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Echoing Throughout the Generations: The Legacy of the Meuse Argonne Offensive a Century Later

What you do in life issues, it echoes throughout the generations and into eternity.

One-hundred years in the past this month, the USA was in one of many bloodiest and largest battles in its historical past.  Referred to as the Meuse Argonne Marketing campaign, this Franco-American assault included practically two million males and was targeted on seizing the German’s important rail community on the occupied metropolis of Sedan, France.  Because of the strategic nature of this space, the German’s defended it tenaciously, making the Allies pay dearly for each hill, valley, and village.  The Meuse Argonne Offensive was half of a bigger effort led and deliberate by the primary Supreme Allied Commander, French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, to knock the Germans out of the battle earlier than the onset of winter.  After 47 days of relentless assaults, Foch’s plan labored, with the Germans agreeing to an armistice that went into impact on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, within the 11th month of 1918.  But, regardless of the poetic finish of the battle, for the troopers in fight, it was by no means wonderful.  They had been ordered to assault till the ultimate minutes of the battle, leading to a useless lack of over 11,000 males within the final hours of combating.  

    Within the midst of the maelstrom of the Meuse Argonne Offensive, abnormal males rose to realize extraordinary feats of bravery and braveness.  Many of those heroes had been devoted Christians, who endeavored to dwell their lives in a strategy to please and honor God.  Their legacy and people of all the boys to see fight on this cataclysmic conflict of arms calls out to us 100 years later.

    There was a day when the phrase Argonne despatched chills down the spines of on a regular basis Individuals.  The phrase was a right away reference level to gasoline warfare and horrific casualties (as much as 20,000 per week).  But, few know something concerning the Meuse Argonne Marketing campaign in the present day.  There may be nice worth to casting our eyes again throughout the millennia.  As Dr. John Lennox says, “New things are old things happening to new people.”  There may be a lot to study from the previous.  An instance of that is present in Joshua Chapter four because the Kids of Israel had been about to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  Within the first seven verses, God instructions Joshua,

“And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man, And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.  Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?  Then ye shall answer them that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel forever.”
    These memorial stones had been to remind subsequent generations of what God did previously.  Christians throughout the millennia function memorial stones to us in the present day.  Revelations 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.”  Our lives, in addition to those that got here earlier than, depart a long-lasting influence and legacy that even destroys Devil and his works.  Certainly, even the seemingly most insignificant particular person in life stands out as the very one which modifications historical past.  The examples of David, Gideon, Moses, Esther, and others within the Bible function proof of how God can use anybody to alter historical past.  Thus it’s with the legacy of the Meuse Argonne Marketing campaign.  

    The Meuse Argonne was a part of an enormous Allied assault designed by French Marshal Foch to crash into the German positions throughout the Western Entrance from the Verdun area of France all the best way as much as the English Channel in Belgium.  The idea of operations had the Individuals kick off this “Grande Offensive” on September 26, 1918, and cost headlong into the German defenses.  The 1.2 million Individuals to combat right here had been supported with lots of French tanks, plane, artillery, and 600,000 French troopers.  

    The best nemesis of the Allies on the Western Entrance was the German strategic reserve.  Each time the French or British broke by way of the road, the Germans rushed their reserves to the threatened sector.  Foch’s plan was to have the Individuals assault within the Meuse Argonne to attract off the German reserves.  In the long run, the plan labored brilliantly, with the Germans sending practically all of their twenty-plus reserve divisions to blunt the American assault within the Meuse Argonne Area, opening the best way for French and British Armies additional north to breakthrough.   

