Criteria The Purple Heart may be awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the Armed Forces, has been wounded, kill... The Purple Heart may be awarded to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the Armed Forces, has been wounded, killed, or who has died or may die of wounds received in armed combat or as a result of an act of international terrorism. MoreHide
Criteria The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for military service during the First World War. It was awarded for active service between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918; for service with the American... The World War I Victory Medal was awarded for military service during the First World War. It was awarded for active service between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918; for service with the American Expeditionary Forces in European Russia between November 12, 1918, and August 5, 1919; or for service with the American Expeditionary Forces in Siberia between November 23, 1918, and April 1, 1920. MoreHide
Description The United States of America declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily buThe United States of America declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily but acted alone in diplomacy. The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived in large numbers on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. They played a major role until victory was achieved on November 11, 1918. Before entering the war, the U.S had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and the other Allied powers. During the war, the U.S mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including 43,000 due to the influenza pandemic. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. military. After a slow start in mobilising the economy and labour force, by spring 1918 the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to United States entry into the war.
Although the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, it did not initially declare war on the other Central Powers, a state of affairs that Woodrow Wilson described as an "embarrassing obstacle" in his State of the Union speech. Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 17, 1917, but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various Co-belligerents allied with the central powers, thus the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central, eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
The United States as late as 1917 maintained only a small army, smaller than thirteen of the nations and empires already active in the war. After the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1917, it drafted 2.8 million men into military service. By the summer of 1918 about a million U.S. soldiers had arrived in France, about half of whom eventually saw front-line service; by the Armistice of November 11 approximately 10,000 fresh soldiers were arriving in France daily. In 1917 Congress gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans when they were drafted to participate in World War I, as part of the Jones Act. In the end Germany miscalculated the United States' influence on the outcome of the conflict, believing it would be many more months before U.S. troops would arrive and overestimating the effectiveness of U-boats in slowing the American buildup.
The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join with the British Grand Fleet, destroyers to Queenstown, Ireland and submarines to help guard convoys. Several regiments of Marines were also dispatched to France. The British and French wanted U.S. units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and not to waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. The U.S. rejected the first proposition and accepted the second. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to break up U.S. units to serve as mere reinforcements for British Empire and French units. As an exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to fight in French divisions. The Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the French 16th Division, earning a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions at Château-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Séchault.
Impact of US forces on the war
On the battlefields of France in spring 1918, the war-weary Allied armies enthusiastically welcomed the fresh American troops. They arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, at a time when the Germans were unable to replace their losses. After British Empire, French and Portuguese forces had defeated and turned back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive of March to July, 1918), the Americans played a role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive of August to November). However, many American commanders used the same flawed tactics which the British, French, Germans and others had abandoned early in the war, and so many American offensives were not particularly effective. Pershing continued to commit troops to these full- frontal attacks, resulting in high casualties against experienced veteran German and Austrian-Hungarian units. Nevertheless, the infusion of new and fresh U.S. troops greatly strengthened the Allies' strategic position and boosted morale. The Allies achieved victory over Germany on November 11, 1918 after German morale had collapsed both at home and on the battlefield.... More
Description Champagne-Marne, 15 - 18 July 1918. In the four great offensives from 21 March to 13 June 1918 the Germans gained considerable ground, but failed to achieve a decisive advantage at any point on the frChampagne-Marne, 15 - 18 July 1918. In the four great offensives from 21 March to 13 June 1918 the Germans gained considerable ground, but failed to achieve a decisive advantage at any point on the front. Furthermore, success was bought at a price in manpower and material which they could ill afford. Their more then 600,000 casualties were irreplaceable, whereas the Allied loss of some 800,000 men was soon more than compensated for by new American units arriving at the front in ever-mounting numbers. By July 1918 Allied troops outnumbered German on the Western Front. Other factors also contributed to the decline of German morale, notably the pinch of the blockade and the effectiveness of the Allied propaganda, which was distributed widely by air at the front and in German cities behind the lines. But Ludendorff refused to consider peace negotiations, and planned two more offensives for July which he hoped would bring victory. The first of the new drives was designed to capture Rheims, to make more secure the supply of the Merge salient, and to draw in Allied reserves. The second and larger offensive, destined never to be launched, would strike once again at the British in Flanders.
