The St. Mihiel Offensive

Published: March 24th, 2020     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: Maarten Otte
Reviewed by: Dick Montgomery - IPMS# 14003
Company: Pen & Sword
ISBN #: 9781526734952
Other Publication Information: 298 pages, 8.5x5.5in.
Price: $22.95
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

The book in hand shows that it was published in January 2020 by Pen & Sword with an ISBN # 1526734958. Not being found on the Pen & Sword website, the Casemate website contained a page for this book with an ISBN # of 9781526734952.

Overview (as found on the website)

The St Mihiel Offensive, which took place between the 12th and 16th September 1918, was the first full scale attack that was under the direct command of the Americans, in the person of General J. Pershing. He combined his command of the First (at the time the only) American Army with that of Commander in Chief of the AEF, a tremendous burden.

The St Mihiel Salient had its origins in the early fighting of the war and had been stabilized by the end of 1914, although there was fierce fighting there in the first half of 1915 as both sides jostled for position. The high ground of Les Eparges became notorious for the intensity of the mine warfare that took place below it, extensive remains of which can be seen today.

The American attack (with the assistance of a French Corps) was an outstanding success and the Germans were forced into a rapid withdrawal to the Michel Line, a strongly defended position that formed the Hindenburg Line in this area. On the other hand, the success was in part assisted by the fact that the Germans intended to withdraw from the exposed position of the Salient back to this line, the only question being the timing of such a move. Historians argue about whether the move had actually begun or not, but the reality is that senior German officers knew that it was imminent and certainly some heavier artillery had already been pulled back.

Pershing's original hope had been to continue the offensive to seize Metz, crucial rail links, and economically vital areas to the German war effort. In fact any such attempt would have taken weeks of preparation, as even a casual examination of the Michel Line defenses still existing today would show.

It is probable that relatively easy success here led to overconfidence amongst some that the next offensive, the Meuse-Argonne - to the north and scheduled to begin on the 26th, would have a similar outcome. If so they were in for a rude awakening.

This book is profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs and numerous maps, the narrative supplemented by a number of firsthand accounts. The whole is supported by several walking and car tours.

This is the latest in a series of Battleground books by Maarten Otte on the American Expeditionary Forces, with several more in preparation.

About the Author

Maarten Otte is a long-time resident of the Argonne. Growing up in the Netherlands with a fascination with the Great War, particularly the role of the United States. He has published books on Nantillois in 1918 and on US Medal of Honor winners.

A Closer Look

  • Chapter 1 - A fascinating and well written account of how the St. Mihiel salient came to be. The nine pages contained in this chapter feature summaries of activities in and around the salient. Starting in September 1914 the creation of the salient is explained. The author points out that on September 15, 1914 the German retreat from this area stalled and both armies "adapted to the new static condition". The author then summarizes actions and issues involving the salient in 1915 and 1916. 1916 was characterized by the type of fighting associated with WWI, an effort to annihilate the opponent in massive numbers and in appalling conditions. The author describes how Ludendorff altered German strategy by the creation of withdrawal positions to which the German army could be withdrawn, shortening the front and freeing up to a dozen divisions for relocation. The author describes how, in 1917-1918, a defensive line, the Mihiel Zone, was under construction at the German base of the salient, to allow for a German withdrawal from the salient to a more secure and defensible position.
  • Chapter 2 - In these 18 pages, accompanied by a series of maps and black & white photographs of some of the commanding Officers, the author describes how in August of 1918 the Americans were successful in their St. Mihiel offensive. The author spends some time describing the American strategy and logistical status and then contrasts those numbers and plans to that of the German forces.
  • Chapter 3 - In 27 pages the author follows the actions involving the IV Corps. In a manner of speaking, it is a diary of the combat that took place or significant issues that arose. It is following the summary of the actions of the IV Corps that a very interesting and very significant concept is introduced to the reader. On page 55 the author provides a "Car Tour" dialogue. For those who can visit this area of the salient and who have a car, the book provides a "drive-thru" guide. An interesting thought came to mind at this point. I thought it might be interesting to take a Virtual Tour of the region using the author's instructions and directions via Google Maps. It was an easy procedure to locate the points of interest that the author mentioned and to virtually "drive" from one point to another.
  • Chapter 4 - Focus on 1 Corps, with a summary of action, with two Car Tours and a Walking Tour. (Please note that while Virtual Tours of the driving tours can be duplicated on Google Maps, the walking tours are a different matter.
  • Chapter 5 - Focus on V Corps, with a summary of action, with one Car Tour and one walking tour
  • Chapter 6 - The Michel Line, with a Background and a summary history and one Car Tour.
  • Chapter 7 - The All-American Tour, with one Car Tour of US Monuments and Memorials

Summary

This is a fascinating book, well written in a clear and concise manner. The text is supported with many black & white images of the places, people, weapons, and results of combat to the geography of towns and villages. I found the descriptions of the Car Tours and Walking Tours very entertaining, and when I could couple the text with a Virtual Tour on Google Maps the result was quite a number of hours with the computer and book being the center of attention. This book is highly recommended for the reasons stated in this paragraph.

  • Back cover
    Back cover
  • Chapel in book
    Chapel in book
  • Chapel on Google
    Chapel on Google
  • First-Aid
    First-Aid
  • St. Mihiel Cemetery virtual tour map
    St. Mihiel Cemetery virtual tour map

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