Kansas Collection Books
Contributed by Pam Rietsch and transcribed and produced by Connie Snyder



OFFICIAL REPORT ON MEUSE-ARGONNE OFFENSIVE, NOV. 1 AND 2, 1918

By COL. JAMES H. REEVES

OPERATIONS NOVEMBER 1ST.

   This Regiment (353rd Infantry) occupied the right sector of the division. Formation for this offensive was column of battalions. Third Battalion being the assault battalion; Second Battalion being in support at distance of 1000 meters between the forward elements of the assault battalion and leading elements of the support battalion. The First Battalion was designated as Brigade Reserve, and followed the Second Battalion at a distance of 1000 meters. The Machine Gun Company, 353rd Infantry, was designated to accompany the Third Battalion; Company "C", 341st Machine Gun Battalion was designated to accompany the Second Battalion. The 37 mm. platoon, Stokes Mortar Platoon were designated to accompany the assault battalion. The assault battalion was assigned a mission of carrying forward to the second objective where a passage of the lines was to take place, the Second Battalion was to carry forward to and occupy the Third Objective, final objective of the first day. On November 2nd, the Second Battalion remained in advance, the Third Battalion in support and carried forward to that day's objective, which was the exploitation line of the first day. On the first day each battalion successfully executed the mission assigned it and arrived on its objectives approximately on scheduled time.

   The First Battalion, Brigade Reserve was, on the night of the 1st of November, "dug in" about 1000 meters in rear of the support battalion. Its right was near the BOIS d' ANDEVANNE, and contact with 90th Division was secured. Communication with support Battalion and Regimental P. C. was maintained.

   On the night of November 2nd, the first Battalion was in position near the north edge of BOIS de BARRICOURT. Patrols were kept out to the flanks especially to LES TUILEIRES Farm and the north edge of BOIS de BARRICOURT was covered by patrols.

   Company "D", of the First Battalion was directed to join a company of the 90th Division, each company having one platoon of Machine guns attached, and form a combat liaison detachment between the two divisions. This mission was not successfully performed the first day; the company to be detailed from the 90th Division did not report at the time and place designated, and in fact so far as known was never on this duty. Due to the moving out in the dark from dense woods, Company "D" became badly scattered and the liaison between the two divisions was not maintained. On November 2nd, Company "D" successfully performed this mission. The liaison between the two divisions was maintained throughout the day. One platoon of Company "H", 353rd Infantry, with one machine gun and similar platoon and machine gun of the 354th Infantry, all under command of Lieutenant Cavenaugh, 353rd Infantry, were designated to maintain combat liaison between the two regi-


264      Regimental History 353rd Infantry

ments in the attacking line. This mission was successfully performed up to the second objective, and after pushing forward from that objective through the dense woods, liaison was lost during the night. It was established, however, on the 2nd and maintained to the end of the operation.

   The terrain passed over from the jump-off to the second objective was rolling, with sparse patches of woods, except where contact with the 90th Division was to be maintained. This line passed through dense woods and over considerable hills in the Bois d' Andevanne. Immediately from the jump-off the ground sloped down to the bottom of a considerable ravine in the Landres-Bantheville Road. The ascent from this road was quite steep; from the top of this rise, however, to the Bois de Barricourt the ground was more gently rolling. The Bois de Barricourt is thick, tangled woods with quite rough ground, rendering the problem of passing through very difficult in day time and well nigh impossible at night to maintain any formation, and establish contact with organizations on the right or left. From the north of Bois de Barricourt to the final objective running through Tailly the ground was sharply rolling with occasionally patches of trees. The only place where the line was held up by determined resistance of the Boche was on emerging from the north edge of the Bois de Barricourt on the second day. At this point the line was confronted with a very strong resistance of machine gun nests, which held up the line until the position was flanked. At 10:03, 1st November, Companies "L" and "K" were held up for 20 minutes by counter barrage at edge of Bois de Barricourt, and along west edge of Bois d' Andevanne, but the advance was soon recovered. At all other times the lines moved steadily forward, and as stated above reached their objectives on scheduled time.

