Arguably, the evolution of American coastal defense reached its climax in terms of training, equipment and the development of sophisticated long-range gunnery techniques with the founding of the Coast Artillery Corps in 1907. Previously, both coast and field artillery were combined under the Artillery Corps. Brigadier General Arthur Murray, the Chief of the Artillery Corps, argued for a separate Coast Artillery branch on the grounds that its task of defending fixed areas was so distinct from the role of the mobile arms. As one senior officer observed, the strategic coastlines and adjacent ocean areas are mostly unchanging, allowing for, and demanding, a very high level of specialized study and preparation of a different sort than required for field service.42 Following the separation of the two artillery branches, the Coast Artillery Corps became the favored artillery arm of the Army in the context of benefiting from its own representation at the War Department, as well as receiving the most advanced weaponry of any of the Army branches, an array of very large guns and mortars, and sophisticated fire control equipment that grew more from the technological revolution in naval warfare than from developments in land forces. In the words of Colonel Garland H. Whistler, a senior coast artillery officer “In no other branch of the service have the improvements in guns and methods been so marked as in the coast artillery.”43
In 1915, the Army War College conducted a study on the role of Coast Artillery in the “modern” US Army. While war was raging across Europe, the study sought to define the purpose of two separate artillery branches.44 The report clearly defined the role of the Coast Artillery:
(a) To prevent naval occupation of important strategic and commercial harbors.
(b) To prevent naval bombardment of such cities and military and naval bases as are protected by seacoast fortifications.
(c) To furnish a strong, fortified base from which submarines and other vessels, acting on the offensive, may operate.
(d) To repel a fleet supporting a landing force within range of the guns of a fortified harbor. (e) To cooperate with the mobile troops in the landward defense of seacoast fortifications.45
Aside from what the report considered the more obvious role of coastal artillery, it argued for a mobile arm of the corps. It was physically and financially impossible to defend all parts of the country’s vast seaboards with permanent fortifications, and it would have been the height of military folly to attempt to do so. Mobile heavy guns, however, would offer valuable flexibility, for quick deployment should the enemy descend on an undefended section of the coast, or to reinforce in depth any fortified port that came under attack, and thereby ensure that the invader did not secure a beachhead.46 The report connected the role of Coast Artillery at home with the war in Europe by acknowledging that one of the most critical lessons of the conflict was that of the ever-increasing importance of heavy artillery in field operations.47
In response to reports of the greatly increasing role of heavy artillery in Europe, an Army War College study noted that the nature of American road transportation systems restricted the ability to move large equipments. Therefore, the report suggested that the United States should emphasize the deployment of large caliber weapons on railway mounts.48
The 30.5 centimeter (12-inch) Austrian Skoda mortar is practically our 12-inch seacoast mortar, with the 42 centimeter (16.5-inch) mortar (Krupp) is larger than any now emplaced in our fortifications; it fires a shell weighing about 1,800 pounds. Both of these types of mortars are readily transported by railroad, or over exceptionally good roads and bridges by motor tractors. From photographs and descriptions of these mortars and carriages it is apparent that heavy ordnance of this type can be effectually employed as an adjunct to our seacoast fortifications.49
In 1916, The War College Division of the General Staff Corps produced a report discussing the more recent events taking place between the warring European armies that highlighted the differing French, German, and Austrian perspectives. Initially the French preached the usage of a “low-power, rapid fire gun of about 3-inch caliber, and contended that with a reasonable supply of ammunition it was possible to render heavy field or siege artillery powerless with such a gun.”50 The Germans, however, contended that modern armies should field large caliber weaponry. Their role was to support the small guns, and to act as the first means of destroying fortified enemy positions.51 Another report by the War College Division, examined various sieges in order to further the argument for mobile heavy artillery. Defined by its series of intimidating fortifications, the city of Liege, Belgium would provide the world with the first test of the German artillery theory. In 1914, besieged by the advancing German armies, Liege found its guns severely outranged by the larger and more modern German heavy batteries.52 The German theory gained more validity with the additional sieges of the Belgian cities of Namur and Antwerp. It was not until the battle of Verdun, where the French employed a series of staggered artillery positions keeping the heavy German batteries out of range, did the Allies learn to counter the German artillery strategy.53 Nevertheless, the Germans consistently demonstrated both the effectiveness of their doctrine as well as their ability to deploy the largest heavy artillery pieces, and showed that large caliber guns are most effective whilst mobile.54
In 1918 the AEF General Headquarters staff reported to Major General Herr, Inspector General of Artillery and Commanding General Artillery Reserve, on combat experience and emphasized the need to increase the range of American heavy artillery in order to match the German guns. General Herr agreed with the main findings of the headquarters report, and provided further analysis to support those conclusions.55 Both the report and Herr’s assessment emphasized the Germans’ shift from the rapid firing 77-milli-metre field gun to large caliber weapons. The first report noted the lessons emerging from the AEF battles were “while confirming the information already known concerning the development of German artillery, has shown in a striking manner a tendency to increase the range of all calibers, from the 77 to the guns firing on Paris. At the present time it may be considered that this evolution is an accomplished fact.”56 Herr’s
assessment singled out the immediate objectives of both the field artillery and the heavy artillery. For the heavy artillery, he surmised that no major changes were necessary. Rather, the most crucial need involved the development of better projectiles. Ordnance capable of longer ranges, argued the report, would close the gap between American heavy artillery and those possessed by European formations.57
Aside from range and projectile development, mobility was the other issue stemming from Herr’s assessment. While noting that road movement had met expectations the transportation over open terrain demanded further improvement. The usage of “caterpillar tractors (type GD), with which the tractor sections of tractor regiments are now partially provided; the others should be furnished as rapidly as possible.”58 Envisioned by the AEF were forty tractor sections, but by 1917 numbers reached only sixteen sections of five tractors.59 Improvements in tractor longevity in the field were under development, but the report suggests that, “automobile artillery, developed along present lines, will permit the fullest possible use of heavy artillery in open warfare.”60 The report also noted that the resource levels of 1917 be maximized in order to develop a better automobile based artillery system. The success of caterpillar based artillery was sufficient evidence for expecting positive results from automobile mounted artillery research.61
The railway was the best, and sometimes sole, means of wielding the heaviest and greatest of heavy artillery pieces. Nevertheless, the assessment signaled out the inability of railway mounted weaponry to keep up with advancing units. Rather, it was able to go only where the rail lines went. A fair amount of time was necessary to lay new track and prepare the gun for firing. The construction of new rail lines never went unnoticed by the Germans, and therefore the deployment of railway weapons was plagued both by
positioning and time.62 Furthermore, the AEF had only a few railway artillery pieces. Coupled with the prolonged vulnerability, these large pieces had to be able to be withdrawn out of enemy gun range when possible. As a result, the firing range of these pieces had to reach a distance of at least twenty-four kilometers. Regardless of the exposure and unwieldy nature of railway artillery, they provided the biggest punch for any army.63 Without question, the assessment favored the caterpillar drawn artillery over the more cumbersome railway mounts. Coincidently, the assessment named the more mobile artillery pieces for continued production, citing their proven capabilities in battle.64
In discussing the developments in heavy artillery transportation, the assessment named the type of guns employed by the AEF that had proven themselves on the battlefields. While the projectiles required improvements, the report noted that the French 155-millimeter GPF (Grande Porteau Filloux), along with its variants, the 155 Model 1917 and the 145 were to thank for the good capability of the heavy artillery.65
Additionally, the report suggested that the military go through with the production of the 155 Model 1914, but with an enhanced range of an extra kilometer.66
Heavy artillery, according to the report, had large roles to play in frontline engagements, and in disrupting the enemy’s rear areas with long-range fire.
A. – In the zone of battle.
(1). – Long range interdiction, to a depth of 36 to 40 kilometers.
(2). – Fire of precision, either on[l] long range batteries or stations, or important crossroads.
(3). – Fire on objectives of large area, such as important railway stations, parks, or ammunition dumps.67
Roles “[I]n the rear of the Zone of Battle,” included the firing on “industrial centres, large sections, storage yards, etc.”68 Based on conclusions reached by the Germans, the assessment stated that the physical effect of firing on such targets “must not be exaggerated.”69 Rather the main effect might be moral in spreading confusion among the enemy, and demonstrating that even his rear areas were not secure.
The results emerging from the studies conducted by the 1915 War College and the 1918 GHQ Staff report, as well as Herr’s findings reached the same basic conclusion; mobile artillery was an indispensable arm of any army fighting in Europe. Arguably, railroad based artillery, while capable of superior firepower, was too complex for an effective heavy artillery arm. The great need was to improve the road and off-road mobility of heavy armament and enhance the performance of guns capable of this mobility. An important distinction must be made between the findings of the various studies and their actual implementation. Contrary to the developments in artillery warfare on the battlefields of Europe, the United States military establishment still believed that the infantry dominated modern warfare. US Army hierarchy maintained the romanticized notion of the bayonet charge as the defining action for obtaining victory on the battlefield. In 1914, one Canadian newspaper wrote that the American military believed “cold steel is still the final arbiter, the bayonet the weapon by which battles are decided.”70 Furthermore,
…the artillery roars…the long thin ranks of the infantry, the backbone of the army…the final move has not been made until those ranks, coming ever near, flashes the sparkle of bayonets and the brown wave heaves forward in the charge, to deliver the final, crushing blow. Everything that went before is but to prepare the way for that last coup de grace.71
The “brown wave” was the infantry, which seemed better prepared for American frontier actions than the pockmarked fields of France. Such notions, one would wrongly suspect, should have been dashed during America’s Civil War where volleys of rifle and direct artillery fire killed countless Union and Confederate soldiers. Nevertheless, the Great War found the US Army’s leadership reliant on a style of warfare where artillery was used only as a means of supporting the infantrymen as he spearheaded the attack and overcame entrenched enemy positions.
Conversely, the British and French military commands understood the fundamental necessity of heavy artillery fire, with the task of the infantry being relegated to occupying the enemy’s trenches by whatever means immediately possible.72 As a result, heavy artillery bombardments outweighed the role of the infantry. Poignantly, both Britain and France realized the importance of heavy artillery only after 1915. It was realized that direct fire, the firing of a gun based on a direct line of sight, was effective against infantry attacks but not at destroying fortified enemy positions. To eliminate the machine gun nests, pillboxes, and extensive barbwire and trench systems, in-direct fire proved essential. Heavy artillery was based upon in-direct fire, which required forward observers relaying targets, as well as the spotting and plotting of the shells. The Coast Artillery Corps long before the Great War had practiced this more complex, yet extremely effective technique. The task of hitting warships at great distances, and from fortified positions, coupled with the lack of a sufficient view of the target, a system of observation posts assisted the batteries. Additionally, the CAC was a major developmental body for the scientific method of fire. Because of long distances and that the rifling of a gun barrel changes with each shot, the accuracy of the weapon would vary ever so slightly. Furthermore, weather affected the outcome of each firing. Low-pressure systems might decrease the guns effective firing range by forcing the shell to drop more rapidly than usual. High winds might push the projectile off its target, which was yet another issue to be dealt with. Consequently, artillerymen needed to calculate the affects of ware and weather in order to calibrate the gun to counter those factors.
Regardless of these developments, General John J. Pershing, Command and Chief of the AEF, was slow to heed the advice of his European counterparts, as well as learning from the CAC, and continued to advocate that infantry won battles and not artillery. Once noting,
…the French doctrine, as well as the British, was based upon the cautious advance of infantry with prescribed objectives, where obstacles had been destroyed and resistance largely broken by artillery. The French infantryman, as has been already stated, did not rely upon his rifle and made little use of its great power. The infantry of both the French and British were poor skirmishers as a result of extending service in the trenches. Our mission required an aggressive offensive based on self-reliant infantry.73
The open warfare ideal championed by Pershing had been dubbed by the European powers as unrealistic because of the events unfolding along the Western Front.74 Even so, the US War Department completely agreed with Pershing, even to the extent the Chief of Staff granted Pershing’s wish to remove all Entente instructors from US based training centers so that the nation could implement its own doctrines.75 By 1918, upon relieving the French of command over the St. Mihiel area, Pershing discussed the forthcoming
operations in the St. Mihiel salient in two spheres, the French defensive parameters and the offensive plans. In sum, the defensive preparations were compiled into eight pages, whilst the offensive orders consisted of six pages. This was of great consequence to Pershing, for he took the page difference as a symbol of the French favoring of trench warfare, and not the open warfare he was planning to implement.76
It would be the French who finally helped the AEF adopt European tactics. To remedy their defunct strategy, French instructors taught AEF artillerymen the scientific method of fire, or scientific gunnery, a technique long practiced by the Coast Artillery, which was a major shift from the US Army’s attachment to open warfare.77 The high number of AEF casualties played a major part in converting the US Army towards accepting the pre-war studies and the advice of the French and British. The St. Mihiel Offensive saw the AEF employ a massive artillery bombardment of German trenches, thanks to the pressure applied by the French, thereby signaling the first step towards the acceptance of modern European artillery doctrine.78
CAC Firepower: Training and Equipment
The American Expeditionary Force defined the role of large caliber weaponry in “Instructions On The Offensive Action Of Large Units In Battle,” which was essentially a translation of the French army’s manual.79 The publication emphasized that the duty of the heavy artillery was to provide counter-battery fire against the enemy’s large caliber cannons: “the destruction of batteries is one of the certain guarantees of success: it must be among the principal cares of the command.”80 It was a never ending task: “counterbattery fires are insured at all times by the heavy long guns,”81 It was also a specialist task, reserved for non-divisional artillery, that is for the big-gun units at the corps and army level whose expertise, unlike the divisional artillery, was indirect fire at very distant targets.82 Destruction of the enemy’s batteries, however, often might not be possible, at long ranges against targets that were likely to be well hidden and protected. In that case, the objective was “neutralization” of the enemy’s battery emplacements either through damage from splinters from shells that made near misses, or by fires from buildings or vegetation in the area that had been set alight by the counter-battery fire. Special shells were to be used to complete this task.83 Coast Artillery units would put these guidelines into practice with maximum results.
