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Chapter 5 The Meuse Argonne (first Phase)


HISTORY
of
THE 306th INFANTRY

By
Julius Ochs Adler
1935

The Meuse-Argonne
First Phase


FROM September 20th to 24th Regimental Headquarters remained at Le Neufour, the three battalions being bivouacked in the vicinity of Le Claon. During this time detachments from each battalion were trained in the use of the recently received devilish instrument of war-the phosphorous rifle and hand grenade-and it was then we received about 700 replacements for the Regiment. Those men were mostly from Oregon, Idaho, Montana, California, and Arizona, and we liked the looks of them. They were tall and spare and the very type for fighting men. They were immediately assigned to companies and platoons, but hardly had the lists been completed and assignments made when on the 24th we moved forward to La Chalade and now the previous rumors of a big offensive became a certainty. At sunset artillery which had been camouflaged during the day began to move forward into position. On the hills to the right of our headquarters 155 "G.P.F.'s" stood wheel to wheel apparently for miles. Trees, were being partly sawed through, ready to drop when "H" hour came. Detachments were supplied with the French helmets and overcoats and moved forward to make a personal reconnaissance of the jump-off place. We began to study our maps and then we saw what we were up against.

The line to our front had been consolidated for four years. From what we could see during our reconnaissance and by an examination of the map, trenches and barbed-wire of four years' accumulation were to be crossed before we got well started. It had originally been a forest of heavy trees, but the artillery had made these a shambles. The depth of the wire in our immediate front could hardly be estimated. The engineers were called into conference and filled long pieces of pipes with high explosives to be used to open up the wire for the passage of our attacking platoons.

On the 25th the 1st and 3d Battalions moved into position north of the Ravin des Sapins preparatory to the attack on the Argonne Forest, one of the most famous old battlefields of all France, at one time a royal hunting preserve. And now another hunt was on. The division order with its brigade appendix was received, and based on these the following regimental order was issued:

Hdqrs. 306th Inf., A.E.F.
25th Sept., 1918, 8: 30 A.M.
SECRET
FIELD ORDER No. I
Maps: Mezieres 1/80,000
VERDUN

FOR~T D'ARGONNE
BUZANCY
VOUZIERS 1/20,000
RAUCOURT
LA CHESNE

1. SITUATION: The enemy holds the front from the Meuse to the Aisne River with 5 divisions. The Allied Armies will attack on the front between the Meuse and Suippes Rivers. The 1st American Army attacks on the front between the Meuse and the Aisne Rivers. The 1st Army Corps, with the 35th, 28th, and 77th Divisions in line from right to left in the order named, attacks from Vauquois to La Harazee, both inclusive. The 1st Army Corps will be assisted in reducing the Forest d'Argonne by the 5th Army Corps on its right and by the 38th French Corps on its left.

2. EXECUTION OF THE ATTACK: The artillery preparation for the attack will begin at H minus X hours. Troops will be in position on D day at H minus 4 hours, and at H hour the front line battalion will go over the top and spring to the attack, following the advancing barrage at 500 yards.
Rate of March, 100 yards in 5 minutes. Barrage will conform to this rate. Should, however, the resistance in our front be slight, the infantry must call for a lengthening barrage and pursue the enemy with aggression and rapidity.

3. The 153d Infantry Brigade will attack on D day at H hour, on a front from Pierre Crois & 00.7-6g.o to junction of Ruisseau des Meurrissons with enemy front line trench inclusive.

4. The 305th Infantry will attack on our right and the 307th Infantry on our left.
5. (a) Boundary line between regiments within the brigade zone of attack: Boyau d'Erforth 98.8-6g.i to 305th Infantry; nose south of Barricade Pavilion 98.9-7o.8 to 305th Infantry; Barricade Pavilion to 305th Infantry.
(b) Boundary between brigades: junction of Rau des Courtes Chauss6es with the Biesme River 96.9-68. 1 ; from there junction of Ram des Meurrissons, enemy front line trench 96.9-69.2 to Fme-la- Mitte 96.9-7 1 - I to Fme-Madame 97.2-7 1 .9.
(C) CORPS OBJECTIVE: 00-1-73.0; 99.4-71.0; 98.9-70.9; 98.0-71.7; 97.0-72.2
(d) Regiments will attack in column of battalions in the following order:
3o6th Infantry: 1st, Battalion (Weaver)
3rd Battalion (Freeman)
2nd Battalion (Thacher)
305th Infantry: 2nd Battalion (Eaton)
1st Battalion (Metcalf)
3rd Battalion (Harris)
(e) The 2nd Battalion passes to Division Reserve and at H minus 4 hours will be behind the cliff on the road between Le Claon and Florent. Relief will commence at least 12 hours before H hour.
(f) The 1st Battalion will be moved at least 12 hours before H hour, to assembly position and directly behind the present front line trenches.
(g) The 3d Battalion will move at the same time to assembly position directly in rear of 1st Battalion, taking up position in the Ravin des Sapins.
(h) All elements of the 1st and 3d Battalions, known as the 1st and 2nd Line Battalions respectively, will be in advance of the line Chemin Gouraud 98.8-67.9 by H minus 4 hours. Necessary reconnaissance will be made at once.
6. (a) The guide will be center, the right flank of the 306th Infantry and the left flank of the 305th Infantry marching on Barricade Pavilion 98.9-70-8. The dividing line between regiments as given above, is the pivot on which ALL elements of this Corps swing to the right or left until the Corps objective is reached.

(b) The turning movement involved in this operation necessitates close attention of all concerned to the covering of the entire sectors of attack allotted. In case of doubt, commanders will take over any ground in question.

7. In view of the fact that the amount of cover for the 2nd Line Battalion after the Corps objective has been reached, will influence the 2nd Line Battalion's position, it is not possible to issue orders other than that the 2nd Line Battalion must be ready to advance from the Corps objective at H Plus 41/2 hours. The principle, however, to be considered is that unless exceptionally fine cover offers in the immediate vicinity, the 2nd Line Battalion will move through the leading battalion while on the Corps objective, leaving the leading, or 1st Line Battalion, to hold the position and to mop up the area within the Regimental sub-sector.

