The charts below depict the average daily casualty rate of each AEF division during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In January 2018 the Webmaster added a fourth file that examines: 1) Meuse-Argonne Casualties as a % of Reported Division Strength, and 2) Reported Division Strength as a % of Ideal Strength. This data can be found in Figure 4, below.
The data used for each division was that listed in the “Summary of Operations” books published by ABMC in 1944. Because each division presented the data using different dates, the simple average was used. Example: 300 casualties in a five-day period = 60 casualties per day. While this is less than perfect, it made data gathering relatively simple. The casualty numbers for each division include the units attached to that division for part or all of the offensive. As defined in the summaries, casualties include three categories: Wounds, not mortal; Died of Wounds; and Killed in Action. For this study, the three categories have been aggregated and not presented separately.
For comparison, the Webmaster included the actions of the 93rd Division, which was assigned to the French. The ABMC summary lists it as “Casualties, Oise-Aisne Offensive;” even though the division fought basically on the left flank of the 77th Division (but not as part of the First American Army. The relatively low casualty numbers have to be viewed in the context of the limited fighting opportunity and other obstacles facing U.S. African-American troops at that time.
Casualty data is only one piece of the puzzle in assessing a division’s combat effectiveness. Other factors would have to include: training, leadership, replacement cycle, terrain, quality of enemy forces, ground gained, etc. To the Webmaster’s knowledge, the best research in this area has been Mark Ethan Grotelueschen’s “The AEF Way of War: The American Army and Combat in World War 1.” It looks at four divisions: Two Regular Army divisions, one National Guard division, and one National Army division. Readers are free to recommend other quality studies that have analyzed divisional combat effectiveness.
The Webmaster would also like to see an international comparison of casualties and combat effectiveness; to counter or support claims by Generals Haig and Foch. That has yet to be done; as far as the Webmaster knows.
The data reveals relatively few surprises; but it is interesting to compare all divisions side-by-side. Overall casualties were highest right at the outbreak of the offensive and through mid October, when the Hindenburg line was being assaulted. They casualties declined markedly in late October, but spiked significantly during 1 and 2 November. Thereafter average daily casualties declined again until rising a bit on 10 and 11 November.
For ease of publication, the charts have been prepared as .pdf files. Please click on the links below:
Figure 1 Average Daily Casualties
Figure 2 Average Daily Casualties All Divisions All Days
Figure 3 Average Daily Casualties Within Each Division
Figure 4 Casualties as % of Reported Division Strength