Offensive At St. Mihiel Essay

This essay has a total of 1733 words and 7 pages.

Offensive At St. Mihiel

The St. Mihiel Offensive began on September 12, 1918. It was the first operation of World
War I performed and commanded solely by an American Army. The whole idea of the operation
was to reduce the size of the German salient, a part of their battle line that jutted out
towards allied territories. Though delayed at first by other occurring battles, the
operation began on August 10, 1918 when the American First Army headquarters was set up.

August 30, 1918, the First Army, under the direction of General Pershing took command of
the battle front between Port sur Sielle and Verdun (see Map 1). The battle line ran from
East of Verdun, South to St. Mihiel and turned West to Port sur Sielle (see Map 1). The
Area itself was mostly made up of plains with some spots of woods here and there. It was
all fairly low ground with large ponds and swampy areas.

Holding the salient was a German force known as Army Detachment "C", commanded by General
Fuchs. Which was composed of eight divisions and two brigades, with five divisions in
reserve. In the Southern most part of the salient, the Germans occupied two hills:
Loupmont and Montsec, (see map 2), which made excellent defensive positions for them, and
gave the Germans the high ground. The reason the salient was so important to the Germans
was that it interrupted the Paris-Nancy Railroad and completely cut off the Verdun-Toul
Railroad. Which gave the Germans complete control of any supplies coming into the area.

The final plan for the operation called for a main drive against the Southern face of the
salient, a second drive from the west and then holding attacks and raids at the tip. The I
and IV Corps were going to be the main attack forces. I Corps, commanded by Major-General
H. Liggett, included the 82nd, 90th, 5th and 2nd Divisions was set up on the Southern side
of the salient, with the 78th, 18th and 33rd Division in reserve (see Map 2). The IV
Corps, lead by Major-General Dickman was set up right along side and to the West of I
Corps and contained the 89th, 42nd and 1st Divisions with the 3rd Division in reserve (see

The V Corps was to be the secondary attack, set up on the west side of the salient,
commanded by Major-General Cameron. It contained the 4th and 26th (Yankee) Divisions, with
the 80th Division in reserve (see Map 2). Along with the American forces, the French II
Colonial Corps, was also involved. Under the direction of General Blondlat, it was made up
of the 2nd Cavalry, 26th and 39th French Divisions (see Map 2).

While planning was taking place, the British continued to argue that the American Army
stay under command of the British forces. General Pershing responded:

"I can no longer agree to any plan which involves the depression of our units....Briefly,
our officers and soldiers alike are, after one experience, are no longer willing to be
incorporated in other armies....The danger of destroying by such depression the fine
morale of the American Soldier is too great."1

550,000 Americans and 110,000 French were involved in this offensive. The amount of tanks
and aircraft desired by the American force for an operation of this size was, very much
lacking, so the majority of the tanks and aircraft were brought in by the French. Yet some
of the French equipment was to be manned by Americans. By the start of the battle there
were in the area, 1,481 aircraft, 3,000 artillery pieces and 3,300,000 artillery rounds.2
Finally after weeks of planning, the American First Army was ready.

At nightfall on September 11, infantrymen along with tanks and all other equipment, began
to make their way to the front line. Once arrived, the Americans noticed no visible sign
of life from the German trenches. 0100 hours, the sky was lit by friendly artillery fire,
with the intent to soften the area, and make the advance as easy as possible. The shelling
lasted until 0500 hours, at which time the IV Corps stormed Montsec (see Map 2).

While making their way forward, American troops were forced to maneuver over and around
what was left of any remaining obstacles. What was left was quickly cut, climbed, or at
some points jumped over. "Americans were well suited to this sort of work, as they have
longer legs." As was stated by a French observer of the battle.3

When leading elements reached the first line to attack, the Germans were already gone. The
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