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1917 1st US troops arrive in France during World War I

June 26, 2021

The first 14,000 infantry U.S. troops landed in France at the port of Saint-Nazaire on June 26, 1917, during World War I. The motive to keep the site secret from the German submarines was thwarted by the sizable enthusiastic crowd that waited to welcome them. Unfortunately, the American troops “Doughboys” were untrained and inexperienced. They also lacked the proper equipment to take on the battles and challenges on the Western Front.

It was on the agenda to set up a camp for training in France- this responsibility was under the belt of the U.S. General John J. Pershing as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force. The commander was under instructions to create training camps in France and streamline supply and communication networks.

However, it wasn’t until October 21 (four months later) when the first Americans entered combat. The U.S. Army’s First Division took up the Allied Trenches near Nancy in Luneville, France. The various American troops were working jointly with specific French teams.

Corporal Robert Bralet was the first U.S soldier to fire a shot in this war two days after the American troops entered combat. This Sixth Artillery soldier made history when he discharged a bullet from a French 75mm gun half a mile into a German trench.

On November 2, the same year, America lost its first soldiers of the 16th Infantry in the war, namely Corporal James Gresham and privates Merle Hay Thomas Enright. The deaths occurred following German attacks on the American Trench located in Bathelemont, France.

The entry of America’s well-supplied forces into the war four years into the war brought an end to the bloody stalemate. This was a huge turning point for the conflict along the Western Front. By the end of the war on November 11, 1918, American had committed more than two million soldiers serving on the battlefields of Western Europe. Out of this number, more than 50,000 soldiers died in the war.