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This Week in 1918 | Saint Mihiel Part I

Updated: Oct 29, 2018

9 –15 Sept 1918

After four years of hard warfare and bitter failure, it was finally time for the Allies to put an end to the Saint Mihiel salient. At General Pershing's request, the American 1st Army was given the job.

General Pershing

This was no small task. The American 1st Army didn't exist yet. General Pershing had to first gather, train and equip the 1st Army before he could lead it into battle against a formidable position.[1] This would also be the first offensive led by an American officer.[1]

In 1914, the Germans, in their attempts to capture Verdun, drove a wedge twenty-five miles wide and fifteen mile deep into Allied territory[1]. In 1915, French forces, at great cost to themselves, failed to recapture the area. For the next three years the salient menaced Allied lines and checked potential offensives in the area.[1]

Photo from American Armies and Battlefields in Europe: A history, guide and reference book. (1938). Washington: Government Printing Office. Prepared by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission p.109

There was a lot riding on General Pershing's shoulders. French and British commanders still believed American forces were too inexperienced to operate independently. The entire reputation of the United States and future independent operations hinged upon the success of this operation. More importantly, 550,000 American and 110,000 French lives were in his hands.[1]

Brigadier Gen Billy Mitchell

To aid him in the task, Gen Pershing appointed Colonel Billy Mitchell commander of the 1st Army Air Forces this included attached Allied air forces.[1] Col Mitchell assembled the greatest concentration of Allied air power to date. Never again would there be such a force of Allied aircraft during the war.[1] Col Mitchell put his 1,481 aircraft to good use.[1] The Allied Air Force dominated the skies freeing ground troops from the prying eyes of German reconnaissance.[1]

This week we will break the series into several posts following the 12th Aero Squadron during this historic campaign.

Hold on to your hats.

It's going to be a wild ride.

  1. American Armies and Battlefields in Europe: A History, Guide and Reference book. (1938). Washington: Government Printing Office. Prepared by the American Battlefield Monuments Commission

  2. Photo of General John J. Pershing retrieved from The Legacy of General John J. Pershing. (n.d.). Retrieved September 11, 2018, from

  3. Photo of General Billy Mitchell retrieved from Hickman, K. (n.d.). Father of the US Air Force: Brigadier General Billy Mitchell. Retrieved September 11, 2018, from

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