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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2009

3 - The 1st Division: The Search for a “Sufficiently Powerful Fire”


After a couple of days behind the lines near Soissons, the 1st Division moved into the quiet Saizerais sector at the end of July. For the next month, the division not only commanded the new sector and absorbed seven thousand replacement troops but each of its infantry battalions, when rotated out of the front lines, also underwent a new period of training that was, according to the division history, “especially valuable in applying the experience gained at Soissons in reducing machine gun nests; in the disposition and employment of machine guns, automatic rifles, 37mm guns and Stokes mortars; in liaison to preserve cohesion and formations; and in marking the line so that it could be located by friendly aviators.”

These ten-day training events were described as “exercises for open warfare,” but they were conducted primarily by “small groups” and never entailed units larger than a battalion. More important, they focused on the kinds of outflanking maneuvers that were equally valuable for assaults on enemy trench positions as on the enemy on the open field. Although Summerall directed that much of the training be spent on target ranges, he specified that all shooting would be done on “short range target ranges” and ordered that firing be done not just with the Springfield rifle but also with the automatic rifle, machine gun, Stokes mortar, and 37mm gun.

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