When the two-pronged German assault on either side of Rheims began on 15 July the Allies were prepared for it. Plans for the attack had leaked out of Berlin, and Allied airplanes had detected the unusual activity behind the enemy front. Foch had time to draw up reserves, and Petain, the French commander, skillfully deployed his troops in defense-in-depth tactics. Consequently the German drive east of Rheims fell far short of its objective. The attack west of the city succeeded in pushing across the Marne near Chateau-Thierry, but was checked there by French and American units. Among the A.E.F. units involved in this action were the 3d, 26th, 28th, and 42d Divisions, the 369th Infantry, and supporting elements (in all about 85,000 Americans). It was here that the 38th Infantry of the 3d Division gained its motto, "Rock of the Marne."
By 17 July the Champagne-Marne offensive had petered out and the initiative passed to the Allies. The German people had built up great hopes for the success of this Friedensturm (peace offensive); its failure was a tremendous psychological blow to the whole nation.
Marne near Chateau-Thierry. Among the A.E.F. units involved were the 3d, 26th, 28th, and 42d Divisions, and the 369th Infantry(in all about 85,000 Americans). It was here that the 38th Infantry of the 3d Division gained its motto, "Rock of the Marne.... More
Description Aisne-Marne, 18 July - 6 August 1918. Several days before the Germans launched their abortive Champagne-Marne drive, the French high command had made plans for a general converging offensive against tAisne-Marne, 18 July - 6 August 1918. Several days before the Germans launched their abortive Champagne-Marne drive, the French high command had made plans for a general converging offensive against the Marne salient. Petain issued orders on 12 July for the attack to begin on the 18th, with five French armies-the Tenth, Sixth, Ninth, Fifth, and Fourth, placed around the salient from left to right-taking part. Spearheading the attack were the five divisions of the French XX Corps (Tenth Army), including the American 1st and 2d Divisions. Early on 18 July the two American divisions and a French Moroccan division, jumping off behind a heavy barrage, launched the main blow at the northwest base of the salient near Soissons. Enemy frontline troops, taken by surprise, initially gave ground, although resistance stiffened after an Allied penetration of some three miles. Before the 1st and 2d Divisions were relieved (on 19 and 22 July respectively) they had advanced 6 to 7 miles, made Soissons untenable for the enemy, and captured 6,500 prisoners at a cost of over 10,000 American casualties.
Meanwhile the other French armies in the offensive also made important gains, and the German commander ordered a general retreat from the Marne salient. The French Sixth Army, on the right of the Tenth, advanced steadily from the southwest, reaching the Vesle River on 3 August. By 28 Judy this army included the American 3d, 4th, 28th, and 42d Divisions. The 4th and 42d Divisions were under control of the I Corps, the first American corps headquarters to participate in combat. On 4 August the American III Corps headquarters entered combat, taking control of the 28th and 32d Divisions (the latter had relieved the 3d Division in the line on 29 July). By 5 August the entire Sixth Army front was held by the two American corps. East of the Sixth Army the French Ninth and Fifth Armies also advanced into the salient. The Germans retired across the Aisne and Vesle Rivers, resolutely defending each strong point as they went.
By 6 August the Aisne-Marne Offensive was over. The threat to Paris was ended by wiping out the Marne salient. The initiative now had definitely passed to the Allies, ending any possibility that Ludendorff could carry out his planned offensive in Flanders. Moreover, the success of the offensive revealed the advantages of Allied unity of command and the fighting qualities of American units. The eight A.E.F. divisions (1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 26th, 28th, 32d, 42d) in the action had spearheaded much of the advance, demonstrating offensive capabilities that helped to inspire new confidence in the war-weary Allied armies. About 270,000 Americans took part in the battle.
On 24 July, while the Aisne-Marne drive was under way, Foch had outlined his plans for the remainder of 1918 at the only conference of Allied commanders that he called during the war. He proposed that the immediate objective of the Allied offensive should be the reduction of the three main German salients (Marne, Amiens, St. Mihiel), with the goal of improving lateral communications behind the front in preparation for a general offensive in the fall. Reduction of the St. Mihiel salient was assigned to Pershing at his own request.
