Yanks in France

Western Front Jan. 1917 - reserve

1917 Apr. 24 - Viviani mission with Joffre to U.S., arrived in Hampton Roads VA met by fleet commander Admiral Henry Mayo with Assistant Secretary of Navy Franklin Roosevelt and French Ambassador Jules Jusserand; up Cheseapeake on the presidential yacht Mayflower, met by Lansing at Washington Navy Yard with Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour; Joffre in DC 10 days, then made a week tour of U.S. cities; at meeting in DC with President Wilson Apr 24, Joffre offered French port of La Pallice for landing American troops, and recommended forming a complete 1st Division to be sent to France June 1.

1917 May 2 - Pershing selected as commander of the AEF, left for France from NYC May 28, arrived Liverpool June 8, met Walter Hines Page and Williams Sims June 9, then on June 12 with William Robertson saw British troops training for trench warfare that took only 9 weeks (but were not trained for open warfare)

1917 June 13 - Pershing left England by ship for Boulogne and by train to Paris, on June 14 visited Napoleon's tomb and given key downstairs to unlock inner crypt.

1917 June 14 - 1st Division left NYC, commanded by Gen. William Siebert, with Capt. George Marshall as operations officer, arrived St. Nazaire in the Bay of Biscay on June 26.

1917 July 4 - 2nd Battalion was selected from 1st Division to go to Paris for the July 4 parade with Pershing, the Americans still in broad-brimmed campaign hats. Pershing laid wreath a Lafayette's Tomb, but never said "Lafayette we are here" (prob said by Col. Charles E. Stanton outside Lafayette's tomb).

1917 July 5 - Battalion then returned by train to the Gondrecourt in eastern France 60 miles south of Verdun and just north of Pershing's HQ at Chaumont for training. In France were the regular soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Divisions, and the National Guardsmen of the 26th Yankee Division and the 42nd Rainbow Divsion that had been in Mexico. They were housed in barns of local farms, called "forty-and-eights" with 40 men on the 2nd floor and 8 horses below. The term came from the forty-man "forty-and-eight" boxcars used to transport troops on French railroads. The 2nd Division was moved to Bourmont. Pershing began building his own separate Line of Communications and Supply from the 3 ports on the Bay of Biscay of St. Nazaire and La Pallice and Paullac, to Tours and then either north to Orleans to the AEF HQ in Chaumont, or south to Bourges, then east to Nevers and Dijon and Belfort and Epinal, maintained by Services of Supply (SOS) commanded by Gen. Richard Blatchford. Pershing gave the French 300 locomotives in exchange for the use of the rialiroad lines, supervised by civilian William Atterbury of the Pennsy who had been with Pershing in Mexico. Gen. Charles Dawes became Chief Procurement Officer. The Americans laid 22,000 of new telephone wire across France.

1917 Sept. 5 - The first American casualties of the war were 2 men wounded by artillery shell at Gouzeaucourt, part of the 11th Engineers in the British sector near Cambai. Some Americans had been "amalgamated" into British units at the request of Haig, and were not serving in any of the new American divisions arriving in France.

1917 Oct. 23 - The 1st Division was put on the front line at a generally quiety sector at Luneville with French forces. American artillery fired its first shot in the war, by Sgt. Alex L. Arch of Battery C, 6th Field Artillery, at Xanrey in the Luneville sector with the French 18th Divsion of Gen. Paul Bordeaux. The first Americans were killed Nov. 3 in a German trench raid on the 16th Infantry of the 1st Battalion at Xanrey, Corp. James Gresham, Pvt. Thomas Enright, Pvt. Merle Hay, and the Germans took 11 Americans prisoner.

