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The texts are based on official US army histories and should help the collector understand the actions the battle bars were awarded for.

1) Cambrai, 20 November - 4 December 1917.
2) Somme Defensive, 21 March - 6 April 1918.

3) Lys, 9 - 27 April 1918.
4) Aisne, 27 May - 5 June 1918.

5) Montdidier-Noyon, 9–13 June 1918

6) Champagne-Marne, 15 - 18 July 1918.

7) Aisne-Marne, 18 July - 6 August 1918.
8)
The Formation of the 1st Army and beyond
9) Somme Offensive, 8 August - 11 November 1918.

10) Oise-Aisne, 18 August - 11 November 1918.

11) Ypres-Lys 19 August - 11 November 1918.

12) Vittorio Veneto, 24 October - 4 November 1918.

1) Cambrai, 20 November - 4 December 1917.
In late November the 11th, 12th and 14th Engineering regiment were behind the British lines at Cambrai doing construction work. The Regiments were called up to the front line to assist the British and in doing so they became the first A.E.F. units to see action in the war.

2) Somme Defensive, 21 March - 6 April 1918.
The Germans launched an offensive near Amiens with the intention of driving a wedge between the French and British forces. They could then turn towards the channel and force the British into a pocket in Flanders and at the same time take the valuable Channel ports.

62 German divisions attacked on the 21st of March and by the 26th of March Amiens was in danger of falling. A gap developed between the French and British troops but the German advance began to run out of steam. By the 6th of April the offensive had ground to a halt. The allies had suffered 200 000 casualties, 70 000 prisoners. The Germans had advanced an incredible 40 miles. The German offensive had not achieved its objectives. Amiens had not fallen, The British were not destroyed and the communication between the allies had not been ruptured.

Under pressure to support the Allies the A.E.F. had given up 4 divisions. About 2200 men of the 6th, 12th and 14th Engineers saw combat as did the men of the 17th, 22nd and 148th Aero Squadrons.

3) Lys, 9 - 27 April 1918.
On the 9th of April the Germans launched a new 46 Division offensive on the Lys river in Flanders in the hope of exploiting the successes on the Somme. Under pressure Haig issued his “Backs to the wall” communiqué and appealed to Foch to send him reserves. Foch, with his gift for strategic thinking refused. He was of the opinion that the British would hold their line. He was also determined to husband his reserves for his planned offensive actions. Foch had made the right call and on the 29th of April the German offensive ground to a halt.

About 500 Americans participated in the battle including men of the 1st gas regiment, 28th Aero Squadron and the 16th Engineers.

4) Aisne 27 May - 5 June 1918.
The Third German blow of 1918 took place along the Aisne river, crossing the notorious “Chemin des Dames”. The offensive was intended to suck in reserves from behind the British lines in preparation for another offensive in Flanders. Taking the French and British defenders by surprise, the results exceeded the German High command’s wildest dreams. Along a 40km front the troops had pushed forward, in places advancing 13 miles in the first day.

So impressive was the progression that Ludendorff decided to make this diversionary attack his main one. The Germans managed to capture most of the bridges over the Aisne intact. Rheims did not fall to the germans but Soissons did. By the 31st of May the Germans had reached Chateau-Thierry on the Marne, just 40 Miles from Paris. Here the thrust of the advance ran out of steam. In the days that followed they tried to expand the newly formed salient but by the 4th of June the offensive came to an end.

27 500 American troops had been involved in the fighting. The 3rd Division was at Chateau-Thierry were it helped stop the Germans from crossing the Marne while the 2nd Division straddled the Road to Paris. On the 6th of June the Marine Brigade of the 2nd Division attacked in Belleau Wood, the fighting ended by the end of the month allowing the Army brigade of the 2nd Division to then attack and take the town of Vaux.

 

5) Montdidier-Noyon, 9–13 June 1918
Once the Aisne offensive had stalled the Germans struck in a new direction. 21 Divisions attacked on a 23 Mile front hitting the French between Montdidier and the Oise River. The French were ready. They absorbed the blow and counter attacked, throwing the Germans back and exacting heavy losses. By the 12th of June the offensive was over. The US 1st Division was on the periphery of this action and was fired on by German artillery and was subjected to diversionary raids.

6) Champagne-Marne, 15 - 18 July 1918.
In the four offensives of 1918 the allies had lost 800 000 men, the Germans 600 000.

The allies could replace these losses with newly arrived American troops, the Germans could not. German morale suffered not only due to losses, but also due to the allied maritime blockade. Ludendorff refused to consider peace and planned two new offensives. The first had the goal of capturing Rheims, easing the supply of the merge salient and drawing in reserves. Then a second, larger offensive would take place against the British in Flanders.

