September 6, 1918 – Full diary entry:
“Arrived at the village of Maisons. This was the hardest march we have had so far. Twenty miles.
It is raining today and I feel sick and foot sore. 30 kilometers to front.”
The organizations of the division entrained September 4, 5 and 6, and began the move to the Rosieres area. This was the jump-off for a series of marches which were a fitting introduction to the hardships of the month to follow. France had kept up its traditional habit of raining each day, and mud on the roads was ankle deep.
From A Youth in the Argonne by Sgt. William Triplet:
The battle of St.-Mihiel was for us a total loss. We had moved from the Gerardmer sector to a very secret and unknown destination by “Hommes 40 – Chevaux 8″ freight train, by Annamite-driven camions, and night marches to a wooded bivouac just behind the artillery zone of the front.
Next day we were informed that we were the reserve division of the newly formed American army that General Pershing had insisted on organizing. We were to cut off and eradicate the St.-Mihiel salient, which the map showed as bulging out toward Paris. The French had spent 140,000 men on it so far and hadn’t been able to make a lasting dent.
When Pershing suggested to Marshal Foch that wiping out the salient would be a good starting chore for his new army Foch had replied in effect, “Be my guest, it’s all yours, bonne chance,” and was now waiting hopefully to see the Americains get a bloody nose. The French had never given up the hope that the American army would be broken up and integrated in the French army as individual replacements under the more experienced French command.
By “Annamite-driven camion,” Sgt. Triplet is talking about a truck driven by someone from Vietnam. France had colonized Vietnam in 1887 and would control it until 1954. Check out a great article from HistoryNet about the emerging importance of trucks during the war, as well as this one from 1914-1918Online on how using/misusing their Vietnamese workers indirectly led to the French losing control of Vietnam 40 years later.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.