8. (a) Mopping up parties will be detailed from the 2nd Line Battalion Ord Battalion) for use until the Corps objective has been reached. Two platoons will be assigned to the 1st Line Battalion 1st Battalion) for this purpose.
(b) These mopping up parties will march in rear of the advance companies of the 1st Line Battalion.
(c) Definite limits for mopping up will be assigned to each mopping up party until the section of trench system is cleared. These parties should work from intersection of trenches.
(d) Each mopping up group to consist of 2 bayonetmen, 2 grenademen, 2 ammunition carriers and a noncommissioned officer who will be made responsible for the thorough cleaning up of his trench.
(e) On completion of their duties these mopping up sections will remain in position and reorganize the system for defense on arriving at the last trench of the Corps objective.
M Particular attention must be given to this mopping up work because of the vast number of dugouts. This especially must be carefully explained to the mopping up gangs.
(g) The mopping up parties will carry a greater proportion of the new gas hand grenades, to be used in underground shelters. Proper demand for surrender, however, should always be given.

9. TACTICAL DISPOSITION: (a) Attacking force will be disposed as follows: 2 companies in advance-2 mopping up platoons -2 Companies in support.
The use of the new hand and rifle phosphorous grenade will be studied for (a) blinding machine-guns and (b) for dispersing small bodies of troops waiting for the advance. They will also cover, to a great extent, the necessary cutting of wire in rear of the enemy's front lines.

(b) The advance companies of the 1st Battalion will move forward in small groups of squad columns, preceded by one or two scouts per group. These scouts will be accompanied by engineers in such quantity as the battalion commander deems necessary.
(c) The support companies will move forward in column of half-sections and platoons, staggered with deploying distance between each section and platoon. The 2nd Line Battalion Ord Battalion) will move forward in sections and platoon columns, staggered, 500 yards in rear of the leading battalion. This distance will not be taken up until the enemy's 1st line has been crossed by both battalions.
(d) In the support companies of the leading battalion (1st Battalion) special attention will be given to the location of rifle grenadiers and auto riflemen with a view to their effective action in the event of a temporary holdup.
(e) accompanying 75s: 2 75s will be placed under control of the leading battalion (1st Battalion) commander, for reducing machine-gun nests and other strong points. These guns will be moved forward in much the same manner as combat liaison group, one gun move forward and taking position, followed by the other in the same procedure. Perfect communication must be maintained at all times in the handling of these pieces, in order that enemy targets, which will present themselves, can be dealt with by direct fire with open sights. An artillery liaison officer has been directed to accompany the battalion commander of the leading battalion. The engineers assigned to each battalion are charged with building and maintenance of routes possible for the forward movement of the 75s.
10. (a) The Regimental Machine Gun Co. will be assigned to the leading battalion (1st Battalion) ; Company B, 305th M.G. Bn. to the 2nd Line Battalion Ord Battalion) ; and Company D, 305th M.G. Bn. to the 2nd Battalion (Division Reserve). Arrangements will be made beforehand between battalion commanders and Machine Gun Co. commanders concerned for a detail for the necessary carrying parties for assisting the machine-guns. These guns will be used as laid down in Combat Instructions, confidential, No. 1348, GHQ, AEF, Sept. 5, 1918.
NOTE: It is vitally essential that upon reaching the Corps objective, the machine-guns organize immediately to sweep and cross fire on the front.
(b) One 37mm gun will accompany each battalion. Three Stokes Mortars will follow the support companies of the 1st Line Battalion (1st Battalion). The C.O. Stokes Mortar Platoon will immediately confer with the C.O. 1st Battalion and arrange for carrying parties for necessary ammunition, and will be prepared to go into instant action in case of any holdup.

11. COMBAT LIAISON: (a) The C.O. 1st Line Battalion (1st Battalion) will designate one officer and one platoon of infantry who, with a section of machine-guns from the 305th Machine Gun Battalion designated by the Machine Gun Battalion Commander, will be used for combat liaison with the 307th Infantry. Immediately on receipt of this order this officer will report to the Brigade Commander for instructions.
(b) Liaison between the 306th and 305th Infantry will be maintained by two groups, each group consisting of 1/2 platoon of infantry and one section of machine-guns furnished by each Regimental Commander. The liaison group from the 3o6th Infantry will be detailed from the leading battalion (1st Battalion) and the machine-gun section from the 3o6th Machine Gun Company.
12. (a) Plans for communication, supply, evacuation of sick and wounded; (b) plans for liaison, will be published later.
13. EQUIPMENT: (a) Two days' rations, slicker, intrenching tools, canteen full of water.
(b) Bandoliers, grenades, supply of pyrotechnics, panels, flares, Very pistols, etc.
14. POST OF COMMAND: Division P.C.-PAU 96.2-65.5
153d Brigade P.C.-98.8-68. 1
3o5th Infantry P.C.-Noveau Cottage
99.5-67.9
3o6th Infantry P.C.-Head of Ravin des
Sapins 97.7-67-8.
The 3o6th Inf. P.C. will close at its present position, Camp Kopp, at 19 hr. and open its new position at the same hour, this date.
By order of Col. Vidmer. A. M. WOLFF

Captain, 306th Infantry

Copy to C.G. 77th Div. Adjutant
C.G. 153rd Inf. Brig.
C.O. 1st Bn.
C.O. 2nd Bn.
C.O. 3rd Bn.
C.O. M.G. Co. 3o6th Inf.
C.O. 305th M.G. Bn.
File

The 2nd Battalion was ordered back to the vicinity of Le Claon to act as Division Reserve. The 1st Battalion was moved forward in front of Route Marchand on the late evening of the 25th, with the 3rd Battalion following in support. Major Power, who had commanded the 3rd Battalion from its organization, was here evacuated on account of serious illness, and Captain Freeman took com-mand. H hour was fixed for 5:30 on the morning of the 26th, and our jump-off line extended from Four de Paris on the left and joined with our companion regiment, the 305th, on the right. On the left was the 307th Infantry and between our Regiment and those on the right and left were placed combat liaison groups to keep up the perfect liaison which was to be necessary in penetrating the dense tangle in front.