1917 Nov - allies met at Rapallo, Italy, planned to create the Supreme War Council

1917 Nov. 3 - German raid in the Vosges where the 1st Division was forming a defensive line caused death of 3 American soldiers, the first killed in the war

1917 Nov. 11 - At German leaders Mons conference, Schulenberg proposed Verdun attack to defeat France, but Ludendorf wanted to "roll up" the British with attack from St. Quentin on the old Somme battlefield in Operation Michael. "We will punch a hole... For the rest, we shall see. We did it this way in Russia." Capt. Hermann Geyer provided manual on new infiltration tactics. Ludendorff deployed 192 divisions vs 178 allied divisions, both sides had reached the limit of available manpower

1917 Dec. 14 - Gen. Robert Bullard replaced Siebert as commander of the 1st Division

1918 Jan. 15 - Pershing created his I Corps with HQ at Neufchateau with the first four divisions, commanded by Gen. Hunter Liggett

1918 Jan. 19 - 1st Division moved to front north of Toul

1918 Feb. 8 - 26th Division to front in Chemin-des-Dames sector

1918 Feb. 21 - 42nd Division joined French line near Luneville

1918 Mar. 2 - Upon the retirement of Tasker Bliss, Peyon March became Chief of Staff in DC, was promoted to 4-star General.

1918 Mar. 11 - Newton Baker arrived in France. The AEF now numbered half a million, with two division recenlty arrived to join the original four divisions. The 3rd Divsion sould arrive in April, and by June 15 the AEF would number 650,000. The port works around Bordeaux and Bassens had gown to a huge complex of warehouses and railway sidings and hospitals and dlousing stations to remove lice, or "cooties" At Gievres, a large storage depoat had been bult of 165 warehouses and tanks, able to store 2 million tons of gasoline and 30 days supply of food and clothing for 2 million soldiers. Issoudon was the center of 15 French air schools training american pilots. At Langres 25 miles south of Chaumont, Pershing had established the General Staff College and a complex of schools to train officers. The Langres schools were secret, known only as APO 714.

1918 Mar. 18 - 2nd Division at Verdun

1918 Mar. 21 - Operation Michael, the first of the "Kaiser Battles" of 1918, began with attack of 76 German divisions on 28 British divisions on 50 mile front, five hour barrage of poison gas and tear gas, used Pulkowski method, but missed key targets. By evening of Mar. 21, BEF suffered its first true defeat since trench warfare had begun, lost 21,000 prisoners. Haig shifted reserves and stopped the attack, but Germans had advanced 40 miles in 8 days, and Allies suffered 200,000 casualties. The 5th Army loss was apparently of the same psychological order as the French and Russian and Italian collapses, but the other 3 British armies were still intact, and the 5th Army recovered.

1918 Mar. 26 - As the Paris gun began to fire on Paris, the conference at Doullens put Foch in command of all Allied armies to defend Amiens.

1918 Mar. 28 - Pershing went Foch's HQ at Clermont-sur-Oise, told Foch in a dramatic declaration "At this moment there are no other questions but of fight. Infantry, artillery, aviation, all that we have is yours; use them as you wish. More will come, in numbers equal to the requirements."

1918 mar. 29 - German strategy changed from a single massive attack, to a 3-prong attack, including a thrust south of the Somme to separate the British and French armies, followed by an attack by the 17th Army on the southern flank and an attack by the 6th Army on the northern flank towards the sea. However, the German advance slowed by desolation and looting: old Somme battlefield became an obstacle zone that entangled the advancing German army, and looting increased for food. Gen. von Leeb said OHL made decisions "according to the size of territorial gain, rather than operational goals."

1918 Apr. 3 - Beauvais meeting of Supreme War Council confirmed Foch as Supreme commander of all armies.

1918 Apr 4 - German attack on Lys River stopped by British who suffered 305,000 casualties

1918 Apr. 9 - 2nd Ludendorff offensive began in Flanders to destroy the British army, called Operation Georgette, starting with a Bruchmuller barrage, and Apr. 10 Haig issued his "Backs to the Wall" order to fight to the end, no retirement.

1918 Apr. 20 - At the Meuse, Germans conducted a large raid in the Ansauville sector of the St. Miheil salient, 3200 stormtroopers attacked the 600 men at the town of Seicheprey (or Woevre), part the 26th Division that had recently relieved the 1st Division. The Americans suffered sacualties but counterattacked and retook the town. The American "victory" was widely publicized back home in the Third Liberty Loan campaign

1918 Apr. 24 - In Flanders, British tanks stopped a rare German tank attack Apr. 24

1918 Apr. 24 - 1st Division moved into front lines at Montdidier and relieved two French divisions that had suffered heavy casualties in Operation Michael.

