1916-1925: America– War and Peace

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Author: The U.S. Government  | Date: 1918

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Breaking the Hindenburg Line

ON September, 1918, the Second American Corps (Twenty-seventh and Thirtieth Divisions) was placed at the disposal of the Fourth British Army for operations against the Hindenburg Line east of Peronne.

On the night of September 23-24 the Thirtieth Division took over what was known as the Nauroy sector, with a front of 3,750 yards, about 1,000 yards west of the main Hindenburg Line, and approximately on the old Hindenburg Outpost Line. On the next night the Twenty- seventh Division took over the Gouy sector, on the left of the Thirtieth Division and connecting with it; its front was 4,500 yards, approximately along the old British front line trenches, very close to the Hindenburg Outpost Line.

On September 27, a preliminary operation was undertaken to straighten the line of the Thirtieth Division and to bring the Twenty-seventh up to the start line for the main attack. The Thirtieth Division succeeded, but by the afternoon of September 28 the Twenty-seventh Division was back nearly in its original position.

At 5:50 a.m., September 29, the corps attacked, supported by the Australian Corps. The Second British Corps attacked simultaneously on its right, and the Third British Corps on its left. The attack was to be led by tanks, behind a rolling barrage. The start line was slightly to the east of the Hindenburg Outpost Line, and the objective east of Nauroy and Gouy. The plan provided that after the Americans had reached their objectives the Australians were to pass through them and continue in the advance.

The Thirtieth Division was already on the starting line, close behind the initial line of the barrage. The Twenty-seventh, however, had not yet been able to take the three strong points—the Knoll, Guillemont Farm and Quennemont Farm—and was consequently about 1,000 yards behind the barrage line, which was east of them. The question of changing the barrage lines for this division was raised, but decided in the negative, the brigade designated to make the attack having reported at 6 p.m. on the 28th that it expected to be within 400 yards of the barrage lines, or possibly even on the intended starting line, before the hour for attack.

The barrage fell as planned at 5:50 a.m., September 29, stood for four minutes on the initial line, and then advanced at the rate of 100 yards in four minutes. The Thirtieth Division advanced behind it, Sixtieth Brigade in first line. The One Hundred and Seventeenth Infantry was to follow across the tunnel, then deploy, facing south and cover the right of the Australians after the relief. Arrangements were made to seize the southern exit of the tunnel which lay in the division sector.

The German barrage was not heavy, but nevertheless there were many casualties, especially in the support battalions. Smoke and fog rendered it difficult to keep direction and contact. The One Hundred and Twentieth Infantry on the right crossed the Hindenburg Line and occupied Nauroy, the One Hundred and Seventeenth reached its proper position, facing southeast and connecting the One Hundred and Twentieth with the Forty-sixth British Division. The One Hundred and Nineteenth, however, on the left, was enfiladed by machine guns from its own left, and had to form a defensive flank in that direction, reaching back to the tunnel and then connecting with the Twenty-seventh Division. A battalion of the One Hundred and Seventeenth and one of the One Hundred and Eighteenth were sent to support this flank. In this position the Australians passed through the lines and relieved the Thirtieth Division on the afternoon of September 29.

In the Twenty-seventh Division, the Fifty-fourth Infantry Brigade made the attack under the same difficulties on account of fog and smoke. It also received machine-gun fire in enfilade from the direction of Vendhuile, outside its sector to the left. Part of the right regiment, the One Hundred and Eighth, by a detour to the south avoided Quennemont Farm and reached the Hindenburg Line south of Bony. Groups from all attacking battalions succeeded in penetrating between the strong points and reaching the Hindenburg Line; but by dusk only the extreme right retained its footing in that line. Here the division was relieved by the Australians, and remained in support; numerous groups, however, aggregating 1,000 men remained with the Australians and assisted them in cleaning up the Hindenburg Line on the right, taking it throughout the rest of the sector, and occupying part of the village of Bony.

The following is a quotation from the dispatch of Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, dated January 7, 1919: "North of Bellenglise the Thirtieth American Division (Major Gen. E. M. Lewis), having broken through the deep defenses of the Hindenburg Line, stormed Bellicourt and seized Nauroy.

"On their left the Twenty-seventh American Division (Major-Gen. J. F. O’Ryan) met with very heavy enfilade machine-gun fire, but pressed on with great gallantry as far as Bony, where a bitter struggle took place for the possession of the village."

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Chicago: The U.S. Government, "Breaking the Hindenburg Line," 1916-1925: America– War and Peace in America, Vol.12, Pp.127-130 Original Sources, accessed July 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=G5THQ7N342P6AE1.

MLA: The U.S. Government. "Breaking the Hindenburg Line." 1916-1925: America– War and Peace, in America, Vol.12, Pp.127-130, Original Sources. 6 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=G5THQ7N342P6AE1.

Harvard: The U.S. Government, 'Breaking the Hindenburg Line' in 1916-1925: America– War and Peace. cited in , America, Vol.12, Pp.127-130. Original Sources, retrieved 6 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=G5THQ7N342P6AE1.