1st U.S. Infantry Division

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1st U.S. Infantry Division (1917-Active)

World War I

The First Division was organized in June 1917, from troops of the Regular Army which at that time were much scattered, most of them being on Mexican border service. All were at peace strength and were raised to war strength by transfers from other units. The units of the division were not concentrated until arrival in France. The organization was as follows:

First Division Organization
1st Infantry Brigade 2nd Infantry Brigade 1st Field Artillery Brigade Other
  • 16th U.S. Infantry
  • 18th U.S. Infantry
  • 2nd U.S. Machine Gun Battalion
  • 26th U.S. Infantry
  • 28th U.S. Infantry
  • 5th U.S. Field Artillery (heavy)
  • 6th U.S. Field Artillery (light)
  • 7th U.S. Field Artillery (light)
  • 1st U.S. Trench Mortar Battery
  • 1st U.S. Machine Gun Battalion.
  • 1st U.S. Engineers
  • 2nd U.S. Field Signal Battalion
  • Trains

The first troops sailed from Hoboken June 13, 1917, and disembarked at St. Nazaire, June 26, 1917. Division Headquarters landed June 27, 1917. The remainder of the troops followed in rapid succession except the Supply Train which did not arrive in France until May 6, 1918. The Division (less artillery) was sent to the Gondrecourt area for training, For a similar purpose the artillery brigade went to Valdahon. En route from St. Nazaire to Gondrecourt, the 2nd Battalion, 16th U.S. Infantry, participated in the July 4th parade in Paris, the first public appearance of American troops in France.

The Division entered the line October 21, 1917, in the Luneville sector, near Nancy, each unit being attached to a corresponding French unit. At 6:05 AM, October 23, 1917, Battery C, of the 6th Field Artillery, in position 400 m. east of Bathlemont, fired the first American shot of the war, In this sector the First Division took the first German prisoner to be captured in the war by the Americans, and suffered the first losses, three men of the 16th Infantry being killed, November 3, 1917.

On the night of November 30, 1917, the Division was withdrawn from the line to the Gondrecourt Area to continue its training, It again entered the line in the Ansauville sector, near Toul, on the night of January 15-16, 1918, This sector became a more or less active one. On March 28, 1918 , while the Division was still occupying this sector, General Pershing placed it at the disposal of the Allled High Command.

In accordance with orders received from the Allied Command, the Division was withdrawn to Toul on April 3, 1918, and was immediately sent by rail to Picardy, where on April 25, 1918, it took over the active Cantigny sector near Montdidier.

Cantigny marked a salient in one of the most advanced parts of the German lines. It was desirable to straighten this line, especially in view of an Allied offensive movement, which was contemplated. This offensive had to be given up owing to the development of a new German thrust toward the Marne. The plans for the capture of Cantigny, however, were carried out, partly for the local advantage, but chiefly for the moral effect both on friend and enemy, of showing American troops in an independent offensive operation.

The operation was well planned and well executed. The attack was made on the morning of May 28, 1918. All objectives were taken and held against strong counter attacks, constantly repeated for the next two,days, when it was withdrawn to Dammartin-en-Goele, Cantigny sector, near Montdidier.

The Division remained in the Cantigny sector until July 7, 1918 when it was withdrawn to Dammartin-en-Goole. The lines along Marne salient had meanwhile become stabilized. On July 15, 1918 the Germans launched another short-lived offensive in Champagne, and on the 18th, the Allies took the offensive, never to loose it again.

The first operation of the Allies was to straighten out the Marne salient, driving one attack eastward near Soissons, while another one came northward from the line of the Marne. The First Division with the Second American Division, and the First Moroccan Division, made the attack from the west. For four days the Division advanced against determined´┐╝resistance, finally crossing the Soissons--Chateau-Thierry road and bringing Soissons itself under the American guns. The First Division was relieved by the 15th (Scottish) Division, This completed this phase of operations. The First Division had lost 8,365 men, including 60% of its Infantry officers. It had advanced 11 kilometers and captured 3,500 prisoners, 68 guns and quantities of other material.

