3rd DIVISION - SUMMARY OF OPERATIONS
(prepared by the American Battle Monuments Commission)
During the night of July 23-24, in accordance with their plans for the evacuation of the Marne salient, the Germans opposing the French XXXVIII Corps withdrew to a line Vincelles-l'Hérolle-le Charmel-Beuvardes.
In the 5th Infantry Brigade, the 4th Infantry attacked at 8 a. m. along the western slope of the ridge toward Le Charmel with the 3d, 2d and 1st Battalions in column in that order. The leading battalion dug in along the northern edge of wood No. 10 (part of Bois du Charmel), about 1,200 meters southwest of Le Charmel.
The 3d Battalion, 7th Infantry, advanced on the left of the 4th Infantry at 9 a. m. and took up a position in Forêt de Fère northeast of La Tieulerie Ferme, but not in the front line.
In the 6th Infantry Brigade, the 30th Infantry had relieved the 38th Infantry during the night of July 23-24. The 2d Battalion, plus Companies A and B, took over the lines in an around Jaulgonne. The 3d Battalion, plus Companies C an D, took over the lines on the ridge south and southwest of Les Franquets Ferme.
The 30th Infantry received orders at 7:3o a. m. to advance at 9 a. m. The 2d Battalion, with attached companies, moved forward at 11:3o a. m. on both sides of the Jaulgonne-le Charmel road, cleaning up machine-gun resistance. About 2 p. m. a mixed detachment crossed Ruisseau de la Belle Aulne: Being unsupported, it fell back about 6 p. m. and established a line east and north of Argentol. Parts of Companies A and B, attached to the 2d Battalion, advanced to the west of the Jaulgonne-le Charmel road and reached the northern edge of Bois du Charmel. Later in the afternoon these companies took up a position near the northern edge of the wood where they remained until the morning of July 25, when they rejoined the 2d Battalion near Argentol.
The 3d Battalion, 30th Infantry, advanced from the woods southwest of Les Franquets Ferme along the ridge toward Le Charmel. Overcoming machine-gun resistance, the battalion reached the buildings in the southwestern edge of Le Charme and wood No. 10 where a front-line position was organized during the afternoon.
To the east, the French 4th Division, which was relieving the French 73d Division, entered Forêt de Ris. There was no front-line contact with the 3d Division. To the west, the French 39th Division reached the eastern edge of Forêt de Fère where it was in contact with the 3d Division.
The French XXXVIII Corps, believing that the enemy was making a hurried retreat, ordered the pursuit to be pushed. Cavalry was to be ready to pass through the infantry at day-break, July 25.
The 3d Division ordered the advance to be continued at 4 a. m. by all elements of the 5th Infantry Brigade. The 30th Infantry was to be relieved by a passage of lines. The 5th Infantry Brigade issued orders at 2:30 a. m., July 25, for an advance in two columns, the 7th Infantry on the right and the 4th Infantry on the left.
The 7th Infantry, with the 3d Battalion leading, advanced east at 7:3o a. m., July 25, with the object of passing through the lines of the 2d Battalion, 30th Infantry, and continuing the attack in the right portion of the divisional zone. The leading Battalion came under heavy artillery fire in the vicinity of Argentol and developed strong resistance in the woods to the east of that place. The battalion took up the position formerly held by the 2d Battalion, 30th Infantry, which had drawn during the night. The 1st and 2d Battalions, 7th Infantry, came under shellfire in Bois du Charmel, and halted.
The 3d Battalion, 4th Infantry, advanced at 6 a. m. and by evening had taken and occupied Le Charmel. During the evening. the 2d Battalion, 4th Infantry, was moved into the village to help hold it against counterattack.
To the right, where the French Fifth Army had relieved the French Ninth Army, the French 4th Division advanced to the ravine of Ruisseau de la Belle Aulne in Forêt de Ris without contact with the 3d Division. To the left, the French 39th Division reached the highway separating Forêt de Fère and La Vente Jean Guillaume wood, where contact was established with the 3d Division.
The French XXXVIII Corps ordered an attack at 10 a. m. July 26, to be made by one regiment of the French 39th Division and two battalions of the 3d Division, with the capture of La Vente Jean Guillaume wood and the ridge north of La Fosse Ferme as objectives. This advance was to be supported on the left by the American 42d Division of the American I Corps.
The attack started at 4:5o p. m. The 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry, were the assault elements in the zone of the 3d Division. The French 39th Division could not advance. The two battalions of the 3d Division reached Le Charmel, but could not advance beyond the village. They were withdrawn from Le Charmel after dark. Liaison with the French 4th Division, which also failed to advance, was established east of Argentol.
The French Sixth Army planned to cross the Ourcq River, 5 kilometers northeast of Le Charmel, in an attack to start at 9:40 p. m., July 27. In the French XXXVIII Corps, the attack was to be made by the American 55th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division, which was to advance in two columns through the American 3d and French 39th Divisions at 9:40 p. m. It was to cover the entire corps front. The mission of the 3d Division in the attack was to protect the right flank of the corps by occupying with two battalions of the 5th Infantry Brigade the two northern corners of Forêt de Ris and the village of Ronchères.
During the night of July 26-27 the enemy withdrew to the Ourcq. Rear guards well supplied with machine guns covered the withdrawal. The German retirement opposite the French XXXVIII Corps was first observed about 8 a. m. The French 39th Division took up the pursuit promptly, reaching Courmont at 4 p. m.
