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Editorial Note on Cantigny Operation Plans
Marshall’s transfer to General Headquarters at Chaumont was delayed longer than anticipated by the German spring offensive of 1918. On March 20, Marshall left Menil-la-Tour under orders to report to the American General Staff College at Langres, where he was to deliver a series of lectures on the practical administration of the First Division. The next day, March 21, the first of the five great German attacks of 1918 was launched against the British. Marshall had to pick up the classroom slack left by hurriedly departing British instructors. He wrote in his Memoirs (p. 76) that there “was not much time for personal thoughts with this variety of new duties to be assimilated, but I did have a feeling of great depression over being separated from the First Division just as the active fighting began.“
On March 29, Marshall was ordered back to the division to help prepare for the move to the front, somewhere in Picardy. By April 5 the division was on the move. Two days later its headquarters was established at Chaumont-en-Vexin. Training began at once to assimilate the lessons taught by the German offensive. Eleven days later the division was moving again, replacing two French divisions in the Cantigny Sector by April 26. The First Division’s command post was located in the wine cellar of a small chateau at Mesnil-St. Firmin, near the apex of the salient the first German drive had put into the French lines.
The division worked furiously on preparations against the expected renewal of the German attack around mid-May. The operations section planned a counterattack. Meanwhile, both sides deluged their enemies with continuous shellfire. When the expected attack did not materialize—the Germans were then preparing to strike fifty miles to the east—the First Division began to plan its own attack against the village of Cantigny.
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), p.136.