28th DIVISION - SUMMARY OF OPERATIONS
(prepared by the American Battle Monuments Commission)
At 4:35 a. m., July 18, the French Sixth and Tenth Armies began the counteroffensive against the Marne salient. The attack took the enemy by surprise, and penetrated his lines between Soissons and Château-Thierry to the extent that his main artery of communication was seriously endangered. The German High Command at once ordered a retirement to the north bank of the Marne on the front of the French Ninth Army. The movement was to take place during the night of July 19-20. On July 19 the enemy decided to evacuate the Marne salient by a progressive withdrawal.
Aside from the artillery fire commencing at 5 a. m., there was no offensive activity by the Ninth Army on July 18. During the late afternoon and evening, in the zone of the 55th Infantry Brigade, the 1st Battalion, 103d Engineers, moved back to La Fourche Ferme, east of Grande Fontaine, and the 109th Infantry assembled in the woods north of Romandie. The 110th Infantry remained in the second position near Condé-en-Brie.
There was no change in the location or mission of the 55th Infantry Brigade between July 19 and 21, although the French 73d Division moved back to the Marne on July 20. The French crossed the river on July 22, and the 55th Infantry Brigade was transferred to the XXXVIII Corps.
There was no change in the location of units of the 56th Infantry Brigade on July 18 and 19. During the night of July 20-21 the 112th Infantry moved to the woods north of Charly, about 10 kilometers southwest of Château-Thierry, and the 111th Infantry rejoined the brigade at Les Grands Bordeaux. On July 21 the 111th Infantry moved to north of Château-Thierry, and the 112th Infantry to the woods north of Brasles. On July 22 the 56th Infantry Brigade was transferred to the American I Corps and placed at the disposal of the American 26th Division, with which it continued its operations in the Aisne-Marne Offensive.
In the afternoon of July 23 the 55th Infantry Brigade began to move to the area, Saulchery-Charly-Bois au Nord, about 10 kilometers southwest of Château-Thierry. During the night of July 26-27 it moved to the Marne between Mézy and Château-Thierry with the mission of guarding the river crossings. The 56th Infantry Brigade was in reserve of the American I Corps, north of Château-Thierry, while the artillery brigade was still in training.
At 8:35 p. m., July 26, the French Sixth Army had ordered an attack to be launched on the following day at 9:40 p. m. by the French XXXVIII Corps and American I Corps with the object of capturing the heights north of the Ourcq River and exploiting beyond.
At 11:50 p. m. the 28th Division was ordered to make this attack by passing the 55th Infantry Brigade, in two regimental columns, through the position of the American 3d and French 39th Divisions. These columns were to advance to the line of hills north of the Ourcq. During darkness, the bayonet only was to be used.
During the night of July 26-27 the enemy withdrew to the Ourcq River. On the morning of the 27th, when this retirement was discovered, the American 3d and French 39th Divisions took up the pursuit. At 9:30 a. m. the French XXXVIII Corps postponed the attack planned for the night of July 27-28, and directed the 28th Division to relieve the French 39th Division.
The 28th Division promptly notified the 55th Infantry Brigade that the night operation was suspended, but cautioned it to be ready to attack and directed it to follow the French at about 4 kilometers and keep advised of the situation of the front line. In the afternoon the division ordered the brigade to relieve the French 39th Division at nightfall and to take up the pursuit as soon as possible after the completion of the relief. The French light artillery already in the area was to remain in line and support the 28th Division, while the French engineers and signal troops were to be relieved by the 103d Engineers and 103d Field Signal Battalion, respectively. In the event that the French were stopped on the Ourcq, the 110th Infantry was to take over the front with one battalion and place its remaining battalions side by side on a line south of Courmont-Fresnes. The 109th Infantry was to be echeloned to the left rear.
The zone of action assigned to the 28th Division was as follows: Right boundary: Courmont (incl.)-Cierges (excl.).
Left boundary: Balanchères (excl.)-la Motte Ferme (incl.)-Sergy (excl.).
The American 3d Division, French XXXVIII Corps, was to the right of this zone and the American 42d Division, American I Corps, to the left.
