Cover Page

A Companion to the Meuse-Argonne Campaign

Edited by

Edward G. Lengel

Wiley Logo


This series provides sophisticated and authoritative overviews of the scholarship that has shaped our current understanding of the past. Defined by theme, period, and/or region, each volume comprises between twenty-five and forty concise essays written by individual scholars within their area of specialization. The aim of each contribution is to synthesize the current state of scholarship from a variety of historical perspectives and to provide a statement on where the field is heading. The essays are written in a clear, provocative, and lively manner, designed for an international audience of scholars, students, and general readers.


A Companion to the American Revolution
Edited by Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole

A Companion to 19th-Century America
Edited by William L. Barney

A Companion to the American South
Edited by John B. Boles

A Companion to American Indian History
Edited by Philip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury

A Companion to American Women’s History
Edited by Nancy A. Hewitt

A Companion to Post-1945 America
Edited by Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig

A Companion to the Vietnam War
Edited by Marilyn B. Young and Robert Buzzanco

A Companion to Colonial America
Edited by Daniel Vickers

A Companion to American Foreign Relations
Edited by Robert D. Schulzinger

A Companion to 20th-Century America
Edited by Stephen J. Whitfield

A Companion to the American West
Edited by William Deverell

A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction
Edited by Lacy K. Ford

A Companion to American Technology
Edited by Carroll Pursell

A Companion to African-American History
Edited by Alton Hornsby, Jr

A Companion to American Immigration
Edited by Reed Ueda

A Companion to American Cultural History
Edited by Karen Halttunen

A Companion to California History
Edited by William Deverell and David Igler

A Companion to American Military History
Edited by James Bradford

A Companion to Los Angeles
Edited by William Deverell and Greg Hise

A Companion to American Environmental History
Edited by Douglas Cazaux Sackman

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin
Edited by David Waldstreicher

A Companion to American Legal History
Edited by Sally E. Hadden and Alfred L. Brophy

A Companion to the U.S. Civil War
Edited by Aaron Sheehan-Dean

A Companion to the Meuse-Argonne Campaign
Edited by Edward G. Lengel


A Companion to Franklin D. Roosevelt
Edited by William Pederson

A Companion to Richard M. Nixon
Edited by Melvin Small

A Companion to Theodore Roosevelt
Edited by Serge Ricard

A Companion to Thomas Jefferson
Edited by Francis D. Cogliano

A Companion to Lyndon B. Johnson
Edited by Mitchell Lerner

A Companion to George Washington
Edited by Edward G. Lengel

A Companion to James Madison and James Monroe
Edited by Stuart Leibiger

A Companion to Harry S. Truman
Edited by Daniel S. Margolies

A Companion to Andrew Jackson
Edited by Sean Patrick Adams

A Companion to Woodrow Wilson
Edited by Ross A. Kennedy

A Companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams
Edited by David Waldstreicher

A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents 1837–1861
Edited by Joel H. Silbey

Notes on Contributors

John D. Beatty is a professional writer of more than 40 years’ experience in military science and in industry. He retired from the U.S. Army Reserve after 27 years of service. He holds both BA and MA degrees in military history from American Military University (part of the American Public University System), and has written and published several books, encyclopedia entries, and magazine articles on the middle period (1860–1960) of American military history. He lives and works in Wisconsin.

Richard S. Faulkner served 23 years in the U.S. Army as an armor officer. He received his Masters in American history from the University of Georgia and his Ph.D. in American history from Kansas State University. He taught American history at the United States Military Academy at West Point and has taught military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas since 2002. His book, The School of Hard Knocks: Combat Leadership in the American Expeditionary Forces (Texas A&M University Press, 2012) won the Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book Award for best book-length publication in American military history.

Randal S. Gaulke is a high-yield bond analyst. Since 1994 he has studied the Meuse-Argonne offensive, especially the German side. In 2007 he led a tour for the Western Front Association’s USA Branch. Most recently, he presented on the late war German army, and he continues researching the German perspective.

E. Bruce Geelhoed is Professor of History and member of the Honors College faculty at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He is the editor of On the Western Front with the Rainbow Division: A World War I Diary, by Vernon E. Kniptash (University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).

Larry A. Grant is a retired U.S. Navy surface warfare officer who specialized in seamanship, training, and management. Now a historical researcher and freelance writer, Grant lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Elizabeth Greenhalgh is an Australian Research Council researcher, based in Canberra, in the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She is the author of Victory through Coalition (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Foch in Command (Cambridge University Press, 2011); her study of France’s army during World War I will be published in 2014.

