Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, September 8, 2014

Amazing Facts and Remarkable Trivia About the AEF, Part 2

There is considerable confusion over the first fatalities of the AEF:

    The first individuals killed by the enemy were Lt. W.T. Fitzsimmons, Pvt. Oscar Tugo, Pvt. Rudolph Rubino, and Pvt. Leslie Woods. They were killed in an air raid when bombs fell on Base Hospital No. 5 near Dannes-Camiers, 4 September 1917.

    The first men killed in action were Corporal James Gresham, Pvt. Thomas Enright, and Pvt. Merle Hay, all of the 1st Division. They were killed in a trench raid near Bathelemont, 2 November 1917.

   The first member of the U.S. Air Service to lose his life on a combat mission was Capt. Phelps Collins of the 103rd Aero Squadron on a combat patrol on 12 March 1918.

    Over the Italian Front a leaflet was dropped to encourage the Italian troops stating, "Every minute eight American soldiers disembark in Europe." In the peak month of shipping Doughboys over, July 1918, this was precisely true.

    Alvin York received his Medal of Honor for actions in an effort to relieve the famous Lost Battalion. That operation was planned in part by Major Jonathan Wainwright, who would command the Philippines after MacArthur departed.

    The American Air Service gave us the expression to "conk-out", "conk" being the last sound of a disengaging aircraft engine.

The AEF had a demographic pattern unique to any army in history.

    37% were unable to read and write.

    Only 21% of the drafted enlisted men had some education beyond grammar school.

    9% were black Americans.

    52% were country boys.

    39% were first- or second- generation immigrants to America.

The American Tank Corps used the tanks of the Allies in combat.

    In the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne operations the French Renault FT17 was used. It weighed 7.3 tons, traveled at a top speed of six miles per hour, and was armed with either a 37mm cannon or a Hotchkiss machine gun.

    Lt. Colonel George Patton personally took command of the first American tank attack during the St. Milhiel Offensive.

    In the British St. Quentin sector, Americans drove the much larger Mark V tank. It weighed 30 tons, moved at 3.5 miles per hour, and was armed with two 57mm cannons and six machine guns or a mixture of weapons.


  1. 1st Lieutenant George Howe was killed in action September 28, 1918 ... before Corp Gresham, Pvt Enright en Pvt Hay. He is buried in the Flanders Field Cemetery.He got the DSC for his actions that day. Was attached to a British unit but was in service of the AEF.

  2. Very interesting, thanks! I have a book of letters by Lt. Col. Roger I. Lee, a doctor at Base Hospital 5. He was an eyewitness to the September 4, 1917, bombing that killed the soldiers mentioned above. I've always considered them the first Americans killed in action. It seems to me that an aerial bombardment by German airplanes is action enough.