It was this time of year in 1918 when the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) headed the Meuse-Argonne Offensive against the Germans. It was one of the bloodiest battles in U.S. history with over 26,000 Americans dead and thousands wounded. Many of the dead were buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery near the village of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. We visited this quiet lonely place a few years ago.
My great uncle Harry was part of the 37th division (the Buckeye Division) that fought during the initial days of the offensive and helped capture Montfaucon (a German stronghold). Harry’s letter to his family written in 1919 (after armistice) explains a bit of his experiences. This is the excerpt where he talks about the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
“Well we left the trucks somewhere in France and hiked to a woods near Recicort, stayed there a day and then we moved to the woods north of Recicort. Here we took up trench warfare until Sept 26 when after six hours of heavy shelling, we moved toward the German lines. Well, talk about things being blowed up. Every thing was shot to pieces. Well you may ask what was Jerry doing all this while, well he was sending over shells, and machine guns were going put-put all the time. The way the boys in khaki fell showed that old Jerry done some dirty work. One shell killed five men and wounded seven or eight more in my platoon. I was a runner between our Co and E. Co.
After 5 days of perfect Hell we were released by the 32 Div. On the last day while we were being relieved a Jerry shell killed six and wounded half a dozen more a few feet from me in the same ditch along a road. I was covered with dirt and blood from my comrades. A piece of shrapnel tore the stock of my gun off, just a foot over my head.
October 1, we hiked all night from dead man’s hill to Recicort and rested one day. Got some mail also. Oct 2 we entrained in trucks and after a day of misery in them we detrained at a woods near Void. Here we got some cookies from a YMCA, but they did taste good. We left there and hiked all night to Jucy. Everybody was more or less sick as we all had a good sniff of gas on the drive.”
Harry’s division continued to fight near Verdun, and then went to Belgium where they remained until after Armistice.