In the spring of 1918, Germany launched a new offensive in France, attempting once again to reach Paris. The Germans were stopped at the second Battle of the Marne in July 1918. One hundred forty thousand American troops joined the exhausted allies in stopping the German advance. By August, the Americans had committed two million men to the war effort. American troops played a vital role in turning theWorld War I tide in favor of the buddies at the second Battle of the Marne. Thierry saw the first fighting of American forces as a different unit. Their involvement under their own officers was settled upon as a final needed effort to discontinue the triumphal German troop’s entrance into Paris.
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When the expected German offensives came in March, the German Army put into practice many of the tenets of open warfare advocated by Pershing. In the days preceding the attack, the Germans limited their use of heavy artillery bombardments to destroy barbed wire entanglements and soften up the opposing army. The Germans realized that the massive bombing traditionally used to launch an attack effectively alerted the other side that an attack was coming. It also created enormous craters in No Man’s Land for attacking troops to negotiate. Small infantry teams advanced under artillery cover and got past strongly defended front lines.
The German spring offensives in 1918 ensured that the Americans did more than train with the French and British and fought alongside them. Although Pershing had repeatedly resisted Allied demands to amalgamate American troops permanently into their armies, he realized how close the Allies were to losing the war. Accordingly, on 28th March 1918, Pershing went to Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Allied Armies freshly appointed supreme commander on the Western Front and told him that in light of the seriousness of the situation, “all that we have is yours; use them as you wish."
For the next months, American troops occupied quiet sectors of the Western Front to free veteran French troops for the defense of Paris. Finally, on 28- 31 May, the First Division fought in the first offensive American action of the war at Cantigny, the farthest point of the German thrust towards Paris. The Americans succeeded in seizing a plateau that gave the Allies an improved view of enemy movements. The second division also played a key role in halting the German drive towards Paris at Chateau – Thierry by re – capturing Belleau Wood and Vaux. The appearance of Americans in the battle at Cantigny and Chateau – Thierry provided a psychological boost for the Allied side and a corresponding fear in Germany that time was running out.
In July, the Germans launched their fifth and last offensive at Rheims. American troops fought alongside French and Moroccan troops in the Second Battle of the Marne to Stymie the advance. Pershing took pride in the counter attack at Soissons. He considered it as the turning point of the war because the Germans never regained the initiative. The rout by British, Canadian, and Australian troops near Amiens on 8 August 1918, in which Allied soldiers penetrated five miles into German lines, confirmed that the German spring offensives had failed. American reinforcements were beginning to make a mark, funneling fresh troops into the battle just as the Germans had exhausted their reserves. With the German advances halted, the Allies now initiated a series of counter attacks. They gradually pushed the Germans back to the original trench line by September.
This influx of the fresh Americans into the war – weary Allies proved to be the deciding factor in the war. By October 1918, the Allies had pushed the Germans back, and the Germans were prepared to ask for peace terms.
There were many kinds of artillery (big guns that can fire explosives a considerable distance) used in the World War I. They included light, horse – drawn field guns, howitzers, German Paris Guns, which were so gargantuan that they had to be moved on railway lines. Big Bertha was the most famous gun due to its ability to fire shells up to a distance of 113 km (70 miles) (Hamilton, 2003).
They also used machine guns in appreciable numbers. The first automatic machine gun was the Maxim. Hiram Maxim invented it in 1884, in the United States. This gun keeps on firing provided the trigger is pressed. It can fire 600 bullets per minute. They called their version of the Maxim the MG08. The machine guns used in the World War I were heavy and cumbersome (Hamilton, 2003).
Personal firearms were used due to them being relatively light, dependable, and could be fired over and over again, as long as there was ammunition. Rifles were used both as offensive and defensive weapons. The rifles were reloaded with a bolt that was pulled back enabling multiple firing of multiple shots. This was due to the use of spring – loaded clips that held several bullets. In Germany, the most common rifle was the 7.92mm Mauser Gewehr 98, simply called a Mauser. It had a superior design that made it dependable and accurate. It used a detachable clip system that saved time when reloading, which was crucial in the battle (Hamilton, 2003).
The Germans introduced poison gas in France in April 1915, and Britain responded with outrage. The British army was not prepared to combat; there were no masks, no gas canisters, no policy with regard to chemicals, and no one who could use the weapon. Within months, the British army possessed efficient gas masks for protection against novel gases (Girard, 2008).
Solders used other guns to shoot closer targets. Pistols like the German Luger and the U.S. M1911 were easy to handle. Some United States solders used shotguns. These guns sprayed enemies with pellets (Doeden, 2008).
Death was always present, confronted not only in battle but also in no man’s land and the trenches themselves. Soldiers used unburied corpses as support for their guns, and as markers to find their way in the trenches. They sometimes took off those boots of fallen soldiers that were in better condition than of their own (George, 1991).
Those soldiers who returned home from the Western Front had experienced the alien environment of the trenches as well as long stretches of boredom, punctuated by fear of battle and the obscenities of agonizing death. Yet most arrived back in their home communities with their civilian identities intact, ready to pick up their ordeal, but, collectively, they had not become the obedient, passive victims of popular myth. They had remained civilians in uniform for the duration of the war. They had to face challenges of army organization, separation from home and family and the fighting itself (Helen, 2005).
The soldiers experienced a wide variety of combat experiences at sea, on land and in the air. They fought in trenches and worked to create the enormous infrastructure needed to send messages, men and material throughout France. The trenches created miserable living conditions. This was mainly due to the bad smell of corpses. There was a lot of boredom due to lack of freedom to do things as they wished. They never slept on their comfortable beds and they had no time to wash their clothes, which was leading to lice. Food was a serious problem and they had to stay for many hours without it. After injuries, there was no time to rest and this made it difficult to many soldiers (Little, 1936).
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