The following is a brief story about my maternal great-uncle, Sargent Joseph Aloysius Grace (1892-1918), who died on October 11, 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne Operation in World War 1. Joseph enlisted in August 1917 and was serving in the III Corps – 4th Infantry Division – 7th Infantry Brigade – 39th Infantry Regiment (AAA-O) – HQ Company at the time of his death.
While Joseph’s cause of death is not noted, American Expeditionary Force (AEF) order of battle reports from that day note that “early on the morning of the 11th, the entire regimental staff of the 39th was gassed.” If Joseph was assigned to headquarters, it can be assumed that he was among those who died that morning. The use of chemical weapons was deployed heavily by both sides during the campaign. (The Use of Gas in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign)
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was the largest operation of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during World War and remains the deadliest American troops ever fought. The AEF launched its massive offensive on September 26, 1918 along a twenty-four-mile front from the Argonne Forest to the Meuse River—a long strip of rolling hills and wild woodland about 150 miles east of Paris. One month to the day after Joseph’s death, an Armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany on 11th November 1918, bringing an end to the First World War.
Meuse-Argonne Offensive – September 26 and November 11, 1918
AEF – 26,277 killed and 95,786 wounded
German – 28,000 killed and 92,250 wounded
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