The first blow fell on the right of the British Armies, including the junction of the British and French forces. Only the prompt cooperation of the French and British general headquarters stemmed the tide. The reason for this objective was obvious and strikingly illustrated the necessity for having someone with sufficient authority over all the Allied Armies to meet such an emergency. The lack of complete cooperation among the Allies on the western front had been appreciated and the question of preparation to meet a crisis had already received attention by the Supreme War Council. A plan had been adopted by which each of the Allies would furnish a certain number of divisions for a general reserve to be under the direction of the military representatives of the Supreme War Council of which Gen. Foch was then the senior member. But when the time came to meet the German offensive in March these reserves were not found available and the plan failed.
This situation resulted in a conference for the immediate consideration of the question of having an Allied Commander-in-Chief. After much discussion during which my view favoring such action was clearly stated, an agreement was reached and Gen. Foch was selected. His appointment as such was made April 3 and was approved for the United States by the President on April 16. The terms of the agreement under which Gen. Foch exercised his authority were as follows:
BEAUVAIS, April 3, 1918.
Gen. Foch is charged by the British, French, and American Governments with the coordination of the action of the Allied Armies on the western front; to this end there is conferred on him all the powers necessary for its effective realization. To the same end, the British, French, and American Governments confide in Gen. Foch the strategic direction of military operations.
The Commander-in-Chief of the British, French, and American Armies will exercise to the fullest extent the tactical direction of their armies. Each Commander-in-Chief will have the right to appeal to his Government, if in his opinion his Army is placed in danger by the instructions received from Gen. Foch.
(Signed) C. CLEMENCEAU.
D. HAIG, F. M.
HENRY WILSON, General, 3.4.18.
TASKER H. BLISS, General and Chief of Staff.
JOHN J. PERSHING, General, U. S. A.
11. The grave crisis precipitated by the first German offensive caused me to make a hurried visit to Gen. Foch’s headquarters, at Bombon, during which all our combatant forces were placed at his disposal. The acceptance of this offer meant the dispersion of our troops along the Allied front and a consequent delay in building up a distinctive American force in Lorraine, but the serious situation of the Allies demanded this divergence from our plans.
On March 21, approximately 300,000 American troops had reached France. Four combat divisions, equivalent in strength to eight French or British divisions, were available—the First and Second then in line, and the Twenty-sixth and Forty-second 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 Twenty-sixth relieved the First Division, which was sent to northwest of Paris in reserve; the Forty-second relieved two French divisions from quiet sectors. In addition to these troops, one regiment of the Ninety-third Division was with the French in the Argonne, the Forty-first Depot Division was in the Services of Supply, and three divisions (Third, Thirty-second, and Fifth) were arriving.
12. On April 25 the First 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’s 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 counterattack succeeded counterattack. The desperate efforts of the Germans gave the fighting at Cantigny a seeming tactical importance entirely out of proportion to the numbers involved.
13. Of the three divisions arriving in France when the first German offensive began, the Thirty-second, intended for replacements, had been temporarily employed in the Services of Supply to meet a shortage of personnel, but the critical situation caused it to be reassembled and by May 21 it was entering the line in the Vosges. At this time the Fifth Division, though still incomplete, was also ordered into the line in the same region. The Third Division was assembling in its training area and the Third Corps staff had just been organized to administer these three divisions. In addition to the eight divisions already mentioned, the Twenty-eighth and Seventy-seventh had arrived in the British area, and the Fourth, Twenty-seventh, Thirtieth, Thirty-third, Thirty-fifth, and Eighty-second 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 Second Division, then in reserve northwest of Paris and preparing to relieve the First Division, was hastily diverted to the vicinity of 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 Third 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 Second 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 1 Vaux was captured. In these operations the Second Division met with most desperate resistance by Germany’s best troops.
14. To meet the March offensive, the French had extended their front from the Oise to Amiens, about 60 kilometers, and during the German drive along the Lys had also sent reinforcements to assist the British. The French lines had been further lengthened about 45 kilometers as a result of the Marne pocket made by the Aisne offensive. This increased frontage and the heavy fighting had reduced French reserves to an extremely low point.
Our Second Corps, under Maj. Gen. George W. Read, had been organized for the command of the 10 divisions with the British, which were held back in training areas or assigned to second-line defenses. After consultation with Field Marshal Haig on June 3, 5 American divisions were relieved from the British area to support the French. The Seventy-seventh and Eighty-second Divisions were moved south to release the Forty-second and Twenty-sixth for employment on a more active portion of the front; the Thirty-fifth Division entered the line in the Vosges, and the Fourth and Twenty-eighth Divisions were moved to the region of Meaux and Chateau-Thierry as reserves.
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