The National Army, Forerunner of the United States Army Reserve
After the Second and Third infantry divisions had entered the fight, a total of 41 American divisions would join the Allied cause. This included the National Army (now known as the Reserves) with 18 divisions, the National Guard with 17 divisions, and eight regular Army divisions. Overall, Soldiers assigned to National Army divisions, suffered 26 percent of all American casualties during the war (66,205), of which 13,484 were killed in action and 52,721 wounded. Total American casualties numbered 255,575, with 52,947 killed in action and 202,628 wounded. The Divisions that fought in France during the Great War – the77th, 78th, 79th, 80th, 81st, 89th, 90th, and 91st infantry divisions -- are still assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve, although no longer classified as such.
The St. Mihiel Offensive
Once the threat of further German offensives had been eliminated, the Allies decided to go on the attack. The first American-led action of the war was the St. Mihiel Offensive by First Army. There were many ‘firsts’ with the First Army: (1) It was the first time an entire American Army had been formed in France, encompassing 14 American and three French divisions; (2) It was the first time American units larger than a Corps were formed; (3) the first time large-scale American forces would fight independently under Pershing; and (4) the first time American officers would have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to plan, coordinate, train, supply and command large numbers of Americans in combat.
The St. Mihiel offensive began on Sept. 12, 1918 and quickly reached all of its objectives within the first week of battle. Among the National Army divisions to participate in this battle were the 78th, 81st, 89th, and 90th Infantry Divisions. The St. Mihiel offensive re-shaped the battlefield and set the stage for a re-grouping of the U.S. Army and the beginning phase of the next, and what was to be the last, great battle of the war, The Meuse-Argonne Offensive that began on Sept. 26 and lasted until the final day of the war on Nov. 11, 2018.
The Meuse-Argonne Campaign
The four-division force of National Army troops that fought in the St. Mihiel offensive were nearly doubled during the Meuse-Argonne campaign as the 77th, 78th, 79th, 80th, 81st, 89th, 90th and 91st Infantry Divisions all participated in what turned out to be the war’s final battle, although no one knew it at the time.
The first American Division to arrive in France during WWI was the 77th Division. Also known as the “Statute of Liberty” Division, it was composed entirely of draftee Soldiers. The 77th first entered the line Aug. 12th, replacing the 4th Division near a small town called Fismes. Aug. 18th, the Oise-Aisne offensive began north of Soissons. During this battle, which lasted until Sept.16th, the 77th sustained nearly 4800 casualties.This led to their replacement by an Italian division in preparation for the upcoming Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Their area of battle eventually covered a large north-to-south sector on the western side of the line facing the Argonne Forest, including the southwest corner of the battlefield near the French village of Charlevaux and the French Fourth Army known as the location of the famed “Lost Battalion.”
Pushing through the Argonne Forest, nine companies of the 77th were cut-off and surrounded by German Soldiers during the first week of October. Roughly 550 men held off enemy forces in far greater numbers for almost a week before finally being rescued by other First Army Soldiers. Approximately 200 of the men were killed and another 150 missing or taken prisoner. Fewer than 200 were returned to American control.
As the “Lost Battalion” fought for its survival, 1st Lt. Dwite H. Schaffner of the 306th Infantry, 77th Division, was engaged in heavy combat near St. Hubert's Pavilion, Boureuilles, France, action for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The citation reads:
“He led his men in an attack on St. Hubert's Pavillion through terrific enemy machinegun, rifle, and artillery fire and drove the enemy from a strongly held entrenched position after hand-to-hand fighting. His bravery and contempt for danger inspired his men, enabling them to hold fast in the face of three determined enemy counterattacks. His company's position being exposed to enemy fire from both flanks, he made three efforts to locate an enemy machinegun which had caused heavy casualties. On his third reconnaissance he discovered the gun position and personally silenced the gun, killing or wounding the crew. The third counterattack made by the enemy was initiated by the appearance of a small detachment in advance of the enemy attacking wave. When almost within reach of the American front line the enemy appeared behind them, attacking vigorously with pistols, rifles, and hand grenades, causing heavy casualties in the American platoon. 1st Lt. Schaffner mounted the parapet of the trench and used his pistol and grenades killing a number of enemy soldiers, finally reaching the enemy officer leading the attacking forces, a captain, shooting and mortally wounding the latter with his pistol, and dragging the captured officer back to the company's trench, securing from him valuable information as to the enemy's strength and position. The information enabled 1st Lt. Schaffner to maintain for 5 hours the advanced position of his company despite the fact that it was surrounded on 3 sides by strong enemy forces. The undaunted bravery, gallant soldierly conduct, and leadership displayed by 1st Lt. Schaffner undoubtedly saved the survivors of the company from death or capture." (Medal of Honor Society).
