Michigan-Wisconsin division had major role in WWI
Romagne-sous-Montfaucon is a tiny community in the Lorraine District of France, with a population of about 200 residents.
It is an ancient town but known by few Americans, even though it is of great significance and historical value to the United States.
The reason for its significance is because Romagne-sous-Montfaucon is home to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, which is about 25 miles northwest of Verdun. It contains the graves of 14,246 American soldiers, making it the largest of all the World War I American cemeteries.
Among those buried there are soldiers from Michigan. They lost their lives in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918 and lay now in an area of approximately 130 acres. The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is, of course, not the only cemetery dedicated to American soldiers who fell in the now nearly forgotten war — but it is the largest.
Among the U.S. military organizations who participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the U.S. 32nd Division, which was comprised of militia units from both Michigan and Wisconsin.
The French allies called the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division the “Les Terribles,” or The Terrible Division. It had earned that reputation in the year or so it was in France.
The “Red Arrow” Division was organized at Camp MacArthur, Texas, in August and September 1917. The organization of the 32nd Division was completed Oct. 15, 1917.
On Sept. 11, the division’s 63rd Infantry Brigade was organized from the 31st, 32nd and 33nd Michigan Infantry Regiments, which were then reorganized.
The Table of Organization of the 63rd Brigade included these regiments —
— 125th Infantry;
— 126th Infantry;
–120th Machine Gun Battalion.
2D Battalion Headquarters
— Company E, Flint;
— Company F, Alpena;
— Company G, Houghton (formerly of the 33rd Michigan Infantry).
Company G, 33 Michigan Infantry
(Formerly the 33rd Michigan Infantry — minus one company — and five companies of the 31st Michigan Infantry)
Also with the 32nd Division:
107th Engineer Regiment
— Headquarters Company;
— 1st Battalion Headquarters, Houghton;
— Company A, Calumet;
— Company B, Houghton;
— Company C, Houghton;
— 13 officers and 453 men of 1st Michigan Engineer Battalion; 14 officers and 474 men of 1st Wisconsin Engineer Battalion; 94 men of 4th Wisconsin Infantry; 85 men of 5th Wisconsin Infantry; 192 men of 6th Wisconsin Infantry.
The 32nd Division arrived on the Western Front in February 1918 and was the sixth U.S. division to join the American Expeditionary Force under Gen. John J. Pershing. Up to this point much of the war had been a stalemate, fought from static trench lines over the same few miles of terrain. Over the next six months, the division was under constant fire, with only 10 days of rest. The division took a leading role in three important offensives, fighting on five fronts, and had more than 14,000 casualties, captured more than 2,000 prisoners and never yielded ground to the enemy.
Moving into Alsace in May 1918, the 32nd advanced 12 miles in seven days. During the Battle of Marne, they captured Fismes. The only American unit in French Gen. Charles Mangin’s famous 10th French Army, it fought between the Moroccans and the Foreign Legion, two of the best divisions in the French army in the Battle of Oise-Battle of Aisne offensive. The 10th Army took Juvigny. In the five-day battle against five German divisions, the 32nd recorded 2,848 casualties.
Moving out of their trenches, the division fought continuously for 20 days during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and was the vanguard of the Third U.S. Army. The Germans, well dug in after four years of trench warfare, had orders to hold the line at all costs. On Oct. 14 at 5:30 a.m., the division broke through the maze of barbed wire and took the trenches forming the Hindenburg Line and moved on to the last German stronghold at Kriemhilde Stellung, where they reached the Meuse River.
The 32nd was the first Allied Army unit to penetrate the Hindenburg Line. They then captured Côte Dame de Marie, the key to all the defenses in the area. Over the next five days the division continued to advance while under nearly constant machine gun and artillery fire. The 32nd Division defeated 11 German divisions in the Argonne fighting, including the fearsome Prussian Guards and the German Army’s 28th Division, known as Kaiser’s Own. The offensive cost the division 5,950 casualties.