The training of CAC artillerymen occurred both in the US and in Europe. The French, in addition to providing most of the heavy artillery armament, also played a large role in training. The French instructors conveyed to the AEF the importance of mass artillery fire to support frontal infantry attacks.84 In the US, training facilities for new recruits were established at Fort Monroe, Virginia and Fort Winfield Scott, California during 1917. More importantly, during 1917 schools for enlisted specialists were founded
at Fort Monroe; Fort Winfield Scott; Fort Grant, Canal Zone; Fort Kamehameha, Hawaii; and Fort Mills, Philippines. The “home station” of the coast artillery, in many respects, was Fort Monroe, the enormous moated and bastioned stone fortress built in the early nineteenth century at Hampton Roads, Virginia that in the twentieth century still served as the headquarters for the large and far-flung modern fortifications of the Coast Defenses of Chesapeake Bay. In September 1918 the various new and expanded training facilities in the Chesapeake area were organized as the Caost Artillery Training Center, with headquarters at Fort Monroe. They included the Coast Artillery School at Fort Monroe, which appears to have run advanced courses, the Coast Artillery Concentration and Training Camp at Camp Eustis, close to Fort Monroe, where drafts of personnel for overseas service were organized, and the modern forts of the Chesapeake that were used for training..85 All of these facilities were within a few miles of one another, which facilitated effective coordination.
Upon arriving in France, the CAC units made their way to the training centers associated with armaments assigned to them. Railway units, for example, proceeded to centers such as Haussimont and Mailly, where CAC men were trained on the massive railway guns. The selection of Haussimont was based upon its proximity to the active sectors near the front. Construction of the facility included extensive railway lines and buildings to house the troops and maintain the armaments. Haussimont, according to an AEF report, “fulfills the requirements for railway artillery as a base, center of instruction for railway artillery units, location of repair shops and place for storage of accessories and railway material when held in reserve.”86 A later report by Lt. Col. H.C. Miller noted that the Haussimont facility had been approved by AEF General Headquarters as being fit to accommodate three brigades, with adequate stocks of material and supplies, an ordnance repair shop, and approximately 25 to 30-miles of track spurs and large buildings to garage railway artillery. The supply depot was nowhere near completion, but the laying of track for the railway artillery mounts was satisfactory as well as the building of the ordnance repair center. The similar facility at Mailly was about seven miles away from Haussimont.87 Miller’s report stated that most of the surrounding region was densely populated with American and French military forces. Because of Haussimont’s large facilities and the surrounding military encampments, Miller warned that the area was exceedingly vulnerable to German airplane attack; he also believed that the progress of some construction projects was moving too slowly.88
CAC units assigned anti-aircraft duties proceeded to the French air defense training facility at Arnouville, France.89 The fundamental objective of any nation’s coast artillery was to hit moving ships, and higher echelons of the US military believed that hitting moving airplanes should prove no different. Therefore, the Coast Artillery was tasked with developing and ultimately providing anti-aircraft cover for the AEF. As remarked in Liaison, “[W]ho in his wildest dreams, before the war, would imagine that the Coast Artillery would shoot at aeroplanes?”90 Having no prior experience in the realm of anti-aircraft artillery, in 1917, the CAC asked officers to volunteer for training in France. Twenty-five CAC officers where immediately sent to Arnouville, France, where under the instruction of the French Captain Gassier, they undertook a six week course covering every facet of the complexities of shooting down aircraft. Challenging many of
the officers were language barriers and the lack prior experience in necessary forms of mathematics by some of the men.91 In order to gain practical experience, the officers were dispersed to French anti-aircraft batteries along the Front between Verdun and Luneville. Shortly upon their arrival, some of the officers witnessed German air raids and were impressed by the French anti-aircraft fire.92 During their time at the Front, the officers would become the first members of the AEF to set foot in the French sector and would experience life in the trenches for the first time. Upon the completion of their tour at the Front, some officers were sent to British schools to receive additional training for on-the-job training with British units. Others returned to Arnouville to educate newly arriving CAC officers, while some trained enlisted CAC artillerymen on the guns.93 Later, selected officers would return to the United States in order to instruct anti-aircraft courses at the Coast Artillery School at Fort Monroe, Virginia.94
The armament for CAC units was subject to availability of equipment. In 1917 and 1918, the AEF was severely handicapped by what proved to be the utterly inadequate preparations that had been made prior to the United States’ entry into the war because of the great constraints imposed by the strength of political opposition to participation. Quite aside from the problem of quickly raising trained and organized manpower from the base of the tiny peacetime armed forces, the United States lacked an industrial based geared towards mass production of armaments. While some American factories were producing guns for the Entente Powers, such as the British 9.2-inch howitzer, the demands of the US Army upon entering the war far outweighed the manufacturing capabilities of American industry.
It was, as we have seen, the large scale of British, and German, artillery operations in the battle of the Somme in the summer and fall of 1916 that had alerted US artillery officers to the US Army’s inadequacies. Armament fabrication was geared towards field artillery production of types not fully adequate for modern conditions as revealed on the Western Front, and was not prepared at all for large-scale manufacturing of heavy mobile artillery. The Somme battles, as it turned out, occurred only a few short months before the United States’ entry into the war, leaving no time for significant changes in the US Army program. Early in 1918 a report by the staff of the AEF in France remarked that the lessons of 1916 had yet to be properly applied: [T]he absolute necessity of meeting the new situation, while considering the strict economy imposed upon us in the use of raw material, labor and fighting personne[l], make it necessary to review our entire manufacturing program and to regain the advantage that we have lost in field artillery as well as in the ALGP.95 The report concluded that, “our efforts depend on our available resources and we must assume the responsibility of abandoning all material which no longer meets the conditions of present day warfare.”96
In the particular case of the Coast Artillery Corps, historian Ian V. Hogg noted that on the eve of war the corps was “liberally provided with weapons of every conceivable caliber, from 1.5-inch 3-pounders to 14-inch monsters firing three-quarter ton shells.”97 However, “it was unlikely any belligerent would try an assault on the USA, and nobody was suggesting that Fort Monroe should be dug out and sailed across to Europe.”98 Therefore, the CAC was only able to deploy a lackluster collection of mobile guns, 3.8-inch, 4.7-inch, and 6-inch howitzers. All of these lacked sufficient stockpiles of shells to be of any prolonged threat on the Western Front.99 In some instances, more capable American seacoast guns were removed from various coastal fortifications so that the Coast Artillery Corps contingents assigned to France possessed some type of heavy artillery. Such stopgap armament measures, however, did not solve the long-term needs of the Corps.
In the end, the British and French agreed to furnish the majority of AEF equipment for immediate needs in 1918, and US industry, for the sake of efficiency, focused on retooling for mass production of mainly French and some British types of equipment.100 In the case of the heavy artillery, the principal armaments were 155-millimeter guns from French sources, and 8-inch and 9.2-inch howitzers from British
sources.101 Guns of additional types, though not used on the same large scale as the above three, were also used, an example of which were the French built 240-millimeter railway guns. In the interests of efficiency in ammunition production, the US Army did not bring its existing 6-inch howitzer into the field. As well, early orders for British 9.5-inch howitzers were trimmed back.102
In a memo from General Pershing’s staff to Major General Payton C. March dated November 26, 1917, the ordering of fifty-two British built 8-inch and 9.2-inch howitzers highlights the AEF’s dependency on Allied weapon production. The memo noted that the order for the fifty-two guns included their delivery to the Heavy Artillery Reserve based out of Mailly, France. Four of the 8-inch howitzers were marked for expedited delivery, with the hopes that Major General March would assure that artillerymen be assigned to those guns upon their arrival in order to “provide a nucleus of trained personnel for further training in this arm.”103
The workhorse of the AEF’s heavy artillery units was the 155-millimeter Grande Porteau Filloux (GPF). The production of this gun in American provided a daunting task since the complex recoil system was beyond current US manufacturing capabilities. Once the American factories produced an adequate recoil system, 800 guns were built but the war ended before any reached frontline units.104 Because of American manufacturing issues, the CAC was equipped with French built GPFs. Statistics for the GPF included:
Length of gun, ins. - 225.4 in.
Weight of gun, lbs. – 8520.
Weight of carriage, lbs. – 1400.
Capacity of powder chamber, cu. In – 1329.
Type of ammunition – Bag.
Powder charge, propelling, (shell) – 26 lbs.
Powder charge, bursting (shell) – 9 ½ lbs.
Travel of projectile in gun – 185 in.
Maximum pressure, (lbs to Sq. in.) – 31500.
Muzzle velocity, feet per second – 2322.
Weight of shell, lbs. – 95.
Loading elevation, - any.
Maximum range, yards, - 18300
Weight of gun (firing position) 11 ½ tons.
Weight of gun (road positions) 13 ½ tons. 105
Benedict Crowell, the Assistant Secretary of War and Director of Munitions, noted that the GPF had “a glorious record in the war.”106 The widespread use of the gun by the CAC can be partially attributed to the versatility of the 155 GPF. The GPF functioned well as tractor-drawn artillery, and was well suited for immobile, or static, artillery positions.107
The British 8-inch howitzer was under contract for manufacture in the US, but ten months passed before the first gun was battle ready.108 The delay occurred because British orders for the gun had to be completed before production for the US orders could commence. The CAC used two variations of this gun, first the Mark VI, and then the Mark VIII. The difference between the two variants was that the Mark VI had a firing range of 11,000-yds, while the Mark VIII could fire a projectile 13,000-yds. Out of a total order of 190, 146 were built, and 96 reached France.109 The 9.2 howitzer, also of British origins, was capable of firing a 290-lb projectile approximately six miles. Both American and British factories produced the gun. While the American Bethlehem Steel Company was able to meet the British gun orders, the company was unable to meet the US Army’s requests. Instead, some CAC units were outfitted with British built 9.2s, since Britain was better geared for massed weapon production.110 The duty of hauling the GPF and British 8-inch howitzer pieces was placed upon the Holt caterpillar tractors assigned to each battery. The Holt caterpillar tractors available were the 75-hp and the 120-hp. The 120-hp was configured with a front wheel for better steering and had a roof; the 75-ph on the other hand was comprised of just two tracks with no overhead protection.111
The CAC was tasked with operating a selection of railway artillery, including 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch guns. Some of there were of seacoast origin, having been removed from American fortifications. Crowell remarked that these guns were so massive that the railway mounts required between sixteen and twenty-four axels.112 The Coast Artillery training manual on the 8-inch gun cited the length of the barrel at 32 calibers, and the weight of the gun and mount at approximately 33,700 pounds.113 AEF correspondence reveals that the Ordnance Department placed an order of seventy-five mounts for their 8-inch guns; initial confusion lead AEF Headquarters to believe only sixty-two guns had been requested.114 This was actually a change in the program first developed by the Ordnance Department. The department had envisioned the production of fourteen 16-inch howitzers, twelve 14-inch guns, sixty 12-inch mortars (model 1912), ninety 12-inch mortars (model 1890), eighteen 12-inch guns, fifty-four 10-inch guns, and the sixty-two 8-inch guns noted earlier.115 The 12-inch guns, mounted on railway platforms for a total weight of 275-tons, could deliver a shell weighing 700-lbs at a distance of about 45,000-yds.116 Even more impressive than the aforementioned guns was the 400-milimeter Railway Mount. The 53rd Artillery, CAC, who used a gun of that type of for the first time against the Germans by American forces, made this behemoth famous. Additional railway artillery, furnished by France, were two 34-centimeter guns, twelve 32-centimeter guns, twenty-four 24-centimeter guns, and twenty-four 19-centimeter guns. The US made five 14-inch guns available for railway use.117
In all the seriousness that engulfed the supply issues, there were instances of unintentional miscommunication that verged on ironic humor. An undated letter from an unidentified Field Artillery officer suggested that a final verdict be made on whether men in the Trench Mortar Batteries were to be equipped with rifles or pistols. A response came from a Coast Artillery Corps Lieutenant Colonel serving in the First Army. The CAC officer wrote that the men were to be armed with pistols, with the exception of instances where a pistol cannot be found. 118 This was not in the least helpful, as the Field Artillery officer had been seek a clear decision for pistols that would have freed scare supplies of rifles for infantrymen and other troops for whom the rifle was their primary weapon. Whether a resolution disallowing the issuing of rifles would have made much of a difference to the supply needs of the AEF, is impossible to confirm. Nevertheless, the inability to outfit the individual artillerymen with a single type of personal firearm was yet another facet of the supply issues confronting the First Army.
