The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was clearly the worst battle of the Great War in terms of killed in action for the American Expeditionary Force. How does it stand with respect to other comparable U.S. battles, specifically the Normandy Campaign of 1944?
|American Burial Service, 1918|
Professor Robert Farrell titled his book on the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, "America's Deadliest Battle." I questioned that assertion when the book came out and eventually got around to doing a little research. The biggest questions involved some assumptions about the most likely competitor for the distinction, the Normandy Campaign of 1944. Some think of Normandy in terms of D-Day and the battle to get off the beaches, while others take it up to the St. Lo breakout of 25 July. However, I concluded the actual end of the campaign is best marked by the official ending date used by the British and Canadians (they were there, too) of 1 September 1944. On that date Patton's Third Army had reached the Meuse River and Montgomery's forces farther north had arrived in front of Arras. Events of that date, to me, indicate clearly that the Battle for Normandy was over and a new phase of the war had started.
The argument could be made that the figures below are not a fair comparison. For instance, the casualties in the later battle had a much higher proportion of air casualties. There just weren't that many airplanes flying in the Great War. Also, the battles lasted different lengths, the Argonne six weeks, Normandy was twice as long.
Nonetheless, with these qualifications and stipulations, the conquest of Normandy resulted in more American deaths. Here are the figures (U.S. dead only are listed)
1. Normandy Campaign, 6 June –1 September 1944
2. Meuse-Argonne Offensive, 26 September–11 November 1918
|Among the First to Perish in the Normandy Campaign: American Dead on Omaha Beach|