W OULD the American troops really fight? This was a question asked with increasing anxiety by both the Allies and the Germans as the fateful spring of 1918 gave place to the historic summer of that year, the hot July days of which were to bring forth one of the great dramas of the human race: the second battle of the Marne.
The Americans had no doubt.
The Europeans had.
The Europeans did not expect the Americans would refuse to fight. They doubted, however, if they would fight with the determination, the desperation, of men whose hearts and souls are wrapped up in the success of the cause for which they go to battle.
As Russia withdrew from the war the question became a burning one:
To the Allies reeling under German blow after blow, because if this American reenforcement would not fight, it could not help them.
To the Germans because if this American reenforcement would fight it might rob them of their opportunity to beat the French and British to their knees with the million men Russia's dropping out had permitted them to add to their strength on the western front.
How burning the question was is best shown by the effect on General Pershing of my asking him a short while ago:
"Today, ten years after the war, what do you think, general, as to European doubts after we came into the war as to whether or not our entry would make good Russia's loss?"
He jumped up from his desk in the State, War, and Navy Building in Washington, his famous impassiveness gone, all the instinctive combativeness of his nature showing, with eyes flashing, jaw stuck out, and said:
"The superb way in which the American soldier put his heart and soul into his fighting from the very first soon settled the doubts of the Germans and fears of the Allies as to whether America's entry would compensate for Russia's going out of the war. As I look back now, after ten years, I more than ever believe that, as valuable as our numbers, two million men, were in determining the final victory, nothing was of more importance than the fact that in the early days of our activities, from the very first combat and in each succeeding one, the American soldier showed himself an eager and courageous fighter, who, far from being discouraged by stubborn enemy resistance, causing heavy losses, was only the more determined.
Our soldiers in the last war proved themselves worthy descendants of the men who, despite losses never exceeded proportionately in the whole course of the Great War, so distinguished themselves at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the bloody angle at Spottsylvania, and numerous other fights in our Civil War."
Napoleon I said, "In war the moral is to the physical as three is to one."
If that was the proportion in his day when battles were usually over in a few hours, twenty to one was the proper ratio in the last war when men were under fire for weeks at a time.
When we declared war the morale of the Allies was still good.
The Russian monarchy had been overthrown but the press was full of reassuring statements as to the determination of the new Kerensky government to keep on fighting. The increasing ravages of the German submarine campaign were fairly well hidden from the peoples at large and the armies in the field. The withdrawal of the Germans along the whole of their line from just south of Arras, to the north of Paris, to the new Hindenburg line was hailed as a great German retreat. In many quarters it was interpreted as the beginning of the end. The disgust of the French and British publics because Germany had not yet been crushed had been met some time before by changes in political and military leaders.
Hence the fact that America's coming into the war had made her vast material resources freely available to the Allies while entirely denying them to their enemies was of more interest than how hard such American soldiers as came to Europe would fight.
However, shortly matters commenced to change for the worst.
The French spring offensive of 1917, from which so much had been expected, came to an end with slight gains and after really bloody losses. As the French had borne the brunt of the fighting and the bulk of the losses, not excepting Russia, since August, 1914, when the war began, this failure seriously depressed the morale of both the army and the nation.
The British new armies, now finally at full strength and with the losses of the Somme battle of 1916 made good, started in to pound down the enemy. They captured ground, notably Vimy and Messines ridges, taken with great gallantry, but gained no decisive victories.
The price paid in blood was so high that those British statesmen who insisted the war could never be won on the western front, that some easier way must be found, received support both in the army and in the nation.
Then came blow after blow, any one of which was bound to depress Allied morale, and the succession of which inevitably left them staring defeat in the face.
In November, 1917, came Caporetto, the great Italian defeat. In December, 1917, the Bolsheviki seized control of Russia and signed a truce with the enemy. In March, 1918, the British suffered the greatest defeat in their military history. In May, 1918, the French with tremendous losses found themselves, after almost four years, driven once more to the banks of the Marne River.
Thus the question not only of how many Americans would arrive but how they would fight in battle became a vital one to the Allies.