In the course of the afternoon and evening of July 27 the French 39th Division occupied Courmont and Fresnes and its cavalry patrols reached the Ourcq River.
Pursuant to orders of the Sixth Army, the XXXVIII Corps, at 7:15 p. m., directed the execution of the attack order issued on the previous day. The advance was to commence at 11 p. m., July 27, preceded by a 10-minute artillery preparation. This order was received by the 28th Division while it was in the process of relieving the French 39th Division. In addition to the rapidly changing situation, rainy weather and a heavy fog hampered the entry into line, and the relief was not completed in time to make the attack at the designated hour. Meanwhile, the Sixth Army and the XXXVIII Corps ordered the troops to continue the pursuit without delay in case the Germans did not make a stand on the line of the Ourcq.
The 56th Infantry Brigade, 28th Division, was returned to the XXXVIII Corps, placed in corps reserve, and ordered to take up a position in the large wood southeast of La Croix Rouge Ferme.
The relief of the French continued during the night of July 27-28, and shortly after daybreak, July 28, the 28th Division was deployed on a 2 1/2 kilometer front extending from Courmont to La Cense in the following formation :
55TH INFANTRY BRIGADE
3d Battalion, 110th Infantry
1st Battalion, 110th Infantry
2d Battalion, 109th Infantry
2d Battalion, 110th Infantry
3d Battalion, 109th Infantry
1st Battalion, 109th Infantry
Companies of the 108th Machine-Gun Battalion supported each front-line battalion, and a battalion of the 103d Engineers was attached to each infantry regiment.
Shortly after the completion of the relief, the 110th Infantry attacked without artillery support in a northeasterly direction.
Progress down the exposed slopes leading to the Ourcq River was slowed down by machine-gun and intermittent artillery fire. It was soon found that the left half of the zone of action was already occupied by troops of the 42d Division, which had attacked earlier in the morning. To avoid confusion, the left battalion veered to the east. By noon, both battalions had reached the Ourcq, in the right half of the divisional zone, where they were stopped by machine-gun fire from Bois des Grimpettes, in the zone of action of the 3d Division.
Cover from this fire was obtained in the bed of the river, which was about 20 feet wide, with steep banks 6 or 7 feet high. At that time it was only partially filled with water, the stream being about 6 feet wide and a foot deep.
By 10:30 a. m. it was evident to the XXXVIII Corps that the Germans intended to defend the line of the Ourcq. It therefore ordered an attack by the American 3d and 28th Divisions with the high ground in Bois des Grimpettes as the objective. The main attack was to be made by the 3d Division, while the 28th Division was to take advantage of gains by the former and capture that part of the hill defined by·Cierges, Moulin Caranda, and the Cierges-Courmont road.
The operation was unsuccessful. Despite the fact that the 3d Division advanced only a few hundred meters north of Ronchères, the 28th Division attacked at 4:30 p. m., crossed the Ourcq and started up, the open slopes beyond. With meager artillery support, the troops made some progress but heavy machine-gun fire forced them to return to the defiladed ground near the river bed. A position was organized there for the night, with no front-line contact with troops to either flank.
Throughout the hot summer day, the divisional area was subjected to artillery fire. A shell struck the headquarters of the 110th Infantry at Fresnes, inflicting casualties.
Acting on army and corps instructions, the 28th Division ~ ordered the attack continued at 3:4o a. m., July 29, following a 10-minute artillery preparation. Troops were to attack in conjunction with those of the 3d Division, with Cote 220, east of Sergy, as the first objective. The final objective was the line, Chéry-Chartreuve-Bruys, 12 kilometers to the north. Advance guards were to push forward to Mont St. Martin, 4 kilometers beyond the final objective.
Owing to late reception of orders, the attack began at 4:45 a. m. with the 2d and 3d Battalions, 110th Infantry, still leading. Heavy fire stopped the advance temporarily at 6 a. m. about 600 meters beyond the Ourcq. Resistance from the vicinity of Bois des Grimpettes drew the 2d Battalion into the zone of action of the 3d Division, which was held up in Les 18 Arpents ravine. By 9:15 a. m. the assault wave had reached the edge of Bois des Grimpettes and the crest of Cote 188, west of the woods. This position was held for a short time in the face of heavy fire, but as casualties mounted the troops retired to the lower slopes of Cote 188 for protection.
