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St. Mihiel Offensive, September 12 – 16, 1918.

The first American led offensive in WWI was the St. Mihiel Offensive, September 12 - 16, 1918. The US 26th and 1st Divisions formed a northern and southern pincer to slice off the St. Mihiel “bump” or salient in the line that had been held by the Germans since 1914. 

The Germans had planned on retreating, but they were surprised by the timing and rapid advance of the American offensive.

The 26th “Yankee” Division was a National Guard division made up of troops from New England. The 1st Division was one of the most battle hardened Regular Army divisions in the AEF. In the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), there was a natural rivalry between Regular Army and National Guard units. As the German retreat in the St. Mihiel salient became more frantic, the 26th and the 1st Division got into a race to close the pincers at the central point, Hattonchatel.

To their great satisfaction, the 26th won the race, and from the heights of Hattonchatel, was able to watch the 1st Division approach up the valley below.

This is a Google street view from Hattonchatel looking down toward where the 1st Divsion would have advanced from.,5.7052312,3a,60y,164.16h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sEep3TKZLLjtxUhzF0wUrCg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

The US Army's Center for Military History (CMH) has a great downloadable booklet on the St. Mihiel Offensive.

This map from the CMH publication shows the pincers and US and French units participating.

The Offensive

St. Mihiel was the first “modern” offensive by US forces. The staff planning, scheme of maneuver and use of combined arms would be familiar to US forces in WWII, or even today. It was also the first fully independent operation of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).

St. Mihiel is a French town on the Meuse river, that was at the “point” of a sharp bump or salient in the Allied Western Front.  The Germans had pushed out the salient in 1914, and held it ferociously against French attempts to take it in 1916 and 1917.   

The failure of the German Kaiserslacht Offensives in Spring 1918, dramatically shifted the initiative to the Allies.

In July, Pershing got the blessing of Allied Supreme Commander, French General Ferdinand Foch, for an American led offensive in mid-September. Reducing the St. Mihiel salient was chosen as the target, and US Army level planning went into overdrive.

The plan was for the newly formed First US Army, with 4 corps, made up of 9 US divisions, and 4 French divisions, to form a pair of pincers, and cut the salient at its base.

But the Germans were now on their heels. What the Allies did not know was that the Germans were now willing to give up the salient. Straightening out the St. Mihiel salient, would save them divisions to put in the line elsewhere. Operation Loki was conceived for a fighting withdrawal, at the first sign of Allied attack.

The Germans saw the American build-up coming. However, they did not anticipate the timing of the fight exactly. The initial barrage, and rapid American advance, took many of the units off-guard. Except for some initial heavy resistance at places like Mort Mare woods, many German units retreated more rapidly and with much less discipline than General Ludendorff, the German Quartermaster General, had expected. 

In four days, the AEF achieved its objectives, giving the Allies confidence in the new American First Army. But the battle was stacked in the AEF's favor. The enemy was retreating anyway, the Americans had large advantages in troops, equipment, and aircraft. Maybe more importantly, the the AEF had plenty of time to plan prepare. Overall, the American First Army had about 7,000 casualties, while the German Composite Army “C” had 2,500 casualties, but lost another 16,000 captured.

The 26th's Advance

In general, the advance of the 26th was fairly easy, compared to other parts of the St. Mihiel salient (the 79th Division, to the right of the 1st, may have had the toughest fight). The Germans were retreating, but they had also been surprised and the troops in the salient were 2nd and 3rd stringers who did not have much fight in them anyway. The Germans did put up some defense; snipers, and dug-in machine gun emplacements worked to slow the Americans down, and buy time for the retreat. While casualties were light, the division still lost many good men.   

But in many cases, the Germans that the New Englanders met, were often more interested in surrender. This passage comes from the history of Company K of the 101st Infantry Regiment, 26th Division. 