In total, the 77th suffered 10,194 casualties, the most of any National Army division in the First World War. The legacy of these men continues today with the 77th Sustainment Brigade, known as the “Liberty Warriors,” five of whom were killed in the World Trade Center attack on September 11. 2001, while pursuing their civilian occupations. The 77th Sustainment Brigade is a unit of the United States Army that inherited the lineage of the 77th Infantry. Today its headquarters is located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Soldiers from the 77th have served in most major conflicts and contingency operations since the Great War. 
The 78th, or “Lightning” Division participated in both the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives after arriving in France in June of 1918. Activated on August 23, 1917, the 78th suffered 7,144 casualties and is now the Army Reserve’s 78th Training Division stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Its mission is “… providing realistic sustainment and combined arms training, focused on developing leaders and unit combatant commands; plans, coordinates and executes pre-mobilization collective training for RC units up through brigade level, preparing them to move into the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model available pool (78th Division).
The 78th first entered the fighting in I Corps reserve as the St. Mihiel offensive kicked off, and was eventually brought up on the line on September 17, 1918 to secure the nearly captured territory. They were joined by the 26th, 42nd, 89th and 90th Infantry Divisions, along with four French divisions. All of the other Americans units were pulled out of the line in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
Following mopping-up operations, the 78th set up its command post in a building called Loge Mangin near the edge of the woodland called Bois d’Heiche. The headquarters remained here until October 5. Assigned to I Corps, the Division moved out and took up a reserve position, alongside the French 5th Calvary and behind the 77th and 82nd Infantry Divisions, as the main attack continued on October 14. Moving forward, the 78th would take Grandpre in fierce fighting lasting several days. They then pushed past the town to the objective of Boult-aux-Bois.
The following is an account of the action of Sgt. William Sawelson during the battle of Grandpre:
“Hearing a wounded man in a shell hole some distance away calling for water, Sgt. Sawelson, upon his own initiative, left shelter and crawled through heavy machinegun fire to where the man lay, giving him what water he had in his canteen. He then went back to his own shell hole, obtained more water, and was returning to the wounded man when he was killed by a machinegun bullet.” His action posthumously earned Sergeant Sawelson the Medal of Honor.
Setting the stage for the final push, the 78th moved to the far left of the American First Army, protecting the right flank of the French Fourth Army and proceeding north, when the attack began on Nov. 1st. The 78th stayed on the attack until Nov. 7th, when it was relieved by the 42nd Infantry Division, and was in reserve status when the war ended four days later.
The 79th Infantry Division, whose legacy is continued today by the Army Reserve’s 79th Theatre Sustainment Command, was activated at Camp (now Fort) Meade in August of 1917, comprised primarily of draftees from Maryland and Pennsylvania. It arrived in France in July1918. The division participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, where it suffered 6,874 casualties and earned the moniker, “The Cross of Lorraine” Division.
The 79th was assigned the most difficult mission of the Meuse-Argonne attack. As part of V Corps it assaulted Montfaucon, nicknamed “Little Gibraltar.” The capture of this elevated and fortified position was the key to American success. The 79th would sustain more than 3,500 casualties taking the fortress in two days.
The 79th was originally a part of the First Army, but as the number of American troops swelled past the one million mark, Pershing decided to establish the Second Army, under Lt. Gen. Robert L. Bullard, with himself serving as American Theater Commander. The 79th would join this new force.
