US 1st Infantry Division
This Virtual Battlefield Tour presents the locations of the numerous commemorations in Europe to the men of the 1st Infantry Division.
The US 1st Infantry Division is the oldest division in the United States Army with units dating back to the American Revolution. It was the first American unit to arrive on the First World War battlefield. Units of the division fired the first artillery shot of the American Expeditionary Corps and suffered the first three soldiers killed. In 1918 it launched America’s first offensive operation against the Germans at Cantigny. In September the entire division was committed in the Battle of the Mihiel Salient and only two weeks later in the decisive Meuse-Argonne Offensive where it fought as far east as Sedan.
The unit insignia provides its nickname as well, a ‘Big Red One’ on a brown/ grey background.
Motto: "No Mission Too Difficult, No Sacrifice Too Great - Duty First!"
First World War Commemorations:
Cantigny (center), France (49.663234,2.490938)
The American Battle Monuments Commission memorial is located in a large park in the center of the village. It commemorates the division’s 28th Infantry Regiment’s 28 May 1918 attack and capture of Cantigny. The inscription reads, in part, ‘This monument was erected by the United States of America to commemorate the first offensive action by a large American unit in World War One. Cantigny sustained intensive shelling for 72 hours, but the 1st Division conceded not an inch of ground.’ The large, white memorial stone stands upon a circular terrace from which the surrounding countryside can be seen. A statue of a charging doughboy stands in the same park 75 meters to the southeast. It was erected on the 90th anniversary of the battle and bears the regiment’s nickname, ‘The Lions of Cantigny.’
Cantigny (south), France (49.659319,2.501557)
The 1st Infantry Division erected one of its five First World War memorials south of the village alongside the D26 highway. All five of these memorials consist of a stone stele surmounted by an eagle whose enlarged wings enclose the 1st Division insignia. The others are located at Buzancy (near Soissons), Vigneulles, St-Juvin and Wadelincourt. Plaques attached to the stele record the event and list the names of those killed. The Cantigny plaque states, ‘Cantigny 1st Division AEF captured this town on the morning of May 28, 1918. Losses: Killed 199; wounded 867.’ The location, above the highway on the edge of a farm field and on the slope of the hill, overlooks the hills and forests that were the scene of the battle.
Buzancy, France (49.313939,3.336786)
The memorial commemorates the 1st Division’s participation in the Second Battle of the Marne starting on 18 July 1918. In the ensuing engagement the division suffered 2,213 soldiers killed and 6,347 wounded. It is located where the division broke the German lines and assaulted the Buzancy Heights on July 21, 1918. Plaques attached to the monument and the ground below list the names of those killed and missing in action.
St-Pierre-Aigle, France (49.310909,3.227494)
This gray, stone obelisk on the side of the busy N2 highway is dedicated “To the glory of France and its Allies who won the victorious combat on this plateau, from 29 May to 25 July 1918”. On the side of the monument are listed the various groups that participated including the British 15th and 34th Divisions, 1st and 2nd US Divisions, and various other elements of the French Tenth Army.
Wadelincourt, France (49.677336,4.945076)
This traditional memorial commemorates the casualties of the final 1st Division battle of the war for the city of Sedan where 80 soldiers were killed and 503 wounded. The plaque states, ‘In operation against the line of the Meuse on the morning of November 6, 1918, the First Division AEF attacked from the line Besace-Beaumont and drove the enemy across the river between Autrecourt and Villemontry (located on either side of Mouzon - up river from Sedan). The division during the night of 6-7 November continued this attack and occupied the heights overlooking Sedan from St Aignan (south of Donchéry) to this point. Losses 80 killed; 503 wounded.’ The elegant marker stands alongside the highway above the Meuse River and it is reached up a series of stone stairs.
St Juvin, France (49.330038,4.956776)
The 1st Infantry Division eagle stands in the countryside at the junction of two highways. It commemorates the Meuse-Argonne battles where 1,790 soldiers were killed and 7,126 wounded. It states, ‘The 1st Division AEF attacked on the morning of October 4, 1918. In eight days of severe combat it forced the German line back 7 km and assisted the 1st American Army to join the French Fourth Army at Grandpré, thus driving the enemy from the Argonne.’
Fléville, France (49.305271,4.969581)
A rugged granite tablet with a brass shield stands in front of the small village Mairie. The inscription is dedicated to the men of the 16th Infantry Regiment who fought so gallantly in the Meuse-Argonne and who on October 4 1918 liberated the village of Fléville from the Germans. During the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne and the liberation of Fléville 27 men of the regiment received the Distinguished Service Cross. It was after the liberation of Fléville that the 16th Infantry regiment adopted the blue and white “fur vair” shield from the town’s coat of arms as the background for its regimental crest.
Vigneulles-lès-Hattonchâtel, France (48.978469,5.715117)
The 1st Infantry Division memorial stands outside of the village, near a major highway roundabout. The plaque on the base states ‘The Battle of St-Michel: Attacking from Seicheprey - Marvoisin on September 12, the 1st Division AEF entered this town early in the morning of September 13, 1918 joining the 26th Division in cutting off the salient. Losses: Killed: 98, wounded and missing: 489.’
Bathelémont-lès-Bauzemont, France (48.690585,6.519517)
Flags fly over several memorials in front of the communal cemetery on the western edge of the village. On October 23, Sergeant Arch (Battery C of the 6th Artillery Regiment, 1st Infantry Division) fired the first artillery shot of the American Expeditionary Corps. The battery was set up to the east of the village. A reddish stone stele records the names of the first three American soldiers killed by the enemy in WW I. On 3 November 1917, Corporal JB Gresham, Private TF Enright, and Private MD Hay of Company F, 16th Infantry Regiment died during a German attack on “le Haut des Ruelles”. The memorial was originally erected in the village square; however, it was dynamited by the Germans on 6 October 1940. The monument was not rebuilt until May 1955 when it was placed nearer to the events it commemorates.
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