The war-worn Germans had spurred their energies by visions of a German peace as the inevitable and immediate result of the staggering blows they were dealing the AlIies in 1918. They had been told the Americans could not arrive in time and in sufficient numbers to prevent it.
However, as these attacks progressed they found a steadily increasing number of American soldiers facing them. But numbers are not everything, as the German soldier's war experience had taught him. In most of his battles with the Russians he had been outnumbered but had won. In the Roumanian campaign he had been greatly outnumbered but had wiped Roumania practically off the map in four months.
What he wanted to know above everything was---were these Americans sufficiently interested, sufficiently wrought up about the war to really fight? Were their hearts in it ?
What the individual soldier feels about a war has a lot to do with the way he fights. The Russian soldier did not always have his heart in the fighting. The same revolutionary tendencies which had created trouble during the Russo-Japanese War had increased in the nine years between that war and the outbreak of the World War.
Heavy losses and constant defeats had discouraged the average soldier and increased his disinclination to fight for the tsar and his government.
I remember an incident at the Russian fortress of Brest-Litovsk, in the late summer of 1915, which showed that even the old soldier who had spent his life in the army was commencing to question the worth of his leaders. During a continuously victorious advance the Germans and Austro-Hungarians had captured from the Russians fortress after fortress, each with large numbers of prisoners and guns.
To escape being cut off and captured, the Russian garrison of Brest-Litovsk had abandoned the fortress and set it and the near-by town on fire. Through an interpreter, I was talking to a physically magnificent Russian non-commissioned officer. The hot August sky was almost hidden by the shooting flames and clouds of smoke from the burning fortress and town, mixed with an all-permeating cloud of fine dust rising from a seemingly interminable near-by column of marching troops.
The sergeant's thoughts were greatly troubling him. Among other things, he said: "Why are we always beaten? Our men are brave. We have taken heavy losses without running away. Yet always we retreat. Just like the war with the Japanese. Even when we beat the enemy directly in front of us, we retreat. I was captured by the Japanese at the battle of Mukden. My regiment was not beaten, but there was a retreat and some of us stayed too long and were caught."
He hated to say so, and would not directly, but it was plain he thought something was very wrong at the top. He was losing confidence in his leaders and heart in his cause.
The vicious fighting which had taken place from 1914 on plainly showed that the French, British, and Germans believed they had the best of reasons for fighting. The soldiers of each nation had put heart and soul into it.
However, they had reasons which the American did not have.
The Germans and the French had been fighting each other since the Treaty of Verdun in the year 843 split up the Empire of Charlemagne, giving Germany to one son and France (the name for what had once been called Gaul), to another. The Germans had not forgotten Napoleon's conquests. The French remembered their bitter defeats during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, followed by enemy occupation of their country until a huge indemnity was paid. In the war then going on the French had seen their women, children, and old men taking such meager belongings as they could carry, fleeing before the invader. They had seen, and still were seeing, their villages and towns destroyed by the violence of modern shell-fire. A large part of their country was still in the hands of the invader. They had every reason to fight.
The British remembered German sneers at their early military defeats and subsequent difficulties throughout the Boer War of 1899-1902. They had not forgotten German sympathy with the Boers and hostility to the British even prior to the Boer War. They remembered the kaiser's famous telegram to the Boer President Kruger, after the Boers had repulsed the British raid led by Dr. Jameson in 1895. In this telegram, the kaiser, besides congratulating the Boers upon their success, decidedly gave the impression that Germany had been ready to help the Boers had they been unable to beat Dr. Jameson alone.
For years before the war, the British had watched the steady growth of the German navy, built to fight in the North Sea, plainly intended as a challenge to the British navy. For years they had watched the growth in numbers and efficiency of the German merchant marine. On every trade route of the world, and in every port, it challenged the British merchant marine, as it had not been challenged since before our Civil War, when our ships carried our flag and our cargoes to every corner of the world.
For years they had watched the growth of German colonies, backed by a colonial ambition ready to seize territory in every quarter of the globe, given the opportunity.
So convinced had they become of the challenge of Germany that they had settled their troubles with France and Russia, their two hereditary enemies, and made agreements which the world accepted as being, for all practical purposes, alliances against Germany.
