American Expeditionary Force
The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces
United States armed forces
The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States. They consist of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.The United States has a strong tradition of civilian control of the military...

  sent to Europe in World War I. During the United States campaigns in World War I the AEF fought in France alongside British and French allied forces in the last year of the war, against Imperial
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 German forces
German Army (German Empire)
The German Army was the name given the combined land forces of the German Empire, also known as the National Army , Imperial Army or Imperial German Army. The term "Deutsches Heer" is also used for the modern German Army, the land component of the German Bundeswehr...

. The AEF helped the French Army on the Western Front
Western Front (World War I)
Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

 during the Aisne Offensive
Third Battle of the Aisne
The Third Battle of the Aisne was a battle of the German Spring Offensive during World War I that focused on capturing the Chemin des Dames Ridge before the American Expeditionary Force could arrive completely in France. It was one of a series of desperate offensives, known as the Kaiserschlacht,...

 (at Château-Thierry
Battle of Château-Thierry (1918)
The Battle of Château-Thierry was fought on 18 July 1918 and was one of the first actions of the American Expeditionary Force under General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing...

 and Belleau Wood
Battle of Belleau Wood
The Battle of Belleau Wood occurred during the German 1918 Spring Offensive in World War I, near the Marne River in France. The battle was fought between the U.S...

) in June 1918, and fought its major actions in the Saint-Mihiel
Saint-Mihiel is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.-History:Saint-Mihiel was captured by the Germans in the first year of World War I, and was re-captured during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel from 12 September to 19 September 1918, during World War...

 and Meuse-Argonne Offensives in late 1918.


President Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, from 1913 to 1921. A leader of the Progressive Movement, he served as President of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910, and then as the Governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913...

 initially planned to give command of the AEF to General Frederick Funston
Frederick Funston
Frederick N. Funston also known as Fred Funston, was a General in the United States Army, best known for his role in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War...

, but after Funston's sudden death, Wilson appointed Major General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

 in May 1917; Pershing remained in command for the entire war. Pershing insisted that American soldiers be well-trained before going to Europe. As a result, few troops arrived before 1918. In addition, Pershing insisted that the American force would not be used merely to fill gaps in the French and British armies, and he resisted European efforts to have U.S. troops deployed as individual replacements in decimated Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 units. This attitude was not always well received by the Allied leaders who distrusted the potential of an army lacking experience in large-scale warfare. In addition the British tried to barter their spare shipping to make the US put its soldiers into British ranks.

By June 1917, 14,000 U.S. soldiers had already arrived in France, and by May 1918 over one million U.S. troops were stationed in France, half of them being on the front lines. Since the transport ships needed to bring American troops to Europe were scarce at the beginning, the army pressed into service cruise ships, seized German ships, and borrowed Allied ships to transport American soldiers from New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, and Newport News, Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. The mobilization effort taxed the American military to the limit and required new organizational strategies and command structures to transport great numbers of troops and supplies quickly and efficiently. The French harbors of Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...

, La Pallice, Saint Nazaire and Brest
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

 became the entry points into the French railway system which brought the US forces and their supplies to the front. American engineers in France built 82 new ship berths, nearly 1000 miles (1,609.3 km) of additional standard-gauge tracks and 100000 miles (160,934 km) of telephone and telegraph lines.

The first American troops, who were often called "Doughboy
Doughboy is an informal term for an American soldier, especially members of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The term dates back to the Mexican–American War of 1846–48....

s", landed in Europe in June 1917. However the AEF did not participate at the front until late October 1917, when the 1st Division, a formation of experienced regular soldiers and the first division to arrive in France, entered the trenches near Nancy.

Pershing wanted an American force that could operate independently of the other Allies, but his vision could not be realized until adequately trained troops reached Europe. In order to rush as many troops as possible to France, the AEF left its heavy weapons behind and used French and British equipment. Particularly appreciated were the French canon de 75, the canon de 155 C modele 1917 Schneider
Canon de 155 C modèle 1917 Schneider
The Canon de 155 C modèle 1917 Schneider, often abbreviated as the C17S, was a French howitzer designed by Schneider et Cie. It was essentially the Canon de 155 C modèle 1915 Schneider fitted with a different breech to use bagged propellant rather than the cartridge cases used by the older howitzer...

 and the canon de 155mm GPF
Canon de 155mm GPF
The Canon de 155 Grande Puissance Filloux mle.1917 was a 155 mm cannon used by the French Army during the first half of the 20th century.-History:The gun was designed during World War I by Colonel L.J.F...

. American aviation units received the SPAD XIII and Nieuport 28
Nieuport 28
|-See also:-Bibliography:* Cheesman E.F. Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War. Letchworth, UK: Harleyford Publications, 1960, pp. 98–99....

 fighters and the US tank corps used the French Renault FT17 light tanks. Pershing established facilities in France to train new arrivals with their new weapons. By the end of 1917 four divisions were deployed in a large training area near Verdun
Verdun is a city in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department.Verdun is the biggest city in Meuse, although the capital of the department is the slightly smaller city of Bar-le-Duc.- History :...

