Europe in Splinters: Battle of the Argonne Forest

By: Nathan Chandler

The Battle of the Argonne Forest happened during which war?

The Battle of the Argonne Forest occurred in 1918, during World War I. It is still considered one of the biggest battles ever fought.

Where did the battle take place?

The battle took place in France, along the Western Front, as Allied forces attempted to shatter a years-long stalemate between two immovable forces.

How long did the battle last?

At 47 days, the battle lasted for nearly two months, from September to November 1918. The Allies launched this attack as part of the Hundred Days Offensive.

What was the AEF?

The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was the United States Army in action on the Western Front. The U.S. poured hundreds of thousands of men into the front in the efforts of pushing back the German aggressors.

Who was the commander of the AEF?

John Pershing is one of the most famous generals in American history. He refused to mingle American troops with French and British units, instead maintaining the AEF as a United States venture.

Which American army was in the thick of the battle?

The First Army was the primary U.S. force involved at the Battle of the Argonne. Pershing was ordered to cut off the German 2nd Army in the hopes of pinning the Germans into an untenable situation.

When the U.S. Army first entered World War I in 1917, how many American troops were in uniform?

Only about 130,000 American troops were ready to fight in Europe in 1917. By the end of 1918, that number had exploded to nearly 4 million.

What was John Pershing's nickname?

Pershing was Black Jack, in part because of his unyielding rigidity and harshness as a commander. He often employed painful front assaults in his efforts to break German lines.

How many American soldiers were involved in the battle?

The Battle of the Argonne Forest required the services of 1.2 million American soldiers. In terms of troop numbers, it was one of the biggest attacks ever orchestrated by United States forces.

What was the Hindenburg Line?

During the winter of 1916-17, the Germans built the Hindenburg Line, a string of heavy fortifications meant to ward off Allied attacks.

The battle is often called the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. What was the offensive's primary objective?

The Allies hoped to capture Sedan, where a rail line was ferrying German supplies and troops. The Allies figured that without the rail line, the Germans would struggle to continue their efforts on the Western Front.

The attack turned out to be the biggest American offensive of the entire war.

The AEF committed more than 1.2 million men as part of the attack, alongside French and Belgium forces, making it the biggest single battle of the war. Their success was a death knell for the German war effort.

Which weapon made its first real combat debut during this battle?

The Browning Automatic Rifle became an iconic weapon during World War I, beginning with this battle. It was also heavily used in combat during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

What was the condition of many American units before the battle?

The U.S. was a newcomer to this European conflict. Many of the American troops had very little combat experience, a fact that showed in some of the skirmishes.

How many American troops were killed during the 47-day battle?

Nearly 27,000 American troops perished during this cataclysmic clash on the Western Front. Roughly 100,000 more were wounded.

When America entered in the war in 1917, how did Britain and Franch prefer to deploy U.S. troops?

The British and French forces saw U.S. troops as replenishments for their own armies. The Americans, however, had other plans, fighting as independent U.S. units alongside their Allied brethren.

What was the condition of German divisions prior to the start of the offensive?

After four years of fighting, some German units were at only half strength and struggling to fight. Others were still in pretty good shape and ready to put up a deadly front against the aggressors.

How many TOTAL German troops were captured by the end of the battle?

Both American and French forces managed to nab tens of thousands of German prisoners. Altogether, about 56,000 Germans wound up as prisoners of war.

How long was the Hindenburg Line?

The Hindenburg Line was about 90 miles long, made up of trenches, concrete fortifications, barbed wire and other horrors meant to slow Allied attacks.

How did the American units initiate the attack?

The Americans began an intense artillery attack meant to soften German defenses. Then, hundreds of tanks and many thousands of men moved forward.

Which army provided most of the heavy gear, such as tanks and artillery, that the Allies deployed during the battle?

The Eurpoean Allies committed most of the big machinery needed for the offensive. The Americans, in turn, provided more than 1 million troops that added greatly to Allied manpower.

After the battle began, how long did it take for American troops to penetrate the Hindenburg Line?

The Hindenburg Line was a formidable defensive position for the Germans. It took fresh (but inexperienced) American troops nearly three weeks to finally puncture the Line.

The Battle of the Argonne Forest was the most important World War I engagement involving U.S. forces.

The battle featured America's biggest and most important contribution to the war. Without U.S. intervention, the war might have ended in an ugly stalemate.

How many German troops were killed during the battle?

The Americans and Germans both lost about 28,000 troops to the battle's violence. The Germans, however, lost many times more men -- those who wound up prisoners of war.

By July 1918, how many U.S. troops were arriving in Europe every day?

The Americans went to extremes to contribute troops to the war effort, drafting and training men as quickly as possible. In the summer of 1918, 10,000 fresh troops arrived each day.

The Allies never did capture their primary objective, the rail hub at Sedan.

It took until November, but French forces finally managed to capture Sedan and its all-important rail hub. The Germans would quickly learn to bemoan the loss of this strategic hub.

How many artillery guns did the Americans have ready at the beginning of the offensive?

Gen. Pershing has about 4,000 artillery guns at his disposal. Most of them were manned by non-American Allied troops.

What role did Billy Mitchell play during the battle?

Gen. Billy Mitchell commanded all American warplanes during the attack. Mitchell was a huge advocate of air power for combat situations.

Who really won the battle?

After four years of stalemate on the Western Front, the Allies finally broke the backs of the German army. The offensive quickly snowballed into a vital Allied victory.

When did Germany sign an armistice to end the war?

It's no coincidence that the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, the same day that the Battle of the Argonne Forest ended -- the Allied attack forced the Germans to give up on the war.

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About This Quiz

Europe was battered and bruised by three years of war when the Americans finally decided to contribute combat units. How much do you know about the Battle of the Argonne Forest?

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