The excellent showing made by American troops in the Aisne-Marne Offensive gave Pershing an opportunity to press again for the formation of an independent American army. Preliminary steps in the organization of the American First Army had been taken in early July 1918. On the 4th Lt. Col. Hugh A. Drum was selected as chief of staff and directed to begin establishment of army headquarters. After conferences on 10 and 21 July, Foch agreed on the 22d to the formal organization of the First Army, and to the formation of two American sectors-a temporary combat sector in the Chateau-Thierry region, where the already active I and III Corps could comprise the nucleus of the First Army, and a quiet sector farther east, extending from Nomeny (east of the Moselle) to a point north of St. Mihiel-which would become the actual theater of operations for the American Army as soon as circumstances permitted concentration of A.E.F. divisions there. Orders issued on 24 July announced formal organization of the First Army, effective on 10 August; designated Pershing as its commander; and located its headquarters at La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, west of Chateau-Thierry.
Stabilization of the Vesle River front in early August led Pershing to alter his plane for forming the First Army. Instead of organizing it in the Chateau-Thierry region and then moving it eastward for the St. Mihiel Offensive, he secured Foch's consent on 9 August to a build-up of First Army units in the vicinity of the St. Mihiel salient. Tentative plans for reduction of the salient called for the concentration of three American corps (about 14 American and 3 French divisions) on a front extending from Port-sur-Seille westward around the bulge to Watronville. Three American divisions would remain on the Vesle front.
Meanwhile Allied forces, including American units operating in other sectors of the Western Front, were making significant gains in the preliminary phases of the great final offensives. For the sake of clarity, the role of American units in the Somme Offensive (8 August11 November), Oise-Aisne (18 August-11 November), and Ypres-Lys (19 August-11 November) Campaigns will be described briefly, before considering in more detail the activities of the main body of A.E.F. troops in the St. Mihiel (12-16 September) and Meuse-Argonne (26 September-11 November) Campaigns.
The eight A.E.F. divisions (1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 26th, 28th, 32d, 42d) in the action had spearheaded much of the advance, demonstrating offensive capabilities that helped to inspire new confidence in the war-weary Allied armies. ... More
Description St. Mihiel, 12 - 16 September 1918. By September 1918, with both the Marne and the Amiens salients eliminated, there remained but one major threat to lateral rail communications behind the Allied lineSt. Mihiel, 12 - 16 September 1918. By September 1918, with both the Marne and the Amiens salients eliminated, there remained but one major threat to lateral rail communications behind the Allied lines-the old St. Mihiel salient near the Paris-Nancy line. Active preparations for its reduction began with the transfer of Headquarters First Army, effective 13 August, from La Ferté-sous-Jouarre in the Marne region to Neufchateau on the Meuse, immediately south of St. Mihiel. On 28 August the first echelon of headquarters moved closer to the front at Ligny-en-Barrois.
American unite from Flanders to Switzerland were shifted into the area near the salient. The fourteen American and four French divisions assigned to the First Army for the operation contained ample infantry and machinegun units for the attack. But because of the earlier priority given to shipment of infantry (at the insistence of the British and French) the First Army was short of artillery, tank, air and other support units essential to a well-balanced field army. The French made up this deficiency by loaning Pershing over half the artillery and nearly half the airplanes and tanks needed for the St. Mihiel operation.
Shortly before the offensive was to begin, Foch threatened once again to disrupt Pershing's long-held desire to carry out a major operation with an independent American force. On 30 August the Allied Commander in Chief proposed to exploit the recently gained successes on the Aisne-Marne and Amiens fronts by reducing the size of the St. Mihiel attack and dividing the American forces into three groups-one for the salient offensive and two for fronts to the east and west of the Argonne Forest. Pershing, however, remained adamant in his insistence that the First Army should not now be broken up, no matter where it might be sent into action. Fina1ly a compromise was reached. The St. Mihiel attack was subordinated to the much larger offensive to be launched on the Meuse-Argonne front in late September, but the First Army remained intact. Pershing agreed to limit his operations by employing only the minimum force needed to reduce the salient in three or four days. Simultaneously he was to prepare his troops for a major role in the Meuse-Argonne drive.
