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Chapter XXIX

Field Operations, Table of Contents




On November 1, at 5.30 a. m., the advance began on a front of 51 km. (31.6 miles), preceded by two hours’ artillery preparation. The first objective was to secure control of Buzancy and the heights east; the next, to clear the Bois de Bourgogne. The Third and Fifth Corps carried their attack to Barricourt Ridge, breaking through the enemy’s defensive system and artillery lines; by night they were on the general line from Aincreville to the northern edge of Bois de Barricourt, and through the Bois de la Folie. The right of the First Corps advanced with them, but the left made little progress. The French Fourth Army gained a firm footing on the high ground north and east of the Aisne. The attacks were continued on the succeeding days. The Third Corps drove the enemy across the Meuse and held the west bank down to Villefranche. The Fifth Corps connected, its right division, the 89th across the Bauclair—Nouart road facing northeast, while its left division, the 2d, had pushed its 3d Brigade boldly through the woods nearly to Beaumont. The First Corps drove the enemy north along the east bank of the Bar River, its right connecting with the Fifth Corps, and reached Chatillon-sur-Bar with its left. By November 4 the Germans were in retreat on the entire front, withdrawing behind the Meuse.

Between the Meuse and the Chiers, north and northeast of Stenay, there was a strong position covering the crossing in that vicinity. By crossing south of Stenay and advancing toward Montmedy, this position could be flanked. The heights of Villers-devant-Dun, captured November 2, formed a good position for the artillery necessary to cover this crossing.

The commanding general of the First Army ordered a vigorous pursuit. By active patrolling and deep raids the French 17th Corps was to obtain prompt information of the hostile movements and follow up any withdrawal from the heights. The Third Corps was to establish a bridgehead east of the Meuse in the vicinity of Liny and Dun-sur-Meuse. The First and Fifth Corps were to push the pursuit toward Raucourt and Beaumont, respectively.

To carry out its mission, the Third Corps ordered the 5th Division to cross the Meuse and secure a bridgehead on the general line Lion-devant-Dun—Murvaux—Fontaines, to cover the crossing of the 32d Division. The 90th Division was to hold the bulk of its forces on the western heights below Dun, assisting the 5th Division with its artillery. The 32d Division, which was now in corps reserve, was assembled south of Aincreville, prepared to cross the Meuse near Dun-sur-Meuse.

aAbstracted from Major Operations of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, 1917-1918, prepared in the Historical Section, the Army War College.


During the night of November 3-4 the 5th Division made an effort to cross near Brieulles. Three companies got over, but the rest could not follow. These companies entrenched and held on to their precarious position. In the afternoon another crossing was attempted at Clery-le-Petit, but the first bridge was destroyed by artillery fire and this attempt failed. But meanwhile the troops already over at Brieulles, by a surprise attack, got across the canal which here parallels the river; other troops crossed just below, on rafts and by swimming, and established themselves in the woods on the east bank. On the morning of the 5th these woods and the adjoining hills were cleared and the left of the division was enabled to cross. By night the division held the whole line of heights from Milly to Vilosnes. On the night of the 7th, its line ran eastward and southward from Lion-devant-Dun to the Haraumont—Brandeville road, where it connected with the French Second Colonial Corps, which in the meantime, had relieved the French Seventeenth Corps. Meanwhile the rest of the army had progressed and had reached the west bank of the Meuse all the way down to Remilly. From here the line turned west through Thelonne to the Bar, and connected with the French Fourth Army.

On November 5 General Pershing issued general instructions covering future operations of the American armies, in which he expressed confidence that "the energetic action of the First Army should completely expel the enemy from the region between the Meuse and the Bar within the next few days." Corps and division commanders were called upon for bold and energetic action. Where resistance was broken the troops were to be pushed forward without regard to objectives or fear for their flanks.

