The 32D 'Red Arrow' Veteran Association
The 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division
in World War I
From the ‘Iron Jaw Division’
to ‘Les Terribles’
Activation and Mobilization of Wisconsin and Michigan National Guards
March to the Rhine
Army of Occupation - Die Wacht am Rhein
On 18 July 1917, War Department orders specified that the National Guard troops from Wisconsin and Michigan would be combined to form the 32D Division. Soon after, the War Department directed that these units would concentrate at Camp MacArthur, near Waco, Texas, where the 32D Division would be organized.
While the official orders for the organization of the 32D Division were dated 18 July, the actual organization of the Division did not start until around later Aug. and early Sep., when most of the units had reached Camp MacArthur. The 32D Division was to be a massive "square" division, like all American divisions being created at the time.
“A complete division is difficult to visualize. One must see it with all its armament, troops, and trains to begin to understand - infantry brigades, machine gun battalions, artillery, engineers, trench mortar battery, signal corps, ammunition trains, supply trains, sanitary trains, mobile repair shops, medical corps troops, field hospitals, ambulance companies, brigade staffs, and division staff. In personnel 28,000, animals some 9,000, motor cars, motor trucks, tanks, balloons, airplanes, and last but not least, the military police. In a single close column - men marching in column of fours well closed up - the division is now more than 30 miles long.” (Haan 8)
On 4 August 1917 Company A, 1ST Michigan Engineers became the first unit of the 32D Division to arrive at Camp MacArthur, Texas.
On 5 August the National Guard Soldiers from Michigan and Wisconsin were officially drafted into federal service.
They had to be discharged from National Guard status and immediately “drafted” into federal service due to constitutional restraint that prohibited the use of the National Guard outside of the U.S.
On 17 August Major General James 'Galloping Jim' Parker assumed command of the 32D Division. On 18 September he left for France on special duty. He returned in early December, but was almost immediately transferred to the 85TH ‘Custer’ Division which was being organized at Camp Custer, Michigan.
The first units from Wisconsin entrained at Camp Douglas on 18 August and reached Texas on arrive on 21 August 1917. Those units were Co. A (Reedsburg) and Co. G (Madison) of the 1ST Wis. Inf.; Co. D (Mauston) of the 3D Wis. Inf.; as well as Btry. F (Racine) 1ST Wis. Field Artillery.
On 25 August the Division’s 57TH Field Artillery Brigade was organized from the 1ST Wisconsin Field Artillery, 1ST Wisconsin Cavalry, detachments from 4TH and 6TH Wisconsin Infantry Regiments, 1ST Michigan Field Artillery, 1ST Michigan Cavalry and detachments from 31ST Michigan Infantry.
On 8 September 1917 the Division’s 64TH Infantry Brigade was organized from the 1ST, 2D, and 3D Wisconsin Infantry Regiments plus detachments from the 4TH, 5TH, and 6TH Wisconsin Infantry Regiments.
On 9 September Company L, 32D Michigan Infantry entrained for Camp MacArthur, arriving there on 12 Sep.
On 11 September the Division’s 63D Infantry Brigade was organized from the 31ST, 32D, and 33D Michigan Infantry Regiments.
On 15 September the remainder of the 32D Michigan Infantry entrained for Camp MacArthur. Three trains were needed to transport the Regiment and they arrived in Texas on 19 Sep.
On 18 September Brigadier General William G. 'Bunker' Haan (then commander of the 57TH Field Artillery Brigade) became acting commander of the 32D Division. BG Haan officially assumed command of the Division in December, when MG Parker was transferred to the 85TH Division. Brigadier General Edward Fenton McGlachlin, Jr., assumed command of the 57TH FA Brigade when BG Haan became 32D Division commander.
From 22 September to 20 October the organization of the 32D Division was finalized in accordance with the Tables of Organization of 8 August 1917.
On 23 September the 107TH Engineer Regiment was organized. The 1ST Michigan Engineers formed the 1ST Battalion, Companies A, B, & C. The 1ST Wisconsin Engineers formed the 2D Battalion, Companies D, E, & F. The 107TH Engineers had the dual burden of attempting to train to go to war while simultaneously assisting in the construction of Camp MacArthur.
The autumn of 1917 witnessed the establishment of a unique connection between the 32D ‘Red Arrow’ Division and Baylor University that continues to this day. For many years the university did not have a mascot but on 14 Dec. 1914 the students voted to have a bear represent the University as mascot. However, they did not have a real-live bear for their mascot until the fall of 1917 when the men of the 107TH Engineer Regiment presented the school with a black bear named ‘Ted’ who had served as the mascot for the Regiment. The bear’s name was ‘Ted’ but he was often called ‘Bruin’. Since then more than 50 North American Black Bears have called Baylor home.
On 29 September systematic training for the Division began in earnest. This was also the date of arrival for the 31ST Michigan Infantry Regiment.
The last Wisconsin unit arrived on 1 October; although not sure which unit it was. I currently do not have much information pertaining to the arrival of the Michigan units.
A newspaper article from 2 October 1917 stated that the 32D Division had been given the nickname, “The Iron Jaw Division.”
