AT NANTEUIL-LE-HAUDOUIN during the remaining days
of July, the division enjoyed a brief rest. The men
had an opportunity to clean up and to replace equipment, and the companies to reorganize. A few replacements were received—about forty officers and a thousand men—but this number did not begin to fill the gaps; and there was still a shortage of some 7,000, or about 25%.
The division now lost its commander, General Harbord, who went to Tours to assume command of the Services of Supply. General Lejeune assumed command of the division and Colonel Neville of the 4th Brigade. Both were soon confirmed in their commands and received promotions to Major General and Brigadier General, respectively. Lieutenant Colonel Feland was promoted Colonel and took command of the 5th Marines.1
The 1st Division was relieved from the line on the night of July 22-23 and established headquarters at Dammartin-en-Goële, ten miles southwest of Nanteuil. Both divisions were under the American III Corps (General Bullard) whose headquarters were at Mortefontaine.2
Little other work was done, except for short drills intended to restore smartness in bearing and manner. Programs were prepared for energetic and systematic training to impress upon all the lessons to be drawn from recent experiences. It is interesting to note that in some of these provision was made for instruction in the use of captured German weapons.3 But before these programs could take effect the division changed station again.
On July 29th orders were received to prepare to move everything except motor transportation by rail. The destination was not stated; only enough information was given to enable the division to entrain and form its motor columns. An advance detachment from division headquarters was sent on to Meaux where complete information was to be furnished; meanwhile division orders were issued for a start on the 30th.4 These orders gave the probable duration of the journey as two days for all elements. They designated four entraining stations, furnished an entraining time table, and directed the motor columns to Meaux for further orders.
The destination proved to be the region of Nancy. Both the 1st and 2d Divisions had been transferred to the VIII Army (General Gérard). Here they were to relieve French divisions in the XXXII Corps (General Passaga) whose headquarters were at Toul. The journey was without incident, and the divisions were assembled again by August 3d with headquarters at Nancy.5
This region was rapidly becoming American. The XXXII Corps had three divisions in line; its left sector, at Lucey, was already held by the American 82d Division. The 1st was now to take over the center sector at Saizerais from the French 65th Division, and the 2d was to relieve the French 64th in the Marbache sector on the right. Administrative control of the American divisions in the region was exercised by the American IX Corps (General Dickman).
While the 2d Division was quartered about Nancy, other important changes in command took place. Colonel McCloskey of the 12th Field Artillery was promoted brigadier general and went to the 152d Field Artillery Brigade of the 77th Division. Colonel Kelly was transferred to command the 12th, leaving the 17th to Lieutenant Colonel Sparks, but he remained only a short time and Lieutenant Colonel Holabird took command of the 17th on September 1st.
The front was very quiet and the sectors were broad and deeply held. The 64th Division (General Colin) held a line of nine miles extending from Port-sur-Seille to the Moselle River at Pont-à-Mousson and across the river to the Forêt du Bois le Prêtre. Its outpost zone was from two to three miles deep and included the high Mousson Hill and the town of Pont-à-Mousson. It was occupied in the usual way, by chains of small groups arranged roughly in two lines.
The zone of resistance, from a mile to two miles deep, had two organized lines—neither one, of course, continuous. The "lower line" had a parallel of resistance following the edges of the Bois de Beauzard and Bois de Flamechamp, the Nomeny —Pont-à-Mousson road and the edge of the Forêt de Facq, and reached the Moselle at the bend north of Loisy. The support parellel lay within the woods; in the rear was a redoubt parallel consisting of groups to sweep the forest exits. The "upper line" followed the Ste. Geneviève Ridge; its observation parallel was at the foot of the slope and its parallel of resistance at the crest, and support parallel on the rear slope. Behind this was the village of Landremont and Merivaux Farm, both prepared for defense. Between the upper and lower lines were numerous machine gun nests.
The rear boundary of this defense organization ran east and west through Dieulouard. Four miles in rear lay Marbache, division headquarters. Saizerais, headquarters of the 1st Division, was two miles to the west. The Moselle ran diagonally across this rear area, from southeast to northwest; three miles farther to the rear there was a sharp bend in the river above which its course was nearly east. This east and west stretch of the river, from Aingeray, through Liverdun to Frouard, formed a final line of defense.
The French 261st Infantry held the eastern regimental sector; one battalion in the outpost zone in what was called the "Quartier," or district, of Seille, one in the lower line of resistance, in the district of Flamechamp—Beauzard, and one in the upper line at Landremont.
The 339th was in the center, first line battalion in the district of Lesmènils, second in the district of Schweble; the upper line here was held only by detachments, and the third battalion was in Army reserve on the Liverdun, together with a territorial infantry battalion which was attached to the 64th Division. The left regimental sector was astride the Moselle; the 340th therefore had two outpost districts—Mousson and Maidières (or Bourgogne)—the lowert [sic] line district of Facq West on the right bank, and the upper line district of Cartonnerie and Bois de Cuite on the left bank.
