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Chapter IV. — Saint Mihiel
(July 31, 1918 to September 27, 1918)

Maps / Photos / Misc.

After its strenuous fighting at Chateau Thierry and Soissons the 2nd Division was badly in need of a rest, so General Headquarters decided that this organization should go to a quiet sector and indulge in trench operations until it was ready for another operation. Further along in this record it will be shown, however, that there was very little resting and that the 2nd Division was very soon shoved into the fighting again. On July 30th the 2nd Engineers entrained for its new area, and on July 31st, it detrained at Nancy, and marched to Champigneulles. Here it was given special engineer drills for five days.

New System of Records.

Colonel Mitchell had found at Chateau Thierry and Soissons that experience in battle showed that certain changes were necessary in the administration of the regiment and system of keeping records; consequently he issued a set of standing instructions prescribing the duties of the various members of the regimental headquarters, and of the company offices. It had been found that the company offices were absolutely unable to continue their paper work during a battle, so he decided to use a system somewhat similar to the British Base Record Office, that is, all the men of the company headquarters were placed under the personnel officer of the regiment and the personnel officer's duties were first, to see that the paper work of the regiment was properly administered, and second, when the regiment was in battle, to select a safe place somewhere in the rear where none of his personnel could be killed. His system was put into operation about a month later by order of the 2nd Division, and about two months later for the whole army by order of General Headquarters. Its value in the regiment became evident at once. The company commanders did not have to worry about paper work. The regimental commander was twice told by the division adjutant that his personnel officer kept up his work in excellent shape, and on one occasion he was told that his records were the best in the division, and that these duties were more promptly and properly administered.

The mail of the regiment had not been receiving attention. A soldier wants his mail above all things, so a card index was made of all the men who were, or had been with the regiment, and special orderlies were detailed on the mail and relieved from all other duty. As a result, the mail was distributed up to date for the first time in four months. It was also found that the mail of the soldiers of the regiment was constantly being addressed to the wrong place, in other words, that the soldiers had not written their new address when they joined the 2nd Engineers. To remedy this, every soldier was ordered to write a post card to at least one home address, so that his mail would be sent to the proper place. The Red Cross printed the post cards, and all the soldier had to do was to sign his name and to address the card. About two months later the results of this order became evident, as mail for all members of the regiment came straight to the regiment. Incidentally about two months later General Headquarters issued a similar order directing all soldiers to send their addresses to their home.

At this time the regimental commander issued an order forbidding volunteering; he decided that every man would do his duty, and that the average of the regiment would be maintained possibly at a little higher standard if no volunteering was allowed, because volunteers were called for only in specially dangerous work, and he saw no reason why more of the best men should be killed than of the poorest. All soldiers of the regiment had always obeyed orders without question, and the future showed that they continued to do so.

On August 3rd Lieut.Col. Brown was relieved from duty with this regiment and returned to the United States, where he was promoted to Colonel. Lieut.-Col. Pullen, formerly of the Tank Corps, was assigned to the regiment on August 5th. Major Snow was relieved from duty with the regiment; and Captain Steiner, promoted to Major on August 1st, was assigned to command the 1st Battalion.

On August 5th, the 2nd Division started to take over the line of trenches in the Marbache Sector. The 2nd Engineers marched to the woods one mile northwest of the Belleville, near Pont-a-Mousson. The night was unusually dark and the rain unusually heavy, in fact, the heaviest rain we saw during the war; consequently, the regiment lay down on the ground in the rain, and did not establish a camp until morning.

The 2nd Division, having taken over the Sector Marbache on August 9th, relieving the 64th French Division, Companies "C" and "F" were detailed to continue fortification work in the zone of principal resistance. These companies were sent out in several detachments for work on Groupes de Combat, wire entanglements, abris, trench construction and general fortification of this sector. This was the continuation of the work which the French Engineers had been carrying on for several years. Approximately 720 infantrymen per day were also worked on trench construction under supervision of the Engineers, and great progress was made towards the completion of the work in this sector.

On August 15th, the 2nd Division was relieved by the 82nd, and the four companies of the 2nd Engineers, who had not been actively engaged in the sector, were marched to their new station at Camp Bois de l'Eveque near Toul. Companies "C" and "F" continued their work on fortifications until August 18th, at which time they marched to join the regiment at the new camp.