On the early morning of the 26th the artillery preparation began and lasted for three hours, not only playing on those points marked on the map as strong points, support and reserve positions, but also blasting zones through the dense enemy wire which faced us.

Promptly at 5 :30 the 1st Battalion attacked, with the 3rd Battalion in close support, following a rolling barrage at the rate of 100 yards in five minutes. On any other ground, perhaps, troops might have followed the barrage at a normal rate, but little did we expect to find such a network of deep trenches with their multitude of dugouts, nor did we ever believe that there could possibly be such a dense tangle of barbed-wire. Practically no opposition was encountered going through the front line trenches with the exception of wire, the trees and the trenches. Fifty- four prisoners were sent back during the day. The advance was extremely slow, down one ravine and up another, and a gain of only two kilometers was made that day. The line for the night was established just north of the Four de Paris-Barricade Pavilion Road. Three machine-guns were captured and our losses for the day were 8 men killed, 3 officers and 15 men wounded.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 27th, the Colonel and his staff moved forward to the front line. Two companies of the 1st Battalion had become separated in the dense network of trenches and could not be found. The 3rd Battalion was moved up to the 1st. Staff officers and orderlies rushed about establishing the front line and trying to find the two lost companies, and as daylight appeared groups of the enemy could be seen across the little valley immediately to our front in the vicinity of Abri de St. Louis and St. Hubert's Pavilion.

The orders given on the 26th were to continue the attack. The advance of the 26th had not yielded satisfactory results. We wanted more ground, and although the front line had not yet been coordinated, Lieutenant Schaffner, of Company K, saw the enemy, and without waiting for support, attacked at St. Hubert's Pavilion. The staccato, rat-tat-tat of enemy machine-guns immediately sounded all along the sector and Boche artillery shells rained about us. Men fell, here and there, as, shrapnel pellets caught them, but nothing deterred K Company and after an hour of hand-to-hand fighting they succeeded in driving the enemy from their strong position. Again K Company distinguished itself when the Boche made three counter-attacks. It was, however, mainly because of Lieutenant Schaffner's courageous leadership that a machine-gun was silenced and many prisoners taken. Here the Germans, worked probably the wiliest trick ever played against the Regiment. A detachment approached K Company holding up their hands and crying, "Kamerad!" and when they had almost reached our lines the enemy attacking wave appeared behind them using pistols, rifles and hand grenades, which caused heavy casualties among our men. Lieutenant Schaffner ran for-ward, seized the Boche captain, shot him and dragged him back to the trench., His conduct was superb and greatly inspired his men. He very deservedly won the coveted Medal of Honor for his conspicuous gallantry. This was the first and only Medal of Honor won by the Regiment and no Medal of Honor man performed a more gallant act than that of Lieutenant Schaffner. The first Medal of Honor in the Division I Another honor for the "Three-Oh-Six." Lieutenant Kenyon came in for his share of glory on this same morning in leading his company against a counter-attack of the enemy in superior numbers. Although three times wounded, he remained with his company and carried the attack forward successfully.

Company K, however, could not hold its position without support. They had lost both officers and men in killed and wounded and the other companies of the two attacking battalions were not ready to go on. Machine-guns were rushed forward and, covered by bands of fire, the company dropped back in splendid order.

But a little later in the day the advance was taken up and the line was established for the night where the gallant fight had occurred in the early morning.

After his arrival at the front line on the early morning of the 27th, the Colonel immediately began reorganizing the attacking force. This reorganization had to be made during the darkness and before daylight. All of his staff and headquarters orderlies were kept busy taking messages to the two battalion commanders and pointing out positions. The reorganization took place in rear of the Colonel's command post and was done under extremely heavy artillery fire on the part of the enemy. As day began to dawn the enemy proceeded to rake the hill with machine-gun fire. Staff officers and battalion commanders urged the Colonel to move to the rear, but this he would not do and remained where he was between the lines until the attack had started. For this he was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Corporal Andrew J. Reilly, Company B, Corporal John Murdock, Company C, and Private Carl 1. Johnson, Company B, came in for special mention during the day. All three showed the greatest gallantry and bravery under intense machine-gun and rifle fire and individually distinguished themselves by heroic acts. Corporal Harry Yamin, Company B, also displayed exceptional bravery and courage at the beginning of the fight. He volunteered to cut the barbed-wire in front of his company and while performing this gallant deed received wounds from which he afterwards died. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously. Lieutenant Charles S. Dennison, Sergeant Patrick Freeman, Company B, and Private Carl Johnson were also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extreme heroism during the attack on St. Hubert's Pavilion and Abri de St. Louis. With such examples before us we knew we could not be stopped. It was a case of "Suivezmoi."

Our losses for the day were 2 officers and 103 enlisted men wounded and 1 officer, 20 men killed.

During the 28th both battalions were brought up in line and extended in depth. Our sector had begun to widen and we had to cover it.

Due to the heavy undergrowth and the lack of paths or roads, the gain was slight. Constant machine-gun and artillery fire played on us during the day and our casualties were 10 wounded.

On the 29th the attack was resumed at 6 A.M., the 3rd Battalion in the lead, with B and K Companies in support. A, C, and D Companies were echeloned on the left to connect with the 307th Infantry. The battalion reached its objective at the crossroads at 11: 30 A.m. and here a halt was ordered by the Brigade Commander to permit elements of the 28th Division on our right and the I54th Brigade on our left to catch up with our line. Our casualties for this day were 4 men killed and 5 wounded.

On the 30th it was again necessary to establish liaison on our right and left. Now we began to find out how necessary is that close cooperation which must exist between commanders of units on the battlefield. The liaison between our Regiment and the 305th was perfect throughout the campaign. Sector lines between these two regiments were merely guides and we could always count on the interval, if any existed, being provided for whether orders were issued or not. Referring to the map showing the advance through the Argonne Forest, the left of our sector only is shown. It would be impossible to draw accurately our right sector line. The 305th and 3o6th cooperated so splendidly that such a line was hardly necessary. Where one part of the front was left open by one, it was immediately filled in by the other.

