General Fayolle (1852-1938), whose First Army had been hurriedly transferred from further north to participate in the offensive; it was intended that they would, in the third or fourth day, be the ones to push out into open country once the breakthrough had been achieved.
April 15 1917, Rheims–The day of Nivelle’s Offensive had nearly arrived. He had promised that French artillery would obliterate German positions on the Aisne, and that after a short battle, the French would break through on a large scale and eject the Germans from France entirely. However, well before the offensive opened, Nivelle’s plan had run into problems. It had been delayed repeatedly, before finally being settled for April 16. The German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line had meant that portions of the planned attack were directed at abandoned positions, forcing a last-minute extension in other sectors; it also meant that, even if a breakthrough were achieved, it would not cut off a vast German salient.
On April 15, the eve of the offensive, it was clear to many on the ground that it was not destined for success. Forty percent of the attacking divisions submitted extremely pessimistic reports of their prospects: “The first German lines are intact – we are facing certain failure,” “Results of bombardment on the first position appear to be inadequate, the second position seems to be untouched.” In areas where the bombardment of the German first line seemed to have worked, the Germans had also occasionally bombarded their own first line (in response to French trench raids), suggesting that the Germans had completely abandoned the position and had thus concentrated on defending their second line.
Even if the French captured the German second and third positions, how they would break through into the open countryside beyond was unclear. This task was given to General Fayolle’s First Army. E.L. Spears, a British liaison officer, would write:
But how, even if everything went as well as the most sanguine hoped, it could overtake and pass the masses of men ahead of it, none attempted to explain. The only possible solution seemed to be that General Fayolle, who was an angel and looked like a cherub, should grow the wings that would have been so becoming to him and, followed by his command, fly over thousands of his compatriots and land in enemy country beyond.
Despite all these obstacles, the bulk of the French troops still had faith in General Nivelle and had confidence that the offensive would succeed as planned within the first 48 hours. One of his most devoted acolytes was General Mangin, “le mangeur des hommes,” who met with Spears on the 15th. The latter described him as:
A small, dark, fierce figure, he stood against a background of enormous Senegalese orderlies…I think of him that day as the embodiment of the soul of war; iron, unflinching resolution, confidence that knows no doubts.
Such unflinching resolution would break the French Army.
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I have now been PermaBanned from reddit’s The_Donald for pointing out DJT may have violate the War Powers Resolution.
On a side account that I totally don’t have, I was banned just because I asked if we could discuss what happened without memes or jokes. Just discussing like adults. Apparently that is “concern trolling” and anti-Trump talk.
Dont let your social circles become echo chambers. Question everything.