World War I’s Forgotten Battle

September 23, 2018

Editor: When the U.S. entered World War I, President Wilson and his commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John J. Pershing realized America must field an independent military command equal to those of England and France. To make an impact both on the battlefield as well as to post-war negotiations, the general and the president insisted on an autonomous command. Pershing ordered then Maj. George Marshall to draw up battle plans for America’s contribution to the Allied 1918 offensive. Marshall designed two plans — one for the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and another that would become America’s major contribution to the Great War. The area assigned the American army was the Argonne Forest and the adjacent Meuse River. In his memoirs, Marshall described the difficulties our forces encountered in the Meuse-Argonne Battle. We suffered severe casualties — the costliest battle America ever fought. Our soldiers illustrated poor training and disorganization. The weather added to the problems as did the devastated condition of the battlefield. Finally, the German army fought with great tenacity in well-prepared positions. Many Wyoming Valley households had a relation who fought in that battle. My father, Michael, served in the 23rd Infantry Regiment. The Battle of the Meuse-Argonne lasted 47 days. It involved over one million American soldiers and resulted in 26,277 Americans killed and 95,786 wounded. It played an important role in bringing an end to World War I. It remains the largest battle the U.S. Army has every fought. University of Southern Mississippi Distinguished History Professor Andy Wiest said of the battle: “People have just forgotten it. Go out on the streets of Gulfport or Biloxi and ask what the most costly battle in U.S. history was, and no one will come up with that. That’s how far World War I has slipped from our memory and imagination.” Joseph Elias WILKES-BARRE

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