In reorganizing our lines during the day we lost 1 man killed, and 1 officer and 2 men wounded.
It is a matter of pride to here insert the following memorandum from the Corps Commander to General Wittenmyer, commanding our brigade: "I have never had any doubt at all about anything connected with the 77th Division, on account of its excellent liaison throughout, and also on account of its excellent manner in getting supplies up to the front."

On October 1st we advanced to Bois-de-la-Naza, where the Boche had set up a dense line of machine-guns. The resistance was exceedingly stubborn and, try as we' could, with our front covered by patrols, we could not penetrate this net. We now began to see the difficulties ahead. There were no longitudinal roads in the sector assigned to our regiment. Our food and other supplies had to be transported behind other units and brought in by hand. The enemy had opened diagonally crossing gaps through the forest, to cross which, we learned earlier in the game, it was necessary either to dash or to crawl on our stomachs, as all of these were well targeted by enemy machine-guns. On this day our losses were 6 men wounded and 5 men killed.

On October 2nd the 3rd Battalion took over the entire front line, but, try as we could, we could not make any advance in the face of the very heavy machine-gun fire from the front. On this day we lost 10, men badly wounded, 3 killed.

On the 3rd we again tried to penetrate this dense line of machine-guns and had 18 men wounded, 3 killed. The difficulty lay in locating any one machine-gun. The enemy had crossed their zones of fire perfectly and in attempting to, locate one we would receive flanking fire from another. The 1st Battalion was relieved and sent back to act as Brigade Reserve at Abri de Crochet and in the early evening the 2nd Battalion moved into position.

On the 4th the 305th took over the front line sector of the Brigade and the 3o6th were moved back 300 yards to act as Brigade Reserve, where it remained during the 5th and 6th. Casualties on the 4th: 3 men killed, 16 wounded. October 5th casualties: 1 officer, 47 men wounded, 2 men killed. On the 6th, 2 men killed, 2 wounded.

On October7th the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were moved into the front line at Bois-de-la-Naza, with the 1st Battalion in support. Practically no advance had been made since the evening of the 3rd. Casualties on the 7th: 1man killed, 1wounded.

After a strong attack on the 8th the Regiment advanced to the crossroads at La Viergette, coming under heavy machine-gun fire, but the lesson in regard to cover had been earned and our casualties were only 1 killed and 1 wounded.

On the morning of the 9th the 1st Battalion took the lead and the Regiment moved to the crossroads southwest of La Besogne. Here we lost 2 men wounded. The enemy was giving way. Our maps showed us that the Aire River was but a short distance to the front, with high hills and dense forest on its north bank. It took but a quick estimate of the situation to feel that they would drop back during the night to this almost impregnable position.

ST. JUVIN *

"The Corps Commander will accept no excuse if the town of St. Juvin is not taken by tonight. "-Verbal statement made to the Commanding General, 77th Division.

Although the driving force of this order, the meaning and significance of which no soldier can fail to recognize, was never communicated to the front line troops of the 3o6th Infantry, nevertheless the spirit which was in it animated the Regiment on that day, with the result that Company H (Captain Adler), 2nd Battalion, 306th Infantry, with Company K (Lieutenant Pierce) and Company L (Lieutenant Fahr), 3rd Battalion of the Regiment, in support, captured St. Juvin, taking several hundred German prisoners. The order of the Corps Commander had been obeyed!

The terrain over which this severe and important action was fought was historic ground. From Fleville, on the extreme east, through La Besogne, St. Juvin, Chevieres and Grand Pre, runs a narrow road north of and following the windings of the River Aire through the valley dominated on the north by the hills above Champigneulle, Hill 182, and the still higher and densely wooded ridge of the Bois-de-Loges, behind which the heavier German artillery was located. From Fleville on the east to St. Juvin toward the west, the river valley is narrow and the ridge to the northward slopes steeply up several hundred feet. Slightly to the westward of St. Juvin, a picturesque hill-village which straggles upward from the Aire toward the lower slopes of Ute 182, the river valley broadens out near Chevieres and continues through flats and without cover to a point opposite Grand Pre, whose southerly edge borders the river.

This stretch of ground, and especially Grand Pre, has constituted an important gateway of the Argonne during a long period of French military history. General Dumouriez, one of the most brilliant of the French revolutionary commanders, in his Memoirs refers to Grand Pre as the "Thermopylx of France."

Almost directly opposite St. Juvin, on a jutting nose or "massif," as the French call it, is a high tableland at the foot of whose westerly slope nestles the little town of Marcq. This projecting and quite high tableland rises from a quarter to half a mile south of a northerly bend in the River Aire, directly in front of St. Juvin, and on October 14th was exposed to German artillery fire from the counterslope behind the heights of Champigneulle and the ridge of the Bois-de-Loges, as well as to German machine-guns located in the vicinity of the crest of Hill 18 2.

On October 10th the 1st Battalion (Major Weaver) and the 2nd Battalion (Major Thacher) of the 306th Infantry had successfully advanced on the line La Besogne to Grand Pre, the 1st Battalion attacking La Besogne, Marcq and Chevieres under heavy artillery fire. In the face of the advance of the 2nd Battalion (which was on the Tight of the 220th Regiment of French Infantry) a German general -headquarters had abruptly retreated from the chateau-farm of Le Noeud du Coq, three-quarters of a mile to the south-east of Grand Pr6. At the end of that day the 3o6th Infantry occupied the entire divisional front between La Besogne on the east and Grand Pr6 on the west, along the River Aire.

The Regiment was relieved by the I 54th Brigade at day-break of October 11th, going into support position south of La Besogne and remaining there the following day. On October 13th, pursuant to Operations Order NO. 46 of the 153rd Brigade, the 306th Infantry moved to an area about one kilometer west of Cornay, preparatory to attacking St. Juvin.

The Regiment thereafter occupied the extreme right of the 77th Division sector., To the eastward, or to the right, was the 82nd Division. To enable the 306th Infantry to attack St. Juvin, the left or westerly regiment (326th Infantry) of the 82nd Division was to side-slip to the right or eastward, thus uncovering the base of the massif or plateau-nose dominating Marcq and freeing the ground between that height and the southerly bank of the Aire for the advance of the 306th Infantry.

