On the night of September 11, 1918, the American First Army under General John J. Pershing prepared for the battle for St. Mihiel, a town on the Meuse River south of the Argonne Forest. It was the key to a vital railroad controlled by the Germans, and must be taken by Allies before a main assault on German lines could begin. . . .
THE ATTACK ON SEPTEMBER 12
Promptly at five o'clock [a.m.] the irregular belching of the guns was replaced by the rhythmic roll of the 75's, shooting as though in cadence. The barrage had begun — the signal that the supreme moment had come! Simultaneously, the assault troops of the four regiments [one of them was Captain Mike Hogg’s] climbed from the trenches and took up their place in a continuous line that stretched across the divisional front, and formed a part of the 23-kilometer [about 14 miles long] wave of men in khaki that engulfed the entire salient.
There was no hesitating, no holding back, in all that long line as it moved uniformly across No Man's Land. On the other hand, such was the impetuosity of the supporting troops that they were with difficulty kept at their proper distance to the rear of the front wave, and restrained from joining their comrades on the fighting line.
No one who has ever taken a look at No Man's Land on this front, and seen that twisting, treacherous maze of wire and the hundreds of pitfalls of ancient trenches, has failed to ask how it was possible for human beings to cross such obstacles in the face of hostile fire. French staff officers, sent by Marshal Foch, the Allied Generalissimo, gasped in astonishment when they heard of the facility with which American doughboys had surmounted such seemingly unconquerable difficulties. In fact, this achievement will always remain one of the most amazing features of the entire operation; and the modest heroes who accomplished it, on reviewing this land of desolation, themselves wondered just how they did it. But it is sufficient to say that these men from the Southwest were natives of barbed wire’s native states!
--excerpt from George Wythe, History of the 90thDivision, in Virginia Bernhard, The Smell of War: Three Americans in the Trenches of World War I. Available from Texas A&M University Press or Amazon.com.
The Battle of St. Mihiel was only the beginning.