A Yank's View of the Attack
on the Hindenburg Line
Contributed by Richard G Crompton
patch of the US 27th Division. The
three letters together form the monogram N .Y. D., standing of
course for "New York Division."
furnished the inspiration for the distinctive shoulder patch
insignia of the Twenty-seventh Division, American Expeditionary
Forces, writes Herbert E. Smith in the Army Recruiting
The division of New York
National Guard men adopted Orion-the Seven Sisters of the
Pletsdes--as a part of its finished design.
On a circled background of jet
black appeared these seven stars in red, with the monogram NYD
(New York Division) likewise in red. The colors black and red
have a special significance also; the black for iron, the red
for the blood.
happy coincidence in this design: The Orion corresponded with the name
O'Ryan, and the 27th's division commander was Maj. Gen. John F. O'Ryan,
who took the New Yorkers over and brought them back.
Diggers & Doughboys.
|After an advance of 37
miles in sixty days in the open warfare of the last 'Hundred Days' of
World War 1, Monash's Australian Corps were reinforced only by returning
sick and wounded. Many battalions could summons, for actual
fighting, no more than 200-300 rifles.
With the blessing of General John Joseph Pershing, the
Commander-in-Chief American Expeditionary Force, the Second
American Corps, commanded by General G.W Read, was placed under Monash's
command to make the initial assault on the Hindenburg Outpost Line and
the Hindenburg Line itself, over the St Quinten Canal and the Canal
Hump. The depleted Australians were to
exploit the break through.
In the attack on an impressive static German defensive line the American
27th Division took severe casualties due to inexperience, over
enthusiasm, a combination of gas and mist and a lack of support from a
creeping barrage and tanks: one Regiment of 2000 rifles had 55%
Despite the 42nd Battalion AIF complaining that they too had taken
casualties, when completing the American's task of mop-up German
dugouts, many isolated Americans attached themselves to Australian
command. Together they fought towards Bony, between the dense rows
of barbed wire. Together they died.
Major General John F O'Ryan, commanding the US 27th Division responsible
for that the northern sector of the front and the initial attack over
the St Quentin Canal Hump, wrote of the Australian soldier:
"This chapter on the Hindenburg Line Battle is
an appropriate place to make some observations concerning the
Australian soldiers, with whom we fought on that occasion".
The Australian soldier was a
distinctive type. . . The Australian army was solely a volunteer
force. Not a man in it was present except by his voluntary action.
This naturally affected his physical fitness and its morale. There
were no troops in the war which equalled the physical standards of the
The American army had thousands, perhaps some
hundreds of thousands, of men who measured up to the very best physical
specimens to be found among the Australians, but we also had many
thousands of men drafted into the army who were not fighting men, and
who knew they
were not. The Australians had none of this class.
It is true that the Australian soldier
was lacking in 'smartness' of appearance and manner, and
good humouredly [sic] took a seeming pride in the cold astonishment he
created among others by his indifference to formality and his blunt
attitude towards superior officers. But if by discipline we mean
experienced and skilled team work in battle, then it must be said that
the Australian troops
were highly disciplined.
Their platoons and companies
possessed, as did ours, a highly developed gang spirit which prompted
the members of 'the gang' to work together in mutual support, but in
addition to this, and by virtue of their long experience in the war,
they had come to realize the
essential importance of military technique.
They knew, from harsh lessons they had
received in earlier battles from the harsh enemy instructor, that the
shooting and bombing of the individual man at the front may be fruitless
unless his group maintains contact with other groups on right and left,
and at the same time sends a constant and reliable stream of information
to the rear, so that the great auxiliary power of the division may be
intelligently employed to aid them.
The operations and the supply
technique of the Australian divisions were of the very best, and so it
was that the rough-and-ready fighting spirit of the Australians had
become refined by an experienced battle technique supported by staff
work of the highest order.
Their record demonstrated, that for
Australian troops at least, the refinements of peace-time precision in
drill and military courtesy and formality were unnecessary in the
attainment of battle efficiency. The Australians were probably the
most effective troops employed in the war on
O'Ryan, Maj.-Gen John F., 'The Story of the 27th Division, Vol. I', New
York, 1921, page 339
Quoted in Butler, Colonel AG 'Vol. II - The Australian Medical Services:
The Western Front', Australian War Memorial, 1940, page 705
Major General John F O'Ryan - commander of US 27th Division Second
American Corps, an experienced officer of the Mexican wars.
General G.W Read - commander Second American Corps - Monash referred to
him as a 'man of sound common sense and clear judgment'
General, later General of the Army, 'Black Jack' John Joseph Pershing -
Commander-in-Chief American Expeditionary Force.
Twenty-seventh Division (US
|Insignia, a black circle with a red border
in which are the leters NYD in monogram, surrounded by the seven stars
of the constellation Orion. Organized at Camp Wadsworth, S.C., in Sept.
1917. The New York National Guard as its nucleus, the following units
being used: 1st, 2d, 3d, 7th, 12th, 14th, 23d, 71st and 74th N.Y. Inf.,
Squadron A, 1st N.Y. Cav.; 1st, 3d N.Y. Fld. Arty.; 22d N.Y. Engrs; 1st
Bn. N.Y. Sig. Corps; N.Y. Amm. Train; N.Y. Supply Train; N.Y. Sanitary
Train; N.Y. Hqs and M.P., 6th N.Y. Div. Hqs. Troop.
The division embarked for overseas at Newport News,
Va., the first units sailing on May 8th, and the last arriving in
France, July 7, 1918. It was ordered to a training area and later
entered the line with the British units opposite Mt. Kemmel. On Aug.
20th a moved was made to the Dickebush sector, Belgium, which was
occupied next day. On Aug. 31st the division was a front-line division
in the attack on Vierstandt Ridge, the 30th Division on its left - 34th
British Division on its right. As part of the 2d Corps (U.S.) 4th
British Army, the division was in action near Bony, Sept. 24th to Oct.
1st. On Oct. 12th it again entered the line in the St. Soupiet sector
crossing the Seille River in the attack on Jonc de Mer Ridge.
Maj. Gen. John O'Ryan, N.Y. National Guard, commanded
the division from its organization until mustered out.
The division captured from the enemy the following:
2,358 prisoners and advanceed eleven kilometers against resistance.
During active operations it suffered the following loses: Killed, 1,791;
wounded, 9.427; prisoners three officers and 225 men. One hundred and
thirty-nine Distinguished Service Crosses awarded.
The following organizations composed the division:
105th, 106th, 107th, 108th, Regts. Inf.; 104th, 105th, 106th Machine Gun
Bns.; 104th, 105th, 106th Fld. Arty. Regts.; 102d Trench Mortar Battery;
102d Engrs.; 102d Fld. Sig. Bn.; 102d Hqs Train and M.P., 102d Amm.
Train; 102d Supply Train; 102d Engr. Train; 102d Sanitary Train (105th,
106th, 107th, 108th Amb. Cos. And Field Hospitals).