In contemplation of the attack, but before the brigade order had been received, Colonel Vidmer directed the laying out of liaison lines and the marking of routes for the attack. Captain Per Lee, a gallant officer of the 302nd Engineers, assured Colonel Vidmer that he was prepared to lay bridges across the stream as soon as the Regiment was ready to attack. However, no orders for the attack had been received even late on the night of October 13-14. The Regimental Commander went back to Brigade Headquarters so that immediate action could be taken when the Brigade Commander gave the word. The brigade order was finally received at 3:15 A.M. on the morning of October 14th. As the attack was to start at 8:30 A.M., little time remained to distribute orders to the front line battalions, and march them (from the forest south and back of Marcq, where they had lain on their arms during the night) to their attacking positions before 6:00 A.m. The regimental order, however, was promptly issued at 4:20 A.M., and in spite of the short notice, the battalions were in position for the jump-off at the time specified.

Promptly at 8 .30 A.M. the 1st Battalion (Major Weaver), supported by Companies E (Captain Johnstone) and G (Captain Bull) of the 2nd Battalion, moved due north from the westerly slope of the tableland overlooking Marcq, toward the river-bank immediately south of St. Juvin. Upon reaching the open space in the river-bottom south of the Aire, they were met with a heavy artillery barrage, machine-gun and rifle fire. Furthermore, they could not cross the river at that point, because the bridge was down and the river was not there fordable. Several attempts were made to pierce the German barrage, but each time the reinforced battalion incurred such heavy losses that finally, with seven officers listed among "killed," it sought cover and dug in immediately south of the River Aire to await a more favorable opportunity.

Colonel Vidmer, with Captain Costa de Beauregard and the Adjutant, Captain Wolff, had established a forward combat regimental observation post, dangerously exposed to the German fire, on the top of the projecting nose or massif overlooking Marcq to the westward and the narrow river valley of the Aire immediately to the north. In this exposed position Colonel Vidmer and his staff remained under heavy fire during the course of the attack.

The first word which the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion (Major Thacher) received from the 1st Battalion before its attack was launched, was a written request from Major Weaver asking that C.O., 2nd Battalion, send a third company to his support. By runner message, dated 6:02 A.M., 14 October, Major Thacher forwarded this information to the Regimental Commander.

With Companies E (Captain Johnstone) and G (Captain Bull) of the 2nd Battalion already constituting part of the 1st Battalion in the frontal attack, Major Thacher realized that to, send forward a third company might dangerously weaken the strength of the 2nd Battalion; he never-the less felt that an imperative request from the officer in charge of the front line of the attack, and for such an important purpose, should not be ignored, although the subsequent ability of the 2nd Battalion thereafter to "leap-frog" the 1st Battalion and carry on beyond the immediate objective of the 1st Battalion might thereby be seriously limited. F Company (Captain Patterson) was therefore promptly pushed forward, slightly to the right or eastward of the projecting plateau or massif facing St. Juvin. Thereafter Major Thacher, accompanied by his adjutant, Lieutenant Sutherland, and Captain Turnbull of the Machine Gun Company, then attached to the 2nd Battalion, proceeded to the west face of the height overlooking Marcq to observe, if possible, the effect of the heavy fire of about sixty machine-guns, massed upon St. Juvin by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, Division Machine Gun Commander, and also the movements of the 1st Battalion. These troops were not then visible from this position. Later these officers moved easterly to the battle observation post of Colonel Vidmer, and the C.O. 2nd Battalion described the condition of the attack as he knew it, and the situation of Companies E, F and G of his battalion.

Thereafter, Major Thacher returned with Captain Turnbull, Lieutenant Sutherland and a runner, descending the steep northeasterly face of the tableland in order to look for possible shelter for H Company (Captain Adler) and the remaining troops of the 2nd Battalion along the base of the massif. Finding an excellent position for this purpose, he ordered the remaining units of the 2nd Battalion and the Machine Gun Company brought forward to a position along the easterly side of the base of the tableland, in readiness to advance later if the reinforced 1st Battalion could gain ground in its frontal attack. The position almost completely sheltered this portion of the 2nd Battalion, as the general line or drift of the German fire came from a somewhat northwesterly angle, principally from the direction of the Bois-de-Loges, against which the bulk of the forward slopes of the massif afforded excellent protection.

To ascertain, if possible, the difficulties encountered by the 1st Battalion, Major Thacher then proceeded alone to make a reconnaissance between the projecting tableland and the River Aire, which developed the fact that to push additional troops toward the front line of the 1st Battalion at this point could not make such a frontal attack successful. It is believed that due to this thorough reconnaissance the attack later carried out met with such marked success. Major Thacher examined this exposed position until he was thoroughly familiar with the ground south of the Aire and the possibilities of fording the, river under the protection of a wooded bend in the river about 1,000 meters to the eastward of St. Juvin. (For this action he later received the Distinguished Service Cross.) He then returned to the easterly side of the massif, there meeting Captain Adler, the battalion adjutant, Lieutenant Sutherland, and Captain Turnbull of the Machine Gun Company, with the troops which they had brought up. It was evident that St. Juvin could not be taken by frontal attack, at least until the counter-battery work of the American artillery had substantially silenced the German batteries, which was not then the case-the German fire continuing steadily.

A runner was then sent forward, over open ground, swept by heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, to request Captain Bull to report to the Battalion Commander to determine whether it would be possible to side-slip G Company to the right, and cooperate with H Company in the flank attack on St. Juvin from the east, which Major Thacher then decided to make. Captain Bull reported that, in his opinion, his company was in too exposed a position to make it possible to extricate it from the 1st Battalion attack and move it eastward, across the field of the enemy's fire, without such serious losses as would practically destroy its ability to support the attack of H Company. It was therefore decided not to attempt this dangerous maneuver.

As the two officers were discussing the situation a machine-gun bullet chipped the top of Captain Bull's left ear and, as he turned to go back to, his company, another bullet slit the back of his coat for about six inches, just missing his spine. He seemed to bear a charmed life and returned safely to his company.