The St. Mihiel offensive began on 12 September with a threefold assault on the salient. The main attack was made against the south face by two American corps. On the right was the I Corps (from right to left the 82d, 90th, 5th, and 2d Divisions in line with the 78th in reserve) covering a front from Pont-à-Mousson on the Moselle westward to Limey; on the left, the IV Corps (from right to left the 89th, 42d, and 1st Divisions in line with the 3d in reserve) extending along a front from Limey westward to Marvoisin. A secondary thrust was carried out against the west face along the heights of the Meuse, from Mouilly north to Haudimont, by the V Corps (from right to left the 26th Division, the French 15th Colonial Division, and the 8th Brigade, 4th Division in line with the rest of the 4th in reserve). A holding attack against the apex, to keep the enemy in the salient, was made by the French II Colonial Corps (from right to left the French 39th Colonial Division, the French 26th Division, and the French 2d Cavalry Division in line). In First Army reserve were the American 35th, 80th, and 91st Divisions.
Tota1 Allied forces involved in the offensive numbered more than 650,000-some 550,000 American and 100,000 Allied (mostly French) troops. In support of the attack the First Army had over 3,000 guns, 400 French tanks, and 1,500 airplanes. Col. William Mitchell directed the heterogeneous air force, composed of British, French, Italian, Portuguese, and American units, in what proved to be the largest single air operation of the war. American squadrons flew 609 of the airplanes, which were mostly of French or British manufacture.
Defending the salient was German "Army Detachment C," consisting of eight divisions and a brigade in the line and about two divisions in reserve. The Germans, now desperately short of manpower, had begun a step-by-step withdrawal from the salient only the day before the offensive began. The attack went so well on 12 September that Pershing ordered a speedup in the offensive. By the morning of 13 September the 1st Division, advancing from the east, joined hands with the 26th Division, moving in from the west, and before evening all objectives in the salient had been captured. At this point Pershing halted further advances so that American units could be withdrawn for the coming offensive in the Meuse-Argonne sector.
This first major operation by an American Army under its own command took 16,000 prisoners at a cost of 7,000 casualties, eliminated the threat of an attack on the rear of Allied fortifications at Nancy and Verdun, greatly improved Allied lateral rail communications, and opened the way for a possible future offensive to seize Metz and the Briey iron fields.... More
Description Meuse-Argonne, 26 September - 11 November 1918. At the end of August Marshal Foch had submitted plane to the national commanders for a final offensive along the entire Western Front, with the objectivMeuse-Argonne, 26 September - 11 November 1918. At the end of August Marshal Foch had submitted plane to the national commanders for a final offensive along the entire Western Front, with the objective of driving the enemy out of France before winter and ending the war in the spring of 1919. The basis for his optimism was the success of Allied attacks all along the front in August. Furthermore, he pointed out, the Allies already had active operations in progress between the Moselle and Meuse, the Oise and Aisne, and on the Somme and Lys Rivers. Foch acknowledged that the Germans could stave off immediate defeat by an orderly evacuation combined with destruction of materiel and communications. Therefore the overall aim of the fall offensive would be to prevent a step-by-step enemy retirement. As Foch anticipated, the Germans eventually contributed to the success of his strategy. Their High Command could not bring itself to sacrifice the huge stores collected behind the front lines, and so delayed the withdrawal of its armies.
Foch's great offensive, planned to begin in the last week of September, called for a gigantic pincers movement with the objective of capturing Aulnoye and Mézières, the two key junctions in the lateral rail system behind the German front. Lose of either of these junctions would hamper seriously the German withdrawal. Despite grumbling from the English that they lacked the necessary manpower, a chiefly British army was assigned the teak of driving toward Aulnoye. The A.E.F. was designated for the southern arm of the pincers, the thrust on Mézières. Simultaneously the Belgian-French-British army group in Flanders would drive toward Ghent, and the French armies in the Oise-Aisne region would exert pressure all along their front to lend support to the pincers attack.
Pershing decided to strike his heaviest blow in a zone about 20 miles wide between the Heights of the Meuse on the east and the western edge of the high, rough, and densely wooded Argonne Forest. This is difficult terrain, broken by a central north-south ridge that dominates the valleys of the Meuse and Aire Rivers. Three heavily fortified places-Montfaucon, Cunel, and Barricourt-as well as numerous strong points barred the way to penetration of the elaborate German defenses in depth that extended behind the entire front. This fortified system consisted of three main defense lines backed up by a fourth line less well-constructed. Pershing hoped to launch an attack with enough momentum to drive through these lines into the open area beyond, where his troops could then strike at the exposed German flanks and, in a coordinated drive with the French Fourth Army coming up on the left, could cut the Sedan- Mézières railroad.
