Rare letter describing battlefield events during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the principal engagement of the AEF during World War I.
Somewhere in France November 6,1918
...in the worst place I ever have seen...the boche has kept us busy.
I presently went into the lines again remained twelve days the longest kind of front line duty I have had. Two nights ago we were relieved and now we are back about three miles from the lines. All last night and today the boche have fired on us continuously...we have worn__ gas mask since last night..While on the line it was also totally impossible to sleep quarters were so close so much noise etc so forth everybody suffered for lack of sleep.
Before occupying the lines the sector Was very noisy and dangerous. Many times our troops attempted to capture a certain wood that the Germans evidently didn’t want us to have. He offered very stubborn resistance and many Americans were killed in the attempt therefore it caused continuous artillery fire and every noise he heard he cut loose his machine gun. It was wicked...
...We suffered the thickest barrage I was ever in. It was terrible. I believe more fellows missed being killed that day than any on record. One man was blown three different times in the air and never received a blow. It was just a miracle...
Love to ---- Joe Saunders
Joseph B. Saunders (68479) was a Corporal in G Company 103rd Infantry, when it was stationed at Camp Devens MA, prior to going overseas. His brother John was a 1st Class Private in that unit.
4 pages. Folded, small creases. Writing bit hard to read.
This, was a most difficult sector; in a sense it was the hinge for the entire Meuse-Argonne offensive and one of the last positions to fall. From Bois Belleu, on the left, down to Bois de Ville, on the right, the enemy was holding strongly in an endeavor to check the turning movement which was being developed to the north. When this regiment took over, it occupied old German positions which had previously fallen, and which were in a bad state of repair. The terrain was most difficult; hills, ravines, woods, badly shot up, to be sure, presented a problem of organization not only for the holding of the lines, but for the preparation of the attack to follow, such as we had never· met before. Our artillery had moved up close, with the result that there were no positions for support and reserve troops which gave satisfactory shelter and protection. The batteries were constantly gassed and shelled, and from the moment of the regiment's arrival in the area, it was subjected until to the very end to severe artillery fire. It must be borne in mind that along the entire front, not only of this division but to our left, attacks were being made every day to weaken the enemy lines, and take away from him the commanding positions which he held. The 102nd Infantry had suffered particularly heavily during these days. By the first of November the situation to the north having developed favorably, it became a question of a very few days, if not of hours, before the thrust would be made from our own positions to break through on the drive towards Azannes. There lay to our front the strong positions east of Bois d'Haumont, Bois De Caures, Bois de Ville, La Wavrille, and Herberbois. On the left Belleu Bois had put up a stubborn resistance and continued to make our position a most uncomfortable one; but reports from the north gave strength to the belief that the enemy would have to withdraw very shortly.
History of the 103rd Infantry - Frank Hume
On 13 April 1917, elements of the 1st New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry were merged into the 2nd Maine to create the 103rd Infantry Regiment. The new regiment was placed in the 52nd Infantry Brigade as part of the 26th Infantry Division, the "Yankee Division." The regiment served on the Western Front and was one of the first National Guard units in combat during the war. The 103rd served in the Champagne-Marne campaign where they had their first real taste of fighting, and went on to fight gallantly in the Aisne-Marne. The bloodied New Englanders continued the fight at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, and in the momentous Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest and bloodiest operation of the war for the American Expeditionary Forces.
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, also known as the Maas-Argonne Offensive and the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a major part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire Western Front. It was fought from 26 September 1918, until the Armistice of 11 November 1918, a total of 47 days. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest in United States military history, involving 1.2 million American soldiers, and was one of a series of Allied attacks known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which brought the war to an end. The battle cost 28,000 German lives and 26,277 American lives, making it the largest and bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), which was commanded by General John J. Pershing, and the bloodiest battle in American history. American losses were exacerbated by the inexperience of many of the troops and tactics used during the early phases of the operation. The Meuse-Argonne was the principal engagement of the AEF during World War I.