Prior to the American victories at Cantigny and
Chateau-Thierry the Germans were threatening Paris. The failure of
the German spring offensive and the heavy June-July battles that cleared
the enemy presence in the fortified Belleau Wood put the German Army in
The withdrawing forces pulled back to two
sanctuaries, heavily fortified throughout the war and nearly impervious
to outside attack. In north France the Germans withdrew to their
heavily reinforced Hindenburg Line. On the Western Front the
retreating Germans found sanctuary in the dense Argonne Forest and the
long-held salient at St. Mihiel.
It was these very sanctuaries, laced with barbed
wire, tunnels and concrete or wooden bunkers, that had kept the ground
war in stalemate for three years. They created a north-south front
line that either side moved forward in one attack, then lost ground in
the face of fierce enemy counterattack.
On September 12 American forces under the command
of General John J. Pershing attacked the St. Mihiel salient. The
successful offensive was quickly followed by offensives in the Argonne
Forest and along the Hindenburg Line. In two months the German
forces were crushed. Ninety of the 119 Medals of Honor awarded in
World War I were received for actions in this sixty-day period from
September 12 until November 11--Armistice Day.