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The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

91st Division






The Road to the Argonne

Presented by the Great War Society

| Quick Facts | Background |
| Chronology |


Quick Facts

     Where:    The Verdun Sector, immediately north and northwest of the town of Verdun.
Check the Location on a Map of the Western Front

     When:    September 26 - November 11, 1918

     AEF Units Participating:   U.S. First Army commanded by General John J. Pershing until October 16th then by Lt. General Hunter Liggett.
Click Here To See the disposition of US forces at the start of the battle.

     Opposing Forces:    Approximately forty German divisions from the Army Groups of the Crown Prince and General Max Carl von Gallwitz participated in the battle with the largest contribution by the Fifth Army of Group Gallwitz commanded by General Georg von der Marwitz.

     Memorable For:      Being the biggest operation and victory of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.


Advancing through the Argonne Forest

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the greatest American battle of the First World War. In six weeks the AEF lost 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded. It was a very complex operation involving a majority of the AEF ground forces fighting through rough, hilly terrain the German Army had spent four years fortifying. Its objective was the capture of the railroad hub at Sedan which would break the rail net supporting the German Army in France and Flanders and force the enemy's withdrawal from the occupied territories.

The bulk of the forces engaged in the initial onslaught had to be transferred from the St. Mihiel Salient ---- assaulted less than two weeks earlier ---- to a new jump off line north and northwest of Verdun. This new section of the front extended thirty miles east to west . The reshifting of forces in such a short period of time was one of the great accomplishments of the Great War. These logistics were planned and directed by Col. George C. Marshall establishing his reputation and preparing him to lead -- in the distant future --- American forces to victory in the Second World War.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive: A Chronology

Abbey Ruins atop Montfaucon
Used as German Observation Post

Phase I

25 September 1918    At 2330 the initial barrage by 2700 guns begins. Ten American divisions of 26,000 men each are poised to attack. They are organized in three corps, arrayed facing north from the edge of the Champagne in the west to the River Meuse in the East.

The corps and divisions are [west to east]: I Corps - 92nd [actually under French Command], 77th, 28th & 35th Divisions; V Corps - 91st, 37th & 79th Divisions: and III Corps - 4th 80th and 33rd Divisions. These divisions would be relieved, replaced and sometimes moved along the front during the different phases of the battle. Dismounted cavalry working as scouts and the Lt Tank Brigade are also deployed to support the assault.

26 September 1918    H-Hour at 0530. The initial advance is brisk with the exception that the 79th Division encounters difficulties capturing the look out post and strong point of Montfaucon. This delay holds up the entire advance for over a day and allows the Germans to recover from their initial shock and to reorganize. Landmarks captured include the Butte de Vacquois and the historic village of Varennes.

27 September 1918    Montfaucon is captured, but the day and one-half delay allows German forces to escape and regroup avoiding a rout. This provest to be the most expensive missed opportunity of the AEF.

1 October 1918    The Offensive is clearly not meeting expectations. The lack of roads in the Argonne creates a stupendous traffic jam. Pershing replaces several inexperienced divisions. Tank support because of the terrain and mechanical problems has not lived up to expectations.

3 October 1918    To the west, the Lost Battalion of the 77th Division is surrounded. Things are bogged down along the line. Pershing shuffles his divisions for a renewed assault.

The new order of battle includes [west to east]: I Corps - 77th, 28th & 1st Divisions; V Corps - 32nd & 3rd Divisions: and III Corps - 4th 80th and 33rd Divisions.

Doughboys Under Fire in the Village of Exermont

4 October 1918    First Army begins a major attack along the entire front, but this will just be the first in a series of attacks all resulting in high casualties with small gains in ground.

Click Here To See the Advances of the First Army During October.

7 October 1918    Secondary flanking attack by I Corps reenforced by 82nd Division to relieve the Lost Battalion.

8 October 1918    Lost Battalion survivors walk out. Sgt. York of 82nd Division wipes out nest of 35 machine guns and captures 132 German soldiers as part of relief operation. Pershing orders the French XVII Corps with American divisions to attack along the east bank of the Meuse.

9-21 October 1918     A see-saw battle on the east bank of the Meuse as the Germans continually resist and counterattack the US units of the French XVII Corps.

11 October 1918     The new push slows down and Foch orders another pause. Summerall named to command the key V Corps.

12 October 1918     Pershing orders a major reorganization. A Second US Army will be given responsibility for the reduced St. Mihiel Salient for an eventual thrust against Metz. Hunter Liggett will be given command of First Army replacing Pershing..

13 October 1918     AEF mounts another major attack with limited success. Cunel and Romagne in the central Argonne are captured. Romagne would become the site of America's largest overseas military cemetery.

Phase II

Argonne Traffic Jam

16 October 1918     Grandpre on the River Aire at the northwestern corner of the Argonne is reached. Pershing directs Liggett to take immediate command of First Army. Grandpre will not fall completely until October 23rd.

17-31 October 1918    As Liggett reorganizes and plans a major assault, a series of local attacks straightens the American front from Grandpre in the west to the east bank of the Meuse.

21 October 1918     Cunel captured; the third German defensive position, the Khiemhilde Stellung is broken.

22 October 1918     By the 22nd of the month III and V Corps had secured the Bois de Foret and Bois des Rappes and had pushed to the norther and westen limits of the Bois de Bantheville. First Army prepares for final assault on Sedan.

27 October 1918     French 4th Army to the left [west] of the US 1st Army catches up to American front line. This is made possible by the success of two U.S. divisions, the 2nd and 36th, successfully capturing Blanc Mont Ridge in the Champagne and pursuing the enemy to the River Aisne

31 October 1918    American units on the east side of the Meuse advance to Consenvoye Heights. First Army is ready for an advance across a broad front._ The Meuse-Argonne Offensive: Chronology Continues

Phase III

Kriemhilde Section of Hindenburg Line
Northeast of Romagne

1 November 1918     The reorganized First Army now under the command of Lt. General Hunter Liggett begins the final pursuit to Sedan.

The divisions are once again reorganized [west to east]: I Corps - 78th, 77th, & 80th Divisions; V Corps - 2nd & 89th Divisions: III Corps - 90th and 5th Divisions; and the French 15th Corps with the US 79th, 26th and 81st Divisions. A major road construction program during October improved the logistical situation.

The first days advance by V Corps in the center is six miles. The Germans are shocked and order a withdrawal.

Click Here To See the Advances of the First Army During November..

2-3 November 1918    The 2nd Division marches right through the enemy positions and advances another five miles.

3 November 1918    III Corps on the right forces a crossing of the Meuse south of Dun-sur-Meuse with the 5th Division forcing the bridgehead.

5 November 1918     Leading US units reach the hills overlooking Sedan. The First Army boundary is ordered to be shifted to the east to allow the French 4th Army the honor of capturing Sedan site of a defeat in 1870 and redirect 1st Armies route of advance.

7-11 November 1918    Units already east of the Meuse continue advancing northward and the First Army Headquarters lays plans for taking the old fortress of Montmedy, the next logical objective.

10 November 1918    As part of First Army's shift eastward units of the 2nd and 89th Divisions begin a west to east crossing of the Meuse.

11 November 1918    Marshall Foch's armistice instructions arrive at 0600 hours. US units involved in the river crossings have reached Senegal Farm and Moulins by 1100 hrs, but some doughboys and marines do not hear about the cease-fire until noon time.

Click here to visit Part II of The Big Show:
General Pershing's Official Battle Report

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