The record of the Second Division in the World War has been a remarkable one. Doubtless it is well known to each officer and man of the division but, nevertheless, it is deemed appropriate to publish in the first edition of The Indian a brief summary of its heroic deeds and wonderful achievements.
We know the story of how the Second Division, on June 1, 1918, was deployed across the Paris-Metz road, north of the Marne, near Chateau Thierry, on an 18-kilometer front, to stop the victorious advance of the Hun toward Paris. We know that the Second Division not only carried out its mission but that it attacked continuously and relentlessly for over a month, capturing Hill 142, Bouresches, Vaux, and the Bois de Balleau, and taking prisoners from ten German divisions which were thrown into the battle line to stem its advance.
Thus came the turn of the tide. "Thus was the worth of the American soldier as a fighting man established on a scale so high as to have a most important psychological effect on the hard-tested morale of our allies."
Again at Soissons, on July 18 and 19, did this immortal division strike a decisive blow. After a night march of unparalleled difficulty, over an unknown terrain, by roads crowded with traffic, it attacked at dawn, in conjunction with the First American Division and the First French Moroccan Division, the flank of the great enemy salient, drove through his fortified lines to a depth of ten kilometers, capturing over 2,900 prisoners and 85 cannon. Immediately the enemy forces crossed, silently and swiftly, to the north bank of the Marne, and began their retreat to the Vesle.
At the battle of St. Miehel Salient, the Second Division again attacked irresistibly, and its advance through the barbed wire and powerful entrenchments was so rapid that it captured over 3,300 prisoners, 120 cannon, and a vast quantity of other military material. It seized Thiaucourt and Jaulnay, and swept forward to the Jaulnay-Xammes ridge by 2:30 p. m. on September 12. On September 15, it again attacked, advancing its lines in the face of desperate resistance by fresh enemy troops.
At the end of September, the division was temporarily assigned to the IVTH French Army, and entered the front lines on October 1-2. On October 3, it participated in a general attack. It drove forward with magnificent elan through a network of barbed wire and a trench system of great strength, and seized the powerfully fortified heights of Blanc Mont.
In the afternoon of October 3, although the division on its left had not debouched from its trenches, it again attacked, passing beyond the ridge. On October 4, and succeeding days, it continued its savage attacks, and in spite of the most persistent and violent counter attacks of two fresh German divisions, it held the ground gained with the utmost tenacity and destroyed the enemy forces confronting it. As a direct result of its successful blows, the German army of the Champagne withdrew from the impregnable heights east of Rheims and retreated to the Aisne.
During the latter part of October, the Second Division marched to join the First American Army on the battlefield of the Meuse-Argonne, and was assigned to the Fifth Army Corps, "having, on account of its well-known ability, been selected to assault and break through the strong enemy positions near Landres-et-St. Georges, which had hitherto been considered impregnable." On November 1, with the Eighty-ninth Division on its right, it drove forward irresistably through barbed wire and trenches to a depth of over nine kilometers, capturing five fortified towns and the Bois des Hazois. Again the result of its victory was far-reaching. The enemy's retreat to the east bank of the Meuse began, and the divisions on its left were able to advance to Buzancy and Briquenay without serious opposition.
The Second Division continued its rapid advance, and on the evening of November 3, its advance guard penetrated the enemy's lines and passed through the forest of Belval. By 11:30 p. m., on that day, it had debouched from the forest and had seized a position near Beaumont, six kilometers in advance of the divisions on its right and left. On the succeeding nights, by a series of night attacks, it cleared the west bank of the Meuse, on its front, of all enemy troops.
Finally, in the last battle of the war, in the face of heavy machine gun and artillery fire, its leading battalions, followed by a liasion battalion of the Eighty-ninth Division, crossed the Meuse by two hastily constructed footbridges, seized the heights on the east bank and, at 11 a. m., November 11, were still pursuing the enemy.
In these battles the Second Division captured 12,926 prisoners, over one-fourth of the total number captured by the A. E. F., and 343 cannon, about one-fourth of the total number captured by the A E. F., and it advanced its front lines, in the face of desperate enemy resistance, to a depth of 62 kilometers.
These gloriously decisive victories were not won without staggering losses. The casualties of the Second Division were heavier than those of any other division in the
A. E. F., and amounted to a total of 24,429.