Existence within the AEF Armies
The unit history of the 58th Regiment, CAC nicely encapsulates the reasons for the mobilization of the coast gunners for overseas service. “[T]he United States was confronted with the problem of providing artillery of a type totally different from any the Army ever used.”119 As a result, “[t]he War Department decided that the nucleus for this branch of artillery must come from the Coast Artillery…with their thorough training and methods of fire, were well prepared for this service.”120 The many requests made by the French for the deployment of more Coast Artillery regiments, is a signpost of this expertise.121
The first French request came on April 10, 1917, a mere four days after the official American declaration of war. The French wanted not only the highly trained Coast Artillery soldiers but also equipment, heavy US coast guns and mortars that could be placed on railway mounts. In a communication with the Chief of Staff on June 27, 1917, the Office of the Chief of Coast Artillery noted that the French request remained to be fulfilled. The Chief of Ordnance, with backing from the Chief of Coast Artillery, advised that only a limited transfer of weaponry take place. Forty 10-inch seacoast guns, too be manned by CAC men, were advised by the Chief of Coast Artillery. Presented verbally to the Secretary of War on May 14, 1917, the position of the Chief of Coast Artillery gained the Secretary’s support. The War College also aligned itself with the Chief of Coast Artillery in a report, which was also approved by the Secretary of War.122 The proposed organization was for 36 batteries, each to crew one of the big 10-inch, with four guns being kept in reserve. The 36 batteries would be organized into nine battalions (of four batteries each), and these in turn into three regiments (each grouping three battalions). The intention was that this brigade of three regiments would initially serve with the French to gain experience, and then be included as a part of the heaviest artillery at army-level when the US was ready organize full field armies.123 Garrisons from the following fortifications were to be the sources of men and material for the special 10-inch gun brigade: Portland was to contribute six batteries, Boston five, Narragansett Bay three, Long Island Sound three, Eastern New York three, Southern New York five, Baltimore one, the Potomac two, Chesapeake Bay three, Cape Fear one, Charleston one, and Savannah one. Men were chosen from these locations because the National Guard Coast Artillery would be called into service around July 15, 1917, which would allow the existing garrisons to be replaced by National Guardsmen. Such a measure would allow the more experienced full-time personnel to serve on the battlefields.124 While men and material were to be sent overseas, garrisoning the American coast needed to remain a priority in case of enemy submarine and raider activity.125 Therefore, the National Guardsmen would play a critical role in freeing up the top artillerymen whilst safeguarding America in case a German naval attack occurred, however unlikely one might be at that stage of the war.
On the matter of more experienced personnel, Coast Artillery commanders were to allow their noncommissioned officers the opportunity to volunteer for service in the brigade. It was noted, however, that only the “young and vigorous men shall be taken; and that, if practicable, at least 50% of the privates shall be provided from recruits.”126 Enthusiasm would abound among all CAC formations. Primary evidence giving details of the recruitment of a unit raised in 1918, the 68th Regiment, suggests that many of those in Coast Artillery regiments were excited about the prospect of going overseas to fight a war. While the lack of equipment was rather disheartening, many of the soldiers were simply happy “[s]o long as they were still booked for abroad…”127 In the case of the 68th Regiment, “only those men were taken who expressed a keen desire to go overseas. Each one was asked: ‘Did you want to go across?’ ‘Yes Sir’ was the only reply that put a man on the list.” 128 It would be reasonable to conclude that recruitment was similar in the case of the first overseas units raised in 1917, originally organized as the 6th, 7th and 8th Provisional Regiments (and ultimately renumbered as the 51st, 52nd and 53rd Regiments). Captain Ericson of the 6th Provisional Regiment remarked in the historical account he published shortly after the war that the members of the unit were delighted at the prospect of “issuing punishment to those who thought the world too small to live in. The ‘Spirit of ‘76’ was in us once again.”129 The personnel accepted for overseas service at the various coastal fortresses designated to provide batteries, gathered for mobilization at Fort Adams, Rhode Island, and then concentrated at Hoboken, from which they sailed toFrance in August 1917, under the collective designation as the 1st Expeditionary Brigade. A brigade headquarters unit had been mobilized at the same time as the provisional regiments.130
The 10-inch coast guns the brigade was intended to operate were enormous pieces, each barrel weighing over 30 tons, and firing a projectile of 600 pounds. Contracts were placed with US industry to produce French-designed railway mounts for the guns, with delivery scheduled for March 1919.131 During 1918 the 7th and 8th Provisional Regiments, re-designated the 52nd and 53rd Regiments, operated French railway guns, and the 6th Provisional Regiment, reorganized as the 51st Regiment, converted to road-mobile howitzers, French 240-millimeter and British 8-inch, and operated under one of the new US heavy artillery brigade headquarters. During what proved to be the US Army’s main offensive, on the Meuse-Argonne in fall of 1918, the 1st Expeditionary Brigade, reorganized as the 30th Separate Artillery Brigade (Railway) operated the 52nd and 53rd Regiments, and had under command two newly arrived additional railway artillery regiments (the 42nd and 43rd) that did not in fact become fully operational before the armistice.132
While the provisional regiments were being raised in response to the special French requests, General Pershing, as commander of the American Expeditionary Force, and the War Department drew up in detail the organization of units and formations for overseas service, a gargantuan task. On November 2, 1917, the Chief of Coast Artillery received instructions from the War Department to proceed to provide “trained personnel for heavy artillery in Europe.”133 The United States Army decided against the issuing of a general order, arguing that the information was too sensitive to risk failing into enemy hands. Therefore, the instructions to the Chief of Staff are in essence the official orders for the mobilization of Coast Artillery units.134 The instructions referenced the first and second sections of the Act of Congress, approved May 18, 1917, that gave the President the power to increase temporarily the size of the armed forces for service in the world war.135 The chief of Coast Artillery was, “as accommodation becomes available” to organize “Training Units, Coast Artillery Corps, National Army” with a total strength of 465 officer and 14,545 enlisted men.136 These units were to train personnel, to be drawn from the regular coast artillery, the National Guard Coast Artillery, and new wartime recuits (the “National Army”) to create the “provisional brigades, provisional regiments, provisional battlations[,] batteries, and companies for one [field] army, in accordance with tables of organization now being prepared based on General Pershing’s ‘Report on Organization,’ dated July 11, 1917.” The number of personnel required for one field army, as laid down in General Pershing’s report, was “approximately 70,721 officers and enlisted men,” and the provision of these personnel was “to begin immediately,” even as the “Training Units” were being organized.137
In the November 2, 1917 War Department instructions to the Chief of Coast Artillery, paragraph “f” outlined the duties of the CAC while in France. The CAC “will man all guns and mortars removed from the coast defenses; six-inch and larger guns (not horse-drawn); all howitzers above 6-inch; the anti-aircraft guns; the trench mortar battalions; the ammunition trains pertaining to the foregoing; the railroad artillery; and such 4.7-inch guns and 6-inch howitzers as conditions may require assignment thereto.”138
General Pershing’s “Report on Organization” gives a good idea as to the scale on which these armaments would be deployed, and how the War Department arrived at the figure of 70,721 personnel for the heavy artillery components of a field army. The bulk of the heavy artillery would be concentrated at the army level, which reflected British and French experience of the need for centralized, unified control over long-range fire. Pershing’s scheme allowed for four brigades of long-range guns (he specified 6-inch, although as we have seen the French 155-millimetre was adopted) and four brigades of howitzers (he specified 8-inch, but as we have seen that a mix of 8-inch, 240-millimetere and 9.2-inch were actually employed). With supporting units, such as those that transported ammunition, and provided repair services, each brigade would include some 5,000 personnel, for a total of over 40,000 personnel for the eight brigades. In addition, there would be some 10,000 additional personnel required for the very heavy railwayartillery units (among them the provisional brigade already in France raised to man the ten-inch guns removed from the US coastal defenses), and anti-aircraft units. Pershing’s plans for corps level heavy artillery included a single gun brigade (at that time envisioned as a mix of 4.7-inch and 6-inch guns) with a strength of about 5,000 personnel for each corps; a field army normally included three corps.139
The organization of the CAC field units that matured in 1918 was built from batteries whose normal armament was four heavy guns. Each battery was commanded by a captain or a major, and the personnel included four other officers and about 230 enlisted men, of whom some forty were non-commissioned officers, that is sergeants and corporals who had considerable technical expertise. CAC battalions, commanded by a major or lieutenant colonel, each included two batteries under a small headquarters ofabout fifteen personnel. CAC regiments were a full colonel’s command, and grouped three battalions together with a full regimental headquarters company of about 150 officers and men and a supply company of about 90 officers and men, and thereby mustered an armament of 24 heavy guns and an establishment of some 1500 personnel. The regiments in turn were grouped into brigades, a brigadier general’s command, that normally included three regiments, giving a total armament of 72 guns, operated by nearly 5,000 personnel. The requirement to move the heavy guns, fire control, communications and maintenance equipment, and provide ammunition, food and other supplies, resulted in considerable mechanization. Each battery had about 20 artillery tractors and supply trucks; the additional maintenance and supply services at the battalion and regimental level brought the total number of heavy vehicles per regiment to some 120. In short, the heavy artillery demanded the most of the most precious resources, specialized technical personnel and sophisticated equipment, of any branch of the army with the possible exception of the new aviation corps.140
One unit, Battery “D”, 56th Regiment, CAC, published a full account of its regimental history in History of Battery “D” 56th Artillery, Coast Artillery Corps.141 The battery was formed on 20 December 1917 by General Order 37, and drew its personnel from the forts of the Long Island Sound defenses in New Jersey, part of the network of fortifications that protected New York City’s harbor. Most of the battery’s men were members of the Coast Artillery National Guard, who had initially been called out to replace regular army personnel in the coastal defenses.142 Battery “D”, together with Battery “C”, formed the second battalion of the 56th Regiment. The 56th Regiment, together with the 55th and 57th Regiment, also established with personnel from the Long Island Sound defenses in December 1917 to January 1918, came under the command of the 31st Brigade headquarters. The latter had been established in the Key West, Florida defenses and moved up to New Jersey shortly before the brigade moved overseas in March 1918.143 The whole of the brigade was equipped with French 155-millimetre GPF guns, towed by Holt caterpillar tractors.144
In total, the Coast Artillery Crops raised 57 heavy artillery regiments in 1917-19, of which 31, organized in ten brigades, proceeded overseas before the armistice on 11 November 1918.145 Thus, only slightly more than half of the units formed reached the Western Front, with many of these later than planned. Some of the most shattering and dramatic developments of the First World War disrupted plans for the orderly buildup of the American Expeditionary Force in 1918 for a major Allied offensive intended to take place in 1919. In October 1917, Russia disintegrated into revolution against the Czarist regime as a direct result of the nation’s devastating losses in the war, and the new Bolshevik government sued for peace with Germany. One of Europe’s best rail networks, the German railway, allowed the German Army to move 192 divisions from the Eastern to the Western Front.146 With these vast reinforcements, on 21 March 1918 the German army launched the Kaiserschlacht plan, the first of a series of offensives in the west that continued until July, resulting in a 40-mile bulge in the Allied line and the capturing of 1,200-square miles of the Front.147 The most urgent need to stave off impending defeat was infantry, the “brown line” that was the most basic building block and fighting strength of an army. This was the arm that had suffered by far the worst casualties in the Allied armies, some 177,739 British and 77,000 French soldiers becoming casualties, which were so short of manpower they were no longer in a position even to keep existing formations up to strength.148 During the spring and summer of 1918, in response to the desperate pleas of the Allies, the US Army gave priority in overseas shipping to infantry, and formed as many divisions as possible as quickly as possible.149
The effects of the German spring offensive in 1918 on the overall shape of the deployment of the AEF are well known in the literature. Less well explored is the effect the changes had on the movements of non-infantry units, and particularly the heavy artillery, which worked at the higher tactical levels, as part of corps and armies. Only the three provisional CAC regiments had gone to France in 1917, with only eight others having arrived by the end of June 1918. Another 13 regiments arrived in July through September, and the final seven to join the AEF before the armistice disembarked only in October 1918.150
In the face of the crisis created by the German successes in early 1918, the French and British were more than willing to supply artillery and units of other technical arms to complete the organization of the American divisions. It also seemed most efficient to have the inexperienced US divisions, and heavy artillery and other units that operated at the corps and army level, serve as part of existing Allied corps and armies. That, however, raised nationalist issues. The scattering of American units among Allied
formations would leave the AEF with no clear national presence on the battlefield. Such a situation would have been very difficult to explain to Congress and the American public. There were important operational implications as well. The sudden, dramatic German success only strengthened the conviction held by Pershing and other senior American officers that Allied combat doctrine was defensive, trench-bound and defeatist. American leaders were convinced that they held the key, in their emphasis on infantry-led offensives, to the same sort of breakthrough and mobile open-warfare the Germans had achieved (even though this was profoundly untrue; the Germans succeeded through superbly coordinated all-arms combat in which the infantry was thoroughly supported by firepower from all types of artillery, mortars and machine guns). The lowest level at which a headquarters could determine the shape of a battle and the combat doctrine employed was at army. Pershing and his staff moved aggressively to complete corps and army headquarters so that US divisions, and corps and army level units (among which the CAC heavy artillery units were among the largest and most important), could be consolidated under national command.
