St Mihiel Offensive 12 – 16 September 1918 written by Maarten Otte and published by Pen & Sword Books – £15.99 – Softcover – Pages 298

The St Mihiel Offensive, which took place between the 12th and 16th September 1918, was the first full scale attack that was under the direct command of the Americans, in the person of General J Pershing. He combined his command of the First (at the time the only) American Army with that of Commander in Chief of the AEF, a tremendous burden.

The St Mihiel Salient had its origins in the early fighting of the war and had been stabilised by the end of 1914, although there was fierce fighting there in the first half of 1915 as both sides jostled for position; the high ground of Les Eparges became notorious for the intensity of the mine warfare that took place below it, extensive remains of which can be seen today.

The American attack (with the assistance of a French Corps) was an outstanding success and the Germans were forced into a rapid withdrawal to the Michel Line, a strongly defended position that formed the Hindenburg Line in this area. On the other hand, the success was in part assisted by the fact that the Germans intended to withdraw from the exposed position of the Salient back to this line, the only question being the timing of such a move. Historians argue about whether the move had actually begun or not; but the reality is that senior German officers knew that it was imminent and certainly some heavier artillery had already been pulled back.

Pershing’s original hope had been to continue the offensive to seize Metz, crucial rail links and economically vital areas to the German war effort. In fact any such attempt would have taken weeks of preparation, as even a casual examination of the Michel Line defences still existing today would show.

It is probable that relatively easy success here led to overconfidence amongst some that the next offensive, the Meuse-Argonne – to the north and scheduled to begin on the 26th, would have a similar outcome. If so they were in for a rude awakening.

This book is profusely illustrated with contemporary photographs and numerous maps, the narrative supplemented by a number of first hand accounts; the whole is supported by several walking and car tours.

This book like the others in the series is a precise and fantastic piece of education, full of detailed information, maps and diagrams. This particular book focuses on the American Expeditionary force during the Great War, at The St Mihiel Offensive. But not only do we get the details of the offensive, you also get the order of battle and the relevant facts and figures. The reader also gets the major players of the events and little biographies, but added to this are a huge amount of high quality photographs depicting modern day so that you can follow the information and routes as the battle goes on. But the other major plus to these books is not only the fine detailed writing, it’s the compact size of the book, it really is the right size and weight to take on a tour/afternoon walk over the events.

This is a thoroughly good read and a magnificent reference book to the events told, the reference indexes and terms at the back of the book are just fantastic. This book is a must for the recommendation.

By Ben Davidson

Hello, I have been studying all aspects of history for about 25 years. I have a BA History from the University of Bedfordshire. My historical areas of interest are anything really, but I specialise in 19th - 20th century Britain, America and Ireland. I am also strongly aligned with most military history, really enjoying WW2 and the US Civil War. Chuck in the king or queen and Bob's your uncle.