US soldiers on the Italian front 1918
Networld: preserving WWI heritage
The United States entered WWI on April 6, 1917. Several units already arrived in 1917, but the main body of troops did not arrive to the Western Front until early 1918. Once the US troops arrived, the Allies could finally replace their losses while the Central Forces could not, a major boost. The French and Brithis commanders wanted the US troops to act purely as replacement within the Allied fighting structure. US command did not agree with that and with only a few exceptions, the US troops fought as independed units next to the Allied forces.
The disasterous Battle of Carpetto (Kobarid, or the 12th Battle of Isonzo) in October 1917 had pushed the Italian front back almost 60 miles from the Isonzo River to the Piave River. The Italian front was on the verge of collapse and to prevent that from happening, both the British and the USA sent troops to Italy despite the urgent need for fresh troops at the Western Front.
The US Army relocated the 332nd Infantry Regiment, part of the 83rd Infantry Division. The 331th Field Hospital with 30 ambulance units, the 102nd Base Hospital, and over 50 pilots were also relocated to the Italian front. The 332nd reached the Italian front in July, 1918 but was held in reserve in the baracks at Treviso. They played a major role in boosting moral. It also did some ingenious deception actions. From their base behind the front, the 332nd went on endless training marches and visted different location along the front. One section would go out of the gates with one type of uniform and another wearing a different uniform and especially different caps. Thanks to this, both Central Forces and the Italian front troops thought that the Allies now had a much larger army in reserve than the Allied had in reality.
As one member of the 332rd stated; he would gladly kill any enemy encountered in retribution for the endless marching they had to do.
Luckily, the 332nd hardly saw battle. During most of their stay they were in reserve in the baracks in Treviso, about 10 miles from the Piave river and the front. In November, just before the armistice, they joined the fight. The Central Forces were in full retreat, already across the Tagliamento River, 40 miles to the east of Treviso. There, near the bridge for the road between Pordeone and Udine, the 332ndy encountered the enemy for the first time directly. After some fighting they managed to cross the river and occupy the town of Coroipo. During this fighting, they lost one man, with four others wounded; the only casualties the 332rd took from battleItalian Front.
US medical units provided crucial services on all fronts. With the high amount of wounded from the trench wars, medical units were often overwhelmed. The arrival of US medical units, both military and volunteer, on the fronts helped save hundred of thousands of lives of wounded soldiers. The American Ambulance Field Service worked as a volunteer organization until as early as 1914 in France, and was formally incorporated in the US Army in 1917. The Norton Harjes Ambulance Corps was another volunteer organization providing medical help at the front and was later associated with the US Red Cross, to streamline operations.
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