The Men: Although over 4,000 American troops were lost in the Montsec salient over the course of the war, only two known soldiers hailed from Acadiana. Angel Duhon of Cameron and Eugene W. Rogillio of Rogillioville. Duhon was only 22 when he enlisted in the Army, had fought at Veaux Castelle Vicxy, and was serving in Company D of the 23rd U.S. Infantry when he fell. Rogillio was 29 and fell during his only engagement during the war. Both of these men lost their lives on 12 September 1918.
The St. Mihiel region stands a doric temple that seems to have been transferred from another part of the world to come to rest atop a hill in the St. Mihiel region of northeastern France. The white rounded columns form a circular colonnade to which visitors climb via a wide stairway. At its center is a bronze observation table which illustrates the St. Mihiel salient and the operations which took place to recover the region. The monument was designed by Egerton Swartwout and erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission in the 1930s. A plaque near the steps up to the monument reads:
“THIS MONUMENT HAS BEEN ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO COMMEMORATE THE CAPTURE OF THE ST. MIHIEL SALIENT BY THE TROOPS OF HER FIRST ARMY AND TO RECORD THE SERVICES OF THE AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES ON THE BATTLE FRONT IN THIS REGION AND ELSEWHERE IN LORRAINE AND ALSACE. IT STANDS AS A LASTING SYMBOL OF THE FRIENDSHIP AND COOPERATION BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND AMERICAN ARMIES.”
However during the Second World War, that region saw intense fighting once again and the monument was partially destroyed by American artillery in their attempt to rid the region of German troops. Efforts to restore the monument took place in 1948 and 1958.
During the first year of the war in 1914 the German Army occupied the village of Montsec during the Battle of Flirey. The village was continuously occupied by German troops until 12 September 1918, when American troops under the command of General John Pershing launched an offensive on the St. Mihiel salient. The Americans, in tandem with the French attacked the salient on three sides, two American battalions to the South, the French Colonial Brigade at the apex of the salient, and both French and American corps to the west. General Pershing’s plan worked by enveloping the salient and forcing the reduced German manpower towards other allied forces. The battle for the Montsec region lasted for three days, and by 15 September, St. Mihiel had been recovered by Allied troops and 4,000 German POWs had been taken. The Battle of St. Mihiel also became the largest air operation of the war with nearly 1,500 Allied aircraft in service. Only nine units of the RAF were not subject to General Pershing’s command. The AEF also utilized its new tank force which consisted of two tank battalions, consisting of 144 American tanks, and an additional 275 French tanks, to provide support for advancing American artillery. The operation proceeded so smoothly that General Pershing actually ordered his troops to speed up the attack so they could move on to and prepare for other objectives in the upcoming Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Despite the AEF’s undeniable success, nearly 4,500 American troops were lost in battle, making it the second highest fatal casualty battles in American history, surpassed only by the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.