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 anti tank gunAmerican soldiers manning a French '37', a one-pounder anti-tank gun in firing position behind barbed wire in a second line trench at Dieffmatten, in Alsace.

7 things you didn’t know about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War

By Terrence J. Finnegan
via the Europe Centenary web site

American troops arrived on the western front in 1918 full of enthusiasm, and in the spirit of great adventure. Yet most of them were novices who, unlike their German counterparts, had seen practically no action. Determined to teach them this was no game, the Germans proceeded to unleash the war’s most harmful weapons. Here are 7 facts you might not know about America’s entry into the First World War…

Naming their first major raid against American troops – with gallows humour – Einladung (an invitation), the Germans exposed American troops to the weapons of modern warfare: gas, flamethrowers, and high explosives. Their surprise attack in the Woëvre region around the village of Seicheprey, France, on 20 April, spearheaded by elite German storm troopers and supported by aircraft, trench mortars and heavy artillery, was designed as a propaganda coup against the perceived ‘weak’ newcomers (America had formally entered the conflict with an official declaration on 6 April 1917).

In his book, retired US Air Force colonel Terrence J Finnegan uncovers the story of the combatants, the outcome of battle and how the war was portrayed by the media. Relying entirely on primary sources, ‘A Delicate Affair’ on the Western Front offers the only analysis of the United States’ entry into the First World War, and is said to be the most complete account of how the Germans planned an operation ever published (most of the data having been destroyed in the Potsdam raid of 1945). Finnegan reveals seven little-known facts about America’s entry and involvement in the First World War…

1. In 1918 the first American infantry divisions fought at a ‘quiet sector’

Quiet sectors exemplified the concept of ‘live and let live’ – a welcome respite from the ongoing horror of the western front. In 1916, the St Mihiel region became known as a ‘convalescent home’ – a quiet sector for units of both sides recovering from other battlefronts.

Until the St Mihiel offensive of September 1918, the conflict saw regimental-sized units committed against each other. One American soldier recalled: “Guns are booming all the time. This harassing fire gets our goat. And they call this a quiet sector… C’est la guerre!” (This is war!)

A quiet sector seemed the most logical first commitment for independent American forces on the western front, and the Americans arrived at the Woëvre tasked with the responsibility of defending French ground. American operations proved the area to be anything but quiet. Both the 1st ‘Fighting First’ Division and 26th ‘Yankee’ Division showed the Germans that the bow wave of American soldiers was committed to battle.

Read the entire article on the Europe Centenary web site.

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