    The Argonne was among the many most closely defended area in France.  The Germans constructed a sequence of defensive strains throughout the area to carry it.  Along with this, each the climate and terrain additionally favored the Germans.  The climate would turn into depressing within the autumn of 1918, making motion throughout muddy fields virtually inconceivable.  As to the terrain, the Meuse Valley was flanked by the Argonne Forest to the west and Meuse Heights to the East.  This excessive floor was troublesome to seize and gave the Germans clear statement of each transfer that the Individuals made.  The ultimate downside dealing with the Individuals was an outdated strategy to warfare.  The American commander, Common John J. Pershing, refused to hearken to the French and British about methods to combat fashionable warfare and as an alternative believed that an American soldier with a rifle and a bayonet would win the day.  The French tried the same strategy in 1914 and misplaced 1 / 4 of one million males utilizing antiquated techniques.  Pershing insisted that his 1914 strategy to a 1918 downside would work. Out of frustration, the French Premier, Georges Clemenceau responded, “If the Americans do not permit the French to teach them, then the Germans will do so.”  Certainly, the Germans would show to be merciless masters of their instruction.

            The assault kicked off with a fierce artillery barrage of the German strains that lasted into the morning of September 26 when the troopers, tanks, and plane swept ahead.  The primary day of combating went pretty nicely for the Individuals largely due to reaching shock (the Germans anticipated the Individuals to assault 100 kilometers to the east).  But, the German Military didn’t merely yield floor with out a combat.  

    The terrain dealing with the Individuals once they “went over the top” was traditional First World Warfare One panorama, stuffed with craters, trenches, and the carnage of battle.  As soon as past this two-three kilometer vast space, the luscious French countryside awaited them.  One of many officers was given the mission of breaking by way of this man-made devastation was Main James Rieger from Kirksville, Missouri.  Rieger, like so a lot of his era, was a powerful Christian and a deacon in his church.  Nonetheless, his Christian religion would put him at odds with the U.S. Military.  

    Whereas stateside at Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma, Rieger was involved that there have been few healthful diversions for the Troopers to take part in.  To offer an alternate, he established a well-liked Sunday College program that was attended by lots of of troops.  Nonetheless, Rieger’s commanding officer, Brigadier Common Lucien Barry disapproved of Rieger’s Christian religion and sought to fireside him.  Having not discovered a simply trigger to alleviate Rieger, Barry in anger and frustration advised him that he wouldn’t succeed as an officer and that for all intents and functions he was “hopelessly useless.”   

    Rieger’s activity on September 26, 1918, was to brush the Germans off of a devastated hill that sat astride the entrance referred to as Vauquois.  For 4 years, the Germans and French fought for management over this hill, leading to a stalemate.  The belligerents started tunneling underneath one another and exploding over 500 huge subterranean mines, that tore enormous craters throughout the hill.  The “hopelessly useless” Rieger needed to accomplish one thing that two armies couldn’t do in years of combating.  As the boys in Rieger’s unit superior, they confronted fierce German resistance by the vaunted Prussian 2nd Foot Regiment.  The primary assault to safe Vauquois by one other battalion was pushed again.  It seemed just like the hill would stay in German fingers except Rieger might accomplish this seemingly inconceivable activity.   Rieger laid out his plan to the boys after which led them ahead.  An eyewitness described the scene, “Our planes were buzzing all about… one fighter sailed in close over the crest, made a tight turn and exploded. [A German plane] came on a thirty-degree slant from our left rear.  The dirt was boiling and jumping through our platoon.”   

    Regardless of fierce German resistance, Rieger swept throughout the hill along with his males.  By late morning all hope of holding Vauquois was misplaced, with a big group of the Prussian 2nd Guards surrounded and trapped within the in depth tunnels under the hill.  Their final message was a heroic one, “We are being attacked from all sides by large masses of the Americans.  We will fight to the last man.  Long live the king!”   Rieger would go onto to liberate two French Villages and given the title of “the Hero of the Argonne.”  For his management, selfless service and braveness, Rieger could be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.  Sarcastically, within the eyes of his secular management, Rieger appeared weak.  But, in fight, he proved to be a person of iron.  Maybe I Corinthians 1:27 partially explains Rieger’s heroism, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”  Like King David of outdated, God sees the center, not simply outward appearances, and He chooses to make use of the weak and silly (within the eyes of the world), to confound the robust and smart.  On the identical time that Rieger was undertaking these feats of heroism, Brigadier Common Barry was fired for incompetence.  

