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WW I Battles of the 91st Infantry Divsion

 

 

The Battle of St. Mihiel

When the USA declared war in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson sent the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) under the command of General John Pershing to the Western Front. By May 1918, there were over 500,500 US soldiers in France.

The German held St Mihiel salient was chosen for the US Army's first offensive. Pershing and 300,000 troops assembled at this sector in early September. The German High Command, aware the attack was coming, ordered a partial withdrawal of troops.

The withdrawal was still in progress when the US Army attacked on 12th September. A secondary assault, by 110,000 French troops, took place three hours later. Over 1,400 aircraft under the command of General William Mitchell, supported the advancing US and French troops. On the first day the main attack advanced 9 km to reach Thiancourt and the the French troops captured the village of Dommartin. By 16th September, the entire St Mihiel was under control. The 91st Infantry Divsion had been assigned to the reserve of the First American Army during the St. Mihiel offensive.


Battles of the Meuse-Argonne

On September 26, 1918, nine American divisions and three French divisions lined up along this approximately 25 mile stretch of the western front which extended from about ten miles east of the Meuse River through the Argonne Forest to the west. The objective of the operation was to sever the German army's supply line along this front sustained by a railway that extended from Metz, France northwest to Sedan, France. An allied attack which gained control of this railway would divide the German army. Once divided, it was unlikely that Germany could continue its operations in France and Belgium. The capture of the railroad hub at Sedan would break the rail net supporting the German Army in France and Flanders and force the enemy's withdrawal from the occupied territories.

The Meuse- Argonne campaign was the largest American military operation during the First World War and was the greatest American battle of the First World War. By the time the three hour artillery barrage concluded at 5:30 on the foggy morning of September 26, 1918, the U.S. Army had deployed more explosive power in this region than was used during the entire American Civil War. Approximately 1 million Americans participated in the Meuse-Argonne operation by the time it concluded with the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.

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. 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.


Final Confrontations on the Western Front in World War I.

Following the German retreat from the Marne River in July, General Ferdinand Foch and the Allied high command designed a series of convergent and practically simultaneous offensives against the shaken German armies. One was a joint operation in the Meuse valley toward the Mézière and Sedan rail centre. The Americans proceeded west of the Meuse River, the French west of the Argonne Forest. The Americans faced the most difficult natural obstacle, the dense Argonne Forest. General John Pershing's opening surprise attack advanced 5 miles (8 km) along the Meuse River but only 2 miles (3 km) in the difficult Argonne Forest sector. Attack after attack edged deeper into the Germans' defensive position, and on the 11th day of the American offensive, the Germans recognized that they were outflanked and retreated to avoid capture. Meanwhile the French advanced steadily across the Aisne lowlands. By October 31 the American forces had advanced 10 miles (16 km), the French had advanced 20 miles (32 km), and the Argonne had been cleared of German troops.

Hard fighting continued in the Meuse-Argonne sector during October. More than 1,000,000 Americans participated in the battles. On November 10 the Allies reached Sedan and cut the rail line there. The Armistice was declared (November 11) before a final offensive against Germany itself could begin.


Ypres-Lys 19 August - 11 November 1918.

That part of the Western Front extending from the English Channel south through Ypres, and thence across the Lye River to the vicinity of Arras, was manned by an army group under King Albert of Belgium composed of Belgian, British, and French armies. In late August and early September the British Second and Fifth Armies, assisted by the American II Corps (27th and 30th Divisions), wiped out the Lys salient. When the Germans began retiring in the sector south of the Lys in October to shorten their lines, King Albert's army group attacked along its entire front. By 20 October Ostend and Bruges had been captured and the Allied left was at the Dutch frontier. In mid-October Pershing dispatched two American divisions the 37th and 91st to the French Army of Belgium, at Foch's request, to give impetus to the drive to cross the Scheldt (Escaut) southwest of Ghent. A general attack began in this area on 31 October and continued intermittently until hostilities ended on 11 November. The 37th Division forced a crossing of the river southeast of Heurne on 2 November and another farther north at the site of the destroyed Hermelgem-Syngem bridge on 10 November. Casualties of the two divisions in these operations totaled about 2,600. From 19 August to 11 November about 108,000 Americans participated in the Ypres-Lys Campaign.


About the Schelde River

Also spelled SCHELDT, French ESCAUT, river, 270 miles (435 km) long, that rises in northern France and flows across Belgium to its North Sea outlet in Dutch territory. Along with the Lower Rhine and the Meuse rivers, it drains one of the world's most densely populated areas. As a waterway, with its numerous branch canals and navigable tributaries, it serves an area including the agriculturally important Flanders Plain, the Belgian textile centres, the coalfields of northern France, and the industrial complex of Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing. The chief tributaries of the Schelde are the Scarpe and Lys on the left (west) bank and the Dender (or Dendre) and Rupel on the right.

 

91st Infantry Division Links

Fred Altwasser

Lone Sentry:  Unit History:  91st Infantry Division

The Story of the 91st Infantry Division during World War I

 

 

 

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® Canada Copyright Registration  No. 490341
to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.

 
Copyright Notice
All documents in the Destination: Yellow Grass web site are copyrighted. They may be freely used for personal, nonprofit purposes or linked by other WWW sites. They may also be shared with others for personal use, provided headers with copyright notices are included. However, no document may be republished in any form or embedded in public databases without permission of the copyright owner, since that represents theft of personal property.