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Yankee Division in the First World War

In the Highest Tradition

By Michael E. Shay

Publication Year: 2008

Historians have been unkind to the 26th Division of the U.S. Army during World War I. Despite playing a significant role in all the major engagements of the American Expeditionary Force, the “Yankee Division,” as it was commonly known, and its beloved commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Clarence Edwards, were often at odds with Gen. John J. Pershing. Subsequently, the Yankee Division became the A.E.F.’s “whipping boy,” a reputation that has largely continued to the present day. In The Yankee Division in the First World War, author Michael E. Shay mines a voluminous body of first-person accounts to set forth an accurate record of the Yankee Division in France—a record that is, as he reports, “better than most.” Shay sheds new light on the ongoing conflict in leadership and notes that two of the division’s regiments received the coveted Croix de Guerre, the first ever awarded to an American unit. This first-rate study should find a welcome place on military history bookshelves, both for scholars and students of the Great War and for interested general readers.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

List of illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiii

Why write about the 26th (Yankee) Division? For starters, it was one of the four original divisions (two regular and two National Guard) that sailed to France in 1917—in fact, it was the first fully formed division assembled on French soil. It was a National Guard division, an aggregate of new and old units, some of which could trace their existence to a period long before the founding of the Republic, its ranks filled with volunteers...

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1. Muster and Sailing

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pp. 1-17

On April 6, 1917, after nearly three years on the sideline, the United States entered the European conflict on the side of Great Britain and France, with the congressional declaration of war. At that time, America’s previous neutral stance had, with minor exceptions, limited the country’s ability to prepare for what many thought was its inevitable participation in the...

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2. Training

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pp. 19-42

Upon arrival in England, the Yankee Division’s troubles continued. Baggage was lost, and worse, was stolen by sailors or dockhands. In a letter written to Gen. Peter Traub shortly after arrival in France, Col. Ernest L. Isbell, commanding officer of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, lamented the loss of the baggage and the necessary personal items of his men: ...

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3. Chemin des Dames

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pp. 45-66

“The Road of the Ladies,” the ancient byway used by the ladies of the court, traverses the ridge between Soissons and Reims, and gave its name to the much fought over sector then occupied by the French in early 1918. Well-watered by the Marne to the south, and the Aillette River and L’Oise à L’Aisne Canal to the north, much of it is beautiful farm country—most...

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4. Toul Sector

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pp. 69-101

In late March, the division received orders to cut short the scheduled training exercise with the 42nd Division and to relieve the 1st Division. The latter had been ordered to Picardy in the area of a small village called Cantigny. The “Big Red One” had been sent as the first installment of Pershing’s pledge to Marshal Foch to place at his disposal “all that we...

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5. Ch

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pp. 103-141

For the Yankee Division, the period from June 28 through August 4, 1918, encompassed two separate actions, the Champagne-Marne Operation, which was defensive, and the Aisne-Marne Offensive. Initially, the division took over an approximately 6,500- to 7,500-yard front that was then occupied by the 2nd Division, a Regular division, consisting of two regiments of Marines (5th and 6th) and two army regiments (9th and 23rd). ...

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6. St. Mihiel

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pp. 143-161

The long-awaited day was fast approaching when the American First Army would finally be activated in early August 1918.1 John J. Pershing had plans for its employment, plans that had already been approved by the Allies. So, when Marshal Ferdinand Foch came to see “Black Jack” on August 30 at his headquarters at Ligny-en-Barrois (after American troops had already...

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7. Troyon Sector

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pp. 163-174

Even as the First Army staff was finalizing plans for the St. Mihiel offensive, they also had to set about creating plans for the part the American army would play in the Meuse-Argonne Off ensive scheduled to commence September 25, 1918.1 The staff actually got a one-day reprieve when the start date was changed to September 26. The capture of Metz, the...

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8. Verdun (Neptune Sector)—Meuse-Argonne

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pp. 175-205

The sector assigned to the Yankee Division had very little, if anything, to commend itself. In fact, it was aptly named “Neptune,” in that it was near the far end of the main allied front, as was its namesake in the planetary alignment. After the horrific events of 1916, one could logically, but incorrectly, surmise that no further devastation was possible. Yet the sector continued to be a charnel house—a treeless, lifeless wasteland of hill...

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9. Homeward Bound

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pp. 207-233

On November 14, 1918, the 26th Division began the long journey home. The first-stage destination was in the vicinity of Montigny-le-Roi in the 8th Training area, about 20 miles south of Chaumont. It was there that the division headquarters opened on November 23. Trucks were in short supply, and the French refused to provide the necessary troop trains. So, the various units reached the area mainly by foot, with an occasional ride...

Appendix I

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pp. 235-237

Appendix II

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pp. 239-240

Notes

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pp. 241-277

References

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pp. 279-285

Index

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pp. 287-294


E-ISBN-13: 9781603444200
E-ISBN-10: 1603444203
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603440301
Print-ISBN-10: 1603440305

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 20 b&w photos. 10 maps. 1 table.
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: C. A. Brannen Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Army. Infantry Division, 26th.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Campaigns -- France.
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