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Chapter XXVIII

Field Operations, Table of Contents

CHAPTER XXVIII 

SECOND PHASE—Continued

OPERATIONS EAST OF THE MEUSE

Hitherto the discussion of the activities of the division of the First Army in the Meuse-Argonne operations has been confined to the area west of the Meuse. This was because, there, active operations took place earlier; whereas on the east, until October 8, a stationary line was maintained.

In the discussion of the activities of the First Army, in Chapter XX, during what has been considered herein as the first phase of the Meuse-Argonne operation, mention was made of the fact that it was primarily intended to limit the front of the American attack to the west of the Meuse, and that the three corps of the First Army located there were to advance to the north and east, keeping in liaison with the French on the left, and using the Third Corps of the First Army as a pivot to establish a line of defense on the Meuse. In carrying out this mission, the forces of the First Army on the right of the Meuse then were concerned only with protecting the right of the attack.

In advance, however, when our troops had pushed farther north than Montfaucon, the enemy artillery fire from the heights east of the Meuse became so effective as to force their being cleared.1 Accordingly, on September 30, Marshal Foch directed that the attack be extended east of the Meuse.2

The attack east of the Meuse was opened on October 8, by the French Seventeenth Corps.3 The American troops participating in this attack were the following: From west to east, the 33d Division, which was west of the Meuse but put elements across the river during the day; the 58th Infantry Brigade of the 29th Division, attached to the French 18th Division. Later, the remainder of the 29th Division and the 26th Division were added to the forces east of the Meuse.4, b

The military activities of the First Army during both the first and second phases, east of the Meuse, have been given in connection with the activities on the west thereof.

aGeneral remarks concerning military operations as a whole have been abstracted from Major Operations, American Expeditionary Forces in France, prepared in the Historical Section, the Army War College.
bDuring the period October 16 to November 5 the 35th Division held the Sommedieue sector, near Verdun, being the right-flank division of the First Army. No orders were received for an advance by this division, and its only activity consisted in sending out strong patrols in order to secure information of any possible withdrawal by the enemy. While in this sector the division was attached successively to the French Thirty-third, Seventeenth, and Second Colonial Corps.5


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MEDICAL DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES

As no orders were issued for the evacuation service of the American troops as a whole engaged in the operation east of the Meuse, the work of the Medical Department of the several divisions concerned will be discussed individually in connection with the operations of these divisions.

THE 33D DIVISION

On October 6, the 33d Division was placed at the tactical disposal of the French Seventeenth Corps, and was ordered to participate in the attack of that corps east of the Meuse. Two days later, when this attack began, the Engineer regiments of this division constructed two bridges across the river, one at Brabant-sur-Meuse, the other at Consenvoye, despite the fact that these bridges were under direct enemy observation and shell fire. Three battalions of Infantry and two machine-gun companies then crossed the river on these bridges, formed the left of the French attack, and by nightfall had reached their objective south of Bois de Chaume. The next day these units continued their advance to the road running from Sivry-sur-Meuse to Villeneuve Farm, but in the evening of that day a powerful enemy attack against the right flank forced them to return to Tranchee du Cable, just south of Bois de Chaume. Reinforcements had been dispatched from the main body of the division across the river, and by the attack of October 10 all lost ground was regained. During the next four days, these troops, whose right flank remained exposed, were subjected to heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, and to gas and airplane attacks. The 65th Brigade operated in the sector of the divisional front east of the Meuse, and the 66th in the sector west of it, from October 15 until the night of October 20-31, when most of the division was relieved by the French 15th Colonial Infantry Division. Relief was not completed until October 22. The 33d Division had been in the trenches before Verdun for 44 days, and during the period it was astride the Meuse it held a front of approximately 10 km. (6.2 miles), which was subjected to incessant fire from enemy positions on the heights east of the river. When relieved by the French 15th Colonial Infantry Division, the 33d Division proceeded to the Troyon-sur-Meuse sector, where it relieved the 79th Division.6

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES

The divisional operations east of the Meuse and the concurrent tenure of the former position west of it necessitated radical changes in the disposition of Medical Department formations. It was necessary to evacuate from each flank separately, and for this reason dual arrangements had to be made. On the east of the Meuse an ambulance post was located at Consenvoye, a dressing station at Cote des Roches, the triage and a reserve hospital at Glorieux. On the left, ambulance posts were located at Dannevoux and at a point east of Bois de Dannevoux and Bois de Septsarges, a dressing

cFor map of activities of this division for this period, see Plate XLIII.


