The texts are based on official US army histories and should help
the collector understand the actions the battle bars were awarded
November - 4 December 1917. 2) Somme Defensive,
21 March - 6 April 1918. 3)Lys, 9 - 27 April
1918. 4) Aisne, 27 May - 5
June 1918. 5) Montdidier-Noyon,
9–13 June 1918 6) Champagne-Marne,
15 - 18 July 1918. 7) Aisne-Marne, 18
July - 6 August 1918. 8) The
Formation of the 1st
Army and beyond 9) Somme Offensive, 8
August - 11 November 1918. 10) Oise-Aisne, 18
August - 11 November 1918. 11) Ypres-Lys 19
August - 11 November 1918. 12) Vittorio Veneto,
24 October - 4 November 1918.
1) Cambrai, 20 November
- 4 December 1917. In late November the
Engineering regiment were behind the British lines at Cambrai doing
construction work. The Regiments were called up to the front line to
assist the British and in doing so they became the first A.E.F. units
to see action in the war.
Defensive, 21 March - 6 April 1918. The Germans launched an
offensive near Amiens with the intention of driving a wedge between
the French and British forces. They could then turn towards the
channel and force the British into a pocket in Flanders and at the
same time take the valuable Channel ports.
62 German divisions
attacked on the 21st
of March and by the 26th
of March Amiens was in danger of falling. A gap developed between the
French and British troops but the German advance began to run out of
steam. By the 6th
of April the offensive had ground to a halt. The allies had suffered
200 000 casualties, 70 000 prisoners. The Germans had advanced an
incredible 40 miles. The German offensive had not achieved its
objectives. Amiens had not fallen, The British were not destroyed and
the communication between the allies had not been ruptured.
Under pressure to
support the Allies the A.E.F. had given up 4 divisions. About 2200
men of the 6th,
Engineers saw combat as did the men of the 17th,
3) Lys, 9 - 27
April 1918. On the 9th
of April the Germans launched a new 46 Division offensive on the Lys
river in Flanders in the hope of exploiting the successes on the
Somme. Under pressure Haig issued his “Backs to the wall”
communiqué and appealed to Foch to send him reserves. Foch, with his
gift for strategic thinking refused. He was of the opinion that the
British would hold their line. He was also determined to husband his
reserves for his planned offensive actions. Foch had made the right
call and on the 29th
of April the German offensive ground to a halt.
About 500 Americans
participated in the battle including men of the 1st
gas regiment, 28th
Aero Squadron and the 16th
4) Aisne 27 May -
5 June 1918. The Third
German blow of 1918 took place along the Aisne river, crossing the
notorious “Chemin des Dames”. The offensive was intended to suck
in reserves from behind the British lines in preparation for another
offensive in Flanders. Taking the French and British defenders by
surprise, the results exceeded the German High command’s wildest
dreams. Along a 40km front the troops had pushed forward, in places
advancing 13 miles in the first day.
So impressive was the
progression that Ludendorff decided to make this diversionary attack
his main one. The Germans managed to capture most of the bridges over
the Aisne intact. Rheims did not fall to the germans but Soissons
did. By the 31st
of May the Germans had reached Chateau-Thierry on the Marne, just 40
Miles from Paris. Here the thrust of the advance ran out of steam. In
the days that followed they tried to expand the newly formed salient
but by the 4th
of June the offensive came to an end.
27 500 American troops had been
involved in the fighting. The 3rd
Division was at Chateau-Thierry were it helped stop the Germans from
crossing the Marne while the 2nd
Division straddled the Road to Paris. On the 6th
of June the Marine Brigade of the 2nd
Division attacked in Belleau Wood, the fighting ended by the end of
the month allowing the Army brigade of the 2nd
Division to then attack and take the town of Vaux.
5) Montdidier-Noyon, 9–13 June
1918 Once the Aisne
offensive had stalled the Germans struck in a new direction. 21
Divisions attacked on a 23 Mile front hitting the French between
Montdidier and the Oise River. The French were ready. They absorbed
the blow and counter attacked, throwing the Germans back and exacting
heavy losses. By the 12th
of June the offensive was over. The US 1st
Division was on the periphery of this action and was fired on by
German artillery and was subjected to diversionary raids.
6) Champagne-Marne, 15
- 18 July 1918.
In the four offensives of
1918 the allies had lost 800 000 men, the Germans 600 000.
The allies could replace
these losses with newly arrived American troops, the Germans could
not. German morale suffered not only due to losses, but also due to
the allied maritime blockade. Ludendorff refused to consider peace
and planned two new offensives. The first had the goal of capturing
Rheims, easing the supply of the merge salient and drawing in
reserves. Then a second, larger offensive would take place against
the British in Flanders.