Consequently for years prior to the outbreak of the war, the Briton and the German had looked upon each other as enemies who would have to fight it out.
The general staffs of these three countries were interested from the professional point of view.
Every nation likes to believe that it is made up of natural-born scrappers who only have to have arms put in their hands to give an opponent a good licking. While everyone laughed at William Jennings Bryan's statement that millions would "spring to arms overnight," as an answer to the argument for preparedness, he only expressed in words what the public, perhaps not quite consciously, believes.
However, general staffs, like managerial departments of big businesses, are from Missouri, and have to be shown.
They knew we had successfully fought British regulars in the days before modern armies and when we were still a hardy frontier people, the majority of whom were really expert riflemen. They knew we had fought each other for four years in our Civil War. However, both sides in that war started unprepared and committed the same military errors for the first few years, until hard campaign and battle experience had taught the generals and armies how to fight. Therefore that war did not show necessarily what we would do on European battle-fields, face to face with a modern foe, equipped with modern weapons.
While we remember victories such as Bunker Hill, New Orleans, and Gettysburg, Europeans were more inclined to recall how Washington's army almost disappeared from desertion and starvation the terrible winter at Valley Forge, how a small force of British regulars captured and burned Washington in the War of 1812, and how the vanquished in the battle of Bull Run hurried---to put it politely---back to Washington, and the completely exhausted victors, hardly realizing their success, were unable to pursue.
More than anything else, they overemphasized the differences of opinion which had existed in this country about the war prior to our entry into it. Each side had overestimated the value of its own propaganda and mistaken the noise made as indicative of the feeling of a large part of our people. The Germans overestimated the number of those friendly to Germany. The Allies believed they had persuaded us finally and with reluctance to do our duty toward them.
With that curious European inability to recognize the fact that there are Americans just as there are Britons, French, and Germans, they insisted upon considering us as European colonists who would only think about or act in the war from the points of view of our different European ancestors. Europeans are willing to admit that the boasting of a Britisher about his Norman-French ancestry does not lessen his British patriotism. They can see the fact that though a Breton boasts of his Breton blood and language he is still a patriotic Frenchman. They seem incapable, however, of learning that, regardless of where their ancestors came from, or what language they spoke, the overwhelming majority of the people of this country are Americans, not Europeans; that as a consequence, they put this country and its interests above every other.
Thus, they were doubtful as to how hard our men would fight because they missed the heart of the matter, which was that the American soldier was not fighting for Europe or Europeans, but for his own country, which had been defied by Germany.
The first combat experience of our troops was had in trench raids by the Germans against us or by our people against the Germans. While nothing out of the usual run of such affairs happened, these raids showed that our green soldiers would stand the gaff. These sudden forays by night or by day, while on a small scale, unite all the terrors of war, surprise, hand-to-hand fighting, often with cold steel, as in combat of ancient days, and the vicious fire of machine guns and wholesale destructive uprooting of high-explosive shell, the developments of modern civilization.
The first German raid against Americans was made at night, against a small isolated post of the First Division. While the German surprise was complete and resulted in their getting some prisoners, they lost prisoners to us and left wounded and dead on the ground. Our dead were found at their posts, their wounds and their positions showing that they had not flinched but had died at their posts facing the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
The first daylight raid by American units was made by two companies of the 168th Infantry of the Rainbow Infantry Division. This raid had for its objective the destruction of a strong point in the third line of enemy trenches.
The Germans became alarmed before the raid started and heavily shelled the American trenches. Despite losses in killed and wounded, and though it was the first time they had ever been under any kind of fire, the companies moved to the attack exactly on time, penetrated to the enemy's third line, destroyed the strong point and returned with prisoners. In addition to other troubles during the raid, they were attacked several times by low-flying German airplanes, the machine-gun fire of which added to their losses.
Though it was not his duty as chief of staff of the division, Colonel Douglas MacArthur went along on the raid. The 168th Infantry, then the 51st Iowa Infantry, was one of the regiments which fought in the Philippines in the division commanded by General Arthur MacArthur, the father of Colonel MacArthur. General MacArthur started his career at the age of eighteen as a private of infantry in a Wisconsin Infantry regiment in the Civil War.
