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Report to the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3
August 16, 1918 [Chaumont], France
Offensive operation to reduce the ST. MIHIEL SALIENT
and carry our line to include the heights south of GORZE.
1. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM.
Such an operation involves the combination of three separate minor operations:
(a) An attack on the southern face of the salient through THIAUCOURT.
(b) An attack on the northern face of the salient through FRESNES.
(c) An attack northward along the heights of the east bank of the MOSELLE.
It is intended in this paper merely to discuss the question of the number of divisions necessary and the general character of each of these three operations.
The penetration to a line including the heights south of GORZE has been imposed as the desired result to be obtained.
2. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS.
The attacks against the south and west face of the salient must be coordinated so that they effectively support each other and converge on a selected point. Each involves a penetration of approximately 20 kilometers.
The attack north along the east bank of the MOSELLE is necessary in order to prevent the enfilading of the right flank of the proposed new line along the heights south of GORZE. It involves an advance of about 8 kilometers.
. . . An operation involving a deep penetration with a limited number of divisions through a very strong defensive organization where the enemy has means of communication which will permit him to rapidly bring up his available reserves, requires that the divisions making the initial rupture of the first and second position should continue on to the final objectives without allowing the enemy time to deploy machine gun detachments and bring up reserves. In this instance the threat of the German divisions cut off in the salient by the pinching out operation must be met by flank guards heavily reinforced with machine guns, and by the reserve divisions. The enemy divisions so cut off will be demoralized by the heavy gas neutralization fire which should be directed on them and by the feeling of having been separated from their own forces. They will be much scattered at the time of the attack and it should not be possible for them to attempt any coordinated action against the rear of our advancing divisions until too late.
3. OPERATION THROUGH THIAUCOURT.
A study of an advance through THIAUCOURT to the heights north of the RUPT de MAD has already been made. It was based on a convergent advance on THIAUCOURT from the vicinity of REGNIEVILLE and LAHAYVILLE respectively, the heights west of the MOSELLE and south of PRENY being taken by out-flanking maneuvers. Five divisions were required for the main assault, 1 division in the center was to be employed with a partial penetration and cleaning up mission eventually to form as a reserve, and 2 other divisions were in immediate reserve, i.e.: 8 in all. 2 Army Reserve divisions were to be available for use in emergency or for relief.
With the new objective in view the plan for a convergent attack on THIAUCOURT ceases to be satisfactory as it would not give a proper direction to the force of the attack. The entire progression should be northeast, except that the right division would have to execute a series of turning movements to clean up the heights south of PRENY.
The left of this advance should come in contact with the right of the advance from FRESNES between SPONVILLE and LACHAUSSEE. The total front of the final objective for the THIAUCOURT operation would, therefore, be about 17 kilometers. To penetrate this front 5 divisions will be required plus 1 division for turning and cleaning up the defenses immediately west of the MOSELLE and a portion of one division for containing and cleaning up the region of BOIS de MONT MARE and BOIS du BEAU VALLON. In addition 2 reserve divisions should be available.
6 divisions for assault.
1 division for cleaning up and reserve.
2 divisions for reserve.
4. OPERATION THROUGH FRESNES.
The limits of the final objective of this operation have already been assumed, the right between SPONVILLE and LACHAUSSEE and the left at BLANZEE. The extensive wooded south of ETAIN is the critical feature of the terrain. It will probably be difficult to conquer and will necessitate considerable maneuvering. It must be taken as otherwise it would afford the enemy a covered approach from which to deliver a counter attack across our line of communications. The remainder of the terrain is more or less flat and dotted with organized villages. It should be possible for tanks. The heights south of LES EPARGES permit the enemy to overlook any operation in the plain to the northeast, but possible artillery activity from this quarter can be sufficiently neutralized by our artillery enfilading the ridge from emplacements within the local salient near LES EPARGES.
To reach the right of the final objective requires an advance of approximately 14 kilometers. The total front of the final objective is 25 kilometers. Once the woods on the left of this line are carried they can be held with a reasonably light force. The progression across the plain of the WOEVRE, if well assisted by tanks, should not prove difficult if the villages are passed by and taken from the rear. It is estimated that a minimum of 4 divisions would be required for the advance into the plain, 1 division for the occupation of the forest west of BRAQUIS and 1 division as a reserve.
Total—6 divisions, minimum force.
5. OPERATION EAST OF THE MOSELLE.
To hold the heights south of GORZE without suffering severe losses from enfilading artillery fire and to deprive the enemy of observation points which would enable him to overlook the ravine of the RUPT de MAD from the MOSELLE to beyond ONVILLE, necessitates the conquest of the heights of the east bank of the MOSELLE from our present line north of Hill 369, two kilometers north of ARRY.
To hold safely these heights, it will be necessary to gain a foot hold in the low ground to the east. The terrain involved is difficult, highly organized and defended by the garrison of METZ. There is limited room in which to maneuver. Tanks can not be utilized, except possibly in a small portion of the low ground. Therefore, it would be necessary to precede the infantry advance by at least 1 day of observed artillery fire of destruction.
There is not room for the employment of more than 2 divisions. The heights would probably have to be carried by direct attack along the crests. It is estimated that 2 divisions will be required for this operation.
Operation through THIAUCOURT — 9 divisions.
Operation through FRESNES — 6 divisions.
Operation east of the MOSELLE — 2 divisions.
Total………… …17 divisions.
The FRESNES and THIAUCOURT attacks should be launched simultaneously and with the minimum of preliminary artillery preparation.
The operation east of the MOSELLE should commence with violent artillery fire of destruction, starting at the H hour of the attacks west of the MOSELLE. This fire should continue for approximately 24 hours. The first stage of the infantry advance might be carried out at the end of 12 hours, the final advance being started at the end of the 24 hours. . . .1
Document Copy Text Source: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I) (RG 120), Records of General Headquarters (GHQ), Operations Division Reports (G-3), National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.
Document Format: Typed report.
1. The attached map and the paragraph describing the map coordinates of the final objective and direction of advance have been omitted.
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. 152-155.