On the 15th
of July the Germans launched an offensive with a wing on either side
of Rheims. The allies were aware of the German plans and had noted
the activity behind the German lines. The French released part of
their carefully husbanded reserves and employed the “defence in
depth” strategy. To the east of Rheims the offensive failed. To the
west the Germans succeeded in crossing the Marne near Chateau
Thierry. The offensive was stopped by French and US troops. It was in
this offensive that the 38th
Infantry Regiment of the 3rd
US Division gained its “Rock of the Marne” motto. Also involved
in this action were the 26th,
Divisions, the 369th
Infantry regiment and various support troops. All in all 85 000
American troops took part in the fighting.
ran out of momentum by the 17th
of July, its failure was a heavy blow to German Morale. The
initiative was now in the hands of the allies.
18 July - 6 August 1918. The French had
planned an offensive to squeeze of the Marne salient a number of days
before the Germans launched “Friedensturm”. The attack was
planned for the 18th
and would be carried out by the French tenth, Sixth, Ninth, Fifth and
Fourth armies. The Spearhead of the attack was the French XX Corps of
the Tenth Army. It had five divisions and included the American 1st
Divisions. Following a rolling barrage of great intensity the two
divisions along with a French Moroccan Division launched an attack
near Soissons, on the north-west base of the salient.
penetrated to a depth of 3km before German resistance stiffened. The
Americans advanced to a depth of 7 km capturing 6 500 prisoners while
suffering 10 000 casualties of their own. By the 22nd
of July both divisions had been relieved. They had succeeded in
making Soissons untenable for the enemy.
The French Armies
were also making important gains and the Germans were forced to issue
orders to withdraw from the salient. To the right of the Tenth Army
the French Sixth army reached the Vesle on the 3rd
of August. The US 3rd,
Divisions were part of this army on the 28th
of July. The 4th
Divisions were part of I Corps which was the first American Corps HQ
to become operational at the front. III Corps entered the zone on the
August taking command of the 28th
Divisions. The 32nd
Division had relieved the 3rd
Division on the 29th
On the 5th
of August the whole front line of the Sixth French Army was held by I
and III Corps. To the east the French Ninth and Fifth Armies were
advancing and the Germans were forced to pull back over the Aisne and
then the Vesle Rivers.
Offensive was officially over by the 6th
of August. Once the Marne salient had been reduced the Germans could
no longer threaten Paris. The ball was in the hands of the Allies.
The Germans had to shelve plans for their Flanders offensive. The
American Divisions which had taken part in the fighting (1st, 2nd,
3rd, 4th, 26th, 28th, 32nd, 42nd) had shown what they were capable of
and instilled new confidence in the Allies. 270 000 Americans had
taken part in the fighting.
8) The Formation
of the 1st
Army and beyond
On 24 July
Foch had announced his intentions to tweak off the three major German
salient’s (Marne, Amiens and St. Mihiel) in preparation for a fall
offensive. Pershing requested the St. Mihiel salient as the first
independent action of the A.E.F.
Foch had agreed to
the formation of the 1st
US Army which, with Pershing as its commander set up headquarters at
La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, west of Chateau-Thierry.
The army was
assigned two sectors, the first a temporary one in the
Chateau-Thierry area where I and III Corps were assigned, then a
quiet sector in the east, a sector which would become the US 1st
Army’s first combat zone. It stretched from Nomeny (east of the
Moselle river) to a point to the north of St. Mihiel.
With the situation
on the Vesle stabilised Foch agreed on the 9th
of August to allow Pershing to form his Army in the St. Mihiel
sector. While three US Divisions would remain on the Vesle Pershing
left to prepare for the St. Mihiel offensive. Plans for the reduction
of the salient called for a front stretching from Port-sur-Seille to
Watronville. Three American Corps would take part with 14 American
and 3 French divisions.
(including detached American units) were
preparing their sectors for the coming offensives. American units
would take part in a lesser degree in three sectors: the Somme
Offensive (8 August-11 November), Oise-Aisne (18 August-11 November),
and Ypres-Lys (19 August-11 November).
The main body of A.E.F.
would take over the bulk of the fighting in the St. Mihiel (12-16
September) and Meuse-Argonne (26 September-11 November) Campaigns.
