First U.S. units respond after 3 years of conflict

| December 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Courtesy of the United States World War I Centennial Commission

Courtesy of
U.S. Army Center of Military History

One hundred years ago today, U.S. forces were mobilizing across the country.

The U.S. Army would swell to over 4 million Soldiers, with 2 million heading overseas.

The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and the fledgling U.S. Army Air Service were also growing.

Following America’s entry into World War I on April 6, 1917, the situation facing the Allied nations was grim as they fought against Germany.

1917 was a year of near disaster for the Allies on all European fronts. American forces were sent primarily to France to bolster the Western Front, supporting French and British forces until a robust U.S. Army could be grown and trained to take sole responsibility for a segment of the front.

A World War I recruiting poster.

A French offensive in April, with which the British cooperated, was a failure, and was followed by widespread mutinies in the French armies. The British maintained strong pressure on their segment of the Western Front throughout the year, but British attacks on Messines Ridge on June 7, at Ypres on July 31, and at Cambrai, Nov. 20 through Dec. 4, took a severe toll of British fighting strength and failed in their main objective of capturing German submarine bases along the North Sea.

Three U.S. Army engineer regiments – the 11th, 12th and 14th – were engaged in construction activity behind the British lines at Cambrai in November, when they were unexpectedly called upon to go into the front lines during an emergency.
They became the first American Expeditionary Force units to meet the enemy as 1917 drew to a close, marking the end of three-and-a-half years of bloody conflict on a scale the world had never experienced before.

Two U.S. Soldiers run past the remains of two German soldiers toward a bunker. Note that this may well be a staged propaganda image. Photograph was taken circa 1917-1918. (Courtesy of Library of Congress)


A World War I recruiting poster.


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