   Formations adopted were successful. They consisted of each battalion being formed in two lines, two companies in each line, each company in two waves, distance between battalions being 1000 meters. Depth of each battalion was between 600 and 800 meters. The diamond formation of attack by combat groups, which had been used in the St. Mihiel Salient, was used in this attack and was again successful. Of course, in dense woods an approach to a very thin skirmish line was taken. Upon meeting a point of resistance the flank Chauchat groups of the diamond formation at once moved forward and outward to encircle the point of resistance. The 37 mm. guns and the Stokes mortars accompanied the assault battalion, about 40 paces in rear, in position to move forward to the flank or front as destructive fire was called for.

   As heretofore, the main work was done by the infantry rifle. The accompanying guns of the artillery came through the Bois de Bantheville and into position north of the Bantheville-Remonville Road, but no effective service was rendered by them and they did not advance beyond this first position. Stokes mortars were used with success on several different machine gun nests, but this use was lim-


Official Report on Meuse-Argonne Offensive      265

ited, due to the impossibility of keeping up the supply of ammunition. The amount taken forward by the carriers was used up by us before the Second Objective was reached and no more could be gotten up in time for the Third Objective. 37 mm. guns were used with good effect on several targets that could be seen directly. These guns fired 350 rounds during the day.

   The attached gas troops took part in the preliminary bombardment and barrage and assisted in making a dense smoke cloud, which may have lessened the losses on the jump-off, but, on the other hand, was a detriment, in that the battalion commander himself could only see the one platoon of the battalion that was in his immediate vicinity. All the other platoons had to go forward under the platoon leaders without being observed by the battalion commander or their position being known by him. The gas troops did not keep up and were not used at any time after the jump-off.

   Machine Gun Company of the 353rd Infantry accompanied the assault battalion to the Second Objective. There were a few instances where it had an opportunity to fire, but the effect of the same was doubtful. No discernible effect was produced by the overhead machine gun fire of the companies in position or of the company assigned to the support battalion.

   Hand and rifle grenades were used where opportunity offered. There were very few instances of the use of hand grenades, but quite a number of very effective use of the rifle grenades. In fact, the individual soldier learned the value of the rifle grenade on this occasion more than at any other time in which this Regiment has been in action.

   There was no close work with either the bayonet or trench knife.

   No wire or other obstacles were encountered that formed any hindrance to the movements of the troops.

   Passage of the lines. This was accomplished by the 3rd Battalion (assault battalion) halting on its objective and the 2nd passing through without stopping. As this passage of lines took place in the dense woods of Bois de Barricourt, the first wave of the 2nd Battalion passed through more as a line than a line of columns, though the other elements of the Battalion followed in line of columns.

   Points of resistance encountered were overcome by rifle and automatic rifle bringing fire upon them from the front; also machine guns whenever it was possible. The points of resistance, however, were captured by the flanking groups going around.

   Liaison was maintained to the rear fairly well by the use of runners, who at all times rendered yeoman service under trying conditions. There was no liaison with the division on the right, but liaison or touch was fairly well kept with the regiment on the left. No assistance was received from the Signal Corps, so far as this Regiment was concerned. After the 3rd Battalion had reached the Second Objective, lines were run back by our own signal detachment, and connected up with the Brigade at Remonville, but before


266      Regimental History 353rd Infantry

that it had been impossible to establish telephone connection, due to the continuous forward movement of both Regimental and Brigade Headquarters.

   So far as known by me, no liaison was established with the airplanes, visibility being such that they could not work.

   The barrage was very effective. The troops followed it closely enough to secure the advantage of it; the barrage was not called back at any time on the 1st.

   The maps furnished proved quite satisfactory.

   No pigeons were used on the first day.

   No hot food was secured by the troops on either the 1st or 2nd. The supply of ammunition carried proved sufficient, but it was impossible to get the combat train beyond Remonville on either the 1st or 2nd.

   Evacuation of the wounded was largely by the laborious carrier system in force over 3-5 kilometers of rough or muddy ground. German prisoners were largely employed as litter bearers. The ambulances were exceeding tardy in getting forward and only reached the seriously wounded of the 2nd day's fight on the morning of 3rd November. Due to the competent and careful attention, however, of the medical officers and medical personnel, most of the seriously wounded were saved, and all were ultimately successfully evacuated even under the severest shelling.