The task of assembling troops in the concentration area between Verdun and the Argonne was complicated by the fact that many American unite were currently engaged in the St. Mihiel battle. Some 600,000 Americans had to be moved into the Argonne sector while 220,000 French moved out. Responsibility for solving this tricky logistical problem fell to Col. George C. Marshall, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3 (Operations), First Army. In the ten-day period after St. Mihiel the necessary troop movements were accomplished, but many untried divisions had to be placed in the vanguard of the attacking forces.
On the 20-mile Meuse-Argonne front where the main American attack w to be made, Pershing disposed three corps side by side, each with three divisions in line and one in corps reserve. In the center was the V Corps (from right to left the 79th, 37th, and 91st Divisions with the 32d in reserve), which would strike the decisive blow. On the right was the III Corps (from right to left the 33d, 80th, and 4th Divisions with the 3d in reserve), which would move up the west aide of the Meuse. On the left was the I Corps (from right to left the 35th, 28th, and 77th Divisions with the 92d in reserve), which would advance parallel to the French Fourth Army on its left. Eastward across the Meuse the American front extended in direct line some 60 miles; this sector was held by two French Corps (IV and II Colonial) and the American IV Corps in the St. Mihiel sector. Pershing had available to support his offensive nearly 4000 guns, two-thirds manned by American artillerymen; 190 light French tanks, mostly with American personnel; and some 820 aircraft, 600 of them flown by Americans.
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive falls into three phases. During the initial phase (26 September-3-October) the First Army advanced through most of the southern Meuse-Argonne region, captured enemy strong points, seized the first two German defense lines, and then stalled before the third line. Failure of tank support, a difficult supply situation, and the inexperience of American troops all contributed to checking its advance.
In the second phase (4-31 October) the First Army, after the inexperienced divisions had been replaced by veteran units, slowly ground its way through the third German line. The enemy was forced to throw in reserves, drawn from other parts of the front, thus aiding the Allied advances elsewhere. In the face of a stubborn defense, American gains were limited and casualties were severe, especially as a result of the newly devised enemy tactic of attacking frontline troops with airplanes. First Army air unite retaliated with bombing raids which broke up German preparations for counterattacks. By the end of October the enemy had been cleared from the Argonne and First Army troops were through the German main positions. Two notable incidents of this phase of the campaign were the fight of the "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Division (2-7 October), and the feat of Corp. (later Sgt.) Alvin C. York, who single-handedly killed 15 Germans and captured 132 on 8 October.
In mid-October the organization of the Second Army was completed, at Toul in the St. Mihiel sector, to provide means for better control of the lengthening American front and solutions of the diverse tactical problems that it presented. Pershing assumed command of the new army group thus formed.
Before the third and final phase (1-11 November) of the offensive got under way, many of the exhausted divisions of the First Army were replaced, roads were built or repaired, supply was improved, and most Allied units serving with the A.E.F. were withdrawn. On 1 November First Army units began the assault of the now strengthened German fourth line of defense. Penetration was rapid and spectacular. The V Corps in the center advanced about six miles the first day, compelling the German units west of the Meuse to withdraw hurriedly. On 4 November the III Corps forced a crossing of the Meuse and advanced northeast toward Montmédy. Elements of the V Corps occupied the heights opposite Sedan on 7 November, thus finally accomplishing the First Army's chief mission-denial of the Sedan- Mézières railroad to the Germans. Marshal Foch, at this juncture, shifted the First Army left boundary eastward so that the French Fourth Army might capture Sedan, which had fallen to the Prussians in 1870. American units were closing up along the Mouse and, east of the river, were advancing toward Montmédy, Briny, and Metz, when hostilities ended on 11 November.
General Pershing authorized the results of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, the greatest battle in American history up to that time, in his Final Report: "Between September 26 and November 11, 22 American and 4 French divisions, on the front extending from southeast of Verdun to the Argonne Forest, had engaged and decisively beaten 47 different German divisions, representing 25 percent of the enemy's entire divisional strength on the western front.
The First Army suffered a loss of about 117,000 in killed and wounded. It captured 26,000 prisoners, 847 cannon, 3,000 machineguns, and large quantities of material." More than 1,200,000 Americans had taken part in the 47-day campaign.... More