|Headquarters, Twenty Third Infantry
A.E.F., France, 21st July, 1918.
| FROM: Commanding Officer, 23rd Infantry, A.E.F.
TO: Commanding General, 3rd Brigade, A.E.F.
SUBJECT: Report of operations, July 17-18-19, 1918.
1. The regiment was relieved from the position it had occupied since June 1st-2nd, 1918, 1n front of CHATEAU THIERRY, from BOIS
de CLEREMBAUTS to BOURESCHES, inclusive, and occupied the 2nd position along the line MONTREUIL-aux-LIONS - DHUISY, until the
night of Tuesday July 16/17, 1918, when the regiment was hastily withdrawn and embussed pursuant to F.O. 48, Headquarters, 23rd Infantry, copy herewith, founded upon instructions from the Division Commander. The infantry embussed at LES DAVIDS on the MONTREUIL-LA FERTE road, all horsedrawn transport moving overland. The destination for the embussed elements was announced as MARCILLY where a French officer was to meet the busses and direct them to their debussing points. The convoy cleared LES DAVIDS at about 10:00 P.M. the Regimental Commander passing the column and arriving ahead of it at MARCILLY where no French officer could be found who knew the destination of the train. A French officer was finally found in an automobile alongside the road who said that orders would be received at LA FONTAINE-les-NONNES.
After considerable delay and effort an officer was found in one corner of the town who informed me that the train was to move to LA PLESNE and a guide was furnished. At about 7:00 A.M. the next morning, 17th July, 1918, the train reached MORIENVAL where the officer in charge insisted that I was to debuss and move to LA PLESNE. The troops were debussed accordingly and the head of the column was approaching LA PLESNE when another French officer met me and told me I was to go to RETHEUIL. A third arrived a few minutes later and stated that I was to march to the east in the FORET de RETZ and there go into bivouac. I therefore countermarched and turned the column to the east accordingly. Several sections of the train had become detached and the troops were arriving in fragments. I preceded the column through the FORET de RETZ in an effort to find where the Division was to concentrate and at about 10:00 A.M., on the morning of July 17th met the Division Commander, with his Chief of Staff, who handed me copy of Field Order No. 15, requiring an attack on the next morning at about the hour of dawn, the attack to be launched from the trenches at the eastern extremity of LA FORET de RETZ. It therefore became necessary to place the troops as far to the east as possible in order to reduce to the minimum the time necessary for the march to the jumping-off trenches. A position was selected near Division Hdqrs at the CARREFOUR de NEMOURS. Returning to the west the Regimental Commander urged the troops forward as rapidly as possible to gain the cover of the woods and avoid discovery by hostile aeroplanes, but no battalion was complete and fifty percent of the regiment had not yet arrived. Instructions were given to the battalion commanders and upon return to CARREFOUR de NEMOURS maps were secured, a hasty conference
was had with the Field Artillery Commander, the Chief of Staff and his assistants, and plans were drawn up for the attack. It was not until 4;00 P.M. that the battalions were assembled and information concerning the attack, with a few hastily-made maps, had been distributed. The machine guns, one-pounders and Stokes Mortars
had not arrived, the attacking troops carried upon their person only 100 rounds of ball cartridges and a very small quantity of Chauchat ammunition. Neither hand grenades or rifle grenades were available.
2. At about 5:00 P.M., a French Staff officer arrived to accompany myself and the battalion commanders to the front for a reconnaissance of the positions my battalions were to occupy for the attack.
3. The front over which I was to attack is shown on the map
herewith (VILLERS-COTTERETS 1/20000), but the distribution of the French troops in this sector was entirely unknown to me.
4. Upon arriving at the P.C., of the French Regimental Commander holding the sector, I was advised by him that I was to relieve one of his battalions and a battalion of another French regiment before going into position and this was to be accomplished before 9:00 P.M. that night. Myself and the three battalion commanders then moved as rapdily as possible to the P.C. of the other Regimental commander, who handed me an order contemplating that I would relieve him in sector and thereupon take command. It was cecessary to consult the additional battalion commander and endeavor to made [sic] detailed arrangements for the relief. Upon attempting to return to Regimental Headquarters the roads were found blocked by transports endeavoring to move in both directions and it was 8:00 P.M., before the battalion commanders could reach their battalions. Arrangements had been made to place a large ammunition dump at the CARREFOUR du SAUT-du-CERF, where the troops would secure two bandoliers of ammunition as they passed on to the front. It was considerably after 9:00 P.M., when the advance began.