The rush of hundreds of thousands of additional US infantrymen to Europe had the decisive result of allowing the Allies to build up the strength by August 1918 to respond to the last of the German “spring” offensives in July with a counter-offensive. Although appalling costly in lives for all the Allied armies, the counter-offensive crushed the Germans more quickly and more completely than even the most optimistic Allied leader had dared hope. For the AEF, the rapid development of offensive operations nearly a year earlier than the intended great push in 1919 meant that organization was in flux right to the Armistice. The newly activated US armies and corps depended upon Allied formations to flesh out their order of battle, and this was particularly true of the CAC heavy artillery, not least because sustained combat demonstrated that the French and British – and the United States’ own senior artillery officers – had been right about the importance of heavy artillery fire support, and that Pershing and other senior army officers had been exceedingly optimistic in their hopes for breakthroughs by infantry formations alone.
Since it was the duty of the Field Artillery to provide direct support to the growing infantry divisions, they were in more immediate demand than the CAC. Of note, fifty senior Coast Artillery officers were assigned to heavy artillery regiments of the FA.151 One can surmise the logic was that they knew a lot more about the weaponry and the firing techniques than the freshly drafted FA artillerymen. Decades of practice in indirect gunnery were again of great consequence.
The organization of higher level US formations began with the establishment of I Corps in late January 1918 in close affiliation with the French XXXII Corps, which held a quiet part of the French line. The new US corps staff worked hand-in-hand with the French staff for “on-the-job” experience, and took administrative (but not operational) control of US divisions in the area. Initially, in January 1918, the latter included the US 1st Division, which was already in the front line under French XXXII Corps, and four more recently arrived US divisions (2nd, 26th, 41st and 42nd) which were in training areas in the region. The new corps headquarters continued in the administrative role, coordinating services for US divisions in the region as they moved into the front lines to gain combat experience, and training arrangements in rear areas for newly arrived divisions Priority was clearly for preparation of the infantry divisions for operations as headquarters for the Corps’ own combat resources, heavy artillery and air units, did not organize until June. The air and heavy artillery units continued to serve with French formations until 4 July when I Corps first assumed an operational role, taking over a quiet section of the line west of Chateau Thierry. Because heavy artillery’s primary role was long range fire to facilitate breakthroughs in the enemy line during major offensives, the resources initially assigned to I Corps were modest, and typical of the AEF for all operations in the latter half of 1918, about half were experienced French units. Under command were two US battalions of 155-mm guns (these were field artillery units normally assigned to divisions, but in this case deployed at the corps level), a CAC trench mortar battalion (a specialized unit that operated large mortars), a CAC anti-aircraft artillery battalion, and I Corps Artillery Park, a support unit that provided supply and repair services. French units included two battalions of 105 mm guns (normally assigned to divisions), three heavy artillery battalions of 155-mm guns and a “Flash Ranging Section”, a technical unit that specialized in the technique of making precise observations on the muzzle flashes of enemy guns and thereby located their concealed positions for long-range counter-battery fire.152
The US II Corps began to organize in February 1918, in the British sector of the front to coordinate the administration and training of the six US infantry divisions that were hurried to France in the spring of 1918 to reinforce the British armies. II Corps took over a section of the British front to begin combat operations in mid June. The formation continued under British command until the Armistice, and never had US artillery units assigned. US II Corps always deployed British heavy artillery, including units of the Australian army corps .153
The vast majority of US divisions served with the French, and therefore as the buildup of new US divisions continued, additional US corps were formed on the French part of the front. These included III Corps at the end of March 1918, IV Corps in June and V Corps early in July.154 Four additional corps were subsequently formed, VI through IX, but all too late to see significant combat, and they therefore had few or no heavy artillery units under command.155
The most important among the AEF formations for this study is the First Army because almost all of the CAC units in France were concentrated under the new army’s command for the St. Mihiel Offensive of September 1918, and the Meuse-Argonne offensive of the last weeks of the war. These two major operations largely defined the combat experience of the AEF, and particularly did so in the case of the CAC, as the ultimate purpose of heavy artillery in land combat was concentration to provide offensive punch. So massive was the expansion of the AEF in 1918 that, in the last months of the war, Second Army and Third Army formed in France to provide the higher level national headquarters required to command all nine US corps. Only Second Army became operational at the front, but during the last few weeks of the war and in a quiet sector. By the time of the armistice, it still had only a small number of CAC units assigned that were cadres for expansion in case the war continued. Third Army served mainly as a headquarters for the occupation of Germany after the armistice, and did not have CAC units under command.156
From the time of the United States’ entry into the war planning had always envisioned the creation of an army headquarters. AEF headquarters through the period of the buildup of US forces in France during the latter part of 1917 and the first half of 1918 functioned as an army headquarters, but one without front line combat responsibilities; its role was largely administrative, to coordinate the transportation, organization, training and equipment of all overseas units. Branches organized within the AEF, as in the case of the appointment of Major General Peyton C. March as the AEF commander of artillery in October 1917, provided the nucleus of what would become the First Army’s artillery headquarters. In June 1918, when US I Corps moved into the Chateau Thierry area to prepare to take over a section of the front line under French Sixth Army, First Army headquarters began to form with the corps headquarters. Finally, on 10 August, the new US First Army took over the French Sixth Army’s front, and began preparations for its first offensive, at St. Mihiel, with I, IV and V US Corps and the French II Colonial Corps under command.157 The heavy artillery assigned to First Army for the offensive, is listed in the table below, which indicates that, as in the earlier corps operations, about half of the strength comprised French units. The units listed include the whole of the heavy artillery with the army; units were detached by the army chief of artillery to the artillery commanders of the individual corps. 158
32nd Artillery Brigade, CAC: French Heavy Artillery:
42nd Regt CA 24-cm guns 71st 240-mm guns
43rd Regt CA 19-cm guns 73rd 270-mm and 293- mm guns
44th Regt CA 8-inch howitzers 74th 19-cm railway gun
51st Regt CA 240-mm guns & 8-inch howitzer 76th 305-mm gun
52nd Regt CA, 32-cm guns 77th 340-mm guns
53rd Regt CA 19-cm, 340-mm, and 400-mm guns 78th 32-cm and 370-mm guns
57th Regt CA 155-mm guns 82nd Tractors
59th Regt CA 8-inch howitzers Naval Batteries 1, 9, and 13 16-cm naval guns
60th Regt CA 155-mm guns
65th Regt CA 9.2-inch howitzers
During August and the first part of September, US III Corps continued to serve with the French, initially participating in the Aisne-Marne Operation, which occurred between August 4 and 6, and then the Oise-Aisne Operation of August 18 through September 9,1918. The following table indicates the heavy artillery under command.159
31st Heavy Artillery Brigade: French Heavy Artillery:
55th Regt CAC 155-mm III Corps Artillery 105-mm and 155-mm160
56th Regt CAC 155-mm
At different times, III Corps artillery had the support of I and II Corps Artillery Parks. When III Corps joined US First Army on the Muese-Argonne Front at the end of September, the CAC units, including the 31st Heavy Artillery Brigade, were reassigned to the army artillery.161 French units, however, continued to be attached to III Corps, and operated 145-mm, 220-mm, 155-mm, and 105-mm guns.162
From September 26, 1918 until November 11, 1918, the period of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, there were significant changes in the order of battle of the First Army because of the increasing number of battle ready US units coupled with the demands of the upcoming offensives. By the time operations in the Meuse-Argonne assault began on September 21, 1918, the Army Corps under command included I, III, IV, V (together with the new and not yet operational VI and VII, for administrative purposes only). The heavy artillery arm consisted of the 30th, 31st, 32nd and 39th Artillery Brigades, CAC.
31st Artillery Brigade, CAC: French Heavy Artillery:
55th Regt CAC 155-mm guns 73rd Heavy Artillery 270-mm and 293-mm
(1st, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 11th Battalions)
56th Regt CAC 155-mm guns 81st Heavy Artillery 155-mm
(A, B, and 1st Battalions)
57th Regt CAC 155-mm guns 82nd Heavy Artillery (1st Company) Tractors
32nd Artillery Brigade, CAC: 86th Heavy Artillery 145-mm and 155-mm
(A, B, C, and 3rd Battalions)
58th Regt CAC 8-inch howitzers 87th Heavy Artillery 145-mm and 155-mm
(A, B, C, 4th, 5th, and 6th Battalions)
59th Regt CAC 8-inch howitzers 155th Heavy Artillery (Armaments not specified)
(2nd, 3rd, 4th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 21st , 22nd, 23rd Bats.)
65th Regt CAC 9.2-inch howitzers 176th Heavy Artillery Trench Mortars
(HQ, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Battalions,
as well as 23, 28, 35, 37, 38, 39, and 40 Batteries)
39th Artillery Brigade, CAC: 211th Heavy Artillery (3rd Battalion) 75-mm
44th Regt CAC 8-inch howitzers 247th Heavy Artillery 75-mm
(1st and 2nd Battalions)
51st Regt CAC 240-mm and 8-inch howitzers 282nd Heavy Artillery 220-mm
(1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 13th Battalions)
60th Regt CAC` 155-mm guns 317th Heavy Artillery 155-mm
(2nd and 3rd Battalions)
First Army Artillery Park 420th Heavy Artillery (2nd Battalion) 155-mm
First Army Prov. Park (52nd Regt CAC) 32-cm guns Naval Batteries 16 inch navel guns
6, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17,and 18 16-inch naval guns
51st, 52nd, and 53rd Ammunition Trains Munitions
Tractor Artillery Replacement Tractors
Battalion (old 2nd Battalion 54th CAC)
Railway Artillery: 30th Artillery Brigade, CAC: French Units Attached to AEF Railway Artillery:
42nd Regt CAC 24-cm 70th Heavy Artillery 240-mm
(2, 19, and 31 Batteries)
43rd Regt CAC 19-cm 71st Heavy Artillery 240-mm
(3, 6, and 7 Batteries)
52nd Regt CAC 32-cm 74th Heavy Artillery 19-cm
53rd Regt CAC 19-cm, 840-mm & 400-mm 75th Heavy Artillery 205-mm
76th Heavy Artillery 305-mm
77th Heavy Artillery 305-mm
78th Heavy Artillery 32-cm & 370-mm 163
(4 and 28 Batteries)
To the Front: the CAC in Action
An early example of offensive action was by the 5th Battery, 1st Howitzer Regiment, 30th Brigade, which in April 1918 took up a position near Belfor, Alsace, and on 3 May 1918 delivered the first US shell into German territory. In the words of Liaison, “It was on this ‘quiet sector,’ then, that the battalion started its work shooting up the Germans.”164 After several weeks exchanging fire with Germans, the unit then went to Rammersmatt, where it was positioned in the mountains, allowing it to dominate German occupied Mulhouse and prevent a German push from that area.165
The published history of Battery “D” 56th Artillery, CAC, already noted in connection with mobilization, also provides a particularly full account of preparation for battle and operations. Preparation ended on July 28, 1918 with orders to move to the front lines, and August 16 was “the day our guns first spoke to ‘Fritz’ in no uncertain tones.”166 Combat for the battery began at Lhuys, and it was by no means glamorous, with constant enemy bombardments, gas attacks, and air raids. Although casualties were light as compared with the infantry units, losses were a shock to the unit.167 Among the early deaths was 1st Lieutenant Oscar H. Cowan, CANG on August 21, 1918. Cowan was the victim of a high explosive shell burst from German counter-battery fire.168 His death appears to have been a major event for the battery for the history devotes several pages to his career, and includes a photograph of his grave and copies of the letters of condolence to his mother and widow.169
The St. Mihiel Offensive of mid September 1918 was the first major engagement not only for the AEF as an independent entity, but also for the CAC as a consolidated land force. While various CAC units had been involved in combat prior to the St. Mihiel battle, none had been involved in anything on the same scale. At the apex of effectiveness is the action of the 53rd CAC Regiment at Conflans, France from 12 September to 16 September 1918. Battery “B” of the regiment operated an enormous 14-inch French railway gun known as “Queen Elizabeth.,” and the commanding officer, Major J.K. Meneely, wrote an article on the role of his unit for Liaison.170 It was the task of the 53rd to lay down disruptive fire upon the German supply depots, and critical to the mission was severing the German railway supply link at the rail yard in Conflans, where most of the newly arrived German soldiers and war goods were disembarking.171 Members of the CAC, who had been captured and were present, as prisoners of war awaiting transport present at the rail yard in Conflans during the heavy shelling, noted that the well placed artillery fire hampered the German trains to the extent that they were forced to halt miles outside of Conflans and then make a dash through the town, quickly unloading their precious cargo before another large caliber shell roared overhead.172 The heavy artillery rounds lobbed by the Queen Elizabeth, a total of 109,965 pounds,173 annihilated the rail yard. One well placed shell hit the locomotive housing facility while it was at high occupancy, resulting in a massive amount of destruction.174
The 53rd aptly demonstrated effective counter-battery fire as well as the ability to work directly with the French military. An integral feature of the ability of the 53rd to meet their objective was the role of the French 58th Service Renseignement Observation Terrestiale (SROT). SROT assisted the 53rd by providing excellent observation data on the German activities near Conflans. While demonstrating the ability of the CAC to work closely with a foreign body, the 53rd was able to achieve a high level of success in counter batt ery fire. SROT would notify the 53rd when a suspected German battery fired, once the shell arrived near the American position it was possible for SROT to pinpoint the exact location of the German fire. In turn, SROT would relay the coordinated to the 53rd, after which the German position received the brunt of Coast Artillery fire. This system, due to the rapid dissemination of information, made it particularly difficult for the Germans to destroy the American artillery emplacements.
