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Appendix No. 10
The Work Of Engineers With Artillery


CHATEAU THIERRY:

In the Chateau-Thierry sector no assistance of any kind was given the artillery.

SOISSONS:

At Soissons the road through the woods used by the artillery were blocked by trees, etc.; and, as the engineers happened to move over the same road, one company was detailed to open it up. They did so and finished the work just in time to move forward as division reserve with the rest of the regiment.

ST. MIHIEL:

It was not until the St. Mihiel drive that deliberate, organized engineer assistance to the Artillery Brigade was made and carried through. A picked platoon of 58 men from two companies was assigned to the task of moving the 75's forward to a position behind the German lines at St. Mihiel. The first thing the engineer officer in charge of this detail did was to find out, from the artillery Brigade, what roads the artillery were to use in moving up to the line. When this had been definitely decided, he personally inspected all our front line within the sector, with a view to putting a road through. The latest aero photos of the enemy trenches were then examined, to find the place with the least number of trenches to cross. Wire belts were not considered, it being thought the wire could be easily cleared, while the filling of bridging of trenches would be the critical point. A reconnaissance party was sent through the enemy line at the approximate crossing, to get the depth and width of the trenches and ascertain the condition of the ground on the other side, as it would be impracticable to put in a crossing at a point with the minimum number of trenches to cross, if behind these trenches we should run into marsh ground. The conditions that would arise after crossing the country immediately behind the enemy lines were, of necessity, estimated conditions, taken from a study of the maps.

As a large part of the roads to be used in the advance were in the woods, it was thought that obstructions similar to those found in the Soissons advance would be encountered. To take care of this, combat wagons loaded with powder, cross-cut saws, axes, block and tackle, etc., were provided for. No occasion arose for the use of this equipment. During the reconnaissance of our own lines, masonry walls on the roads at Lironville and Limey were found, which did not permit of the passage of vehicles. The removal of these (12) to a width sufficient to allow free passage was made with crowbars at night. This was done two days before the attack, and, to avoid signs of work showing in aero photographs, the walls were put back in their original places on the roads until the morning of the advance.

A detail constructed thirty (30) sections of portable artillery trench bridges, to be used in crossing two small creeks and four narrow trenches. The extra ones were intended for use if occasion arose after passing beyond the trench system.

These were carried up on artillery caissons. The increased weight was, of course, objectionable to the artillery, and they dumped the extras after the trench system had been passed. It was decided to use the engineers exclusively with the 75's, as they advanced first, and it was thought the work done by them could be used by the 155's when they came up. As each regiment of 75's moved forward, over different routes, the engineer party was divided into two details, each in charge of a Sergeant, for work with the artillery regiments. Each party had a combat wagon with identical equipment; every fifth man carried a pick, the remainder shovels, while every man carried a pair of wire-cutters. As the engineers were attached to the Artillery Brigade, and not to regiments, it was possible to increase the strength with one regiment at the expense of the other without friction, if the work met with on one section was heavier than on the other.

At 1:00 A. M.; the morning of the attack, September 12th, the rock blocks were cleared, our own wire cleared and work on filling our trenches commenced, this being done by cutting down an approach and throwing the dirt into the trenches. At the "H" hour our side of the line was finished and, when the infantry went over, we followed and immediately started on the German trenches. Details were dropped off at each trench, a few men cleared wire, and the work of bridging and filling all the German trenches was being done simultaneously. The sections moving the 15th Field Artillery opened up a road from the Bois de la Chambratte to the road between Remenanville-Regnieville; at a point midway between the two towns, two small streams were bridged, the road to Regnieville was opened up, cutting seven belts of wire, and three bridges were built in place across concrete-lined trenches which were too wide to use the portable type. The artillery decided not to use this section of road, and, instead we built a road across country north of Regnieville to the Bois la Hade l'Eveque, five belts of wire being cut, four bridges with the portable type sectional bridge, five trenches filled, and numerous shell holes graded sufficiently to pass artillery. After the advancing battalion went into position this detail passed through to crossroads No. 319. They were then sent back to open a road through to Regnieville, this the result of information received from the reconnaissance men, who were keeping up with the advance and covering all roads, the idea being that if heavy obstacles were ahead it was intended to drop minor work, also to procure more men and push up to the critical points. As the reconnaissance reports showed the roads through Thiaucourt cleared, with only trivial shell holes, it was no longer necessary to prepare a way for the guns, while it was important to get the main road cleared for ammunition. They were recalled from this work at 9:30 P. M.; and again sent to the forward battalion of the 15th Field Artillery in the Bois de Heichs. The following day they buried American dead and horses.