The 32nd fought in three major offensives, engaging and defeating 23 German divisions. They took 2,153 prisoners and gained 20 miles, pushing back every German counterattack. During the drive to capture Fismes, they successfully attacked over open ground at great cost
The 32nd Division was one of the best fighting divisions in Europe, which is evident in its combat records:
— More than 800 officers and men decorated by American, French and Belgian governments, including 275 Distinguished Service Crosses. The colors of all four Infantry Regiments, three Artillery Regiments and three Machine Gun Battalions wear the Croix de Guerre With Palm of the Republic of France, while every flag and standard in the Division has four American battle bands.
— The units of the 32D Division were the only ones in the National Guard bestowed with France’s highest order of the Croix de Guerre with Palm during WWI.
— Insignia is a Red Arrow, signifying that the Division shot through every line the enemy put before it.
— Awarded the nom-de-guerre of “Les Terribles” by the French.
— The 32D Division was the only American division to be bestowed with a nom-de-guerre by an Allied nation during the war.
The 32nd Division, however, paid heavily for its glory. More than 2,200 soldiers in the division were killed and 11,000 were wounded within a few months in 1918.
The authorized strength of the 3rd battalion was 20 officers and 1,000 men, but by Aug. 4 it had only 12 officers and 350 men on the line. As they advanced over 2,100 yards of mostly open ground, the Germans targeted them with intense artillery and machine gun fire. They were reinforced by the 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, which was also understrength. The 127th Infantry finally captured Fismes, but they lost many men. By the end of the day, the 3rd Battalion had only two officers and 94 men; the 2nd Battalion had five officers and 104 men.
The fallen were quickly buried in temporary cemeteries before being reinterred in large American cemeteries after the war.
Upper Peninsula soldiers killed in action during World War I included —
COLENSO, Herbert Henry, Houghton.
ADAMS, John William, Ontonagon.
ALLARIA, John, Calumet.
ANGOVE, John P., Painesdale.
BARKELL, James, Lake Linden.
BEAUCAGE, N., Chassell.
BERRYMAN, Clifford W., Calumet.
ERICSON, John A., Hancock.
HAGGQUIST, Axel E., Ontonagon.
JACOBSON, Arthur, Calumet.
KARKELA, Albert M., Calumet.
KOVALA, Oscar F., Hancock.
LEMOINE, Edward L., Ontonagon.
LINNA, George H., Painesville.
MATSON, William, Ontonagon.
MATTSON, Hugo, Houghton City.
McGLUE, William Steven, L’Anse.
MESSNER, Frederick, Mass City.
MITCHELL, John J., Chassell.
MODROK, Richard H., Laurium.
PERKINS, Elmer J., Houghton.
PHILIP, Norman J., Lake Linden.
SAUVOLA, Charles John, Chassell.
SAUVOLA, Ernest, Chassell.
Died of Disease
BELT, Clinton H., Calumet.
KALTENBACH, Henry Leo, Laurium.
TICE, Paul, Houghton.
BROWN, Roy M., Ontonagon.
BEAUCHAMP, George, South Range.
BERRYMAN, Edward L., Calumet.
PEARCE, David T., Hancock.
PEKKALA, William O., Chassell.
PINCZUK, Ben, Calumet.
RANTANEN, John A., Calumet.
WILLIAMS, Garth J., Laurium.
Died of Wounds
GEROWX, David, Lake Linden
ZIEGENBEIN, William J., Houghton.
ANDERSON, John, Franklin Mine.
BEAUCAGE, Napoleon, Chassell.
BERRYMAN, James, Greenland.
CASPARY, Stephen H., Houghton.
CLISH, Frank M., Baraga.
HOVEY, Charles, Paavola.
INGRAM, Judson Elsworth, Houghton.
JOHNSON, Nels O., Bergland.
KARVOLA, William, Calumet.
KAUPPI, Timothy, Mason.
KELIKSON, Frank Wesley, Franklin Mine.
McCLUSKEY, Guy, Bessmer.
PREISS, Milton G., Rockland.
PUZKA, Matt E., Hancock.
WILLIAMS, Chester E., Hubbell.
Died by Accident
PENBERTY, Ira G., Calumet.
Most of these Michigan veterans remain buried in France or Belgium, seldom if ever visited by Americans on Memorial Day.
The 32nd Division departed Europe for home in April 1919 and demobilized in May after arriving back in the United States.