September 18, 1918, marked the removal of the 31st Artillery Brigade from the III Corps to the direct control of the Chief of Artillery, First Army, in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On September 26, 1918, a little over a month into frontline service, Battery “B” participated in one of the unit’s heaviest bombardments; the Meuse- Argonne Offensive had begun in earnest. The battery fired on the German targets in the towns of Montfaucon, Ivoiry, Epinonville, and Cierges until late in the morning the next day. Success of the intense shelling was demonstrated by the long line of German prisoners marching pass the gun emplacements of the battery.175 On October 2, 1918, the battery undertook two days of counter battery firing, as well as the shelling of the retreating Germans.176 From October 1918 until November 11, 1918, the battery engaged German targets while following the AEF’s advance. On the final day of battle, the battery fired 488 rounds into German positions. Between the battery’s frontline deployment and the final cease-fire order of the war, Battery “B” had fired 3,858 shells, with cost of fired ordnance reaching approximately $578,700.00 US.177
The 65th Regiment, CAC, had the distinction of being the only American regiment to field the British built 9.2 howitzers, a type often not popular with the troops because its rapid design and compromises for speedy manufacture could make it a temperamental equipment to operate. In total, two of the regiments batteries possessed eight 9.2-howizters (four MI and four MII models), six 15-ton Holt caterpillar tractors, two 20-ton Holt caterpillar tractors, and one artillery repair truck.178 Using their howitzers during the St. Mihiel Offensive, the 65th provided the French First Corps with counter-battery fire. AEF observation elements noted that a battalion of the 65th destroyed a German battery of 210-mm guns with three well-placed salvoes, adding that all the shells from the final barrage were direct hits.179 It is evident that along with the well-documented account of the Queen Elizabeth railway gun’s operations at Conflans, the CAC was able to furnish extremely effective long-range, indirect fire.
The 8 February 1919 installment of Liaison, featured the exploits of the Fourth Battalion of the Provisional Howitzer Regiment during the summer of 1918. Arriving at Verdun under the leadership of Major J.P. Leavenworth, the battalion prepared for the suspected German offensive. To the dismay of the battalion, the German attack occurred to the west of their positions and therefore left their batteries well out of range. Relocated to the hallowed Fort Douaumont, the battalion could fire upon the Germans from three
directions.180 Notably, the battalion’s 8-inch howitzers were instrumental in wrecking havoc on German gun emplacements. Throughout their stint at the Fort, the battalion worked closely with the French Army. The French conducted small raids into the German lines after an artillery barrage designed to clear out the opposing trenches. The Fourth Battalion played a key role, shelling the enemy roads and to prevent reinforcement of the German frontlines. Additionally, the Coast Artillery proved extremely effective in being able to shift targets frequently in order to counter the German batteries while still maintaining ample fire on the supply routes.181
Under the command of Colonel John B. Murphy, CA, the Fourth Battalion endeared itself in the hearts of many AEF soldiers. Reassigned from the French Army in late October 1918 and attached to the 51st Artillery, CAC, the Fourth Battalion spearheaded the reprieve of American units stationed along the Argonne front.182 Having suffered constant bombardment by the opposing German artillery batteries, the American soldiers were in great need of their own heavy artillery.183 According to Liaison’s editors, once the CAC guns arrived in the sector, it “established its positions…and shelled the Germans till they ran out of range.”184 Distancing themselves from the approaching heavy guns was the trademark of the Germans after the arrival of the Coast Artillery. Consequently, since only a few volleys where sent at the German lines before the Germans were once again out of range, the engagement took on a more mobile nature. Rather, the Fourth Battalion would fire a few rounds then move their equipment forward in order to keep up with the retreating German units. The battalion took command of captured German heavy artillery, but where dismayed to find the abandoned weapons rendered useless by the retreating German artillerymen. In order for the Fourth Battalion to continue its advance towards the Germans, and in fact Germany proper, they would require the construction of a bridge over the Meuse River, capable of supporting their heavy guns. The war would end, however, before the construction of such a bridge was completed.185
A portion of the anti-aircraft cover provided by the CAC were the units forming the Third Anti-Aircraft Sector. All of the officers of this formation were graduates of anti-aircraft artillery training at Arounville. A highlight of the Sector’s service was in assisting in the aerial defense of Paris, where it took up positions at Fort de Stains. The Sector also saw action at the Front, where Captain Claire A. Duffie set an AEF record. Duffie’s battery accounted for two downed German planes while firing only eighty-seven shots, quite an amazing achievement at the time. The accomplishment resulted in the French presenting Duffie with three combat citations.186
Battery A of the Second Anti-Aircraft Sector saw similar action as that of the Third Anti-Aircraft Sector. Battery A partook in the battles encompassing the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The objective of the battery was the protection of two French observation balloons, which while doing so they expended 370 rounds of ammunition. Typical of frontline artillery units was the wearing of gasmasks and having to operate their large weaponry with hindered vision. Regardless of their hurdles they literally faced, the battery boasted their downing of four German planes. Battery A shot down the aforementioned four German planes on 13 October 1918, two downed within ten minutes of each other.187 Aside from the feats of Battery A, their equipment is of great consequence. Outfitted with vehicle mounted French 75’s, the battalion demonstrated the ever-apparent influence the French had on the CAC.188
The Coast Artillery Corps is one of the neglected aspects of American military history, and this is one reason why many myths still circulate regarding the AEF’s ineffectiveness on the Western Front in 1917-18. The brevity of the AEF’s frontline operations, and the inexperience of the US formations that contributed to very high casualty rates despite well-intended but often disregarded advice from the more experienced Allies, have tended to discourage operational studies. That state of affairs has begun to change only in recent years, particularly with the publication of works by Grotelueschen. These new works have barely touched upon the mobile formations raised by the Coast Artillery Corps but provided suggestive leads on the study of particular branches in the army. The research for the present paper has uncovered rich sources on the CAC, belying the notion that the AEF is an unpromising field for specialized operational studies.
The Coast Artillery Corps, the epitome of American isolationism, provided the American Expeditionary Force with the nation’s most war ready service. As a result of the shift on the battle fronts of the First World War from direct rapid firing light artillery to indirect fire by large caliber guns and howitzers, the CAC constituted a service branch perfectly suited for the swift deployment of one of the most technologically sophisticated and effective arms of the field army. The traditional coastal defense duties of the CAC had made it a world leader in the long-range and indirect fire of very heavy guns and howitzers in the maritime environment. Wedded as the senior levels of the US Army was to traditional concepts that emphasized infantry-led offensives with mainly direct fire support from light field guns, CAC officers accurately read the lessons of combat in Europe in 1914-17 and began to urge the need for mobile heavy artillery for land warfare. Initial Allied hopes on the United States’ entry into the war that US industry could build up the Allied arsenal of heavy weaponry were dashed by the unpreparedness of American manufacturers and the German victories of 1917 and early 1918 that allowed no time for a systematic US mobilization. Even so, the large pool of expertise in the CAC allowed prompt and successful improvisation in combining American personnel with heavy equipment from French and British arsenals, and the effective massing of French and US heavy artillery formations. By the time of the major AEF engagements, the CAC had adopted the French and British technique of massing tractor-towed heavy armaments and super-heavy armaments mounted on railway carriages.
Participation in battle would demonstrate, not least to the US Army’s own leaders, the critical importance of expertly manned, massed heavy artillery formations, in a war that was ultimately defined by artillery firepower. The CAC, as the AEF underwent its merciless and brief opportunities to learn the exigencies of combat on the Western Front, quickly provided the new US First Army with the means of conducting warfare at the same advanced level as their German opponents. The AEF battles of the late summer and fall of 1918 are notable not only for the readiness with which the CAC units delivered effective long-range, indirect fire, but the ability of the professional leaders of the CAC rapidly and effectively to integrate their service with the much needed reinforcements from the British and French heavy artillery formations. The professionalism of the CAC also showed in its ready adoption of new roles, such as anti-aircraft protection for ground formations. On a broader plane, the story of the CAC's mobile formations in Europe provides a striking example of how the foremost military element of traditional US isolationist foreign and defense policies quickly became a leading element in the offensive power of America’s first large scale intervention in a European conflict. While American isolationism did not die in the trenches, the story of US coastal defense forces in the First World War provide a revealing thread in understanding the evolving relationship between the US military and US foreign policy.
A 1917 Coast Artillery Corps’ recruitment poster decreed, “WE NEED YOU!” Those three words reverberate throughout CAC history, but most particularly during the Great War. Of note, the poster appears to depict a British 8-inch howitzer. See Norman Tolson. “We need you! Coast Artillery Corps U.S.A.” (image). New York: Rode & Brand Litho., 1917.
I would like to express my sincerest thanks to all those who assisted me throughout this major research project. At the forefront is my advisor Dr. Roger Sarty, for without his impeccable understanding of American seacoast defenses as well as the science and history behind large caliber artillery, much of this paper would lack proper context. More importantly, Dr. Sarty’s enthusiasm, guidance and countless edits have been of immeasurable value. Providing significant background information, as well as introducing me to the invaluable Coast Artillery Corps publication, Liaison: Courier of the Big Gun Corps, is a Mr. Joe Hartwell. I am indebted to his personal connection to the topic and his substantial online collection of primary evidence and developed histories of CAC regiments. Furthermore, Joe provided me with a copy of History of Battery “D” 56th Regiment, CAC, in order to allow me to complete a more detailed wartime account of a CAC unit. An acknowledgment section would not be complete if I did not thank fiancé, family and friends for their support and constant calls asking if the paper was finished. My friends in the Tri-U MA program deserve thanks for their assistance and suggestions over these past few months.
US Staff Appreciations of Heavy Artillery on the Western Front
50th Artillery - Coast Artillery Corps - Regimental History Website
by Dr. Robert Thompson
Wilfrid Laurier University
Sincere thanks to Dr. Robert Thompson for allowing his work to be copied and published on this website. Dr. Thompson's work on CAC Regiments serving in the AEF is unrivaled.
Please see www.thompsonwerk.com for more information on the author and his work.
1. A 1917 Coast Artillery Corps’ recruitment poster decreed, “WE NEED YOU!” Those three words
reverberate throughout CAC history, but most particularly during the Great War. Of note, the poster
appears to depict a British 8-inch howitzer. See Norman Tolson. “We need you! Coast Artillery Corps
U.S.A.” (image). New York: Rode & Brand Litho., 1917. See Appendix 1.
2. Hew Strachan, The First World War, (New York: Viking, 2004), 227.; Ibid., 310.
3. Order Of Battle Of The United States Land Forces In The World War: Zone of the Interior: Organization
and Activities of the War Department Vol. 3 Part 1 (Washington DC: Center Of Military History United
States Army, 1988), 149.
4. In many instances, officers and enlisted men of the Coast Artillery Corps were loaned to Field Artillery
formations because unlike their FA counterparts, they were not nearly as “green.” An example of which
was the transferring of six men (two corporals, three privates, and one wagoner) from the 56th CAC
Regiment to the 57th FA Brigade on April 22, 1918. Frank H. Kirk, History of Battery “D” 56th Artillery,
Coast Artillery Corps, (1920), 11.
5. Gustaf H. Ericson, “Fifty First Artillery, CAC,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 3, No. 11,
(March 13, 1920), 125.
6. Ibid., 125.
7. Ibid., 125.
8. Emanuel R. Lewis, Seacoast Fortifications of the U.S.: an Introductory History, (Washington D.C.:
Smithsonian Distribution Press, 1970), 6.
9.. Jamie W. Moore, “National Security in the American Army’s Definition of Mission: 1985-1914.”
Military Affairs (October 1982), 127-8.
10. Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973), 92-3.
11. Walter Millis, American Military Thought, (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company INC, 1966), 143.