Edward A. Gutiérrez (Ph.D., history, Ohio State University), teaches history at the University of Hartford. His most recent awards include a Guggenheim Foundation Grant and a Memory and Memorialization Postdoctoral Fellowship with CNRS in Paris, France. His book, Sherman was Right (University Press of Kansas, forthcoming) examines the doughboys’ experience during the Great War.

Nathan A. Jones is a history curator at the General George Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and unit historian of the 138th Infantry Regiment, Missouri National Guard. His research includes the National Guard experience in the Great War, the development of the Tank Corps, General Patton, and war memorialization and memory.

Markus Klauer was born in Remscheid, Germany. While pursuing a career as a professional soldier, he has published five books and several articles since 2001, most of which consider World War I near the Verdun area. He is currently assigned to the NATO Rapid Deployable Corps in Lille, France.

James Lacey is a defense analyst and military historian who teaches at the Marine Corps War College.

Jeffrey LaMonica is Assistant Professor of History at Delaware County Community College in Media, Pennsylvania. He holds degrees in history from Villanova University and LaSalle University. His dissertation deals with tactical development in the American Expeditionary Forces.

Edward G. Lengel is Professor and Director of the Papers of George Washington documentary editing project at the University of Virginia. His books include World War I Memories (Scarecrow Press, 2004) and To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 (Holt, 2008).

Sanders Marble received his AB from the College of William and Mary and his graduate degrees from King’s College London. He has written or edited eight books and a number of articles on World War I and military medicine. He is senior historian at the U.S. Army Office of Medical History, and has worked at the Smithsonian and Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Douglas Mastriano was commissioned in the U.S. Army in 1986. Colonel Mastriano began his career on the Iron Curtain with the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment in Nuremberg, Germany. After serving along the East German and Czechoslovakian borders, he was deployed to Iraq for Operation Desert Storm. He subsequently served in tactical, operational, and strategic levels of command that included assignments in the Pentagon, the 3d Infantry Division, and in U.S. Army Europe Operations and Plans. His last assignment was with NATO Land Headquarters in Germany, from where he deployed three times to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he served as the leader of the ISAF Joint Intelligence Center. Mastriano is a graduate of the Advanced Military Studies Jedi Course, and has Master’s degrees in military operational art, strategic intelligence, airpower theory, and in strategic studies. He led an international team of researchers that dedicated 100 days in France to locate where Sergeant Alvin York fought on 8 October 1918. He is currently working on a Ph.D. in military history focused on World War I.

William P. McEvoy earned his history degrees from the University of Alabama and Kansas State University. He has taught for the University of West Alabama, Blinn College, Bossier Parish Community College, and the University of Maryland University College. He lives in Turkey, and is an education services specialist for the U.S. Air Force.

Kevin Mulberger enlisted in the army in 1989, and was medically retired with 20 years of service, achieving the rank of sergeant first class. He has participated in the Persian Gulf War, Operation Able Sentry III, Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Forge, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. He holds a BA in history from Columbia College and an MA in military history from American Military University.

Michael S. Neiberg is Professor of History in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, PA. His published work specializes on World Wars I and II, notably the American and French experiences. His most recent book on World War I is Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I (Harvard University Press, 2011). In October 2012 Basic Books published his The Blood of Free Men, a history of the liberation of Paris in 1944.

James Carl Nelson is the author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War (St. Martin’s Press, 2009) and Five Lieutenants: The Heartbreaking Story of Five Harvard Men Who Led America to Victory in World War I (St. Martin’s Press, 2012). He lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

Brian F. Neumann was born in 1975 in Texas City. He earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2006. He joined the U.S. Army Center of Military History in 2010 as a member of the Contemporary Studies Branch with a focus on Operation Enduring Freedom.

Patrick R. Osborn is an archivist with the National Archives and Records Administration. He received his MA in history from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and is the author of Operation Pike: Britain versus the Soviet Union, 1939–1941 (Greenwood Press, 2000). He is currently working on a comprehensive history of American armor in World War I.

James S. Price is an Adjunct Professor of History at Germanna Community College. He received his MA in military history from Norwich University in 2009. His first book, The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword, was published by the History Press in 2011.

Justin G. Prince is a doctoral student and graduate teaching associate at Oklahoma State University, specializing in the United States Army 1865–1936, with an expected graduation in 2014. His most recent major publication was as lead designer for the computer war game War Plan Orange: Dreadnoughts in the Pacific 1922–1930 published in 2005.