Page 117

One of the funny incidents which occurred in taking prisoners
was that which happened to boys of K Company. Peruda
Maudsley and Joseph Gillis, during one of the halts along the
road leading to Hattonchatel, discovered a small wooden shack
which had been used by the enemy for a First Aid Station. They
decided to explore the shack and see if any souvenirs might be
lying around. On reaching a small piazza in front of the building
a door was thrown open and a large chorus of "Kamerade" was
heard from within. Both boys, having left their rifles standing
against a tree a few yards away, were armed with a stick and were
as much taken with surprise as the men inside were with fear. On
regaining their bearing, Maudsley commanded the men to step out,
and out walked fourteen husky Germans and Austrians. The
boys marched them to the Battalion Commander and turned them
over. Gillis was ordered to take the fourteen men to the rear.
He started along the main road, had gone about two kilometers
and decided that he had better check up and see if all the four
teen prisoners were in line. On making the count, to his surprise
there were twenty-two in line.' Gillis began to feel that he did
not know how to count or that for once figures lied. On second
count he decided figures were right and started on his way. On
reaching Headquarters, three kilometers further on, he reported
to the officer in charge that he had twenty-two prisoners. The
officer made a count and found thirty-four in line. After a thor
ough investigation of how these figures lied, it was discovered that
many of the enemy which had been camouflaged and overlooked
by the advance, on seeing the prisoners marching by, would look
out of the woods, and when Gillis was not looking would step into
the line and march along. They felt that this was much safer
than to stay in the woods and be captured or killed there.
In the group of prisoners taken was one who seemed inclined
to talk freely, so the Intelligence Officers asked him if he
knew what he was fighting for. He said, "Yes, Germany was
fighting to preserve the Fatherland from being overridden by
England." The officer then asked him if he knew what the other
countries were fighting for and he said, "Yes, England is fighting
to destroy my Fatherland, Belgium was compelled to fight on
account of her stubbornness, France for protection and to regain
possession of Alsace-Lorraine, and the Americans for souvenirs."

The division was able to move rapidly, the history of Company "E" of the 101st Engineers of the 26th Division notes:

One of the striking features of the whole
affair was the exceptional ease with which the
great salient was taken. Many more guns were
at hand than were actually used, and the hardest
part of the drive was in keeping up the pursuit
of the enemy over an exceedingly hilly country.
One found it almost impossible to understand
why the Boche made such comparatively little
resistance after seeing the wonderful dugouts,
large and small, including gymnasiums, great
kitchens, and also fine living accommodations
with solid reinforced concrete overhead of six
to eight feet, great double-planked doors and
windows, lined with armor-plate one-half inch
thick. These were situated under reverse slopes.
Concrete trenches with concrete pill-boxes and
observation-turrets, the mass of barbed wire to the front, and lastly the
fine positions with their second and third lines of defence all behind long
moraines, seemingly created there just for the purpose, gave a further
idea of what a stiff resistance would have meant to us.

The 26th reached it's objectives so easily, that the Corps Commander ordered them forward to Hattonchatel, the link up point that would close the pincers with 1st Division. The race, born of Regular Army / National Guard rivalry was on. 

But the 26th got to Hattonchatel first. One of several divison histories (New England in France – available in the internet archive) published after the war describes taking Hattonchatel this way:

Through the night, leaving patrols on every cross-road,
gathering in prisoners as it marched, the 102d Infantrypushed
along the Grande Tranchee. Ahead of the column
rode Colonel Bearss, with his adjutant, the French information
officer, regimental inteUigence officer, Lieutenant-
Colonel Alfonte (the Division signal officer), and three or
four messengers. Just after two o'clock on September 13
this party stormed into Hattonchatel, which had been set
on fire by the enemy, captured then and there a loaded
truck train and a machine-gun crew, too surprised to offer
resistance. Into blazing Vigneulles, at the foot of the hill
below Hattonchatel, marched the regiment before three
o'clock. Strong patrols, with machine-gun sections, were
immediately sent to the southward, toward Creue and
Heudicourt; and it was in the latter village that contact
was made later in the morning with elements of the First
Division. The race was to the Twenty-Sixth. To the Corps
Commander, who had said that General Pershing wanted
the Division to be in Vigneulles by daylight. General Edwards
had given an assurance that his men would be there
at four o'clock at the latest; and his men had made good
their leader's promise handsomely.

Overall, St. Mihiel was an American victory, but with plenty of asterisks. But the US First Army would not have much time to celebrate. General Pershing had committed the AEF to an even larger offensive, one that would greatly test American mettle; The Meuse-Argonne, set to kick off on September 26th.

When you are on that site better check out some of the other publications (over 600 !)


WWII campaigns in the west :
WWII campaigns pacific :
References and Research / Re: Military Factory
« Last post by bob48 on September 19, 2018, 10:13:19 AM »
The US Army's Center for Military History has a very nice set of WWI Commemorative booklets for download.

The series includes the US Mexican Expedition of 1916 - 1917, a campaign that is difficult to find information on.

All have great narrative, pics and really nice military maps.

Fantastic stuff! Thanks for posting that  O0
The series includes the US Mexican Expedition of 1916 - 1917, a campaign that is difficult to find information on.

