Battle of Château-Thierry (1918)

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Battle of Château-Thierry (1918)
Part of the Second Battle of the Marne in World War I
ChateauThierryTurningPointWorldWarCard.jpg
Date 18 July 1918
Location Château-Thierry, Aisne, France
49°2′31″N 3°22′19″E / 49.04194°N 3.37194°E / 49.04194; 3.37194
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
 United States
France France
 Belgium
 German Empire
Commanders and leaders
United States John J. Pershing
France Charles Mangin
German Empire Erich Ludendorff
Strength
American Expeditionary Force (AEF) German Army
U.S. field artillery in Château-Thierry
Plaque of commemorative text from the memorial

The Battle of Château-Thierry was fought on July 18, 1918 and was one of the first actions of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) under General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. It was a battle in World War I as part of the Second Battle of the Marne, initially prompted by a German offensive launched on 15 July against the AEF, the newest troops on the front.

On the morning of 18 July 1918, the French (some of them colonial) and American forces between Fontenoy and Château-Thierry launched a counter-assault under the overall direction of Allied généralissime Ferdinand Foch against the German positions. This assault on a 40 km (25 mi) wide front was the first for over a year. The American army played a role fighting for the regions around Soissons and Château-Thierry, in collaboration with predominantly French forces. The allied forces had managed to keep their plans a secret, and their attack at 04:45 took the Germans by surprise when the troops went "Over the Top" without a preparatory artillery bombardment, but instead followed closely behind a rolling barrage which began with great synchronized precision. Eventually, the two opposing assaults (lines) inter-penetrated and individual American units exercised initiative and continued fighting despite being nominally behind enemy lines.[1]

Background[edit]

Despite the revolution in Russia, fortune seemed to favor the Allies with the arrival of the Americans to France. However, these troops needed time to train before they could be combat effective. Recognizing the window of opportunity, Ludendorff consolidated the manpower freed up from the Eastern Front to conduct Operation Michael in order to split the Allies' lines. The successes of the German Stormtroopers infiltration tactics earned Germany approximately 40 miles of territory. But the offensive lost momentum when it surpassed its supply lines. Up to this point, American General Pershing refused to hand over American divisions to either the British or French armies, insisting on keeping them together for one army. But in the face of the German onslaught, Pershing relented and sent a portion of his army to assist the French in blocking the German advance.[2]

Prelude[edit]

Looking to defeat the British occupied in Flanders, Ludendorff sought to divert the Allies' French reserves away from the region. in his Operation Blucher, Ludendorff aimed some of his forces at the Chemin des Dames and took the French Sixth Army by surprise. Driving on, the Germans were soon at the Marne River, situated under 50 miles from Paris. With Marshal Ferdinand Foch unable to acquire British assistance, General Pershing's chief of operation, Colonel Fox Conner, recognized the gravity of the situation and ordered the 3rd Division to block them.[3][4]

Battle[edit]

The 3rd Division occupied the main bridge on the south bank of the Marne that led in Chateau Thierry on May 31 as the French 10th Colonial Division rendezvoused with them from the north bank. The Americans positioned their machine guns to cover the French retreat, and had unit led by Lt John Bissell situated north of the second bridge. The French spent the night added explosives to the bridges to destroy them. The following early morning, on June 1, the Germans advance into Chateau Thierry from its north, forcing the French to the main bridge, which they defended with the support of American machine-gun fire. The French succeeded in destroying the bridge as the Americans kept up their fire on the Germans. Lt Bissell's group was still on the north side of the Marne. They worked their way back to the secondary bridge in-between American machine-gun fire and made it across, along with a group of Germans that was captured shortly afterwards. From the north of the Marne on June 2, the Germans engaged in heavy artillery and sniper fire against the Allies. They made an attempt to take the remaining bridge but was forced to end the assault as the casualties rose.[5]

Memorials[edit]

After World War I, a memorial was built on Hill 204, 2 miles (3 km.) west of the town for which it is named. The Château-Thierry Monument, designed by Paul P. Cret of Philadelphia, was constructed by the American Battle Monuments Commission "to commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of American and French fighting men in the region, and the friendship and cooperation of French and American forces during World War I."[6]

