One hundred three years ago in France, the German Army performed Operation Alberich, a withdrawal to their newly constructed defenses known as the Siegfried Stellung or, to the British, the Hindenburg Line. This new fortress work was a masterpiece of military engineering that made the British positions in the Loos sector that were discussed in the previous article look rather ordinary. Read the Wikipedia entry on The Hindenburg Line by clicking here.

Hindenburg Line Bunker

The reasons for this withdrawal were two. First, by the end of 1916 Germany had determined that its armies could no longer trade casualties on a one-to-one basis with their adversaries. Getting short on manpower, they would need significantly less soldiers to man the Western Front by pulling back to a stronger defensive position and a shorter line. Second, Germany’s main push in 1917 was to be against Russia, with the goal of closing down the Eastern Front.

Although the Germans achieved both of these objectives, the Hindenburg Line still didn’t stop the Allied onslaught in 1918. American-led attacks on two of the stronger positions in the line broke through, first at St. Quentin on September 29th, 1918 and again on October 5th in the Argonne. The Germans were forced to retreat and proved to be unable to form a new defensive line.

James (“Jim”) Patton BS BA MPA is a retired state official from Shawnee, Kansas and a frequent contributor to several WW1 e-publications, including "Roads to the Great War," "St. Mihiel Tripwire," "Over the Top" and "Medicine in the First World War." He has spent many hours walking the WW1 battlefields, and is also an authority on British regiments and a collector of their badges. An Army Engineer during the Vietnam War, he does work for the US World War 1 Centennial Commission and has memberships in the WW1 Historical Association, the Western Front Association, the Indian Military Historical Society and the Salonika Campaign Society.