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The Battle of Cantigny Forever Changed the US Military 

By Samantha Franco
via the War History Online web site

The Battle of Cantigny was the first great American victory of the First World War. With a military that was under-trained and ill-prepared, a win on the global stage was necessary to prove the might of the United States. Cantigny was the first time during the conflict where the US military was forced to prove itself – and it didn’t disappoint.

The United States joins World War I

On April 6, 1917, under President Woodrow Wilson, the US declared its entry into World War I. Unfortunately, the country’s military was ill-prepared, and it would be more than a year before American troops actually made the trek overseas.

One American division sent to Europe was the 1st Infantry Division – better known as the “Big Red One.” It featured the US Army’s best-trained men and was led by Maj. Gen. John Pershing, who was in charge of leading the fight at Cantigny, in northern France. The town was chosen because of its importance as an observational post, and he’d sent over the division to show just how strong the US military was.

Knowing that a victory was needed to lift morale, Pershing employed a “combined arms” plan of attack, including specialized teams of tanks, infantry, artillery and other units. At the time the country entered WWI, the US Army consisted of just 127,000 soldiers, 67,000 federal National Guardsmen and 100,000 on the state level, making it equal to the likes of Portugal.

It was imperative the 1st Infantry Division employ this new plan of attack with precision to ensure victory.

US troops claim Cantigny

The Battle of Cantigny began on May 28, 1918, at around 6:30-6:40 AM. Supported by French troops, the US, under the command of Gen. Charles P. Summerall, began a mass bombing of the German lines, creating a smoke screen for cover. French tanks then began to press forward, with the US troops using them for additional cover while they charged forward on foot.

Read the entire article on the War History Online web site here:

 

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