OPERATION NOVEMBER 2, 1918.

   On the afternoon of November 1, a heavy mist arose and darkness came early, in fact, it became dark before the 2nd Battalion had entirely reached the Third Objective. The Battalion halted for the night in the north edge of the Bois de Barricourt and there was some intermingling of the units of the different companies and lack of communication between two of the companies and Battalion Headquarters. In the early part of the night a message was received that the operation would be resumed at 5:30 the morning of the 2nd, that the barrage would be the same as on the 1st.

   Telephone communication had previous to this been established with the Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion. He was at once called for, but he had been slightly wounded during the day, was entirely exhausted and had gone to sleep. The adjutant of the battalion was directed to report to Regimental Headquarters, which were with Battalion Headquarters, 3rd Battalion. He reported and explained the situation with reference to the companies of the 2nd Battalion. He was given instructions for the next morning's attack and ordered to make every possible effort during the night to get the companies up on the line in touch with each other and the battalion re-formed for the attack.


Official Report on Meuse-Argonne Offensive      267

   At 5:30 on the morning of the 2nd it still was so dark in the woods that nothing could be seen, and the 2nd Battalion had not been able to get its companies up in position and ready for the attack at 5:30. I moved forward with the 3rd Battalion shortly after this time and, upon getting forward, found that the 2nd Battalion had not left the woods. Information to this effect was telephoned the Brigade Commander and request made to have the barrage repeated at 9:00 o'clock. The matter was taken up with Division Headquarters and I was informed that arrangements would be made for a repetition of the barrage on the entire Division front and that I would be notified later of the hour.

   About 10:00 o'clock there was some firing by some of our artillery but it was not discernible as a barrage. I had the Battalion Commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions both with me at my P. C., and we waited until about 11:30 for notification of the hour when the barrage would be repeated. In the meantime, telephone communication with Brigade Headquarters had been cut several times by shell fire and runners had to be depended upon entirely to keep up the communication.

   Some time after 11:30 word was received that the barrage had been repeated at 10:00 o'clock. I then directed the Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, to move forward to his attack on the day's objective.

   Earlier in the morning, in an effort to get the attack started at 5:30, two companies of the 3rd Battalion were sent forward to join the 2nd Battalion and take the place of the two companies of that Battalion whose position was not known. After we had been informed that the barrage would be repeated and we would be notified of the hour, communication had been established with the two companies and they were brought up and placed in position by Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion; and Commanding Officer, 3rd Battalion, withdrew his two companies that had been pushed forward in the front line.

   Due to the dense woods and the necessity for all these movements being executed in the woods, this re-arrangement of battalions was not completed until after 12:30. At about this time Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, sent word that he would move to the attack at 12:55, preceded by a two minute machine gun barrage from the Machine Gun Company attached to his battalion and also the one attached to the 3rd Battalion. In this effort he was not entirely successful, as the amount of machine gun fire brought the enemy's position was negligible. However, at about 1:00 o'clock he attempted to move from the woods against a strong line of machine gun nests in the open a few hundred yards from the woods. At first the effort was unsuccessful, as every man appearing from the woods was either killed or wounded by machine gun fire. It therefore became necessary to delay long enough to extend his lines so as to completely outflank the line of machine gun nests which were bffering such a determined resistance. When this was


268      Regimental History 353rd Infantry

accomplished the entire line swept forward, overcame the line of machine gun nests and then moved on to the day's objective, which was the Exploitation Line of the previous day; being followed by the 3rd Battalion in support; the 1st Battalion moving up to near the northern edge of Bois de Barricourt.

   In this second day's fight a great deal more use was made of automatic rifles than had been accomplished at any previous time, in fact, it was the only instance we have had of the absolute value of marching fire.

(Signed) JAMES H. REEVES,   
Col. 353rd Infantry.

Headquarters 353rd Infantry, A. E. F.
November 14th, 1918.



Back Table of Contents Next



   Books