The Great War Part 239, March 15th 1919

The Breaking o f the German Wings 521 The achievement of the British Controller of Shipping, Sir Joseph Maclay in providing transport for American troops while feeding and supplying the British people in spite of the effect of the enemy submarine campaign brought the United States armies into a position of predominant strength in France. Being aware of their own great numbers, the Americans had hoped in September to deal the stroke by which the war should be ended and profound was their disappointment when they found themselves held by an inferior number of foes using a skilful combination of machine- gunfire and high-velocity gunfire to check the intended advance to the hostile mainline of communications. General Pershing how­ever was not at the end of his resources. He rein­forced his First Army with a large number of divisions, amounting to another grand army brought up long-range guns bridged the marshes in the clay bottoms between the Aire and the Meuse and notably reorganised and extended the means of maintaining quick and thorough com­munication between all forces inaction. In the last week of October there were fierce local actions in the woods b y Bantheville where the American centre had been slowly pushed forward until the enemys new Freya line became Invisible. the Verdun sector there was a strong American advance on October 23rd along the wooded heights by the Damvillers road against which the enemy violently reacted counter-attacking day and night until October 28th winning back some of the high ground and losing it again by afresh local American advance. Towards the end of the month there were also fierce counter-charges against the Bantheville positions, but in the night of October 29th General von der Marwitz suddenly abandoned Aincreville Brieulles and Clery-le-Petit, by the western bank of the Meuse near Dun. The next morning aerial observers saw large bodies of German troops and transport moving backward and great explosions pro­claimed that ammunition dumps were being sacrificed. The German commander clearly knew what was impending, having purchased his knowledge of the great preparations behind General Liggetts and General Gourauds front by continual aerial fighting that crippled his flying power. Against the Americans alone the Germans lost a hundred and twenty-four machines while the missing American machines numbered only twenty-nine. Being blinded in the air the enemy resorted to his old trick of withdrawing his main forces and concealing them in woods leaving only aline of cross-firing machine-guns in the Freya system and upon the remaining high ground that covered this newline. When the French and American guns Freya line broken opened fire at dawn on November 1st 1918, through the disposition of forces which the enemy adopted did not avail him. On a front of some thirty miles from Attigny on the Aisne to the Dun bridge­head on the Meuse an enormous number of shells fell upon the Germans. General Gouraud gave his gunners only half an hour in which to smash a path for his infantry but General Liggett having less expert artillerymen relied more upon length of bombardment and maintained his terrific barrage for two hours. Then as the heaviest guns concentrated on counter-battery work and thfc blockade of roads of com­munication the other pieces formed the travelling barrage for the infantry. On the left above the Grandpre defile the artillery work was not decisive. From their dug-outs in the Bois des Loges the undaunted German machine-gunners emerged and kept the American troops in check all daylong amid the wired dense thickets and innumerable traps of the forest. This operation however was of small importance. In the centre and on the right wing in spite of the flanking fire the enemy attempted to overthrow the Meuse decisive victory was achieved by the corps under Major-General Dickmann Major- General Summerall and Major-General Hine. Hundreds of Tanks went outwith the infantry and above the Tanks and troops were swarms of low-flying aeroplanes from which pilots and observers ¦watched every movement and sent b y wireless a continual stream of infor­mation to all Staff centres and artillery directors. Many of the German machine-gunners hiding in pits covered with brush­wood were killed or crippled by the preliminary bombardment and hun­dreds of the supporting groups of hostile infantry, concealed in the wooded slopes behind the Freya line were also caught in the bombardment. When the remnants re-formed for -the customary grand counter1 attack a travelling barrage fell upon them and the light storming cars and waves of masked riflemen surged over them. On this occasion the American staff -work was magnificent. It was by generalship that the German front was completely broken. Unlike Sir Douglas Haig and General Pdtain General Pershing adopted the Teutonic device of employing picked officers and men for special shock tactics. From divisions that had distinguished themselves inaction storming forces were selected and given an intense training, and finally brought close to the battle in long columns of motor-lorries. As soon as the infantry of the line worked through the Freya system the fleet of motor-lorries carrying the shock forces swept over the battlefield and through the clouds of mustard gas and arsenic Rail-head at Buzancy fume poured out from the long-range high- carried velocity guns of the Germans. Owing to the finely organised work of the American sappers working gallantly behind the first waves of infantry most of the obstacles had been bridged over enabling the shock troops to be carried within a couple of miles of the fleeing enemy batteries. Here and there a few dauntless Germans holding isolated points made gallant attempts to check the sweeping American movement but they were foiled by the unexpected rapidity with which the offensive was conducted and by the deadly precision of the American staff-work. There were one or two brilliant bayonet charges by the Americans but along most of the broken line the Germans found themselves being quickly enveloped and fled in disorder enabling all the main objectives of the today be passed. Buzaijcy the enemys rail­ head for the Kriemhilde and Freya lines was carried by some of the shock troops enabling the motor-lorry column to pass through the town. There was a fierce fight at Barri- court by the large wood on the right of Buzancy and the headquarters of General von der Marwitz in a chateau at Buzancy was captured. A t the close of the day Lieutenant-General Liggett and his corps commanders had created a wedge of some eighty square miles in the German front between the Bois des Loges and 111 PREPARING FOR THE PURSUIT. Taking weapons for offence and defence aboard a British “whippet” Tank pre­paratory to its advance. One soldier was handing in a machine-gun while the other was holding in readiness its belt of cartridges.
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