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42ème Division américaine - mars/avril 1918 Texte en langue anglaise
 


Le torpillage du paquebot américain Lusitania le 7 mai 1915 par un sous-marin allemand accroit l'hostilité des Etats-Unis, mais ne déclenche pas la rupture de la neutralité des Etats-Unis.
L'Allemagne se garde bien d'ailleurs de renouveler une telle attaque, jusqu'au 31 janvier 1917 où, afin de contraindre la France et la Grande-Bretagne à la paix par la rupture de leurs approvisionnements, le Kaiser ordonne la reprise de la guerre sous-marine à outrance. Le 1er février 1917, les Etats-Unis rompent les relations diplomatiques avec l'Allemagne. Mais suite au torpillage du cargo Vigilantia le 19 mars, le président Wilson demande au Congrès de voter la déclaration de guerre à l'Allemagne. Le 6 avril 1917, les Etats-Unis entrent en guerre.
Ne disposant que d'une armée de métier (200 000 hommes), les Etats-Unis adoptent le 18 mai 1917 le  Selective Service Act établissant la conscription : à la fin du conflit, c'est ainsi 4 millions de soldats dont disposeront les Etats-Unis.
Le général Pershing, chef du corps expéditionnaire arrive en France le 13 juin 1917, et les premières troupes débarquent à Saint-Nazaire le 26 juin 1917. Au 31 décembre 1917, le corps expéditionnaire américain comptera 150 000 soldats sur le territoire français.

C'est ainsi que se constitue en août 1917 la 42ème division d'infanterie américaine (« Rainbow division » - Arc-en-ciel) qui rejoindra le front est du Détachement Armée Lorraine. Cette division regroupe des soldats de 26 états, et comprend la 83ème Brigade d'infanterie (165 et 166ème régiment) et la 84ème (167èeme et 158ème régiment).
Le 18 octobre 1917, la division rejoint les ports d'embarquement de Hoboken, Montreal, et New York., où elle embarque en convois échelonnés pour arriver les 1er et 14 novembre 1917 à Saint-Nazaire, et les 11, 20 novembre et 1er décembre à Liverpool (avant de rejoindre le Havre le 3 décembre 1917)

Après un entrainement sur le secteur de Rimaucourt et Rolampont en Haute-Marne du 26 décembre 1917 au 17 février 1917, la division rejoint le secteur de Lunéville du 21 février au 23 mars 1918.

C'est à Domjevin que la 42ème division déplore son premier tué (l'ensemble de ses pertes durant la guerre s'élevant par la suite à 14 683 tués, dont pour le seul mois sur le secteur de Lunéville 95 tués et 798 blessés). Le 2e classe Dyer J. Bird, de Marion dans l'Ohio, appartenait à la Company D du 166ème régiment d'Infanterie, après son engagement le 15 juillet 1917 à 18 ans et demi dans la garde nationale de l'Ohio. Il est tué par une balle dans la nuit du 1er au 2 mars 1918, et un service religieux lui est rendu à Domjevin le 3 mars, en présence de détachements américain et français, sous la conduite du lieutenant John Joy Holliday, aumônier du 166ème. La croix de guerre lui est décernée, et il repose désormais au cimetière de Romagne-sous-Montfaucon (Meuse)

Funérailles de Dyer J. BIRD - 166th infantry - 3 mars 1918 Funérailles de Dyer J. BIRD - 166th infantry - 3 mars 1918 Funérailles de Dyer J. BIRD - 166th infantry - 3 mars 1918
Cérémonie à Domjevin
le 3 mars 1918
Funeral of Pvt Dyer J. Byrd, US 166th Infantry, Domjevin, 3 Mar 1918  

The story of the Rainbow division
Raymond S. Tompkins
New York 1919

Note : s'il est indéniable que le soutien des troupes américaines a contribué à la défense des lignes du secteur de Lunéville, on peut regretter dans le texte ci-dessous la version malheureusement erronée d'un agrément tacite de non agression entre les soldats français et allemands...