5. The road to the front was found completely blocked, the troops endeavoring to thread their way through and between vehicles of all kinds. It began raining early in the evening and the night became so dark that it was impossible to see at more than a pace distance. No opportunity of any kind could be given to the company or platoon commanders to reconnoiter the way to the front, through an intricate network of roads and trails through the forest.
6. Proceeding to the P.C. of the Regimental Commander near CARREFOUR de MONTGOBERT I stationed non-commissioned officers to guide the troops as best they could in the proper direction. At 2:30 A.M. the Regimental Adjutant reported that all three battalions had secured ammunition and were moving along their proper routes to the front. The French troops at the front were sending in reports that the
American troops to relieve them had not arrived and throughout the night the most disquieting reports constantly arrived indicating that our troops were lost in the woods.
7. The attack was to start at 4:35 A.M. At about ten minutes to four the Sergeant-Major of the 1st battalion arrived at my P.C. with the information that Companies A and B had lost their way and that he thought that only a small portion of the 1st battalion had reached position for the attack. A moment later I was advised that two battalions of the the Marines were then passing the P.C. enroute to front from which it was apparent that they could not possiibly reach the jumping-off trenches in time. I immediately left the P.C., with my entire staff, the French Regimental Commander, all of his runners and all of mine. The French Regimental commander, turned over all of his runners to the Marines and Lt. Col. Phelan placed them with his troops to guide them as rapidly as possible to the front. I personally moved to the front with Companies A and
B. picking up on the way some troops of the 9th Infantry and of 93rd Infantry that had been lost in the darkness. It seemed futile to hope that any attack under the circumstances could be a success, Nevertheless, the troops were led as rapidly as possible
along the road through the woods and at 4:35 A.M., our artillery fire preparation came down with a crash. A guide led me for a few minutes in the wrong direction but the proper direction was finally recovered and at 5:00 A.M., myself and this detachment, with my staff officers and runners, emerged from the eastern extremity of FORET de RETZ at the proper point prescribed in the orders for attack. The attack was already under way, the 2nd battalion leading the attack had gone over the top at H hour (4:35 A.M.). But to reach its position it had been necessary to advance during the last ten minutes at a run, the men reaching the jumping-off trenches breathless and exhausted. Nevertheless, they had reached their jumping-off point the French troops whom they relieved were withdrawing through the woods as I advanced and the 2nd battalion was moving straight upon the enemy position. Such portion of the 1st battalion as had reached its starting point (CHAVIGNY) had also moved forward and the tracks of the 3rd battalion from the trenches in the eastern extremity of the FORET de RETZ assured me that they too had successfully reached their positions and were advancing in support of the attack. The hostile barrage was at that time coming down but it was traversed without difficulty or loss and Companies A and B were led through CHAVIGNY thence to the northeast and this mixed force, commanded by Lt. Wade, 23rd Infantry, moved rapidly to the front to join the 1st Battalion. A portion of D Company, which had also been separated from the command, came up a few minutes later. An advance P.C. was established on the road leading to the northwest from CHAVIGNY and messages were sent from this point to the Brigade and Division commanders by runner, no other form of liaison existing. A Division Staff Officer was at my P.C., took notes of all that happened and advised me that as soon as he was informed of the P.C.s of the battalion commanders he would return to Division Headquarters with report.
8. Our First Aid Station was already in operation and at about 6:00 A.M., a column of prisoners moving to the rear indicated that the operation had thus far been a success. At 6:27 A.M., a message was received from Colonel Upton, commanding the 9th Infantry, announcing that everything on his front was going all right. At 6:25 A.M., a message was received from Major Fechet, commanding 2nd battalion, "1st objective attained at 4:50 A.M." At 6:30 A.M., a message was received from 1st battalion that the advance was progressing. A French officer was at my headquarters at CHAVIGNY to represent the French regiment on my right and through him liaison was maintained throughout the operation with that unit. Colonel Upton, commanding the 9th infantry, and myself were in constant contact by means of runners. At 6:45 A.M., the units on my right and left were advised and I moved to the next command post, BEAUREPAIRE FARM.