The 55th Infantry Brigade was directed to attack again at 3 p. m. in conjunction with the 3d Division. The 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, was to pass through the 3d Battalion and make the main attack. The 2d Battalion, 110th Infantry, on the right, was to support the 3d Division. One machine-gun company was to cover the advance with a barrage.
The French artillery supporting the 28th Division fired a brief preparation on Cote 188, within the divisional boundaries. An offer to bombard Bois des Grimpettes, fire from which was holding up the advance of the 28th Division, was declined by the 3d Division.
The 3d Division, which was about to be relieved, did not attack. The 28th Division attacked at 5 p. m. The 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, moved forward to the vicinity of the Ourcq but did not enter the fight. The 3d Battalion made little progress and soon Companies L and M, 109th Infantry, crossed the Ourcq to cover the reorganization of this battalion in a position on the south slope of Cote 188.
The remainder of the 3d Battalion, 109th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion which had been ordered to follow the 110th Infantry at 500 yards, advanced toward the river from Courmont and Fresnes and suffered considerably from shellfire.
When the 28th Division advanced to Cote 188 during the morning it lost liaison with the 3d Division. Efforts to regain front-line contact during the day were unsuccessful, but early the next morning the division established contact with the left of the American 32d Division, which had relieved the 3d Division during the night. Contact was maintained with the 42d Division southeast of Moulin Caranda.
On the night of July 29 the XXXVIII Corps ordered the attack continued the next morning with the same objectives as for the attack of the 29th. At the same time it directed the relief of the 28th Division by the 32d Division during the night of July 30-31.
In compliance with the corps order, the 28th Division at 2:35 a. m., July 30, ordered the 55th Infantry Brigade to attack at 3:40 a. m. in conjunction with the 32d Division to the right. The artillery preparation was to be brief but heavy. The brigade made no change in its front-line dispositions, but the 109th Infantry was moved back to the area south of Courmont and Fresnes to avoid shellfire.
The attack was made by the 2d and 3d Battalions, 110th Infantry, and started on time with good artillery support. The 2d Battalion entered Bois des Grimpettes in the zone of action of the 32d Division. The 3d Battalion gained the crest of Cote 188 by 5:45 a. m. Under heavy machine-gun fire from Bois de Cierges to the east, as well as from Bois des Grimpettes, the 2d Battalion fell back to the unimproved road about 200 meters south of the wood. The 3d Battalion endeavored to outflank Bois des Grimpettes from the west but was unsuccessful.
The remainder of the morning was spent in preparing an attack to be made at 2:30 p. m., again in conjunction with the 32d Division. The advance was to be preceded by a 20-minute artillery preparation and assisted by a rolling barrage.
The operation was executed as planned. With excellent artillery support, the 110th Infantry, attacking the western and southern edges of Bois des Grimpettes, captured the wood and advanced north to the outskirts of Cierges. Later the front line was established about 200 meters north of Bois des Grimpettes and on the high ground overlooking Cierges.
The left of the 32d Division advanced through the eastern portion of Bois des Grimpettes and established contact with the 28th Division along the northern edge of the wood. On the left, contact was continued with the 42d Division southeast of Moulin Caranda.
Companies A and D, 110th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry, were sent into Bois des Grimpettes to assist in mopping up the wood and holding the position. Companies I and M, 109th Infantry, were sent to the support of the 3d Battalion, 110th Infantry, on Cote 188. A German counterattack from Bois Meunière was repulsed just before dusk.
Arrangements for the relief of the 28th Division were completed during the day. The 55th Infantry Brigade was relieved during the night of July 30-31 by the 63d Infantry Brigade, 32d Division, on the line, Bois des Grimpettes-Cote 188. Command of the zone passed to the 32d Division at 9 a. m., July 31. The 55th Infantry Brigade moved to the vicinity of Le Charmel, 3 kilometers south of Fresnes, and joined the remainder of the division in reserve of the French XXXVIII Corps.