Between 26 October and 3 November
1917, the Division received 4,000 draftees from Camp Custer, Michigan, and
Camp Grant, Illinois, but it remained under strength by nearly 3,500 Soldiers
and would remain below authorized strength at the time of its embarkation for
BG Haan and Staff of the 32D Div. at Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas.
The first troops left Camp MacArthur on 2 January 1918, bound for Camp Merritt, New Jersey and then onto the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey. Camp MacArthur was cleared by 1 March.
On 13 January the advance detachment of the 32D Division sailed for France.
The 125TH Infantry Regiment left Camp MacArthur on 16 and 17 January bound for Camp Merritt, New Jersey. [added 20 Jan. ‘14]
On 18 January the 127TH Infantry Regiment left Camp MacArthur for Camp Merritt, New Jersey.
On 24 January the advance detachment of the 32D Division arrived at Brest, France.
The 32D Division suffered its first casualties of the war when, on 5 February, the SS Tuscania was sunk by a German submarine (UB-77, commanded by Lt. Cdr. Wilhelm Meyer) while crossing the Atlantic. The 107TH Engineer Train, 107TH MP's, 107TH Supply Train and parts of other 32D Division units were aboard the Tuscania and 13 men of those 32D Division units died as a result of the attack. In addition to the above mentioned 32D Division units, there were also other American units; about 230 Soldiers and ship's crew members died in the attack.
On 5 February, the 120TH Field Artillery Regiment left Camp MacArthur for Camp Merritt, New Jersey.
On 6 February the 107TH Field Signal Battalion landed in England (continued on to France a few days later) and Ambulance Companies 125 and 128 landed at St. Nazaire, France.
On 7 February 1918 General Haan was promoted to the rank of Major General.
On 7 February, the 125TH Infantry Regiment boarded transports at Antigone, President Lincoln and the Martha Washington at Hoboken and sailed for France. [added 20 Jan. ‘14]
On 15 February the 107TH Supply Train and 107TH Engineer Train landed in England, both units were aboard SS Tuscania when it was torpedoed on 5 Feb. off the British coast. They continued on to France a few days later.
On 15-16 February, the 127TH Infantry Regiment boarded the transport USS George Washington. The 119TH Machinegun Battalion boarded on 18 February. MG Haan & his staff, 64TH Infantry Brigade Headquarters, 57TH Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters, and 107TH Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop were also aboard this ship.
On 16 February the 126TH Infantry Regiment, 107TH Trench Mortar Battery, Field Hospital Companies Nos. 127 & 128 of the 107TH Sanitary Train finished boarding the USS President Grant at the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, NJ. On 18 February they sailed for France in a convoy which included the transports George Washington, Covington, De Kalb, Manchuria, Pastores, Susquehanna, and El Sol, the cruiser USS Huntington served as the convoy escort. The 128TH Infantry Regiment also sailed on this convoy.
On 16 February 1918 the 32D Division Headquarters landed overseas, at the time the official arrival date for divisions was the date their HQs landed. The first 32D Division Command Post in Europe was set up on 20 February at Le Havre, Seine-Inférieure, France. On 24 February the Command Post was moved and established near Prauthoy, France, the designated training ground for the Division.
The 32D was the sixth division to join the A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force). The 1ST ‘Big Red One’ Division (RA) arrived 17 June 1917. The 26TH 'Yankee' Division (New England National Guard) arrived on 23 October 1917. The 42D 'Rainbow' Division (National Guard units from 26 states and Washington D.C.) arrived on 1 November 1917. The 41ST ‘Sunsetters’ Division (National Guard units from Idaho, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota and Washington) arrived on 27 December 1917. The 2D ‘Indianhead’ Division (RA) arrived on 28 December 1917.
On 17 February the 107TH Ammunition Train landed in England (continued on to France a few days later).
On 24 February the convoy transporting the 125TH Infantry Regiment reached St. Nazaire and Brest, France. [added 20 Jan. ‘14] The 1ST Battalion, of the 125TH Infantry was among the units that disembarked at St. Nazaire.
The Division’s artillery regiments sailed for France on 26 February and 3 March.
On 3 March, the USS Leviathan left Hoboken, New Jersey, with the 120TH Field Artillery Regiment, 121ST Field Artillery Regiment, and other units, aboard.
On 4 March, MG Haan & his staff, 64TH Infantry Brigade Headquarters, 57TH Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters, the 126TH, 127TH, and 128TH Infantry Regiments, 119TH Machinegun Battalion, 107TH Trench Mortar Battery, Field Hospital Companies Nos. 127 & 128 of the 107TH Sanitary Train arrived at Brest, France (although they did not disembark until 6-7 March).
On 6 March the 119TH Field Artillery Regiment landed at Liverpool, England (continued on to France a few days later).
On 13 March, the USS Leviathan reached Liverpool, England, with the 120TH Field Artillery Regiment, 121ST Field Artillery Regiment, and other units, aboard.
On 20 March, the 120TH Field Artillery Regiment and 121ST Field Artillery Regiment landed at Le Havre, France.