See, this is what the sequel to Red Dead Redemption should have been about. But nooooo....  >:(
The US Army's Center for Military History has a very nice set of WWI Commemorative booklets for download.

The series includes the US Mexican Expedition of 1916 - 1917, a campaign that is difficult to find information on.

All have great narrative, pics and really nice military maps.
Military (and other) History / Re: Battle of Midway dioramas
« Last post by DoctorQuest on September 18, 2018, 09:03:48 AM »
That is a great article. I first ran across these in a Time/Life book called "The Carrier War". They didn't have the complete set like the article does. Really amazing modeling and photography.

You could almost put this thread in the "Modelling and Miniatures" section. :)
Military (and other) History / Battle of Midway dioramas
« Last post by besilarius on September 18, 2018, 05:25:24 AM »

Just stumbled across these.  Very fine modelling.
At 5:00 on the morning of September 12th 1918, the 353rd Infantry Regiment (the “All Kansas Infantry”) attacked northward into German positions in the Mort Mare Woods, as part the 89th “Rolling W” division's mission in the St. Mihiel Offensive. German defenses in the woods included deep dugouts, strongpoints with trenches, concrete machine gun nests, and plenty of barb wire to slow the Kansas men. After a rainy, cold and miserable night, the 353rd went “over the top” at 5:00 in the morning.  They had a very tough fight, taking many casualties, and earning one posthumous Medal of Honor.  Finally at around 8:30am the 353rd emerged through the woods and moved on to another hard fight for the town of Euvezin one its first day objectives. Finally, a sergeant of the 353rd, captured 300 prisoners with an empty pistol at Bouillonville along the 89th's line of advance.

Google Street View of the jumping off point of the 353rd looking into the Mort Mare Woods in the distance. The 353rd would have been to right of road,5.846179,3a,75y,30.98h,85.07t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s7WI2Px4nRoM8j3dwNjntrw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

The 89th and 353rd
The 353rd was part of the 89th “Rolling W” (also sometimes known as the "Middle West division").  The division was a “National Army” unit, meaning it was made up of volunteers and conscripts, and unlike National Guard and Regular Army divisions, it did not even exist before the US entered the war. The division was green, having only arrived in France that June. The division history describes the makeup of the division like this.

The states from which the Division was drawn were Missouri, Kansas.
Colorado, Nebraska. South Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico. The men from
Kansas were for the most part assigned to the 353rd Infantry, which became
and is still known as the All-Kansas Regiment, since every county in the state
has, at one time or another, been represented in its ranks. Missouri, which
furnished by far the largest number of men of all the states represented in
the Division, because of her greater population, filled the 354th Infantry with
men from the southeastern and eastern parts of the state, with a large number
over for the 314th Engineers, filled the 356th Infantry with men from north

An 89th division helmet showing the symbol of the division:

The Initial Attack

The official history of the 353rd in WWI is at:

The official 353rd history describes the fight starting with preparations for the attack:
It was a dark night; a cold rain was falling—now a driz
zle. now a downpour; the bottom of the trenches held water ankle
deep. This was the situation during the night of September 11th.
The Second Battalion. scheduled to make the assault on the fol
lowing morning. moved during the night from the support positions
along St. Jean-Noviant road to the jump-off line out in "No Man's
Land." There crouched down in the mud-filled trenches with thous
ands of fellow Americans. we waited for the Zero hour. All surplus
clothing except raincoats had been stored and it seemed that Zero
was upon us while we shivered and waited for the hour. Officers.
non-commissioned officers. and runners continued to be busy. In
fact. there seemed to be plenty for everyone to do. It was impossi
ble to remember all the instructions. One warning. however. stuck
fast—" No one goes to the rear."
At exactly one o'clock the preparatory bombardment began.
More than a million rounds of ammunition were consumed in the
artillery preparation which lasted from 1 a. m. to 5 a. m. All along
the line the sky was lit up with flashes of heavy-caliber guns. dis
tributed in depth for almost ten kilometers to the rear. In the inter
missions between deafening explosions could be heard the puttering
of machine guns. Very-lights and rockets of many colors went up
from the enemy lines. then came into view a new kind of fireworks
—a big ball of fire that seemed to explode in midair. fell to the
ground. and glided along as if on wheels. It was a sight that fas
cinated the eyes. At first the sensibilities seemed to be numbed and
then electrified.
There was practically no counter-bombardment of our positions.
This unexpected good fortune permitted us to continue final prepara
tions for the jump-off. Small detachments from the 314th Engineers
assisted us in cutting our way through the wire. and clearing
trenches of obstacles. As early as 4 a. m. groups began to steal for
ward until the entire battalion had formed up only a hundred yards
or so from the first German trench. Units were closed up as much
as possible. to escape the expected counter-barrage. At 5 o'clock an
almost solid wall of fire swooped down upon the enemy front line
trench—our barrage had begun. After twenty minutes it began to
roll back. as it swept slowly across the German trench system. com
bat units of the Second Battalion. with wide intervals and dis
tances. began to advance. following the barrage almost too closely.
At this critical moment word came that Major Wood was disabled
and Captain Peatross assumed command of the battalion.