Shortly afterward the deaths of Lieutenant Gregory, G Company, the gallant Hayes of F Company, Harkins of E Company, Sweeney of Company A, and Crandall in command of the 37mm gun were reported; besides the deaths of numerous men. A heavy price was being paid in the frontal attack, showing that a flank movement was the only hope of taking the town.

Major Thacher then sent a runner with a message to Captain Freeman, C0. 3rd Battalion, requesting the loan of two of his companies to support the 2nd Battalion in a flank attack on St. Juvin from the east. These companies were generously and promptly furnished.

Major Thacher sent for Captain Adler to give him orders for the attack. The two officers stood together in open ground near a tree and saw not only through their field-glasses but with the naked eye, the left flank of the 82nd Division bending back before the German attack. Major Thacher instructed Captain Adler first, if necessary, to throw back the German attack which was pressing the extreme left flank of the division on his right and then to pivot to the left and attack St. Juvin. This operation meant entering the sector of another division, but the frontal attack could not succeed and it was necessary to take St. Juvin before a bridgehead could be established across the Aire.

The attacking force, led by H Company less one platoon which earlier in the morning had been attached to the 1st Battalion as stretcher-bearers, launched the assault shortly before two o'clock in the afternoon. A pair of machine-guns from the 305th Machine Gun Battalion under Lieutenant Andre was attached to H Company for the attack. The company moved out with two, platoons in front and one platoon in support, over exposed ground, and very shortly were met by an extremely heavy enemy artillery fire. There was about 500 yards of open ground to cross before shelter from a fringe of trees growing near the riverbank could be gained. During the advance one platoon of the company was so badly shot up that it never crossed the river. At this point the river divided into two streams, both of which were fordable, and the remainder of the company, now well under cover, found little difficulty in getting across to the opposite bank.

While in the midst of the river on the heavily wooded island formed by these two streams, the company was reorganized and it was found that approximately 60 men had reached this point, plus Lieutenant Andre and one of his two machine-guns. Bayonets were fixed on this island shelter and, coming out again into the open as the second of the two stream-branches was forded, the company met no resistance and carried out its earlier orders of sharply pivoting to the left. The town was entered at 3:45 P.M. with little resistance, and as the mopping up of the houses and cellars began, the enemy hiding in these places appeared and surrendered in scores. They seemed to take it for granted that a large force had captured the town and were content to lay down their arms without further resistance.

Captain Adler, accompanied by Lieutenant Andre and one orderly, proceeded through the town to Hill 182 and suddenly came upon about 150, of the enemy on the crest of the Hill. This small detachment of Americans opened fire and evidently gave the impression that they were the point of a much larger force. Within a few moments Corporal Terpenning joined the fire fight with a squad of automatic riflemen, and a little later Lieutenant DeWitt with a small detachment of H Company, who had been mopping up, appeared and many of the enemy were killed or captured. Pursuit was kept up until the small detachment of H Company reached the crest of Hill 182.

After H Company had disappeared behind a clump of trees in its advance to ford the Aire, K Company (Lieutenant Pearce) and L Company (Lieutenant Fahr) of the 3rd Battalion reported to the C.O., 2nd Battalion, the arrival of their companies-Captain Freeman having acted with his usual vigor and promptness. They were immediately given their orders-"to support H Company, especially its right flank and, after crossing the river, to take and occupy Hill 182." As these companies pushed forward to the attack under the direction of the C.O. 2nd Battalion, Captain Wolff, Regimental Adjutant, came up with a verbal order from Colonel Vidmer that the 2nd Battalion should attack St. Juvin on the east flank. Major Thacher pointed out that this attack was already launched and requested that this be reported to the Regimental Commander. From different positions, the necessity of a flank attack had become evident to both officers at practically the same time.

Captain Turnbull's Machine Gun Company and Battalion Headquarters also advanced, the flank attack quickly causing the German artillery to switch its fire more to the eastward from the ridges between Champigneulle and the Bois,-de-Loges, striking the advancing troops somewhat on their left flank as they crossed the open ground to the Aire, and inflicting numbers of casualties. This attack also re-lieved the pressure on the left flank of the division to the right.

While Major Thacher and Captain Turnbull were observing the advance of K and L Companies, shells began to fall among the men of the advance platoons, killing and wounding a number. The cries of the wounded were pitiful and Captain Turnbull started forward to render assistance to them among the bursting shells. He was, however, ordered not to go forward by the Battalion Commander, who feared that further loss of officers might jeopardize the attack and interfere with the advance of the machine-guns. But for this enforced restraint Captain Turnbull would undoubtedly have been decorated for his brave effort.

After crossing the Aire, at a point about abreast of a culvert running under the Fleville-St. Juvin road, some 1200 meters east of St. Juvin, the C.O. 2nd Battalion over took Companies K and L of the 3rd Battalion (supporting H Company) and directed them to attack and occupy Hill 182, which they afterwards did, Captain Adler directing L Company to place itself in the abandoned German trenches near the crest of that hill. Captain Adler then proceeded to reorganize his own company-finally collecting 26 men -and took position on the road leading north of St. Juvin with his left on the east side of the town.

Altogether some 350 prisoners were taken by the Regiment from the town of St. Juvin. Some were sent south across the river directly to Regimental Headquarters, but the majority were sent under cover along the road leading southeast into the sector of the 82nd Division, which took charge of them.

Captain Adler, Privates James Sullivan and Joseph Ver-cruysse, of Company H, displayed such extraordinary heroism in action at St. Juvin that they were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Corporal Vincent P. Zielinski, of Company B, and Corporal Henry B. McPherson, of Company C, were also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for distinguished gallantry when the 1st Battalion was held up at the river-bank. Lieutenants Ralph E. DeWitt, Richard R. Blazer, 1st Sergeant Daniel J. Patterson, Sergeant George C. Hoffman, Corporals Willis S. Desmond and Theodore B. Terpenning, Privates Samuel Rappaport, Walter J. McClenahan, Brink W. Burdick, Philip A. Dolan, Joseph M. Dolan, John G. Bartsch, George G. Alger, Ormy Goddard, Joseph Buchfelder and Joseph But-ler, of Company H, all played their part in the history of the Regiment during the attack on St. Juvin, with marked courage and gallantry. They aided greatly in the capture of the town and prisoners.

