Author Topic: Breakout - The US 2nd “Indianhead” Div Rushes Ahead-100 Years  (Read 444 times)

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Offline ArizonaTank

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Nov 1st - Nov 3rd, 1918, Breakout at Landres-et-St. Georges

On November 1st, the AEF started the final offensive of WWI. The AEF's First Army began an all-out push to blow through the German defenses that had held the AEF back for two weeks. Using massive artillery, gas and machine gun barrages, the AEF at last pulverized the German positions, and broke through. Leading the charge was the crack US 2nd Division, it went farther, and faster than any of the other US divsions, demonstrating that the German Army was finally breaking.

The Offensive

For nearly two weeks, at the end of October, 1918, the US First Army had struggled to get through German last ditch defensive positions, including the Hindenburg line. The 42nd Division had ground its fighting effectiveness down to almost nothing in front of the Kriemhilde Stellung (the main German defensive band of the Hindenburg Line) at Landres-et-St. Georges. The 42nd's "Fighting Irish" Regiment had taken heavy casualties, but was not able to pierce the line. 

In late October, the AEF took a brief pause in its Meuse-Argonne Offensive, to consolidate and prepare for a final push. There was some talk of a future armistice; the Ottoman's had surrendered, and it looked like the Austro-Hungarians would soon follow. But the guys in the trenches could only see that the Germans were still fighting hard. General Pershing and his staff thought the war would continue into the next spring. So this final push was to get an advantageous position for the spring offensives.

The 2nd Division was placed in line at Landres-et-St. Georges, replacing the 42nd Division.

The AEF had learned a great deal about how to conduct combat since its early battles. They finally understood what the British and French had long ago learned about the importance of logistics, and artillery preparation.  The artillery bombardment for this last push was massive. In the 2nd Division sector alone there were over 360 guns, pounding the Germans at Landres - et - St. Georges.

At 0530 hours, the 2nd Division "went over the top". The bombardment had been so effective, that as the 2nd Division advanced, it found many Germans frozen in  their defensive positions, killed by shrapnel, gas or concussions. By 0800 hours, the Marine Brigade was already past Landres - et - St. Georges and advancing fast, with few casualties.

US Army Center for Military History Map showing the beginning of the AEF's final push

By 1100hours the 2nd Division had made unbelievable progress; the town of Bayonville well behind the 2nd's jump-off line had fallen. By the end of the first day, the 2nd Infantry had advanced more than 10km.

A description of the advance is in the History of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Regiment of Marines
edited by Lt. Herbert Akers, 1919

During the night of October 31-November 1, this
battalion moved into its jumping off position North
east of Sommerance, from whence it moved out at
5 :30 a. m. in support of the First Battalion and con
tinued its advance until 8 :00 a. m. when it passed
through First Battalion and halted at the first objec
tive. At 8:14 a. m. the following message was sent:

"From: Commanding Officer Third Battalion.
To. Commanding Officer Sixth Regiment.
My two leading companies are on first objective,
following companies on ridge in position to ad
vance at proper time. Few casualties. Barker is
near me. Have met two companies of Williams
back of St. Georges. Made good time since last
G. K. Shuler, Major, U. S. M. C."

At 9 :00 a. m. it took up the advance as the leading
battalion closely following our own barrage, until
the second objective was reached at 12 :30 p. m. where
the battalion dug in and the Second and First bat
talions passed thru and continued the advance. At
11 :00 a. m. the following message was sent :
"From: Commanding Officer Third Battalion.
To: Commanding Officer Sixth Regiment.
We are in Chennery and Bayonville and passing
up to 2nd objective. Took about 100 prisoners here
by using tank assisted by riflemen. About 100
enemy retreated from their guns to woods south
east of Sivry. The woods north of 2nd objective
should be well shelled. Have taken 6 88s. Scouts
just reported that we hold Chenery and Bayonville.
Enemy are shelling from woods north of Bayonville.
G. K. Shuler, Major, U. S. M. C."