General MacArthur, the senior, finished the Civil War in command of a brigade, as did his son in the Great War. General MacArthur was decorated for bravery in battle beyond the call of duty in the Civil War, as was his son in the Great War.
Various incidents, while of small importance tactically, showed that no matter where the American soldier was, or what branch of the service he happened to be in, he never hesitated to put up a first-class fight.
Near Cambrai in the fall of 1917, the British had very effectively surprised the Germans with a tank attack. Shortly after, the Germans returned the compliment. Some of the troops of the 11th U.S. Engineers were working on a railway just behind the lines. Though not there for combat purposes they immediately joined in the fight. Some used rifles they had picked up; others, pick handles or any other extemporized weapon handy.
When the first of the Hindenburg-Ludendorff attacks smashed through the British Fifth Army and reached the outskirts of Amiens, three companies of the 6th U.S. Engineers quickly joined a nondescript force of all kinds, hurriedly gathered together by General Carey of the British army, in a desperate effort to stop the German advance.
In July, four companies from the 131st and 132nd Illinois Infantry were receiving their first training in British trenches, just in front of the little village of Hamel, held by the Germans. They were there for training purposes only, and not supposed to take part in any attack. Nevertheless these four companies, practically in defiance of instructions, accompanied an attack made by the Australians in which they took the town of Hamel. Along with them went a number of individual soldiers belonging to other companies of these same regiments not in the trenches who had borrowed uniforms from neighbor Australians so that they could take part in the attack.
In May, when the second of the great Hindenburg-Ludendorff attacks swept the French from the Chemin-des-Dames down to the Marne River, the 7th Machine Gun Battalion of the 3rd Division distinguished itself.
The 3rd Division had not yet had any experience at the front, even in a quiet trench sector. It was under orders to go to one in Lorraine. These were hastily changed and it was started toward Château-Thierry instead.
The 7th Machine Gun Battalion, being motorized, was sent on ahead. As it approached Château-Thierry from the south, it encountered first crowds of civilian refugees With such meager belongings as they had been able to take with them and then some of the troops which had been driven back. As the battalion rushed to the river to go into action, the Germans were entering the northern edge of the town of Château-Thierry.
Two guns under command of Lieutenant Bissell were stationed in Château-Thierry north of the bridge. They were subsequently cut off with some French infantrymen by the blowing up of the stone bridge behind them, during the night of June 1. However, in hand-to-hand fighting during the same night they and the few French infantrymen with them fought their way to the railway bridge 500 yards to the west and managed, after great difficulty, to regain the southern bank.
The fire of these two guns and of the rest of the battalion along the south bank is given the credit for having held up the Germans long enough to permit the last of the French to gain the south bank of the Marne and blow up the two bridges, thus preventing the Germans from crossing.
General Pétain cited the battalion: "It barred to the enemy the passage of the Marne. In the course of violent combat, particularly the 31st of May and 1st of June, 1918, it disputed foot by foot with the Germans the northern outskirts of Château-Thierry, covering itself with incomparable glory, thanks to its valor and its skill, costing the enemy, sanguinary losses."
A few days before the incident of Château-Thierry the troops of the 1st Division showed their willingness to put up a good fight in the open. Brought around from a trench sector in Lorraine, where they had had their first experience under fire in this war, they had been put in the line northeast of Paris reached by the Germans as a result of their March attack.
In front of them in German hands lay the town of Cantigny. Cantigny was of local importance because it occupied the top of a slight hill in the center of a German salient. It also gave the enemy a good observation post from which to look over our line and that of the French on either side. It was strongly occupied by enemy troops who had fortified it. Its local importance had led to its capture and recapture twice before the 1st Division came into the sector. The energy and determination shown by the Germans in recapturing it the second time showed they intended to hold it.
The 28th U.S. Infantry of the 1st Division was given the task of carrying it by assault on May 28. The day before, the enemy becoming suspicious determined to capture some prisoners and find out what was going on. After a heavy artillery preparation they put down a box barrage around parts of the line held by the 26th and 28th Infantry. However, their infantry raiding parties got no American prisoners. Instead they were so vigorously driven off and pursued that the action ended with American infantry in parts of the German trenches, from which they returned with German prisoners.