12. Ibid., 196-7. See also: Russell F. Weigley, The American Way Of War, 167.
13. Millis, 193-5.
14 Ibid., 196.
15 Ibid., 196.
16 Ibid., 196.
17 Weigley, The American Way Of War,169.
18 Russell F. Weigley, History Of The United States Army, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1967),
19 Roger F. Sarty, Coast Artillery, 1815-1914, (Alexandria Bay NY, Museum Restoration Service, 1988), 5.
20 Lewis, 6.
21 Sarty, 37.
22 James L. Abrahamson, American Arms for a New Century, (New York: The Free Press, 1981), 37.
23 Mark A. Berhow and William C. Gaines, “Organization Of The Coast Artillery Corps 1901-1942.”
American Seacoast Defenses, (2006) http://www.cdsg.org/reprint PDFs/CACorg4.pdf, 418.
24 Larry H. Addington, “The U.S. Coast Artillery and the Problem of Artillery Organization, 1907-1954,”
Military Affairs (February 1978), 1.
25 Kenneth Hamburger, “The Technology, Doctrine, And Politics Of U.S. Coast Defenses, 1880-1945,”
(PhD thesis, Duke University, 1986), 236.
26 Mark E. Grotelueschen, Doctrine Under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War 1
(Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001), 141. For a more in-depth analysis on the positive aspects of the American Expeditionary Force, as well as an up to date review of current US Great War historiography, see: Mark E. Grotelueschen, The AEF Way of War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
27 Groteluechen, The AEF Way of War, 5.
28 Although Groteluechen sparks the need to examine of the AEF’s more successful units, he discredits the contribution of the CAC on the grounds that the branch never experienced any enlargement, whilst the Field Artillery did undergo immense growth. Such a viewpoint would be valid if it were not for the fact that the CAC did expand, but was handicapped by the unforeseen events of 1918 - the redistribution and major offensives of the German armies under Ludendorff following the defeat of Russia.
29 Gary Mead, The Doughboys: America And The First World War (Woodstock New York, The Overlook
Press, 2000), XXII.
30 John S. D. Eisenhower, The Epic Story Of The American Army In World War 1 (New York: The Free
Press, 2001), XII - XIV.
31 Mead, XI – XII, 176.
32 Ibid., XII. In 1936, at the height of the Depression, 6000 Canadian veterans and families went to France on the Vimy Pilgrimage, to witness the unveiling of Walter Allward’s limestone memorial. While that was the biggest, it was not the first pilgrimage – the first organized was a group of 30 veterans who went in 1927. Jonathan Vance, Death so Noble: Memory, Meaning and the First World War (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997), 57.
33 Mead, XI.
34. Lawrence Stallings, The Doughboys (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1963), 1.
35. Edward M. Coffman, The War To End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War 1
(Lexington KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1968), VI.
36. Timothy K. Nenninger, “Tactical Dysfunction in the AEF, 1917 – 1918.” Military Affairs (October,
1987) 181. See also: David F. Trask, The AEF and Coalition Warmaking, 1917 – 1918 (Lawrence KS:
University Press of Kansas 1993), 1.
37. Ibid., VIII.
38. Ibid., VIII.
39. Such attempts include the following literature. In a second edition print, historian Paul F. Braim, The Test of Battle (Shippensburg Pennsylvania: White Mane Books, 1998), provides an account of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive that is noted by Groteuschen as being critical but too short. Groteulschen notes that other campaign analysis’s neglect the majority of the involved units. In terms of the Aisne-Marne Offensive, there is the work by Douglas V. Johnson and Rolfe L. Hillman, Soissons, 1918 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999). James H. Hallas, Squandered Victory: The American Army at St. Mihiel (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995) provides the only account of the St. Mihiel Offensive.
40. Order Of Battle Of The United States Land Forces In The World War: American Expeditionary Forces:
General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Services of Supply, Separate Forces Vol. 1 (Washington DC:
Center Of Military History United States Army, 1988). See also, Order Of Battle Of The United States
Land Forces In The World War: Zone of the Interior: Organization and Activities of the War Department
Vol. 3 Part 1 (Washington DC: Center Of Military History United States Army, 1988).
41. A great deal of the archival material used in this study could be supplemented by additional archival
research. This, however, requires a lot of future pioneering for many of the records, such as those
associated with the Chief of Coast Artillery and his annual reports between 1915 and 1924, as of this
writing, where not located by NARA staff and are therefore presumed missing.
42. Garland N. Whistler, “The Present Day Tactics Of Coast Artillery,” Journal of United States Artillery
(September-October 1912) 167.
43. Whistler, 167.
44. The Coordination Of The Mobile And Coast Artillery Units Of The Army In The National Defense, Army
War College, 1916, War Department Document 508, 5.
45. Ibid., 6-7.
46. Ibid., 7-8.
47. Ibid., 8.
48. Ibid., 8-9.
49. Ibid., 9.
50. “Study On The Development Of Large Caliber, Mobile Artillery, And Machine Guns In The Present
European War.” Journal of United States Artillery, (May-June 1916), 352-3.
51. Ibid., 353.
52. “Fortifications.” Journal of United States Artillery, (May-June 1916), 339-40.
53. Ibid., 341.
54 “Study On The Development Of Large Caliber, Mobile Artillery, And Machine Guns In The Present
European War,” 353. See Also, “Fortifications,” 339-41.
55 Major General Herr, Inspector General of Artillery and Commanding General Artillery Reserve to
General Pershing , 1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces (World War
1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
56 General Headquarters Staff, to Major General Herr, ‘Note’, 1918, NARA, RG 120, Box 4913, Cases 20-
58. General Headquarters Staff, to Major General Herr, ‘Note’, 1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The
American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913,
61. Ibid. Future developments of self-propelled artillery appeared in a January 25, 1919 Liaison article. In
sum, the article discussed the Army’s 1919 demonstration of an 8-inch howitzer (Model 1917, Vickers,
Mark VI) self-propelled caterpillar based artillery mount at Fort Eustis, Virginia. While the gun displayed
some issues, such as accuracy, the article noted that many of the present military observers judged the
weapon demonstrated that the future of self-propelled guns to be promising. “The Howitzer that Hauls
Itself,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1 No.6, (January 25, 1919), 41-2.
62. General Headquarters Staff, to Major General Herr, ‘Note’, 1918, NARA, RG 120, Box 4913, Cases 20-
70. Berlin News Record. 1914. Charge! July 15, pages 11-12.
72. Grotelueschen, The AEF Way of War, 30.
73. John J. Pershing, My Experiences In The World War, Vol. 2 (Blue Summit Ridge, PA: Tab Printing,
74. J.B.A. Bailey, Field Artillery And Firepower (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2004) 266.
75. Pershing, 238.
76. Ibid., 238.
77. Bailey, 266.
78. Grotelueschen, The AEF Way of War, 124.
79. Instructions On The Offensive Action Of Large Units In Battle, Headquarters American Expeditionary
Force: France, January 1918, 1.
80. Ibid., 39.
81. Ibid., 39.
82. Ibid., 39.
83. Ibid., 39. “Special shells” may have been referring to incendiary and not the ordinary high explosive
84. Bailey, 266.
85. Order Of Battle Of The United States Land Forces In The World War: Zone of the Interior: Organization
and Activities of the War Department Vol. 3 Part 1, 147.
86. Unknown Sender, to General March, ‘Proposed [i]ndorsement on 820-B. Hq. 1st Separate Brigade,
C.A.C.’, January 14, 1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces (World
War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
87. Lt. Col. H.C. Miller, to Headquarters, Army Artillery, First Army, AEF, ‘Railway Artillery Center’,
1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc.
Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1. “Our Yesterdays with the Railway Artillery in
88. Lt. Col. H.C. Miller, NARA, RG 120, Box 4913, Case 20-1.
89. “The Early Days of Anti-Aircraft,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1 No.10, (February 22,
1919), 73; “Our Yesterdays with the Railway Artillery in France,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Guns
Corps, Vol. 2 No. 23, (December, 6, 1919), 282.
90. “The Early Days of Anti-Aircraft,” 73.
91. Ibid., 73.
92. Ibid., 73.
93. Ibid., 74.
94. Ibid., 74.
95. General Headquarters Staff, to Major General Herr, ‘Note’, 1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The
American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913,
Cases 20-1. ALGP was the French acronym for artillerie lourde à grande puissance (heavy artillery with
97. Hogg, 91.
98. Ibid., 91.
99. Ibid., 91.
100. Hogg, Ian V. The Guns 1914-18 (New York: Ballantine Books, 1971), 93-4.
101. Benedict Crowell, America’s Munitions: 1917-1918, (Washington DC: Government Printing Office,
102. HQ AEF, to Chief Ordnance Officer, January 10,1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American
Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
103. Adjutant General, to Major General March, Commanding Army Artillery, First Army, ‘8-inch and 9.2-
inch howitzers’, November 26, 1917, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces
(World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
104. Hogg, 101-3.
105. Kirk, 55. For further information on the 155-mm, please consult the training manuals published after the war. Additionally, this document gives credence to the fact that is the US Army favored gun. Coast Artillery Field Manual: Seacoast Artillery Service Of The Piece 155-MM Gun, (Washington DC: War
Department, 1940), 1-29.
106. Crowell, 22.
107. GHQ Staff, NARA, RG 120, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
108. Hogg, 103.
109. Joseph Hartwell, http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~cacunithistories/155mmgpf.htm (Accessed on
August 7, 2007).
110. Hartwell, http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~cacunithistories/92%20howitzer.html (Accessed on August 7, 2007).
111. Hartwell, http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~cacunithistories/Vehicles%20of%20the%20AEF.html
(Accessed on August 7, 2007).
112. Crowell, 22.
113. Coast Artillery Field Manual: Seacoast Artillery Service Of The Piece 8-Inch Gun, Railway Artillery,
(Washington DC: War Department, 1940), 33.
114. Colonel Jenks, Office Of The Chief Ordnance Officer, SOS, to Colonel Hatch, March 20, 1918, Record
Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st
Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
116. “Victory Loan Trains of the C.A.C. Move out for the Big Drive,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun
Corps Vol. 1 No. 17, (April 12, 1919), 150.
117. Hogg, 108.
118. CG 51st Brigade, FA, to Chief of Army Artillery, 1918, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American
Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
119. Samuel Graydon (ed.), “History Of The 58th Artillery, CAC,” (New York, 1919), 11.
120. Ibid., 11.
121. Marshal Fochs Makes Special Request for American Technical Units, Policy Forming Documents,
American Expeditionary Forces, Historical Division Department of the Army, Washington, 1948.
122. Major General E. M. Weaver, Chief of Coast Artillery, to Chief of Staff, ‘Memorandum for the Chief of Staff’, June 27, 1917, Record Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
123. United States Army in the World War 1917-1919: Organization of the American Expeditionary Forces,
Vol. I (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1988; reprint of original 1948 edition), 128-30.
124. Major General E. M. Weaver, Chief of Coast Artillery, to Chief of Staff, ‘Memorandum for the Chief of Staff’, June 27, 1917, NARA, RG 120, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
127. J. Lindsay Hoyt, “History of the 68th Regiment, C.A.C.,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol.
3, No. 3, (January 17, 1920), 33.
128. Ibid., 33.
129 Ericson, “Fifty First Artillery, CAC,” 125.
130. Major General E. M. Weaver, Chief of Coast Artillery, to Chief of Staff, ‘Memorandum for the Chief of Staff’, June 27, 1917, NARA, RG 120, Box 4913, Cases 20-1.
131. Benedict Crowell, America’s Munitions 1917-1918 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office,
132. Order of Battle of the United Sates Land Forces in the World War: Zone of the Interior: Directory of
Troops, Vol. 3, Part 3 (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1988; reprint of original edition of
1949), 1134, 1136-7; Order of Batle of the United States Land Forces in the World War: American
Expeditionary Forces: General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Service of Supply, Separate Forces,
Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1988; reprint of original edition of 1937), 82-3.
133. War Department, to Chief of Coast Artillery, November 2, 1917, Record Group 120 (Records Of The
American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)), Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913,
139. United States Army in the World War 1917-1919: Organization of the American Expeditionary Forces, Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, 1988; reprint of original edition of 1948), 115, 125-30.
140. United States Army In The World War1917-1919: Organization of American Expeditionary Forces,
Washington: Historical Division Department of the Army, 1948, 225.
141. Corporal Frank H. Kirk, who titled himself the “Sometime Battery Clerk”, compiled the diary-like data of the regiment into a single volume of the battery’s wartime experiences.
142. Kirk, 3.
143. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, Vol. 3, Part 3: Zone of the Interior: Directory of Troops (Washington, D.C.: Centre of Military History, 1988; reprint of 1949 edition), 1135, 1139-40.
144. Kirk, 3, 55. For another good account of mobilization and training see J. Lindsay Hoyt, “History of the 68th Regiment, C.A.C.,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 3, No. 3, (January 17, 1920), 33.
145. Calculated from the unit by unit listing in Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, Vol. 3, Part 3: Zone of the Interior: Directory of Troops (Washington, D.C.: Centre of Military
History, 1988; reprint of original 1949 edition), 1129-42.
