1916-1925: America– War and Peace

Author: John J. Pershing  | Date: 1918

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American Troops Take Cantigny

ON March 21 [1918] approximately 300,000 American troops had reached France. Four combat divisions, equivalent in strength to eight French or British divisions, were available—the 1st and 2d then in line, and the 26th and 42d just withdrawn from line after one month’s trench warfare training. The last two divisions at once began taking over quiet sectors to release divisions for the battle; the 26th relieved the 1st Division, which was sent to northwest of Paris in reserve; the 42d relieved two French divisions from quiet sectors. In addition to these troops, one regiment of the 93d Division was with the French in the Argonne, the 41st Depot Division was in the Service of Supply, and three divisions (3d, 32d and 5th) were arriving.

On 25 April the 1st Division relieved two French divisions on the front near Montdidier and on May 28 captured the important observation stations on the heights of Cantigny with splendid dash. French artillery, aviation, tanks and flame throwers aided in the attack, but most of this French assistance was withdrawn before the completion of the operation, in order to meet the enemy’s new offensive launched May 27 toward Chateau-Thierry. The enemy reaction against our troops at Cantigny was extremely violent and apparently he was determined at all costs to counteract the most excellent effect the American success had produced. For three days his guns of all calibers were concentrated on our new position and counter-attack succeeded counter-attack. The desperate efforts of the Germans gave the fighting at Cantigny a seeming tactical importance entirely out of proportion to the numbers involved.

Of the three divisions arriving in France when the first German offensive began, the 32d, intended for replacements, had been temporarily employed in the Service of Supply to meet a shortage of personnel, but the critical situation caused it to be reassembled, and by May 2 lit was entering the line in the Vosges. At this time the 5th Division, though still incomplete, was also ordered into the line in the same region. The 3d Division was assembling in its training area and the 3d Corps staff had Just been organized to administer these three divisions. In addition to the eight divisions already mentioned, the 28th and 77th had arrived in the British area and the 4th, 27th, 13th, 33d, and 35th and 82d were arriving there. Following the agreements as to British shipping, our troops came so rapidly that by the end of May we had a force of 600,000 in France.

The third German offensive, on May 27, against the French on the Aisne, soon developed a desperate situation for the Allies. The 2d Division, then in reserve northwest of Paris and preparing to relieve the 1st Division, was hastily diverted to the vicinity of the Meaux on May 31, and, early on the morning of June 1, was deployed across the Chateau-Thierry Paris road near Montreuil-aux-Lions in a gap in the French line, where it stopped the German advance on Paris. At the same time the partially trained 3d Division was placed at French disposal to hold the crossings of the Marne, and its motorized machine-gun battalion succeeded in reaching Chateau-Thierry in time to assist in successfully defending that river crossing.

The enemy having been halted, the 2d Division commenced a series of vigorous attacks on June 4, which resulted in the capture of Belleau Woods after very severe fighting. The village of Bouresches was taken soon after, and on July Vaux was captured. In these operations the 2d Division met with most desperate resistance by Germany’s best troops.


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Chicago: John J. Pershing, "American Troops Take Cantigny," 1916-1925: America– War and Peace in America, Vol.12, Pp.81-83 Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=97WFVXA8L9KC8XC.

MLA: Pershing, John J. "American Troops Take Cantigny." 1916-1925: America– War and Peace, in America, Vol.12, Pp.81-83, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=97WFVXA8L9KC8XC.

Harvard: Pershing, JJ, 'American Troops Take Cantigny' in 1916-1925: America– War and Peace. cited in , America, Vol.12, Pp.81-83. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=97WFVXA8L9KC8XC.