US expeditionary force in World War I

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,325
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#2
Not only against the Germans.

American troops fought also along the Italian front against the Austrians. Even some Americans decided to wear the Royal Italian uniform, fighting in the ranks of the Italian Army [overall Americans with Italian relatives, and this even before of the official entry of the US in the conflict].

The 332d US Infantry was with the Bersaglieri in 1918 [to mention regular US units].

Before of that, the US commands created U.S. Military Missions in Italy under the command of General Eben Swift.

Fiorello La Guardia, later Mayor of New York, fought on Italian front as pilot of Italian Royal Air Force [and he reached the degree of major, his plane was a legendary "Caprone", "goat"]. Hemingway was a driver of ambulance in the area of Isonzo.
 
Oct 2012
8,545
#3
It's first debut on any scale was during the Second Battle of the Marne, which was successful as it stopped the German drive towards Paris in June of 1918. It then had considerable success in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and, in conjunction with the French, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive; these spanned the time from September until the armistice. But more than these operations, it was the AEF simply showing up in France in numbers that turned the tide of the war. Germany knew it wouldn't survive the war of economic attrition in the face of the British blockade and the American presence destroyed the last hope of a rapid military conclusion.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
24,325
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#4
The commander of the division was Gen. R.F. Glen and the troops had leaded by colonel William Wallace [curious ...].

In late 1917, after the defeat at Caporetto the Italian American public opinion push on American politicians to send troops to Italy. The politicians were more inclined to send aids, not troops. Pershing was sure that the decisive front was the French one, so that he was against to deploy troops on an other front.

It was in February 1918 at Chantilly that the Italian Prime Minister requested, officially, an involvement of US troops on the Italian front. It was President Wilson to order to deploy American troops to Italy [against the opinion of the US commands].

The 83rd division left US with the 332nd regimental in May 1818. The command of the US mission was at Padova and the first US contingent reached the city in June 1818. The military hospital [AEF 331] was in Verona.

The American troops in Italy took part only to one offensive in large scale: the Vittorio Veneto offensive [October 1818]. The Americans defeated the Austrians at the bridge "Delizia" on river Tagliamento.
 

Baltis

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
3,995
Texas
#6
The AEF actually did very well against the Germans. They were fresh and enthusiastic soldiers at a time when their opponents were worn down and tired out. That is no doubt true. However, they won all their battles and achieved their objectives. If not for the peace, I think the AEF was heading for Germany. IMO, their performance would rank higher but, having only arrived at the end, it never really seems right to compare them to the French and British who fought for the entire time.
 

Sam-Nary

Ad Honorem
Jun 2012
6,706
At present SD, USA
#7
How successful was the expeditionary force, what battles did it fight in and how did it fare against the Germans?
In terms of winning victories, the AEF did rather well in France. American units played key roles in the victories at Belleau Wood, 2nd Battle of the Marne, the attack on the St. Miheal Salient near Verdun, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive...

However, most US history books over-estimate the effectiveness of the AEF in winning the war, making it appear as though the US militarily did a lot to contribute to the victory in 1918...

The fighting at Belleau Wood and 2nd Marne only defeated German efforts to pull French reserves away from Amiens. As such the American victory there did not defeat a major attempt to take Paris, but defeated a distraction.

At St. Miheal, the Germans were actually withdrawing to a more defensible line when the Americans attacked. As such, the Germans weren't fighting there to hold the Americans off indefinitely. Only long enough to allow for their withdrawal.

And despite the ultimate victory in the Meuse Argonne Offensive, the AEF had some difficulty in cracking the Hindenburg Line. While the BEF and French, using years of experience in the artillery game broke the German defenses rapidly and would break through the German fortifications in many places, the Americans were forced to essentially slog their way through the German lines. Only German exhaustion kept the Americans from being beaten. Once they made it through the main German lines, they would join the rest of the Allies in their advance.

In this the AEF did not force great military defeats on the Germans. At least not in comparison to American battles in WW2. In this, it can only be said that America contributed to the Allied victory in World War One.

However, Kevinmeath, is right, the AEF's presence on the battlefield did far more to urge the Germans into surrendering than anything it did on the battlefield. Germany was tired by 1918 and the Americans were fresh and there were many of them coming. Once their Spring Offensive failed, Germany's high command realized that if they fought on, by 1919 the Americans would begin to take a greater role on the Western Front and the German army would continue to be ground down and now pushed INTO Germany. As such, Hindenburg chose to surrender to avoid that sort of devastation.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
7,739
#8
AEF virtually did not fight, it was very slow shipping and very slow training and getting to the front, almost all the heavy weapons , tanks and planes were provided by the French and British.

