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Editorial Note on Cantigny Battle
May 27-28, 1918
Cantigny was the first American offensive. It had been ordered primarily to improve British and French morale. For the First Division to have withdrawn in the face of German counterattacks would have been a serious blow to American prestige and morale. For that reason, the Germans launched repeated and intense assaults on the new line. Pershing reported to the army chief of staff and the secretary of war that the division’s attack had been “well planned and splendidly executed. . . . It is my firm conviction that our troops are the best in Europe and our staffs are the equals of any.” (Pershing to March and Baker, June 1, 1918, NA/RG 120 [GHQ, Command File].)
But the small victory was overshadowed by the Third Battle of the Aisne which began on May 27. To replace French troops sent to meet the new threat, the First Division stretched its front. On June 4, division headquarters moved to the Chateau de Tartigny. Here, Marshall noted, the staff was “established in comparative luxury.” They could even sleep above ground. Meanwhile, they planned to meet a German assault expected in about one week. (Memoirs, pp. 101-3.)
Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 139-140.