AEF/Fismes/Fismette/Lt. Hervey Allen/-Flammenwerfer

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bob lembke
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AEF/Fismes/Fismette/Lt. Hervey Allen/-Flammenwerfer

Post by bob lembke » 26 Dec 2004 21:02

Guys; As some of you must know I am researching and writing a book on WK I Flammenwerfer. I came across a book called Toward the Flame by one Hervey Allen, a noted American writer of the 1930's, who in WW I was Lt. William Allen of Pittsburgh of Company B, 111th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard. In August 1918 they were pursuing the Germans up to the Vesle River (really a stream) at a point where a town called Fismes was on the south side of the river and a suburb/village called Fismette was just north of the river and Fismes. This all was say 20 miles west of Reims.

The US 28th was part of a French Corps and was commanded by a Gen. Bullard. The Americans pushed across the river into Fismette, which was a terrible spot, as it was closely surrounded by bluffs honeycombed with caves and fortifications. However, the French command and the Corps Commander wanted to maintain several bridgeheads north of the Vesle. The Yanks were pushed right out once, and had to rotate perhaps 20 or more infantry and MG companies through the village, and took heavy losses, which are proving very hard to quantify at this time. Finally Bullard pulled his forces across the river, but his French CO caught him doing so (his chief-of-staff ratted on him to the Frenchie) and made him re-enter Fismette.

Finally the Germans counter-attacked strongly on the night of August 27th and pushed the Americans across the river again. Supposedly the Yanks lost 190 or 250 men, but there were several US companies there, and the losses must have been higher. (Over the month of August the 28th Division must have lost over 1000 killed, wounded, and captured in the little village; the French ordering several bloody and futile attacks out of the village.) The night-time attack was led by flame-throwers of the 9. Kompagnie, Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer). Allen described this attack in a surrealistic passage, his men curling into balls as the flames went over them. (He himself probably was in la-la land, he had been in action for days, already wounded and gassed.) He survived, no other officer of his company did, and his company, once 270 men, probably 150 when they went into Fismette, had 8 effectives after the attack. Pershing was really pissed when he heard from Bullard that the troops had been sent back into that terrible position.

I have read a number of accounts, dispatches, etc., and this fiasco is either ignored, minimized, or flat-out lied about. Any info or leads will be gratefully received. I am particularily interested as my father was fighting a few miles east of Fismes with the 11. Kompagnie, Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer), at this time, where he was wounded twice, the last time blinded by a Green Cross shell in no-man's land during a FW attack. For a while it seemed possible that he was fighting at Fismette, although I now know that he was not there.

Again, any info, leads, etc. appreciated. I do have the US Army 3 CD set and will go through it more carefully soon.

Bob Lembke

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 27 Dec 2004 13:14

Bob,
The photo below(courtesy of the AWM) has been described as being at 'Belleau Wood' in some works.However it has also been noted that the terrain and surroundings don't match this locale,so it might be Fismes but I'm only guessing.Note the Flammenwerfer being carried by the soldier on the right as well.

Regards,
Peter
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Post by Mad Zeppelin » 30 Dec 2004 18:06

The operation had the German name "Stellungskämpfe an der Vesle" and lasted from August 4th to September 3rd, 1918. I've found the following formations (under 7th GE Army):
4. GdID (5th GdRzF, GdGrenR 5, RIR 93, GdFAR 6)
5. ID (LeibGrenR 8, GrenR 12, IR 52, FAR 18 )
10. RD (FüsR 37, RIR 37, IR 155, RFAR 10) - only 25th aug to 3rd sep
18. ID (IR 31, IR 85, FüsR 86, FAR 45)
24. RD (RIR 104, RIR 107, RIR 133, RFAR 68 )
26. ID (GrenR 119, IR 121, IR 125, FAR 29)
50. ID (FüsR 39, IR 53, IR 158, FAR 99) - only 24th aug to 28th aug
199. ID (IR 114, IR 357, RIR 237, FAR 263) - only 21st aug to 3rd sep
216. ID (IR 42, IR 59, IR 354, FAR 54).
28. RD was also there, but moved out 21st aug.

The picture may show the terrain of the former "Führer- and Generalstabskursus" at Sedan, which had been taken over as training ground by Jäger-Sturm-Btl 3 in July 1918. They at least did one instruction movie on assault techniques at this location.

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Post by Mad Zeppelin » 30 Dec 2004 18:09

The emoticons (no clue why they show up) are supposed to "eights" -8-

bob lembke
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Fismette

Post by bob lembke » 30 Dec 2004 23:35

Guys; Thanks for your help. Peter - A nice pic, but I don't think that the terrain matches Fismes/Fismette. I may pester you as to where it is found. "Mad Zeppelin" - Thanks for the info. Is that from the 1919 Schlachten und Gefechte ? Do you mean that where a "smiley face" is, it actually should be an "8". I.e., FAR 1 "smiley face" is really FAR 18? Hint: I tried to put in a "smiley face" in here and got an "8)"; I think we have a systems problem with the website software.

Really appreciate your help. Have been working on this a lot, and I am corroborating what I suspected; excessive cooking of the history in the official histories. In holding a toehold in Fismette, maybe 200 m. by 200 m., for about three weeks, and making a few really stupid hopeless attacks, they may have suffered 2000 casualties, probably eight times as many as they inflicted on the defenders. Not a situation the commanders wanted to publicize. So far I have documented two generals lying through their teeth about what went on there. Lots of sources mention local trivia yet are very silent on this situation.

So I am hunting down narratives of men who were there and are checking them against each other and building time-lines and tables of information to get down to what seemingly really happened. The lieutenants and sergeants have less motivation to hide unpleasant reality than the old farts who put the troops in horrible situations for reasons of prestige and abstractions from their chateaux 20 miles behind the lines.

Bob Lembke

PS: Yes, we have a systems bug, it seems. Tried a "smiley face" and got a 8 and a parenthesis; put the latter in to explain the problem, and I got a "smiley face" that I did not enter from an 8 and a right parenthisis. The "smiley face" is not the highest expression of Western culture, but seems to be an important form of expression on the forum.

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 30 Dec 2004 23:44

Some good,first class German divisions fought there.AEF Intelligence Summaries of units involved:

4th Guard Div-first class,"the division was engaged July 27 southeast of Fere en Tardenois.It fell back towards Fismes on August 1-2,from where it was shifted into the Courlandon-Breuil sector.."

5th Div-first class,"it fell back to the Vesle by Acy on August 1-2.."

10th Div-first class,"..thrown back on the Vesle by August 1.."

18th Div-first class,"..on August 1 it reenforced the battle front near Launoy.."

24th Div-second class,.."from the 1st of August until the 17th the division opposed a lively resistance to the French attack in the Avre."

26th Div-first class,"..identified ..northeast of Fismes on the 18th."

50th Div-first class,"...thrown into the line northwest of Rheims..."

199th Div-second class,"..on August 3 reenforced the battle front..west of Rheims.."

216th Div-third class,.."its conduct during the retreat to the Vesle was good..."

28th Res Div-first class,"..it was heavily engaged..in the sector north of Mesuil les Hurlus..."

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 30 Dec 2004 23:51

I fixed the smily faces--you need to put a space after an 8 with a closed bracket i.e 8 )

Peter

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