Both the First and Second Armies were ordered to prepare to undertake operations with the ultimate purpose of driving the enemy beyond the frontier in the region of Briey and Longwy. As preliminary to this offensive, the First Army was directed (a) to complete the occupation of the region between the Meuse and the Bar; (b) to drive the enemy from the heights of the Meuse north of Verdun and south of the Foret de Woevre; (c) to conduct an offensive with the object of driving the enemy beyond La Thinte and La Chiers Rivers.

Between November 1 and 7 the left boundary of the First Army had been changed several times. The last change, announced in orders on the 8th and effective on the 9th, limited the left of the army to Mouzon, the original objective having included Sedan. On the 5th, however, a verbal message, later confirmed in writing, had been received from General Pershing, directing the occupation of Sedan, and suggesting that advantage be taken of the opportunity for pressing the advance throughout the night, boundaries not to be regarded.

The 1st Division was in position along the Meuse from Villemontry to Mouzon. The commanding general of the Fifth Corps went in person to division headquarters and verbally ordered the division to march upon Sedan, to cooperate with the First Corps in the capture of that place. The division was assembled in rear of its position and after dark commenced its march,



moving in five columns. During the night of November 6-7 elements of the division marched through or around the entire First Corps, and in the morning it came out upon the heights dominating Sedan, clearing away some little opposition. Preparations were made to continue the advance, but in the afternoon the division was ordered to withdraw south of the line La Besace—Autrecourt. The change in direction of the First Corps, from north to northeast, opened a gap on the left of the First Army, which the French were not in a position to fill at once. A reserve division was disposed so as to protect the flank here, if necessary, and American divisions were kept in line temporarily. The First Corps was withdrawn from the line, and the Fifth Corps took over command of its former front until the French should be ready to extend their right.

From November 7 to 10 there was little activity in our lines north of Stenay. East of the Meuse, however, the Third Corps and the French Second Colonial Corps continued their advance. On November 8 the Third Corps, facing north, had passed beyond Brandeville; the French, facing east, extended this line through Flabas and north of Verdun to a junction with the Second Army. On the 9th the 32d Division took over the left section of the French line as far as Pouvillers; the Colonial Corps then pushed forward to the Thinte, through Damvillers to Moirey.

On the same day the 90th Division crossed the Meuse at Mouzay, just south of Stenay, the crossing having been secured earlier in the day by the 5th Division. The lines were then extended through the Foret de Woevre, and by night the 5th Division had reached Jametz. On the 10th the Colonial Corps reached Abaucourt, on the Verdun—Etain highway. The Third Corps made a further advance with its left and center, occupying the southern outskirts of Stenay.

The Fifth Corps extended its operations east of the Meuse, crossing the 2d and 89th Divisions on the line Stenay—Mouzon. On the 11th, slight gains were made at several points, and when hostilities were suspended the line of the First Army ran from Abaucourt to La Thinte River at Chaumont, along the river to Remoiville, along the northern edge of the Foret de Woevre to Stenay, thence to Mouzon and along the west bank of the Meuse to Wadelincourt.


The general plan of evacuation to army units and their supply previously put into operation continued to be utilized through this phase of the operation, though certain of its details were modified to meet changing conditions. The increased length of the line of communications to railhead was a source of gravest anxiety, for the strain on the already overworked ambulance service increased progressively and could be relieved to only a limited extent by the advancement of a few of the army hospitals.

The following transportation was at the disposition of the Medical Department, First Army, on the night of October 31, exclusive of United States


Army Ambulance Service Section No. 600, loaned to the 33d Division, and United States Army Ambulance Service Section No. 649, attached to the 35th Division:1

Left flank, First Corps:

United States Army Ambulance Service Section—

No. 520.
No. 570.
No. 569.

Ambulance Company No. 41.
Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 11.
French Sanitary Section No. 145 (11 ambulances carrying 5 prone patients).
6 French sight-seeing busses.

Total number of ambulances, 71; French sight-seeing busses, 6.

Center, Fifth Corps:

United States Army Ambulance Service Section—

No. 542.
No. 603.
No. 604.
No. 590.

French Sanitary Section—

No. 63 (15 ambulances carrying 5 prone).
No. 85 (20 ambulances carrying 5 prone).

