Transcript

AEF performance at the Saint Mihiel salient
Catalogue reference: WO 106/529


(4)

                 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 before.
             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.

(5)

          (handwritten) 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.
           The 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.
           The 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 well.
           There 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.

(6)

           The 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.
           One 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.
           The 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 things better.
           I 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.


Yours sincerely,
(signature)         C.M. Wagstaff
(handwritten) Maj. Gen. P.de.B. Radcliffe C.B.E.
D.M.O.
W.O.


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