October 1, 1918 – Full diary entry:
“The Battle of Argonne.
My first experience in a real push. Our losses were larger than I had thought they would be. The biggest artillery barrage of the war started the battle. We reached our objectives only by hard fighting.
The woods and hills made things harder to get the lay of the land and to realize our position.”
Robert seems to still be reeling from the past several days, and this is his last entry for nearly a week.
There is so much detail documented about these five days that it’s helpful sometimes to take a step back and look at a very concise, objective description of what the 35th Division did. This is from Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, Vol. 2, American Expeditionary Forces: Divisions:
Sept 26 – Oct 1, Div participates in the Meuse-Argonne
Sept 26, Div, on the right of the I Corps, 69th Inf Brig and one battalion 70th Inf Brig, attached, leading, attacks north, captures Cheppy, clears that part of Varennes east of the Aire River, and establishes a line from ½ km northwest of Very to the Aire River east of La Forge.
Sept 27-28, Div continues the attack, 70th Inf Brig in line, 69th Inf Brig in support, and captures Charpentry, Baulny, and Chaudron Fme on the first day.
Sept 28, it captures Montrebeau Wood and reaches a line from 1 km northeast of Chaudron Fme, along the northern and western limits of Montrebeau Wood, to l’Esperance.
Sept 29, Div attacks, reaches Exermont and captures the Fme de Beauregard and la N euville-Ie-Comte Fme, north of Exermont Creek, but during the afternoon enemy counterattacks north of Exermont Creek reach the southern edge of Montrebeau Wood, and cause the Div to withdraw to a prepared position on the ridge northeast of Baulny.
Sept 30, Div organizes the line for defense from 1 km northwest of Serieux Fme, toward Chaudron Fme, along the ridge north of Baulny, to the Aire River; 91st Div on the right holds a line within the sector of the 35th Div from a point near the road X km northwest of Serieux Fme to the western edge of the Bois Communal de Baulny; 327th Inf (82d Div) attached to the 28th Div on the left.
Oct 1, 1st Div relieves the Div which assembles in the Very-Cheppy Area.
This map shows how far the 35th reached each day of the battle, but it is far too large and detailed to be viewed in this post. You can see the full map here.
Similarly, this extraordinary map from the Truman Library shows the point where the regiment regrouped after being relieved:
It’s only fitting that the last words on the Meuse-Argonne go to Chaplain Edwards in From Doniphan to Verdun: The Official History of the 140th Infantry:
At three in the morning [on October 1] the First Division made the relief. During the relief we were shelled heavily and continuously, but fortunately escaped with but little loss. The regiment was reorganized and marched to a point south of Cheppy on the Vernays-La Forge road. Fires were started everywhere and the men were able to get warm for the first time in days. The kitchens were soon fired up, and the delightful aromas of cooking food and boiling coffee drifted over the fields…
They looked like tramps. Their faces were covered with a stubble of a week’s growth, although some men had managed to shave almost every day, even under fire. The grime had worn into their skin, and they were unbelievably dirty. Their uniforms were soiled and torn, and they were mud to the top of their leggings. There had been a low concentration of gas everywhere, and their eyes were red-rimmed with gas and loss of sleep. But even the gas had not disturbed the cooties. After feeding, they dropped asleep on shelter halves or raincoats, and slept the sleep of utter exhaustion, their silent figures motionless as the dead.
More than half the regiment was missing. But worn out and dirty, there was a strange dignity and strength felt in the regiment. It had met the test. It had passed through fire and blood. Iron had entered its soul. Another action would find them a veteran body of troops, fit for any emergency.
The War Department figures give the following for the 140th: Killed, or died of wounds, 9 officers, 239 men; died of disease or other causes, 1 officer, 94 men; wounded severely, 7 officers and 485 men; wounded slightly, 46 officers, 802 men; wounded, degree unknown, 188 men; total wounded and dead, 63 officers, 1808 men; captured by the enemy, 2 officers and 45 men; total casualties, killed and wounded, not including death from disease, 62 officers, 1714 men; total losses 1823 officers and men. The 140th Infantry had suffered terribly — but it was still a regiment.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.