The AEF fighting qualities? Numbers, Courage, as a force it was incredibly naive and had vast amounts to learn, it went in with a lot of pre-1914 thinking and that Americans just knew better than people who been fighting for 4 years. The had the 1914 cult of offensive sort of thinking that got plenty of needless causalities. The German army was more or less beaten when the AEF started fighting, if the AEF had been fighting on equal terms with the experienced German Army it would have got it's arse handed back in very small pieces. This a particularly sledge against the AEF, but most armies in 1914 learned some very painful costly lessons, the US had not experienced these lessons directly and to a large experience had a belief the Americans were just 'better' had didnt need to learn from others anyway, (which is a what a lot of other Armies thought in 1914 ).

The were enormous staff, supply, planning, issues, the US force a massive forces just improvised on the top of a tiny pre war army meant there was a critical shortage of staff officers and no experience managing huge forces with the regular army anyway, supply and logistics break down under operational conditions, which if had it been in a real fight would have been very bad.

The AEF would have learned some its lessons and been better in 1919. But Given that state of the German army in late 1918, the AEF could have been very effective in 1919 without becoming really to grips with modern warfare as everyone else understood it. The AEF was new and fresh and had a capacity to real losses which had been drained to various extents from other armies in 4 long years of bloody warfare.
 
Oct 2012
8,545
#9
AEF virtually did not fight, it was very slow shipping and very slow training and getting to the front, almost all the heavy weapons , tanks and planes were provided by the French and British.
They, of course, didn't get to the front until near the end of the war (though a large part of why the war ended was because they were there), but they weren't that slow in getting there. It took Britain 10 months in 1914 to mobilize and deploy a force beyond their core force of regular soldiers and this was just to go across the channel. It took the US 12-14 months starting with a far smaller regular army and having to cross the Atlantic. Maritime powers are inherently slower to mobilize than land powers, all things considered US mobilization was quite rapid. Though obviously not as rapid as Britain and France wanted, they would have preferred America been on the western front before 1915.

The AEF fighting qualities? Numbers, Courage, as a force it was incredibly naive and had vast amounts to learn, it went in with a lot of pre-1914 thinking and that Americans just knew better than people who been fighting for 4 years. The had the 1914 cult of offensive sort of thinking that got plenty of needless causalities. The German army was more or less beaten when the AEF started fighting, if the AEF had been fighting on equal terms with the experienced German Army it would have got it's arse handed back in very small pieces. This a particularly sledge against the AEF, but most armies in 1914 learned some very painful costly lessons, the US had not experienced these lessons directly and to a large experience had a belief the Americans were just 'better' had didnt need to learn from others anyway, (which is a what a lot of other Armies thought in 1914 ).

The were enormous staff, supply, planning, issues, the US force a massive forces just improvised on the top of a tiny pre war army meant there was a critical shortage of staff officers and no experience managing huge forces with the regular army anyway, supply and logistics break down under operational conditions, which if had it been in a real fight would have been very bad.

The AEF would have learned some its lessons and been better in 1919. But Given that state of the German army in late 1918, the AEF could have been very effective in 1919 without becoming really to grips with modern warfare as everyone else understood it. The AEF was new and fresh and had a capacity to real losses which had been drained to various extents from other armies in 4 long years of bloody warfare.
The men were under-trained and the logistics, especially at first, were horrendous, there's no doubt about that. But I don't think criticism of the tactics is fair. After the Second Battle of the Marne Germany was exhausted and morale was eroding, the American forces were fresh, morale was high, and the American soldiers wanted in the fight. The time was right for an offensive. Perhaps the decision was made out of a naive cult of the offensive and Pershing just got lucky. But considering that the decision was made in conjunction with the French and British commands, I suspect that was not the case and it was a carefully considered decision.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
7,739
#10
Yes it takes time to train, equip, deploy. But if the US had contributed more hulls instead of being almost totally reliant on British hulls for shipping it's troops (this is politics and the mobilisation of US shipping for war as opposed to trade) would have seen a slightly swifter deployment. But it's a relatively small quibble, maybe the US could have got sorted 1 or 2 months earlier, if they had higher commitment in shipping.

I agree with the strategic situation was right for offensive action. I was saying the AEF had a lot to learn tactically/operational about how to conduct offensives and the AEF had not gone through the learning process that other armies had, and had not really studied the conflict from a far and learnt either, the Americans did have a attitude of they knew better (staying with square divisions for example making their formations infantry heavy and support light by the standards of late ww1) , the US was badly short of trained officers and NCOs (which was a product of massive expansion) and bringing these up to date with the fairly rapid advance of operational/tactical doctrine was a huge problem, and it's no surprise it did bring some problems to operational effectiveness. The British army faced many similar problems with it's massive expansion, in part a major factor in the somme, but the British also were ahead of other armies in some respects as they had got a reality check in the Boer War which meant they had learnt some recent lessons (the British had better rifle doctrine (rapid fire) and cavalry doctrine (moved by and large to mounted infantry) The US were behind other armies in 1914, and without direct experience they were further behind in 1918 and had not worked hard to learn from others mistakes, and would pay their own blood price to learn these in 1918.

The Strengths of the AEF were willingness to fight and ability to take causalities which was rapidly bleeding out of the other armies. (as well as it's massive numbers)
 

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