The Meuse–Argonne offensive of World War 1
The Meuse–Argonne offensive (also known as the Meuse River–Argonne Forest offensive, the Battles of the Meuse–Argonne, and the Meuse–Argonne campaign) was a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front.
It was fought from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, a total of 47 days.
The Meuse–Argonne offensive was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers.
It is the second deadliest battle in American history, resulting in over 350,000 casualties including 28,000 German lives, 26,277 American lives, and an unknown number of French lives.
U.S. losses were worsened by the inexperience of many of the troops, the tactics used during the early phases of the operation and the widespread onset of the global influenza outbreak called the “Spanish Flu”.
Meuse–Argonne was the principal engagement of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during World War I.
It was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end.
It was the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the AEF even if, given the scale of other battles on the Western Front, its size was limited and the operation itself secondary as it was far from the main offensive axis.
The logistic prelude to the Meuse attack was planned by then Colonel George Marshall who managed to move American units to the front after the Battle of Saint-Mihiel (Saint-Mihiel is a town on the river Meuse, the most important water obstacle on the Western Front.
The September/October Allied breakthroughs (north, center, and east) across the length of the Hindenburg Line – including the Battle of the Argonne Forest – are now lumped together as part of what is generally remembered as the Grand Offensive (also known as the Hundred Days Offensive) by the Allies on the Western Front.
The Meuse–Argonne offensive also involved troops from France, while the rest of the Allies, including France, Britain and its dominion and imperial armies (mainly Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), and Belgium contributed to major battles in other sectors across the whole front.
German soldiers drawing water After the main 1918 German offensive that began well for them but ended with the disaster of Reims in front of the French army, The French and British armies launched “The Grand Offensive” or the “100 days offensive”, systematically pushing back a German army whose efficiency was decreasing rapidly.
British, French, and Belgian advances in the north, along with the French–American advances around the Argonne forest, is in turn credited for leading directly to the Armistice of November 11, 1918.
On September 26, the Americans began their strike north towards Sedan.
The next day, British and Belgian divisions drove towards Ghent (Belgium).
British and French armies attacked across northern France on September 28.
The scale of the overall offensive, bolstered by the fresh and eager, but largely untried and inexperienced, U.S. troops, signaled renewed vigor among the Allies and sharply dimmed German hopes for victory.
The Meuse–Argonne battle was the largest frontline commitment of troops by the U.S. Army in World War I, and also its deadliest.
Command was coordinated, with some U.S. troops (e.g. the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Division and the 93rd Division) attached and serving under French command (e.g. XVII Corps during the second phase).
The main U.S. effort of the Meuse–Argonne offensive took place in the Verdun Sector, immediately north and northwest of the town of Verdun, between September 26 and November 11, 1918.
Far to the north, U.S. troops of the 27th and 30th divisions of the II Corps AEF fought under British command in a spearhead attack on the Hindenburg Line with 12 British and Australian divisions, and directly alongside the exhausted veteran divisions of the Australian Corps of the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF).
With artillery and British tanks, the combined three-nation force, despite some early setbacks, attacked and captured their objectives (including Montbrehain village) along a six-kilometer section of the Line between Bellicourt and Vendhuille, which was centered around an underground section of the St. Quentin Canal and came to be known as the Battle of St. Quentin Canal.
Although the capture of the heights above the Beaurevoir Line by October 10, marking a complete breach in the Hindenburg Line, was arguable of greater immediate significance,] the important U.S. contribution to the victory at the St. Quentin Canal is less well remembered in the United States than the Meuse–Argonne.