1918 May 27 - 3rd Ludendorff Offensive began, with 6000-gun barrage, attack by 15 divisions of the German 6th Army that broke through Chemin-des-Dames and in 3 days reached Chateau-Thierry, heading southwest toward Paris.

1918 May 28 - At Cantigny, Col. Hanson Ely's 28th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division began the first American offensive of the war, behind tanks and flame throwers at 6:40 am, following a French artillery barrage,and were able to take the town by 11 am. But the French artillery were removed to defend against the Ludendorff offensive on the Marne, and the Americans lacked heavy guns to defend the town. The German counterattack began at 6 pm with artillery barrages, that lasted for 72 hours. After three days, the 16th Infantry relieved the 28th. The Americans had lost 1600 casualties.

67 - May 31 - U.S. 3rd Division machine gun battalion held the bridgehead over the Marne at Chateau Thierry, and by next day infantry of the 3rd Division were deployed along 10 miles of the Marne River from Chateau Thierry east to Dormans.

67 - June 1 - 2nd Division reached lines north of Marne, west of Chateau Thierry, and included the4 4th Brigade of Marines under Gen Harbord.

1918 June 3 - Ludendorff halted the 3rd offensive, but the German advance had been successful, reached the Marne River east of Chateau Thierry, cost the French 60,000 casualties and large amount of guns and supplies.

1918 June 4 - French retreated from Belleau Wood past the Americans near Champillon.

1918 June 6 - At Belleau Wood, 4th Marine Brigade attacked Hill 142 near Belleau Wood, started advance at 3:45 am and took the hill and the town of Bouresches by the end of the day despite heavy casualties of 1087 due to charging directly at machine guns. Sgt Daniel Daly said, "C'mon you sonsabitches, do you want to live forever?" Floyd Gibbons was with the 4th Marines, and wrote story even though press censorship prohibited identifying units, such as "marines", then Gibbons lost his left eye in a facial wound, and his friend in censor office let the story through, and the marines became overnight heroes.

1918 June 7 - German counterattacked from Belleau Wood, and American artillery concentrated on the area, but Americans could not take the Wood. The 4th Brigade suffered 5000 casualties, or 50% of its total strength, then attacked by 7th Infantry, then again by 4th Brigade, finally taken June 25 by 5th Marines after successful artillery barrage June 24, a barrage that should have taken place before the first attack June 6.

1918 June 9 - Ludendorff's 4th offensive was an attack west from Soisson and south from Amiens salient, hoping to merge Amiens and Marne salients, but after 5 days the French stopped the attack after only 9 miles, then lull in the action. Flu affected 500,000 Germans.

1918 June - Pershing created three corps: I Corps under Gen. Hunter Liggett at Chateau-Thierry, II Corps under Gen. George Read with British, III Corps under Gen. Robert Bullard

1918 July 1 - The 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division attacked Hill 192 and La Roche Wood and the town of Vaux. This ended the operations of the 2nd Division at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood, lost 9000 casualties out of strength of 17,000.

1918 July 4 - 1m U.S. troops in France, with 300,000 arriving each month, 19 divisions soon ready

72 - July 15 - Ludendorff's 5th offensive began with 52 divisions in 2 armies. Foch withdrew allies from 1st and 2nd lines, then held at the 3rd line.

1918 July 15 - American 3rd Division of Gen. Joseph Dickman assigned to defend the Surmelin Valley on the Marne River, with Col Ulysses Grant McAlexander commanding 38th Regiment and Col. Edmund "Billy" Butts the 30th Regiment between Varennes and Mezy. German attack began 3:30 am, crossed the river, but were stopped at the Paris-Metz Road by Americans on the left and right heights by the end of the day, and Ludendorff called off his offensive eve of July 17. The 30th and 38th suffered over 50% casualties, and were the reason the 3rd Division would be called "The Rock of the Marne"

1918 July 17 - Ludendorff stopped the Marne offensive. His Kaiser offensives failed because strategy changed from a single massive thrust to divided attacks without clear goals, his belief he could strike French and British alternately was a misconception, his armies were demoralized and critically short of supplies and manpower, the Americans contributed new manpower to the allied armies, and the Germans lacked tanks. "Germany's failure to match the Allies in tank development must be judged one of their worst military miscalculations of the war."