To fit the American organization, two brigade and four regimental sectors were required. To accomplish this, the boundary between Lesmenils and Mousson districts was moved
one company front to the east. The 9th Infantry was then assigned to take over Seille, Flamecourt-Beauzard and Landremont districts; the 23d, Lesménils and Schweble; the 5th Marines, Fausson, Facq West and Merivaux Farm; the 6th Marines, Bourgogne and Cartonnerie Cuite. One battalion of the 23d and one of the 6th Marines took the Army Reserve line of Liverdun. Machine gun companies were attached to each infantry battalion. As usual, the 12th Field Artillery supported the 4th Brigade, the 15th Field Artillery the 3d Brigade, and the 17th was in general support. One light and one heavy artillery battalion were west of the river. The 2d Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, was detached, supporting the 82d Division, whose artillery had not yet joined. Movements in relief began August 4th; command passed to the 2d Division at 8.00 A.M., August 9th.6
Every effort was made to conceal the fact of relief. Movements, of course, were made only at night, and as silently as possible. French telephone operators were left at their posts and no telephone conversation in English allowed until the last moment. In particular, the use of the word "American" was prohibited.
The relief was without incident except for one bit of excitement at about 2.00 A.M., August 8th. A party of Germans tried to approach in the Mousson district which had been taken over the night before by the 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, but was discovered and driven off. Apparently it was a small raid intended to destroy wire. Both sides called for barrage, and artillery and machine gun fire continued for an hour or more.
A patrol system was established at once, throughout the division, and each front line battalion sent out a strong patrol every night with a definite purpose. The general patrol was checked each day at division headquarters. No other operations were undertaken and the sector was permitted to remain quiet. Drills, suspended during the movement of the division, were resumed, generally under the programs prepared for the former area. For the infantry, there was some instruction in the trench duties immediately at hand, but for the most part everyone's eyes were fixed upon the next period of active campaign, and work in the open was emphasized—attack
formations, advance under artillery fire, attack upon machine gun nests, target practice. For the artillery, the brigade commander expressed himself as not yet satisfied with the training in maneuver; he urged practice in the reconnaissance, selection and occupation of position, rapid preparation and conduct of fire, care of animals, and instruction in driving, all as explained in the American drill regulations; he further emphasized communications, in all their branches.7
Meanwhile, work on the defenses was kept up; about five hundred engineers and twelve hundred infantrymen being detailed for this duty.8
A program was prepared providing for the relief of front line battalions every eight days, but it never became effective. On August 11th a telegram was received from headquarters of the IV Corps announcing that "Ida" would relieve "Peggy", commencing August 15th. In other words, the 82d Division which had been withdrawn from the Lucey sector and replaced by the 89th just as the 2d came into line, was now to come in again in place of the 2d. Ida's artillery not being up yet, Peggy's would remain for a few days. The next station of Peggy was not announced ; in fact, it had not yet been determined.9
On August 12th the French authorities made available to the Americans the area of Colombey-les-Belles, south of Toul. and this was assigned to the 2d Division. Orders were issued providing for the relief to commence on the night of August 15-16. Regimental command was to pass at 8.00 A.M., August 17th ; brigade command twenty-four hours and division command forty-eight hours later.10 The division, except artillery, was assembled in the Colombey area on August 20th ; the artillery was relieved by the 157th Field Artillery Brigade, 82d Division, on the 21st and 22d and rejoined the division on the 23d.11
On August 25th Generals Liggett and Dickman, commanding
the I and IV Corps, respectively, visited the division. A review was held, attended by detachments from every unit and decorations were conferred upon sixty officers and men. Colonel Preston Brown, Chief of Staff, received his promotion to brigadier general; but he was ordered to remain for the time being on his existing duty.12
Certain important changes of command were made during this period; both colonels of the 3d Brigade were promoted to brigadier generals, Colonel Upton going to the 57th Brigade,
29th Division, and Colonel Malone to the 10th Brigade, 5th Division. Colonel Stone took command of the 9th and Colonel Stuart of the 23d.
It was perfectly evident to everyone that some new operation was in preparation. Movements of American troops were heavy. The newly formed American First Army had opened Headquarters at Neufchâteau, and the 2d Division had come under its control upon leaving the line. Men on leave from the division were recalled, and all new leaves suspended. Neither officers nor men knew just what was coming, but all were beginning to speculate about it; so much so that it became
necessary to caution them as to discussions of military matters in the presence of civilians. Like Kipling's "ancient and retired boatswain", putting a fresh coat of green paint on the cannonballs at the foot of the admiral's flagstaff, everyone "felt dimly that great events were stirring".
