WASHINGTON D.C. – The largest battle ever in the history of the U.S. military involved well over a million people, almost a thousand aircraft, and 400 tanks.
These troops attacked over a fifty mile-long front line – rushing in after a three-hour artillery bombardment, that expended more ammunition than was used in the entire Civil War. During seven weeks of combat, wave after wave of American troops attacked against some 450,000 German soldiers from forty-four divisions.
The battle took a horrific human cost – over 122,000 American casualties. By its end, 26,277 Americans lost their lives in the battle, and 95,786 Americans were wounded.
Yet, this awful sacrifice was successful in its aim to help end World War I.
Today, the battle of Meuse-Argonne is not well known. However, the sacrifices are remembered, and will be honored by ceremonies in France, hosted by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and supported by the U.S. Defense Department (DoD).
The Meuse-Argonne ceremonies take place at the ABMC’s Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery on Sunday, September 23rd. Specific information can be found here.
These commemoration events will include the cemetery’s traditional Luminary Event, a stunning tribute to those who served. As dusk falls at the cemetery, more than 14,000 headstones will be lit with candles, creating a powerful image of light overpowering the darkness.
Six commissioners of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission will travel to France to participate in the events. These commissioners include history experts, multilingual communicators, and leaders for the commission’s programs, which include the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC.
Notable descendants from the battle will also attend, as guests of the Commission.
– Ms. Sandra Pershing, granddaughter-in-law to General of the Armies John Pershing, Commander of the American forces in World War I
– Colonel Gerald York, grandson to legendary World War I hero, Sergeant Alvin York, a conscientious-objector, who became a soldier, and earned the Medal of Honor for his efforts during the Meuse-Argonne battle
– Helen Patton, granddaughter to General George Patton, who fought in the Meuse-Argonne battle.
The WW1CC commissioners will also attend a related commemoration event hosted by the ABMC on Saturday, September 22nd at the American Cemetery at St. Mihiel, to honor the Americans there. Information on that ceremony can be found here.