Record in Target Range Construction.

Immediately on arrival at Camp Bois de l'Eveque, the regimental commander saw why his regiment had been sent there. There were the Image of picture 207 beginnings of a target range and he was to make a real range. The French targets did not fit our system and there were very few French targets anyhow; consequently, where we thought we had a target range, we found that we had to build one, and actually we used only four of the French target pits, The Machine gun battalions of the 2nd Division and some infantry battalions were also in the camp, the total garrison being about 5,000 men and the regimental commander, who was also commander of the camp, put everybody to, work. Three sets of men were worked steadily from morning to night, each being worked one-third of the day and allowed to rest the remainder of the day. Matters were pushed; the work began about daybreak and ended at 9:00 P. M. As a result, at the end of two days, 40 targets were available for firing, and at the end of five days a target range of 80 targets was being used. In the seventeen days at Camp Bois de l'Eveque, practically all of the 2nd Division came to Camp Bois de l'Eveque and went through a short course of target practice. This target practice was particularly valuable, and it is believed that it is the only case on record where a whole division went through a course of target practice during active operations. Lieut.-Col. Holcomb of the Marines, who had been a member of the Marine team in national target competitions, was sent to Camp Bois de l'Eveque to superintend operations.


The 2nd Engineers seized this chance to do some training. As stated before, the regiment had never been given enough training, but it was constantly seizing every opportunity to improve. Bridge drills were instituted, wire cutting teams were organized, two days were spent on infantry combat drill, and the whole regiment was instructed in hasty fortifications.

The next operation was sure to be an offensive one, consequently wire cutters were especially important, and the infantry pioneer platoons from the Infantry and Marine Brigades were turned over to the Engineers for instruction. The number was not sufficient, so special engineers were selected from each of our companies and joined to these infantry pioneer platoons; in fact, the wire cutters as finally used consisted more of engineers than of infantry pioneers. One squad of wire cutters was organized for each infantry platoon in the front line. Each squad of wire cutters consisted of four men, two with wire cutters and two with axes. The two with wire cutters went ahead and cut the wire, the third man with the axe cut down and broke the posts, and the fourth man cleared a space big enough for a wagon. After three days practice, these wire cutting squads became very efficient, and in a test against time, they cut a path through a 60 yard belt of ordinary smooth wire in about 2 minutes, that is, they cut about one-fourth as fast as the marching rate. Special squads were trained also in the use of bangalore torpedoes, as it was thought some opportunity might arise for their use. The Regimental commander also required special drills in laying out fortification lines, with every man assisting in the work. Points were given the battalion commanders representing the ends of their line, and the battalions were deployed as skirmishers, with large or small intervals, depending on total length of line to be fortified; each man was then required to select his most suitable position for local defense, thus representing a squad or platoon in actual defense; the platoon commanders then coordinated these local defenses. Special emphasis was placed by the regimental commander on this work, because at Soissons, the 2nd Division had gone faster than the divisions on its right and left, and gaps possibly requiring hasty fortification were left on either flank. A study of the map showed that the St. Mihiel drive might develop a similar situation, as it actually did; and the Verdun drive later, which was also foreseen, developed the same situation.

Lieut.-Col. Strong was assigned to the 2nd Engineers on August 24th, relieving Lieut.-Col. Pullen who was again placed on duty with the Tank Corps, his short absence having shown them that he could not be spared.

At Camp Bois de l'Eveque the regiment received its first decorations. Lieut. Jesse Gover, Company "B," 2nd Engineers, received the "Croix de Guerre, avec palme," and Private Louis D. Goodrich, Company "A," 2nd Engineers, was given the Distinguished Service Cross.

A review was held when the medals were presented to these two with a number of others in the division. Units were present representing every organization in the division, and General Ely of the 3rd Brigade was the reviewing officer. He especially complimented two organizations for their appearance in the review, and one of these was the 2nd Engineers.