The section with the 12th Field Artillery constructed a road across the trench system to the Bois d'Euvezin, cutting 8 belts of wire, filling 6 trenches and bridging 3 others, with material taken from the trenches. The batteries were in position and firing at the proper time. This detail continued through to the Bois du Bear Vallon, where it had been decided the advancing battalion would move, Very little work was required on the road. They were then put to work opening up and cleaning a water-supply system for use of the artillery. The following day was spent in burying German dead and horses around the battery positions. In addition to the engineers on this work, the artillery placed part of their cannoneers under the direction of Engineer N. C. O.'s for work in getting through the German trench system, after which they were returned to their organizations.

BLANC MONT:

In the Champagne the method was similar to that used in the St. Mihiel drive, in that advanced reconnaissance was made directly with the advancing infantry. No time was given for preliminary reconnaissance, the maps being relied upon entirely for the class of work the Engineers would be called upon to perform, and these were found sufficient. The amount of manual labor expended was considerably less than in the St. Mihiel drive; but, while the latter was a quiet drive; much of the work done during the Champagne drive was under heavy shell fire and machine gun fire. Here, as at St. Mihiel, the detail was divided into halves, one going to the 15th Field Artillery and the other to the 12th Field Artillery.

The detail with the 15th Field Artillery left Somme-Py at the "H" hour, its mission being to open up the Somme-Py—Medeah Farm Road. This road was under continuous artillery fire, and the first day it was necessary to work the men at 30 paces interval, filling shell holes, removing dead animals, trees, etc.; which was the principal work carried on.; All culverts and bridges were investigated and found safe. One kilometer north of Somme-Py, the German trenches crossed the road, and here a mine was located which it was decided to blow instead of pulling the charge. It was undercharged and did little damage. The infantry were advancing slowly and the road was in fair shape for artillery, so the latter part of the first day this detail was used "mopping up." The following day this detail opened up the Medeah Farm—Blanc Mont Road for one-way traffic. and was then returned to the company.

The detail with the 12th Field Artillery constructed a bridge across the Py River, at a point approximately one kilometer west of Somme-Py, this bridge being a makeshift affair about 100 yards from a bridge destroyed by the Germans and which they were still shelling. This bridge was built before the "H" hour and was used by the tanks in moving up, the Artillery crossing here later in the day, after which the bridge had to be re-built and was then used in moving ammunition forward. A road 3 kilometers in length was built north from the bridge to Blanc Mont, filling 6 trenches and numerous shell holes, all this work being done under fire. One battery was being fired on by machine-guns and a squad was detailed to dig them in. The road between Somme-Py and Blanc Mont was repaired sufficiently to pass caissons. The following day, details kept the roads in the rear open, and, on the fourth day, opened the two roads between Blanc Mont and St. Etienne. The advanced reconnaissance of this section had located a bridge 300 meters east of St. Etienne in good shape, so no attempt was made to repair the bridge in the town which had been destroyed. This detail was then returned to the company.

The following is quoted from a report, showing the unusual variety of work done by our engineers in assisting the artillery:

When the 12 Artillery moved up, it was under machine gun fire from its left all the way until it reached its position. Sgt. Stimel dug them in under fire the entire time. He sent a runner from me; I took 3 or 4 men from the engineers with the 15th, some marines came back to help with 2 machine guns, the artillery sent about 20 men and one machine gun. With this bunch, we mopped up, killed 3 or 4 Germans but the rest got away.  * * *  Later, when the other division took over, the artillery became somewhat worried because of the German machine guns on top of the ridge, so we (engineers) strung a line of some 28 guns across our front. Nothing happened, so this was of small importance.