The 79th was in position on the Fresnes-en-Woevre and Port-sur-Seille line, with three other American and two French divisions. These divisions re-grouped and re-fitted for the second half of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, at which point all American units on the front line were engaged in offensive operations that carried on until the final day of the war, when the 79th earned the dubious distinction of having the last American Soldier killed in World War I within its ranks.
Sgt. Henry N. Gunther, Alpha Company, 313th Regiment, was killed assaulting a German machine gun position at 10:59 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918 – exactly one minute before the armistice went into effect.
The Legacy Divisions of the Army Reserve
Today, the 79th Theatre Sustainment Command is based in Los Alamitos, California, whose mission is to “provide trained, ready, cohesive, well-led sustainment units for world-wide deployment to meet the U.S. Army’s rotational and contingency mission requirements in support of the National Military Strategy.” (79th Division).
The “Blue Ridge” 80th Division, organized at Camp Lee, Virginia, Aug. 5, 1917, saw action in the St. Mihiel area of battle, primarily as a reserve division. It played a more active role in the Meuse-Argonne campaign, and saw heavy action in the Somme offensive. On the night of September 25-26, the 80th division found itself on the front line as part of III Corps, sandwiched in by the 4th Infantry Division on the left and the 33rd Infantry Division on the right. III Corps was at the heart of the First Army attack that now encompassed I Corps, V Corps and the French XVII Corps to its right. Before dawn, the Meuse-Argonne offensive began with the American First Army spearheading the assault against the German Third and Fifth Armies.
After several days of fighting, pressure from all sides forced the Germans to shift seven more divisions in front of the Allied armies, but the added forces were too late as the 80th Infantry Division and the accompanying American and French Soldiers were driving deeper into German lines. So deep in fact, the German High Command urged its government on September 29 to offer a peace settlement. This was done Oct. 6th. After another week of fighting, the 80th and 3rd Divisions broke through the famed Hindenburg Line near the Bois de Cunel, Oct. 9th. This breakthrough, combined with the German withdrawal from the Argonne at the same time, proved decisive as German forces began to fall back in ever greater numbers and ever greater territory.
From this point, the 80th Division continued the fight until Nov. 7, 1918 when relieved by the 1st Division. A few days later, and the war was over.
With 6,029 casualties, the Doughboys from the Mid-Atlantic States returned home in early 1919. Their legacy is carried on today by the 80th Training Command in Richmond, Virginia, whose mission is to train Army Soldiers in 12 career military fields for combat support and combat service support, including engineering, health services, supply, and information operations.
The 81st “Wildcats” Division arrived in theater late in the war in August 1918. The 81st Division did not see action at St. Mihiel, but rather was put in the training pipeline for the Meuse-Argonne offensive where it suffered 1,104 casualties, all in the final four days of the war, as they replaced the 35th Division near Bois de Manheulles. From this position, the 81st protected the right flank of the American First Army, where its front-line units were meeting resistance in the local woods when the Armistice went into effect, including the Bois de Moranville that was captured by the 81st in spite of terrific German resistance.
The 81st stayed in France until May 1919 and was inactivated on June 11. Its legacy is continued today by the 81st Readiness Division, stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, whose mission is to “… provide essential customer care and services to Soldiers, Civilians and their Families in the Southeast Region and Puerto Region, enabling supported commanders and leaders to maximize resources and meet global requirements” (81st RSC).
The 89th Division, known as the “Rolling W” division arrived in France in mid-summer 1918 and participated in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns, where it saw extensive action and suffered 7,091 casualties. Soldiers within its ranks were awarded with nine Medals of Honor (MoH), tied with the 33rd Division for second place behind the 30th Division, which had 12 Medal of Honor recipients.
Action for the 89th began on the first day of the St. Mihiel offensive at the tip of the spear, with the 1st and 42nd Divisions on the left, and the 2nd, 5th, and part of the 90th, on the right. They continued the attack, advancing well into German lines before encountering an enemy strongpoint at Ansoncourt Farm, near Limey-Remenauville. During this attack, 2nd Lt. J. Hunter Wickersham earned the Medal of Honor posthumously for saving the life of his orderly, and refusing medical treatment for his disabled right arm while leading his men forward to continue the advance. He later died from loss of blood.