On the evening of September 1st, the regiment left Camp Bois de l'Eveque for its new camp, Bois de la Cumejie. An intermediate stop was made at Aingeray that night, and the following day the regiment resumed the march and arrived at its destination about midnight of the same day. All marching and movement of troops and transport had to be done at night in order to maintain secrecy and avoid any possible observation. The difficulties encountered on this march were exceptionally hard. The camp at Bois de la Cumejie was established on September 3rd, and the men given a rest for the greater part of the day. For convenience, a message center was established at Bois Jure, this place being a kilometer from the regiment on the main Manoncourt-Royaumeix Road. For the three days, September 7th, 8th and 9th, the companies were given infantry drill, and also instruction by the various specialists of the regiment.

We left for Bois des Hayes, September 9th, arriving there the morning of the 10th. Camp was no sooner established here than the companies were ordered to be ready to advance.

The Problem of Battle.

The 1st American Army was to operate for the first time as an independent unit and attack the German in an old established position. The 2nd Division was given one of the hardest tasks, namely, to drive north of Thiaucourt, and cross the river there. We had the 5th Division on our right and the 89th on our left. It was evident that the Engineers must make preparation to cross the river at Thiaucourt, and must assist every one in getting over "No Man's Land"; the Artillery needed help; the tanks needed help; and we had plenty of work of our own to prepare the bridge for crossing the Rupt de Mad at Thiaucourt. Studies of the map were made, aerial photographs were thoroughly gone over, and all possible information was obtained from the French records. The regiment was finally divided as follows for the operations:

(a) Two companies, less a few detachments, as wire-cutters. (Almost a whole company of these two was later diverted to take care of the large tanks).
(b) Four platoons at Noviant Dump to load and unload material, and for emergency work which would later arise.
(c) Nine squads to go with the small tanks.
(d) Six squads to go with the Artillery.
(e) Two trap-hunting platoons, one to follow each attacking infantry regiment and look for traps, and to do other effective work.
(f) Balance of the regiment (about two and one-half companies) to follow in rear of the advancing troops and repair roads.
(g) Map section to follow the 3rd Brigade, and report concerning the character of the roads, and what work would be advisable on them.

As it was believed that the Thiaucourt Bridges would be destroyed, 24 trestles, 10 feet high, were made and placed ready on trucks so that they could be run forward for rebuilding these bridges. Three special squads from the plantoons [sic] at Noviant Dump were detailed for this work.

Two officers were especially detailed to study up beforehand and look out for the water supply. They were instructed to label such water as could be found and to be prepared to furnish all possible information, with their recommendations as to development of water points. In this instance a water monograph was obtained from the Army Engineer, and this information proved to be of extremely great value to the divisional engineer troops in the advance water reconnaissance. It was seen that it would constantly be of much benefit if Division Engineers were, prior to each operation, furnished a copy of the water monograph of the sector to be covered in the advance. This was not always done, in fact, it was the exception and not the rule. For this reason, it was impossible in many cases to obtain very valuable information, contained in these monographs, relative to water supply systems, bridges and river bottoms.

For road work, small bridges—Cheney mode—in half-sections were prepared and loaded on Artillery Caissons and Engineer wagons, and transported so that they could be thrown over the old and new trenches in “No Man's Land.’

Also, fascines were built for the tanks, so that the ditches and trenches could be filled. They were not considered as of much 'value, but the tanks wanted them and we built them.

Two wagon-loads of tools had been delivered at convenient points for each of the two regiments (9th and 23rd Infantry) which formed the attacking brigade, and four extra loaded wagons were held in reserve for the two regiments of the 4th Brigade, as they stated that they did not want any tools for the present.

The Army and Corps Engineers had stocked up engineer dumps at St. Jean, Noviant, Dieulouard, etc. Consequently there was no lack whatever of Engineer Material.

Road Work.

The infantry jumped off and we started in right behind them. For the road work we had divided the area in front into two parts, and given the troops two complete roads to be put through, based of course on changes which might be found in the area in front of them. The road to the west was to be used for a return road by empty wagons. The road to the east, via Remenauville, was to be used by loaded trucks and wagons in going forward, and empty trucks in returning. The companies started off promptly about a mile behind the front line and did very effective work immediately.

Those troops in charge of the west road (the return wagon-road) repaired very promptly about a mile of this road, threw the "Cheney" bridge across in several places where needed, and had gotten a wagon road across by 10:00 A. M., when it was suddenly discovered that this road had been assigned, by division staff, about twenty-four hours before to the 89th Division, and the 2nd Engineers had not been notified. The troops were immediately withdrawn and placed along the single road to Euvezin, through Remenauville, along with the other companies.