2 French sight-seeing busses.

Total number of ambulances, 83, and 2 French sight-seeing busses.

Right flank, Third Corps:

United States Army Ambulance Service Section—

No. 560.
No. 571.
No. 599.
No. 602.

French Sanitary Section No. 84 (20 ambulances carrying 5 prone).
2 French sight-seeing busses.
Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 1, 12 ambulances.

Total number of ambulances, 80, and 2 French busses.

(Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 1 evacuated the 26th Division, which was with the French Second Colonial Corps.)

Army: 132 ambulances and 2 French busses.

Army Reserve:

French Sanitary Section—

No. 12 (20 ambulances carrying 5 prone).
No. 131 (13 ambulances carrying 5 prone).


 United States Ambulance Service Section—

No. 506 (20 Fords).
No. 511 (20 Fords).

10 French trucks.

Total number of ambulances, 73, and 10 French trucks.

Summary: Corps, 234 ambulances and 10 French sight-seeing busses; army, 132 ambulances and 2 French sight-seeing busses; army reserve, 73 ambulances and 10 French trucks; total, 439 ambulances and 22 French trucks and sight-seeing busses.

The carrying capacity of the army and corps ambulances was 1,813 prone and 400 sitting patients. This total did not include corps trucks nor divisional ambulances or trucks.

On November 2, 1918, United States Army Ambulance Service Section No. 506 (20 ambulances) was attached to the First Corps. Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 7 was attached to Evacuation Hospital No. 15 at Glorieux, on October 31, 1918, and on the same date Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 5 was attached to Mobile Hospital No. 6, on the Varennes—Cheppy road. On November 10, 1918, this ambulance company was moved to Varennes, to be attached to Evacuation Hospital No. 14, and Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 6 was transferred from Les Islettes to Varennes, where it was attached to Evacuation Hospital No. 14.

Evacuation centers and areas remained as provided during the first phase of the operation.

At the beginning of the third phase, First Army Medical Department formations were disposed of as follows (dates represent the time organizations arrived at the places specified):2

Evacuation Hospital—

No. 4, Fromereville, Meuse, October 29.
No. 6, Souilly, Meuse, August 28.
No. 7, Souilly, Meuse, August 28.
No. 8, Petit Maujouy, Meuse, August 28.
No. 9, Vaubecourt, Meuse, August 30.
No. 10, Froidos, Meuse, September 20.
No. 11, Brizeaux Forestieres, Meuse, September 21.
No. 14, Les Islettes, Meuse, October 7.
No. 15, Glorieux, Meuse, October 13.
No. 16, Revigny, Meuse, October 15.
No. 20 (personnel only), Souilly, Meuse, October 1.
No. 21, (personnel only) Villers-Daucourt, Marne, October 17.
No. 22 (personnel only), Souilly, Meuse, October 7.
No. 23 (personnel only), Souilly, Meuse, October 7.

American Red Cross Hospital—

No. 110, Villers-Daucourt, Marne, September 24.
No. 114, Fleury-sur-Aire, Meuse, September 18.


 Mobile Hospital—

No. 1, Esne, Meuse, October 27.
No. 2, Chateau de Salvange, Meuse, September 24.
No. 4, Cheppy, Meuse, October 27.
No. 5, Les Placys, Meuse, September 24.
No. 6, Varennes, Meuse, October 7.
No. 8, Deuxnouds-aux-Bois, Meuse, October 15.

Neurological Hospital—

No. 1, Benoite Vaux, Meuse, September 5.
No. 3, Nubecourt, Meuse, September 20.

Evacuation Ambulance Company—

No. 1, Souilly, Meuse, September 21.
No. 2, Fromereville, Meuse, October 29.
No. 5, Cheppy, Meuse, November 1.
No. 6, Les Islettes, Meuse, October 11.
No. 7, Verdun, Meuse, November 1.
No. 8, Fleury-sur-Aire, Meuse, September 20.
No. 10, Froidos, Meuse, September 23.
No. 12, Vaubecourt, Meuse, September 23.