Before the 32D Division arrived in France, the General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force had made the decision that the sixth American division to arrive in France would be designated as a replacement organization. The 32D Division had the misfortune of being the sixth division to arrive and was informed of its fate as soon as it debarked. This decision would soon be reversed (due, in part, to a German offensive), the 32D Division would remain intact as a fighting unit, but not before approximately 7,000 of its soldiers were farmed out as replacements to other American units (the Division had 27,000 men when it left for France).
The 125TH, 126TH
and 127TH Infantry Regiments were assigned as temporary labor troops
immediately after their arrival, and went to work on important projects in the
Service of Supply (mainly constructing supply depots). Because of this, only
scattered detachments reached the 10th Training Area during the first month the
Division was in France. The 57TH Artillery Brigade went to the
artillery training area at Camp Coetquidan and the 107TH Engineers
were assigned to engineering work in the Service of Supply.
Replacing Detachment, 128TH Inf. going to front, Royaumiex, France on 21 March 1918.
Replacement Detachment, 128TH Inf. first gas mask drill, Menil-la-Tour, France on 21 March 1918.
The 128TH Infantry, however, reached the 10th Training Area in March, and bore the brunt of the replacement blow. For about four weeks the Division functioned as a replacement organization and during that time all the privates and captains of the 128TH who were present for duty were transferred to the 1ST ‘Big Red One’ Division as replacements. The 1ST Division had completed its training and was entering the trenches at Cantigny. Many NCOs of the 128TH asked to be reduced in rank so they could accompany their comrades, but they were needed to train the new men the Division would soon get and their requests were not granted.
In early April, the Army designated the 41ST ‘Sunsetters’ Division as a replacement division and reconstitution of the 32D as a combat division began in earnest. As a result, the majority of the 7,000 replacements the 32D Division received at the time came from the 41ST Division.
Most of the Division, still minus the artillery and engineers, was finally assembled in the 10th Training Area on 10 April 1918.
On 18 May 1918 the first troops (four battalions) of the 32D
Division were assigned to front line duty in Haute Alsace, as part of the 40th
French Corps. The 1ST Battalion of the 125TH Infantry was
the first of the first. Thus the 32D Division were the
first U.S. troops to set foot on German soil (Alsace was part of Germany when
the war started in 1914).
On the night of 21-22 May, the 3D Bn., 127TH Inf., command by MAJ Charles S. Buck, entered the trenches in the Alsace sector.
On 24 May 1918 the Division suffered its first KIA in combat in France when PVT Joseph W. Guyton was killed. This also meant that he was the first U.S. Soldier to be KIA on German soil. Born in Evart Township, MI, on 10 Jun. 1889, he was assigned to Co. I, 126TH Inf.
Near midnight on 24 May, Guyton was a machine gunner at Petty Post 9, an OP, at the front line. He had been told to intermittently fire his gun toward the German trenches. After one of these bursts he was struck in the temple by a German machine gun burst and died instantly.
On 25 May, the commander of the French 9TH Infantry Division cited PVT Guyton in its orders and decorated him with the Croix de Guerre: “Divisional Order No. 297 General Gamelin, commanding the 9th Infantry Division, cites in the Divisional Order: The soldier, Joseph W. Guyton, of the 126th American Infantry Regiment, 'on guard in the first line was killed by a machine gun bullet. He is the first soldier of the 32nd American Division to fall fighting for the cause of right and liberty on Alsacian soil, beside his French comrades.” This made PVT Guyton the first 32D Div. Soldier to be decorated.
PVT Guyton’s comrades buried him in the cemetery of a nearby German church. His remains were repatriated in 1921. In May of that year, President Warren G. Harding placed a wreath on his flag-draped coffin during a ceremony for 5,000 repatriated American remains at the pier in Hoboken, NJ, where he said: "In the name of the republic, I bestow this tribute on the casket of the first soldier who perished on the soil of the enemy... I chose it because I am offering the tribute to the one returned whose death on enemy soil marked the day when our civilization went face forward and the assault on our present day civilization knew it had failed. May 24, 1918, is the date on which this soldier was killed, and the name is that of Joseph W. Guyton, Company I of the 126th Infantry, a resident patriot and hero of the State of Michigan of the United States of America." After the ceremony, he was transported to his hometown of Evart, MI, where he was reinterred at Forest Hill cemetery. Ten-thousand people turned out for his funeral in that tiny community on 5 Jun. The local VFW Post, a park, and a bridge are named in his honor.
On 27 May, the 127TH Inf. suffered its first combat casualty when PVT Kenneth E. Counter, from Co. I, was killed.
SGT Charles E. Cunningham, from Grand Rapids, MI and assigned to Co. K, 126TH Inf., was also among the casualties of the 32D Division’s first days of combat. The circumstances are detailed in History of the 126TH Infantry in the War With Germany:
“About 4:30 o'clock in
the morning of May 27th, the detachment from Company K designated to occupy the
advance day position in P. P. 2 [Petty Post 2], was proceeding along the
communicating trench to its post with Sergeant Charles E. Cunningham, the
detachment commander, in the lead. As the detachment neared the day post,
Sergeant Cunningham was separated from his detachment by some Germans, who were
members of an enemy raiding party, and concealed in a recess in the trench.
