“With the weapon in hand, they made their stand.”
The operation began by the end of the all-known First World War that brought heavy losses and was recognized for being the deadliest campaign in American War History. The days between September 26 and November 11, 1918, erased about 28.000 German lives and 26.277 American ones. It also prompted the World War 1 massacre to an end.
General John Pershing led the First US Army General Henri Gourand was the head of French Fourth Army. After defending the German forces on Saint-Mihiel heights, he received the order: The clean up the Argonne forest.
Most of the heavy equipment used for the offensive was provided by European Allies, estimating about 2,780 artillery pieces, 380 tanks, and 840 planes. By that time, there were approximately 1.2 million of American Soldiers in Europe.
All the German forces were set in the deeps or Argonne forest and on the surrounding hills, forming four defense lines. They were led by the skilled German General Max von Gallwitz.
The American barrage began September 26 at about 5.30 AM. Their mission was capturing the railway core located in the town of Sedan. It was supposed to break the railway network encouraging the German Army in France. During the first attack, about 2700 US guns were involved. In just a few hours, they spent more ammunition than it was during the whole American Civil War. This is the opening act of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The initial attack brought blended results: The unskilled US division the 37th “Buckeye” Division failed to capture Montfaucon d’Argonne, as well as the 79th Division, lost control over the heights of Montfaucon. The 28th “Keystone” Division was smashed. Despite losses, the third, fifth and the 91st “Wild West” Division had a favorable outcome.
The next day, German fire pitted most of the First Army, but a few aims were accomplished: American troops captured Montfaucon, the village of Baulny, Hill 218, and Charpentry.
On September 29, six additional German divisions were sent into the battle to face the 35th Division.
For a while, German troops faced the attack, but the American forces demolished them under cover of Field Artillery.
The First Army broke deep into the German lines no matter the 35th Division was almost cracked, as well as a few of French key commanders killed.
“Far from their land as they made their stand
They stood strong, and the legend still lives on”
On the 4th of October, a few divisions from the fifth US Corp were replaced. An intense series of frontal attacks held by US troops led them deep into the Argonne forest and broke through the German lines.
By the end of October, US forces advanced deep enough (about 15 km) and cleaned up the Argonne forest. French allies finally reached out and later crossed the Aisne River.
The American troops divided into two armies and faced 31 German divisions. They cracked the German defenses at Buzancy and captured Le Chesne.
Finally, the Sedan and its railway core were captured by French troops and the hills around were taken by the two US armies on November 6.
The Armistice signed at November 11 brought to an end the bloody war.