Doughboy Center

The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces

5th Division





Contributed by Eric Mansuy of Aydoilles, France

Sixth Infantry Observers at Croix de Charemont before the Battle

Presented the Great War Society

A. The Great War in the Vosges: 1914-1918

When the war broke out on August 3, 1914, the French troops stationed in the province were all situated 6.5 miles away from the border while the German troops moved forward and seized the crest marking the boundary between annexed Alsace and France. After a victorious but brief offensive on Mulhouse, the French moved backwards and the German armies took the passes of the Vosges from Mont Donon to the Bonhomme Pass, went down into the Vosges valleys and went on beyond Saint-Die, coming to within 12 miles of Epinal at the beginning of September 1914. Yet, most of the lost ground was regained at the time of the Marne victory. Very hard fighting still occurred in the Vosges all through the year 1915, especially around Ban-de-Sapt (near Saint-Die) between June 22 and July 8, 1915.

Click here to see a map of the Vosges Sector

From then on, no offensive action of importance took place in the province, although daily bombings and ambushes kept happening. The arrival of four American Divisions in the Vosges allowed them to get used to that daily routine. One of them, the 5th Division, even led the first large-scale operation of the war in this sector since 1915. The action occurred on August 17, 1918 at Frapelle.

B. The 5th Division Captures Frapelle

5th Division Monument at Frapelle

The infantry units of the Red Diamond Division (60th, 61st, 11th, 6th Regiments) were all in France by May 1, 1918, and moved to Bar-sur-Aube. On May 31, the Division was transferred to the Vosges and, with its headquarters at Gerardmer, held the Anould sector from June 7 to July 15, 1918. The first soldiers occupied trenches late on June 14 and suffered their first casualties on the same night. From then on, the 5th Division suffered from regular German attacks. On June 17, a mustard gas attack killed 3, wounded 3 and gassed 24 men of the 60th Infantry Regiment. The Americans also led raids on the German lines, such as those of Le Violu, near the Sainte-Marie Pass.

Guns of the US 21st Field Artillery Firing During the Assault

On July 15, the Division moved to the Saint-Die sector. The 60th Infantry Regiment took the sector between Celles-sur-Plaine and Moyenmoutier; the 61st Infantry Regiment occupied both sides of the Rabodeau; the 11th Infantry Regiment occupied the Ban-de-Sapt subsector and the 6th Infantry Regiment was on the front line in Bois d'Ormont. In this part of the Vosges front, the 5th Division started patrolling and raiding the German lines a lot, both by night and by day. The first units of the Artillery Brigade joined the Division on July 28. The Red DiamondDivision was then ready for a major offensive action in the Vosges.

Click here to see a map of Frapelle after the assault.

On August 17, 1918, at 4.04 a.m., the 6th Infantry Regiment of the 5th Division attacked Frapelle after 10 minutes of bombarding of the German lines. The mission consisted in seizing Frapelle and Hill 451, north of the village. The Regiment was helped by two platoons of the 7th Engineers Regiment, the 13th Machine Gun Battalion, 36 artillery batteries and a detachment of the 99th American Aero Squadron that came from Dogneville, near Epinal.

At 4.06 a.m., the Germans shelled the American trenches but the 5th Division assault was not stopped. At 6.30 a.m., the village of Frapelle was liberated after four years of German occupation. The Germans immediately started a massive bombardment of the Americans, which lasted for three days and nights. The men of the Red DiamondDivision organized their positions, built new trenches and set new wires. A German counterattack failed on August 18 and, by August 20, the American positions were completely consolidated.

Frapelle, After the Battle

The Division left the sector by August 23 and moved to Arches where the headquarters were established until August 29. Shortly after that rest, the 5th Division was transferred towards Saint-Mihiel where it participated in the victorious September 12 offensive. The Division lost 729 men in the Vosges.

Sources and thanks: The complete text, maps and images were taken from the author's work: The American Expeditionary Force in the Vosges, 1917-1919 Eric Mansuy will also be contributing material to the Doughboy Center on the the Services of Supply and Notable Americans who served in the sectore. Email Eric directly if you would like to order his 50- page monograph. MH

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