They attempted to make him prisoner, but Sergeant Cunningham opened fire on the
enemy, who returned the fire, knocked him down and rushed along the trench. The
first shot struck the sergeant in the chest, severely wounding him, but despite
his wound, he climbed upon the parapet and, single-handed, attacked the enemy
raiding party, fired six shots at them from his pistol and drove them off, but
not before he had received two more gunshot wounds and fell unconscious in the
trench. Sergeant Cunningham was immediately given first aid and taken to a
hospital, but the wounds he received in this early morning encounter proved fatal, and he died on the afternoon of July 3, 1918.”
(Gansser 70) [added 6 Jul. ‘14]
SGT Cunningham earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre with silver star for his actions on 27 May. MG Haan, 32D Div. commander, presented the Croix de Guerre to SGT Cunningham while he was being treated for his wounds in a hospital, the DSC was bestowed posthumously. He was a member of the Michigan National Guard when it was mobilized on 15 Jul. ’17. More information about him and his medal can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 6 Jul. ‘14]
Co. A, 125TH Inf., 32D Division, crossing the German frontier at Sentheim, Alsace, 29 May 1918.
Soldiers of Co. A, 128TH Inf., 32D Div. cleaning up St. Ultrich, Alsace, Germany on 4 June 1918.
Soldiers of Machine Gun Co., 127TH Inf., 32D Div. returning from duty in the trenches, Manspach, Alsace, Germany on 4 June 1918.
Rolling kitchen of Co. E & F, 128TH Inf., 32D Div. at Austerlitz, Alsace, Germany on 5 June 1918.
PVT J. P. Borchers, Co. B, 127TH Inf., 32D Div. on duty in OP in Gerspach Woods, near Altkirch, Alsace, Germany on 6 June 1918.
Medical Detachment, 127TH Inf., 2D Bn., 32D Div. at first aid station, Eglingen, Alsace, Germany on 6 June 1918.
PVT Albert V. Lems of 127TH Inf., 2D Bn., 32D Div. on duty in OP at Lock 25 on Canal at Eglingen, Alsace, Germany on 6 June 1918.
Soldiers of Co. B, 127TH Inf., 32D Div. carrying in mess to men in the trenches, Carspach Woods, Alsace, Germany on 7 June 1918.
On 9 June, Battery A fired the first shot of the war for the 120TH FA. Several days later the 120TH FA suffered its first casualty of the war when PVT Kenneth Head, from Battery B, was seriously wounded on 16 June.
By 15 June, eight
battalions of the 32D Division were in the front line (the other
four battalions were in support). The Divisions sector of the front stretched
27 kilometers, from Aspach le Bas to the Swiss border. In the middle of June
the 57TH Field Artillery Brigade joined the Division in Alsace and a
few days later was firing in support of the infantry. The 107TH
Engineers joined the Division about the same time, so that on 15 June 1918
the Division was practically complete, except for the shortage of about 2,000
enlisted men, mostly from the infantry. The 32D was sent here to
complete its combat training in order to prepare to be sent to a more active
sector in the future. This area was considered a quiet sector; no major combat
activity was taking place in this area at this time. Aggressive patrols and
raids were the normal activity here, patrols from both sides met and clashed in
no man’s land almost nightly.
Gen. Pershing, MG Haan and Col. Laucagne, 9th (French) Division, at Sentheim, 20 June 1918.
Mrs. Maude Radford Warren and Charles Winner, Y. M. C. A. workers with 32D Division soldiers at Michelbach, Alsace, 22 June 1918.
Sgt. Charles Quick, Cpl. Mark Young and Pvt. Albert Lull, 126TH Inf., 32D Division, manning 37mm gun near Dieffmatten, Alsace, 25 June 1918.
Machine gunners from 126TH Inf., 32D Division, at Diefmatten, Alsace, 26 June 1918.
At about 0530 hours on 23 June, a group from 4TH Plt., Co. M, 126TH Inf., led by 1LT Carl A. Johnson, was making its way through the trenches to occupy an advanced OP near Diefmatten, Alsace. Unbeknownst to them, a well-camouflaged German raiding party was lying in ambush on the parapet. The Germans opened fire and 1LT Johnson was shot in the abdomen and fell seriously wounded. SGT Dewey F. Slocum, CPL John C. Phillips and CPL Newton Bell, who had been directly behind 1LT Johnson, were suddenly surrounded, the rest of their patrol had been forced to withdraw to their previous position. They were able to hold off the enemy with rifle fire and grenades, inflicting at least four casualties. Eventually they were able to fight their way back and rejoin their comrades. Later, another group from Co. M moved forward to clear the trench. They found 1LT Johnson’s body where he had fallen. He had been shot in the forehead as he lay wounded and his body was booby-trapped with grenades and other explosives. SGT Slocum and CPL Phillips, from Grand Rapids, MI, and CPL Bell, from Muses Mills, KY, earned the DSC for their actions on 23 June, CPL Bell’s was bestowed posthumously because he was late KIA on 10 Oct. More information about these three Soldiers and their medals can be found on the roster of DSC recipients. [added 20 Jan. ‘14]
Early in July 1918, General Pershing inspected the 32D Division. General Haan expressed the opinion that his men would give a good account of themselves, and hoped that he would soon get orders to go to an active front. General Pershing replied, “I like the snap in your Division, and unless I am mistaken you will be on your way to a more active front in the very near future. Tell your men I like their spirit.”