All companies combined worked very effectively on the road shown on the map as a paved road through Limey, Remenauville, thence N. W. to the main Thiaucourt highway. As the so-called paved road existed only on the map, and could only be found by digging through six inches of mud, and as it could not be found at all at Remenauville, it was decided to abandon it at 365.8—236.3 and go straight north from there to join the main highway from Regnieville to Thiaucourt, Instead of going three kilometers to the northwest through Euvezin and three kilometers to the northeast back to the Regnieville-Thiaucourt road on this paved road covered with mud.

Luckily, also, on this paved road, about 800 meters of road through the woods was discovered, which had been paved by the Germans.

The companies worked very hard on this road. Two large tank traps, about ten feet deep and eighteen feet long, were found, squarely in the middle of the road, and these had to be filled. Four others were found in our way, but it was not necessary to fill them. About twenty ditches and deep mine craters had to be filled. In fact, much of the road had to be entirely rebuilt. However, by 2:00 P. M. it was possible to get an automobile over the road, and the road continued to improve from this time on.

That night, at about 2:00 o'clock, it was decided that ammunition must come up in spite of the bad condition of the road, so Lieut. -Colonel Strong took position at Limey and allowed absolutely nothing but ammunition vehicles to come forward, while various engineer soldiers were distributed along the road with orders to go to work on the wheels, when necessary. All other traffic then on this road was pushed off until daybreak. All return traffic was halted at the north end of the road. The work on the wheels was very effective, as the ammunition got through, as well as portions of ammunition trains from the divisions on our right and on our left.

Before the beginning of operations, it had been learned that the Corps had available for each Division two Engineer companies and one Pioneer Company. As soon as the situation developed sufficiently, these troops were asked for and they were promptly furnished; arriving some time next day.

As the value developed of this one road through to Thiaucourt. the only road then across "No Man's Land" along the whole front, as far as could be learned, a great deal of assistance was sent from many directions. The two engineer companies and the pioneer company came up during the 13th. The replacements of the 3rd Brigade and those of the 4th Brigade also came up and did very effective work. The reserves of the Division were promised but they did not arrive; another Engineer regiment was promised us, but did not arrive in time to be of any particular value; several infantry regiments w^ere promised from the reserve Division, but they also did not arrive.

After the first night, during which the ammunition came through going north on our road, an arrangement was made with Corps Headquarters whereby all north-bound traffic would follow the main highway Regnieville-Thiaucourt of the division on our right, and the south-bound traffic would follow our road through Remenauville, west of Bois du Four to the Regnieville-Thiaucourt highway. Inspection by us next morning of this main highway showed that there was no road through Remenauville at all; so two of our 2nd Engineer companies, and all arriving assistance, were sent over to help on this road. Considerable progress had been made before two o'clock by troops of the 5th Division already working there. Consequently this road was passable with difficulty about 5:00 P. M. on September 13th with trucks, and at 6:30 P. M. the two companies of 2nd Engineers were taken off the Regnieville road, given supper at 7:00 P. M. and were allowed to rest until noon the next day. Reassembling companies, checking casualties, and other necessary readjustments were cared for in this period. From the afternoon of the 14th to the night of the 15th, the 2nd Engineers worked on the road north and south of Remenauville and on the road southeast of Thiaucourt, paving as much as possible of the unpaved sections and throwing the mud off the paved sections.

As an incident to show how closely some of this troops followed the front line, it is desired to add that at 4:30 P. M. on the day of the attack, two platoons of our troops were in Thiaucourt and beyond to repair the roads and incidentally took over the German Engineer Dump at Thiaucourt and made an inventory of its contents.

Bridge at Flirey, France 1918

It was found that the 60 c. m. railroad southwest of Thiaucourt was in fair condition. Eighteen locomotives were captured and about 10 of them could be operated after certain repairs. Company "F" was assigned on the 13th to repair this road from Remenauville to Thiaucourt. A message was sent early this date (13th) to the Corps Engineers requesting that the road be connected up from the south. The situation must have been foreseen, because very promptly the 21st Engineers appeared, and the road was connected up and operating in a precarious manner by noon of the 15th, all the way from Toul to Thiaucourt.