146. O’Brien Brown, “March 21, 1918”, in Robert Cowley (ed.), The Great War: Perspectives on the First
World War, (New York: Random House, 2003), 393.
147. Ibid., 392-3, 402. Kaiserschlacht (the Kaiser’s battle), was code named Operation Michael but was more
commonly referred to as “The Great Battle” by many German commanders.
148. Ibid., 402.
149. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Center
of Military History, 1988; reprint of original 1937 edition), 17.
150. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, Vol. 3, Part 3: Zone of the Interior: Directory of Troops (Washington, D.C.: Centre of Military History, 1988; reprint of original 1949 edition), 1129-42.
151. Order Of Battle Of The United States Land Forces In The World War: Zone of the Interior:
Organization and Activities of the War Department Vol. 3 Part 1, 148.
152. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, vol. I (Washington, CD: Centre of
Military History, 1988; reprint), 193-9.
153. Order of Battle, vol. 1, 220-35.
154. Order of Battle, vol. 1, 237-315.
155. Order of Battle, vol. 1, 317-343.
156. Ibid., 171.
157. Ibid., 85-91.
158. Absent from the list is the 56th CA, which was initially attached to the III Corps prior to the Meuse-
Argonne Offensive. See Ibid., 82.
159. Attached were the 55th and 56th Regiments, CAC. Ibid., 237.
160. These French heavy artillery pieces were operated by France’s III Corps Artillery.
161. In addition, the 57th Regiment, CAC, was removed from the III Corps but was attached to the IV Corps instead of joining the rest of the 31st Heavy Artillery Brigade over at First Army.
162. These French heavy artillery pieces were operated by the batteries of the 81st, 289th, 308th, 407th, 413th, and 456th.; Ibid., 238.
163. Ibid., 83.
164. “The Adventures of a Roughneck Battery,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1 No.9
(February 15, 1919), 65.
165. Ibid., 65.
166. Kirk, 18.
167. Ibid., 22.
168. Ibid., 20-1.
169. Ibid., 56. For the letter to Cowan’s widow, see: Ibid. 59.
170. J.K. Meneely, “The Queen Elizabeth Shoots Up Conflans,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps,
Vol. 1, No. 17, (April 12, 1919), 152.
171. Ibid., 152.
172. Ibid., 155.
173. Ibid., 155.
174. Ibid., 154.
175. Kirk, 24.
176. Ibid., 26.
177. Ibid., 58.
178. Olin H. Longino, “The 9.2s In The War,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1 No. 26, (June
14, 1919), 253.
179. Ibid.,253 .
180. “The Adventures of a Howitzer Battalion,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1 No. 8,
(February 8, 1919), 57.
181. Ibid., 57-8.
182. Ibid., 59.
183. Ibid., 57.
184. Ibid., 57.
185. Ibid., 59.
186. “The 3d Anti-Aircraft Sector Returns,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1 No. 9, (February
15, 1919), 69.
187. “The Log of an Anti-Aircraft Battery in the Argonne,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1
No. 7, (February 1, 1919), 51.
188. Ibid., 52.
“The 3d Anti-Aircraft Sector Returns,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1
No. 9, (February 15, 1919): 69.
“The Adventures of a Howitzer Battalion,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol.
1 No. 8, (February 8, 1919): 57-59.
“The Adventures of a Roughneck Battery,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol.
1 No.9 (February 15, 1919): 65-68.
Berlin News Record. 1914. Charge! July 15, pages 11-12.
Coast Artillery Field Manual: Seacoast Artillery Service Of The Piece 8-Inch Gun,
Railway Artillery, Washington DC: War Department, 1940.
Coast Artillery Field Manual: Seacoast Artillery Service Of The Piece 12- and 14-Inch
Guns (Disappearing Carriage), Washington DC: War Department, 1940.
Coast Artillery Field Manual: Seacoast Artillery Service Of The Piece 155-MM Gun,
Washington DC: War Department, 1940.
“The Early Days of Anti-Aircraft,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps, Vol. 1
No.10, (February 22, 1919): 73-75.
“Fortifications.” Journal of United States Artillery, (May-June 1916), 339-40.
Instruction On The Offensive Action Of Large Units In Battle. France: Headquarters
American Expeditionary Forces, January 1918.
“The Log of an Anti-Aircraft Battery in the Argonne,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun
Corps, Vol. 1 No. 7, (February 1, 1919): 51.
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Expeditionary Forces: General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Services of
Supply, Separate Forces Vol. 1, Washington DC: Center Of Military History
United States Army, 1988.
Order Of Battle Of The United States Land Forces In The World War: Zone of the
Interior: Organization and Activities of the War Department Vol. 3 Part 1,
Washington DC: Center Of Military History United States Army, 1988.
Record Group 120 (Records Of The American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1)),
Misc. Correspondence 1st Army Artillery, Box 4913, Cases 20-1. National
Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD.
“Study On The Development Of Large Caliber, Mobile Artillery, And Machine Guns In
The Present European War.” Journal of United States Artillery, (May-June 1916):
United States. War Dept. General Staff. The coordination of the mobile and coast
artillery units of the Army in the National Defense. Washington, G.P.O., 1916.
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Expeditionary Forces. Washington: Historical Division Department of the Army,
United States Army In The World War 1917-1919: Policy-Forming Documents American
Expeditionary Forces. Washington: Historical Division Department of the Army,
“Victory Loan Trains of the C.A.C. Move out for the Big Drive,” Liaison: Courier of The
Big Gun Corps Vol. 1 No. 17 (April 12, 1919): 150.
Crowell, Benedict. America’s Munitions: 1917-1918, Washington DC: Government
Printing Office, 1919.
Ericson, Gustaf H.. “Fifty First Artillery, CAC,” Liaison: Courier of The Big Gun Corps,
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Graydon, Samuel (ed.). History of the 58th US Artillery, CAC, New York: Regimental
History Board, 1919.
Hoyt, J. Lindsay. “History of the 68th Regiment, C.A.C.,” Liaison: Courier of The Big
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Kirk, Frank K. History of Battery “D” 56th Artillery, C.A.C., 1920.
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Corps, Vol. 2, No. 2, (July 12, 1919): 13-16.
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1880-1945.” PhD thesis, Duke University, 1986.
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http://freepages.military.rootsweb.com/~cacunithistories/ (Accessed on August 7,
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1973._______________. History Of The United States Army, New York: The Macmillan
Before the United States entered the Great War in 1917, the units of the Coast Artillery Corps operated the armaments protecting American coastlines. Mobilization of the American Expeditionary Force for combat in France and Belgium, however, would remove many of these artillerymen from the confines of their fortifications to crew mobile heavy artillery pieces that had proved to be an indispensable component of the arsenals of all belligerents in that conflict. At the very outset of the war in August 1914, the rapidly advancing armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary aptly demonstrated that guns once deemed fit for only warships or static emplacements had an essential role in smashing the concrete and steel frontier fortresses of neighboring states. During the following months, as the fighting fronts stabilized, mobile heavy artillery proved equally essential against the field fortifications that troops on both sides at first spontaneously improvised for protection against the fearsome power of new industrial age weapons, and then systematically developed into continuous lines of entrenchments and strong points. France and Great Britain followed the lead of their enemies and began to field their own heavy artillery pieces of increasing size and in increasing numbers. Artillery came very quickly to dominate the battlefield, the organization of armies, and the rapidly expanding industrial efforts of all belligerents. American intervention in Europe immediately gave rise to the need for America to deploy her own heavy artillery arm.1
The Coast Artillery Corps was the prime candidate for such a task, particularly so because of the expansion and important technological development of the corps since the 1880s. Rather paradoxically, in view of the important offensive role the US coast artillery would play in the European theatre, the growth of this quintessentially defensive branch of the US military prior to 1917 had been the result of a re-emphasis on traditional American isolationism towards European powers in response to the growing competition among those powers in the late nineteenth century. American coastal defense artillery weapons had become heavier, more numerous and more capable since the 1880s to protect American shores against the ever more powerful, faster and longer-ranged warships in European navies produced by the arms race among the great powers. Therefore, an examination of the Coast Artillery Corps on the Western Front is more than a means of understanding the US Army’s rapid and generally successful mobilization for large-scale combat in 1917-18. The little-studied transformation of the Coast Artillery Corps also shows how a symbolic element of American isolationist military and foreign policies quickly became one of nation’s best offensive capabilities on the European continent.
Upon the declaration of war by the United States government in 1917, the armed forces of America prepared to mobilize. Prior to 1917, US Army strength was at 100,000 men, many of which were either in the Calvary or in the Coast Artillery Corps. By 1919, however, the Army reached a total strength of four million men, of which half, some two million, had already been deployed to Europe in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). The AEF, during the short twenty-one months of US belligerency had become as strong as both the British army of 1.8-million troops and the French army of 1.7-million.2 The CAC had mobilized 147,386 men, 70,384 men for coast defense duty, and 69,890 men for the army in Europe.3
The essential story of the American army during the First World War was in many respects the rapid mobilization of such a massive field force from such a small peacetime service, and one utterly lacking experience in deploying large all-arms formations. The expansion, moreover, took place under heavy pressure of unanticipated events at the fighting fronts. Planning, both Allied and American, always looked to the mounting of a large victory offensive in 1919, the earliest it seemed that that the new American formations could be transported to Europe and readied for battle. The months immediately following the United States’ entry into the war, however, saw the a succession of disasters for the Allied cause: the utter failure of the French and British offensives of 1917, and the German victory over Russia that allowed the transfer of scores of divisions to the Western Front. As a result, American plans were disrupted by the need to rush only partly organized formations to Europe to help shore up the Allied line. American units, then divisions and corps filled gaps in French and British field armies. Only in the summer of 1918 was the AEF able to pull together some of the divisions and corps serving with Allied formations to create the US First Army, which, even so, depended upon the French Army for many of its combat elements. Heavy artillery posed particular challenges, because of the high level of training needed for personnel, and the need for large quantities of sophisticated equipment, much of it at the limits or beyond of American industrial capacity. In these circumstances, the highly trained personnel of the Coast Artillery Corps became an invaluable resource for the raising of the AEF.4
Mobilization in 1917 brought a radical change from the corps’ traditional role, the defense of America’s seacoasts from foreign attack by garrisoning well-developed permanent fortifications at mouths of the principal ports and estuaries. Instead, as one officer, Captain Gustaf H. Ericson, commented, the corps mobilized exactly like an infantry division of the expeditionary force.5 Coast Artillery units gathered at central camps, where they reorganized their basic company units into the larger formations needed for mobile field service. Tailored to provide the crews necessary for specific fortifications, the smaller units were inadequate for frontline service in France. In fact, the British and French armies needed the heavy, accurate firepower of the Coast Artillery more urgently than they needed additional infantry formations, to such a degree that the Americans had rapidly to organize special field units. Accordingly, “numerous orders and telegrams were dispatched from the Adjutant General’s office in Washington to all parts of the country, and in a very matter-of-fact tone ordered officers and organizations of the Coast Artillery relieved from the present assignment to report to the Commanding Officer, Sixth Provisional Regiment, C.A.C.”6 “Up to that time” Captain Ericson recalled, “we had never heard of the Six Regiment before. We were, therefore, a little surprised.” 7 From this moment onward, the story of the Coast Artillery would be one of transformation; instead of applying its technical mastery of long-range heavy artillery fire against hostile navies, it would target the armies in France.
Since the American Expeditionary Force of the Great War was engaged in actual combat for barely a year, the common misconception is that there is limited scope for scholarship. This is particularly striking with respect to the important role of artillery, a major subject of research concerning most of the major armies of the First World War, but the focus of very few studies of the AEF. The work that does exists deals primarily with the field artillery, the lighter guns organized at the divisional level to provide direct fire support to the infantry. This was the traditional role of artillery in field armies. Arguably, the most marked revolution in artillery during the First World War was in the large-scale deployment of heavy artillery, at the corps and army level, to provide indirect, long-range fire support against targets behind enemy lines across broad stretches of the front. The near absence of discussion of AEF heavy artillery is the more notable because it was raised by the Coast Artillery Corps, in some respects the archetypical arm of the US army from the earliest days of the republic. Perhaps because of the rather mundane nature of the coast artillery’s traditional homeland defense role, there is only a limited number of analytical works on the coast artillery. Somewhat more surprising is the near absence of literature concerning the innovation by which the coast artillery became an essential component of the AEF.
“We Need You!”
The Coast Artillery Corps on the Western Front, 1917-1918
The literature on the American military in the period from the 1880s-1919, that is from the beginning of modernization of the forces through the First World War, emphasizes policy. Works on the mobilization and operations of the American Expeditionary Force similarly treat the consequences of flawed high level military policy, such as the haphazard adjustment from the pre-war vision of fast moving offensive thrusts to the real world quagmire that was the Western Front warfare, and the high casualty rates that resulted from the failure to take fuller account of European experience in 1914-17. By contrast, coverage of the development of particular branches of the military is thin, and, in the case of the Coast Artillery Corps in the AEF, virtually nonexistent.
