On this occasion and for the first time the Army prepared for its attack under normal conditions. We held the front of attack and were not under the necessity of taking over a new front, with its manifold installations and services. Our own personnel handled the communications, dumps, telegraph lines, and water service; our divisions were either on the line or close in rear; the French artillery, aviation, and technical troops which had previously made up our deficiencies had been largely replaced by our own organizations; and our army, corps, and divisional staffs were by actual experience second to none.
47. On the morning of November 1, three Army corps were in line between the Meuse River and the Bois de Bourgogne. On the right the Third Corps, had the Fifth and Ninetieth Divisions; the Fifth Corps occupied the center of the line, with the Eighty-ninth and Second Divisions, and was to be the wedge of the attack on the first day; and on the left the First Corps deployed the Eightieth, Seventy-seventh, and Seventy-eighth Divisions.
Preceded by two hours of violent artillery preparation, the infantry advanced, closely followed by "accompanying guns." The artillery acquitted itself magnificently, the barrages being so well coordinated and so dense that the enemy was overwhelmed and quickly submerged by the rapid onslaught of the infantry. By nightfall the Fifth Corps, in the center, had realized an advance of almost 9 kilometers, to the Bois de la Folie, and had completed the capture of the heights of Barricourt, while the Third Corps, on the right, had captured Aincreville and Andevanne. Our troops had broken through the enemy’s last defense, captured his artillery positions, and had precipitated a retreat of the German forces about to be isolated in the forest north of Grandpre. On the 2d and 3d we advanced rapidly against heavy fighting on the fronts of the right and center corps; to the left the troops of the First Corps hurried forward in pursuit, some by motor trucks, while the artillery pressed along the country roads close behind. Our heavy artillery was skillfully brought into position to fire upon the Carignan-Sedan Railroad and the junction at Longuyon and Conflans. By the evening of the 4th, our troops had reached La Neuville, opposite Stenay, and had swept through the great Foret de Dieulet, reaching the outskirts of Beaumont, while on the left we were 8 kilometers north of Boult-aux-Bois.
The following day the advance continued toward Sedan with increasing swiftness. The Third Corps, turning eastward, crossed the Meuse in a brilliant operation by the Fifth Division, driving the enemy from the heights of Dun-sur-Meuse and forcing a general withdrawal from the strong positions he had so long held on the hills north of Verdun.
By the 7th the right of the Third Corps had exploited its river crossing to a distance of 10 kilometers east of the Meuse, completely ejecting the enemy from the wooded heights and driving him out into the swampy plain of the Woevre; the Fifth and First Corps had reached the line of the Meuse River along their respective fronts and the left of the latter corps held the heights dominating Sedan, the strategical goal of the Meuse-Argonne operation, 41 kilometers from our point of departure on November 1. We had cut the enemy’s main line of communications. Recognizing that nothing but a cessation of hostilities could save his armies from complete disaster, he appealed for an immediate armistice on November 6.
48. Meanwhile general plans had been prepared for the further employment of American forces in an advance between the Meuse and the Moselle, to be directed toward Longwy by the First Army, while the Second Army was to assume the offensive toward the Briey Iron Basin. Orders directing the preparatory local operations involved in this enterprise were issued on November 5.
Between the 7th and 10th of November the Third Corps continued its advance eastward to Remoiville, while the Seventeenth French Corps, on its right, with the Seventy-ninth, Twenty-sixth, and Eighty-first American Divisions, and 2 French divisions, drove the enemy from his final foothold on the heights east of the Meuse. At 9 p. m. on November 9 appropriate orders were sent to the First and Second Armies in accordance with the following telegram from Marshal Foch to the Commander of each of the Allied armies:
"The enemy, disorganized by our repeated attacks, retreats along the entire front. It is important to coordinate and expedite our movements. I appeal to the energy and the initiative of the Commanders-in-Chief and of their armies to make decisive the results obtained."
In consequence of the foregoing instructions, our Second Army pressed the enemy along its entire front. On the night of the 10th-11th and the morning of the 11th the Fifth Corps, in the First Army, forced a crossing of the Meuse east of Beaumont and gained the commanding heights within the reentrant of the river, thus completing our control of the Meuse River line. At 6 a. m. on the 11th notification was received from Marshal Foch’s headquarters that the Armistice had been signed and that hostilities would cease at 11 a. m. Preparatory measures had already been taken to insure the prompt transmission to the troops of the announcement of an Armistice. However, the advance east of Beaumont on the morning of the 11th had been so rapid and communication across the river was so difficult that there was some fighting on isolated portions of that front after 11 a. m.
49. Between September 26 and November 11, 22 American and 4 French divisions, on the front extending from southeast of Verdun to the Argonne Forest, had engaged and decisively beaten 47 different German divisions, representing 25 per cent of the enemy’s entire divisional strength on the western front. Of these enemy divisions 20 had been drawn from the French front and 1 from the British front. Of the 22 American divisions 12 had, at different times during this period, been engaged on fronts other than our own. The First Army suffered a loss of about 117,000 in killed and wounded. It captured 26,000 prisoners, 847 cannon, 3,000 machine guns, and large quantities of material.
The disposition which the enemy made to meet the Meuse-Argonne offensive, both immediately before the opening of the attack and during the battle, demonstrated the importance which he ascribed to this section of the front and the extreme measures he was forced to take in its defense. From the moment the American offensive began until the Armistice, his defense was desperate and the flow of his divisions to our front was continuous.
50. Under the instructions issued by me on November 5, for operations by the Second Army in the direction of the Briey Iron Basin, the advance was undertaken along the entire front of the army and continued during the last three days of hostilities, in the face of the stiff resistance offered by the enemy, and with the limited number of troops at the disposal of the Second Army, the gains realized reflected great credit on the divisions concerned. On November 6 Marshal Foch requested that 6 American divisions be held in readiness to assist in an attack which the French were preparing to launch in the direction of Chateau-Salins. The plan was agreed to, but with the provision that our troops should be employed under the direction of the commanding general Second Army.
This combined attack was to be launched on November 14, and was to consist of 20 French divisions under Gen. Mangin and the 6 American divisions under Gen. Bullard. Of the divisions designated for this operation the Third, Fourth, Twenty-ninth, and Thirty-sixth were in Army reserve and were starting their march eastward on the morning of November 11, while the Twenty-eighth and Thirty-fifth were being withdrawn from line on the Second Army front.
51. During the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne battle, American divisions were participating in important attacks on other portions of the front. The Second Army Corps, Maj. Gen. Read, commanding, with the Twenty-seventh and Thirtieth Divisions on the British front, was assigned the task in cooperation with the Australian Corps, of breaking the Hindenburg line at Le Cateau, where the St. Quentin Canal passes through a tunnel under a ridge. In this attack, carried out September 29 and October 1, the Thirtieth Division speedily broke through the main line of defense and captured all of its objectives, while the Twenty-seventh progressed until some of its ele-
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