Early in the morning of the 28th, the assault was made and the town captured after considerable fighting at close quarters. Despite a continuous heavy concentration of enemy artillery fire and a number of infantry counter-attacks, Cantigny was held.
The night of May 30-31, when the 28th Infantry was relieved by the 16th Infantry, also of the 1st Division, the losses to that division were 45 officers and 1,022 men killed and wounded, mostly from. the 28th Infantry.
During these same fateful last days of May and first days of June, the 2nd Division showed that it also had a stomach for a good fight. The artillery and one brigade of infantry of this division were regulars of the army, and the other brigade of infantry were regulars from the Marine Corps.
Just as the 3rd Division was rushed for the Marne just south of the Château-Thierry, the 2nd was hurried from the west out along the Paris-Château-Thierry highway. Taking up a position across that highway about four miles west of Château-Thierry, it successfully resisted several attacks made upon it by the Germans.
In front of the left infantry brigade, composed of the 5th and 6th Marines, was a wood covering the rocky hilltops of a number of hills just south of the villages of Torcy and Belleau, and just east of that of Bouresches.
Until then this wood named after the near-by village of Belleau had never been heard of. However, its name was soon to go down in military history as symbolical of the stomach for fighting of American troops.
The Germans tested the mettle of each American division as it arrived in the line for the first time, by heavy artillery bombardments, trench raids, and gas attacks. They made holding the village of Cantigny a test for the staying powers of troops of the 1st Division. The desperation with which they held on to Belleau Wood can only be interpreted as meaning their intent to show the Americans that when it came to a knock-down-drag-out fight, the Germans were their masters.
Not that the wood was without local tactical importance. Like Cantigny, it was important both as an observatory and as a strong point in the German line. It was a strong point, the capture of which was essential before any advance could be made to take the Etrepilly plateau, the southwest bastion of the great Marne salient which the Germans had made as the result of the second of the great Hindenburg-Ludendorff attacks, that of May, 1918.
The important Etrepilly plateau a few weeks later, during the second battle of the Marne, was to give a great deal of trouble to our 26th New England Infantry Division and the French divisions on either side when they attacked it, because its fall meant the German evacuation of Château-Thierry and all the southwest portion of their Marne salient.
On June 6, the Marine Brigade attacked. Despite heavy losses and desperate resistance on the part of the Germans, they captured the village of Bouresches and got well into Belleau Wood. From then until June 16, the marines stubbornly continued their advance, though the Germans with equal stubbornness literally contested every foot of the broken, rocky ground, covered with trees and thick underbrush. Aside from the usual local counter-attacks, the Germans after several days of preparation made a large, formidable one on June 14. It was successfully resisted, as was another on June 15.
In the meanwhile the other brigade of the division, made up of the 9th and 23rd Infantry, drawn into the fight, had also advanced, capturing parts of the German line in front of them though this was not originally intended.
The night of June 16, the Marine Brigade was relieved by the 7th U.S. Infantry, sent from the 3rd Infantry Division, on the Marne near by.
General Harbord tells(12) how in the fortnight preceding this relief he had lost from his Marine Brigade 17 officers and 400 men killed and nearly 3,000 wounded and gassed.
After six days, the 7th Infantry, which had continued the fight and gained some ground, was again relieved by the marines. In a carefully prepared final attack on June 25, the marines captured the rest of the wood. From then on they held it.
General Degoutte, commanding the Sixth French Army, in which the 2nd Division was then serving, cited both regiments---the 5th and 6th Marines---and decorated their colors with the Croix de Guerre, with palm. In honor of its capture, the official name of the wood was changed by the French to "The Wood of the Marine Brigade."
The casualties of the 2nd Division, as a whole, during this period came to nearly 8,000 officers and men.
Recently I asked General Harbord, "General, looking back after ten years, what do you think now of the Belleau Wood fight?"
He said: "June, 1918, found Allies and enemy alike doubtful whether our troops, led by their own officers, could be depended upon to fight. The Marine Brigade of the 2nd Division that month at Belleau Wood forever removed the doubt.