Chapter III - The Rainbow's story begins to be the story of the war

It was the day before the birthday of George Washington that the Rainbow Division finished detraining within marching distance of the trenches in the Luneville Sector - about 10 miles back. The Sixty-seventh Artillery Brigade, National Guard artillerymen from Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota, had finished shooting at targets around Coetquidan and had caught up.
Luneville was the "quiet sector” the War Department was telling the people about back home. Actually there had been no fighting there since 1914, when the Germans had reached Rambervillers, destroyed the villages and withdrawn. A rolling, wooded, rich country was this part of Lorraine - altogether too beautiful to be the scene of battle. And by a sort of tacit agreement both Germans and French had been sparing the villages; neither side used gas, and in the day-time a shot was seldom heard.
With the arrival of the Rainbow Division things changed.
They went into the trenches quietly enough. The First Division, when it had entered the line previously in a nearby sector, had aroused the suspicions of the Germans and brought down on their own heads a deadly bust of fire, and a raid in which they had lost prisoners. Profiting by the First's experience the Rainbow sneaked into position and took up its vigil over No-Man's-Land in the night without the knowledge of the Germans and without losing a single man.
But a new foe was facing the Boche in Lorraine - a youthful, eager foe, confident of his untried strength and impetuous to use it. And he knew there were a hundred million people back home wondering how he would use it and how he was getting along. So the Germans were not long without knowledge of the change in their enemy's order of battle.
It was many weeks later that there went abroad the story about the Germans who came out of their trench to wash some clothes in a shell-hole in No-Man's-Land, in full sight of the Americans. It was a true story, and it happened during the Rainbow Division's first few days in the trenches, and Alabamians in the 167th Infantry were the heroes of it.
The Germans had washed clothes in that shell-hole before and nothing had happened. They had known that nothing would happen. On their side the French had peacefully smoked their pipes in the cool of the evening on the very top of the trenches. It was simply one of the workings cut of the tacit agreement.
But a little outpost of Alabamians got one glimpse of this group of Boche in undershirts arrogantly dipping dirty clothes in the water of No-Man's-Land, and they opened fire. The Germans scattered like rabbits, some of them hugging wounds.
A French officer came rushing to the outpost in a fury of excitement. What did the Americans mean? They had done a terrible thing ! Now the Germans would be angry and everybody was in for a period of shelling and gas and raids ! He rebuked the hot-headed Yanks sternly.
"What the hell?" said one of the men later. "I came out here to kill these Boche, not to sit here and watch 'em wash clothes." But there was justice in the French officer's rebuke. The Rainbow Division was the pupil of the French Army. Going into the line it had been divided into small units and brigaded with four French Divisions of the Seventh French Corps. This is the way it was divided: The 165th from New York plus two companies of the 150th Machine-Gun Battalion from Wisconsin were with the 164th French Infantry Division, with their front line in the Foret de Parroy. The 166th Infantry from Ohio plus the other two companies of the 150th Machine- Gun Battalion were in the St. Clement sector with the 14th French Division. The 168th Infantry from Iowa, 167th from Alabama, and the 151st Machine-Gun Battalion from Georgia were in the Baccarat sector with the 128th French Division. The rest of the Rainbow units were distributed along the front of the Seventh French Corps, where they could be of most use and get the most experience.
The irate French officer had been right, too, in his estimate of the result of the Alabamians' rashness. The tacit agreement for a kid-glove war in Lorraine went somewhat to pieces from that moment. The Germans knew now that new American troops were just across the way. They didn*t have to depend upon instinct to prove it. They could see the men and the uniforms, just as our men could see the Germans, so close together were the trenches in some places. It was enough.
At four o'clock on the morning of March 5 the Boche came over, and the men of the Rain- bow had their first battle.
For several minutes the German batteries poured a rain of shells on every trench and every known position from which the Americans might fire back. They counter-batteried the artillery; their 77s cut the protecting barbed-wire to pieces. They dropped a barrage behind the trenches to cut off both retreat and reinforcements. They were certain that all the green Americans who did not die of fright would be either killed by the fire or captured by the picked German raiders, who now came across behind the barrage about a hundred strong with ready bayonets.
The Americans were green - they were not veterans and they didn't act like veterans. They were horribly scared, too. But they were also at that moment the most alert and desperate bunch of young Iowans in the world.
The spot toward which the raid was directed was a little group of ruined brick buildings just north of Badonvillers, known as Le Chamois Farm. The 168th Infantry was holding it. It was right at the junction of two valleys, an ideal place to sneak upon, but a death trap if properly defended.
What it took to defend it properly the Iowans were all broken out with. Within one minute after the first alarm they opened up down the valley with their rifles, the Marylanders cut loose with trench-mortars, and the Georgians turned on the machine-guns. It was their first chance to fire and they were as vivacious about it as debutantes at a coming-out ball. The field artillery, French and American, joined it. Dumbfounded and maddened at the resistance, the Germans tried to rush the trenches, but they got not even to the first line. Dawn, breaking slowly through the mist and smoke, showed three bodies in field-gray hanging grotesquely over the torn wire.
One officer and eighteen men of the Rainbow were killed in this, the first little battle, and twenty-two wounded. But it was a victory; the raid had been repulsed. No Man's Land was strewn with German dead.
The spirit of the Division took a great leap. It had discovered for itself one of the biggest truths the war produced - that the American doughboy could lick the Boche. Their French comrades were likewise enthused and reassured. The Rainbow's first batch of Croix de Guerres were awarded for bravery in this brush.
Four days later, March 9, the Rainbow participated in a raiding party of its own, assisted by the French. For four hours American light and heavy artillery, trench-artillery and machine-
guns beat upon the German first and second lines, and at five-thirty p. m. French and American soldiers went over the top together, destroyed the German shelters, captured a few prisoners, and returned with slight losses. Colonel Douglas Mac Arthur, the Chief -of -Staff, captured one of these prisoners. He had gone over the top in a doughboy's uniform and held a Boche up with his 45. The French gave him the Croix de Guerre for it.
On March 17, in the woods called Rouge Bouquet, in the Foret de Parroy, immortalized in one of the late Sergeant Joyce Kilmer's poems of the war, two officers and 50 men from the first battalion of the 165th fought the Germans out of a strong point and destroyed it. Four New Yorkers were killed, three wounded, and one reported missing. Twenty Croix de Guerres came to the 165th for that bit of work. They took the Grerman trench and held it, the first permanent gain ever made by American troops in France.
By this time the Rainbow had been holding a front-line sector for almost a month. It had earned a rest ; it was ordered to take one. And it has been suggested since that the title of the Rainbow Division's story ought to be “Rests We Never Got."
From that time on it never had a rest, as other divisions came to know the term. Rest after rest ordered for it, but the war always cancelled the orders. Once, on August 20, it went into intensive training around Bourmont, south of Neuf-chateau, for ten days, but it didn't rest.

