In December of 1917 peace talks between the Bolshevik government and the Central Powers began in Brest-Litovik and although a treaty would not be signed for three months, it opened up the possibility that the German soldiers on the eastern front could be relocated to fortify operations in France. At the same time, the US Army was beginning to arrive on European soil to reinforce the Allied forces. Although Congress had declared war in April of 1917, it had taken the US Army several months to raise, train and transport soldiers and supplies. With these diplomatic and operational factors in play, strategists on both sides of the war knew that getting their men to the front was imperative to having the advantage in the Spring.
Many of the commanders during the Great War had a connection to Orange County via their education at West Point Military Academy. In June 1917, an 1886 graduate of the Academy, General John Pershing arrived in Europe with 190 staff members but by the war's end was overseeing 1 million deployed troops. General Pershing assigned command of the 1st Division to a fellow classmate, General Robert L. Bullard, who arrived in France one hundred years ago this week. The US troops under Bullard's command experienced several attacks in the early months of 1918. In March, Newburgh soldier 1st Lt. Judson Galloway, was gassed during a raid alongside French troops. While recovering in a field hospital, Galloway was the first local soldier to be awarded the "Cross of War" for his heroics.
After several defensive engagements with the enemy in April and May, General Bullard commanded the first US-led attack at Cantigny on May 28, 1918. Two days later, enemy troops to the south, fought across the French countryside capturing 60,000 prisoners, 2,000 machine guns and 650 artillery pieces. They advanced to Chateau-Thierry -- only 50 miles from Paris. Alongside the French soldiers, local African-American men including Pvt. Horace Pippen from Goshen, serving in the 369th New York Infantry Regiment, fought so bravely that they earned the nickname the "Harlem-Hellfighters." One Marine battalion from the 3rd Division arrived in advance of the main US forces and took up position on the north side of the Marne River but they were cut off when French engineers blew up the bridge before they could reach it. They barely survived as they scrambled along the riverside to find an escape route. The rest of the 3rd Division, as well as the 2nd Division, arrived by June 3rd to counter attack and continued to block the enemy from reaching the French capital.
It was near here, in Belleau Woods, during the offensive on June 6, 1918, that 1st Lt. Judson Galloway exhibited another episode of "exceptional courage" as "after being mortally wounded, he continued to direct the steady advance of his platoon in the face of heavy machine-gun fire until struck a second time and killed." Galloway is still remembered locally in the naming of our chapter of the American Legion Post 152 and with the bit of soil from his grave carried back from Belleau Woods and placed at Washington's Headquarters where it is still marked with a memorial. On the same day as Galloway's death, Orange County also lost Corp. W. Allen Hoyt from Chester who served in the famed 3rd battalion of the Marine Corp. In the following week, another local Marine, 2nd Lt. James S. Timothy of Highland Falls, "was instantly killed by a high-explosive shell" and two infantrymen, Pvt. Louis C. Green of Middletown and Corp. Daniel O'Connor of Tuxedo Park died of their wounds.
More to come as we research the local soldiers of the Great War and prepare to send a memorial delegation to Belgium and France to honor the fallen in the centennial year.