One last post about the trenches, since Robert is leaving tonight. I found a tremendously helpful document – a chapter from American Armies and Battlefields in Europe – called “American Operations on the Vosges Front.” It does the best job I’ve seen of explaining this area of the war during the summer of 1918, including something I wasn’t fully grasping:
The Western Front, extending for more than 400 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea, was so long that neither the Allies nor the Germans could obtain sufficient men to undertake operations on a large scale throughout its entire length. Consequently each massed its troops most heavily near those places where there existed a strong likelihood that the other might attack or where the terrain or other strategic factors were such that an offensive would have good chances to bring about decisive results…
When the American troops arrived in France the entire stretch southeastward from the Moselle River to the Swiss border was a quiet or inactive front held by comparatively few troops. This front, commonly known to the Americans as the “Vosges Front”, was used by many American divisions for training purposes.
This chapter also includes a fantastic diagram showing the location of each American division assigned here.
Robert and the 35th were in the Gerardmer and Wesserling Sectors. During these last four weeks, I put Robert in the area where the two sectors overlap, about five miles ENE from Kruth.
The chapter also helps to explain how Robert’s entries could vary so wildly from “nothing of interest today” to “today I almost died” from one day to the next:
Service in quiet sectors varied widely in character. For considerable periods the daily life of the front-line troops would be comparatively uneventful, disturbed only by routine patrolling and desultory shelling. At intervals, however, this comparative quiet was shattered by hard-fought local operations and raids.
In all, members of the 35th Division served on the Vosges Front from June 20 to September 2, 1918. 360 men from the 35th were lost during this period.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.