On August 3 the XXXVIII Corps issued orders for the 32d Division to seize a bridgehead north of the Vesle and construct the necessary crossings for the 28th Division to execute a passage of lines and capture the plateau north of the river. Later in the day this plan was modified. The 32d Division was to continue the pursuit, while the 28th Division was to move up to the line, St. Gilles-Mont St. Martin and keep in close liaison with the 32d Division.
At 8 a. m., August 4, the American III Corps took command of the zone of the French XXXVIII Corps, and announced that instructions issued by the French would remain in effect.
The 32d Division reached Fismes and the Vesle River on August 4, but was unable to cross to the north bank. At 5 p. m., August 6, the III Corps ordered the 28th Division to relieve the 32d Division during the night of August 6-7.
Acting on instructions issued by the Sixth Army that advance guards would establish a bridgehead north of the Vesle on the line, Courlandon-Baslieux-Perles-Paars, during the night of August 6-7, the American III Corps, which on the 5th had taken over the zone of action of the French III Corps to its right, ordered an advance in three columns, at a time to be announced later. The 28th Division was to capture the plateau 4 kilometers north of Fismes. The order of battle in the III Corps, from right to left, was to be the French 4th Division, 6th Infantry Brigade, American 3d Division, American 28th Division. To the left of the 28th Division was to be the American 4th Division, American I Corps.
While this attack was in preparation, the Sixth Army notified the III Corps that unless the I Corps, which attacked on August 6, succeeded in reaching the objective previously set, the attack of the III Corps was not to be made. In case the I Corps was successful, the III Corps was to attack, after having oriented the troops and arranged for sufficient artillery support.
In the I Corps, the 4th Division crossed the river on August 6 and established a line along Route Nationale No. 31 de Rouen à Reims, west of Château du Diable. The 28th Division ordered the 56th Infantry Brigade to attack toward the general line, Blanzy-les-Fismes-Perles, for the purpose of seizing the two spurs to the northwest of Fismette on which Blanzy and Perles are located.
The 1st Battalion, 112th Infantry, was to make the attack, starting from Route Nationale No. 31 west of Fismes. The first objective was a line through La Fontaine Qui Brule, while the final objective extended through Les Olivats and Perles, with the flanks refused. Strong patrols were to be sent to Fismes and Château du Diable. There was to be a 15-minute artillery preparation prior to the attack, which was to be covered by a rolling barrage. The 103d Engineers and the 107th Engineers, less the 1st Battalion (32d Division), which had been attached to the 28th Division for the operation, were to build the necessary bridges for the crossing.
The Aisne-Marne Offensive closed on August 6, by which time the Germans had been driven north of the Vesle and Aisne Rivers. French General Headquarters directed that the French Fifth, Sixth and Tenth Armies would take no action in force north of the Vesle River. They were, however, to continue operations to establish bridgeheads north of the Vesle for the purpose of securing a line of departure for a new offensive and to engage the enemy on this front while the British launched the Somme Offensive to the northwest on August 8.
The relief of the 32d Division was accomplished by the 56th Infantry Brigade, which placed the 2d and 3d Battalions, 112th Infantry, in line at Fismes and in Bois de Larribonnet respectively. The 57th Field Artillery Brigade, 32d Division, together with the 147th Field Artillery, 41st Division, and the 3d Battalion, 18th Field Artillery, 3d Division, remained in line, in support of the 28th Division. Command passed at daylight, August 7. The limits of the zone of action assigned to the 28th Division were as follows :
Right boundary: Fismes (incl.)-Baslieux (excl.)-Glennes (incl.).
Left boundary: Mont St. Martin (incl.)-Perles (excl.)-Blanzy-les-Fismes (incl.).
The 6th Infantry Brigade, 3d Division, III Corps, was to the right and the 4th Division, I Corps, to the left.
About 11:30 a. m. the 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, was ordered to cross the Vesle and cover the right flank of the troops of the I Corps, already established on the north bank. At 12:30 p. m. Companies I, L and M crossed the river at Le Grand Savar on fallen logs and established a line south of the rail-road outside of the divisional zone, where contact was effected with the support line of the 4th Division.
The general advance of the III Corps was set for the afternoon of August 7. There were misunderstandings as to H-hour, however and the attacks were uncoordinated and unsuccessful.
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