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Battle Orders 6: The American Expeditionary Forces in World War I

by John F Votaw

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-622-4, 96 pages.

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There was always a clear lack of information on the basics of the US Army’s organization and structure during its involvement in the first industrialized war of the 20th century, commonly referred to as World War I. That the US Army was clearly ill-prepared for this style of mass warfare is usually taken for granted. What is less well-understood is the stupendous achievements that resulted in the eventual deployment of Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force (AEF). This new book by Lt.Col. Votaw goes a long way towards allowing the reader to appreciate the AEF’s accomplishments, all in a concise package.

The author begins with chapters detailing the US Army’s mission, its training both in the USA and France; and its command, control, communications and intelligence assets. He continues with details on organization for all arms as well as headquarters units. This includes AEF General HQ, Army, Corps, Division and Brigade structures (infantry and artillery); Air, Medical and Supply Services; Engineers, and the infant Tank Corps. Units sent to North Russia, Siberia and occupation forces stationed post-war in Germany are also covered. There are detailed charts that accompany the text in this section, detailing units down to the company level. From this, an idea of the structure of the infantry platoon can be gathered, but there is not much on how the platoons were further broken down into squads. However, the confusion may be my own, since the platoon is broken down into “sections” each having a specific title, such as: “hand bombers”, “rifle grenadiers”, “riflemen” and “automatic riflemen”. Each group, taken together adds up to a typical platoon, but how the various arms were integrated into what would be nowadays called a “squad” is not clear to me. Also conspicuous by its absence is information on the Marine Brigade.

The next chapter is probably the most interesting since it centers on tactics. As examples of such, it describes a regimental attack by the 1st Infantry Division’s 28th Infantry Regiment (Cantigny) and a divisional attack by the 1st (Soissons). It is followed by a chapter on weapons and equipment to include individual items and weapons, crew-served weapons and artillery, tanks, aircraft and transport vehicles (rail-borne, motorized and horse-drawn). The final chapters detail the occupation of Germany, demobilization and “lessons learned”.

All of this is tied together with 60 B&W photos, four color illustrations, ten maps, 45 tables and charts, a chronology, an index, a bibliography and very extensive source notes. The charts are clearly presented and easily understood. The photos depict major US military figures and commanders (curiously absent is Douglas MacArthur and Billy Mitchell, although both appear in the text), weapons, equipment and troops. All photos and illustrations are informatively captioned and well-reproduced.

For those figure modelers interested in this period, this book ably compliments the Men-at-Arms book on the US Army in WW1, especially if there is an interest in its organization.


Frank De Sisto

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