"The capture of the wood was tactically important. Much more important, however, was the decision as to whether or not the Marine Brigade in its first attack upon an enemy position would allow that enemy to stop it. No matter how stubborn, how courageous, how skilful that enemy; no matter how difficult the attack across open fields, upon a wooded, rocky group of small hills, the Marine Brigade had to prove its moral supremacy by capturing the wood. They did it ---after long, hard, bloody fighting.
"The nearly ten years that have passed since then and several visits to the wood only confirm my devotion to the Marine Brigade and strengthen my admiration for the glory of its deeds."
In the meanwhile, other American divisions were shedding their first blood in successfully passing through the tests to which the Germans put each to find whether all the American divisions would fight, or only a few of them.
The 26th New England National Guard Division and the 82nd National Army Division from Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee were on the south side of the Saint-Mihiel salient, occupying part of the trenches from which the first attack of an American army in Europe was successfully to be made in the coming fall.
In Lorraine were the 77th National Army Division of New York, the 5th Regular Division, and the 35th National Guard Division from Kansas and Missouri. In that portion of Alsace seized by the French in their first offensive in 1914 and always held on to thereafter---the only piece of German territory held by the Allies throughout the war---was the 32nd National Guard Division from Wisconsin and Michigan.
In the north, in the plains of Flanders where almost every village has seen at least one battle during the last four hundred years, there were besides the 33rd Illinois Infantry Division several others getting their first experience in the line with the British.
There were the 30th National Guard Division from Tennessee and the Carolinas, the 27th New York National Guard Division and the 80th National Army Division from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia.
Throughout all this preliminary period, prior to the second battle of the Marne, when both the Germans and the Allies were finding that the Americans would really fight, there were many individual acts of bravery. Some brought the Distinguished Service Cross, only awarded for extraordinary heroism in action. Two won the greatly coveted Medal of Honor, only granted "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy."
Of the 2,000,000 American soldiers and officers who served under fire during the Great War, but 78 won the Medal of Honor. Of these 20 were killed---or so seriously wounded that they died---in winning it. A considerable portion of those who survived winning it were wounded doing so.
The Distinguished Service Cross must be awarded by the President. The Medal of Honor award must also be confirmed by Congress.
One of the two Medals of Honor was won by Corporal Thomas A. Pope, of the 131st Illinois Infantry, during the Americans' unauthorized attack on the village of Hamel. His company was advancing behind a line of tanks when it was halted by violent hostile machine-gun fire. Pope, undismayed, rushed forward alone and attacked a machine-gun nest. He killed several of the crew with his bayonet, and then stood astride the gun holding off the others until other men of his company, encouraged by his action, rushed forward, capturing or killing his assailants.
The other Medal of Honor gotten in this preliminary period was won by Gunner Sergeant Charles F. Hoffman, of the 5th Marines, on June 6, the day of the first attack on Belleau Wood. Sergeant Hoffman, while attempting to organize a captured position, saw twelve of the enemy armed with five light machine guns, crawling toward his group. Immediately, with great gallantry and utter disregard of danger, he rushed the hostile detachment single-handed, killed the two leaders with his bayonet, and forced the others to run away abandoning their guns.
Private Harold C. Batley, of the 308th Infantry, 77th Division, won a Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action during the first experience of his division at the front. A patrol sent out to get information about the Germans had attracted their attention, with the result that their artillery had brought down a defensive barrage. The patrol failed to penetrate this barrage and thus was unable to gain any information as to the Germans to its front. A second patrol also failed. Private Batley then volunteered to see what he could do. Bravely and successfully he got through the barrage to the German trenches and back again through the barrage, bringing the information which was wanted.
Sergeant Charles E. Cunningham, 126th Infantry, 32nd Division, won a Distinguished Service Cross by declining to go to the rear and remaining in command of his men, though seriously wounded, during a German surprise attack on the trench which his platoon occupied. He stayed and directed his men until the enemy attack had been stopped and those attackers not killed or wounded driven off without having captured any American prisoners, the purpose of their assault.