Within the valley simply west of Vauquois one other officer of robust Christian religion was likewise main his males in a daring assault in opposition to the German defenders.  His title was Lieutenant John Wingate, who was simply recognizable by his “long drooping mustache and a sort of swaggering, undaunted air.”   Some mentioned that he was “the best loved man in the division… and that he had a gentle kindly heart of pure gold.”     The ebook, Thunder within the Argonne says of him, “In an army full of inexperienced men, and some glory seekers, Winfield stood out as a point of light and someone that soldiers respected and trusted, even with their lives.  Those who knew him best saw him as a leader that a soldier could follow, even against the gates of hell.”  

Wingate, main about sixty males, overcame a sequence of enemy robust factors.  Amongst Wingate’s males was Non-public Nels Wold, one other fearless Christian.   Nels was a farmer from Minnewauken, North Dakota, who volunteered 5 occasions to single-handedly interact and remove 4 enemy machine weapons.  He was fearless within the face of all adversity and had the center and soul of a lion.  Sadly, in his try and clear a fifth German machine gun, Nels turned entangled in a camouflage internet, whereupon the Germans shot him.  Wold’s dying phrases to his pals had been “pray for me… and write my folks and tell them I love them all.”   For his selfless service and bravado, Nels Wold was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, along with his quotation saying,      
“He rendered most gallant service in aiding the advance of his company, which had been held up by machinegun nests, advancing, with 1 other soldier, and silencing the guns, bringing with him, upon his return, 11 prisoners. Later the same day he jumped from a trench and rescued a comrade who was about to be shot by a German officer, killing the officer during the exploit. His actions were entirely voluntary, and it was while attempting to rush a 5th machinegun nest that he was killed. The advance of his company was mainly due to his great courage and devotion to duty.” 

There have been so many acts of heroism and braveness on either side.  Defending the German line within the Argonne was the 2nd Württemberg Landwehr Division with troopers principally from southwest Germany.  The Württembergers had spent a lot time within the Argonne that they mentioned it was like a second dwelling.  This familiarity gave them the sting over the inexperienced Individuals, whose outdated techniques melted away in entrance of German machine weapons.  However, the Doughboys tailored rapidly and inside a couple of weeks had discovered methods to conduct fashionable warfare regardless of the flawed beliefs of Common Pershing.  This adaptation was due to the lots of of fight skilled French liaison officers serving close to the entrance who shared their concepts with males prepared to study.     

By early October, the American advance was nearly stopped and the burden to regain momentum fell to junior officers and troopers.  There could be a Misplaced Battalion, a conscientious objector from Tennessee (Alvin York) and a daily military officer from the Midwest (Sam Woodfill) who would rise to the event and alter historical past.  The saga of the Misplaced Battalion started on October 2, 1918 when the French and Individuals launched a big assault to clear the western half of the Argonne.  The Germans managed to repel all besides a bunch of 694 Individuals who penetrated the road and dug in.  The Germans surrounded this aspect that quickly could be referred to as the “Lost Battalion,” and endeavored to destroy them.  Nonetheless, the Individuals survived the five-day siege and performed a key position in breaking the German grip over the Argonne.  

    Throughout the siege of the Misplaced Battalion, the Individuals dedicated the 82nd Division to strike in opposition to the flank of the Germans within the Argonne.  Amongst these males was Corporal Alvin York, whose wonderful story of salvation and redemption was in a earlier challenge of Windfall.  York’s testimony is a couple of backslider, who dedicated his life and coronary heart to Jesus as Lord and Savior throughout a revival assembly on January 1, 1915.  His conversion was actual and lasting.  York went from a “good for nothing drunk” to a frontrunner in his church in a matter of months.  Nonetheless, his world turned the wrong way up when he was drafted into the Military.  York couldn’t reconcile killing for his nation along with his religion.  He went by way of coaching and even shipped off to France with the burden of failing to reconcile his Christian religion with navy service.  On the fateful day of October eight, 1918, York discovered himself with seven different Individuals behind German strains, reduce off with all hope seemingly misplaced.  At that second, all doubts light and he knew what to do.  With nice daring, York alone charged up the hill, worn out a German machine gun, fought off a bayonet assault and capturing 132 Germans.  This motion compelled the Germans to retreat from the Argonne and York would down in historical past as one among America’s most celebrated heroes.   

