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Page:Collier's New Encyclopedia v. 10.djvu/143

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well as shells were used. The force of the attack carried the Germans into the first line of defense and the village of Seicheprey. There was fierce hand to hand fighting, but that same day the Americans regained most of the captured ground and the following morning completed the work and re-established their lines. Our losses were between 200 and 300 while the enemy's losses were much heavier.

Ten days later the Americans were called upon to repel another heavy assault at Villers-Bretonneux. After a heavy bombardment at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, a wave of the enemy swept forward, but was repelled after intense hand to hand fighting and retreated, leaving their dead and wounded behind them.

Nor should the courage be overlooked of about three hundred engineers who “held the gap” with Carey. It was just after the beginning of the great German drive that began on March 21, swept everything before it for the first few days, and threatened an overwhelming disaster to the Allied arms. The road to Amiens lay open through a breach that had opened up between the British 3d and 5th armies. Gen. Sandeman Carey was commissioned to hold the gap and he did it with a nondescript army made up of laborers, telegraph linemen and any others whom he could get together. The 300 American engineers joined in, and for days against desperate odds held the breach, until it could be closed definitely by the arrival of regular troops.

In the meantime, a momentous action had been taken—so momentous in fact that in all probability it decided the fate of the war. This was the appointment of General Ferdinand Foch to be Generalissimo of the Allied armies. The Allies had been hampered throughout the conflict by the various armies representing the Entente being under the control of their own generals. This led inevitably to diversity of plan and action, as distinguished from the Germans who were a unit. No matter how greatly the need of harmony among the Allies was recognized, it was impossible to secure it in fact. The English were moved by the supreme desire to bar the way to the Channel ports. The French desired to protect Paris at any cost. Each nation had a certain reluctance to send re-enforcements to the other, for fear that their own special interests might be weakened by the action. In case of a difference in views on strategy or tactics, there was no supreme power that could decide the question.

The need of unity became especially apparent a week after the beginning of the great German drive of March 21, 1918. During that week, the Germans had met with enormous successes, gaining a vast area of territory and many thousands of prisoners. It was the blackest week in the entire war for the Allied cause. There was no further hesitation. On March 28 General Pershing called upon General Foch who on that same date had been made Generalissimo, and placed at his disposal all the American troops and resources.

“I came to say to you,” General Pershing said, “that the American people would hold it a great honor for our troops, were they engaged in the present battle. There is at this moment no other question than that of fighting. Infantry, artillery, aviation—all that we have are yours, to dispose of as you will.”

The offer was accepted gratefully by the War Council and the following statement was issued:

“The American troops will fight side by side with the British and French troops, and the Star-Spangled Banner will float beside the French and English flags in the plains of Picardy.”

By the time arrangements had been completed to utilize our troops, there were nearly 800,000 American soldiers in France, and they were coming across the seas in an apparently unending stream at the rate of 300,000 a month. America's weight was about to be thrown in the scales with decisive effect.

A deft and finished piece of work was the capture of the strongly held and fortified town of Cantigny N. W. of Montdidier. On May 28 the Americans, in conjunction with French artillery and tanks, attacked on a front of one and a quarter miles. They took the town in the first forward sweep and captured 200 prisoners besides inflicting severe losses on the enemy in killed and wounded. Repeated counter-attacks were made by the Germans in heavy force, but all were repelled.

Three days later the Americans distinguished themselves at Château-Thierry, a town that later was to become forever memorable because of the luster there shed on American arms. Units of the American Marine Corps, armed with machine guns, beat back an attack by heavy German forces on the town. They repulsed the Germans and took many prisoners, losing none of their own men as prisoners. Two more determined German attacks were beaten back a short time later on the Marne. On June 6 the Americans penetrated to a depth of two miles and took posses-