And here, coming out of the Luneville sector on March 20 and being concentrated by March 28 near Gerbervillers, about 15 miles behind the line, prepared to march leisurely back to Rolam pont, it got orders to stop.
The great German offensive of March 21 had begun. For two days every German gun from the North Sea to the Swiss border had fired steadily on towns, roads, batteries, posts of command. Then had come the news of the German break-through before Amiens.
The Rainbow Division turned around and marched back to the front, and from that moment its history is the history of the war.
To begin with, it figured in the complete change of the Allies' military policy. The menace to Amiens had produced Marshal Foch as Supreme Allied Commander. General Pershing had made his historic offer to Marshal Foch - the use of the whole American Army to handle as he wished. All previous plans were dropped, and in order to release the 128th French Division to go to the Somme, the Rainbow was ordered to take over the Baccarat Sector. Thus came to the Rainbow the honor of being the first American division to occupy a divisional sector all its own, under its own commander. Command of the Baccarat sector passed to Major-General Menoher on March 81.
All through April there were raids and patrols but nothing unusual happened. The Germans were not trying to break through here; their effort was concentrated much further to the north and west, and the Rainbow Division, with a month of trench vigil already to its credit, was content to take what rest it could. The weather grew warm and simny, the military out- look on the Somme improved, the men began to feel at home in the trenches.
They busied themselves improving all the defensive works of the sector, ;and completing their training. Every man was given an opportunity to become proficient in his own fighting specialty, whether that was stringing telephone wires, digging trenches, sniping, hauling ammunition, observing artillery fire, or cooking army rations. Gradually the Rainbow Division began to find itself; slowly, with the budding of spring, it began to "feel its oats," and by the beginning of May it passed that famous point where it "could be pushed just so fur and no fu'ther," Fights just burst right out of it.
There was a beautiful little forest called the Bois de Chiens near Ancerviller. It was full of Boche. They had made an apparently impregnable position of it, filling it with networks of wire and concrete trenches and blockhouses concealing minewerfer, machine-guns and the deadly 77's. The whole thing was covered with dense forest and commanded the open level ground on three sides.
Into this stronghold, on May 2, French and American artillery poured a destructive fire. which continued until dusk of the next day. At that time the Third Battalion of the 166th Infantry, an Ohio regiment, penetrated the entire salient under command of Major Henderson, with virtually no losses. A "go-and-come raid," they called it. The raiders found the Forest of Oaks completely destroyed. Its trenches were filled, all works above ground leveled, wire entirely torn down, and the forest itself turned into almost a bare field.
Two mornings later. May 5, Lieut. Cassidy of the 165th led a party over and sneaked around behind a German outpost at Hameau d'Ancerviller. They jumped on the Germans, killed two and captured four. Sergeant O'Leary made one resisting German his own special prize. While O'Leary was killing him with a trench-knife, Lieut. Cassidy held up two others with his pistol. They brought the prisoners back across No-Man's-Land under heavy machine-gun fire. Lieut. Cassidy was made a captain before the war ended, and was twice wounded. Sergeant O'Leary was killed in battle on the Ourcq.
Three Alabama snipers brought on another mixed fight on May 12, when they went out in broad daylight to see if their new camouflage suits would camouflage. They lay in front of a dugout and when Germans began filing out they began firing as fast as they could load and pull. Almost immediately the Germans came rushing out in such great numbers that the Alabamians would have been overwhelmed if they hadn't started a retreat. Two got back safely ; the third was missing.
"Let's go get him I" said the Southerners, so a party of about a dozen went over the top. They found No-Man's-Land full of Germans waiting for them in the tall grass. Greatly outnumbered, the Alabamians exchanged shots with them for a few minutes, and more Germans came out, until there were more than a hundred. So the rescue party, too, retreated, while one man with an automatic rifle lay in a shell-hole holding the Germans back from the chase with a steady stream of bullets. And when the Alabamians got into their own trenches, instead of one man missing, there were two. The automatic rifleman hadn't come back.
Two snipers' private little hunting party bade fair now to become a pitched battle. The blood of the Alabama mountain men was up. Lieut.Breeding, who, they say, was a full-blooded Indian, gathered nearly a whole platoon and went out to wipe the Boches up, and bring back both the Americans. Now crawling, now dashing forward, whooping and yelling as they came, Breeding's men fell upon the Germans and routed them. Whenever they could they used the bayonet, and they killed seven Germans and wounded many more, without a single casualty to themselves.
And they brought back the automatic rifleman, but the missing sniper they never found.
In his place they brought one dead German, whom they hung over the wire as a challenge, guarding him constantly until the division came out leaving him there - a skeleton in rotted, bullet-torn field gray.
Thus the Rainbow again took the "quiet" out of the "quiet sector." The Germans retaliated with deluges of gas and with raids. On the night of May 26-27, they launched a projector attack on the Village Nègre, northeast of Badonviller.
Seven hundred gas-shells of large caliber descended all at once and without warning upon the Rainbow along a front of about four hundred meters. It caught the Iowa infantry by surprise and the high concentration of deadly gas killed and disabled two hundred and fifty-one officers and men. Simultaneously the Boches laid down an artillery barrage and attempted to raid the trenches, but were repulsed.
Two nights later they tried the same thing, but this time the Rainbow was ready. It had improved its gas discipline and its losses were only fifty-three officers and men.
Then came rumors of a great German offen sive in Lorraine. The bivouac of a battalion of storm troops was discovered on the Rainbow's front and promptly destroyed by artillery. Defensive works were strengthened and every night the entire command prepared to receive the attack, determined to beat it back. But it never came.
Another relief order arrived. Again the Rainbow Division's thoughts were directed backward
toward the quiet rest area, where it could browse around peacefully for a few weeks and sleep at night and get cleaned up.
The order was received at division headquarters at Baccarat on June 19. By June 21 the Rainbow was out of the trenches, leaving the 61st French Division and the 77th American National Army Division from New York to hold the Baccarat sector, and it was concentrated between Rambervillers and Charmes, ready to start again for Rolampont. It had been holding the line for three full months, and that record for continuous duty was neither broken nor approached by any other American division throughout the war. At last (thought everybody) the long-deferred rest was in sight. That, to repeat, was June 21.
On June 11 the Rainbow Division was entraining, not for Rolampont, but for another part of the front. The blood-red pen of war history was moving too fast for American soldiers to rest.


