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Friday, August 9, 2013

18+ Days in AEF's footsteps: DAY 7, Chateau Thierry and the Second Battle of the Marne

USA Monument to those who fought and fell at Chateau-Thierry
sits atop a hill overlooking the prosperous city.

(River Marne to the left of pix and this road which runs along the river.) 
Sculpture on the Chateau-Thierry Monument
France and USA, holding hands,
Partners in War and Peace

    Chateau Thierry is a lovely town along the Marne River approximately 50 miles east of Paris. In the spring of 1918, the Germans decided to attack their lines in France with great force and hopefully win the war before the Americans could arrive in massive numbers.
   A year had passed since America had declared war and finally, the country had enough recruits, transportation routes and sufficient supplies to convey a million men to Europe, feed, clothe and care for them.
   No small part of this was the need to provide medical care. While a few Base Hospitals (as the primary structure of medical personnel was called by the Army Medical Corps) had arrived in France in spring 1917, they assisted the French and British caring for those nationals.
   Now with the arrival of American men, other based hospital units arrived in huge numbers. Consisting of doctors, dentists, orderlies and pharmacists and nurses, these units could vary in numbers. (In fact, as the Spring Offensives of 1918 proceeded, the US Army called for more recruiting of doctors and nurses. The Army originally thought 50 nurses per Base would be sufficient but soon sought 100 per Base.) While Army Nurse Corps recruits assisted in the Operating Rooms and ran the wards, American Red Cross nurses who had much less training worked as their staff. Usually 50 to 100 nurses worked the Base Hospital wards and surgical units along with 50 or more doctors and dentists. Orderlies and pharmacists (or trained orderlies who did this work) were fewer in number and varied according to location, total force numbers in the area and notice of imminent attack of the enemy.
   Within one mile of the town was a major Base Hospital at Aulnois. Here, the nurses often sponsored dances for their patients. Men who played instruments practiced in the wards and became pick-up bands. These entertainments were welcomed by the staff and the soldiers breaking the tedium of their days and the journey back to health.
One of Operating Rooms, Mars Hospital Center, France*
Note cinder block structure in this OR
as opposed to wooden structures or tents used for Mobile Hospital Units.
Note, too, nurses in grey crepe uniforms with white butcher aprons used in ward duty.

*Mars was composite center far back of front lines and not in Chateau-Thierry sector but farther east near Toul.

Lab at Mars Hospital Center, France
Orderly Mixing Compounds

Memorial atop a hill overlooking the town.
Inscription: "This monument has been erected by the United States of America to commemorate the services of her troops and those of France who fought in this region during the World War. It stands as a lasting symbol of the friendship and cooperation between the French and American Armies."

   Traveling the area around Chateau-Thierry, I easily saw the importance of this town along the Marne. Hold it and any military force could easily attack or defend the river's access to the capital city of Paris.
Do see the picture at the top of this post once more. There on that hilltop, I capture its position which was a disputed territory taken eventually by the American First, Second and Third Divisions. See also views east and west along the Marne, now serene.
Along the River Marne, looking in the same direction
as American Monument

View of the Marne, flowing east, in this lovely city.

American troops crossing the Marne in Chateau-Thierry.
American troops in public square after capture
of Chateau-Thierry,  July 1918.
This square facing Hotel de Ville to the right of picture and Marne to the left is now a parking lot!
Ruins of Chateau-Thierry, in upper right you see Hotel de Ville, City Hall.
American troops clearing a road in Chateau-Thierry.

Aisne-Marne Salient Map on the American Monument high above Chateau-Theirry.

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