Author Topic: All Kansas Infantry and the 89th "Mid West" Division at St. Mihiel - 100 Years  (Read 926 times)

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Offline ArizonaTank

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At 5:00 on the morning of September 12th 1918, the 353rd Infantry Regiment (the “All Kansas Infantry”) attacked northward into German positions in the Mort Mare Woods, as part the 89th “Rolling W” division's mission in the St. Mihiel Offensive. German defenses in the woods included deep dugouts, strongpoints with trenches, concrete machine gun nests, and plenty of barb wire to slow the Kansas men. After a rainy, cold and miserable night, the 353rd went “over the top” at 5:00 in the morning.  They had a very tough fight, taking many casualties, and earning one posthumous Medal of Honor.  Finally at around 8:30am the 353rd emerged through the woods and moved on to another hard fight for the town of Euvezin one its first day objectives. Finally, a sergeant of the 353rd, captured 300 prisoners with an empty pistol at Bouillonville along the 89th's line of advance.

Google Street View of the jumping off point of the 353rd looking into the Mort Mare Woods in the distance. The 353rd would have been to right of road,5.846179,3a,75y,30.98h,85.07t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s7WI2Px4nRoM8j3dwNjntrw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

The 89th and 353rd
The 353rd was part of the 89th “Rolling W” (also sometimes known as the "Middle West division").  The division was a “National Army” unit, meaning it was made up of volunteers and conscripts, and unlike National Guard and Regular Army divisions, it did not even exist before the US entered the war. The division was green, having only arrived in France that June. The division history describes the makeup of the division like this.

The states from which the Division was drawn were Missouri, Kansas.
Colorado, Nebraska. South Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico. The men from
Kansas were for the most part assigned to the 353rd Infantry, which became
and is still known as the All-Kansas Regiment, since every county in the state
has, at one time or another, been represented in its ranks. Missouri, which
furnished by far the largest number of men of all the states represented in
the Division, because of her greater population, filled the 354th Infantry with
men from the southeastern and eastern parts of the state, with a large number
over for the 314th Engineers, filled the 356th Infantry with men from north

An 89th division helmet showing the symbol of the division:

The Initial Attack

The official history of the 353rd in WWI is at:

The official 353rd history describes the fight starting with preparations for the attack:
It was a dark night; a cold rain was falling—now a driz
zle. now a downpour; the bottom of the trenches held water ankle
deep. This was the situation during the night of September 11th.
The Second Battalion. scheduled to make the assault on the fol
lowing morning. moved during the night from the support positions
along St. Jean-Noviant road to the jump-off line out in "No Man's
Land." There crouched down in the mud-filled trenches with thous
ands of fellow Americans. we waited for the Zero hour. All surplus
clothing except raincoats had been stored and it seemed that Zero
was upon us while we shivered and waited for the hour. Officers.
non-commissioned officers. and runners continued to be busy. In
fact. there seemed to be plenty for everyone to do. It was impossi
ble to remember all the instructions. One warning. however. stuck
fast—" No one goes to the rear."
At exactly one o'clock the preparatory bombardment began.
More than a million rounds of ammunition were consumed in the
artillery preparation which lasted from 1 a. m. to 5 a. m. All along
the line the sky was lit up with flashes of heavy-caliber guns. dis
tributed in depth for almost ten kilometers to the rear. In the inter
missions between deafening explosions could be heard the puttering
of machine guns. Very-lights and rockets of many colors went up
from the enemy lines. then came into view a new kind of fireworks
—a big ball of fire that seemed to explode in midair. fell to the
ground. and glided along as if on wheels. It was a sight that fas
cinated the eyes. At first the sensibilities seemed to be numbed and
then electrified.
There was practically no counter-bombardment of our positions.
This unexpected good fortune permitted us to continue final prepara
tions for the jump-off. Small detachments from the 314th Engineers
assisted us in cutting our way through the wire. and clearing
trenches of obstacles. As early as 4 a. m. groups began to steal for
ward until the entire battalion had formed up only a hundred yards
or so from the first German trench. Units were closed up as much
as possible. to escape the expected counter-barrage. At 5 o'clock an
almost solid wall of fire swooped down upon the enemy front line
trench—our barrage had begun. After twenty minutes it began to
roll back. as it swept slowly across the German trench system. com
bat units of the Second Battalion. with wide intervals and dis
tances. began to advance. following the barrage almost too closely.
At this critical moment word came that Major Wood was disabled
and Captain Peatross assumed command of the battalion.

