I think the explanation of
the little resistance, and the rapidity of the attack, was that
the Boche was caught half-way through his preparations for evacuation.
He evidently expected the main attack on the west, whereas the
weight of the attack came from the south. He was in process of
withdrawing his guns and had left infantry rearguards only in
the positions, consequently there was no artillery counter-preparation,
no protective barrage, and hardly any long range artillery reaction
at all, and this accounts for the easiness of the advance. A good
many machine guns, heavy and light, were with the infantry, and
they had evidently been used, but they did not bother the Americans
much as these advanced so quickly and smothered the Boche.
It is a question, however, what the Boche intentions really were.
Some officer prisoners have said that his idea was to let the
Americans in as far as they wanted to come and then counter-attack
them, but where this limit was expected, it is hard to say. I
saw at THIACOURT in the railway station three 8" How[itzer]s.,
brand new, on trucks labelled THIAUCOURT in chalk, with wagons
of ammunition and spare parts, evidently just arrived and not
unloaded. There were also in the station eight 120 m.m. guns ready
for loading, and quantities of ammunition and engineering stores.
Further the Germans at ST. MIHIEL undoubtedly did not know what
was going on at first, and what they were expected to do, but
we shall know more about it when they have been able to question
prisoners more, and go over the battlefield more thoroughly.
On the 3rd day, there was hardly anything done at all. From HATTONCHATEL
one could see over the whole battlefield and behind it as far
as METZ and CONFLANS there was not a sign of anything except some
villages still burning. The Americans pushed up their patrols
well up to the Yellow Exploitation Line. A constant stream of
guns heavy and light, was moving up all that day and the night
The American casualties were about 3,500 of which the number
of killed was, I expect, about 100. I only saw in three days,
about 20 dead Americans in all parts that I went to, but they
expect there may be a good many in the woods where there was a
certain amount of scrapping.
The wounded coming back were about half-and-half Boche and American.
It is expected that the number of prisoners in the end will be
about 20,000. It is well over 15,000 now, but they have been drafted
all over the place and have not been sized up properly, as yet.
The German prisoners were a good looking lot, mostly, but all
sorts of units. The Austrians were a poor lot. [marked for transposition
to end of paragraph] I noticed their boots were uniformly good
and all of leather, those I saw. Uniforms were fairly clean and
the men looked well.
show of course must undoubtedly be judged a great success. The
approach march was an excellent piece of work, as was also the
concentration of the guns. The marches of the troops were done
at night and they were excellently hidden by day in the woods.
The weather before the attack for two days, was appalling and
the men of course were without shelter all the time. Luckily it
cleared up in the evening of the first day and since then it has
been uniformly warm and sunny. This has been a most fortunate
thing, as during the first day, whilst it was raining, there was
the making of trouble. Each division had set itself to make a
road for advance in its section, across no-man's land and beyond.
By noon these roads were deep in mud and in the afternoon there
was a hard tangle to un-ravel with transport half-ditched and
coming up all haphazard, but luckily they got the guns up somehow,
and were cleared sufficiently for the night to get some work done
on the roads.
2nd day was fine and the wind dried the whole ground so that the
transport could move fairly freely and plenty of stuff got up
in front; in the afternoon of the second day, THIAUCOURT was full
of supplies and ammunition, and the roads were working fairly
was a hard problem on the northwest corner, where there had been
heavy bombardments for three years, and also a lot of shelling
for the attack. For about a mile the main road was knocked to
bits, but there was plenty of labour available, and as the weather
has been fine, it is probably alright by now.
roads behind the German line were uniformly good. It is only the
part just near our old front line and across no-man's land which
will give much bother. With this fine weather it should be quite
good by now.
saw a lot of how these fellows [the Americans] run their show
and of course their methods are not quite like our regular army.
The troops runs themselves to a great extent and there was very
little direction by the staff, consequently the columns of transport
on the roads appeared a little hap hazard, but it was all sorted
out in their own way and it is all part of the American system
which says that if units in formations cannot look after themselves
and run their own show, they are no good. Any how through the
luck of fine weather the troops have been supplied with ammunition
and fed and we can only judge by results. I think they have undoubtedly
learnt a lot and mean to profit by it.
only real criticism I have on what I saw was their shocking Horsemastership.
Again the weather has seen them through, but if there had been
two days of rain, I doubt whether 50% of their horses would have
survived. Their horses were looking very poor and they treated
them very badly. They realise this and I know are going to make
will get complete reports of the operations for you, and also
send you later some idea of what is the next move, but I have
already reported that the front across the chord is being organized
so as to be held by the American IV Corps and French Colonial
Corps each with two divisions in line. The other Corps and divisions
are available elsewhere, for operations you doubtless know about.
|(handwritten) Maj. Gen. P.de.B. Radcliffe C.B.E.