9) Somme Offensive, 8
August - 11 November 1918. On the 8th
of August limited operations were begun by the British with the goal
of flattening the Amiens salient. This would mark the beginning of a
major Somme Offensive which continued until the 11th
of November. The British Fourth Army along with the American 33rd and
80th Divisions, attacked the north-western edge of the salient while
the French First Army attacked from the southwest. There was no
artillery barrage to forewarn the enemy. In the thick fog 600 tanks
spearheaded the British attack. They captured 16 000 prisoners as
they overran the German positions. Ludendorff referred to the 8th
of August as the "Black Day of the German Army."
The Germans were
pushed back to their old 1915 line. Here they reorganized strong
defenses-in-depth. On the 21st
of August Haig shifted his attack farther north to the vicinity of
Arras, the Germans were forced to withdraw toward the Hindenburg
Line. By the end of the month the Amiens salient had been abandoned.
At the end of
September the push to break though the Hindenburg line began. As part
of the British fourth army the American II Corps (27th and 30th
Divisions) attacked the German defenses along the line of the
Cambrai-St. Quentin Canal, and on the 29th
of September they had captured Bony and Bellicourt. By the 5th
of October the offensive had broken through the Hindenburg Line. The
Allies now advanced through open country to the Oise-Somme Canal.
Throughout the battle the 27th and 30th Divisions alternated in the
line. By the 21st
of October, when it was relieved, the US II Corps had served 26 days
in the line and suffered 11,500 casualties.
The British offensive in
the Somme region continued until the last day of the war. It was the
Left Wing of Foch's pincers movement to cut Germans' rail
communications system. Aulnoye, a key junction to the southwest of
Maubeuge, was reached on 5 November. The Somme Campaign saw the
participation of approx.54,000 American soldiers.
10) Oise-Aisne, 18
August - 11 November 1918.
August the French started a series of local offensives on a front
which extended about 90 miles from Reims moving westward through
Soissons to Ribecourt on the Oise River. These operations continued
into late September before merging into Foch's great final offensive
of October-November. Five French armies (from right to left the
Fifth, Sixth, Tenth, Third, and First) advanced abreast, on their
left flank were the British on the Somme, on their right flank the
Army in the Meuse Argonne sector.
The French Tenth
Army was the spearhead which penetrated the enemy's main line on 22
nd of August. Serving under the command of the Tenth Army was the US
Division which was instrumental in capturing Juvigny on the 30th
of August, securing tactically important high ground for the Allies.
The German front breached and to avoid being cut off by the
breakthrough of the Tenth Army on their left flank the Germans were
forced to pull back, abandoning their positions on the Vesle River
and taking up new positions on the Aisne River. In the second week of
September the 32nd
Division joined the American First Army to the east.
Divisions belonged to the American III Corps. It was a part of the
French Sixth Army to east of Soissons. In late August it held the
western part of the Vesle River sector extending from Braine to
Courlandon. In reaction to the breakthrough of the French 10th
Army on their flank the Germans pulled back from the Vesle northward
to the Aisne valley in early September. The III Corps followed,
carrying out a series of local attacks, but failing to break into the
German line before leaving to join the American First Army in the
second week of September.
There were no
American units involved in the final Oise-Aisne operations, which by
of November had carried the French armies to the Belgian border. In
the early phases of the campaign 85 000 American soldiers took part
in the fighting.
11) Ypres-Lys 19
August - 11 November 1918. In late August and
early September 1918 the British Second and Fifth Armies reduced the
Lys salient. Attached to them were the 27th
Divisions of the II American Corps. When the Germans began retiring
in the sector south of the Lys in October to shorten their lines, the
Allied army group under the Belgian King Albert attacked along its
entire front. By the 20th
of October Ostend and Bruges had been captured and the Allied left
wing had reached the Dutch frontier. In mid October the 37th
US Divisions had joined the French Army in Belgium to help add
momentum to the push across the Scheldt to the southwest of Ghent.
An offensive began
in this area on the 31st
of October and continued until the 11th
of November. The 37th Division forced a crossing of the river
southeast of Heurne on the 2nd
of November and another farther north near the site of the remains of
the Hermelgem-Syngem bridge on the10th of November. During the
fighting the two divisions suffered 2600 Casualties. Approximately
108 000 American soldiers participated in the Ypres-Lys Campaign
between the 19th
of August and the 11th
12) Vittorio Veneto, 24
October - 4 November 1918.
Late in the war, Americans
participated on a limited scale in campaigns in Italy. The 332d
Regiment with attached hospital troops was sent from the A.E.F. to
the Italian Front in July 1918 for the morale effect which it was
hoped that the sight of Americana would have on the Italians. This
force of about 1,200 men took part in the last great Italian
offensive against the Austrians, the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.
To return to the page about the US in WW1 click HERE