The operations between Soissons and Rheims, after the 2d Division left the sector, continued favorably and by August 1st the lines were on the Vesle and the Marne salient no longer existed. The Germans now had definitely abandoned all idea of an advance by Prince Rupprecht in Flanders; reserves intended for him had been diverted, and his armies were compelled to stand on the defensive. The losses had been so great that ten divisions had been broken up for replacements. Duke Albrecht of Wurttemberg, commanding in Alsace, was directed to prepare plans for an attack, in the hope of creating a diversion there. But for the time being the Germans were content to regard their skillfully conducted retreat as a success. They could see no present hope of regaining the initiative.13
The next item on the program was the Amiens attack. Plans for such an operation had been in preparation since July 13th. British troops in the French area were steadily flowing back to their own armies. On July 23. General Debeney's First Army had gained the local success in the Avre mentioned by General Pétain in the note quoted above. On July 28th General Debeney's army had been placed under the orders of Marshal Haig.
On August 8th the attack began, made by the British Fourth Army (General Rawlinson) and by the French First Army. The French Third, Tenth and Sixth Armies (Generals Humbert, Mangin and Dégoutte) in turn joined in the movement, extending the right of the active front clear to Rheims; and the British Third Army (General Byng) extended the left beyond the Ancre. On August 19th the Germans began to evacuate the Lys Salient, so that the process of releasing the mining regions of the North had begun.14
From the first arrival of the American troops in France, Lorraine had been regarded as their especial province. The
British were thoroughly committed to Flanders and Picardy and to bases on the Channel. The French, in like manner, were fully committed to the center, in front of Paris. Lorraine was a most tempting region for offensive operations; it led to the most exposed and most vital of the German communications, and to the Briey mining district, from which the Germans drew most of their iron. But neither the British nor the French had troops to spare for the purpose. All the American supply and transport installations had been planned with the idea of taking over the Lorraine front, and supplying it through the southern ports.15 This plan, suspended when the German series of offensives began in March, was not for a moment forgotten. On May 19th, at the very moment when the 2d Division was moving from Robert-Espagne to Chaumont-en-Vexin, to play its part in the emergency operations, General Pershing was in conference with General Pétain at Chantilly, arranging to take over the Toul front as soon as four American divisions could be assembled there. But the emergency continued, the four divisions could not be spared, and the American I Corps came into the line not at Toul but at Château-Thierry.
On the same day, July 4th, the work of organizing the headquarters of the American First Army began. On August 10th, the day after the 2d Division had taken over at Marbache, that Army opened headquarters at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre (Seine-et-Marne) under the personal command of General Pershing, but almost immediately moved to Neufchâteau (Vosges) where active preparation for the St. Mihiel operation was begun.16 One of the thousands of incidents resulting from this situation was the sudden withdrawal of the 2d Division from Marbache to Colombey-les-Belles.
|1 War Diaries, July 21-31.
2 X Army, Order No. 278 (E.M. 3d Bureau, No. 787/S), July 22.
3 Memorandums on Training, etc., 3d Brig., July 24, 26; 23d Inf., July 26; 17th FA, July 29.
4 2d Div., War Diary, July 29; FO #29, 8.00 A.M.
5 Eighth Army Memo (E.M. 3d Bureau, No. 6326). July 29. 2d Div. War
Diary. Aug. 3.
6 FO #20 and #21, 2d Div., Aug. 4 and 5. War Diary, 15th FA.
7 Memo, 2d Div., Aug. 10; 3d Brig., July 24, 26, Aug. 9; 2d FA Brig., Aug. 12; schedules of regiments to small units.
8 Letter, Div. Engr. to CG, 2d Div., Aug. 8.
9 Letter, 2d Div. to French XXXII Corps, Aug. 12. Letter, GHQ to IV Corps, Aug. 11. Telegram, IV Corps to 2d Div., Aug. 11. Memo, 2d Div., Aug. 11.
10 Letter, French Mission to GHQ, Aug. 12. VIII Army Special Order No. 2604 (E.M. 3d Bureau), Aug. 13. FO #22 and #23, 2d Div., Aug. 14 and 16.
11 XXXII Corps Special Orders 410, supplement (E.M. 3d Bureau No. 4414/3), Aug. 14. Report, 2d FA Brig., Apr. 1, 1919. War Diary, 2d Div., Aug. 23.
12 War Diary, 2d Div., Aug. 25.
13 Ludendorff, II, 320-22.
14 Haig, Despatches, p. 258-72. Pétain, Report, 1918, Offensive Campaign,
Part III, pp. 29-56. Ludendorff, II. pp. 326-48.
15 Final Report, CinC, AEF, 9-10.
16 Report, First Army, pp. 1x, 2. Final Report, CinC, AEF, p. 37.