Sergeant George James, of Company 1, risked his life in the protection of three platoons of his company.
Back at Regimental Headquarters the shelling was intense. Colonel Vidmer was accompanied only by his adjutant, Captain Arthur M. Wolff, and his liaison officer, Captain Costa de Beauregard. Captain Wolff was badly gassed and although he fainted from exhaustion three times during the night of the 14th, he remained on duty and it was not until the Regimental Commander found him unconscious that he was sent to the rear. It was necessary to keep liaison with Brigade Headquarters through our rear echelon and as all the wires were cut by artillery fire as soon as repaired, communication was at a standstill until Captain Costa de Beauregard gallantly volunteered to act as runner. He seemed to bear a charmed life, for twice he walked unconcernedly through the heavy barrages put down in rear of Regimental Headquarters. For this act he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

Shortly after the advance of Companies K and L, 306th infantry, in the direction of Hill 182, Company H, 305th Infantry (Captain Dodge), having crossed the river to the eastward of the 2nd Battalion, 306th Infantry, proceeded along the northerly side of the River Aire, between that stream and the Fleville-St. Juvin highroad. This strip of ground was under quite sharp shell fire. The men of this company were dangerously bunched in places after getting across while their own company commander was directing the balance of the company across the stream. Captain Bennett, Adjutant of the 153rd Infantry Brigade, cutting across the stream ahead of Company H, 305th Infantry, placed himself ahead of this company and facing them; by walking backward (with his back uncomfortably turned toward the German shell fire) and using arm-signals, he succeeded in spreading out these troops into extended order, thus greatly reducing casualties from the enemy artillery. It was a valuable and spectacular service, requiring coolness and courage. The C.O. 2nd Battalion informed Captain Dodge, 305th Infantry, that H Company, 306th Infantry, was then in St. Juvin, that 1, Company had been ordered to occupy Hill 182 and suggested to Captain Dodge that he should advance and support Captain Adler in cleaning up St. Juvin. This was done and H Company, 305th Infantry, took up a position slightly north and west of St. Juvin.

Continuing along the road to St. Juvin, the P.C. of the C.O. 2nd Battalion was established on a ledge and counter-slope about So feet above or north of the highroad and about 200 meters from the easterly edge of the town, the battalion adjutant joining Captain Adler, who located H Company north of St. Juvin, and L Company (Lieutenant Fahr) farther up the slope of Hill 182, in the abandoned German trenches near the crest.

In a message, dated 9:13 P.m., from C.O. 2nd Battalion to the Regimental Commander, Major Thacher stated that the company commanders of such units of the 306th Infantry as had then crossed the river had reported to him, that the position had been organized, and giving the disposition of the companies. The principal strength of the Regiment was placed to the westward in order to guard against the danger of a left-flank counter-attack by the Germans at that point, owing to the inability of the 307th Infantry to get a battalion across the Aire, west of St. Juvin.

The message also stated: "A machine-gun nest in St. Juvin reported yet to be mopped." It also advised "accurate and dangerous shelling of town and valley and this north counterslope overlooking road" and concluded with the statement that the writer was "in close touch with Gen'l Smedberg."

About midnight 14-15 October, acting Brigadier General Smedberg, 305th Infantry (who on the evening of the 14th October had crossed the Aire and established his P.C. in the stream-bed immediately above the culvert crossing the F1eville-St. Juvin road, about 1200 meters east of that town), sent for Major Thacher and advised him of the proposed continuation of the advance of the 153rd Brigade at 7:30 A.M. on October 15th. While these officers and Captain (Major) Duncan Harris, 305th Infantry, were discussing the details of the next day's advance, the German artillery laid down very heavy shell fire from over the ridge near Champigneulle, many shells falling near Colonel Smedberg, who was seated with his back against the river-bank. Leaning forward in order to hear what was said, made a small opening behind his back, just as a heavy shell burst near them, throwing a large splinter behind Colonel Smedberg, so close that it tore the back of his coat but did not wound him. Picking out the fragment of shell, he continued the discussion as if nothing had happened.

During the night the enemy kept up a fairly heavy shell fire, with some gas, and early on the morning of October 15th, began a very heavy bombardment of our positions preparatory to a counter-attack.

This created a new situation and caused the cancellation of Operations Order No. 47 of the 153rd Brigade, which contemplated a resumption of the attack at 7:30 A.M. on October 15th.

The enemy shell fire was heavy and accurate, striking on the slopes of Hill 182 to the eastward and south and finally concentrating heavily upon the ground between the Landres St. Georges road and the Fleville-St. Juvin highway. This H.E. shell fire, together with some gas shells, began to creep forward to the southward, evidently ahead of the attack of the German infantry, with the result that a number of shells, both high explosive and gas, pounded upon the narrow shelf where the P.C. of the 2nd Battalion was located and also along the stretch of meadow immediately south of the Fleville-St. Juvin highway. Had it not been for some recent rain which had softened these fields, troops exposed along the highway would have sustained heavy losses. The effect of the explosion of the heavy shells in the muddy fields was interesting and spectacular: so soft was the ground that the shells did not explode on contact, but only after they had buried a few feet in the mud. The result was that geysers of mud, stones and some water were shot a hundred feet or more in the air by the explosion of each shell.