9 In the meantime, my Regimental Intelligence Officer, assisted by my Liaison Officer, charged with visual communication, had taken station at my first P.C., near CARREFOUR de MONTGOBERT, to which prisoners were sent. He maintained thereat a complete record record of all prisoners arriving at his post, copy of which is hereto attached signed by himself and Lt. O'Brien. The 1st battalion was found in its proper position in the front-line trenches when I passed at about 7:00 A. M., and upon reaching BEAUREPAIREA [sic] FARM I found that the 2nd battalion had already advanced and had disappeared over crest of hill in front. The French liaison officer reported to me that his regiment had sent a message before the hour my departure from CHAVIGNY (6:45 A.M.) that American troops had occupied the second objective, VAUXCASTILLE. While enroute BEAUREPAIRE FARM I had received a message from Colonel Upton that he was also enroute thereto. He arrived about 8:00 A.M., and our forward battle P.C.s remained at the same point throughout the operations until about 6:00 P.M. Upon arrival at my P.C. Colonel Upton advised me that the Marines on his left had not gotten up, in line and that he had lost liaison with them. From this time on I had great difficulty in maintaining contact with the French troops on my right.
10. Major Lang, commanding the 2nd battalion, 15th Field Artillery, arrived at BEAUREPAIRE FARM and arrangements were made for field artillery support on our front. The hour of arrival of the batteries was not recorded but the batteries of the 2nd battalion successively came into position and opened fire along our front. The messages from the 2nd battalion failed to indicate the exact hour at which the third objective was reached but messages from Captain Hall and Major Fedhet, was received at 9:50 A.M., both indicated that the crest of the hill overlooking VIERZY was reached sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 A.M. The western extremity of VIERZY was entered and a large number of prisoners, including several officers of notable rank, were captured by the 23rd Infantry. 1 was advised that these prisoners included a Major-General hut it has been impossible to verify the officer's rank.
11. The advance of the front line (2nd battalion, 23rd Infantry) had been very rapid. Many prisoners, concealed in dugouts with machine guns from observation, remained behind and upon reaching the final objective the process of cleaning-up was started. VIERZY was not completely taken at this time but the northern, southern and western approaches to the village were Occupied and the fight for the position of the village continued all day. The ravine at VAUXCASTILLE was also occupied by the enemy and the cleaning-up process continued until after 6:00 P.M., when. it was completely conquered by troops of the 23rd infantry.
12. The fighting slacked and opportunity was given for some reconnaissance. It was found that two batteries of field artillery calibre 77, had been captured near BEAUREPAIRE and that a large number of machine guns, about 100, were in our possession. The prisoners were coming in with great rapidity and before 5:00 P.M. the number captured had been estimated at 800. The former French hangar at BEAUREPAIRE, with large quantities of gasoline, had fallen into our hands.
13. The troops were instructed to dig in and held the ground they had conquered.
14. At this time the disposition of troops was as follows:-2nd battalion reinforced by a portion of each of the other battalions, was in possession of the reverse slope of the ridge overlooking VIERZY but the town was not in our possession. The French troops upon our right were still fighting for the possession of the woods south of VIERZY but had not yet captured it. The support consisted
of less than one company and was at BEAUREPAIRE
and the 3rd battalion, less two companies, was in reserve at the jumping-off trenches. All the rest had been absorbed in the forward line in the fighting which had
occurred to maintain its
strength as our losses had been very severe. None of the machine guns had arrived
arrived and the attack was made without machine guns, hand grenades, rifle grenades, and without one-pounders and Stokes Mortars. Nevertheless, the ground had been completely conquered and the number of prisoners had increased to about 1000,
capture having been made at about 6:00 P.M., when Lt. Otto, 23rd Infantry, with a small detachment, compelled the surrender of 204
the VAUXCASTILLE Ravine.
15. At about 5:30 P.M. (This should be 4 P.M. - order was dictated to
Col. Malone at 4:30 P.M. - order of Div. rec'd by him - by Aide
at 4 P.M. - H.E.E.), General Ely arrived with orders to resume the attack at 6:00 P.M., the ultimate objective being the extremity of BOIS de'HARTENNES. The troops were already
by continued fighting and marching for a month. Their
losses had been exceedingly heavy. Though victorious they had been
completely disorganized and no company remained intact. Portions
of the 9th Infantry had come into our line. Portions of my regiment had entered my area of the 9th Infantry. It was represented to General Ely that it was practically impossible to launch the attack at 6:00 P.M., and an effort was made to secure the support of the 6th Marines, but this was not furnished. The 1st battalion of the 5th Marines was designated as my support and Co. A, 5th
Machine Gun Battalion, was to report to me to assist in the attack.
Colonel Upton left to join his command and organize the advance upon my left flank.
