaging it and sinking 4 barges. It then began to shell the town, though most landed on the beach and nearby (empty) land. A boat with the United States Life-Saving Service rowed out under fire and rescued 32 sailors from the tug boat, before 9 seaplanes flew out and began to dive-bomb the sub, forcing it to withdraw. Additional counter-fire was provided by an angry civilian who fired on the sub from shore with a double-barrel shotgun. No casualties were reported. This marks the first time that US soil was attacked by foreign artillery since the siege of Fort Texas in 1846, and to-date is the only area to be attacked at all by the Central Powers. Additionally, this is the only time in US history [including to now, 2018] that US planes engaged an enemy ship in the western Atlantic.

In Persia, the British Army has captured large amounts of Mesopotamia and are preparing refugee camps for the Assyrians and Armenians. In Africa, members of the Zaian tribe killed a French translator, prompting public calls for retaliaion.

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