The USA Enters the War. #Folkestone

There is a view that the Americans arrived just in time for the victory parades that followed the First World War, and there is no need to commemorate their arrival this side of the pond. This is not so.

On the 7th May 1915, the Lusitania is sunk by the U-20. 1198 passengers including 139 Americans drown. Two days later the New York Times reports President Wilson sees

On the 7th May 1915, the Lusitania is sunk by the U-20. 1198 passengers including 139 Americans drown. Two days later the New York Times reports President Wilson sees the need of firm and deliberate action.  A day after President Wilson announces that “There is such a thing as a nation being so right that it does not need to convince others by iy force that it is right.” American citizens in increasing numbers join the Canadian army. 24th March 1916 the SS Sussex was crossing the English Channel from Folkestone to Dieppe when she was torpedoed and badly damaged. Some of the Americans on her were injured in the attack. After America protested Germany suspended it’s intensive U-boat campaign.

Americans also volunteered to fly fighter aircraft for France. and on the 20th April 1916, the Escadrille Americaine goes into action. Later on in the war, the squadron changed its name to the Lafayette Escadrille. Their Mess song was

“So stand by your glasses steady.                                                                                                                   The world is a web of lies.                                                                                                                                Then here’s to the dead already,                                                                                                                   And hurrah for the next man that dies.”

Perhaps the most famous American Aces are Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker 26 kills, Second Lieutenant Frank Luke Jnr. 21 Kills, Major Raoul Lufberry 17 kills, First Lieutenant George A Vaughn Jnr 13 Kills, Captain Field E. Kindley 12 kills, First Lieutenant David E Putman   12 kills, Captain Elliot W springs 12 kills, Major Reed G Landis 10 kills and, Captain Jacques Michael Swaab also with 10 kills.

On the 18th December, President Wilson asks the belligerents to agree to a post-war League of Nations.  Almost a month later on the 10th January 1917, the Allies show president Wilson their peace terms. Wilson deems them too harsh. 12 days later Wilson pleads for “Peace Without Victory.”, the Germans reject them. February 1st, 1917 the Kaiser orders the German U-boats to “Sink on sight.”. Two days later America breaks off diplomatic relations with Imperial Germany. On the 25th the RMS Laconia is torpedoed 2 Americans are killed.     The 1st of March see the publication of the Zimmerman Telegram which promised German support for Mexico and an alliance with her if America entered the war and Mexico sided with Germany.

24 days later President Wilson decides on war. The  Steam Ship Aztec is sunk on the 1st April 28 Americans are killed. Wilson calls on congress to declare war on the 3rd April  and a day after America joins the Allies as an “Associate Power.” In June the first American troops arrive in Europe.

11th June No12 US Base Hospital marches down Slope Road in Folkestone and crosses to France. They are one of the few Units from any nation known to have marched down what is now known as The Road of Remembrance in Folkestone. (Source,,http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/adminamerexp/chapter24.html)  They are followed by U.S. General “Black” Jack Pershing on the 13th. Shortly after their arrival in France, on the 4th July, Gen. Pershing’s aide Colonel Charles Stanton made the now famous remark “Nous voila Lafayette”. (Lafayette we are here). At the end of June Mr Mowry of the American Boiling’s Aronautical Commission and 63 men from the Civilian Motor Mechanics Group crossed from Folkestone to France. They are in Europe to study British and French aircraft production techniques. (Source, Gorrell’s History AEF Air Service Sheet 8 History of Bolling’s Mechanics).

On the 8th August the U.S. 11th Engineers Regiment, a regiment raised from railway workers crossed to France from Folkestone. They were sent over to help maintain the railways in northern France. Two soldiers from this regiment, Sergeant Matthew Calderwood and Private William Branigan, became the first American Army casualties on the Western Front in the First World War when they were wounded by shell fire on the 5th September 1917.  (Source,  http://www.webmatters.net/france/ww1_cambrai_us.htm)

The First American Division is established on the western Front on the 21st October 1917. 8th January 1918 president Wilson’s peace terms to Germany include Independence for Poland, restoration of Belgium independence, the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France and the formation of the League of Nations. Theodore H Roosevelt in November 1918 described the League of Nations as “A product of men who want everyone to float to heaven on a sloppy sea of universal mush”.

The American Transport ship Tuscania is sunk on the 5th February 1918 and 210 Americans drown.

The Battle of Belleau Wood took place 6th June-26th June this was the first time the U.S Marine Corps went into action in the war. The 4th Brigade attacked over open ground towards the woods capturing and losing the woods over and over before they finally managed to secure the woods. During one of the German counter attacks it was suggested that the marines should retreat, marine Captain Lloyd Williams replied “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.” The U.S. lost 9.500 dead during the battle and the Germans took another 1,600 American prisoners.  Belleau Wood is now known as Bois de Brigade de Marine in honour of the United State Marine Corps.

From the French paper “le Matin Paris”  13th September 1918 The entry into the line of the magnificent American Army must be considered an essential factor in the operation of tomorrow.”

17th September 1918, “America rejects Austrian Peace proposal”, and “Worry Whitens the hair of the Kaiser” both from the Detroit Free press.

23rd September-3rd October The Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  Fifteen American Divisions alongside twenty-two French divisions, it should be noted that an American Division was far larger than its British or French counterpart, took part.  The Argonne region is not the easiest to campaign through and the American Army lacked experience progress was slow and only fifteen miles were taken. The offensive did tie down thirty-six german divisions. during this offensive Private Alvin York was awarded both the US  Medal of Honor and the French Croix de Guerre for killing twenty Germans and capturing another hundred and thirty-two single-handedly.

While this blog is not or intended to be a history of American involvement in the FWW, There are many events not included, hopefully, it does show there was more to US involvement than the Victory parades.

On the 11th November 1918 at 10:59 am. Henry Gunther an American soldier became the last soldier from all the warring nations to be killed in action on the Western Front during the Great War.

 

 

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