A compter du 31 mars 1818, la 42ème division sera affectée au secteur de Baccarat jusqu'au 21 juin.

 
Secteur d'Ancerviller - 2d bataillon du 165ème régiment d'infanterie - 25 avril 1918


Secteur d'Ancerviller - 2d bataillon du 165ème régiment d'infanterie - 26 avril 1918
 


CORPORAL WILLIAM FRANCIS GEHRING

Company A., 149th Machine gun Battalion

Corporal Gehring. son of Mr. and Mrs. John Gehring, 303 High Street, Hanover, Pennsylvania, was the first Hanover hero to sacrifice his life on the battlefields in France. He enlisted in the early days of the war, June 6, 1916, at Reading, Pa. He served seven months with the 1th Regiment. N. G. P. on the Mexican Border. After being mustered out his company was again mobilized and he was transferred to a Machine gun Battalion, Rainbow Division, and was sent to France soon after. Corporal Gehring was killed March 10, 1918, by shrapnel. His mother received a letter from Chaplain Halliday which reads in part as follows: "William was on duty in the trenches and an exploding shrapnel shell took its toll of his life. On March 11th, the funeral was held in a village back of the lines in the cemetery at Domjevin (Meurthe et Moselle), France. Full military honors were accorded to your son and the grave properly marked."

(York County and the World War - 1920)


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History of the 151st Field Artillery, Rainbow Division - 1926


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Rainbow at War - H.J. Reilly - 1936
 

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