Kindly translated by John Roberts
Drawn freely from ``American Armies and Battlefields in Europe'', Center of Military History United States Army. 1938. Center of Military History United States Army. 1938.
In face of the urgency created by the German offensive on the 21st. March 1918, General Pershing placed all his forces then available in Europe at the disposition of General Foch. Amongst these units, the 1st. U.S. Division which, on the 5th. April had been positioned in the region North of Paris, received on the 27th. April, the responsability for a sector to the West of Montdidier, in the 6th. Corps of the French 1st. Army. This was the first time, on an active battle front, that an American Division took up position.
At that time the Germans were halfway through their series of big offensives, and their future attack could include the sector of the 1st. Division. The activity and firing on this front were so great that it was difficult to prepare a defensive position.
The ground in front of the American sector was the hill on which the village of Cantigny is built. This not only gave an excellent view for the Germans to observe the American sector, but also masked from the Americans the offensive movements and activity in the German rear.
At the beginning of May, the command of the division was transfered to the French 10th. Army Corps and in the middle of May it was decided to dislodge the Germans from their position in Cantigny, in order to reduce the difficulties in holding this part of the front.
The 28th. Infantry Regiment of the 1st. Division was chosen to conduct the attack and during several days rehearsed it's plans on similar ground at the rear. During the attack the regiment received the support of the American and French artillery, of machine gun fire, mortars, 37 mm. guns, tanks, flame-throwers, Engineers and two companies of the 18th. Infantry Regiment.
The assault was launched at 6.45 am the 28th May and despite a lively main resistance from behind the village as well as artillery and machine gun fire on the left flank, all the objectves were rapidly achieved. The construction of trenches, laying of barbed wire and the preparation of strong points on the recently gained ground, was undertaken immediately.
The German reaction was immediate and particularly violent, showing the German will to break the moral of the Americans. Counter-attack after counter-attack was launched against the captured position during the following two days. As from midday on the 28th. May, during 72 hours, the American lines around Cantigny were the subject of intense shelling by all calibres of the enemy Artillery. At the end of this bombardement, the Americans still held all their positions. The Germans had to resign themselves to their failure.
During the defense against the German counter-attacks, the two companies of the 18th. Infantry in reserve and one company of the 26th. were brought up to the front.
The capture of Cantigny was the first big attack carried out by an American division. It is considered to be a great exploit and of particular value to the Allies as an illustration of the aptitude for combat of the American troops, who were beginning to arrive in France. This engagement took place the day after the German offensive of 27th. May against the Chemin des Dames, it was perceived by the Allies, as a ray of sun in a particularly menacing sky.
The 2nd. of June, the 1st. Division took over responsability for a slightly wider part of the front., in order to free French troops to be useful elsewhere. The 3rd., to the north of Cantigny, the front line was moved slightly foreward to improve it's position. During the day of the 9th. June, the division was severely shelled for the Germans began their major offensive between Montdidier and Noyon, to the east of the sector occupied.
The 1st. Division remained in the lines, in all, for 73 days with losses mounting to 5200 killed, wounded and missing. It was relieved on the 8th. July and was to play, ten days later, a very important part in the battle south of Soissons, in the scope of the 10th. French Army (Général Mangin).
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