Plaque – Detail of the Monument to the US 1st Division. Source: www.usmilitariaforum.com
The Battle of Cantigny in May 1918 was the first major American battle in the Great War.
The Battle of Cantigny, which took place from 28 to 31 May 1918, remains extremely important in the history of the United States as it was the first major American battle in the Great War.
The Battle of Cantigny helped to contain the German offensives during the spring of 1918, giving newfound confidence and morale to the Allies and demonstrating the American soldiers’ fighting skills. General John J. Pershing wrote, "It was a question of pride for the American Expeditionary Forces that the division’s troops, in their first battle... should display the moral strength and courage of the veterans, holding on to land taken and refusing to let the enemy take the slightest advantage".
Over 1,000 American soldiers were put out of combat during this battle and 199 of them died. At Cantigny, the 1st Division began a series of American successes, powerfully amplified by the heroic position of the 2nd and 3rd US Divisions along the Marne a few days later. With nearly one million Americans in France at the time, the Allies’ morale was about to change, from a defeatist spirit to the certainty of victory soon to come. Cantigny was the first battle of the US 1st Division (now known as the 1st Infantry Division) which was again to make a name for itself in 1944 during the attack on Omaha Beach in Normandy on 6 June.
Many famous Americans fought at Cantigny, including George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff during World War II and later Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of State who implemented the Marshall Plan. Robert R. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune who changed the name of his property to Cantigny when he returned to the United States. Upon his death, the property was transformed into a park open to the public in keeping with his last wishes; a foundation that bears his name was set up along with a museum dedicated to the history of the 1st Division from 1917 to the present, in Wheaton, Illinois. There are several monuments in Cantigny, in the Somme department, that serve to remind us of their exploits. A small private museum houses vestiges of the battle and can be visited by appointment.
"Pays de Parmentier" Tourist Office
5 Place du Général de Gaulle 80500 Montdidier
Tel.: +33 (0) 322 789 200 Fax : +33 (0) 322 780 088
5 Place du Général de Gaulle 80500
Tél : +33 (0) 322 789 200Fax : +33 (0) 322 780 088
Accessible year round