Meanwhile, at 11:15 a. m. the French XXXVIII Corps issued telephonic instructions to the 3d Division to advance immediately to the northern edge of Forêt de Ris, to Ronchères and to the southwestern edge of Bois Meunière. At 1 p. m. division orders were issued.
The 5th Infantry Brigade advanced shortly thereafter with the 3d Battalion, 4th Infantry, leading. Machine-gun resistance at Le Charmel Château was eliminated by patrols from the 2d and 3d Battalions, and the 3d Battalion continued on to Villardelle Ferme. At 8:3o p. m. instructions were issued by the division to organize a line from the northwestern corner of the Forêt de Ris to Cote 190, southeast of Courmont. Accordingly, the 5th Infantry Brigade advanced the 3d Battalion, 4th Infantry, to the line from Villardelle Ferme to Cote 190, and ordered the 7th Infantry to hold a line from Villardelle Ferme to Ruisseau de la Belle Aulne. This latter was not a front-line position. Contact was established to both flanks.
Because of the changed situation, the attack planned for the night of July 27 by the French Sixth Army was canceled and the American 28th Division was ordered to relieve the French 39th Division. While this relief was in progress, the French XXXVIII Corps ordered the 28th Division to carry out the plan and attack at 11 p. m., July 27. The relief was not accomplished in time to make this attack.
Additional instructions from the corps directed the advance guard to maintain close contact with the enemy. If he did not make a stand on the line of the Ourcq, they were to push on to the Vesle River, about 19 kilometers north of Courmont.
At 5:45 a.m., July 28, the 3d Division ordered the 5th Infantry Brigade to advance at once along the Ronchère-Cierges road with the mission of reaching the Vesle River during the day.
With the 3d Battalion, 4th Infantry, leading, the 5th Infantry Brigade crossed the Ourcq and, about 3 p. m., captured Ronchères. This attack was assisted on the right by the French 4th Division, which was in close liaison with the American. To the left, the American 28th Division reached the Ourcq River during the morning.
Pursuant to orders from the French XXXVIII Corps, the 3d Division, at 2:30 p. m., ordered the 5th Infantry Brigade to continue its attack, with Bois des Grimpettes and the high ground east of Cierges as objectives. The advance was to be made in conjunction with flank divisions. This order was transmitted to the 3d Battalion, 4th Infantry, which pushed on for several hundred meters north of Ronchères, where it was held up by machine-gun and artillery fire. Contact was established with the French 4th Division by patrols, but there was no front-line contact with the American 28th Division.
The French XXXVIII Corps directed the 3d Division to continue the attack at 3:40 a. m., July 29, without change in objectives. Orders of the 3d Division made no change in distribution of troops and set no time for the resumption of the advance.
The 4th Infantry attacked at 6:50 a. m., with the 2d Battalion leading, supported by the 1st Battalion. The advance reached the northern edge of Hill 226 and Les 18 Arpents ravine, where it was stopped by fire from Bois Meunière and Bois des Grimpettes. The attack was made in conjunction with flank divisions, which also made but slight gains. Contact was established with the French, but there was no front-line liaison with the 28th Division, which had advanced to the southwestern slope of Cote 188.
The 3d Division, less artillery, was relieved by the American 32d Division during the night of July 29-30, the relief of the front-line elements of the 4th Infantry being completed after midnight. Command of the zone of advance passed to the 32d Division at 11 a. m., July 30. The 3d Division, less artillery, assembled in the vicinity of Château-Thierry, south of the Marne, in reserve of the French XXXVIII Corps. The 3d Field Artillery Brigade supported the 32d Division until August 2. The 3d Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, remained in support of the 32d Division until August 2.
July 31 - Aug. 2
The evacuation of the Marne salient by the Germans continued according to schedule, the final phase of the retreat being a withdrawal to the north banks of the Aisne and Vesle Rivers. This movement was executed in two stages, the first on the night of August 1-2, when a small bridgehead was occupied south of the Vesle, and the second on the night of August 2-3, when the main body crossed the Vesle. Strong outposts established south of the river were to fight for the possession of the Vesle valley, and the north bank was to be held at all costs. Any Allied troops who crossed the river were to be counterattacked promptly and driven back to the south bank.
Upon discovering the German withdrawal, the French ordered a vigorous pursuit by advance guards composed of all arms. The main body of the troops, however, was not to become engaged unless serious resistance was encountered, and was not to cross the Vesle River until the advance guards were firmly established on the north bank.
The 6th Infantry Brigade was detached from the 3d Division on August 2, and ordered to join the French III Corps, which advancing from the Ourcq to the Vesle River to the right he French XXXVIII Corps.
The brigade moved by truck during the night of August 2-3 to the west of Goussancourt, 13 kilometers south of St. Gilles, and reported to the French III Corps, which directed it to move to the vicinity of St. Gilles. The brigade order issued at 4:50 p. m. designated the 38th Infantry to lead the march. Movement was started at 6:3o p. m.
Acting on information that its advance guards had crossed the Ardre River at Courville and St. Gilles and were in contact with the enemy on the line, La Cense Ferme-Hill 179Chezelles Ferme (about 750 meters southwest of Fismes), the French III Corps issued orders at 8 p. m. for the 6th Infantry Brigade to form the main body of the left column of the corps and follow the advance guards. The latter were to push on across the Vesle during the night. If this could not be accomplished, there was to be a general attack for the purpose of forcing a crossing to commence at 3:3o a. m., August 4. The boundary between the two columns was to be : east edge of small woods 1 kilometer east of St. Gilles-Hill 179-Villette, all to the 6th Infantry Brigade.
RETURN TO THE AMERICAN MENU