Pvt. Leo R. Hahn, sniper, Intelligence Section, 127TH Inf., 32D Division, in trench at Benholz, Alsace, 1 July 1918.
Soldiers of Co. K, 127TH Inf., 32D Division, in trenches at Benholz, Alsace, 1 July 1918.
SGT Willard D. Purdy, from
125TH Inf., 32D Division, passing through Massevaux, Alsace, 14 July 1918.
On 12 July COL Russell C. Langdon assumed command of the 127th Inf. from COL Wilbur M. Lee.
On 19 July 1918 the Division began to pull out of Alsace, bound for a different sector of the front. There had been three German Divisions, the 30th Bavarian Reserve Division, the 44th Landwehr and the 25th Landwehr, in the trenches opposite the 32nd Division in the Alsace sector. The Division suffered 440 losses from all causes, including: killed, 1 officer and 39 men; severely wounded, 3 officers and 79 men; slightly wounded, 9 officers and 211 men; gassed, 7 officers and 67 men; died of wounds, 1 officer and 15 men; taken prisoner, 8 (8 German prisoners were captured).
On 26 July 1918 the Division proceeded to the region of Château-Thierry, as part of the 38th French Corps, 6th French Army, in the tip of the famous Marne salient.
After nightfall on 29 July, the 64TH Brigade (127TH and 128TH Infantry) began to filter forward to relieve the 3D Infantry Division in the front line, on the Ourcq in the vicinity of Ronchères. The 3D Division had been fighting continuously since the German offensive started about 15 July and was exhausted, being at the time held up by strong German resistance in the Bois de Grimpettes.
The 32D Division received its baptism of fire (first major offensive action) at 1430 hours on 30 July 1918 when the 127TH Infantry went over the top and followed a rolling barrage into the Bois des Grimpettes. The 127TH pushed through the woods until they were stopped by machine gun fire from the right flank. On this flank, from positions in the Bois de Cierges, the Germans continued to oppose every effort to advance, but the 127TH Infantry gained the edge of those woods and established themselves there. During the night the Germans launched a counter attack from the Bois de Meuniere and a bayonet melee raged for hours in the dark, tangled woods, until the attacking force was finally routed.
PVT Edwin Austin, from Shawano, WI, and PVT James C. Hix, from Beloit, WI, both assigned to Co. F, 127TH Inf., earned the DSC for their efforts to rescue wounded comrades during that attack near Ronchères on 30 July. Both decorations were bestowed posthumously; PVT Austin was KIA that day and PVT Hix was later KIA on 7 or 9 Oct. PVT Austin was a Soldier in the Wisconsin National Guard when it was mobilized on 15 Jul. ’17. More information about them and their medals can be found on the roster of DSC recipients.
During the night of 30 July, the 63D Brigade (125TH and 126TH Infantry) moved up from support to relieve the 28TH Division, Pennsylvania National Guard (adjacent and on the left of the 64TH Brigade, the 4th French Division was on our right).
Earlier on 30 July, at 1530 hours, while leaders were coordinating with the units they were to relieve that night, a high explosive shell hit a house in Courmont that was the Command Post of the 110TH Infantry from Pennsylvania. CPT James J. Cook and 1LT Elmer E. Nelson, both from Pontiac, MI, were KIA and the 1ST Bn., 125TH Inf. commander and his entire staff were WIA. One officer and seven men from the 110TH Inf. were also killed. CPT Charles Learned assumed command of the 1ST Bn., 125TH Inf. and the relief was executed as planned. CPT Cook was from Co. H, 126TH Inf.; he had previously served with the 120TH MG Bn. 1LT Nelson was from Co. A, 120TH MG Bn.
On the morning of 31 July, both Infantry Brigades of the 32D Division went into action side by side. Directly in front of us was the long, open slope of the Ourcq Valley, reaching to the woods of Les Jomblettes on Hill 212, a spur of Hill 230. This objective constituted one of the strongest German positions on the line of the Ourcq, and the success of the contemplated operation meant the breaking of the Kaiser’s last formidable line of resistance south of the Vesle. Les Jomblettes was not only holding up the 32D Division, machine gun nests there and in the Bois Pelger, further back, flanked the open ground in front of the 42D Division and absolutely prevented any advance by the “Rainbows”. On the left, the 63D Brigade promptly reached its objective, Hill 212, after some wicked fighting. They dove into Les Jomblettes and mopped it up and then cleaned out the Bois Pelger, allowing the 42D Division to advance. On the right, the127TH Infantry pushed their attack through the village of Cierges and passed beyond, only to be held up by a withering hail of machine gun bullets from Bellevue Farm, which had been organized into a very strong center of resistance which the artillery had failed to smother.
