Battle of Château-Thierry (1918)
|Battle of Château-Thierry (1918)|
|Part of the Second Battle of the Marne in World War I|
| United States
|Commanders and leaders|
| John J. Pershing
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.
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 as 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.
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.
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 adding 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 were forced to end the assault as the casualties rose.
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."
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."
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Château-Thierry (1918).|
- WWI : Battle of Château-Thierry at the Wayback Machine (archived December 26, 2003) (English)
- The Battles of the Marne 1918
- Château Thierry-June 1918
- WW1 :Pvt Frank Gdak from Poland Expeditionary Force website
- Battles - The Battle of Belleau Wood, 1918
- Battle of Château Thierry, 1-4 June 1918
- A Description of the Battle of Chateau-Thierry
- World War I monument photos including Chateau-Thierry's Hill 204 American Monument
- Battle of Chateau-Thierry at the American Expeditionary Force website
- Chateau-Thierry: The Battle For Belleau Wood
- World War 1 Chateau Thierry 1917 - YouTube