16. At 6:30 P.M., I moved forward to the ravine at VAUXCASTILLE where the troops of the 23rd Infantry were formed for attack. At 7:00 P.M. the advance had reached the crest of the hill overlooking VIERZY, the 9th Infantry was on my left advancing in excellent order. I did not see the French troops upon my right and am not sure as to whether they attacked in conjunction with me or not, but believe they did. In the ravine west of VIERZY I found a battalion of Moroccan troops and 15 tanks which were to support me in the attack. At about 7:15 P.M., the attack, supported by the tanks which had rendered exceedingly valuable service in the attack of the morning of this date, moved forward in conjunction under a heavy fire of machine guns and artillery. The attack continued with great vigor until after 8:00 P.M., when, upon reaching the crest of the hill 500 meters to the south of 147, it was seen that the attack on VIERZY had been completely successful. All machine gun fire had ceased but the entire area was covered with our wounded. The exact location of the flanks of my line could not be fixed but the attack had been made in the proper direction. I established my P.C., temporarily at the ruined tower, just north of VIERZY where I endeavored to get reports from my battalion commanders. Flares were going up from the German lines from which it appeared that the troops of the 23rd Infantry and of the 9th Infantry, in fact of the whole Division, were in a pronounced salient. It was clearly apparent that there was no possibility of pushing the attack so far as our troops were concerned to its ultimate objective, BOIS d'HARTENNES. I found it impossible to exactly locate the flanks of my battalions in the front line. An officer from the Brigade commander, having joined me, I went into VIERZY about midnight and found that the remnants of the 2nd Battalion were in the town having suffered a tremendous number of casualties; that the 1st Battalion was in possession of the ground in front where it was strongly intrenching, assisted by the 2nd Engineers under Major Fox. The location of the French troops upon my right could not be determined.
17. At the break of dawn on July 18, 1918, I moved, with my Staff, accompanied by Major Fox and Captain Bruce, commanding Company A, 5th Machine Gun battalion, to the front where I found Major Waddill with his battalion entrenched with his right on the road from the abandoned hangar to TIGNY and his left near the road junction just south of 81 60. The 9th Infantry was in contact with its left occupying the abandoned French trenches south of CHARAN-TIGNY. Major Fechet, with what was left of the 2nd battalion, accompanied me to the high ground just west of 81 60 where a small detachment of French troops (Moroccans) in rear of our lines was inctrenching a position. Major Fechet's battalion, the 2nd, was at once directed to prolong the line of the Moroccan troops to the right, thus forminpg a second line in support of Major Waddill, and Company A, 5th Machine Gun Battalion, was directed to join Major Fechet in new position.
18. Captain Smith's Company, Machine Gun Company, 23rd Infantry,
had joined Major Waddill, the previous night at about 8:00 P.M. and was then
in position along his intrenched front. The French on our right were
in position near MONTRABOUEF but direct contact with them had not been established. Later, I found that a small French post
occupied the road junction at the abandoned hangar. The location of German flares indicated beyond the shadow of a doubt that we were at the point of a very pronounced salient. I reconnoitered major Waddill's position and returned towards VIERZY. En route at the cemetery just west of VIERZY I for the first time encountered the 1st Bn, 5th Marines, under Major Turrill, which had been directed to support me in the attack. I also found en route to this position a representative of the 23rd Machine Gun Company (Marines) which had been directed to support me in the attack. Major Turrill informed me that he had not received his orders in time to permit him to advance with me but upon receipt of his orders had advanced and had taken up a position in support. He was well located for covering my right flank and I attached to him the 23rd Machine Gun Company (Marines) to assist in covering the right flank. During the morning a message was received from Colonel Upton to the effect that the enemy was preparing an attack from the south and arrangements were made to receive it. Investigation at that time showed that the Moroccan troops upon our right had advanced, the exact hour I could not determine but it was certain that they were in possession of MONTRABOEUF. The intention had been announced by the Corps Commander to resume the advance at the earliest possible moment and to accomplish this result the 6th Marines were ordered to pass through my lines and move upon the final objective. They moved at about 7:00 A.M. French troops moving simultaneously upon our right, and the 2nd Engineers on our left and in front of the sector occupied by the 9th Infantry. The losses sustained by the troops were such that the attainment of the ultimate objective could not be reasonably expected and it was not attained. The line was brought to a halt to the west of TIGNY where it intrenched and held.