The Coast Artillery Corps was born out of American isolationism. Indeed, historian Emanuel R. Lewis wrote that coastal fortifications were the preeminent construction projects of the United States Army during times of peace.8 Much of America’s military history, encompassing the Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War, directly influenced the construction of fortifications. Historian Jamie W. Moore noted that the United States turned towards seacoast fortifications because of the turbulence emitted from the French Revolution and its impact on Europe. While the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe, the United States faced Great Britain in the War of 1812. Moore comments that all of the measures made by the United States prior to the War of 1812 amounted to nothing for the naval might of Great Britain completely outweighed the entire American military.9 The pre-war measures failed due to the insufficient defense of American coastlines, as was aptly demonstrated by the Royal Navy’s prolonged penetration of the Chesapeake Bay during the conflict.
The American Civil War provided another catalyst for the development in coastal fortifications and armaments. Unlike the wars prior to the Civil War, argued Russell F. Weigley, the distance separating the established power and the rebel forces was much closer than in the wars and confrontations with Great Britain. The close territorial proximity allowed the Union to penetrate Southern territory more easily and for sustained periods. While the close proximity and strength of the Union navy weighed heavilyagainst the Confederacy, the Southern states possessed a land force that greatly rivaled the Union land formations.10 In a war where the strategy of the Union was to penetrate, divide, and strangle the Confederacy, the famed Anaconda Plan, the defeat of powerful southern fortifications would prove a central challenge for the Union forces. Vicksburg, the fortified Confederate stronghold along the heights of the Mississippi River, proved to be a major obstacle in the Union’s conquest of the entire river system. While the Union would eventually succeed, the victory was only accomplished by starving Vicksburg’s garrison and not simply through superior artillery fire. In other regions, Confederate fortifications along the James River protected their capital of Richmond from seaborne attack and proved to be another major hindrance to Union forces. Similarly, immensely strong Confederate artillery fortifications resisted determined union land and sea assaults at Charleston and the Cape Fear River until the very end of the war. Conversely, the Union armies drew on heavy coastal and naval artillery armament to create a mobile heavy artillery arm that laid siege to fortified Confederate cities with devastating effect.
Although the Civil War had spurred a mass expansion of the US military, it did not prompt them to place a greater emphasis on offensive power. In fact, in the years following the war, the US resumed its traditional focus on defensive posturing. Historian Walter Millis maintained that while the Civil War scarred the American public, for it was the first total war experienced by the Americans, it had a more subdued affect on US military thought.11 Similar to the pre-war years, emphasis was placed on warding off European aggressors and upholding American isolation. The fortification of American coastlines thus took on a renewed political and military importance. It is within this realm of history historians such as Millis and Russell F. Weigley have argued that after 1865 the United States fielded a lackluster army and navy, barely adequate for constabulary duties on the land and sea frontiers, but were keen on coastal defense.12 Millis notes that under the administration of President Chester A. Arthur (1881-5), the antiquated Navy and Army fortresses witnessed the slight military revival with the construction of a few
modern warships in response to the palpable inadequacy of the US forces in the face of new technology rapidly developing in Europe and being acquired even by impoverished South American states; the beginnings of a new era in American coast defense would commence with the next presidential administration.13 Millis emphasizes the modest nature of initiatives in the early 1880s, since the Arthur government made it clear that it was revamping America’s abilities of defense, with no vision of manufacturing a military of conquest.14
The brainchild of the Cleveland administration (1885-9) was the “Board on Fortifications or Other Defenses,” created in 1885 under Secretary of War William C. Endicott, and known then and since as the Endicott Board. As noted by Millis, the board focused in minute detail on new technologies and on their potential for protection of particular key vulnerable areas along the US coast, but in this intense research (the board’s main report comprised nearly 400 closely printed pages) all but ignored the realities of international relations, and the pertinent lessons of history. Britain, the only power in a position to launch a major assault on the US coastline, had ardently sought US friendship since crises in Anglo-American relations during the Civil War, and there was in the 1880s no sign of a potential break in relations between the two powers. According to Millis, the reason for the intensely theoretical nature of the Board’s report, filed in 1886, was that it believed war was “a problem in cost accounting.”15 The board’s central premise was that the worst military disaster that could befall the US was the sacking of American coastal cities, the focal points of American wealth.16 Weigley states that the board, even while ignoring the state of international relations, exaggerated the capacity of European fleets to attack American ports.17 Weigley particularly notes that the Endicott Board was unable to name a particular foe to challenge their extensive fortification proposals.18
Nevertheless, the Endicott Board’s propaganda about grave, even if unnamed, threats set the stage for the transformation of American fortifications from antiques to leading edge applications of new military technology. Since the American Civil War, developments in European navies had transformed warships from awkward transitional types still dependent upon wind power, and armed with guns that could shoot accurately no more than a few thousand yards, to all-steel, heavily armored, fast steamers capable of crossing oceans at speed, with guns that could bombard a shore target with massive high explosive projectiles from ranges of 10,000 yards and more. In the wake of the Endicott report, although Congress was never willing to fund fully the massive program recommended, the US Army did develop some of the finest and heaviest coast artillery guns and weapons in the world.19 Wherever possible these formidable weapons were hidden from the sea in folds in the terrain well out on headlands in advance of the harbors they were protecting, and made full use of new telephone, telegraph and optical technology for indirect fire methods. The guns crews did not need to see the target; rather observation posts on high ground, and well out on the flanks of defended areas instantly delivered all the fire control data necessary to instruments on the gun mountings that only required the crews to “follow the pointer” to bring their weapons onto target and then to correct fire. 20 Ironically, Historian Roger F. Sarty argues that the lack of consistent US development of cannon technology was actually beneficial in the end. By the 1880’s, Coast defense technology, had stabilized, and thereby allowed the United States to skip the expensive transitional weaponry.21 Technological advancement, also argues James L. Abrahamson, was also the main factor in forcing change upon American defenses. Abrahamson notes that many military officers argued that modern wars erupted with little warning and escalated rapidly, therefore equating the need for adequate peacetime preparation, adding that well prepared defenses could even deter an invasion. Later echoed by the Endicott Board, this perception of modern warfare resulted in the Boards suggestions for the upgrading of fortifications with advanced defensive works and armaments.22
Much of the material written one the CAC covers the traditional role of the Corps, with emphasis on the distinctive configuration of the branch for fortress service. Mark A. Berlow and William C. Gaines note that until 1901 the US Army’s artillery was organized into regiments that included some companies or batteries for coastal defense duty and others for field service, a throwback to the era before the Civil War when the technology of field and fortress guns had much more in common than was the case after technological change gathered speed in the 1860s. A reorganization in 1901 that abolished the regiments in favor of 126 coast artillery companies and thirty field artillery batteries did not resolve the fundamental difficulty which was the increasingly distinct function of the two types of artillery. The answer lay in the creation of two separate artillery branches in 1907, which marked the birth of the Coast Artillery Corps as a branch separate from the field arms of the service.23 Historian Larry H. Addington noted that the number of coast artillery personnel had outstripped the growth of the Field Artillery, some 13, 734 personnel in the 126 coast artillery companies as compared to only 4,800 in the thirty field batteries, implying the favoring of the CAC by the military hierarchy. The creation of the Coast Artillery Corps, Addington argued, enshrined that special influence, for the coastal gunners now had their own chief, a major-general, at the War Department, who in many respects was the co-equal of the chief of staff of the rest of the army, the sole senior representative of all the other branches of the service.24 Berlow and Gaines, however, note that personnel demands fueled by the creation of additional large fortresses, such as those that guarded new overseas possessions, principally the Philippines and the Panama Canal Zone, called for the establishment of more CAC companies. Therefore, US defense policy dictated the high ratio of CAC personnel to Field Artillery personnel.
Addington’s argument that the creation of the Coast Artillery Corps owed much to the special influence of coast artillery officers and created an awkward division in the organization of the US Army’s artillery ignores the impact of the rapid advances in naval and heavy artillery technology in the late nineteenth century. These changes in fact required the coast artillery to become a much more specialized service, in many respects more closely aligned with naval than land warfare, not least because US national policy rightly or wrongly gave such a high priority to the security of the country’s sea frontiers against naval attack by European powers. Men highly trained in the operation of complex large caliber guns were needed to garrison the fortifications if the country’s huge investment in those defenses was to be effective. It is this line of reasoning one finds absent in Addington’s assessment of Army artillery organization.
Historian Kenneth Hamburger pays closer attention to the technological challenges the coast artillerymen faced in their traditional role, but in so doing provides insights useful in understanding the importance of the CAC to the AEF. Hamburger underscores that the CAC was the undisputed leader in the US in the employment of heavy artillery. Years prior to the American entry into the War, notes Hamburger, the Coast Artillery experimented with large mobile guns, including railway-mounted artillery. Furthermore, the CAC dominated all employment of very heavy artillery, twelve inches caliber and more. The coast artillery’s close involvement in the development and operation of modern heavy artillery at all stages from its first introduction into US service in the 1880s thereby placed the Corps in the position of being America’s siege weaponry experts, which was an essential tool in the quagmire that consumed the Western Front.25
In order to understand the limited scholarly interest in the role of the Coast Artillery on the Western Front, one needs to understand that scholars in fact have not probed into the history of any branch of the AEF. Historian Mark E. Grotelueschen maintains that because revisionist historians have tended to overstate the negative aspects of the AEF, there has been little interest in investigating the contributions of particular formations and units.26 Too many historians, according to Grotelueschen, “have been long on conclusions and short on the kind of detailed operational analysis that would move the debate away from the simple good-bad dichotomy that has come to dominate it.”27 In both his major works, Grotelueschen focuses on the AEF’s Field Artillery, endeavoring to restore balance by highlighting achievements as well as shortcomings. While Grotelueschen makes meager references to the Coast Artillery Corps, his analysis of the field artillery, closely associated as it was with the heavy artillery on the Western Front, is suggestive.28
Historian Gary Mead argues that one of the main reasons for lack of interest in the AEF is that that the soldiers themselves wished to forget about their involvement.29 Historian John S. D. Eisenhower notes the, brevity and unexciting nature of the experience of most American soldiers.30 The AEF was only at war for a little over a year and a major portion of the force had non-combat related duties.31 Mead goes further noting that the American troops, leadership and public often regretted military participation due to the treatment the US and its armed services received from the British and French. The unfortunate result was that very few soldiers wrote memoirs, or published their first-hand accounts of AEF battles. Mead adds that many AEF veterans never returned to France to visit the graves of their fallen comrades, very much unlike their Second World War counterparts.32 Today, most people remember the contributions of the British and French armies to the crushing of the German armies in the summer, fall of 1918, and tend to overlook the crucial part of the AEF.33 One of the few important exceptions to the failure of the veterans themselves to record their experiences was historian Lawrence Stallings, who in 1963 finally wrote an account of the AEF, but he did not in part because of the fact that so little else had been produced, notably including any sort of an official history beyond the barebones collections of documents published by the War Department in the 1930s and 1940s.34 Edward M. Coffman in 1968 published the first comprehensive history of the American experience in the First World War, a work of great influence in the field, and he is noted by Nenninger and David F. Trask as one of the most important scholars of the AEF. 35 Coffman attributes the lack of interest in the AEF to the overwhelming influence of the United States’ much larger participation in the Second World War. 36 Coffman acknowledges that most AEF literature has been written since he first published his own work, but notes that much of the new scholarship has been based upon the biographies of General John J. Pershing and General Robert L. Bullard.37 A fact that helps to explain the long-standing focus of analysis at the top levels of AEF leadership, and in particular Pershing’s flawed faith in the offensive power of infantry.38 There have been attempts to probe more deeply into the battle history of the AEF, but these have been few in number.39
Because of the undeveloped nature of the secondary literature, the present project relied on primary sources. Although the War Department never carried through with the original intention of producing an official history of the army’s effort in the First World War, in the 1930s-40s the department published a dozen volumes of documents and basic compilations of data, such as orders of battle. Of great consequence to this study were the Order of Battle volumes one and three.40 One mark of the growing professionalism of the coast artillery was the good quality of articles produced by its officers in the Journal of the United States Artillery, which in 1919 was succeeded by the Coast Artillery Journal, and these were a key source on Coast Artillery doctrine and evaluations of Central Power heavy artillery advancements. At the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), College Park, Maryland, Record Group 120 contains the correspondence of the AEF, and the files relating to the First Army were particularly useful for information on the coast artillery; when First Army became operational in the summer of 1918 many of the Coast Artillery Corps units that had gone overseas and were scattered among various corps, were grouped together under this formation. The files in Record Group 120 deal with a wide range of issues such as supply, organization, and studies of combat.41 Contrary to the arguments of some historians that AEF veterans wished only to forget their service, members of the CAC units established their own newsletter Liaison: the Courier of The Big Gun Corps in which they published unit histories and personal memoirs, and this was an important source for the present study. Admittedly, Liaison was in existence only from 1919 to 1920, which might indicate that the interest level quickly shrank in the years immediately following the Armistice. The publication, however, went out of existence after a few years in print. The basis for terminating Liaison was the disappearance of its publication subsidy from the government.