On the 15th of July the Germans launched an offensive with a wing on either side of Rheims. The allies were aware of the German plans and had noted the activity behind the German lines. The French released part of their carefully husbanded reserves and employed the “defence in depth” strategy. To the east of Rheims the offensive failed. To the west the Germans succeeded in crossing the Marne near Chateau Thierry. The offensive was stopped by French and US troops. It was in this offensive that the 38th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd US Division gained its “Rock of the Marne” motto. Also involved in this action were the 26th, 28th and 42nd Divisions, the 369th Infantry regiment and various support troops. All in all 85 000 American troops took part in the fighting.

The “Friedensturm” ran out of momentum by the 17th of July, its failure was a heavy blow to German Morale. The initiative was now in the hands of the allies.

7) Aisne-Marne, 18 July - 6 August 1918.
The French had planned an offensive to squeeze of the Marne salient a number of days before the Germans launched “Friedensturm”. The attack was planned for the 18th and would be carried out by the French tenth, Sixth, Ninth, Fifth and Fourth armies. The Spearhead of the attack was the French XX Corps of the Tenth Army. It had five divisions and included the American 1st and 2nd Divisions. Following a rolling barrage of great intensity the two divisions along with a French Moroccan Division launched an attack near Soissons, on the north-west base of the salient.

The Allies penetrated to a depth of 3km before German resistance stiffened. The Americans advanced to a depth of 7 km capturing 6 500 prisoners while suffering 10 000 casualties of their own. By the 22nd of July both divisions had been relieved. They had succeeded in making Soissons untenable for the enemy.

The French Armies were also making important gains and the Germans were forced to issue orders to withdraw from the salient. To the right of the Tenth Army the French Sixth army reached the Vesle on the 3rd of August. The US 3rd, 4th, 28th and 42nd Divisions were part of this army on the 28th of July. The 4th and 42nd Divisions were part of I Corps which was the first American Corps HQ to become operational at the front. III Corps entered the zone on the 4th of August taking command of the 28th and 32nd Divisions. The 32nd Division had relieved the 3rd Division on the 29th of July. On the 5th of August the whole front line of the Sixth French Army was held by I and III Corps. To the east the French Ninth and Fifth Armies were advancing and the Germans were forced to pull back over the Aisne and then the Vesle Rivers.

The Aisne-Marne Offensive was officially over by the 6th of August. Once the Marne salient had been reduced the Germans could no longer threaten Paris. The ball was in the hands of the Allies. The Germans had to shelve plans for their Flanders offensive. The American Divisions which had taken part in the fighting (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 26th, 28th, 32nd, 42nd) had shown what they were capable of and instilled new confidence in the Allies. 270 000 Americans had taken part in the fighting.

8) The Formation of the 1st Army and beyond
On 24 July Foch had announced his intentions to tweak off the three major German salient’s (Marne, Amiens and St. Mihiel) in preparation for a fall offensive. Pershing requested the St. Mihiel salient as the first independent action of the A.E.F.
Foch had agreed to the formation of the 1st US Army which, with Pershing as its commander set up headquarters at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, west of Chateau-Thierry. The army was assigned two sectors, the first a temporary one in the Chateau-Thierry area where I and III Corps were assigned, then a quiet sector in the east, a sector which would become the US 1st Army’s first combat zone. It stretched from Nomeny (east of the Moselle river) to a point to the north of St. Mihiel.

With the situation on the Vesle stabilised Foch agreed on the 9th of August to allow Pershing to form his Army in the St. Mihiel sector. While three US Divisions would remain on the Vesle Pershing left to prepare for the St. Mihiel offensive. Plans for the reduction of the salient called for a front stretching from Port-sur-Seille to Watronville. Three American Corps would take part with 14 American and 3 French divisions.

Allied forces (including detached American units) were preparing their sectors for the coming offensives. American units would take part in a lesser degree in three sectors: the Somme Offensive (8 August-11 November), Oise-Aisne (18 August-11 November), and Ypres-Lys (19 August-11 November).

The main body of A.E.F. would take over the bulk of the fighting in the St. Mihiel (12-16 September) and Meuse-Argonne (26 September-11 November) Campaigns.
 