PLATE XLIII


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station at Gercourt-et-Drillancourt, the divisional triage and a hospital for nontransportable wounded of the corps at Bethincourt. Prior to the attack of October 4, Field Hospital No. 129, which had moved to Bethincourt to receive the divisional sick, was relieved from this duty and was designated as the triage for troops on the left bank of the river. Field Hospital No. 130 at the same point received the nontransportable wounded from the corps, while a hospital belonging to another division then acted as corps gas hospital. At Glorieux, Field Hospital No. 132 was the triage unit for the troops on the right bank, and at the same point Field Hospital No. 131 was held in reserve. On October 16, the 29th Division took over the triage at Glorieux, relieving Field Hospital No. 132; but that unit continued for several days to operate its gas department.7 Field Hospital No. 129 continued to act as the triage at Bethincourt until the division was relieved. Field Hospital No. 130 went into reserve on the 17th, moving on the 20th to Charny and then to Genicourt-sur-Meuse, where it opened on the 22d. Field Hospitals No. 129 and No. 132 moved on the 22d to Faubourg Pave, where the remainder of the sanitary train eventually congregated, Field Hospital No. 132 having turned over all gas equipment to the establishment at Glorieux. On October 17, Ambulance Company No. 131 had arrived at Thierville. All units of the ambulance train prepared to leave their stations as soon as the division withdrew from the forward areas and to provide ambulance service for the troops on the march.8

By October 21, the division surgeon’s office was established at Dieue, on the Meuse, and the 108th Sanitary Train was located at Faubourg Pave, except certain units which were distributed to serve elements of the division.8

The physical condition of the troops had become impaired by long exposure and harassing fire and many men were becoming exhausted. A number were suffering from gastroenteritis, but none of the cases were serious and the general health of the division was fairly good.8

During its participation in the Meuse-Argonne operation, divisional Medical Department formations cared for 3,639 patients, of whom 1,006 were wounded, 1,625 gassed, 113 injured, 47 psychoneurotics, and 848 sick. Of this number 32 died. It was reported that 60 per cent of the men tagged as suffering from gas were in fact suffering from conditions other than gassing. Evacuations were carried out promptly, though at certain times application of dressings in the forward area had to be effected under the adverse conditions occasioned by heavy enemy fire. A number of casualties were sustained by the personnel of the Medical Department.8

THE 29TH DIVISIONd

Beginning on the night of September 29-30, the 29th Division (less Engineers and Engineer train, which were on duty with the Fifth Army Corps), proceeded to the vicinity of Verdun, where it came under command of the French Seventeenth Corps. The 57th Infantry Brigade was assigned as corps

dFor map of activities of this division for this period, see Plate XLIII.


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reserve, but later elements of the brigade were placed in the line to assist the French 18th Division in their attack. The 58th Infantry Brigade was attached to the French 18th Division, and on October 8, with the 18th Division, attacked to the north, from positions on a line just north of Samogneux, against the heights which determined the Meuse-Argonne battlefield.9 The attack penetrated Bois de Consenvoye, and two days later, after the 113th Infantry had reinforced the line, the advance was resumed and the wood cleared. On October 11, command of the division sector as far east as the Ravin de Molleville passed to the 29th Division, but certain of its elements continued for some days to operate with the French troops on its right. By October 16, the line had been pushed forward into Bois de la Grande Montagne on the north, and on the east into Bois d’Ormont, by elements of the divisions attached to the French 18th Division. It was necessary to approach this latter position by way of Etrayes ridge and Belieu Bois. On October 23, the ridge was taken, the line now running from Ruisseau de Moyemont to Hill 370, thence along the northern and eastern slopes of Etrayes ridge to a point between Bois de Wavrille and le Houppy Bois. On October 30 the division was relieved by the 79th, when it moved to the Vavincourt area.9, 10, 11