The attack was renewed on the
morning of 1 August 1918. The objective of the 63D Brigade
was Hill 230. The mission of the 64TH was to take Bellevue Farm,
which had stopped the attack the day before. The Germans resisted desperately
and were amply supported by machine guns and artillery. But “Les Terribles”
were not to be denied. The objectives were gained and after dark the 32D
Division dominated Hill 230. The Germans were forced to retreat after they lost
this commanding high ground.
Soldiers of the 126TH Inf., 32D Division, assembling for an attack near Coutmont, 1 Aug. 1918.
Soldiers of the 2D Battalion, 126TH Inf., 32D Division, assembling in a wheat field prepatory to an attack near Coutmont, 1 Aug. 1918.
The situation was now such that the commander of the 6th French Army thought it probable that a consolidated advance could break through. Such an advance was ordered to begin on the morning of 2 August. The German resistance was not as stubborn as it had been over the last few days. As a result, the 32D Division advanced rapidly. The pursuit was continued to a line north of the village of Dravegny, which the 32D reached by nightfall, after an advance of about 6 km.
On 3 August, the pursuit was resumed and our troops continued to steadily gain ground, although meeting with increased resistance, especially on the left flank, where the 42D Division was unable to advance as rapidly as the 32D. By the end of the day, the Division’s front line had advanced about 7 km to the hills overlooking the valley of the Vesle, about 1 km south of the Vesle on the left and 2 km south of Fismes on the right. Here considerable resistance was met from the German rear guard, which was making a stand to protect the withdrawal over the river.
1LT Clarence G. Noble, from
On 4 August the 127TH moved out toward Fismes, while the 63D Brigade attacked the railroad yards on their front. The enemy had no intentions of yielding without a bitter battle and by means of very heavy artillery and machine gun fire was able to hold the town and railroad yards during the early hours of the afternoon. In its attack on Fismes, the 127TH was badly cut up and late in the day Colonel Langdon organized a provisional battalion out of what was left of his regiment and sent it forward to storm the town. His shattered companies made a desperate assault and finally succeeded, about nightfall, in passing through the town and establishing a position on the south bank of the river. On the left, the 63D Brigade took the railroad yards and succeeded in getting a few small patrols across the river during the night, but was unable to maintain them there so they were withdrawn.
The 3D Battalion, commanded by CPT Byron Beveridge, was the assault battalion for the 127TH Infantry's attack on Fismes. The 3D Bn. commenced their attack at 1430, covered by machine gun fire from Co. A, 121ST Machine Gun Battalion and some artillery from the 120TH Field Artillery. The authorized strength of the battalion was 20 officers and 1,000 men; the 3D Bn. was down to 12 officers and 350 men when they started their assault on 4 August. They suffered many more casualties as they advanced over 2,100 yards of mostly open ground while subjected to intense German artillery and machine gun fire. The 2D Bn., 127TH Inf., commanded by CPT George F. O'Connell, also understrength due to the recent fighting, was brought into to assist the 3D Battalion's push toward Fismes. The 127TH Inf. was able to capture Fismes, but at terrific cost. That night, the 3D Bn. was down to 2 officers and 94 men; the 2D Bn. had 5 officers and 104 men. The 1ST Bn., commanded by CPT William Smith, was held in reserve during this attack.
1LT Ray C. Dickop, from Beloit, Wis., CO of Co. L, 127TH Inf. was KIA in this attack on Fismes, France, on 4 August 1918, and was posthumously awarded the DSC for his actions that day. 1LT Dickop's citation reads: “On reaching Chezelles Farm, he was shot in the head, body and legs. Although thus fatally wounded, when orders came for another assault, he gave the command ‘Charge’ to his company and led the assault until he fell dead.”
Near the end of the war, General Pershing compiled a list of the 100 greatest American heroes of the war. The list became known as Pershing's 100. Gen. Pershing included 1LT Ray C. Dickop on his list.
PVT Wilford Lloyd, a soldier in Co. L, 127TH Inf., was awarded the DSC for his actions during the attack on Fismes, France, on 4 August 1918. He was serving as 1LT Dickop's orderly and was wounded at the same time as 1LT Dickop. As PVT Lloyd fell wounded, he lost his pistol. He then crawled over to a dead soldier, picked up the dead man’s rifle and joined a squad in a successful attack on the strongly fortified stone wall surrounding Chezelles Farm on the outskirts of Fismes.
On 5 August, the 127TH gave their attention to mopping up the town. Attempts were also made to cross the river, but without success. On the night of 5 August, the 3D Battalion of the 128TH, the only strong battalion left in the 64TH Brigade, was ordered into Fismes to reinforce the 127TH. On the morning of 6 August, the 127TH was relieved from Fismes. There were still German snipers in the town, and the 128TH continued to mop up the place. In the eastern half of the town German and American patrols clashed and it was nightfall before the Americans could claim anything like control of the city.
It was during this action that the 32D Division earned the nickname of “Les Terribles”. When this fight first started General de Mondesir, the 38th French Corps Commander, under whose orders the 32D was serving at the time, went to the front to see how the Americans were conducting the battle. After he personally observed the 32nd clearing the Germans out of their powerful positions with regularity and determination, he exclaimed “Oui, Oui, Les soldats terrible, tres bien, tres bien!” General Mangin heard of it and referred to the 32D Division as “Les Terribles” when he asked for the Division to join his famous 10th French Army of shock troops north of Soissons. He later made the nickname official when he incorporated it in his citation for their terrific punch at Juvigny.
