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LEADING FACTS OF AMERICAN HISTORY
Where our Men fought in the Great War (see Map opposite). The first highly important battle we took part in (July, 1918) was fought to save Paris. The Germans had reached the ancient town of Château-Thierry on the River Marne. They had crossed the river and were only forty miles from the capital of France.
The French force was far larger than ours, yet we had more than twice as many men as the Union army had at the battle of Gettysburg (§ 343)
The combined French and American forces drove the Germans back. They retreated slowly, fighting all the time, but were gradually pushed farther and farther away, and Paris was saved.
In September General Pershing moved forward with an "all-American army," to which he joined a limited French force. Our men won a sweeping victory which cleared the Germans out of the town of St. Mihiel on the River Meuse.
We captured that place in order to open the way along the banks of the Meuse to the strongly fortified city. of Verdun on that river. Northwest of that city we attacked the enemy and smashed through his first line, twenty miles in width.
The Crown Prince, the eldest son of the Kaiser, had long been pounding at the Verdun forts. He boasted that his armies would make Verdun their gateway to the heart of France. But the sturdy French patriots who defended the city shouted, "They shall not pass!" and the Germans who tried to jam through found that it was not a gateway, but a graveyard.
Pershing's American army continued to advance northward along the banks of the Meuse and through that part of France called the Argonne. It is a region nearly as big as the state of Rhode Island. The eastern side of it has rocky hills a thousand feet high, and on the west there are miles of dense forests in which it is difficult to move about. The Germans had planted nests of machine guns among the trees and surrounded them with barbed-wire entanglements which they defied the "Yanks" to get through.
But our boys clambered up the hills, picked their way through the thick woods, and broke down the entanglements. They went on fighting desperately in this manner not simply for days but for weeks. Finally they "squeezed out" the last German. It was a wonderful piece of work.
When the ugly job was over, Pershing's army started along the banks of the Meuse again, on its last great expedition -- that was, to recover the French city of Sedan, which had fallen into German hands.
The enemy was determined not to give it up, because a railway from the German city of Metz ran through it, bringing immense supplies of food and ammunition for his army. On November 6-7, 1918, we drove the Germans out and cut off all these supplies.
During the whole of this time -- from July to November -- British, French, and American troops had been busy farther west, hammering, pushing, and driving the enemy day and night. The Germans saw that the end was coming. The victory at Sedan marked that end, and a few days later, November 11, they surrendered.
Nearly a year afterward (September, 1919) the French Commander in Chief bade General Pershing farewell. He spoke with deep feeling of what the American army -- living or dead -- had done for France. Clasping the General's hand he said, "We shall never forget their deeds or their graves."
WHERE OUR MEN FOUGHT IN THE GREAT WAR
Château-Thierry (shah-toe'tee-er'y). Marne (marn). St. Mihiel (san me-yel'). Meuse (muze).
Verdun (ver-dun'). Argonne (ar-gon'). Sedan (se-dan'). Metz (mets).