Hill 204: The 28th Division’s first combat action of World War I
By Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Heft
via the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) web site
Atop Hill 204 in Chateau-Thierry, France, a large double colonnade stands in memorial to the actions of Americans who fought to liberate the country during World War I. While Chateau-Thierry is most well-known for the defense fought by American and French units along the banks of the Marne River, Hill 204 itself marks the first combat actions of the 28th Division in the World War.
The 28th Division landed on ground in France in May 1918 and saw service in the rear areas under the watchful eye of British and French instructors. While the doughboys learned valuable lessons from their combat-hardened allies, many in the Keystone Division itched to get into real action.
On the evening of June 30, 1918, while marching with French troops to a new training area, Col. Edward Shannon of the 111th Infantry Regiment received a request from French forces to provide two platoons to join French troops in a raid on the German lines.
Shannon ordered two lieutenants from the lead companies, Lt. Cedric Benz of Company A, and Lt. John Shenkel of Company B, to assemble a platoon each for action with the French.
Sgt. Bob Hoffman recalled that as the lieutenants looked to select volunteers for the raid “the entire company, like one man stepped forward” and that “men who did not get to go on this trip cried real tears” as their comrades left them behind to become the unit’s first combat veterans.
The platoons moved into position on the slopes of the hill in the early hours of July 1 with soldiers of the French infantry leading the way. After hours of heavy artillery barrage, the allied soldiers leapt forward from the wooded edge of Hill 204 and began a climb toward German positions.
Almost immediately the platoons came under German machine gun fire. French commanders would later write that “from the beginning of the attack the American detachments were marked by their ardor, bravery and their enthusiasm.”
As the men of the patrol advanced, they entered into almost immediate hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Hoffman recalled that after a bullet ricocheted off of his helmet he “forgot the line of combat groups and we fought just as our ancestors had always fought … rushing forward, stopping to shoot, rushing again, and shooting again.”
Read the entire article on the DVIDS web site.
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