1918 July 18 - Battle of the 2nd Marne by Foch was a counterattack on German supply route, the highway from Soissons to Chateau-Thierry. The counterattack led by Mangin at Villers-Cotterets included 7 American divisions, each with 28,000, led by 1st and 2nd Divisions, joined by 26th and 28th Divisions, then by the 32nd and 42nd and 77th Divisions. Ludendorff retreated to Aisne and Vesle rivers where the attack stopped Aug. 6. There were 300,000 Americans in France who participated in Foch's offensive, losing 50,000 casualties. By the end of July, there were 1.2 million in AEF and 250,000 arrived each month.

1918 July 18 - American 1st and 2nd Divisions of Harbord were in the front line of the French XX Coprs that would lead Foch's counterattack, with the 1st Moroccan Colonial Division, from the Retz forest toward Soisson. At 8 am the 1st Division attacked, broke the German defenses, and advanced three miles, then over the next five days advanced seven miles to take the town of Berzy-la-Sec. On the seventh day July 24 the 1st Division took the heights of Buzancy, having lost 6900 casualties. The 2nd Division took the Soisson-Chateau Thierry road, suffered 4300 casualties.

1918 july 18 - The American I Corps of Ligget and III Corps of Bullard attacked from the Marne northward to take Fisme on the Vesle River. The 28th Division in I Corps (Pennsylvania "Bucket of Blood" Division with red Keystone shoulder patch).

1918 July 24 - Pershing created the First Army to attack St. Mihiel, with HQ at Neufchateau. Pershing kept his independent command of the American army, believed in "open warfare tactics" favoring the offensive, rather than trench warfare tactics of Allies emph defensive.

1918 Aug. 8 - Battle of Amiens began with French and British attack on the Amiens salient with 300 tanks and 1700 aircraft, until stopped Aug. 16, then renewed the attack until Ludendorff Aug. 26 pulled back behind the Siegfried-Hindenburg line. Ludendorff called Aug. 8 the "black day of the German army."

1918 Aug. 30 - Foch decided on new plan, a massive attack on the German salient by all four national armies acting in concert, not as separate nations.

1918 Sept. 2 - Pershing agreed with Foch plan to have the American 1st Army attack north in the Argonne Sept. 26 in support of the French offensive against the entire German salient in France. This would take place only 2 weeks after the St. Mihiel offensive that was only a sideshow to Foch. The planning for the Argonne offensive was led by Col. George Marshall, who had to move 2 million men and 2000 artillery from St. Mihiel across the Meuse River to the Argonne on three muddy roads shared with the French army. Pershing's main plan was to attack both flanks of the St. Mihiel salient, with the V Corps of Cameron on the left and the IV Corps of Dickman on the right. The attacks would be supported with 3000 artillery. The 1st Division would lead the attack from the south to take the town of Vigneulles, bypassing the strong fortress at Montsec.

1918 Sept. 3 - Pershing created a deception plan of an attack to the south in the elfort Gap, with intelligence officer Co. Arthur Conger creating false radio messages, tank tracks visible from the air, a dummy HQ of VI Corps under Gen. Omar Bundy in Belfort.

1918 Sept. 8 - Ludendorff ordered the evacuation of the outer defense lines of the St. Mihiel salient. German defenses at St. Miheil were the Wilhelm Defense Line from Pont-a-Mousson 40 miles west to St. Mihiel, then 30 miles north to Grimaucourt sourtheast of Verdun, five miles deep with 23,000 troops. The second defense line was the Michel Line that was a part of the Hindenburg Line from Etian south to Preny

1918 Sept. 11 - On the day before the St. Mihiel offensive, the 1481 airplanes under Billy Mitchell would attack enemy aerodromes and railroads and bridges.

