Col. Gen. Karl von Einem

Colonel-General Karl von Einem gennant (named) von Rothmaler prior to being promoted to field marshal by the Kaiser. A cavalryman by training, Einem replaced the defeated General Max Baron von Hausen after his loss at First Marne in 1914 as C.O. of the German 3rd Army.

In June 1933 in Bavaria, Field Marshal von Einem established the pro-monarchist movement League of the Upright, which claimed 100,000-plus members. In January 1934, von Einem’s plans to celebrate the Kaiser’s seventy-fifth birthday with a monarchist demonstration at Berlin were crushed by General Goering, who had SA men break it up; Hindenburg let the Nazi infraction stand.

Col. Gen. Karl von Einem (January 1, 1853 to April 7, 1934) commanded the German 3rd Army during the Great War after having prepared for the early fighting while Prussian Minister of War beforehand (1903–09), being succeeded by Gen. Josiah von Heeringen. Indeed, Col. Gen. von Einem was one of very few of the Kaiser’s general officers to retain the same command during most of the actual fighting, as well as afterwards, from September 12, 1914 to January 30, 1919.

His first combat command in the west ensued when he succeeded Gen. Max von Hausen after First Marne in 1914. He then defeated the French Army’s Champagne Marne attack of two separate periods in 1915, following which he led his forces in the entire trio of Battles of the Aisne River. During that fight’s second struggle, von Einem held French Gen. Antoine’s 4th Army fast as part of the overall Nivelle Offensive of April 16 to May 15, 1917, which led to the French commander’s firing.

In the March 1918 Kaiser’s Battle, Ludendorff chose von Einem to back his July 15–17, 1918 assault on the German eastern flank in the high casualty Champagne–Marne fighting. This was followed by heavy combat with the recently deployed AEF of U.S. Army Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing in the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne over September 26 to November 11, 1918.

On November 10, 1918—the very day before the Armistice took effect—von Hindenburg relieved Imperial Crown Prince Wilhelm from his long command of Army Group CP, bestowing it instead on von Einem for its demobilization march back into the Second Reich. Col. Gen. von Einem retired from the army the next year, dying on April 7, 1934 at Mulheim, Germany.

Overall, the Allied 100 Days’ Offensive lasted from August 8 to November 11, 1918, right up until the day of the Armistice that ended the fighting, and it started with the latest Battle of Amiens, drove the Germans effectively out of occupied Northern France and back behind their crumbling Hindenburg Line.

With the curtailment of the effectiveness of the failed Kaiser’s Battle in July 1918, the new Allied Generalissimo French Army Gen. Ferdinand Foch ordered the onset of the long prepared Entente counteroffensive in response, the Second Battle of the Marne River. In consultation with his fellow army commanders, Foch agreed with Haig to strike again at the Somme as in 1916 with the BEF and also to heavily utilize for the first time the AEF of Gen. Pershing.

The open fields of French Picardy were considered good tank terrain, suitable for massive armored thrusts. The attack opened with a French component in the Battle of Montdidier on August 8, 1918, which included ten Entente divisions of BEF, French, Australian, and Canadian forces, boasting 500 tanks. This assault achieved complete surprise, with the Allies rampaging into the German rear areas, punching a hole 15 miles wide in the enemy lines south of the Somme River. This resulted in 330 artillery tubes taken and 17,000 POWs captured, plus an estimated 30,000 Germans killed and wounded.

After three days, the Germans retreated from the gains made during their own earlier attacks to the Hindenburg Line. On the 17th, the French began the Second Battle of Noyon, taking it twelve days later. Three days earlier, the Second Battle of Arras of 1918 also commenced, and the Second Battle of Bapaume saw the fall of that town on the 29th. The Australians crossed the Somme River on the 31st, crashing through the German lines during the Battle of Mont St-Quentin.

A pair of related Entente victories were garnered at the Battles of the Scarpe (August 26, 1918) and the Drocourt–Quéant Line (September 2, 1918), with the French in striking distance of the Hindenburg Line in the Battle of Savy-Dallon on the 10th. The French 10th Army saw it near Laon during the September 14, 1918 Battle of Vauxaillon.

Four days later came the turn of the BEF during the Battle of Épehy on the St-Quentin Canal, with the entire German defensive works about to be brought under direct attack along its full length from Cerny on the Aisne River to Arras.

Prior to Foch’s main attack, the line’s salients jutting out at both Havrincourt and St Mihiel fell during hard fighting on September 12, 1918, and more fell fifteen days later during the Battles of Épehy and the Canal of the North.

Foch launched what he called his Grand Offensive against the Hindenburg Line on September 26, 1918 in a series of inter-Allied struggles. These included the varied Battles of Somme-Py (September 26), Saint-Thierry (the 30th), Montfaucon (October 14–17), and Chesne (November 1, 1918). The main assault, though, commenced on September 29, during the Battle of St-Quentin Canal by Australians, British, and French in concert, and by October 5, the Aryan defense had been breached across a 19-mile-wide front. By the 8th, two full British armies smashed through the line during the Second Battle of Cambrai, at last forcing the shaken duo to admit even to themselves that the war was lost to Germany and had to be ended. In all, it took until October 17, 1918 for the vaunted but crumbling Hindenburg Line to be pierced at last. Gone were any further thoughts of it not falling until the spring of 1919.

Next, King Albert I of the Belgians launched his Army Group of mixed nationalities in the Fifth Battle of Ypres in Flanders. Now the German armies were retreating back through all the territory they had first taken in the summer and fall of 1914, conceding the loss as well of their Metz-Bruges rail line that was vital to their re-supply.

Meanwhile, on August 21, 1918, Field Marshal Haig had opened his own Battle of Albert, knocking the German 2nd Army rearward 34 miles and taking it the next day.

October was a month of routs for most German forces as well: on October 9, 1918, there began the Pursuit to the Selle, followed by the Battle of Courtrai on the 14th, that of Mont-d’Origny of the 15th, the Selle (17th), Lys and Escaut (20th), the Serre (also the 20th), Valenciennes (November 1), the Battles of the Sambre and Guise Rivers (both on the 4th), and that at Thiérache (the same day), the fighting of the last running up to the very minute of the Armistice occurring. Reportedly, the very last man to die was an American soldier from Baltimore, MD, USA, Henry Gunther.

For his magnificent victory over the Germans, Foch was awarded the baton of a marshal of France in August 1918 by French President Raymond Poincaré.