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JOVE23

Guesstimating German Positions in Argonne-Oct. 5, 1918.

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JOVE23

Hello All,

Through the help of some wonderful forum Pals (CROONAERT and Phil Evans), I know feel confident that I know within 10 meters where my great grand uncle Max Polak was killed on 5 Oct. 1918.

My next task is to use the primary sources I have available to me to try to build out from the location he was killed to get a clearer picture of the defenses he was up against that day. I would like to enlist any Pals who are willing to help me in this endeavor.

The first idea I'm going to try to solidify is the rough location of the German MG emplacements that were battling Max and his fellow Chauchat gunners (if there were any others!) in a shell hole just outside the Bois du Chene Sec.

The company history describes the following events for 5 Oct:

post-54190-0-55480800-1360278410_thumb.p

Note the "patch of woods" described as a hotbed of German resistance. Also note the paragraph describing where Sgt. Szulakiewicz was captured after a fight where many were killed. I believe Max was one of the fallen. I believe this because of the following document, written by Sgt. Szulakiewicz:

post-54190-0-35669700-1360278664_thumb.j

Now we have more information. Max was battling against machine gunners that were no more than 50 yards from his position when he was killed. Combine that with the previous documentation about the patch of woods, I will initially say that the German MG positions were in the following area:

post-54190-0-99528600-1360278752_thumb.p

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say the area in the red circle is the likely candidate. It looks like a small patch of woods and there is a corresponding mark of some sort on the map. It seems to be close enough to the death site (pink circle). The blue area is an alternate area for consideration.

What say you? I'm eager to bounce ideas off you guys.

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CROONAERT

One of the maps contained in the 32nd Divisional history locates the frontline as of midnight on 5th October 1918 (to 8am on the 9th) as skirting the northern boundary of the Bois de Chenes Sec - right where your relative was buried. However, there is no indication of exactly when this line was established (though it was definately between 19:20hrs of the 4th October and midnight of the 5th) so, it is probable that he was buried pretty much where he fell. The attacks of the 4th/5th October appear to have been directed in a north-westerly direction so it is possible (and giving a little lee-way on the '50 yards' reference by another 10 or 20...it'd only me an estimated distance anyway) that the German positions being referred to were actually in the little 'offshoots' of the Bois de Chenes Sec to the east of the estimated positions in your post.

Dave

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Phil Evans

Justin,

Context is everything. Is there a way of accessing more of the Co. K history?

As Dave said above, the general direction of the attack was north-westerly, but there appears to have been an element of dis-organisation going back to the 4th. I have just had an interesting read of the Co. C history, whose objective appears to have been the Bois de la Morine and the Bois du Chene Sec, but they lost direction and ended up East of Gesnes.

Is this sketch in the history you have?

post-20576-0-84500100-1360338252_thumb.j

Phil

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JOVE23

Hello,

I will attach the company history for the whole Meuse-Argonne offensive in this post. Please let me know if the download works.

127th Infantry, Company K History

Here is some additional information from the book MEDICAL DEPARTMENT OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY IN THE WORLD WAR, VOLUME VIII: FIELD OPERATIONS:

CHAPTER XXVI - SECOND PHASE - Continued - FIFTH CORPS

Edited by JOVE23

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Phil Evans

The second link is OK, but the Company K link doesn't work. Google blocks it by saying it can't scan it for viruses and it is too big anyway.

Phil

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Phil Evans

Thanks Justin,

I've got it.

Phil

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JOVE23

I believe this map shows that on a general level, the 32nd was up against the 115. Infanterie-Division during this phase of the battle. I wonder if the defenses the 127th ran into on the 5th were improvised or prepared positions?

Here is the general set up of the armies on Oct. 4:

2e2890fc7d803224ffff837fac144225.jpg

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Phil Evans

Justin,

I have now read every relevant Regimental and Divisional History for early October 1918 that I can lay my hands on. As with the burial records from your earlier thread, there are ambiguities.

My conclusion is that Max was killed on 5th October, within, or adjacent to the Bois du Chene Sec. He was probably buried at some time between the 7th and 9th October.

