September, 1918: Battle of St. Mihiel Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

In September, 1918, American forces attacked the salient at St. Mihiel. General John J. Pershing’s intent was to flatten the salient and seize a strategic railroad. The Germans, led by Erich Ludendorff, had held St. Mihiel since 1914 but could no longer afford to occupy the whole perimeter. On September 10, they began to withdraw, just as the Americans and French attacked nine depleted German divisions with 3,000 artillery pieces and 267 tanks. Although the Germans intended to withdraw, the speed of the American attack and the use of phosgene gas resulted in the capture of 13,000 prisoners and 200 guns. The offensive used nearly 1,500 aircraft under the command of Colonel Billy Mitchell, the largest concentration of military aircraft up to that date.

In September, 1918, American forces attacked the salient at St. Mihiel. General John J. Pershing’s intent was to flatten the salient and seize a strategic railroad. The Germans, led by Erich Ludendorff, had held St. Mihiel since 1914 but could no longer afford to occupy the whole perimeter. On September 10, they began to withdraw, just as the Americans and French attacked nine depleted German divisions with 3,000 artillery pieces and 267 tanks. Although the Germans intended to withdraw, the speed of the American attack and the use of phosgene gas resulted in the capture of 13,000 prisoners and 200 guns. The offensive used nearly 1,500 aircraft under the command of Colonel Billy Mitchell, the largest concentration of military aircraft up to that date.

The Americans gained access to a new railroad line but suffered 8,000 casualties in the process. The salient was cleared and the Americans received recognition as a fighting force.

An American army officer tests a field telephone abandoned by the Germans during their retreat from St. Mihiel in September, 1918. (National Archives)

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