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The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was a major battle of World War I. It was the biggest operation and victory of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in that war. The offensive took place in the Verdu Sector , immediately north and northwest of the town of Verdun, between September 26 - November 11, 1918.
U.S. Forces consisted of ten divisions of the U.S. First Army commanded by General John J. Pershing until October 16th and then by Lt. General Hunter Liggett. The logistics were planned and directed by Col. George Marshall. German forces consisted of approximately forty German divisions from the Army Groups of the Crown Prince and General Max Carl von Gallwitz , with the largest force the Fifth Army of Group Gallwitz commanded by General Georg von der Marwitz .
The objective of the offensive was the railway hub at Sedan, which provided supply support for the German armies in the southeastern sector of the Western Front.
First phase: September 26 to October 3
The American attack began at 5:30 a.m. on September 26, and progressed 11 kilometers in two days. Montfaucon d'Argonne was captured on the first day. On September 29, six new German divisions were deployed to oppose the American attack, and in the words of General Pershing, "We were no longer engaged in a maneuver for the pinching out of a salient, but were necessarily committed, generally speaking, to a direct frontal attack against strong, hostile positions fully manned by a determined enemy."
Second phase: October 4 to October 28
The attack was renewed on October 4 against 20 German line and reserve divisions. Casualties and exhaustion were such that General Pershing required 90,000 replacements, but could obtain only 45,000 until November 1. He discussed the situation with the Allied commander-in-chief, Marshal Foch, who urged the attacks to continue, since they were aimed at the chief German line of retreat. By October 14, American units had reached and crossed portions of the Hindenburg Line.
Third phase: October 28 to November 11
The American forces reorganized into two armies. The First led by General Ligett, would continue to move to the Carignan-Sedan-Mezieres Railroad. The Second Army led by Lieutenant General Robert L. Bullard , was directed to move eastward towards Metz. The two armies faced 31 German divisions.
The American offensive became part of a general directive by Marshal Foch to continue pressure along the entire front. The lines of responsibility were shifted to allow the French, who had lost Sedan in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War, to recapture the city.
Both sides used military aircraft extensively during this phase of the offensive, including day-light bombing of the enemy forces.
The offensive stopped when the armistice ending hostilties was signed on November 11.
26,277 AEF troops were killed and 95,786 were wounded.
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