The 32D Division was the only American division to be bestowed a nom-de-guerre by an Allied nation during the war.
On 7 August 1918 the 32D Division was relieved in the front by the 28TH Infantry Division. In the savage fighting that occurred since 30 July, the German line was forced steadily back, over difficult ground, from the strongly fortified position on the Ourcq River to the Vesle River, a distance of 19 kilometers. The brilliant and determined American attacks culminated in the 64TH Infantry Brigade’s capture of the important town of Fismes (on the Vesle) on 7 August, and the 63D Brigade’s capture of the important German railhead on the Vesle (in the left of the Division’s sector) on 4 August. During the past week the Division had captured 18 villages and fortified farms, captured 4 pieces of heavy artillery, five pieces of light artillery, ten trench mortars, 28 machine guns and hundreds of rifles. The Division had faced three German Divisions in this offensive: the Fourth Prussian Guards, the 200th and the 216th. One German officer and 96 soldiers were taken prisoner. The 32D Division casualties were 4,597 losses from all causes, including: killed and died of wounds, 797; severely wounded, 1,153; slightly wounded, 2009; gassed, 618; missing, 12; captured, 2 officers and 6 men.
On 23 August 1918 the Division started movement to a new sector, in the vicinity of Pierrefonds, near Soissons. After a few days in the Army reserve the Division was sent across the Aisne to a position in the rear of the 127th French Infantry Division, with orders to relieve that division on short notice.
The relief of the 127th French Infantry Division took place on the night of 27-28 August. The 63D Brigade went into the line and the 64TH Brigade went into support (of the 63D). (The Infantry companies were down to 50% of their authorized strength of 250 soldiers as the 32D Division prepared to enter its second battle.) The relief was completed at 0200 hrs. The first attack was set for 0700 hours, the precise hour that command of the sector passed to the 32D Commander, General Haan.
The 63D went over the
top at 0700 hours on 28 August to participate in a limited attack to
eliminate a dangerous salient in the sector of the 59th French Division to the
right of the 32D. During the morning the 32D readily
gained their objective, the railroad track west of the village of Juvigny, the
village was destined to be one of the high spots in the career of “Les
Terribles”. The 63D Brigade turned in over 100 prisoners as a result
of their push, and the captured Germans all testified to their complete
surprise at the presence of Americans in the sector. Later the 32D
found that the position they had captured was difficult to hold. They were on
high, open ground on the slope of a hill facing the enemy. There was little
cover, except shell holes, and they were subjected to artillery and machine gun
fire from positions that had excellent observation of our front. The exposed
position could not be abandoned without endangering the French; as a result,
the casualties were high. Shortly after noon, the Germans counter attacked to
attempt to dislodge the Americans. Our machine gunners held their ground and,
aided by our artillery, were able to repel the German counter attack. After
that, the Germans continued their harassing artillery and machine gun fire on
the troops in the vicinity of the railroad tracks.
Soldiers of the 121ST Machine Gun Battalion, 32D Division, resting in a shell hole near Valpriez Farm, Juvigny, 29 Aug. 1918.
Men of the 107TH Field Signal Battalion, 32D Division, repair telephone wires broken by enemy shells near Juvigny, 29 Aug. 1918.
Men of Co. K, 128TH Inf., 32D Division, in line on Valpriez Farm in front of Juvigny, 29 Aug. 1918.
French tanks moving to the support of French troops operating on the left of the 32D Division, 29 Aug. 1918.
General Mangin ordered a general attack by the entire 10th French Army (of which the 32D was a part of at this time) to take place at 0525 hours on 29 August, with the objective of a complete break through the German line. Two companies of tanks and a troop of Moroccan Cavalry were attached to the 32D Division (several French Artillery units were also attached to the 57TH Field Artillery Brigade of the 32D Division).
Those two tank companies, although French-manned, were the first tanks used in support of U.S. troops. The first employment of U.S.-manned tanks occurred on 12 Sep. ‘18 near St. Mihiel. [added 19 Jan. ‘14]
A tremendous artillery preparation had been delivered during the night, followed by a rolling barrage in front of the attacking infantry in the morning, but all this seemed to have little effect on the German machine gun nests, some of which took good advantage of numerous caves in the area. The Germans also laid down an effective counter barrage, just as our troops jumped off. The entire 10th French Army met a determined German defense occupying well sited and protected positions. Casualties were heavy on both sides and very little ground was gained. Because of the heavy casualties, the 63D Brigade was relieved by the 64TH Brigade on the night of 29-30 August in preparation for the next general attack, planned for 30 August. The 127TH was on the right and the 128TH on the left, each with two battalions in the line and one in support.