Our P. C. was established in Bayonville. The fol
lowing prisoners and materials were captured by this
battalion during its advance:

Prisoners 250
Cannon 27 (including one 8 inch gun)
Machine Guns 30
Rifles 100
Horses 12
Ambulances 3
Signal Outfit

The following losses were sustained
Killed 0 / 21
Wounded 2 / 57
Missing 2 / 12

Three tanks reported after the first objective had
been obtained and were assigned to the 83rd Com
pany and placed under the command of Captain
Noble. These tanks moved forward when we ad
vanced and kept up with the leading elements. Upon
reaching the outskirts of Chennery and while under
cover of the crest of a hill it was found possible to
maneuver the 83rd Company and tanks to flank ai
battery of four enemy 77mm guns. This battery was
firing direct fire into the left of our sector and was
taken completely by surprise from their left flank.
One tank approached and covered the advance of
a squad of riflemen and skillful use of its one-pound
er and riflemens' weapons compelled the surrender
of one officer and 75 artillerymen, who were man
ning the battery. As a result of this operation over
200 of the enemy from different points of the ravine
were observed retreating on the run to the woods
Northeast of Sivry. The three tanks upon the at
tainment of the second objective went forward with
the Second Battalion when that battalion passed
through. The work of the tanks was most commend
able. The officers in charge co-operated in every way
It is desired to make special mention of the matter
in which Bayonville was taken and organized. Capt.
Noble of the 83rd Company cleaned the town thor
oughly of the enemy. He was able to do this because
of the thorough manner in which his preparation
had been made. By a careful study of maps of the
town and by assignment of units to do certain work
the capture of the town was affected in a systematic
and business like manner. With no losses in his Com
pany 100 prisoners were taken and the town taken.
Captain Jacobsen and 84th Company following the
83rd were assigned the task of cleaning up and hold
ing the town. This was done thoroughly and syste
matically. Before the arrival of Battalion Headquar
ters Captain Jacobsen had organized an evacuation
hospital under charge of Major Schultz of the Ger
man Medical Corps; had three German ambulances
in operation and was caring for and evacuating
both our own and German wounded. Patrols were
mounted on captured German horses and doing effec
tive work between the front line and rear. All dug
outs had been located so that upon arrival of the
various Hdq. all units were properly housed without
confusion. The efforts of Captain Jacobsen in this
town which was constantly under shell fire were most
The rolling kitchens arrived in Bayonville at 10 :30
a. m., November 2, and went to the positions near
their respective companies.

This is a streetmap view of the 6th Marines approach to Bayonville.,5.0042066,3a,75y,332.69h,82.07t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1suBe3v4lPbFQ-rKpk99IZcw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

US 2nd Infantry Divsion, “Indianhead” Division

In the AEF, the US 2nd Infantry Division was a  hybrid division, made up of Regular US Army and US Marine Corps units; the US Army's 9th and 23rd Infantry Regiments, and the US Marine Corps' 5th and 6th Marine Regiments. It was also unique in that it was commanded by a USMC commander, Major General John Lejeune.

Link for more information on Major General Lejeune

By November, 1918, the 2nd Division was one of the most battle-hardened and capable of all US divisions. It had fought several major battles before Meuse Argonne. In June, it had helped to hold back the last major Geraman offensive by its tanacity at Belleau Wood and Chateu Thierry. In July, it was loaned to the French XX Corps, along with the US 1st Division, for the attack to retake Soissons. In September, it fought next to the 89th and 5th Divisions at the St. Mihiel salient. In October, the 2nd Division, along with the US 36th Division, were again loaned to the French for the bloody battle of Blanc Mont Ridge.

The division stayed active during the interwar period, fighting in the European Theater during WWII, and in many campaigns during the Korean War. Today the 2nd Infantry Division is still an active US Army unit, and is stationed in the defense of South Korea.

2nd Division Helmet

« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 12:35:30 PM by ArizonaTank »
"Baseball's Sad Lexicon" - 1910

These are the saddest of possible words:
      “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
      Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
      Making a Giant hit into a double—
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
      “Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

"Tinker to Evers to Chance"
"where doubles go to die"

These three players helped the Cubs win four National League championships and two World Series from 1906 to 1910.