During this bombardment and shortly before 8: 00 o'clock that morning, the attention of the C.O. 2nd Battalion and other officers at the Battalion P.C. on the shelf immediately above the St. Juvin-Fleville road, about 200 meters to the eastward of St. Juvin, was attracted by a red star shell shot up from a direction roughly west by south of that P.C., from what appeared to be an embankment immediately south of St. Juvin. At the same time they could see with the naked eye and also through their field-glasses, four or five German machine-gunners trying to set up a machine-gun on this embankment with the evident intention of enfilading from the rear the troops located along the St. Juvin-Fleville highroad. Within five minutes after the red star shell had gone up, doubtless as a signal from the German machine-gunners to their artillery, enemy shells ceased to fall within an area approximately 200 meters in diameter from the position of the German machine-gun. It was a skillful and courageous piece of signal liaison between the gun crew and the German artillery. The C.O. 2nd Battalion at once gave orders to Captain Turnbull of the Machine Gun Company, then attached to the 2nd Battalion and who was at the Battalion P.C., to open fire upon the German machine-gun before it could be set up and fired. This order was carried out by one of the machine-guns located on the Battalion P.C. shelf. Runners were also immediately sent with orders to the Captains of F and M Companies, located along the highroad, to send platoons to attack the German machine-gun before it could be laid and fired. Captain Patterson pushed forward with a platoon of F Company and by these means the German gunners were shot down in their position before they could open fire. When the German machine-gun had been put out of action and all but one of the gun crew killed, a white star shell was shot up, probably by the survivor; and within five minutes of that time the German artillery fire again fell over the area surrounding the German machine-gun position, recently freed from such fire by the red star shell signal. It was a brave sacrifice to efficiency based upon the highest degree of discipline.

The German counterattack was made by the 210th, 211th and 212th German Infantry Regiments of the 90th German Brigade of the 45th Reserve Division, which had been driven out of St. Juvin on the afternoon of the 14th with heavy losses in killed and prisoners-the 211th German Infantry, whose sector had included St. Juvin, having lost nearly one-half its strength during the attack of the 306th Infantry.

The German counterattack was, however, successfully repelled by the 77th Division north and west of St. Juvin and by the 82nd Division on its right.

The relief of the 3o6th Infantry took place very late on the night of 15-16 October, the delay being partially due to the heavy shelling inflicted upon regiments of the 78th Division as they marched from Fl6ville in order to make the relief of the 77th Division around St. Juvin.

The relief was reported as complete to the C-O-, 306th Infantry, at 3:30 A.M., 16 October, and the 78th Division officially took over the entire sector then occupied by the 77th Division at 6:oo o'clock the same morning.

Some idea of the desperate fighting at St. Juvin is given by the casualty list for the period from the morning of the 14th to the late evening of the 15th. The Regiment lost 7 officers and 37 men killed, 4 officers and 213 men wounded.

A tiresome and leg-weary march of the exhausted troops of the 306th Infantry from St. Juvin to Cornay, and thence to Camp Buzon, then began. The men had had little to eat for nearly two days and had been through a severe engagement, sustaining numerous losses and casualties. One of the pathetic sights as the units moved toward Fleville from St. Juvin was Corporal Boriskin of the 306th Infantry, who was being carried on a stretcher to a support dressing station; he had been mortally wounded in crawling out under heavy fire the day before to rescue and give first aid to, a wounded German major lying in front of the American lines on the slopes of Hill 182. It was one among many fine acts done that day and fully justifies the statement contained in General Alexander's Memoirs: "I wrote a letter of commendation to the Commanding General)153rd Brigade, more especially for the brigade and specifically for the 306th Infantry, the unit which had done the work and paid the price therefor."

Turning north on their march toward Camp Buzon, the 306th Infantry marched slowly up the steep winding hill to the heights of Cornay. For nearly a, mile along the left-hand side of the road, like shocks of corn and in many places only three to four feet apart, lay hundreds of the dead German infantry who had been caught in the deadly sweep of the American H.E. and gas shell fire a few days before, all lying with their faces to the westward-they had gone on their last journey.

We reached Camp Buzon for a much-needed rest on the 16th. From the night of the 13th, when the Regiment was moved forward preparatory to the attack, until noon of the 16th, when we reached our rest camp, not an eye had closed. Since entering the Vesle Sector on August 12th, with the exception of four days, the Regiment had been on the move or facing the enemy sixty-five days. The officers and men were exhausted and it was with heartfelt thanks that we received the news that we were to remain here for two weeks to catch up on sleep and a much-needed rest. The day we arrived in Camp Buzon the following order was read to us:

Headquarters, 77th Division, A.E.F.
General Orders 14th October 1918
No.
1. The Division Commander congratulates most heartily the troops of this Division upon the successful result of the operations of the 14th of October. A difficult night march was involved to place the 53rd Brigade in the proper position for attack, which march was accomplished, the attack made and the objective set for the day's effort successfully reached. In the course of the operations a large number of prisoners, including officers of superior rank, were taken by the 153rd Brigade.

This success, coming as it does in the course of a campaign which has already lasted eighteen days, made under circumstances which have tested to the limit the skill, courage and endurance of officers and men, demonstrates once more the indomitable spirit and courage of this Division. The Division Commander, reiterating the commendation already twice made by the Corps Commander of the work of this organization, feels that it is indeed an honor to him to command such troops.
ROBERT ALEXANDER,
Major General, Commanding.

The endorsement by the Brigade Commander on the Regimental Commander's report on the two days' fighting was as follows:

H. Q. 153rd Inf. Brigade, A.E.F., 22 Oct. 1918. To Commanding General, 77th Div.
Forwarded. The Brigade plan of attack called for the main attack to be made by the 3o6th Infantry, supported by the 305th Infantry. The attack was carried out as planned, and practically all of the fighting was done by the 306th Infantry, which captured the town and assisted in mopping up.
E. WITTENMYER,
Major General, U.S.A.

The Division was utilized at Camp Buzon as Corps Reserve and every four days we were put on the alert in instant readiness to move on receipt of orders. Again we received replacements and merged them into the Regiment.

It was during this rest that we lost our gallant and much -loved Brigade Commander, who had commanded us from the first days at Camp Upton. We were extremely fortunate in having as his successor Colonel Smedberg, who had commanded the 305th Infantry from its inception and whose regiment had worked in such close teamwork with us during our war experience up to this time. He now received his well-merited star.

While we were at Camp Buzon Major Thacher was ordered, first to hospital in Paris, and then to the United States to help train the incoming divisions. His loss was greatly felt by us all. He had been of inestimable help during our organization, and had shown himself a brave, loyal soldier and a leader of men.
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