9) Somme Offensive, 8 August - 11 November 1918.
On the 8th of August limited operations were begun by the British with the goal of flattening the Amiens salient. This would mark the beginning of a major Somme Offensive which continued until the 11th of November. The British Fourth Army along with the American 33rd and 80th Divisions, attacked the north-western edge of the salient while the French First Army attacked from the southwest. There was no artillery barrage to forewarn the enemy. In the thick fog 600 tanks spearheaded the British attack. They captured 16 000 prisoners as they overran the German positions. Ludendorff referred to the 8th of August as the "Black Day of the German Army."

The Germans were pushed back to their old 1915 line. Here they reorganized strong defenses-in-depth. On the 21st of August Haig shifted his attack farther north to the vicinity of Arras, the Germans were forced to withdraw toward the Hindenburg Line. By the end of the month the Amiens salient had been abandoned.
At the end of September the push to break though the Hindenburg line began. As part of the British fourth army the American II Corps (27th and 30th Divisions) attacked the German defenses along the line of the Cambrai-St. Quentin Canal, and on the 29th of September they had captured Bony and Bellicourt. By the 5th of October the offensive had broken through the Hindenburg Line. The Allies now advanced through open country to the Oise-Somme Canal. Throughout the battle the 27th and 30th Divisions alternated in the line. By the 21st of October, when it was relieved, the US II Corps had served 26 days in the line and suffered 11,500 casualties.

The British offensive in the Somme region continued until the last day of the war. It was the Left Wing of Foch's pincers movement to cut Germans' rail communications system. Aulnoye, a key junction to the southwest of Maubeuge, was reached on 5 November. The Somme Campaign saw the participation of approx.54,000 American soldiers.

10) Oise-Aisne, 18 August - 11 November 1918.
Halfway through August the French started a series of local offensives on a front which extended about 90 miles from Reims moving westward through Soissons to Ribecourt on the Oise River. These operations continued into late September before merging into Foch's great final offensive of October-November. Five French armies (from right to left the Fifth, Sixth, Tenth, Third, and First) advanced abreast, on their left flank were the British on the Somme, on their right flank the American 1st Army in the Meuse Argonne sector.

The French Tenth Army was the spearhead which penetrated the enemy's main line on 22 nd of August. Serving under the command of the Tenth Army was the US 32nd Division which was instrumental in capturing Juvigny on the 30th of August, securing tactically important high ground for the Allies. The German front breached and to avoid being cut off by the breakthrough of the Tenth Army on their left flank the Germans were forced to pull back, abandoning their positions on the Vesle River and taking up new positions on the Aisne River. In the second week of September the 32nd Division joined the American First Army to the east.

The 28th and 77th Divisions belonged to the American III Corps. It was a part of the French Sixth Army to east of Soissons. In late August it held the western part of the Vesle River sector extending from Braine to Courlandon. In reaction to the breakthrough of the French 10th Army on their flank the Germans pulled back from the Vesle northward to the Aisne valley in early September. The III Corps followed, carrying out a series of local attacks, but failing to break into the German line before leaving to join the American First Army in the second week of September.
There were no American units involved in the final Oise-Aisne operations, which by the 11th of November had carried the French armies to the Belgian border. In the early phases of the campaign 85 000 American soldiers took part in the fighting.

11) Ypres-Lys 19 August - 11 November 1918.
In late August and early September 1918 the British Second and Fifth Armies reduced the Lys salient. Attached to them were the 27th and 30th Divisions of the II American Corps. When the Germans began retiring in the sector south of the Lys in October to shorten their lines, the Allied army group under the Belgian King Albert attacked along its entire front. By the 20th of October Ostend and Bruges had been captured and the Allied left wing had reached the Dutch frontier. In mid October the 37th and 91st US Divisions had joined the French Army in Belgium to help add momentum to the push across the Scheldt to the southwest of Ghent.

An offensive began in this area on the 31st of October and continued until the 11th of November. The 37th Division forced a crossing of the river southeast of Heurne on the 2nd of November and another farther north near the site of the remains of the Hermelgem-Syngem bridge on the10th of November. During the fighting the two divisions suffered 2600 Casualties. Approximately 108 000 American soldiers participated in the Ypres-Lys Campaign between the 19th of August and the 11th of November.

12) Vittorio Veneto, 24 October - 4 November 1918. Late in the war, Americans participated on a limited scale in campaigns in Italy. The 332d Regiment with attached hospital troops was sent from the A.E.F. to the Italian Front in July 1918 for the morale effect which it was hoped that the sight of Americana would have on the Italians. This force of about 1,200 men took part in the last great Italian offensive against the Austrians, the Battle of Vittorio Veneto.

To return to the page about the US in WW1 click HERE

 
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