America’s Biggest Battle, 100 Years On

Dec 2014
The Milky Way
One hundred years ago this morning, at 5:30 a.m. Central European Time, the 1.2 million–man American Expeditionary Force launched all of its available combat strength into the largest and arguably the bloodiest battle in American history: the six-week Meuse-Argonne offensive that continued through the armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The horrific and protracted battle brought a decisive end to the first war in which Americans fought on European soil. Though it was filled with then-famous incidents and notable Americans, the ordeal of the Meuse-Argonne is far less remembered today than Gettysburg, Normandy, Yorktown, Okinawa, or New Orleans. We should keep that memory alive, as it tells us a lot about the America of 1918 and the century that followed.

Amateurs at War
Even the name, “American Expeditionary Force,” speaks to a different era. The armies of America’s wars before 1941 came into being to fight a specific war, and disbanded at the end, leaving their names behind as monuments: the Continental Army, the Army of the Potomac, the Army of the Tennessee. The professionalized, permanent army and Marine Corps were tiny then; the Army in 1917 was less than 150,000 men, compared to some 11 million Germans under arms and 8 million Frenchmen, and ranked as the world’s 17th-largest army. Only after the Second World War would the United States develop what Dwight Eisenhower termed our “military-industrial complex.” Americans had put the world’s most formidable fighting forces in the field against each other in the 1860s but had mostly forgotten the arts of war by 1917, when about 14,000 Americans (two-thirds the size of the Continental Army in mid 1776) were all that could be put in the field in France.

The Marine Corps would do much to build its legend at Belleau Wood in June 1918, and would fight again at St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne under the command of Major General John Lejeune (namesake of North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune), but a small, elite force like the Marines cannot alone conquer a battlefield as vast and densely soldiered as the Western Front. And America’s industrial might was not the decisive factor it would be in the 1940s, when mechanized warfare ruled the battlefield; the American Army Air Service was not a notably effective factor in the battle, and many of the American tanks were borrowed from the French. It was the freshly recruited, still-amateur “Doughboys” of the Army, manning rifles, machine guns, and artillery, who made up the bulk of the estimated 600,000 men committed to the initial assault at H-hour on September 26. The six-week struggle would be the first and, as it turned out, the last time the AEF was fully committed to battle.

World War I Meuse-Argonne Offensive: 1918 Battle 100 Years Later | National Review
May 2016
'Nice one at the veterans memorial in St. Louis, where I'm from, probably 30 or 40 just in Missouri alone.
Wow, that many? Can't say I've ever seen even one. You'd think with a hundred year anniversary there would have been more highlighting of them in the news.
Jul 2011
Memphis, Tn.
Wow, that many? Can't say I've ever seen even one. You'd think with a hundred year anniversary there would have been more highlighting of them in the news.
Don't know what to tell you. Just because the news does not cover something that does not mean it never happened or does not exist.
The one in St. Louis I've personally visited many times, also the one in Jefferson City and Rolla, Mo. I just Googled "WWI monuments/statues in Missouri and it listed something like 30+ locations in the state, usually county capitals.
Likes: OlGuy

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