: the 1st Division, a regular army formation; the 26th Division
26th Infantry Division (United States)
The 26th Infantry Division was an infantry division of the United States Army. As a major formation of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, it was based in Boston, Massachusetts for most of its history...

, a National Guard formation; the 2nd Division, a combined formation of regular troops and United States Marines
United States Marine Corps
The United States Marine Corps is a branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for providing power projection from the sea, using the mobility of the United States Navy to deliver combined-arms task forces rapidly. It is one of seven uniformed services of the United States...

; and the 42nd "Rainbow" Division, a National Guard formation consisting of units from nearly every state in the United States. A fifth division, the 41st Division, had been converted into a depot division near Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...


At the beginning, during early 1918, the four battle-ready U.S. divisions were deployed with French and British units to gain combat experience by defending relatively quiet sectors of their lines. After the first offensive action and AEF victory on 28 May 1918 at the Battle of Cantigny
Battle of Cantigny
The Battle of Cantigny, fought on 28 May 1918 was the first American offensive of World War I. The U.S. 1st Division, the most experienced of the seven American divisions then in France and in reserve for the French Army near the village of Cantigny, was selected for the attack...

, by the 1st U.S. Division, and a similar local action by the 2nd Division at Belleau Wood
Belleau Wood
Belleau Wood may refer to:* The Battle of Belleau Wood, near Château-Thierry, France, the scene of heavy fighting by U.S. Marines in World War I* USS Belleau Wood, two United States Navy ships that have been named after the Battle:...

 beginning 6 June, both while assigned to French armies, Pershing worked towards the deployment of a US field Army. The rest followed at an accelerating pace during the spring and summer of 1918. By June Americans were arriving in-theatre at the rate of 10,000 a day.

The first offensive action undertaken by AEF units serving with British forces (Corporal Thomas A. Pope
Thomas A. Pope
Thomas A. Pope was a soldier in the United States Army who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the World War I.-Biography:...

 was awarded the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

 for this battle) was by 1,000 men (4 Companies from the 33rd Division AEF) serving with the Australian Imperial Force
First Australian Imperial Force
The First Australian Imperial Force was the main expeditionary force of the Australian Army during World War I. It was formed from 15 August 1914, following Britain's declaration of war on Germany. Generally known at the time as the AIF, it is today referred to as the 1st AIF to distinguish from...

's (AIF) during the Battle of Hamel
Battle of Hamel
The Battle of Hamel was a successful attack launched by the Australian Corps of the Australian Imperial Force and several American units against German positions in and around the town of Hamel in northern France during World War I....

 on the 4th July, 1918. This battle took place under the overall command of Australian Corps Commander Lt.General Sir John Monash
John Monash
General Sir John Monash GCMG, KCB, VD was a civil engineer who became the Australian military commander in the First World War. He commanded the 13th Infantry Brigade before the War and then became commander of the 4th Brigade in Egypt shortly after the outbreak of the War with whom he took part...

 and combined Artillery, Armour (with a planning role played by British Colonel 'Boney' Fuller, who with his junior, Liddel Hart, would later directly influence Heinz Guderian
Heinz Guderian
Heinz Wilhelm Guderian was a German general during World War II. He was a pioneer in the development of armored warfare, and was the leading proponent of tanks and mechanization in the Wehrmacht . Germany's panzer forces were raised and organized under his direction as Chief of Mobile Forces...

's seminal work Achtung - Panzer!
Achtung - Panzer!
Achtung – Panzer! by Heinz Guderian is a seminal work on the application of motorized warfare. First published in 1937, it argues for the use of tanks and motorized support vehicles in mobile warfare, later known as Blitzkrieg tactics. The ideas presented in the book heavily influenced the military...

 and the development of German Panzer Corps doctrine in World War II), Infantry and Air Support (Combined Arms
Combined arms
Combined arms is an approach to warfare which seeks to integrate different branches of a military to achieve mutually complementary effects...

) and it served as a blueprint for all subsequent Allied attacks using "Tanks".

American Army and Marine Corps troops played a key role in helping stop the German thrust towards Paris, during the Second Battle of the Marne
Second Battle of the Marne
The Second Battle of the Marne , or Battle of Reims was the last major German Spring Offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. The German attack failed when an Allied counterattack led by France overwhelmed the Germans, inflicting severe casualties...

 in June 1918 (at Château-Thierry
Château-Thierry is a commune in northern France about east-northeast of Paris. It is a sub-prefecture of the Aisne department in Picardy.-History:...

 and Belleau Wood
Belleau Wood
Belleau Wood may refer to:* The Battle of Belleau Wood, near Château-Thierry, France, the scene of heavy fighting by U.S. Marines in World War I* USS Belleau Wood, two United States Navy ships that have been named after the Battle:...

). The first major and distinctly American offensive was the reduction of the Saint Mihiel salient in September 1918. During the Battle of Saint-Mihiel
Battle of Saint-Mihiel
The Battle of Saint-Mihiel was a World War I battle fought between September 12–15, 1918, involving the American Expeditionary Force and 48,000 French troops under the command of U.S. general John J. Pershing against German positions...

