This September will mark the centennial of the United State’s Army’s greatest battle. It would be America’s major contribution to the 1918 allied offensive that ended World War I.
George Marshall drew up the battle plan to break the German line. In his memoirs, Marshall described the obstacles we overcame: heavy casualties (the costliest battle we ever fought), poor training and disorganization, inclement weather, difficult terrain and “one of the strongest” positions on the Western Front.
Pennsylvanians made their contribution to this fighting. Many Wyoming Valley households had a relation who fought in that battle. In my family, our father, Michael, served in the 23rd Infantry Regiment.
The Battle of the Meuse-Argonne lasted 47 days. It involved more than one million American soldiers. The engagement resulted in 26,277 Americans killed and 95,786 Americans wounded. It remains the largest battle the U.S. Army has every fought. Yet the memory of this battle as well as America’s role in the Great War has been consigned to history’s dust bin.
University of Southern Mississippi Distinguished History Professor Andy Wiest said about the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne, “People have just forgotten it. Go out on the streets of Gulfport or Biloxi and ask what the most costly battle in U.S. history was, and no one will come up with that. That’s how far World War I has slipped from our memory and imagination.”