French Artillery at Belleau Wood
Introduction to an investigation
In the second chapter of Doctrine Under Trial, Mark Grotelueschen describes, with admirable attention to detail, the work of the three regiments of US Army field artillery that took part in the twenty-day struggle for control of Belleau Wood. In the course of doing this, however, he pays little attention to the French gunners who participated in that famous battle. In particular, while he makes brief mention of the French batteries that provided direct support to the attacking Marines, he tells his readers nothing at all about the French corps artillery and its duel with the German guns and howitzers deployed to fire upon the attacking Marines.1
In the hope of filling this gap, I intend to write a short series on the subject of the neglected cannoneers. If all goes well, it will consist of three posts: one about the long-range guns of the 121st Heavy Artillery Regiment, one about the batteries of 75mm guns that reinforced the American gunners employing the same weapon, and one about the French batteries armed with 155mm howitzers. If, however, Clio declines to bless this project with the discovery of sources about the aforementioned “short Schneiders,” the trio will become a duo.
Speaking of sources … I must confess that, when I undertook this project, I presumed that locating sufficient information about French artillery units in that supported the 2nd Division of the American Expeditionary Forces would be easy. After all, the good people at the Service Historique de la Défense have put thousands of war diaries on line, Gallica has digitized hundreds of regimental histories; and the eighty-two volumes of the French official history allow researchers to do deep dives that Jacques Cousteau would envy. Alas, despite this embarrassment of riches, I have dug a distressingly large number of dry wells.
That said, I still have a few tricks up my historiographical sleeve. Indeed, I am looking forward to doing a bit of lateral research and, in particularly, digging into the Records of the 2nd Division to see what has been preserved there.
Articles in the Series:
For Further Reading:
Mark Grotelueschen Doctrine Under Trial: American Artillery Employment in World War I (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001) pages 32-58