, beginning September 12, 1918, Pershing commanded the American First Army, comprising seven division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

s and more than 500,000 men, in the largest offensive operation ever undertaken by United States armed forces to date. This successful offensive was followed by the Meuse-Argonne offensive
Meuse-Argonne Offensive
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, or Maas-Argonne Offensive, also called the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire western front.-Overview:...

, lasting from September 26 to November 11, 1918, during which General Pershing commanded more than one million American and French combatants. In these two military operations, Allied forces recovered more than 200 square mile of French territory from the German army. By the time the Armistice had suspended all combat on November 11, 1918, the American Expeditionary Forces had evolved into a modern, combat-tested army.

Late in the war American units ultimately fought in two other theaters at the request of European powers; Pershing sent troops of the 332nd Infantry to Italy, and President Wilson agreed to send troops, the 27th and 339th Infantry Regiments, to Russia; these latter two were known as the American Expeditionary Force Siberia
American Expeditionary Force Siberia
The American Expeditionary Force Siberia was a United States Army force that was involved in the Russian Civil War in Vladivostok, Russian Empire, during the tail end of World War I after the October Revolution, from 1918 to 1920....

, and the American Expeditionary Force North Russia
Polar Bear Expedition
The Polar Bear Expedition was a contingent of about 5,000 U.S...



The AEF sustained about 320,000 casualties; 53,402 battle deaths, 63,114 non combat deaths and 204,000 wounded. This high AEF casualty count was sustained at a time when French casualties for 1918 are listed as 330,000, but with a much longer front line to hold.

The influenza pandemic during the fall of 1918 took the lives of more than 25,000 men from the AEF while another 360,000 became gravely ill. Other diseases were relatively well controlled through compulsory vaccination. Typhoid fever was also practically eliminated. Relatively few men suffered actual injury from poison gas, although much larger numbers thought (falsely) that they had been exposed.


African-Americans were drafted on the same basis as whites
White American
White Americans are people of the United States who are considered or consider themselves White. The United States Census Bureau defines White people as those "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa...

 and made up 13% of the draftees. By the end of the war, over 350,000 African-Americans had served in AEF units on the Western Front. However, they were assigned to segregated units commanded by white officers. One fifth of the black soldiers sent to France saw combat, compared to two-thirds of the whites. "The mass of the colored drafted men cannot be used for combatant troops", said a General Staff report in 1918, and it recommended that "these colored drafted men be organized in reserve labor battalions." They handled unskilled labor tasks as stevedores in the Atlantic ports and common laborers at the camps and in the Services of the Rear in France. The French, whose front-line troops were resisting combat duties to the point of mutiny, requested and received control of several regiments of black combat troops.
Kennedy reports:
"Units of the black 92nd Division particularly suffered from poor preparation and the breakdown in command control. As the only black combat division, the 92nd entered the line with unique liabilities. It had been deliberately dispersed throughout several camps during its stateside training; some of its artillery units were summoned to France before they had completed their courses of instruction, and were never fully equipped until after the Armistice; nearly all its senior white officers scorned the men under their command and repeatedly asked to be transferred; the black enlisted men were frequently diverted from their already attenuated training opportunities in France in the summer of 1918 and put to work as stevedores and common laborers."

The 369th, 370th, 371st, and 372nd Infantry Regiments served under French command with French colonial units in front-line combat. These African-American soldiers wore American uniforms with French helmets and were armed with French Model 1907/15 8mm Lebel Berthier rifles manufactured by Remington Arms
Remington Arms
Remington Arms Company, Inc. was founded in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington in Ilion, New York, as E. Remington and Sons. It is the oldest company in the United States which still makes its original product, and is the oldest continuously operating manufacturer in North America. It is the only U.S....

 rather than M1903 Springfield or M1917 Enfield rifles issued to most American soldiers. One of the most distinguished units was the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters
Harlem Hellfighters
The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army that saw action in World War I and World War II. The 369th Infantry is known for being the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary...

. The 369th was on the front lines for six months, longer than any other African-American regiment in the war. One hundred seventy-one members of the 369th were awarded the Legion of Merit
Legion of Merit
The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces that is awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements...

. One member of the 369th, Sgt. Henry Lincoln Johnson
Henry Lincoln Johnson
Henry Lincoln Johnson was an African-American soldier, and recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and the French Croix de Guerre.-Biography:...

, was awarded the French Croix de guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

, and has been considered for a posthumous Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...


See also

  • Fort Omaha Balloon School
  • Puerto Ricans in World War I
    Puerto Ricans in World War I
    Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent have participated as members of the United States Armed Forces in every conflict in which the United States has been involved since World War I. One of the consequences of the Spanish-American War was that Puerto Rico was annexed by the United States...

  • United States home front during World War I
    United States home front during World War I
    The home front of the United States in World War I saw a systematic mobilization of the entire population and the entire economy to produce the soldiers, food supplies, munitions, and money needed to win the war...

External links

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