The Rainbow Division in the Great War, 1917-1919

By James J. Cooke | Go to book overview

The instructions issued on 15 February left nothing to interpretation, stating,

The French commanders have been requested to require of you and your subordinates the actual preparation of order, but IN NO CASE [ Liggett's emphasis] will you or your brigade commanders give tactical orders or instructions DIRECT while serving with the French with whom rests in its entirity the responsibility for the tactical command.

Infantry regimental commanders were also informed that they would not assume any tactical authority until eight days had passed, corresponding to a full cycle of a battalion in the reserve, support, and forward trenches. 75

Why was this done when Pershing had made so much of the Americans' being a separate and distinct entity on the Western Front? The first response is the obvious one: The French had over three years' experience in lethal trench warfare. Probably an equally valid reason, if not more important, was that Pershing knew that men like Menoher, MacArthur, and others wanted a chance to prove themselves as competent combat leaders. For a Regular, success in this Great War--"the war to end all wars," as President Wilson had put it--would mean decoration, promotion, and higher command. The same would be true of a National Guard officer. Both Regular Army and National Guard officers had sought commissions and command, knowing full well that it could lead to mortal combat at some time. These men were not shrinking violets by any stretch of the imagination, and Pershing and Liggett, who were themselves possessed of strong, even overbearing personalities, knew what motivated officers.

For the troops, however, the movement to Lunéville was just another shift from one uncomfortable situation to another. Privates, corporals, sergeants, and even lieutenants were less concerned with going to Blois than were the colonels or generals. Their concerns were very basic. What would life be like in the trenches? And, more important, could they survive in that very dangerous world? They had not faced the Germans before, but there seemed to be no mistaken idea that the job would be easy. With questions unanswered, the Rainbow prepared to leave Rolampont for a new phase in its odyssey on the Western Front.


NOTES
1.
Van Dolsen to his family, no place, 28 November 1917, in the W. W. van Dolsen Papers, U. S. Army Military History Institute Archives, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, 42nd Division AEF Collection (hereinafter, MHIA). Note: All correspondence from France was censored by an officer. The location of troops was not to be mentioned. Most soldiers simply wrote "somewhere in France." Consequently, unless specifically noted, all letters will be noted as np.
2.
Ogden to his wife, np, 5 December 1917, in Ogden letters, ibid.
3.
Martin J. Hogan, The Shamrock Battalion of the Rainbow: A Story of the Fighting 69th ( New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1919), 28-29.
4.
A. Churchill Ettinger (ed.), Albert Ettinger, A Doughboy with the Fighting69th

-48-

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The Rainbow Division in the Great War, 1917-1919
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Maps ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • INTRODUCTION BIRTH OF THE RAINBOW 1
  • 1 - From Camp Mills to France 7
  • Notes 24
  • 2 - Training for the Fight: Rolampont 29
  • Notes 48
  • 3 - In the Trenches at Lunéville 53
  • Notes 71
  • 4 - From Baccarat to Champagne 75
  • Notes 94
  • From Champagne to the Marne 97
  • Notes 113
  • 6 - Crossing the Ourcq River 117
  • Notes 135
  • 7 - The St. Mihiel Offensive 139
  • Notes 159
  • 8 - The Meuse-Argonne Campaign 163
  • Notes 182
  • 9 - From Sedan to Belgium and Luxembourg 187
  • Notes 205
  • 10 - Rainbow on the Rhine 209
  • Notes 228
  • 11 - The End of the Rainbow 233
  • Notes 245
  • APPENDIX A ORGANIZATION OF THE 42ND DIVISION, 1917 247
  • APPENDIX B EQUIPMENT TAKEN INTO TRENCHES, FEBRUARY 1918 251
  • Bibliography 253
  • Index 261
  • About the Author 272
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