Christopher A. Shaw holds a Bachelor’s degree in military history from the American Military University. He is retired from the United States Air Force, having served 24 years.

Lon Strauss is a lecturer at the University of Kansas; he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 2012. His dissertation, “A Paranoid State,” examines U.S. military intelligence during World War I. He is a section editor for “1914–1918 Online” (, a contributor to Oxford Bibliographies in Military History, has a chapter in The Routledge Handbook of U.S. Diplomatic and Military History, and is a recipient of the Center of Military History dissertation fellowship.

Steven Trout is Professor of English and chair of the Department of English at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. His books include Memorial Fictions: Willa Cather and the First World War (University of Nebraska Press, 2002); On the Battlefield of Memory: The First World War and American Remembrance, 1919–1941 (University of Alabama Press, 2010), and he is co-editor, with Scott D. Emmert, of World War I in American Fiction: An Anthology of Short Stories (Kent State University Press, forthcoming).

William T. Walker, Jr. earned a BA and MA from the University of Virginia. After several years of teaching, he entered the field of educational administration and served progressively as associate vice president for public affairs at Virginia Tech, Gettysburg College, and the College of William and Mary. A lifelong student of military history, he is currently vice chair of the board of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Virginia, where he is finishing a book on the 79th Division’s experience in World War I.

Kathy Warnes comes from a family of soldiers, with family members serving from the Revolutionary War to World War I and from Korea to Desert Storm. She earned a Ph.D. from the University of Toledo in American history and the Holocaust and focuses her writing about military subjects on individual soldiers instead of generals and battles.

Chad Williams earned a BA with honors in history and African American studies at UCLA, and received his MA and Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. His first book, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) won the 2011 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the Organization of American Historians, the 2011 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for Military History, and designation as a 2011 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. He is Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University.

Thomas Withington is a defense journalist and airpower historian. He is the editor of the Asian Military Review and the blog ChainHomeHigh, the author of four books on military aviation history, and a regular contributor to media outlets around the world, providing analysis on contemporary and historical military matters. He lives in France.


Edward G. Lengel

The armed forces of the United States entered the modern era on 26 September 1918. On that date nine American divisions totaling about 162,000 men, supported by thousands of engineers, artillerists, tankers, airmen, and support personnel, launched a massive offensive against German forces in the Meuse-Argonne region of France. If the scale was impressive, so was the technology that the Americans employed on and above the battlefield. American military personnel employed tanks, aircraft, massed artillery, poison gas, extensive mechanized transport, modern communications, and advanced medical equipment for the first time in World War I. The Meuse-Argonne marked their first opportunity to do so on a large scale.

The offensive was multinational in character. French soldiers risked their lives alongside American infantry. French artillery and tanks, and French and Italian airplanes, supported the offensive and played a critical role in its ultimate success. As might be expected, the co-belligerents did not always get along. Poilus and doughboys often blamed each other for their difficulties, or refused to provide mutual support. On the whole, though, the alliance worked well, particularly in the Champagne to the west of the Meuse-Argonne. There French and American troops, the latter including U.S. Marines along with African American troops of the 93d Division, worked together efficiently to capture the forbidding ridge at Blanc Mont. This Companion explores elements of Franco-American cooperation and rivalry in both the Champagne and the Meuse-Argonne on all levels in chapters 4, 13, and 19.

Military historians sometimes forget that it takes at least two sides to fight a battle. Nowhere is this neglect more apparent than in the Meuse-Argonne, which has hitherto been studied almost entirely from the American (and to a far lesser degree the French) perspective. Yet while there were heroes in plenty among the American and French troops who fought in this battle, the bravery and tenacity of German soldiers in the Meuse-Argonne almost surpass comprehension. Exhausted by four years of unremitting warfare; bereft of fallen comrades; racked by influenza; weakened by supply shortages; and upholding a cause that even their highest leaders had begun conceding as lost, German soldiers fought on with a grim determination that astounded their adversaries. Chapters 14–16 of this volume utilize German-language primary sources to study the Kaiser’s forces in the Meuse-Argonne and the conduct of the German general staff.