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES

The general plan for caring for wounded was reduced to the simplest terms possible. Battalion surgeons, with their detachments, accompanied advancing troops and established their stations as near the front as shelter of any kind permitted. Each regimental surgeon kept about five enlisted men in reserve to be used for messenger service or to reinforce any overtaxed station. Battalion medical equipment was carried as far forward as possible by carts and then by the Medical Department personnel.12

On October 7, the sanitary train was disposed as follows: Headquarters of the train and of its sections with the four ambulance companies and Sanitary Squads No. 41 and No. 42 were at Glorieux, a suburb of Verdun; Field Hospital No. 114 had opened the divisional triage in a French military hospital in the same community, and the other field hospitals were at Rampont. At 6 a. m. October 8, Ambulance Companies No. 113 and No. 115 moved to Charny, where they established ambulance parks, kitchens, and motor repair shops. Shortly after 8 a. m. Ambulance Company No. 113 established a dressing station near Samogneux with a part of its ambulance section and sent forward litter bearers, who soon gained contact with the line. As this point was under intermittent shell fire, the ambulances serving it were kept on the alert at Charny, one moving up whenever another passed to the rear.12 On the same date (October 8) Ambulance Company No. 115 located a dressing station in a quarry midway between Samogneux and Brabant. The following morning Ambulance Company No. 113 moved from Samogneux to a quarry beyond it, but the same day moved farther forward to a site in Bois de Consenvoye, where it remained until the division withdrew from the line. This company also maintained a small dressing station in Brabant to care for


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any casualties occurring in that place or in its vicinity. October 10, Ambulance Company No. 116 established a station 3 km. (1.8 miles) north of Samogneux, and here Ambulance Company No. 115 also located its station the next day. Though frequently under heavy shell fire, these stations retained this location until October 19.13

During this period Ambulance Company No. 114 (animal drawn) had been in reserve at Glorieux, furnishing details for various purposes. Thus at the request of the surgeon of the French Seventeenth Corps it assigned 4 noncommissioned officers and 30 litter bearers to assist the evacuation of the French 18th Division on the nights of October 10 and 12. Another detail assisted at the triage. The vehicles of this company were used only for some short hauls over rough roads near the front, and to clear the slightly wounded from a station which the company had established for this class of casualties at Charny. This station functioned from the 11th to the 29th.13

As the number of casualties had decreased by October 19, Ambulance Company No. 116 closed its station and returned to Glorieux, and Ambulance Company No. 115 returned to the quarry on the Samogneux—Brabant road, where it continued to operate a station until relieved by a formation of the 79th Division, on October 29. Evacuation from the front to the triage was made by the vehicles of Ambulance Companies No. 113 and No. 115, which for three weeks were kept moving over roads which at places were almost impassable. At times it was necessary to supplement them by trucks. The motor section of Ambulance Company No. 116 was assigned to corps service and assisted in moving patients from the triage to the evacuation hospitals.14

The triage at Glorieux was operated by Field Hospital No. 114, in conjunction with a detachment from the sanitary train of the 33d Division, but the latter was relieved shortly after the 29th Division began its offensive. At this triage patients were received, recorded, classified, and prepared for disposition and distribution. It was divided into departments for reception, record, care of severely and slightly wounded and gassed, and for evacuation. The only patients it retained were the nontransportables. Reinforced by details from other elements of the sanitary train, it admitted 5,660 patients in the interval October 8-29, of whom 4,865 came from the 29th Division, the remainder from the American 26th, 33d, and 80th and the French 18th.14

At the triage, patients received hot food, their dressings were reapplied or readjusted, and delicacies, obtained through the Red Cross, were distributed. At Charny, Field Hospital No. 115 cared for the slightly gassed and slightly sick (October 12-27), returning nearly 200 patients to duty. Field Hospital No. 113, on the arrival of Evacuation Hospital No. 15 at Glorieux, moved to Charny to care for gassed cases there if need be; but as the division was permitted to continue the use of the gas hospital belonging to the French at Glorieux, such a need did not develop, and the hospital returned on the 27th without having functioned.

