The Meuse-Argonne Offensive
The Montfaucon Monument commemorates the Meuse-Argonne offensive. During 47 days of fighting between September 26 and November 11, 1918, the American First Army forced a general retreat on this front. The crest of this hill was captured on the second day of the attack; it was the site of the old village of Montfaucon destroyed during World War I and rebuilt later a few hundred yards to the west. Directly behind the monument are the ruins of the Montfaucon church; little else remains of the original village. Because it is the dominating point between the Meuse River on the east and the Argonne Forest to the west, this height has been the scene of many bloody battles throughout recorded history.
The monument, of an overall height of 200 feet, is surmounted by a figure symbolic of Liberty which faces the front line of the American First Army on the morning of 26 September 1918, when the attack began. Visitors may ascend to the observation platform (hours of operation are posted at the exterior) which provides magnificent views of much of the ground gained during the offensive - the greatest battle in American history at the time.
The construction and care of this monument are the responsibility of the American Battle Monuments Commission, and agency of the United States government. Use of the land was granted in perpetuity, by the people of France.
Further information may be obtained at the visitor's building by the parking lot, or from the superintendent the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, about five miles north of the monument.
(French marker text not transcribed - click on marker photo to enlarge.)
(Side Panel #2)
During September 1918 the Allied Forces launched a general offensive against the German Armies on the Western Front. In this operation the American First Army was assigned the task of breaking through the extremely strong and vital portion of the enemy defensive system lying between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest.
The American attack started on September 26 and after two days intensive fighting Montfaucon upon which this monument stands was captured. By September 30 the enemy had been driven back six miles. The German troops defended each position to the utmost and many divisions were rushed to their support from other battle fronts.
The battle continued throughout October against desperate resistance. A brilliant advance down the Aire Valley made it possible to outflank and capture the Argonne Forest. The attack then spread East of the Meuse where severe fighting occurred. The prolonged struggles for the strongly fortified German main line of defense and the heights near Brieulles Cunel and Romagne were unsurpassed in fury. But by October 14 this line had been broken and the end of the month found it and the villages of St. Juvin and Grand-Pre securely in the grasp of the American Army.
On November 1 the Army launched its last great attack. The dominating heights near Barricourt were captured and the enemy was driven beyond the Meuse River. These successes and those of the Allies on other battlefields compelled the Germans to ask for an immediate armistice which became effective on November 11, 1918.
During forty-seven days of continual battle on this front the First Army advanced 35 miles, captured 26,000 men, 874 cannon, and 3,000 machine guns. At its maximum strength the Army comprised more than 1,000,000 soldiers. The American battle casualties were 122,000.
(Side Panel #3)
The Meuse-Argonne battle presented numerous difficulties seemingly insurmountable. The success stands out as one of the great achievement in the history of American arms. Suddenly conceived and hurried in plan and preparation; complicated by close association with a preceding major operation; directed against stubborn defense of the vital point of the Western Front; and attended by cold and inclement weather; this battle was prosecuted with an unselfish and heroic spirit of courage and fortitude which demanded eventual victory. Physically strong, virile, and aggressive, the morale of the American soldier during this most trying period was superb in their devotion, their valor, and in the loyal fulfillment of their obligations. The officers and men of the American Expeditionary Forces have left a heritage of which those who follow may ever be proud.
John J. Pershing
American Expeditionary Forces