battle of the Marne

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Marne, Second Battle of the (1918).Marne was the area west of Reims, France, in which the Germans made their greatest gains in World War I since the battle in the same area in 1914. On 15 June 1918, fourteen German divisions forced the Marne River against French and British armies. A French division and two Italian divisions folded. Earlier, at Cantigny, the U.S. 1st Division had halted the Germans, and the 2nd Division helped recapture Belleau Wood and Vaux. The U.S. 3rd Division, hastily committed against the point of the German drive, stopped the advance, in bloody, hand‐to‐hand fighting, although the Americans were beset on three sides. The German drive continued around the Americans, establishing a sizable bridgehead across the Marne. British divisions from the north arrived and blunted the German offensive, as they and the French reconstituted defenses on the river line, building on the 3rd Division's positions. Through the ranks of the German assault troops ran the rumor, “The Americans are killing everyone.”

Allied artillery and aircraft, striking beyond the salient, destroyed the Marne bridges, disrupting German reinforcement and resupply. With the French line holding from Soissons to Reims, the German offensive was halted. By 17 July, it was apparent to the German High Command that the offensive had run its course. American forces were arriving in France at the rate of 300,000 a month. Although Gen. Erich Ludendorff, commander of the German forces, planned another offensive in Flanders, the offensive in the Champagne‐Marne marked the last westward movement of the German Army in World War I.

American forces had been “bloodied” in two scorching hot days of close combat; they had proven themselves brave, even aggressive, though still “green” in battle. The Third Division's steadfast defense, especially that of the 38th Infantry Regiment, earned it the title “The Rock of the Marne.”
[See also Army, U.S.: 1900–41; Belleau Wood, Battle of; World War I: Military and Diplomatic Course.]


Edward M. Coffman , The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I, 1968.
Paul F. Braim , The Test of Battle: The American Expeditionary Forces in the Meuse‐Argonne Campaign, 1987; rev. ed. 1997.

Paul F. Braim

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battle of the Marne, two important battles of World War I that are named for the Marne River. In the first battle (Sept. 6–9, 1914) the German advance on Paris was halted at the Marne by the Allies under Joffre, Gallieni, and Sir John French. The German retreat that followed signified the abandonment of the Schlieffen plan (see under Schlieffen, Alfred, Graf von). In the second battle (July, 1918) the last great German offensive was decisively repulsed by the Allies.

See studies by R. H. Asprey (1962), G. Blond (tr. 1965), and H. Isselin (tr. 1965).

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Marne, Battles of the Two engagements on the River Marne, n France, during World War I. The first, in September 1914, was a counterattack directed by General Joffre, which checked the German drive on Paris. The second, in July 1918, was another Allied counter-stroke, which stopped the last German advance and preceded the final Allied offensive.