ARGONNE-MEUSE:

On the morning of the attack in the Argonne-Meuse drive, the artillery detail repaired a stretch of about 2 kilometers of road, beginning about 2 kilometers out of Fleville. From the end of this repaired stretch a road was built across fields and old battle ground, including a stretch which had been bombarded by our artillery a few hours previously. This was to permit one battalion of the 15th Field Artillery to advance and support our still advancing troops. About a kilometer of road was then prepared for the other battalion across fields and nearby bombarded territory, it being unable to use the road built for the other battalion on account of echeloning to a more forward position. A crossing was prepared under heavy shell fire across the "St. Georges Creek," shell holes were repaired and obstacles removed from the road to a position about 3 1/2 kilometers beyond the creek. Rapid advance allowed only limited reconnaissance.

The next morning, at Landreville, the two consolidated details with the 75's, made reconnaissance of vicinity and repaired badly damaged roads for one regiment to advance to vicinity of "Bayonville et Chennery." The next day, a reconnaissance was made of country and roads between Bayonville, Nouart and Fosse. It was impossible to cut across fields on account of wet weather, and roads were almost impassable. However, by the following morning, sufficient work had been done to allow one battalion to go into position along the Nouart—Fosse Road, and another battalion to move to vicinity of Fosse.

The rapid advance of the infantry, again making it necessary to eshelon [sic] the rear battalions away forward immediately, did not allow time for further reconnaissance of the country. Judging from the country already passed over, it was decided that the only practicable thing to do was to get the old main roads in such shape that the guns and ammunition could move over them. Furthermore, the condition of the roads, the mud, and the weakness of artillery horse-power made it necessary to concentrate all force on one road, and forced upon us the undesirable alternative of making both light artillery regiments operate over the same roads and support their sectors from the same territory. However, by night practically the two entire regiments had been moved from the vicinity of Fosse—Nouart to La Forge Farm, a distance of more than 6 kilometers.

The next day, reconnaissance was made of the country up the valley to the Farm de Beaulieu, and up the main road to the Petite Foret Farm. One regiment moved to the latter place in the evening and the other to the former place. Here it was again necessary to negotiate the bad roads and, in addition, many hundreds of yards of 60 cm. railroad had to be torn out of the road in the route to the Farm de Beaulieu. Also, a 12-foot span bridge had to be built with such material as could be picked up on the spot, and with no tools expect [sic] picks, shovels and axes. This bridge was over a creek and the banks were about 7 feet deep.

It had now gotten to the point where it required almost a week to make the trip back for rations, and from 2 to 3 days to send back and bring up a half caisson (the entire double caisson could not be pulled) of ammunition. Men were being evacuated from exhaustion and lack of nourishment. The artillery found it necessary to shoot horses which were abandoned because of exhaustion. In this emergency, the engineers jumped in to help, worked on wheels and in some cases even drove horses.

Reconnaissance showed that a good, hard highway ran from Beaumont down to an intersection with a 60 cm. railroad, which ran up from the Chateau de Belval. It was also found possible to get together enough material to repair the railroad for about 4 kilometers and relay the track torn up, also to repair about 6 small railroad cars which were found. This work was begun and was completed in time for the proposed crossing of the river on the night of November 10th. However, it was necessary to get up another platoon of Engineers to work on the railroad.

In the meantime, the two regiments moved forward again, one to a position along the Beaumont—Mouzon Road, the other to the vicinity in advance of Yoncq. Also, a careful reconnaissance was made of our entire sector up to the river, and a day was devoted to making a long range reconnaissance of the country opposite our sector,—on the other side of the river,—then held by the enemy. Preparations were being made for the building of a bridge across the river. Material and additional men were brought up to throw an artillery bridge across on November 11th—however, the armistice coming into effect at 11:00 A. M.; prevented this work from being carried out.

COMMENTS:

There is no question of the ability of the Engineers to facilitate the rapid movement of Artillery over difficult country, especially that which has previously been subjected to shell-fire, and entrenched areas. That the Artillery recognize this is expressed in a letter of appreciation we received after the St. Mihiel advance. They were many times able to echelon rear batteries and continue the rolling barrage without interruption, which would have been impossible without the assistance of the Engineers. We found their reliance on the Engineers constantly increasing as they absorbed the idea of the mission of the Divisional Engineer Troops and their relation to the other units of the division.

