St. Mihiel, Battle of 1918

St. Mihiel, Battle of (1918)


(in Russian, the St. Mihiel Operation), fought from September 12 to 15 by the American First Army under the command of General J. Pershing during the concluding campaign of World War I. The aim of the offensive was to eliminate the St. Mihiel salient, which had formed as early as September 1914 during an attempt by the German troops to break through the French front south of Verdun.

According to the plan of the operation, the American First Army (12 divisions, including two French; 2,900 guns; 1,100 aircraft; and 273 tanks) was to deliver two strikes on converging axes at the base of the salient and to encircle the German troops positioned at the salient (six weakened divisions, 560 guns, and about 200 aircraft), who were part of General M. von Gallwitz’ army group. The German command, which learned about the preparation for the St. Mihiel Operation, withdrew its troops on September 11 to a previously prepared rear position. At 1 A.M. on September 12 the Allies launched an artillery barrage along the entire 64-km front of Haudiomont-St. Mihiel-Norrois. At five o’clock, supported by tanks, they passed to the offensive against the southern part of the salient (St. Mihiel-Norrois) and at eight o’clock against the western part (Haudiomont-St. Mihiel). The German troops, overtaken during their withdrawal, offered weak resistance. On September 14 and 15 the American and French troops, who had a superiority of almost seven to one, reached the enemy’s rear position on the Norrois-Hau-diomont line and halted the offensive.

As a result of the battle of St. Mihiel, the salient was eliminated and the front line shortened by 24 km. The battle of St. Mihiel was an independent operation of the American Army, whose command was insufficiently flexible. As a result, coordination between infantry, tanks, and aircraft was disrupted, and the enemy was not encircled. The German troops lost 16,000 men in prisoners alone and 443 guns. The Americans lost about 7,000 men in killed and wounded.