1918 Sept. 12 - The American offensive at St. Mihiel began

1918 Sept. 13 -Pershing's 58th birthday

1918 Sept. 14 - The two-day battle of St. Mihiel ended with 7000 American casualties.

1918 Sept. - The Meuse-Argonne Offensive would be the largest American operation in the war from Sept. to Nov. The American division of 28,000 (larger than 9000 in French and British division) needed 900 trucks to move - Pershing mobilized 15 divisons of 600,000 for the attack - Foch wanted Americans to only play supporting role on the French right, whil the main attack by the French 4th Army would take place on the Aisne River toward Sedan. The American attack would take place between the Argonne and the Meuse River, a 20-mile wide shallow valley. The valley was defended by three ridgelines named after Wagnerian witches: Etzel-Giselher Steungen, Kriemhilde Stellung, Freya Stellung. The first Etzel Line anchored by the fortress at Montfaucon, the second Kriemhilde Line was at Romagne. The third Freya Line was the Barricourt Ridge just south of the Meuse. 142 of the 189 tanks from the French would be manned by Americans commanded by Lt. Col. George Patton, who would be part of Liggett's I Corps advancing up the Aire Valley to Grandpre. 604 of the 821 aircraft would be flown by Americans under command of Billy Mitchell.

1918 Sept. 26 - The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began with a short artillery barrage at 2:30 am, troops attacked at 5:30 am behind a rolling barrage. First German lines lightly defended and were overrun. The main German strength was facing the French 4th army further north. The main defense line in the south was in front of Mountfaucon. The German divisions were command by Gen. Max von Gallwitz who viewed the Americans as inexperienced . The V Corps in the center attacked Mountfaucon. The III Corps of Robert Bullard was on the right, and the I Corps of Liggett was on the left. On the right, the 33rd Illinois National Guard and 80th North Carolina Division reached the railroad on the Meuse River. The 4th Division of Bullard's left drove north six miles past Mountfacon to the Bois de Septsarges. On the left, the 77th Division of Liggett's I Corps entered the Argonne Forest. The 28th Pennsylvania Division advanced up the Aire Valley. The 35th Division on Liggett's right bypassed Vauquois and took Cheppy.

1918 Sept. 26 - The Battle for Mountfacon was the most serious failure of the V Corps in the center. The 79th was a green division that failed to take the hill. The tanks came up at 8 pm and the 313th regiment attacked at 9:00 pm. The tanks took heavy fire and retreated. The 313th attack failed that night, but next morning, with reinforcements from the 157th and 158th brigades, and the 314th regiment, the attack of the 79th division succeeded in taking the hill by noon, using grenades and a one-pound gun to destroy machine gun nests.

1918 Sept. 26 - The I Corps advanced on the left with the help of tanks. Patton himself walked to the front, saw his tanks stopped behind a ditch with its only crossing blocked by a stalled Schneider tank. Patton personally directed the crossing of the ditch, at one point hitting a man in the head with a shovel and killing him. He walked behind the advancing tanks into machine gun fire, everyone fell flat to the ground, but Patton had a vision, saw his relatives in a cloud above the German lines, said "It is time for another Patton to die" and asked for volunteers to go forward, five of six were killed, Patton was wounded in the leg, Pvt Joseph Angelo, his orderly, stayed at his side as reserve tanks came up and destroyed the machine guns and Patton was evacuated to the hospital. Most of the tanks broke down and played a small role in the Argonne offensive where the terrain was too hilly or wooded for tanks.

1918 Sept 29 - Pershing order a halt to the offensive, due to heavy rain, German reserves strengthening the defensive lines, and increasing number of troops hit by the flu. Gallwitz had brought up 10 reserve divisions to stop the Americans. Haig had moved forward the most in the north and was critical of the French and Americans as being too slow.

1918 Sept. 30 - For the first time in the war, the Americans retreated. The German counterattack at Cierges on the Kriemhelde Line forced back the 35th Division.