The enemy's elaborate bands of wire in front of his position had
been little cut by the preliminary bombardment. and only by ener
getically trampling and tearing our way through it could the bat
talion advance. The enemy had made the mistake of matting it so
closely in some places that the determined. big-footed doughboys
were able to run over the top. In other places it had to be cut or
blown up with benglor torpedoes. The men lost no time but threw
off raincoats and drove ahead.
Our barrage had completely demoralized the scattering outposts
and practically no resistance was met in crossing the Ansoncourt
line of trenches. But as the advance companies approached Robert
Menil trench. they met deadly machine gun fire from the Euvezin
Wood. The next half kilometer. from this trench to within the
woods was one of bitter fighting. German machine gunners claimed
a heavy toll. Check in Company "F" totaled nine killed and twenty
seven wounded. In Company "G" Lieutenant Wray had fallen. mor
tally wounded at a hundred yards beyond the jump-off line. Stretch
er Bearers Holmes and Lamson of his company had given up their
lives in an effort to reach him. Captain Adkins. so severely wounded
that he had to be helped along. kept forward in command of his
company for almost six kilometers until he was carried from the
field near Thiacourt. First Sergeant West was found with his rifle
to his shoulder. his head dropped forward. A bullet-hole through
his helmet told the story. Without regard to losses the men fought
on until the last German gunners were killed. " He's done every
thing he could do. now it's up to him to pay the price." reasoned the
men as they mopped up the trenches to the last man.

Some losses occurred. too. from our own artillery. "Follow the
barrage." were the orders. As soon as the barrage had lifted from
an objective ahead the men moved up. not realizing that the artillery
-would roll back almost to their own position before moving forward
again to the next objective. As a result. Lieutenant Shaw was the
victim of one of our own shells a minute after he had led his platoon
out but his example carried the men forward without their com
mander and in spite of many losses. While Lieutenant Wickersham
was advancing with his platoon a shell burst at his feet and threw
him into the air with four mortal wounds. He dressed the wounds
of his orderly. improvised a tourniquet for his own thigh and then
ordered the advance to continue. Although weakened by the loss of
blood he moved on with his pistol in his left hand until he fell and
died before aid could be administered to him. Everywhere action
was heroic. Resistance and difficulties only brought it into the
sublime (Wickersham won the Medal of Honor posthumously for this action).

Along the 353rd's axis of advance, was the little hamlet of Bouillonville; where a sergeant managed to capture 300 Germans, with an empty pistol.

Google Streetview of Bouillonville:,5.8387711,3a,75y,25.41h,86.99t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sngjrsZTNsrW34tXpSL70oQ!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656

This is what the 89th Division History says:

Lieutenant Colonel Boschen, 353rd Infantry, with a few men entered Bouillonville
and returned with several hundred prisoners, mostly sanitary troops of the
10th German Division, who had been cut off by our 'artillery fire and were
waiting to surrender to some one. Sergeant Harry Adams, Company "K,"
353rd Infantry, saw a German soldier in Bouillonville run into a house. He
followed in time to see his prey disappear into an opening in the hillside behind
the house, which led, as afterwards developed, into a large dugout. Adams
had two shots only left in his pistol. He fired these into the door and called
on the occupants to surrender. Soon they began to pour out, more and more
and more, until the astonished sergeant found himself the sole custodian of ap
proximately three hundred prisoners, including seven officers, one of whom was
a Lieutenant Colonel. Coolly assembling them under the menace of his empty
pistol, he convoyed them safely to the rear, startling his platoon commander.
Lieutenant Chase, as the column approached, into the conviction that it was
a German counter attack which threatened.

This pic is from the division history:

Organizations and Equipment / Re: Ships!
« Last post by besilarius on September 13, 2018, 07:41:25 PM »

Hunting Uboats in the Atlantic.  The rhetoric is a bit over the top, but the film is good.
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