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9th Infantry


Chapter III
SOISSONS.

At Cocherel the expectation was that the Regiment would be moved to billets near Meaux for a rest and an opportunity to drill the replacements received. On 16 July the Regimental transportation left at dawn for a destination which had not been disclosed. The troops stood to aday [sic a day], awaiting orders to move. Late in the afternoon a French camion train drew up and the Regiment embarked at dusk. Three hundred replacements had been received this day. After an all night ride, the Regiment debussed near Pierre-Fonds, at the Villers-Cotterets-Forest or Bois-de-Retz.

Without rest or food the march was taken up, and the Regiment was concentrated in the forest where a little sleep was had and a little coffee served. The Commanding Officer, Col. L. S. Upton, called a conference of the officers early in the afternoon, where the news was given out that we were to take part in a surprise attack the next morning the beginning of the Allied counter-attack. The purpose of the local attack was to cut in behind the Chateau-Thierry salient and force its evacuation by the Germans. The First Battalion was given the assault position; the Third in support, and the Second in reserve. Orders were given for an immediate march to the position of departure, and at 4:00 P.M. the Regiment, moving in single file, passed up to the front along the edge of a road packed with guns, trucks, tanks and supply trains. The sky was cloudy and light rains were falling, preventing observation, so that concentration of the assault troops was accomplished without the knowledge of the enemy. Towards dusk a heavy rain began to fall, and by the time the Eastern edge of the woods was reached, the men were exhausted from marching in the mud with no food or water. At one o'clock in the morning the regiment was closed up and placed in the woods at the side of the road to rest, while a reconnaissance was made of the position. Maps were issued; watches were synchronized; and 4:35 A.M., 18 July, 1918, given out as "H" hour.The men were conducted into place to the attack. The First Battalion relieved the French in trenches about six-hundred meters in front of the woods at the foot of forward slope. The Third Battalion was three hundred meters to the rear in support behind the crest of a hill, and the Second Battalion, as reserve, was three hundred meters behind the Thlrd in the edge of the woods. The Twenty-Third Infantry was on the right. On the left the Marines were supposed to be in line, but had not arrived when the attack started, arid their sector was left open. Some cal. 30 ammunition was brought up and issued to the men, two bandoliers each. No ammunition for automatic rifles or grenades was available. Practically no artillery fire had been heard through the night, except a few shots fired by the enemy to harass the roads in the rear, where he supposed there was nothing but the usual supply parties.

At 4:35 A.M. our artillery crashed out its bombardment and the attack began. The Regiment was formed in a column of battalions, each battalion occupying a two company front; the First in assault, the Third in support, and the Second in reserve. The Third and Second combat troop were in lines of platoon columns, the First in skirmish formation. The First Battalion was commanded by Capt. Spear, the Second by Major Arthur E. Bouton and the Third by Capt. Henry H. Worthington. The rain had ceased before the attack but the ground was still heavy. The morning was clear, but until after the sun rose light mists and shell smoke clung to the ground, obscuring the view. The enemy had been completely surprised and was throwing rockets frantically for his barrage. Signal lights of every description were in the air. Machine gun fire was extremely heavy. The enemy barrage was too scattered and was passed without great loss. The starting point of the attack was from a re-entrant in the Northeastern corner of the Villers-Cotterets Forest and the first direction was thirty degrees North of East. After crossing Beaurepaire Farm the direction was to be Southeast towards the town of Vierzy. As Beaurepaire Farm was neared the machine gun fire was unusually violent, but the men closed into their own barrage and rushed the guns before the enemy could return from the cover to which he had been driven by the barrage. The First Battalion meeting hot fire straight ahead, was unable to expose its flank to make the change of direction ; so it proceeded on to clear up this opposition while the Third Battalion took up the new direction. The Second Battalion was also engaged on the left in the sector which was to have been covered by the Marines, who had not yet put in an appearance. The enemy from this unmolested sector kept up a terrific flanking fire on all of our battalions from machine gun nests in wheat-fields and advanced gun positions. The Third Battalion had meanwhile pushed on in the new direction, Southeasterly, on a course which led to the left of Vauxcastile. The advance was continued through heavy machine gun and direct shell fire until Vierzy was sighted and reached at about 9:30 A.M. Meantime the battalions had become intermingled. The First and Second Battalions, after clearing up the resistance on the left, moved South through the ravine East of Beaurepaire Farm. The Regiment was reformed in the ravine and the men rested. A counter-attack of about one hundred men was made along the road leading to the left of Vierzy. The attack was broken up by our fire before reaching our lines. An outpost line was held between the ravine and Vierzy, while most of the Regiment was held under cover in the ravine. Enemy aeroplanes bombed and machine-gunned the troops at low altitude.

