26 September 1918

The Meuse-Argonne offensive begins.  In which the American high command singularly fails to distinguish itself.  Not apparently having learned much at all from the doings at Belleau Wood, the Army feeds men in, and feeds men in, and feeds men in, to assault carefully prepared positions, with inadequate fire support, poor communications, and scandalously poor staff work.  The result is America’s bloodiest battle, in terms of total dead and wounded over the weeks that it lasted. 

The French on the American right offered essentially no help.  They’d been ground down by the four years’ fighting and were just content to let someone else do the dying for a while.  In fact the whole offensive really didn’t accomplish much.  The German lines were not irretrievably broken until very nearly the end of the war, and they fed next to no reinforcements into the battle.  The troops on the ground just kept killing Americans, and dying in their turn, as long as they could.  Those same troops would not have been  sent elsewhere because that would have opened the German front at that location, so the offensive can’t even make that claim to relevance.  No:  What happened there was a helluva lot of American soldiers got killed for pretty much nothing at all.

We did get Alvin York’s story out of it, however, but that doesn’t seem like much to brag about.  On the less-edifying end of the scale is the story of the Black troops who were fed, poorly armed and nearly untrained, into the fight on the American left.  This was the segregated Army at its worst, and as usual it was the grunt on the ground who took the hit.

The story of the battle is extremely well-told here.

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