The enemy's elaborate bands of wire in front of his position had
been little cut by the preliminary bombardment. and only by ener
getically trampling and tearing our way through it could the bat
talion advance. The enemy had made the mistake of matting it so
closely in some places that the determined. big-footed doughboys
were able to run over the top. In other places it had to be cut or
blown up with benglor torpedoes. The men lost no time but threw
off raincoats and drove ahead.
Our barrage had completely demoralized the scattering outposts
and practically no resistance was met in crossing the Ansoncourt
line of trenches. But as the advance companies approached Robert
Menil trench. they met deadly machine gun fire from the Euvezin
Wood. The next half kilometer. from this trench to within the
woods was one of bitter fighting. German machine gunners claimed
a heavy toll. Check in Company "F" totaled nine killed and twenty
seven wounded. In Company "G" Lieutenant Wray had fallen. mor
tally wounded at a hundred yards beyond the jump-off line. Stretch
er Bearers Holmes and Lamson of his company had given up their
lives in an effort to reach him. Captain Adkins. so severely wounded
that he had to be helped along. kept forward in command of his
company for almost six kilometers until he was carried from the
field near Thiacourt. First Sergeant West was found with his rifle
to his shoulder. his head dropped forward. A bullet-hole through
his helmet told the story. Without regard to losses the men fought
on until the last German gunners were killed. " He's done every
thing he could do. now it's up to him to pay the price." reasoned the
men as they mopped up the trenches to the last man.

Some losses occurred. too. from our own artillery. "Follow the
barrage." were the orders. As soon as the barrage had lifted from
an objective ahead the men moved up. not realizing that the artillery
-would roll back almost to their own position before moving forward
again to the next objective. As a result. Lieutenant Shaw was the
victim of one of our own shells a minute after he had led his platoon
out but his example carried the men forward without their com
mander and in spite of many losses. While Lieutenant Wickersham
was advancing with his platoon a shell burst at his feet and threw
him into the air with four mortal wounds. He dressed the wounds
of his orderly. improvised a tourniquet for his own thigh and then
ordered the advance to continue. Although weakened by the loss of
blood he moved on with his pistol in his left hand until he fell and
died before aid could be administered to him. Everywhere action
was heroic. Resistance and difficulties only brought it into the
sublime (Wickersham won the Medal of Honor posthumously for this action).

Along the 353rd's axis of advance, was the little hamlet of Bouillonville; where a sergeant managed to capture 300 Germans, with an empty pistol.

Google Streetview of Bouillonville:,5.8387711,3a,75y,25.41h,86.99t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sngjrsZTNsrW34tXpSL70oQ!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656

This is what the 89th Division History says:

Lieutenant Colonel Boschen, 353rd Infantry, with a few men entered Bouillonville
and returned with several hundred prisoners, mostly sanitary troops of the
10th German Division, who had been cut off by our 'artillery fire and were
waiting to surrender to some one. Sergeant Harry Adams, Company "K,"
353rd Infantry, saw a German soldier in Bouillonville run into a house. He
followed in time to see his prey disappear into an opening in the hillside behind
the house, which led, as afterwards developed, into a large dugout. Adams
had two shots only left in his pistol. He fired these into the door and called
on the occupants to surrender. Soon they began to pour out, more and more
and more, until the astonished sergeant found himself the sole custodian of ap
proximately three hundred prisoners, including seven officers, one of whom was
a Lieutenant Colonel. Coolly assembling them under the menace of his empty
pistol, he convoyed them safely to the rear, startling his platoon commander.
Lieutenant Chase, as the column approached, into the conviction that it was
a German counter attack which threatened.

This pic is from the division history:

« Last Edit: October 07, 2018, 04:05:37 PM by ArizonaTank »
Honus Wagner
"The Flying Dutchman"
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