The greatest possible assistance can be rendered the Artillery by the Engineers only when we have the complete confidence of the Artillery, to the extent that they will give full and complete advance information of their instructions, the possible and probable movements of their units, in sufficient time that proper measures may be taken to fully and economically utilize the Engineer forces available. One regiment gave us all the information they had as quickly as it was received by them, constituting copies of movement orders, etc. We were enabled to prepare routes in advance to the new battery positions. This regiment never lost a moment in moving to positions on account of road conditions. We built for them across country many roads that were never used, however, if it had been necessary to move into territory served by these roads, they were ready. We were satisfield [sic] in the knowledge that we had done all that was necessary.

With the other regiment it was entirely different, as they were exceedingly conservative of information and, generally, we were unable to get any idea of their future intentions. Of course, we knew the sector they were to cover, and about all we could do was to open one road for forward movement, and leave them to proceed to their battery positions as best they might without building lateral roads. With this regiment we left a squad with each Battalion to assist during the move. This was a waste of the forces at our disposal,—they had nothing to do except during moves,—but, as we never knew when a move was contemplated, it was necessary to keep the men where they could do some good. The Battalion Commanders gave us all the information they could, but, generally, it was but a few moments before the time set to move before they themselves possessed any knowledge of the position to be taken. Much that we might have done of material assistance was necessary passed up, especially so in regard to lateral roads. They would leave the main road and wait until we could cut wire or fill trenches in locations we had no idea they intended to move into. The value of cooperation as one of the essential requisites to successful operation cannot be better realized than in the comparison of the work we were able to do for the two regiments of artillery with which we worked.

Information regarding the condition over which we were to move was of extreme importance, not only as a base for the proper assignment of construction material, and working details, but also as showing where movements could be made with the least drain of the available engineer forces at our disposal. We were many times able to show the artillery routes to positions, other than that indicated as the one over which they would move, which materially reduced the work required of the Engineers. The most satisfactory method for our work was to have the proposed battery positions located on the maps, leaving the route to be used to our judgment.

In order to have all available information as far forward as possible and to get this back to where it was of any value, we used a special reconnaissance detail for our exclusive work. This detail covered the entire divisional front, keeping up with the Infantry, it being their mission to cover all roads, including trails, in the sector as fast as the infantry advanced. The reports covered the condition of existing roads, bridges, etc., the ground in the section, whether hard or soft, timber, light heavy, or brush, estimating in man-hours the probable time required to make repairs sufficient to pass light guns with one-way traffic. The reconnaissance men stayed always in the extreme advanced zone, each man having 4 Runners assigned to him who carried the reports back regularly at intervals of an hour and a half. The reports were carried to locations designated by the officer in charge who, at a set time, would be at a certain coordinate. The reconnaissance men were kept advised of the meeting place for at least 3 successive moves. This method worked successfully, the reports came back promptly, and the trained reconnaissance personnel, having plenty of runners, were without an excuse for leaving the advanced areas, as the Runners carried food back when necessary so they were probably better fed than the infantry. The reconnaissance was, of course, divided into zones, for which the responsibility for the proper covering and reports was definitely designated.

This work was extremely important; the reconnaissance men, all Sergeants, were especially trained for the work. From two to four reconnaissance parties were used, requiring from 10 to 20 men. As the working detail used with the Artillery was 58 men, the size of the reconnaissance detail is a good indication of the importance placed on reconnaissance and the quick return of desired information. Maps were used largely in determining the tools and material to be taken,—this, of course, prior to jumping off. They were also of use in determining the sectors to be covered by each reconnaissance detail, otherwise they were of little value. All the permanent roads were more or less cut up by shell fire, or blocked by trees, and no attempt was made to do more in the way of repairs than was absolutely necessary for the one-way passage of caissons. Shell holes were passed by flattening the slope and throwing the material into the bottom, trees were pulled to one side or trimmed sufficiently to give passage, and "duds" were moved to clear the road by at least 20 meters, this distance being used because on numerous occasions we later found return traffic using the fields. This, following the road closely, was in reality widening the road to four-way traffic.; By moving the "duds" a distance of 20 meters, the new traffic was not liable to cause further handling. Also, if possible, the "duds" were moved to the right of the road, this side being seldom used by traffic.