As the advance continued, the 89th jumped through the woods and captured the town of Euvezin, and later, the ground which is now consecrated with the remains of 4,153 Soldiers as the St. Mihiel American Military Cemetery. Among the Soldiers buried there, in Plot B, Row 19, Grave 12, is Lieutenant Wickersham.
On the opening day of the offensive, Sgt. Harry J. Adams completed an amazing feat of arms:
"Harry J. Adams, First sergeant, Company K, Three hundred and fifty-third Infantry, Eighty-ninth Division, of Rochester, N.Y., came over with the first 700. On September 12 he was told by lieutenant to see if there were any more Germans in town, after he and the lieutenant had captured 80. Adams saw a German run into a house and he followed. He entered in time to see the Boche go through a trap door in the wall. At that time he had two shots left in his automatic. He fired these through the door and told him to come out. This left him with an empty pistol. The Boche came out; with him came 1 lieutenant colonel, 18 staff officers, and 355 soldiers.” The World War – Past Perfect Online and American Armies and Battlefields in Europe.
This event occurred in the French town of Bouillonville. For his actions, the poker-faced Adams was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix De Guerre.
The next day, Soldiers of the 89th captured the village of Beney which was part of the larger American objective to capture the market town of Xammes, one of the key areas in the overall plan. The 89th continued to push to the Bois de Dampvitoux and secured that area in cooperation with the 42nd Infantry Division later in the day, capturing an important aviation field and several barracks in the process.
This part of the battlefield now secured, the 89th pulled out of the line and began movement to the Meuse-Argonne sector. As the attack began, the “Rolling W” division was held in reserve along with the rest of the IV Corps, before heading into the line with the 78th and 90th divisions to the west of Pont-a-Mousson Oct. 4. Ten days later the Division had again been pulled from the line and placed in V Corps reserve, only to rejoin the battle Oct. 22 in its drive to support the capture of Romange by the 90th Division.
Pershing now ordered an all-out general attack by all American forces with the objective of cutting the Metz-Sedan-Mezieres railroad. Launching Nov. 1st, “Black Jack’s entire Army group marched forward, with V Corps assigned the difficult task of capturing the area known as the Barricourt Heights. Once secured, this opened the way for the other Corps to rush through, forcing the Germans to order a general retirement from the American First Army front west of the Meuse River, a stretch of territory that included the battle line as far north as Holland. When units of I Corps reached the heights over-looking Sedan, thereby severing German rail communications, the objectives of the Meuse-Argonne offensive had been reached.
Despite the Germans retreating and negotiating with Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the overall Allied commander ordered the offensive to continue. As a result, the 89th pushed off to force a crossing of the Meuse south of Mouzon on November 9 and they had secured their objective by the time the Armistice went effect.
The 89’s legacy is carried on today by the 89th Sustainment Brigade.
The 90th “Tough Ombres” Division saw action in the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns, accumulating 7,549 casualties, the second most of any National Army division during the war. These casualty figures began on the first day of the St. Mihiel campaign as part of the 90th division protected the right flank of the initial assault wave, shielding the 5th division from a counter-attack as it took the village of Vieville-en-Haye. They later teamed-up with the 82nd division, cleaning out the west bank of the Moselle River and shoring up American positions in that sector. By Sept. 13th, all objectives assigned to First Army had been achieved, as had Pershing’s desire to lead an American Army comprised of American Divisions, in a large-scale offensive action.
The assault continued with the 90th Division flanking the 5th and taking large amounts of machine-gun fire from the woods, Bois de la Rappe, near the village of Regnieville. They quickly pushed aside resistance and continued on toward Vandieres, side-by-side with the 82nd Division. Seizing their objectives, the 90th survived severe gas and artillery fire and held their position.