General John J. Pershing and his officers have been criticized for conducting the offensive without regard to advice proffered by their French and British co-belligerents. Their attitude is understandable in the context of the long struggle over amalgamation that preceded the creation of the American First Army and the launching of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. American military leaders had been champing at the bit for so long that they were determined to show what they and their doughboys could do. In the process they discarded many valuable tactical lessons that the French and British had already learned, and the cost of their disdain was steep in American lives. Yet the doughboys learned extraordinarily fast. Confronting unanticipated and rapidly changing battlefield conditions, American soldiers adapted rapidly and overcame challenges that would have stymied other men. Nowhere was this truer than in the breaching of the Kriemhilde Stellung at Cunel and Romagne in mid-October by troops of the 5th, 32d, and 42d Divisions, set forth in chapter 7.

Alas, even the quickest wits and most exemplary bravery could not always overcome the arrogance or stupidity of some generals. At Montfaucon on 26–27 September, as chapter 3 of this Companion demonstrates, the jealousy, thirst for glory, and even gross disobedience of certain high-ranking officers in the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) set back the offensive’s timetable by days and probably cost the lives of thousands of American soldiers. The fiasco of the American 1st Division at Sedan in November, described at length in chapter 9, did not cost many lives but brought glory-seeking to the level of farce. Also farcical, but far more tragic, was the scapegoating of African American officers of the 92d Division for the unhappy events around Binarville in the offensive’s first days, as described in chapter 10.

Criticism of certain American generals should not overshadow the facility and even brilliance with which others overcame challenges and led First Army to eventual victory. The offensive would not have been possible in the first place had it not been for Pershing’s determination to resist pressures for amalgamation and create a clear and independent role for American forces on the Western Front, as described in chapter 1. Although the infantry tactics prescribed by Pershing were arguably deficient, chapter 21 suggests that they brought a recognizable new vigor to the battlefield. Logistics were always a problem for the AEF, but chapters 2, 23, and 25 of this Companion look at the exemplary skill, despite titanic obstacles, with which First Army staff arranged and prosecuted this massive undertaking.

Ultimately, any study of the Meuse-Argonne comes down to the soldiers. On the surface, the offensive appears to have introduced a new style of technological warfare in which inventions such as aircraft, tanks, and radios transformed the battlefield and reduced reliance on the infantry. In practice, however, these technologies often failed to perform up to expectations (see chapter 18, 19, and 24). To Pershing’s credit, he recognized well before the offensive began that victory ultimately depended on the individual infantryman; yet as chapter 20 demonstrates, artillery remained king of the battlefield in the Meuse-Argonne, as elsewhere in World War I. For the soldiers, as described in chapters 17 and 22, factors such as food, rest, and proper medical care were paramount in the creation and maintenance of strong morale. Given the often abysmal conditions endured by doughboys in the Meuse-Argonne, it is perhaps surprising that morale remained as strong as it did, or that First Army produced so many heroes (see chapters 5 and 11).

The impact of the Meuse-Argonne offensive on the war’s outcome is difficult to measure. European and Canadian historians, as described in chapter 26, have typically downplayed the American contribution to the victory over Germany. They prefer to limit the doughboys’ impact in France to the realm of the psychological, arguing that awareness of the vast American manpower reserves gave the French and British confidence to fight on to victory, and concomitantly weakened the German will to resist. Other historians have pointed out that the Germans certainly continued to fight fiercely enough in the Meuse-Argonne, which shielded a major railway junction that fed that Kaiser’s armies along the entire Western Front. Unlike in other areas, the Germans in the Meuse-Argonne could not afford to trade space for time, but fought tooth and nail for every inch of ground after the initial outpost lines had been overrun. The historians writing in this Companion do not agree on whether the Meuse-Argonne offensive played a major role in defeating the German army in 1918, but it is clear that the offensive’s impact transcended the actual fighting. As chapter 27 sets forward, real or perceived lessons learned in the Meuse-Argonne significantly influenced the interwar development of the U.S. armed forces and informed American conduct in World War II.

Americans who fought in the Meuse-Argonne were transformed by their experiences there. While each man’s and woman’s service in France was unique – making it senseless to speak of a generalized “soldier experience” – it is safe to say that no individual would ever be the same. The doughboys’ struggles to return home and adapt to civilian life were traumatic not only for themselves and their families but for American society at large, as explained in chapter 28. Public commemoration of the Meuse-Argonne, described in this Companion’s final chapter, groped toward understanding of the doughboys’ sacrifices but never fully bridged the gap between propaganda and reality.

The Meuse-Argonne – that most under-studied of all major battles in American military history – remains shrouded in mystery even on the eve of World War I’s centennial. The 29 essays gathered together in this volume do not entirely clear away the mystery, but they do bring us closer to an understanding of the battle’s importance and its impact in Europe and the United States.

Part I
The Big Picture