A number of kilometers to the east of the Argonne, Lieutenant Sam Woodfill led his males in an advance in the direction of the quaint French village of Cunel.  The Individuals had been abruptly halted by a hail of machinegun fireplace.  With out lacking a beat, – Woodfill attacked, eliminating the offending machine gun and selecting off two snipers, earlier than resuming the advance by way of the village and up an adjoining hill the place he worn out two extra machine weapons.  It’s unbelievable feats corresponding to these that assist the Individuals to beat the stout German defenses.  The American contribution to the tip of the battle was as full because it was decisive.  

Within the vicious 47 days of combating, the Individuals suffered 122,093 casualties, of which, 26,277 had been killed in motion.  In each manner, the Meuse Argonne was a very Franco-American operation, and nowhere is that this extra evident than within the blood spilled whereas serving facet by facet on this campaign to liberate France from the overseas invader.  Along with the 122,093 American casualties, the French suffered greater than 70,000 casualties whereas combating alongside, in and in assist of the offensive right here.     The mixed Franco-American assault inflicted an estimated 126,000 casualties on the German forces, of which 28,000 had been killed in motion. 150 French villages and cities had been liberated within the 47 days of the Meuse Marketing campaign.  840 planes, 324 tanks and a pair of,417 items of artillery had been employed on this operation.   As a part of the general Allied broad entrance assault, the Franco-American advance drew off the valuable and important German reserve divisions, opening the door for al Allied penetration within the north of France.  Such a breakthrough wouldn’t have occurred with out the German strategic reserves not being dedicated to stopping the Meuse Argonne Offensive.   
The Meuse Argonne stays one among America’s most epic battles that formed the fashionable U.S. Military and formed the world we dwell.  But, there’s extra to this story than the motion of armies and conflict of empires.  It’s the story of abnormal males, who, when confronted with overwhelming odds, carry out extraordinary feats of heroism.  But, acts of braveness and bravado don’t spring forth from the hearts of males abruptly, however are moderately the fruit of a life lived nicely, or what I name “building your character muscle.”  Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain described it this fashion,       

“We know not of the future, and cannot plan for it much. but we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be whenever and wherever the hour strikes, that calls to noble action. This predestination God has given us in charge. No man becomes suddenly different from his habit and cherished thought.”

That is reflective of an outline of Non-public Nels Wold, 

“Although refusing to join in the excessive drinking of the French wine and avoiding flirting with the Mademoiselles on his time off made him seem a bit uncommon, the other soldiers respected Nels for living out his faith and beliefs.  It was such strength of character that made Nels a man of courage.  Courage and bravery are not attributes that suddenly spring forth from the soul of the man, but are the outward manifestation of the type of person he is on the inside.  Nels developed his moral character by endeavoring to daily do the right thing in life; by choosing the right over the expedient.  This, in effect, gave him “the center of the lion” as it took considerable moral courage to maintain his Christian faith in the face of countless temptations and opportunity to compromise. “

The legacy of women and men of 1918 name out to us from throughout the century.  What they did modified historical past, and formed the world during which we dwell.  In so many instances, we stand on the shoulders of giants. But, within the eyes of the world, they usually appeared weak and insufficient.  What is evident from their legacy is that God has an ideal plan for every of us, and, if we’re prepared, he desires our testimony to likewise echoes throughout the generations and into eternity.   Certainly, what you do in life issues, it echoes throughout the generations and into eternity.

Dr. Doug Mastriano, Ph.D., is an award-winning writer and just lately retired U.S. Military Colonel, with greater than 30 years of, seeing service alongside the Iron Curtain in the course of the Chilly Warfare, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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Updated: November 8, 2018 — 12:20 am

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