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1/25/2018 7:38:29 AM
Posted: 8/6/2002 10:37:20 AM EST
84 years ago this month! How much WWI history do [u]you[/u] know? Read this article to find out! [size=4]Goal With Price to be Paid[/size=4] [b]For the Americans determined to prove themselves, the bloody Argonne suddenly began to look like a gigantic trap ... a real disaster. But Pershing pushed them onward anyway.[/b] By Thomas Fleming for Military History Magazine The colossal battle of the Argonne, fought 84 years ago, started with a shouting match between General John J. Pershing and his immediate commander, French Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch. Foch had appeared at the headquarters of the brand-new American First Army in Ligny-en-Barrois, 25 miles southeast of St. Mihiel, on August 30, 1918. Pershing and his staff were putting the finishing touches on an offensive Foch had ordered in hopes of wiping out the German salient that bulged into the Allied lines north and south of the ancient French city. Foch grandly announced he had changed his mind. Field Marshal Douglas Haig, the British commander, had convinced him that it was time to launch a massive assault to roll back the entire German position in France by attacking from the left, front and right. Foch wanted Pershing to reduce the American offensive to little more than a demonstration against the St. Mihiel salient's southern flank and give him two-thirds of the First Army's troops, which he was going to distribute to Haig and several French generals. Pershing absolutely refused to comply. "Do you wish to take part in the battle?" Foch shrilled, his mustaches vibrating. "As an American army and in no other way!" Pershing roared. Foch backed down and agreed to let Pershing go ahead with the St. Mihiel attack. But he insisted on American support for the grand offensive he and Haig envisioned. Poking his finger at a map, Pershing vowed to finish St. Mihiel by mid-September - and then to commit his army to an assault in the valley of the Argonne before the end of the month. In their mutual fury, neither general was thinking coherently. [b]With a totally untried staff, Pershing had committed the American First Army to fighting two major battles 60 miles apart within 10 days.[/b] He had also accepted responsibility for attacking up the huge, tunnel-like Argonne Valley, bounded on the west by a dense forest and on the east by the unfordable Meuse River - but he left the territory on either side in French hands. Things started so well at St. Mihiel that the potential for disaster was euphorically forgotten. When the First Army at tacked on September 12, it found an enemy in retreat - the Germans had decided to abandon the salient. The Americans captured 16,000 largely second-rate troops at a cost of only 7,000 casualties. Then, thanks to a staff colonel named George C. Marshall, the Americans managed to shift more than 400,000 troops from St. Mihiel to the Argonne - and attack at dawn on September 26, after an all-night barrage from 3,928 guns. Proof of American overconfidence were the objectives Pershing and his staff assigned the assaulting divisions for the first day. The 250,000 men who went forward into a dense ground fog were expected to advance no less than 10 miles up the valley, clearing the enemy from the forest of the Argonne and bursting through two of the three German defense lines (Stellungen) - bearing the Wagnerian names Of [b][i]Giselher, Kreimhilde and Freya[/i][/b]. Pershing hoped to accomplish this miracle with a combination of mass and movement. Against his nine double-strength American divisions, the Germans mustered only five understrength divisions - perhaps 50,000 men. See remainder of this excellent article (and others) at one of my favorite websites!:[url]http://europeanhistory.about.com/library/prm/blpershingargonne1.htm[/url] Eric The(ReadAboutSgt.York,DouglasMacArthur,HarryTruman)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 8/6/2002 11:11:21 AM EST
[Last Edit: 8/6/2002 11:30:36 AM EST by ArmdLbrl]
Was Pershings choice so unthinking? There had been no major operations in the Argonne by either side since the Battle of the Frontiers in 1914. There was no stripped forest, no cratering, the drainange was intact so there was no mud, at least not between the lines, the roads were unpaved and went to hell if you had to keep using them in the rain. The Germans did not think anyone would try to attack through it because command, control, and supply would be exceedingly difficult. And of course conventional wisdom states that broken, forested ground is very easily defended even by heavily outnumbered forces. Conventional wisdom however did NOT work in World War I. The Argonne was the one place in the whole Western Front that attacking infantry had any natural cover. The forrests and rugged, steep hill country shortened the killing fields of the German machingun positions and created dead spaces that their supporting artillery could not cover. Everywhere else in France and Flanders the lines ran through valleys and across flat country, where after 4 years of war the only surviving cover for miles were the trenches. When anyone went over the top, they could literally be seen for miles with nothing to stop them from being targeted by every enemy weapon within range. That things did not go as well as planned in the Argonne offensive had to do with both the stubbornness of the German defense and the inexperience of the American Army. They still did acheve better results than the British and French armies had been getting.
Link Posted: 8/6/2002 12:24:26 PM EST
Very interesting article... It demonstrates the arrogance of American generals that existed since Grant introduced the idea of using overwhelming force instead of superior tactics. Make your troops sweat, not bleed.. It's also interesting to read about NATIONAL GUARD units participating in combat in WWI. That shows that they do not serve the exclusive purpose of defending CONUS.
Link Posted: 8/6/2002 12:49:29 PM EST
Actually RichinCM you are incorrect. The Argonne was a victory for manuver, not brute force. We paid a price though for a over expanded army. Because of a shortage of trained, professional officers with experience in controlling divison sized and larger units, manuver plans were not executed properly. Because of a shortage of long service NCO's, small unit tactics were not carried out properly. Note the big difference in performance initally between the divisions composed of Regular Army/USMC units (1st-8th ID) and the National Guard and National Service units that made up the rest of the Army. Pershing had good reason to be enraged at Foch, the Anglo/French unwillingness to let the blockade of Germany run its course and adopt a casualty-conserving strategy that would extend the war into the spring of 1919, when the US Army would be fully assembled, equipped, and trained led directly to numerous American casualties.
Link Posted: 8/6/2002 12:51:14 PM EST
My great grandfather was there in that very battle. He was a captain wounded several times throughout the war, gased and even had all of his teeth knocked out by a bullet through his jaw. He had what my grandfather calls "shell shock" actually PTSD. He shook and drooled constantly. He was 100% disabled from his tenure there. My grandfather tells me how he used to pay with his dad's gas mask when he was a kid. Had to be rough time for him.
Link Posted: 8/6/2002 6:03:56 PM EST
My grandfather was gassed there in WW1. He eventually died of emphysema a year or so after I was born. My dad recalls a story about how when my Grandfather applied for disability, the Govt. employee asked him "Where you gassed bad?" He replied "No. The men who were gassed bad are still there." Balming
Link Posted: 8/6/2002 6:18:17 PM EST
I really believe WWI was the worst war ever for the soldier, luckily Wilson kept us out of it until Germany was bled white. Hell in my opinion would be pretty close to a shellhole in no-man's land.
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