The captured locomotives were examined by Company "F" and several of them were put in operation. Company "D" assisted the 21st Engineers in laying the track, until our regiment was relieved. Company "D" also investigated the meter gauge road southwest from Thiaucourt, through Essey, Bernecourt to Noviant, but found that practically nothing but the roadbed existed. It was not practicable to repair this road at this time.

The Water Supply lieutenants investigated the Water Supply, especially in Thiaucourt, fixed leaks, and opened the system for gravity flow, but could not start the pumps to working. The situation was good when the Army Water Supply Regiment's men appeared. A map of the Water Supply system around Thiaucourt was ordered turned over to the Water Supply regiment's men. The map section under Captain J. A. Sargent, of the 2nd Engineers, became diverted from its original road investigation project, and presented a very full report concerning the water supply of Thiaucourt.

Fighting Engineers.

The wire cutters, under Captain Tucker S. Wyche, proceeded in the first line, with the 3rd Brigade. They remained with this line in its position northwest of Thiaucourt. Naturally, being engineers, they assisted greatly in organizing the position, though not particularly needed for this work.

When the 3rd Brigade was relieved on the night of September 13th-14th, the men under Captain Wyche were ordered back to duty with the 2nd Engineers.

The two trap hunting platoons followed behind the 3rd Brigade and found conditions about as expected. Two tank traps were found in locations reported by the Intelligence Department. In one or two cases, it was possible for these platoons to be useful in cutting wires leading to certain mines.

Promptly upon the capture of Thiaucourt, the bridges were taken over by the trap-hunters, the mine wires' were cut, and everything was made as safe as possible. To show the importance attached by the Germans to these bridges and also their probable disgust at their lack of foresight in not blowing them up. it is only necessary to bring out the fact that on September 14th they shelled these bridges, and secured two hits squarely on one of them and one hit about twenty feet away; all, however, without serious damage to the bridges.

The work done by these trap hunting platoons shows considerable energy and initiative as may be seen by the copy of a message below; (This message illustrates the speed with which Lieutenant Slade did his work) :

"From: C. O., 2nd Bn., 2nd Engrs.
"At: Camp 365.7—236.8
"Date: 14 Sept. 18. Hour 10:15 A. M. No. 1. Sent by Runner.

"To: C. 0., 2nd Engineers.

"1. Lt. Slade reports this A. M. (5:00 o'clock) general shelling over "forward area during night.

"2. Lt. Slade reports our tanks going up to line; occupation of Jaulny completed yesterday P. M., Marines in front. One squad of Lt. Slade's detachment under Sgt. Poteet captured 7 Germans and a machine gun in Bouillonville 12th Sept and with 8 infantry from the 89th cleared the town and captured several prisoners, including ten officers; prisoners turned over to 89th Am. Div. (?) He further reports that main 3-way road to Jaulny clear. 2 -way steel girder bridge 50 meters long was in shape for heavy traffic last night; mine chambers emptied. One trestle-pile bent Wooden bridge along side needs repair of one bent on enemy side before passable for traffic. He reports narrow-gauge line Thiaucourt-Ese to 5th Div. front was ready for operation last night. His steel gang with work trains is laying rail to meet Co. "F". He (Lt. Slade) has taken steam engineer and work train to Thiaucourt and works north to Jaulny. One detail is going on to Jaulny, presumably to reconnoiter, and rest of platoon is ready to go forward. Complete itemized inventory of dump at 364.9—240.2 has been made and filed there. A copy will be sent here later. I ordered Lt. Slade to remain on the job. Herewith copy of list of materials at Thiaucourt received last night from Lt. Slade. An itemized list of narrow gauge railroad material and supplies at Thiaucourt turned over to Lt. Wyman by me this morning.

"Co. "F" expects to have narrow gauge through to Thiaucourt by noon, and steam engines here.

All companies of the 2nd Battalion being organized with former personnel this morning.

10 men from Co. "E" sent to work on road Limey—6846—Remenauville as directed by Col. Mitchell. As truck had to go to Limey, I sent them on it with instructions to work back to Remenauville and report here at night. One squad Co. "E" putting water reservoir near Regt. Hqrs. in shape for use. Two plumbers Co. "F" tracing pipe line to reservoir. Balance of Co. "F" on narrow gauge.

