Offensive At St. Mihiel Essay, Research Paper
OFFENSIVE AT ST. MIHIELThe 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 Map2).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.3When leading elements reached the first line to attack, the Germans were already gone. The Germans had withdrawn earlier under the orders of General Fuchs. Fuchs somehow got the word that there was going to be an American attack, and because his German forces were being depleted, he thought it better to make the size of the area to be defended, smaller. So the initial close range artillery strikes did little to no good. Though some of the longer range artillery found it s way to withdrawing Germans.When the order for withdrawal was given, General Fuchs believed that the American attack would take place later in the month. So a full withdrawal was ordered. So German Soldiers fighting rear guard were totally unprepared for any sort of attack and further more had to do so without the aid of any sort of fire support.
The attack from the South had thus far gone far beyond all expectations. The American troops advanced with ease. The amount of prisoners of war, became more and more steady as the Americans moved forward. At one point an entire German Division surrendered all at once. An American commander caught up in the ease of this advance, ordered ahead cavalry scouts, which by this point in the war were obsolete and very much vulnerable to German machine guns. This fact was quickly reinforced as the cavalry was fired upon by one of the few remaining machine-gun positions manned by determined German troops. This mistake was not made again.Mid-day on September 12, The I Corps, commanded by Major General Liggett, had already made their first objective for the day, and were soon at their objectives for the second day. The 2nd Division captured Vieville en Haye and hooked up with the 90th who was at the pivot point of the main attack (see Map 2). The 1st Division of IV Corps captured Nonsard and continued North (see Map 2). The 42nd Division pushed beyond the towns of Essey and Pannes, and the 89th captured Bouillonville (see Map 2). The V Corps advance was not quite as spectacular as the I and the IV, but progress was still being made. Though the entire V Corps was unable to make it to it s first day objective.The Americans were advancing quickly. Yet, by the end of the first day, there was still a 10 km between elements from the South and elements from the West. This gap was allowing Germans to freely slip past allied lines to safety. General Pershing had now realized that the German forces were taking full advantage of this gap in between his forces. Pershing ordered his I and IV Corps to continue on, and for at least a Regiment from the V Corps to do the same. All in hopes to cut off the escape route.The order for a regiment from the V Corps to push forward to the town of Vignuellas to cut off the escape route, was handed down to the 102nd Division (see Map 2). In order to do so in a timely fashion, they would have to take a very big chance. The idea was proposed for the regiment to drive on in column formation to the objective. This idea was very risky for the fact that it left the entire regiment vulnerable to any resistance or ambush by the Germans for the fact that there would be no flank guards. But the speed at which the regiment would move was well worth the risk and it was believed that the Germans were still on the run.0215 hours, September 13, the 102nd Division reached the town of Vignuelles, capturing a German supply train on the way. Once there they began to make battle positions to cut off the escape routes. 0600 hours, elements from the I and IV Corps began to arrive. The remainder of the day was spent by the V Corps coming up level with the I and IV Corps. The Americans now held the line between Vandieres and Haudimont ( see Map 1).Far behind the boundary lines, there was a another type of battle going on. The battle over space. Miles of wagons, guns, trucks and ambulances were trying to make their way through trenches and artillery craters to get to where they were needed. Engineers began filling in these obstacles, but the amount of congestion was too great and the situation remained hellish.Infantry men were not the only ones involved in this offensive. Tanks were also being used. 1st Division had done well supporting the troops by making ease of the passing of impassable obstacles. Though by the end of the first day, what tanks did not bog down in German trenches were now out of gas.At this point, American forces were far enough forward to see the defenses of Michel Stellung, which the Germans were still attempting to construct. The troops were halted, because of other plans which had already been made which called for them to move to a different battle.The battle of St. Mihiel ended on September 13, 1918 and because of this battle it was shown that the American Army and it s commanders, were very much capable to handle an operation on their own. The St. Mihiel Salient which had stood for four years was now non-existent. The German front line had been drastically reduced. 15,000 Germans were captured along with 450 weapons. 7,000 Americans lost their lives, but this was deemed acceptable compared to the standards of this war.In any case, this battle showed that the American Army could handle any operation. It allowed the American Army to now take on large scale assignments and successfully fight the upcoming battles of Argone and after.