Base Hospital No. 83 (personnel only), Revigny, September 20.

Gas hospital:

La Morlette, Meuse, operated by miscellaneous personnel.
Rambluzin, Meuse, operated by miscellaneous personnel.
Julvecourt, Meuse, operated by miscellaneous personnel.
Rarecourt, Meuse, operated by miscellaneous personnel.
Verrieres, Marne, operated by miscellaneous personnel.

Contagious hospitals, Verrieres and Benoite Vaux (French).

Ambulance Company—

No. 42 (personnel only), Fleury-sur-Aire, Meuse, October 29.
No. 120 (personnel only), Villers-Daucourt, September 26.

Field hospital—

No. 41, Varennes, Meuse, November 4.
No. 42, Cheppy, Meuse, October 31.

Medical Supply Depot:

Varennes, Meuse, October 10.
Souilly, Meuse, September 14.
Vaubecourt, Meuse, September 16.
Les Islettes, Meuse, October 4.
Fleury-sur-Aire, Meuse, October 1.

Trucks not being available for the purpose, it was impossible to move the large and heavy evacuation hospitals to points off the railway concurrently with the advance of the troops. Moreover, the number of ambulances being limited, those available would not have been adequate to carry to railhead patients from a large number of such units had they been so advanced. To mitigate the fatigue incident to the long journey from the front to the army evacuation areas, divisional and corps field hospitals were placed


in echelon to act as rest stations. They were equipped to furnish food and warmth and were provided with facilities for rest, treatment of shock, and for operations. Also, as opportunity permitted and resources warranted, certain army hospitals were advanced as follows:3 Mobile Hospital No. 8, from Deuxnouds-aux-Bois to Exermont, November 3; Evacuation Hospital No. 7, from Souilly to St. Juvin, November 7; Evacuation Hospital No. 14, from Les Islettes to Varennes, November 8; Field Hospital No. 41, from Villers-Daucourt to Varennes, November 8; Evacuation Hospital No. 3, from Mont Frenet to Fontaine Routon, November 10; Mobile Hospital No. 1, from Esnes to Bantheville, November 10; Evacuation Ambulance Company No. 6, from Les Islettes to Varennes, November 6.

Varennes was the only advanced point whence railway evacuation was practicable from the First and Fifth Corps at this time.3 "Four years of artillery exchange had so destroyed the railroad from Verdun to Sedan, on the west bank of the Meuse, that engineers could not repair it in time for it to be of use, and no attempt was made to install evacuation hospitals in this area north of Verdun, for a plunging fire from the heights made the terrain untenable till Cote St. Germaine was captured. Evacuation Hospital No. 4, at Fromereville, had suffered from indirect shelling, although conspicuously marked and well protected from direct fire."4

As transportation was inadequate to move army hospitals forward, the only recourse for surgical equipment in the absence of railway transportation was the assignment to divisional hospitals of the surgical and X-ray camions belonging to mobile hospitals. Operated cases, as soon as they became transportable, were then slowly evacuated through the chain of division and corps hospitals to evacuation hospitals.4

A topographical map of the region indicates some of the physical obstacles which had to be overcome in the supply and evacuation services of any army operating on this terrain, which had been the scene of disaster to more than one army in the past; yet hospitalization for many thousand combatant troops was provided in this most inhospitable and rugged area, where not a house was left standing and where roads were scarce and deeply scarred by shells. Furthermore, patients were transferred from these hospitals in comparative comfort, in spite of shell-torn roads and deep mud following incessant autumnal rains. Notwithstanding the lengthening of the line of communications to railhead, the evacuation service had been so developed that within nine hours after the signing of the armistice all wounded had been received, hospitalized, and operated.4


(1) Final report of the chief surgeon, First Army, November 20, 1918, 17. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(2) Report on the Medical Department units, First Army, by the chief surgeon, First Army, February 6, 1919. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(3) Medical activities in the Zone of the Armies, by Col. A. N. Stark, M. C., undated, 16. On file, Historical Division, S. G. O.

(4) Ibid., 17.