Private William R. Davis, 104th Infantry, 26th Division, was accorded the Distinguished Service Cross for exceptional courage and devotion to duty in action. When many of the men on either side of him had been driven back by a German raid he remained at his post, though severely wounded, and continued to fire his rifle and throw grenades at the enemy.
Corporal Clayton H. Moore, of the 138th Infantry, 35th Division, was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross. While trying to carry back to shelter, through heavy machine-gun fire, a wounded comrade, he was wounded himself. Despite this, he succeeded by a display of unusual pluck in bringing his comrade to safety. Then finding a scarcity of stretchers, he insisted on the other wounded being carried to the rear, while he struggled back on foot as best he could.
The second battle of the Marne was one of the great decisive battles of the world because it forever turned the tide of German victory then mounting until it threatened to engulf the Allies in defeat.
Like Joffre's great victory of 1914 it was named after that river which through the long centuries so often had had its waters stained with the blood of men killed in battle: Roman and Gaul and Hun in the early stages of European history, German and French and English later, and finally Americans, from a continent undiscovered when the Marne Valley was already old as a highway for armies.
In it the Americans, regulars of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, national guardsmen of the 26th, 28th, 32nd, 42nd, and national army men of the 77th Infantry Division showed beyond doubt to friend and foe alike that they would fight and fight with heart and soul.
Whether on the defensive, in the white chalk trenches of Champagne, being torn to pieces by shell fire, smothered by gas, and facing the enemy's infantry assaults; whether grimly holding on unprotected by trenches on the southern slopes of the Marne Valley; whether attacking in the dark green depths, thick with underbrush, of Belleau or Villers-Cotterêt Wood, or the forests of Fère and of Nesle, amid the hell of crashing shells, banging grenades, and the rat-tat-tat-tat of machine guns; whether struggling through the deep ravines near Soissons or south of the Vesle, or stubbornly crossing the bullet-swept, poppy-sprinkled wheat fields of the plateaux south of Soissons, or on both gentle slopes of the Ourcq River ---the answer proved by the thickly scattered dead, the long columns of ambulances filled with wounded, and the long columns of prisoners in German field gray, was always the same.
The regular with his numerous campaign badges; the national guardsman whose father served in the Spanish-American War and grandfather in the Civil War; the man in the national army, drafted it is true, but because he instructed his representative in Congress to vote for the draft as the fairest way both to the individual and to the nation to raise an army, some of old stock whose ancestors had fought for America, some the first generation in the United States, and some born abroad---all were Americans proud to serve their country and determined to pass with honor through that greatest test of citizenship: service in war for one's country.
Having in mind Napoleon I's dictum, "In war the moral is to the physical as three is to one," I recently asked Major General Charles P. Surnmerall, now chief of staff of our army, his opinion of the moral effect of the American soldiers' fighting capacities.
He commanded the artillery of the 1st Division up to and including the fight at Cantigny. He commanded that division during the famous assault south of Soissons in the second battle of the Marne, as he did at the battle of Saint-Mihiel. The splendid assault it made during its first appearance in the Argonne, stubbornly and successfully carried forward day after day despite bloody losses, caused his promotion on the battlefield to command of an army corps.
His answer was: "A Napoleon may plan and direct a combat. The supporting artillery may plan and execute its accompanying fires to perfection. But there will be no results to victory, unless the individual infantryman, soldier and officer, will courageously advance into the enemy's position, drive him out and stick there himself, regardless of merciless counterattacks and heavy shelling. At Cantigny I saw our 1st Division pass gallantly and successfully through its first great test in attack and in holding what it took. At Soissons, at Saint-Mihiel, at Exermont, at Beaumont, and near Sedan, I saw the American soldiers prove themselves veterans in the true sense of the word. Any courageous man can, because of the valor of ignorance, go through his first grueling combat. Only the true veteran with heart of oak and that calm courage which comes from being able, despite knowledge of the consequences, to look death squarely in the eye can again and again, as often as asked by his leaders, go into battle and fight with that determination essential to success. Ten years have not changed my opinion, formed on the battle-fields of France, that the fighting value of the American soldier played a vital part in bringing the war to a successful conclusion."
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