19. From the time the troops left the vicinity of MONTREUIL-aux-LIONS they had received no food and practically no water; they had had no sleep and had fought continuously since the beginning of operations. The losses in my regiment are not yet absolutely known but the strength of the regiment, according to the most accurate record I could secure, left me 37 officers and 1478 enlisted men in the infantry command, considerably less than fifty percent. The relief of the command was an absolute necessity and arrangements were made to accomplish this result. The relief occurred during the night of July 19/20 and terminated at about 2:00 A.M., when the last element of the 23rd Infantry passed my P.C. at VIERZY. My regiment moved by marching to CARREFOUR de MONTGOBERT, my former P.C., the last echelon arriving at about 7:00 A.M. Food was secured for the first time. The regiment remained in the eastern extremity
of the FORET de RETZ until 1:00 P.M., when it marched to the CARRE-FOUR de NEMOURS, secured the packs and proceded to VIVIERS. About 10:00 P.M., orders were received to march at once to ST. ETIENNE. The column cleared the road junction at VIVIERS about 12:30 A.M. and went into bivouac at ST. ETIENNE this morning July 21st, about 7:00 A.M.
20. The troops are completely exhausted and will need approximately 2000 replacements in enlisted men and 60 officers to restore them to strength and a considerable period of training to restore them to fighting form.
21. No more diffilult circumstances could have confronted a command than that which presented itself to this regiment on the night of July 17/18.
22. Without reconnaissance of any kind it was compelled to move through an absolutely unknown terrain during a night which was intensely dark and rainy, to thread its way through roads blocked to a standstill with traffic of all kinds, find its jumping-off place which nothing was previously known, form in three echelons for
attack, all three echelons of which must move in harmony under an
artillery barrage the exact timing of which could not be secured
because of the unknown incidents of the attack and attack over a
terrain which it had not previously seen, the attack changing in
direction twice during its progress. The troops actually ran to
their destination and met the enemy in an entrenched position with
no weapon other than the rifle, yet they were completely and overwhelmingly successful. With a personnel reduced in strength from
3400 to 1479 and the officers from 99 to 37, by casualties in
action, the regiment attacked and carried its attack over a distance of eight kilometers, capturing, in doing so, approximately
2100 enemy soldiers and 75 officers, approximately two batteries
of 150's, five batteries of 77's, a vast quantity of ammunition
and stores. A battery of 210's was captured but I am of the opinion
that the credit for doing so belongs to the French. It is possible
that the credit for the capture of some of these prisoners should
go to the 9th Infantry as a few men and officers of the 9th Infantry were mixed with ours but the record submitted herewith from my
Intelligence Officer and signed by him shows conclusively that
2100 prisoners were brought to my regimental headquarters under
the guards of the 23rd Infantry; that 20 prisoners were brought to my
regimental headquarters by guards of the 9th Infantry; that 15 prisoners were brought to my headquarters by guards of the 6th
Marines. It is known, moreover, that approximately 800 prisoners,
in addition to the above, were taken to other rendezvous than my
P.C. Also upon the arrival of 78 prisoners at BEAUREPAIRE FARM
during the course of the fighting under guards furnished by the
9th and 23rd Infantry, it was agreed by myself and Colonel Upton
that 39 should be considered as mine and 39 as his. In two detachments 1000 prisoners were secured by troops of the 23rd Infantry,
the surrender of 400 men being accomplished by the work of one sergeant, complete record of which will be submitted later, the Sergeant having been wounded and having given me a verbal report as
he passed through my P.C., the prisoners following behind him.
23. The remarkable performance accomplished by this regiment,
under difficulties which can scarcely be duplicated, is such
as to warrant the hope that the regiment will be cited in orders.
24. Recommendations for gallantry in action and for rewards for conspicuous service will be submitted later. Hereto attached is a map showing the Zone of Advance, the initial and final location of the troops of this command, and the report of my Regimental Intelligence Officer.
25. Report of killed, wounded and missing will be submitted
(Sgd) Paul B. Malone
Paul B. Malone,
Colonel, 23rd Infantry,
| NOTE: The field pieces were captured near BEAUREPAIRE FERME, the
ravine of VAUXCASTILLES and on the high ground between the ravine
and the ruined tower southeast of VIERZY. The machine guns and
minenwerfer were captured at all of these places and at many
others throughout the area. They were not counted.
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|Records Of The Second Division (Regular) Volume 7; Operation Reports — War Diaries — Patrol Reports
Second Division Historical Section, The Army War College, Washington, D. C.