Phil

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JOVE23

I have the grave location blanks that state he was buried on the 15th, but as you said there are a lot of ambiguities. I will doggedly believe (because I want to, darn it!) that the location that he was originally buried was roughly where he was killed. I would still like to try to guesstimate where the German MG nests were that Max was fighting the day he was killed (assuming the burial was near to where he fell).

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Phil Evans

Justin,

It depends on what you call close. In or adjacent to Bois du Chene Sec is within a couple of hundred yards at the most and in my opinion is as close as you will get with the documentation available.

The machine gun nests were everywhere, including within the woods and in the open on the slopes of Hill 255. The 200m contour runs round the western side of the two woods, across the southern side of Bois de la Morine and out towards Gesnes. The woods effectively sit on a plateau. From the northern side of Bois du Chene Sec the ground rises 50m in about 800m up to the summit of Hill 255 . This elevation has the shallowest gradient. Bear in mind also that the woods were no more than shell pocked, leafless scrub, not the lush trees shown now on Google Earth. The main initial resistance would have come from within the wood itself, but as the woods were cleared of Germans, increasingly from the hillside. Although the earlier attack on the Boid de la Morine was north-westward, the assualt on the Bois du Chene Sec was from south to north, which reduces the distance of ground to be covered to about 300m before coming back into the open.

Phil

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JOVE23

Phil.

I'm using the Graves Registration Service documentation that places the original burial within a 10 meter area (assuming I'm reading the map right, and if Dave thinks I am then I think I am). I am going to make an assumption that since that location is right on the edge of the Bois du Chene Sec that he was killed between them taking the woods and them trying to take Hill 255, probably part of a German counterattack to retake the woods. My question is where the "patch of woods" was that was bristling with the particular MG nests in question.

Best,

Justin

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Phil Evans

Justin,

I am going to have to assume that, except for the date anomaly, the Grave Location Blank is the more reliable document, if for no other reason than that the information was provided close to, or at the time of burial and by some-one who was there.

I am now either going to make a name for myself, or hang my head in shame.

In this post the circle is in the correct position for the co-ordinates given. However, the calculation is incorrect. The squares are 1000m x 1000m, therefore a single ordinate after the decimal point is a theoretical accuracy of 100m, not 10m. In reality I would think that the position is a lot closer than that, if only for the fact that it would be a lot easier to dig a grave on open ground, than in ground obstructed with tree roots. Also, it is going to be behind the front line, which we know is close to the northern boundary of the wood.

There was no attempt to take Hill 255 before the 9th, by which time 32nd Division had moved to the right and the northern boundary of Bois du Chene Sec had been taken over by 91st Division (on the 7th). The 127th had, according to the 32nd Division History, been relieved before the wood had been entirely taken.

The patch of wood (a relative term) referred to in the Company K History relates to the initial attack on the Bois de la Morine and is possibly one of the spurs on the south or east elevations.

Phil

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JOVE23

So could he have been killed trying to take the Bois de la Morine and buried after everything was cleared up near the Bois du Chene Sec?

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Phil Evans

I would doubt it. Given a choice, wounded and dead would be brought away.

I would imagine that trying to carry out a relief during an attack is not an easy or concise affair, especially considering the wide front that 32nd Division ended up with. He may well have carried on for some time, unaware. It is one of those things we will never know.

My hypothesis that he was possibly not buried until the 7th was based on the fact that it was the 361st's Chaplain that compiled the burial slip.

The nub of the matter is that it is virtually impossible to pinpoint individuals within the chaos of battle. Given the documentation available and an amount of assumption, I would not be prepared to go further than stating that Max was probably killed within the north western section of the Bois du Chene Sec and that he was buried somewhere within 50m of the recorded position.

Phil

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JOVE23

Well within 50m of that spot on the grave slip is a heck of a lot better some people are lucky enough to discover when finding out where their ancestors fell.

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Martin Feledziak

I took these photographs at the visitor center at the Meuse Argonne cemetery where Max is at rest.

 

They are mock ups of the Chauchat which I think Max was using to fend off the German advance.

good man saved many of his fellow Americans that day. But paid the ultimate price.

 

DSC_0152.JPG.aa99a61a227aa1681291d6e98047d6c6.JPG

 

 

DSC_0149.JPG.7605a8f176525ee60e3f1e7b91b6960b.JPG

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