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3rd Infantry at the Meuse Argonne

The 3rd Infantry Division (3rd ID) had held at the 2nd Battle of the Marne and blunted the German offensive.   A blunted German Army was not a defeated Army.   The German High Command could see the impact the Americans were having as the Allies went on the offensive and feared the writing was on the wall.  The 3rd ID was now a mix of veterans and green, basically untrained troops, men from urban and rural backrounds.  In the mix were also a few cowards, but most men were just trying to do their duty and not screw up; there were some glory hounds too.  Newby officers were combined with battle experienced regular Army NCOs.  One and all were thrown into the Meuse Argonne meat grinder.

Unlike the Second Battle of Marne which was geographically expansive, the Meuse Argonne was a concentrated battlefield.  Perhaps 2000 feet were gained over a front that spanned maybe 2500 feet.  Here is a modern map.

Combined arms as it became practiced during the Second World War was more of dream than a reality.  The cavalry, tanks, were new and rare and somewhat fragile.  Coordination between those in the air and those on the ground was non-existent.  What was left was coordination between artillery, machine gun units and infantry units.  Grandpop was a Corporal, a junior NCO, and field wireman, which meant no matter what else was happening, he was suppose to keep communications between the artillery, a few thousand feet to the rear, and the Infantry on the bloody point of spear open.

To give one an idea of the danger involved, Grandpop was assigned to a French Foreign Legion unit, along with 20other Americans, before the 3rd ID landed in France.  Out of the 15, Grandpop was 1 of 3 to survive the training.

When I was maybe 16 years old, my family was on a tour of Washington.  My father was perusing through a book in the gift shop when he stumbled upon a book that showed a picture of his father, Grandpop, in a trench in France.  It turns out that the picture is fairly famous.  After visiting this site, I am fairly confident that the picture was taken here.   I am not trying to do for World War I what  Bill Frassanito, did for for the Civil War, but a few points:

  • There are possibly two images in the same area.  It’s easier to take a photograph from two different angles than it is to take it it from two entirely different locations.
  • In different versions of Grandpop’s photo, the trees are similarly sparse like they are behind the Madeline Farm.
  • From my eye, the approximate location from which the picture of the Madeline Farm was taken, just about corresponds with a natural swell in the earth that ID’d as the probable location before I saw the second picture.

By the Grandpop is second from the foreground,

WWI US Argonne

Here is me pointing out the likely location of the trench:


We really couldn’t explore the battlefield itself as it was a farmer’s wheat field.  So, I began poking around the wood line behind the wheatfield.  I discovered an old fighting position, a foxhole.  It’s a little difficult to see in a photograph, (the pile of sticks at center), but obvious to the naked eye it it is pretty obvious:


Madeline Farm was not visible from this position, because of the small hill where I estimated that the trench would have been eventually placed.   Here is a “scoped” view from the foxhole of the left-hand portion of the treeline:


The 3rd ID was “just another division”in the Meuse Argonne.  The price they paid in blood, was also typical.

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