American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War.
Pen & Sword Books
9781526714459, $19.95, PB, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Although the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which began in late September 1918 and continued through to the Armistice, was not the first major action fought by the AEF, it was the greatest in which it engaged in the Great War. Indeed, the casualty count in the fighting at the Meuse-Argonne makes it the bloodiest battle in the whole of American military history to date.
The Argonne was an area that had been heavily fought over, particularly in the early part of the war; its eastern part, towards the Meuse, then became enveloped in the first great attritional battle of the war, Verdun. The area is marked by extensive woodlands and rolling countryside; however, unlike the Somme, it is interspersed with numerous waterways, deep ravines and higher ridges, along with significant hills, such as at Montfaucon.
To be frank, the opening stages of the Offensive were marked by considerable unforced difficulties for the Americans, who after all were facing a far from strong enemy opposition (however formidable the defensive line might have been). Errors were made, logistical problems multiplied, command was often less than satisfactory. In many respects this should not have come as a surprise: this was an army that was relatively new to the Western Front, which was being reinforced at an awesome rate (approximately 300,000 men a month by July) and whose senior commanders had never before faced the challenges of modern warfare, themselves evolving at a dizzying rate.
In "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War: The Meuse Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line", author Maarten Otte gives a background narrative to events before the opening of the Offensive and its development. Taking each of the US corps in turn, he then provides tours that will help the visitor to understand the fighting and the problems that were faced. This opening study of the Meuse-Argonne takes the reader, more or less, to the date when General Pershing handed over command of the US First Army to Major General Liggard in mid October, a change in command that marked a significant improvement in the American performance as they pushed the Germans ever backwards.
The Great War battlefield of the Argonne is marked by numerous physical remains of the war, some fine (some might argue over grandiose) monuments and by the stunning American cemetery at Romagne, the second largest in the world administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission. There is much to see in a battlefield that has been largely neglected in the decades since the Second World War.
Critique: Maarten Otte is a long time resident of the Argonne, whose home is in Nantillois, situated between Montfaucon and Romagne. Growing up in the Netherlands with a fascination with the Great War, some eight years ago he settled in the Argonne, where he has developed his interest in the war, particularly the role of the United States and therefore brings a very special expertise to the writing of "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War: The Meuse Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line".
Exceptionally well researched, organized and presented, "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of maps, historic black-and-white photography, three Appendices (Order of Battle, First US Army; Composition of an American infantry division; Some notes on the AEF); a one page 'Advice for Travelers', a two page Bibliography; and a five page Index.
An invaluable and extraordinary contribution to the growing library of World War I Histories and highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.50).
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|Title Annotation:||American Expeditionary Forces in the Great War: The Meuse Argonne 1918: Breaking the Line|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2018|
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