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Editorial Note on Initial Meuse-Argonne Operations
September 12-26, 1918
It was obvious by the afternoon of the first day’s battle (September 12) that the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient was proceeding with greater success than anticipated. Marshall later thought that had the attack been pressed vigorously, the fortress of Metz might have fallen by September 14. (Memoirs, pp. 146-47.) Even as the St. Mihiel battle continued, Marshall directed all his attention on the next objective—the concentration on the Meuse-Argonne front. The difficulties he faced were appalling: inadequate roads, insufficient transportation, inexperienced troops. Marshall wrote a memorandum describing the concentration maneuver. (See Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #1-150 [1: 170-172], Memorandum for the First Subsection, November 19, 1918.)
On September 17, Marshall was raised to the rank of colonel. Four days later he moved with First Army headquarters northward to Souilly, “a depressing little village at best.“ He slept but a few hours each day in his tiny billet, spending most of his time at headquarters. (Memoirs, p. 158.) The Meuse-Argonne campaign opened with a three-hour artillery barrage in the early hours of September 26. The attack was initially more successful than expected, but by the end of the month the difficult terrain, determined German resistance, and American exhaustion had caused the drive to stall. Pershing ordered a second attack, which Marshall helped to plan, beginning October 4. Again significant progress was followed shortly by continued fierce fighting with little territorial gain.
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), p. 161/