1918 Oct. 1 - Pershing replaced the 35th Division with the 1st Division, and issued plans to renew the attack on Romagne in the center. Bullard's III Corps would attack Cunel on the right. Cameron's V Corps would attack the Bois de Chavignon on the left. The attack would begin Oct. 4. at 5:30 am

1918 Oct. 1 - The attack in the Argonne Forest broke down into pockets of small unit actions. The 77th Division of Alexander stopped Sept. 29 when Pershing ordered the halt, but parts of the division had advanced into the forest. Gen Evan Johnson of the 154th Brigade ordered "any ground gained must be held" and Major Charles Whittlesey refused to retreat The 1st Battalion of the 308th Infantry in the 154th Brigade was cut off for three days in his "first trap" until his regiment caught up with him. Whittlesey stayed in the vanguard of the 77th Division when the offensive resumed Oct. 2. He had 670 men including three companies from the 2nd Battalion of Capt. George McMurtry. Whittlesey went into a gap in the German line on the Binarville-Apremont road, spent the night in a ravine south of the road, came under mortar fire in the morning of Oct. 3, sent Company E to the rear to get reinforcements but were ambushed and only 18 of the 50 men returned. Whittlesley was now cut off. On Oct. 4 he released one of his six carrier pigeons, and Gen. Alexander sent two companies but they failed to break through. Oct. 5 was his third day trapped, with increasing mortar and machine gun fire, sent a pigeon that requested artillery support, but the artillery landed directly on his position. He sent his last pigeon, Cher Ami, that was firghtened and stopped on the branch of a tree until Whittlesey thre stones at the bird and it flew through incoming artillery to reach its home, causing the artillery to be redirected at the enmey. American airplanes dropped supplies but they fell into the German lines. Some of his men tried to get water from a stream 50 yards away but were killed by the Germans. Both Whittlesey and McMurtry were injured but kept moving among the 245 men, and one pigeon, that remained.

1918 Oct. 4 - The 1st Division attacked the Apremont Road along the Aire River, advanced toward Montrebeau and Montrefagne to get to Hill 272. 47 tanks helped to destroy machine gun nests to take Montrebeau, but only three tanks were still functioning at the end of the day. On Oct. 5, they took Montrefagne. On Oct. 7, Liggett sent the 82nd Division to attack the left bank of the Aire, to cut off the Germans in the Argonne, to eliminate the artillery that was firing on the Americans on the right side of the Aire, and to save Whittlesey still trapped in the Argonne. The 328th Regiment of Col. Frank Ely successfully forded the river Oct. 7, and captured the road to Cornay, forcing a German retreat from the Argonne, and by Oct. 8 the 77th Division relieved Whittlesey's remaining 194 men.

1918 Oct. 4 - American offensive resumed against the Kriemhilde Stellung, into the Argonne Forest on the left and Romagne Heights forest in the center, and Cunel Heights Forest on the right

1918 Oct. 5 - To stop German artillery on the east bank of the Meuse, Pershing ordered the French XVII Corps to attack on the east bank.

1918 Oct. 12 - Pershing created the 2nd Army to attack east of the Meuse

1918 Oct. 14 - Pershing renewed the offensive by attacking the Romagne that the 42nd Dvi of Douglas MacArthur helped take on the 14th, the 77th Division attacked Grndpre, using artillery firing flat at machine guns, known as using "Pirate Guns" - by Oct 30 the German line had been taken.

1918 Oct. 24 - At the beginning of Foch's great offensive, Ludendorff lost his nerve, went into a rage, advised to seek an armistice, but recovered his nerve and issued proclamation Oct. 24 to continue fighting even though Prince Max and the Reichstag were seeking peace negotiations, and Ludendorff forced to resign Oct. 26.

1918 Nov. 1 - The American offensive resumed toward Sedan.

1918 Nov. 4 - German forces began retreat across the Meuse.

1918 Nov. 5 - 5th Division crossed the Meuse.

1918 Nov. 11 - The armistice took effect before Americans able to take Sedan.

By the end of the war, 1.39 million soldiers saw active duty of the 2.08 million sent to France. 29 of 42 divisions saw action, including 7 Regualr Army divisions, 11 National Guard Divisions, and 11 in the National Army. Americans fought for 200 days in 13 major engagements. The American losses were 50,280 killed and 205,690 wounded (Allies lost 7,485,000 casualties in the 4 years of war). The cost of war to the United States was $33 billion, including $10 billion loaned to allies. The Great War's chief heritage were the many graveyards, of the German fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow, the 600 cemeteries created by the Imperial War Graves Commission for 1 million British dead, and the American Battle Monuments Commission created 24 cemeteries for 30,921 Americans killed in the war.





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