In building roads across country attempt was made to keep the road on reverse slopes about half-way up, if possible. Whenever possible, ridges were crossed in woods. In crossing smalle [sic] rises the roads were located so that wood on adjacent forward hills would act as a partial screen, a detour being necessary in order to do this. It was considered important enough to have the location supervised by the officer in charge and, where several roads were being constructed at the same time, this was rather difficult but, by taking the Sergeants over the routes, they were able to follow later with their working details and get the desired results. The roads constructed were necessarily crude, shell holes were detoured or sloped, trenches filled, creeks crossed with any material available if having soft bottoms, otherwise with hard bottoms the banks were sloped. This is not good practice, and, whenever possible, a crossing was put in above water; as regardless of the nature of the bottom, it soon becomes soft and at night the ammunition has trouble getting up. In crossing trenches the use of the Portable Artillery bridge is of great assistance. This is a two-section affair, each section 3' 6"x12', making the bridge 7'x12'. Each section weighs about 600 pounds and is intended to be carried on the caissons. Where trenches are known to exist at critical points, and where a delay in filling trenches must be avoided, the artillery is willing to transport the bridges, but the weight is objectionable and, on a supposition of what might be ahead without certain knowledge, they objected and always moved without the bridge. If the maps show numerous trenches close together they bring up the bridge but, where only a few show, the filling can be done before the artillery arrives. In the old trench system in the St. Mihiel drive these bridges were of great value,—the crossing in the time alloted [sic] would have been impossible without them. In the Champagne and in the Meuse-Argonne they were of no value,—loose logs were used in bridging trenches, logs taken from trenches were placed in two layers with about 6" of dirt on top, also one layer of logs with sheet iron covered with dirt, the logs being about 4" or 5" in diameter. One regiment passed over but it was necessary to keep one man at each crossing putting the dirt back on. The quickest method of filling trenches was found to be the grading of approaches on both sides, filling the trench with excavated material. The fill must be higher than the approach and some material, such as brush, small logs or limbs of trees, etc.; put on top of fill and covered with enough dirt to keep them in place. This distributes the load on the fill and prevents the settlement pocket which causes trouble with the animals, slowing up the crossing.

The artillery was not in position long enough to require emplacements. They were at times subjected to machine-gun fire,—operating their guns, they did not have time to prepare defensive measures. The Engineers threw up mounds of dirt on the side receiving fire, also constructed narrow slit-trenches around each gun for use of the crew when not firing. Camouflage was not used,—the batteries were not in position long enough to require this, were always located on reverse slopes, and when set up in open filds [sic fields] they put nets over the guns. The Engineers had nothing to do with this.

When the Engineers were first attached to the Artillery, an elaborate assortment of tools was carried in the combat wagons. No use was found for the most of these; so that, in the later operations, the following were discarded as part of the equipment; hand-saws, cross-cut saws, block and tackle, jacks, and rope. We found that a shovel and heavy wire-cutter for each man, with one-fifth shovels and one-fourth axes, 4 chain saws, powder, fuse, etc.; was all the equipment necessary. With this equipment trussed bridges were built, using barbed wire found in the vicinity, for iron. The organization, other than the reconnaissance section, gave 7 Sergeants for each 50 men. They were divided into details of about 10, with a Sergeant in charge, two such details being under the supervision of a 1st Class Sergeant. The N. C. O.'s were carefully picked and thoroughly instructed in their work, were men capable of acting on their own initiative with the full assurance that they would be backed up by their officer. They were instructed not to take orders from any Artillery officer as to how the work should be done, that the Artillery would do nothing more than indicate what they wanted, leaving the method of doing it entirely up to the Engineer N. C. O. in charge. This applied also to such prisoners and men furnished by the Artillery to assist in the work. Each N. C. O. was furnished with a blank order returning him to his company, this to be used only in case the Artillery officers should interfere with the performance of the work. Being attached to the Brigade, and not to the units, enabled the transferring of sections from one regiment to the other where necessary, also gave the Artillery Regimental Commander less chance to interfere in the work.

The men were rationed with the artillery as a whole, and not with any particular battery, this being necessary as the men were covering the movements of all batteries and were always ahead of the forward element. The Artillery did not like this arrangement,—it made the distribution of rations difficult. The reconnaissance men had individual divisonal [sic] orders to eat at any kitchen. All packs were carried in wagons when possible, otherwise they were carried on the Artillery caissons.

 
United States, and W. A. Mitchell. 1920.
The Official History Of The Second Regiment Of Engineers And Second Engineer Train, United States Army, In The World War.
[San Antonio]: [San Antonio printing Co.].
 
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