Supplies were replenished as required from the army depot at Souilly, whence everything needed by the medical department was readily obtained.14


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THE 26TH DIVISIONe

On the night of October 17-18, the 26th Division completed the relief of the French 18th Division, in a sector north of Verdun. The line taken over extended 5 km. (3.01 miles), from the Ravin de Molleville, past the Ravin de la Reine, to the eastern edge of Bois de Haumont, with the 52d Brigade on the right and the 51st on the left. The left was to protect the exposed flank of the 51st Brigade.15

FIG. 83.-Dressing station operated by Ambulance Company No. 102, 26th Division, near Samogneux, Meuse, October 23, 1918

The attack began at 6.15 a. m. October 23, the 51st Brigade advancing northeastwardly in the direction of Hill 261, capturing Belieu Bois, and reaching the heights of Hill 301 and Hill 346; but on account of tremendous fire from La Grande Montagne and heights on the right, the troops could not hold the woods. At night the line occupied was along the eastern edge of Bois d’Etrayes, thence to a point in the edge of Bois d’Ormont, and thence along the former front.15

On October 24 an attempt to recover Belieu Bois was made at 3 p. m., but little ground was gained. On the next day, attempts were again made, but without success, although losses were heavy.15

eFor map of activities of this division for this period, see Plate XLIII.


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On October 27 further attack was made, for the purpose of recapturing Belieu Bois, the Bois d’Ormont, the Carrefour de la Croix Antoine, and the western angle of Bois de Moirey. Belieu Bois was cleared to its eastern border, but Bois d’Ormont resisted all efforts. This attack was the last made by the 26th Division in the second phase of the operation. On October 30, its left brigade was relieved by the 79th Division and was shifted to the right of the former right brigade, in what was known as the Neptune sector. There the division operated in the final phase of the Meuse-Argonne operation, beginning November 1.15, 16

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES

On the left, near Samogneux, Ambulance Company No. 104 established a dressing station for which it utilized tentage. In the absence of other protection its personnel dug individual shelters to shield themselves against intermittent shell fire. Ambulance heads were located, one at Haumont, 5 km. (3.1 miles) beyond the dressing station and another at a point farther forward in a locality known as Death Valley. As the dressing station mentioned above proved inadequate, Ambulance Company No. 102 established another, larger than the former, 0.5 km. (0.3 mile) to the rear of it at a point where shelter was available. The smaller station was then closed and held in reserve. At Vacherauville, a detachment of Field Hospital No. 104 established a station for walking wounded.17

All the field hospitals were located at Casernes de Bevaux, where Field Hospital No. 102 conducted the triage, Field Hospital No. 101 cared for the sick, Field Hospital No. 104 for the gassed, and Field Hospital No. 103 was in reserve.17

REFERENCES

(1) Final report, Gen. John J. Pershing, September 1, 1919.

(2) Foch, letters 4353-4354, September 30, 1918, to C. G., A. of N. and N. E., and C. G., A. E. F.

(3) F. O. No. 39, October 5, 1918. F. O. No. 47, October 7, 1918, First Army.

(4) Report of operations, 29th Division, Meuse-Argonne operation, undated. Report of operations, 26th Division, Meuse-Argonne operation, undated.

(5) Operations report, 35th Division, during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne operation, undated.

(6) Operations of the 33d Division, March 17, 1919.

(7) Report of Medical Department activities, 33d Division, A. E. F., prepared under the direction of the division surgeon, 33d Division, undated, Part I, 7. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(8) Ibid., 8.

(9) Outlines of Histories of Divisions, U. S. Army, 1917-1919, prepared in the Historical Section, the Army War College. On file, Historical Section, the Army War College, 1700 (29th Division).

(10) Operations report, 29th Division, Meuse-Argonne operation, undated.

(11) Front line maps, American Battle Monuments Commission.

(12) Report of Medical Department activities, 29th Division, A. E. F., prepared under the direction of the division surgeon, 29th Division, undated, 34. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.


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(13) Ibid., 35.

(14) Ibid., 36.

(15) Report of operations, 26th Division, Meuse-Argonne operation, undated.

(16) Outlines of Histories of Divisions, U. S.  Army, 1917-1919, prepared in the Historical Section, the Army War College. On file, Historical Section, the Army War College, 1700 (79th Division).

(17) Report of Medical Department activities, 26th Division, A. E. F., prepared under the direction of the division surgeon, 26th Division, undated. On file, Historical Division,. S. G. O.