There is also a monument in front of the Bronx County Courthouse in New York City that was presented by the American Legion on November 11, 1940. The monument consists of the "Keystone from an arch of the old bridge at Chateau Thierry," which the monument notes was "Gloriously and successfully defended by American troops."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Edwin L. James (1918). "A Description of the Battle of Chateau-Thierry". New York Times Current History. New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  2. ^ Bonk, David (2007). Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood 1918: America's baptism of fire on the Marne. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. pp. 7–10. ISBN 978 1 84603 034 5. 
  3. ^ Bonk, David (2007). Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood 1918: America's baptism of fire on the Marne. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. pp. 39–41. ISBN 978 1 84603 034 5. 
  4. ^ Eisenhower, John S.D. (2001). Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. New York: The Free Press. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0-684-86304-9. 
  5. ^ Bonk, David (2007). Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood 1918: America's baptism of fire on the Marne. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. p. 41,42. ISBN 978 1 84603 034 5. 
  6. ^ "Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial". American Battle Monuments Commission, U.S. Government. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  7. ^ "An overlooked memorial". Matt at I'm Just Walkin'. Retrieved 2014-11-15. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Hervey. Toward the Flame: A War Diary. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1968. OCLC 438234
  • Asprey, Robert B. At Belleau Wood. New York, Putnam [1965] OCLC 1183470
  • Bonk, David and Dennis, Peter. Château Thierry & Belleau Wood 1918 : America's Baptism of Fire on the Marne. New York, NY, USA : Osprey Pub., 2007 ISBN 1-846-03034-X OCLC 85443414
  • Bresnahan, Thomas E. Chateau Thierry. [Holyoke, Mass.? s.n., 1918?] OCLC 32871095
  • Catlin, Albertus W and Dyer, Walter A. "With the Help of God and a Few Marines": The Battles of Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood. Yardley : Westholme, [2013] ISBN 1-594-16188-7 OCLC 847837399
  • Cochrane, Rexmond C and United States Army Chemical Corps Historical Office Gas Warfare at Chateau Thierry, June 1918. [Army Chemical Center, Md.?] : [publisher not identified], [1956] OCLC 23684931
  • Daniels, Josephus; William, Crown Prince of Germany; Pershing, John J and Horne Charles F. Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood: How America held back the Germans at the Marne, May 31st-July 1st. [S.l. : s.n., 1923?] OCLC 13240374
  • Gordon, George Vincent. Leathernecks and Doughboys. 1927. OCLC 270766446
  • Haylock H E. A History of Chateau Thierry. Paris : Printed by H. Clarke, 1926. OCLC 1962366
  • Hogan, Martin J and Cooke, James J. The Shamrock Battalion in the Great War. Columbia : University of Missouri Press, 2007. ISBN 0-826-21710-9 OCLC 74569022
  • Homsher, David C. American Battlefields of World War 1, Château-Thierry--Then and Now : A Guidebook, Anthology, and Photographic Essay. San Mateo, Calif. : Battleground Productions, ©2006. ISBN 0-970-24430-4 OCLC 71552566
  • Kahn, Otto H. When the Tide Turned: The American Attack at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood in the first week of June, 1918. [Boston, Mass.?: s.n., 1918?]. OCLC 1238661
  • Le Goffic, Charles and Menzies, Lucy. General Foch at the Marne: An Account of the Fighting in and near the Marshes of Saint-Gond. New York, E.P. Dutton and Company [1918]. OCLC 1893946
  • Liggett, Hunter. Commanding an American Army: Recollections of the World War. Boston ; New York : Houghton Mifflin, 1925. OCLC 413482
  • March, Francis Andrew, and Richard Joseph Beamish. History of the World War: An Authentic Narrative of the World's Greatest War. Chicago: John C. Winston Company, 1928. OCLC 476584391
  • Mitchell, William. Memoirs of World War I: "From Start to Finish of our Greatest War". New York, Random House [1960]. OCLC 1347467
  • Neiberg, Michael Scott. The Second Battle of the Marne. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, cop. 2008. ISBN 0-253-35146-4 OCLC 470959805
  • Ralphson, G Harvey. Over There with the Marines at Chateau Thierry. Chicago : M.A. Donohue & Co., 1919 OCLC 20485075
  • Sanford, William R; Green Carl R; Martin, George; Eggenschwiler, Jean and Nelson, Kate. The World War I Soldier at Château Thierry. Mankato, MN, U.S.A. : Capstone Press, 1991. ISBN 1-560-65004-4 OCLC 20530250
  • Terry, Charles. Wilson's War: America in the First World War. [S.l: s.n.], 2011. ISBN 1-461-09267-1 OCLC 767875193
  • Thomason, John W and Clark, George B. The United States Army Second Division Northwest of Chateau Thierry in World War I. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, 2006. ISBN 0-786-42523-7 OCLC 65425906
  • Van Every, Dale. The A.E.F. in Battle. New York, D. Appleton, 1928. OCLC 1319204
  • White, Meade Fitzhugh. The Miracle of Château-Thierry. Santa Monica, CA : M.F. White, [1971]. OCLC 854911868
  • Wise, Jennings C. The Turn of the Tide: American Operations at Cantigny, Château Thierry, and the Second Battle of the Marne. New York : H. Holt, 1920. OCLC 1185310

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