The planned attack for 30 August was not ordered. This situation left the 32D Division front line still exposed on the hill west of Juvigny, with the troops suffering heavily. While corrective measures were being considered, word was received from the 59th French Division on our right that its right flank had advanced in close liaison with the division to their right, which had found a weak spot in the German line and had broken through. It became apparent that this movement was going to meet with success and preparations were made for the 32D to participate in the shove. This would give us the opportunity to attack Juvigny. When the attack was launched, the left flank, together with the 66th French Division on our left, was held up by heavy fire coming from the northeast. The right flank, however, moved forward, and while it encountered determined opposition in going through the woods, it succeeded in making its way through the ravine to a position to the south of Juvigny with the extreme right partially enveloping the town to the east. One battalion of the 128TH Infantry moved forward west of Juvigny and reached a position north of the town, in this way the village was practically surrounded. The enemy was taken by surprise by the attack, but recovered and delivered a counter attack on our left flank. This attack was repulsed by the 128TH, which had been reinforced on its left by a battalion of the 125TH Infantry. With Juvigny surrounded, the support battalion of the 127TH Infantry entered the town from the southwest and mopped up, encountering some wicked fighting. Nearly all of the German troops holding the village were either killed or captured.
1LT Henry S. Blomberg, from Superior, Wis., an officer in Co. D, 127TH Inf., was awarded the DSC for his bravery during this attack at Juvigny, France, on 30 August 1918. 1LT Blomberg's citation reads: “Inspiring his men by his own personal bravery, he vigorously led his company forward in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, capturing the heights overlooking Juvigny with many prisoners. After reaching the objective he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire time after time in reorganizing the line. During the defense of the position won he personally set up and operated a captured German machine gun against the enemy while under terrific fire.” 1LT Blomberg was later KIA on 4 October 1918.
General Mangin ordered his second general attack to take place at 1600 hours on 31 August 1918. This attack was needed to straighten out the front line and improve the positions of some of the forward units. He ordered an artillery preparation of four hours to precede the infantry attack. The entire 57TH Artillery Brigade, commanded by BG George L. Irwin, and the artillery of the 1st Moroccan Division, which was supporting the 32D, was assigned to General Haan for this attack. Novel use was made of this abnormal abundance of artillery in the form of a triple, rolling barrage, to cover a depth of about 1 ½ km. Some of the German prisoners taken during the day remarked that there were so many artillery shells bursting around them that they thought the Americans had a machine gun that sprayed 75 mm shells. Even after all this, the 32D Division still suffered considerable casualties as they progressed to the Terny-Sorny-Betancourt road, where the general advance stopped.
In an operation against a determined enemy, disposed in great depth, supported be adequate artillery and entrenched in highly organized positions in country that lent itself naturally to defense, the 32D Division had again broken through a German key position, had penetrated his line to a depth of 5 ½ km, and started an enemy withdrawal, thus paving the way for a forward movement by the whole French 10th Army.
The 32D was relieved
by the First Moroccan Division; this division included the Foreign Legion and
other famous units, on the night of 1-2 September and went into support
for the 10th French Army.
Cave at Tartiers used as 32D Division command post and first aid station.
Lord Reading, Chief Justice of England, at Tartiers, 4 Sept. 1918, congratulates MG Haan on the victory at Juvigny.
On 5 September orders were received stating that the 32D was being transferred to the First American Army, thus effecting the 32D Division’s withdrawal from the Oise-Aisne offensive. General Mangin later decorated the Division for its actions in this offensive. He decorated the colors of all four Infantry regiments, all three artillery regiments and all three machine gun battalions with the Croix de Guerre with Palm, the highest order of the Croix de Guerre. These were the only National Guard units bestowed with the highest order of the Croix de Guerre during WWI. Gen. Mangin also cited over 500 officers and men for gallantry in action while under his command. The 32D Division casualties were 2908 losses from all causes, including: killed and died of wounds, 485; severely wounded, 599; slightly wounded, 1251; gassed, 574; missing, 14; captured, 5 men. Five German Divisions were used up in an attempt to hold the position which the 32D stormed-the 7th, 7th Reserve, the 223rd, the 238th and the 237th. From these Divisions 937 prisoners were captured, 9 of them officers. The material captured included 2 pieces of heavy artillery, 2 pieces of light artillery, 16 trench mortars, 112 machine guns, 700 rifles and great quantities of ammunition and material.
The Division was moved to a rest area in the vicinity of Joinville, north of Chaumont, on 10 September 1918. About 5,000 new men arrived in the Division, but the rifle companies were still short three officers and 50 men each.
On 15 September General Pershing visited the 32D Division and congratulated them on their accomplishments during the Oise-Aisne campaign.
Gansser, Emil B. History of the 126TH Infantry in the War With Germany. Grand Rapids, MI: 126TH Infantry Association, A. E. F., 1920.
Haan, William G., Major General. "The Division as a Fighting Machine". The Wisconsin Magazine of History. Volume 04, Issue 1. Menasha, WI: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1920.
Hill, Jim Dan, Major General, Retired. The Minute Man in Peace and War. Harrisburg: The Stackpole Company, 1964.
William and Russell, James.
U.S. Official Pictures of the World War - Showing
Washington, DC: Pictorial Bureau, 1920
Souvenir of the First Annual Reunion of the 32nd Division (Les Terribles). Milwaukee, WI: 121ST F. A. Veterans’ Association, 1920.
revised 6 July 2014
since 27 February 1999