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To Major General Edward W. Nichols
June 14, 1918 [Tartigny], France
My dear General Nichols:
I just learnt something a few minutes ago which I think will be of great interest to you. On May 28th troops of our Army made their first offensive operation, advancing on a front of over 2 kilometers and penetrating the enemies line for over a kilometer—they captured Cantigny, near Montdidier. I had been dealing with some men’s names who were involved in the fighting, but not until a moment ago did I discover how creditable a part the V.M.I. played in the performance.
One company of Engineers participated in the attack. It lost 2 officers killed and 2 wounded and suffered heavy casualties among the men—but it stuck to its difficult job beautifully. It was commanded by Smith,1 Class of 1915.
One battalion of infantry had to reinforce the line with some companies in broad daylight, under a terrific bombardment of very heavy artillery and a deadly machine gun fire. It also had to send companies forward under similar conditions and during a counter attack to carry up ammunition. Its battalion commander, fearing some difficulty about direction or delay due to the violent hostile fire, personally led some companies forward and saw them properly located in place. This was Creswell2 of 1914, I think. He was recently promoted major for previous good work and also was commended for personally directing the work of digging jumping off trenches during the two nights before the attack when the hostile artillery was raising hell over the place. The machine gun company in Creswell’s battalion is commanded by Cammer of 1915,3 who is making a fine record.
As a last interest of the V.M.I. in the first attack, it happened to be my good fortune to have the opportunity of drafting the plans and writing the orders for the operation. This last statement is out of place among the descriptions I have given you of how some of our men fought, and it is for your private ear alone. It would ruin me to be making such a claim.
Al Tucker went in with his company to relieve the troops after the cessation of the counterattacks, and was wounded by a bursting shell. I think he will be all right very soon. He has been making a fine record.4
I feel sure you will be glad to know of the honorable part some of your men played in the hard fighting around Cantigny.
This is a very crude letter, but I only have a few moments and I feel sure you will understand the pencil and the disjointed English.
Always Sincerely respectfully yours,
G. C. Marshall, Jr.
Document Copy Text Source: VMI Collection, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.
Document Format: Handwritten letter signed.
1. Captain Horace L. Smith, Jr.
2. Major Harry I. T. Creswell, class of 1913.
3. Lieutenant Claude R. Cammer.
4. Albert S. J. Tucker, a Lexington, Virginia, native, was temporarily with the First Division’s Sixteenth Infantry as captain of Company G.
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. 142-143.