The Division after its relief from the Soissons offensive, was again moved eastward. On August 7, 1918, it took over the quiet Saizerais sector, near Toul. Here it remained until Auguet 24th, when it was withdrawn to Vaucouleurs, in preparation for a new offensive.

The First American Army was at last fully organized, and was about to undertake its first independent operation, the forcing of the St. Mihiel salient. The plan called for a double attack, one from the west and one from the south, the line between being lightly held by French troops. The southern attack consisted of a right wheel by a long line, with its right on the Moselle River. The First Division formed the left or marching flank, of this line, thus being required to make the greatest advances The attack began at 5:00 AM, September 12, 1918. The next morning the First Division established connection with the 26th Division at Vigneulles, which had come in from the western face, and the St. Mihiel salient had ceased to exist. The First Division was relieved by the 42nd Division, and withdrawn to the Nonsard Wood as reserve of the 4th Corps. During the advance the Division captured 1,195 prisoners, 30 field guns and howitzers, 50 machine guns and quantities of ammunition and stores, Its casualties amounted to 585.

This operation was not pushed furtherd On September 20th the First Division was shifted west for the Meuse-Argonne offensive. The Division moved on September 27, 1918, to Nixeville, thence to Neuvilly, and on the night of Septmber 30th relieved the 35th Division near Very.

The next eleven days the Division fought continuously in an advance east of the Aire Valley against, the most stubborn resistance of the best German troops. Fleville, Exermont, and the rugged wooded country beyond were taken, and on the night of October 11, 1918, the line ran east and west one-half a kilometer north of Sommerance. The First Division was relieved by the 42d Division on the night of October 11-12, 1918.

The Division had lost 9,194 men, but it had advanced 7 kilometers at a critical point of the line and captured 1,400 prisoners, 13 field guns and many other stores. After relief from this offensive, the Division was moved to the vicinity of Bar-le-Duc for a brief rest.

On October 31 1918, the Division was in reserve of the 5th Corps. On the night of November 5-6, 1918, it entered the line north of the Stonne-Beaumont road, and by noon November 6, 1918, had reached the Meuse at Mouzon. It now turned to the left, and paralleling the river, advanced, until, on the afternoon of the 7th it was occupying the heights of Sedan, with the city at its mercy. The French, for reasons of sentiment, wished to be the first to enter, so the Division was withdrawn to La Pesane, and on the 11th, the Armistice found it near Buzancy. From here it marched to Eix, a few miles from Verdun. Its losses since October had been 10,116, more than those of any other Division in the Meuse-Argonne operation.

During operations the division took 6,661 prisoners. Its casualties totalled 26,332.

The Division was now assigned to the Third Army, the Army of Occupation, and started for Germany on November 17, 1918. It crossed the Moselle River at Wormeldingen and entered the enemy's country on December 1, 1918. The Rhine was crossed on December 13, 1918, and the Division etaablished itself in the Coblonz Bridgehead. Here it remained until August 16, 1919, when the movement home was begun.

Division Headquarters embarked at Brest on August 25, 1919 and arrived at New York, September 5, 1919.

The First Division had six different commanding generals as follows;

  • Major General William L. Sibert, June 8 - Dec. 14, 1917; left division to become Chief of Chemical Warfare Service
  • Major General Robert L. Bullard, Dec 14, 1917 - June 30, 1918
  • Brigadier General Charles P. Summerall, July 1-6, 1918
  • Major General Hobert L. Bullard, July 7 - 17, 1918; left take command of 3d Army Corps; - later Lieutenant General commanding 2d Army
  • Major General Charles P. Summerall, July 18 - October 11, 1918; left division to take command of 5th Army Corps.
  • Brigadier General Frank E. Bamford October 12-19, 1918; transferred to command 26th division
  • Brigadier General Frank Parker, October 20 - November 20, 1918
  • Major General Edward F. McGlachlin, November 20 1918 - September 9, 1919

See Also:

Sources:

  • Brief Histories of Divisions, U.S. Army 1917-1918, Historical Branch, War Plans Division, General Staff, June 1921, typescript, 92 pages. Note: The World War I contents of this page come from pages 1-3 of this document.

Links:

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