Although the battalions were very much reduced in strength and nearly all of the officers killed or wounded, the Colonel received orders for a further attack to be made that evening to be carried on beyond Vierzy. The Regiment took off at 7:09 P.M. with the Second and Third Battalions leading and the First in support. The direction of the attack was ten degrees South of East, and was carried on until the road crossing Hill 132 was reached. Darkness prevented further advance and a position was taken up twe [sic two] hundred yards Northeast of and paralleling the road. A counterattack was launched by the enemy at about 4:00 A.M. on the morning 19 July, and the Moroccan Division on our left began to fall back; but the enemy formation was quickly broken up by our fire and was forced to withdraw. The Sixth Marines came up in the course of the day by dribbling in and took over the line and passed on through. At 10:00 P.M. 19 July the Regiment was assembled in a wheatfield near Vierzy and given a hot meal, the first since the Sixteenth. The column then joined on to the Twenty-Third Infantry and passed through Vierzy, Beaurepeaire Farm, Villers-Cotterets Wood to the pine forest near Soucy, where they bivouaced for the night.

On entering the Battle of Soissons the Regiment had present for duty 89 officeres [sic] and 3271 men. Combat effective strength was 72 officers and 3051 men. The losses of the Regiment were:

  Killed Wounded Missing Total
Officers 19 33 1 53
Men 182 1065 58 1305
        1358

Among the killed was Major Arthur E. Bouton of the Second Battalion. The Regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre with a gold star, under the following citation:

"Headquarters" of the
Armies of the N. and N. E.
 
Staff Order No. 10886 "D" (Extract)
Personnel Bureau
(Decorations)
 

After approbation of the General Commander-in-Chief of the A. E. F. in France, the General C. in C. of the French Armies of the N. and the N. E. cites in the order of the Army Corps :

The Ninth American Infantry Regiment
Under the orders of Colonel Upton.

Engaged unexpectedly in the offensive of 18 July, 1918, in the middle of the night, on a terrain which was unknown and very difficult, displayed during two days, without allowing themselves to stop by fatigue and the difficulties of obtaining food and water, a remarkable ardor and tenacity, driving back the enemy 11 km., capturing 2,700 prisoners, 12 cannon and several hundred machine guns."


Headquarters, October 25th, 1918.
The Commander-in-Chief
Petain."
 

On the night of 20 July the Regiment marched for Retheuil, where it went into billets until the 25 July, on which date it marched to Levignen, where Col. Upton was evacuated for illness and Lieut. Col. E. R. Stone took command of the Regiment. There it remained one night and then continued to Peroy-les-Combries. On 31 July the Regiment entrained at Ormoy-Villers for Nancy, where replacements of officers and men were received. On 4 August the Third Battalion moved up to Miliery, the first stop on the way to relieve the 261st French Infantry in Quartiers-Flamechamp, Branzard and Seille, of the Secteur Marbache. On 5 August the Third Battalion went into line at Quartiers-Flamechamp Branzard, relieving a battalion of the 261st French Infantry, and on 6 August the Second Battalion took over the Quartier Seille, while the First Battalion went into billets as reserve at Ville-au-Val Landremont was Regimental Headquarters. The sector taken over was a quiet one and the time was spent in the cleaning up of the trenches, building dug-outs, repairing wire and drilling for penetration of woods in combat formation. On 16 August orders were received that the Ninth Infantry would be relieved by the 325th Infantry of the 82nd Division. The Regimental, movement out of the sector started at 9 : 00 P.M. March was made to the Colombey-les-Belles Area. On this same evening a mixed patrol of five officers and thrity-six men taken from both the Ninth and 325th Regiments crossed the Seille at Port-sur-Seille, advancing along the East bank. At 10:00 P.M. firing was head [sic heard] and a patrol went out to investigate and assist. It was found that the original patrol had been shot up and badly scattered while in the enemy's wire. The casualties were eight wounded, including three officers.

 
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