Today in History: American troops hit the frontline in France in World War I

October 21st, 2013

On October 21, 1917, the 18th Infantry Regiment of the First Division became the first American army regiment to enter the frontlines in World War I, and would soon become the first Americans to fire at the enemy and suffer casualties. The US officially declared war against Germany on April 6, 1917, and would remain in the conflict until November 11, 1918 when armistice was declared.

The First Division, also known as “The Big Red One” after its iconic shoulder patch, set sail for Europe on June 14, 1917 out of New Jersey and New York, landing at St. Nazaire, France, and Liverpool. Each of the regiments arrived in France and conflict erupted in October 1917, with the American forces joining the frontlines. Just two days later, on October 23, Battery C, 6th Field Artillery were the first Americans to fire artillery rounds in the war.

The First Division’s actions were critical to supporting the French Army against the Germans, and their bravery during the Battle of the Argonne Forest from September-November, 1918 marked the final offensive attack of the war. On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed, and the First Division became the first group of American troops to cross the Rhine River into Germany to provide stability.

For more on the US entry into World War I, read President Woodrow Wilson’s Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War, delivered on April 2, 1917. 

Click here to sign up for our newsletter.