The 90th remained in France until 1919. Its lineage is carried on by the 90th Sustainment Brigade. The role of the sustainment brigade is to execute sustainment support on an area basis to Army forces, or if required, to joint and multinational forces as directed by its higher headquarters. In this role, the sustainment brigade, depending on the assigned mission, is capable of providing support from the operational to the tactical level. (U.S. Army ATP 4-93).
The 91st Division, known as the “Wild West Division,” was formed at Camp (now Fort) Lewis on Aug. 5, 1917 and got into action 13 months later during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne campaigns, the latter with V Corps. Staying in First Army reserve for the St Mihiel campaign with the 35th and 80th Divisions, the 91st went into the line for the Meuse-Argonne offensive and found itself on the left flank of V Corps, to the right of the 35th Division and I Corps, and to the left of 37th Division, in the push for Montfaucon.
The 91st stayed in the line until Oct. 14, including a rapid assault of Epinonville, its headquarters from Sept. 28th until Oct. 4th, Cheppy and key German positions, when it was pulled back as First Army reserve, along with the 1st, 80th and 90th Divisions.
During this period, in a battle on Sept. 28 Maj. Oscar F. Miller displayed a remarkable degree of leadership for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. According to the citation:
“After 2 days of intense physical and mental strain, during which Maj. Miller had led his battalion in the front line of the advance through the forest of Argonne, the enemy was met in a prepared position south of Gesnes. Though almost exhausted, he energetically reorganized his battalion and ordered an attack. Upon reaching open ground, the advancing line began to waver in the face of machinegun fire from the front and flanks and direct artillery fire. Personally leading his command group forward between his front-line companies, Maj. Miller inspired his men by his personal courage, and they again pressed on toward the hostile position. As this officer led the renewed attack he was shot in the right leg, but he nevertheless staggered forward at the head of his command. Soon afterwards he was again shot in the right arm, but he continued the charge, personally cheering his troops on through the heavy machinegun fire. Just before the objective was reached he received a wound in the abdomen, which forced him to the ground, but he continued to urge his men on, telling them to push on to the next ridge and leave him where he lay. He died from his wounds a few days later.”
Maj. Miller is buried in Plot F, Row 10, Grave 36 of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France.
Following a brief rest and re-fit, the 91st Division was sent to Belgium to assist the Group of Armies of Flanders near Audenarde, under the command of the King of the Belgians, Albert I. King Albert directed a general offensive in an easterly direction toward Brussels and the 37th and 91st American divisions (Both recognized by Pershing as two of his best divisions) stayed on the offensive until the end of the war, marching virtually unopposed as far east as the villages of Elst and Boucle-St. Blaise when the Armistice went into effect. During its time in battle, the 91st sustained 6,108 casualties.
Now based at Fort Hunter Ligget in California, the 91st Training Division carries on the legacy of its predecessor, where its mission is to: “… train and assess Army Reserve units in accordance with United States Army Reserve Command and United States Army Forces Command directives in support of Operational and Functional Commands through the conduct of Warrior and Combat Support Training Exercises (WAREX/CSTX). Training is provided to Joint, Combined and Active Army forces as directed to Joint, Combined and Active Army forces as directed (91st Training Division)."
Maj. (P) Franklin Huffman, is the Operations Officer for the Public Affairs Office of the United States Army Reserve Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. With 19 years of service, he is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and holds a Master’s degree in Social Science Education from Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina.
 Source: American Military History, Volume 2, U.S. Army Center for Military History
 All statistics are recorded in American Armies and Battlefields in Europe by the U.S. Army Center for Military History.
 As defined by U.S. Army Techniques Publication P 4-93, the role of the sustainment brigade is to execute sustainment support on an area basis to Army forces or, if required, to joint and multinational forces as directed by its higher headquarters. In this role, the sustainment brigade is capable of providing support from the operational to the tactical level.
 American Battlefield Monuments Commission
 The role of the sustainment brigade is to execute sustainment support on an area basis to Army forces or, if required, to joint and multinational forces as directed by its higher headquarters. In this role, the sustainment brigade, depending on the assigned mission, is capable of providing support from the operational to the tactical level. (U.S. Army ATP 4-93).