"4. [sic] All battalion and company transportation supposed to be here, but "report not yet received. Ration wagons leave this morning.

"5. Messages to me here.

"PECK, Capt. Comdg."

By September 15th, the 78th Division had come up and the 303rd Engineers took over the work of the 2nd Engineers.

German Engineer Dumps has been found at 366.4—236.9. Thiaucourt and S. E. of Thiaucourt. These were filled with many articles of value and a list of supplies was furnished to the Colonel of the 303rd Engineers, duplicate lists being sent to the Corps Engineer for his information and that of the Army Engineers.

When the section was turned over to the Colonel of the 303rd Engineers, he was given maps, including one or two German maps, and a statement of conditions.

That night the regiment marched south to Ansauville. Regimental headquarters, the Division Engineer, and the Engineer Train remained at this place while the companies camped in the woods about three kilometers southwest of Ansauville.

On September 19th. the Corps Engineer ordered the 2nd Engineers to work on the road between Limey and Euvezin. That night, the regiment moved up to this area; but had worked only one day on the roads when it was ordered to move with the Division to the new area, near Toul. The regiment arrived, during the evening of September 21st, at its new station, the 2nd Battalion having marched 20 miles without a single man falling out. Regimental headquarters and the 2nd Battalion were at Fort d'Ecrouves and the 1st Battalion was billeted a short distance away at Pagney-derriere-Barine. The regiment remained in this area for six days during which time clothes were issued and the men were given the opportunity to readjust themselves. Again we seized the opportunity for training. A drill schedule was carried on for 8 hours per day, and ten percent of the men were given, each day, passes for the evening. The drill consisted of close order drills, and parades, which were especially emphasized, and some engineer drill. Several problems were worked out in the hasty location and organiztion of positions, the problems being similar to those at Camp Bois de l'Eveque, with a view to perfecting a method of hasty fortifications. This training was of great value.

  Officers Enlisted Men Total
Morning report of July 31, 1918 54 1476 1530
Lost by transfer, evacuation, etc 19 274 343
Gain by transfer, replacement, etc 23 579 602
Morning report of September 27, 1918 58 1731 1789
Summary of Results.

The campaign of St. Mihiel was exceedingly well prepared, and seemed very easy because very few men were killed. Even so, the American troops were at their best, and accomplished a great deal. The following is a statement of the results obtained by the 2nd Engineers:

(a) Built wagon road across "No Man's Land," by 10:00 A. M. of the day of attack. This was done by using "Cheney" bridges and throwing them over the trenches.
(b) Prepared the main road for truck traffic through the 2nd Division sector; filled up tank traps, shell holes, etc., and had a passable truck road across "No Man's Land" by 2:00 P. M., this being the first road available anywhere near us.
(c) Repaired five miles of German 60 c. m. railroad.
(d) Worked on the wheels of the ammunition wagons during the first night, so that the 2nd Division never lacked ammunition.
(e) Assisted very materially in getting the artillery across "No Man's Land." Our artillery got across before any other in the 1st Army. This was done by use of "Cheney" bridges carried by the artillery caissons, and used by our accompanying engineers.
(f) Helped on the roads of the division on our right.
(g) Assisted in the wire cutting and to a small extent in laying out the exploitation lines.
(h) Accompanied the tanks and helped them very materially. Destroyed a few German traps, and captured a few German prisoners.
(i) Seized and inventoried two German dumps.

Results justify the belief that all possible preparations were made, and that preparations were suitable. However, it is believed that the troops held back from the actual assault could have been profitably employed. It is possible to so organize these Infantry, Marine, and Engineer Reserves as to render them of especial value. They were sent forward promptly, but it is believed that they should have been organized with a view of being sent forward automatically instead of as a result of a call from the Division Engineer for assistance. Co-operation of all Division Troops in the work of road-building was unusually good, but this assistance could have been started earlier.

The great success of our artillery in getting across "No Man's Land" before any other artillery in the 1st Army showed that the method of assisting artillery by engineer details was an excellent one. It was habitually used in future campaigns.

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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