Battle of Cantigny, 28 May 1918

The battle of Cantigny, 28 May 1918, was the first American offensive of the First World War. Cantigny had been captured during the Second Battle of the Somme (21 March-5 April 1918), the first of Ludendorff’s series of major offensives during the spring and summer of 1918. The village had then been fortified and turned into a German observation point. It was defended by veteran troops of General Oskar von Hutier’s Eighteenth Army.

The American attack was made by the American First Division under Major General Robert Lee Bullard. The village was captured, and then held against repeated German counterattacks on 28 and 29 May. American losses were 100 dead and 1,500 wounded, out of an initial force 4,000 strong (one infantry regiment), later increased to 8,000. German casualties are unknown, but around 200 men were captured during the battle.

In the context of the Western Front, the battle of Cantigny was little more than a skirmish. However, it gained great significance part because it was the first combat success of the American army, after nearly a year of preparation in France, and partly because it took place on the second day of the Third Battle of the Aisne (27 May-3 June 1918). The first day of that battle had seen the Germans advance thirteen miles, the greatest distance achieved in a single day since the start of trench warfare. The American victory at Cantigny was therefore a valuable boost to Allied morale.

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 August 2007), Battle of Cantigny, 28 May 1918 ,

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