Cantigny American Monument

"This was our first offensive, which had been ordered primarily for the purpose of its effect on the morale of the English and French armies." ~ Lt. Col. George C. Marshall

As the first American action in the Great War, the victory at Cantigny provided a boost in moral for the Allied troops that spurred the Allies to victory.

Despite the American army bearing the higher number of total casualties, only 318 American soldiers lost their lives, while the Germans had 1,400 killed and over 250 taken as prisoners of war. Of the 318 Americans killed, five called Louisiana their home, one of whom was a St. Patrick native of St. James Parish, Lazzard Landry. Landry was only 17 years old when he joined the army and served in the 26th infantry until he was transferred to the 2nd Brigade Machine Gun Battalion in May 1918, the same day he was killed in action.

In a small park at the center of the small village of Cantigny resides a white marker overlooking the fields of local farms. The Cantigny American Monument was built by the American Battle Monument Commission in 1923 and was dedicated by Col. Robert R. McCormick on 9 August, 1937. Two sides of the marker bear inscriptions in French, while the opposite sides bear their translations in English, which read: “ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO COMMEMORATE THE FIRST ATTACK BY AN AMERICAN DIVISION IN THE WORLD WAR.” and “THE FIRST DIVISION UNITED STATES ARMY OPERATING UNDER THE X FRENCH CORPS CAPTURED THE TOWN OF CANTIGNY ON MAY 28 1918 AND HELD IT AGAINST NUMEROUS COUNTERATTACKS.” Nearby reside other American monuments including the 28th Infantry Regiment Monument, McCormick’s Cantigny Artillery Monument, and a monument to the First U.S. Division.

The first American offensive of the Great War occurred at the village of Cantigny. The village’s high ground position was crucial for the occupation of a German salient in the region. At 06:45 on 28 May, the U.S. First Division attacked the German line with the objective of removing them from the village. With an artillery barrage supporting them the 28th Infantry, two units of the 18th Infantry Regiment, three machine gun companies, and a company of engineers moved swiftly. French support by way of air cover, heavy artillery, flame throwers, and tanks helped the American troops advance on a two minute increment schedule, which allowed them to take the village within thirty minutes of launching the attack. This great achievement did not constitute the end of the battle however. German counter attacks lasted for three days, with bombardments that lasted all day long, attacks that were easily repulsed by American troops. All three days the American position was held, suffering a mere 1,603 casualties. Though often overshadowed by the importance of other battles along the Aisne salient, this battle is considered to be a turning point towards an allied victory.



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Cantigny Monument Cantigny France ~ The monument is in the center of the village of Cantigny near to the church.