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

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What Happened at Death Valley?

This peaceful-looking little valley was captured by the soldiers of the 90th Texas-Oklahoma division in the first few days of the St. Mihiel Offensive in September 1918. This valley, located a few miles east of the American cemetery at Thiaucourt, was held by the division for 27 days afterward and would be the main supply artery for the division during this time. 

The road is about a mile behind the new front line, which was over the hill on the left side of this photo. This view also reveals just how precarious the position proved to be. In the distance can be seen the heights above the Moselle River. These were occupied for the remainder of the war by German forces. The enemy observers, therefore, were looking straight down this road the entire time.

Early experiences taught the troops what they would be facing.  On the morning of 16 September the Supply Company of the 357th Infantry, which had kept well up with the advancing infantry, was caught in shell fire on the road and many horses were killed and wagons knocked out. Later, while crossing "Death Valley" eight horses of the Supply Company were killed, and 12 more were lost in nearby Bois des Rappes. The German artillery exacted a terrible price from the units traveling this exposed route, which the Doughboys of the 90th Division quickly named "Death Valley." 

1 comment:

  1. St. Mihiel in this area proved a tough spot till the end of the war. Glad you covered this! I will