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Marcin FELEDZIAK 1897 - Infanterie Regiment 171- Meuse- Argonne 1918

Martin Feledziak

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Translation of page 268, 269, and top half of 270 of the IR171 Regimental History.  (I believe I've translated the rest of 270 and 271 already?)

Hope this answers some questions



One didn’t anticipate that Gesnes, which was secured by 10/171, and the Höhe 255 close by, would become focal points for bitter combat, even though the recces and our own battle experiences of the first day taught the Regiment quite quickly that it had again captured a “very windy corner”.

Drumfire on the position and second line, daily attacks by the Americans, repeatedly with tanks, mostly in the early misty hours of the morning, which often continued well into the morning, meant that the Regiment was always at its post, so that despite 5 to 6 attacks a day it could always report at night “Position held”.

The Elsas-Lotharingen regiments of 115 Inf. Div. did their duty in the most difficult of situations, as they had done elsewhere, which was reported several times in the Heeresbericht.

The artillery, machine gun companies and minethrowers were outstanding in defending the position, alongside the small number of infanterists.

The 5th october was a particularly heavy day of battle, as our own frontline, III and II/171 in front, and the neighbouring division to our right were heavily attacked, during which the left wing of that division came into serious problems. It was however freed from its unpleasant position by counterattacks by the brave III/171, under command of their energetic leader Hauptmann Kietzlich, and the defensive flank of I/171 to the west.

The day-order of 115 Inf Div for 5th october says of this day of battle: “The main burden on this day of battle lay on IR 171, which was instrumental in the success of the day”.

Gruppenkommando Argonnen relayed a message of thanks from the neighbouring division: “for its loyalty and for the, on this day, very valuable “Gefechtsnachbarschaft” [which I would translate as “Brothers in arms”]

The Gruppenkommando Argonnen was commanded by General von Kleist, former commander of 115 Inf. Div. The recognition was even more enjoyable because now, as on previous occasions, the former division-commander could see that, even under a different commander, the brave 115 Inf. Div, and with it IR 171, stood their ground.

A member of General von Kleist’s staff at this time was Hauptmann Buchholtz, who, as Regiments-Adjutant of IR 171, and later as Brigade and Division Adjutant, had proven himself superbly, and who was appointed to his new staff by the General .

All troops of 115 Inf. Div. remember fondly this able officer, also because of his personal kindness and comradeship.


Leutnant der Reserve Egle, from III/171 HQ, has written about the battles in the days at Gesnes.

His report of what he has observed from the front lines follows here:

“At 4 am the enemy artillery started firing from “H.W.L”, first weak but increasing in strenght all the time. At the first big explosion the Batallion-staff was roughly woken from a cosy sleep.My commander, Hauptmann Kietzlich, whose adjutant I was in those days, swore heavily at being roughly awakened from a beautiful sleep.

How serious the matter was became clear quickly. Close to 6am the firing turned into drumfire. Companies were deployed.

At 7am the first of the enemy infantry attacks, which was repelled with machinegun- and infantry fire from the Batallion’s sector. The enemy did not get further than Gesnes and had to withdraw partly.

Our artillery returned fire but because of the thick fog it was impossible to see whether it had any effect. The thick fog made it possible for the enemy to come closer without being noticed.

Our position was directly on top of Höhe 255, so, on a clear day, we had a broad view of the enemy positions and the land behind it.

At 08.30am the company-commander of 3/169 reported that the enemy had overrun their positions on the southern edge of Morine Wood (to the west of Höhe 255), and pushed forward towards the north.

The rest of IR 169 reported to us at the same that there were no reserve troops on hand behind the IR169 sector.  In the meantime the enemy made its way through Morine Wood, Chêne-Sec wood (southwest from Höhe 255) to “Höhe Zahl 2888 Planq. 1137”, and threatened to get behind the “H.W.L.” of the batallion.

At 08.45am we therefor ordered 11/171 to counterattack in that direction.

Because of the heavy fog a platoon led by Feldwebel-Leutnant Fischer got lost, but they immediately reported to Batallions HQ.

Hauptmann Kietzlich ordered me to lead the platoon of 11 Komp. in the right direction. But nothing could be seen through the fog. With the platoon I went in the direction I thought the enemy was.

In the bushes nearby I heard some rumour, and thinking this was 11 Komp. I called out for Leutnant Simmler. Enemy riflefire from very nearby was the reply.

Immediately I gave the order to attack, and through this surprise and forceful attack I managed to drive back the enemy.

At the same time Leutnant Simmler attacked hard on our right, and thus, without being in contact with eachother, we both drove the enemy back into Chêne-Sec Wood.

We captured some 50 to 60 prisoners, who were lead away by a kompanie of Regiment 169, which arrived later.

With this news, and with the news that there were gaps in the line held by 11/171, and to the right of them, I reported back to my commander. In order to close the lines again the rest of 9/171 was deployed at 09.30am. At the same time we requested I/171 a kompanie, to be held in reserve behind the batallion. Thereupon I/171 marched out 4 Kompanie.




Edited by JWK
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Martin Feledziak

At 09:45 the enemy attacked again from the woods of Chene-Sec. As 9 and 11 Coy were not yet connected to us they had to retreat to “Hill 2888?” where they withstood the various attacks.

As the danger of a pincer movement was still there we deployed 4/171 (which was still on the approach) on the right hand side.

Through a renewed attack by the enemy the right wing of II/169, which upto then had withstood the attacks, had to withdraw. There was now a gap between 11/171 and II/169.

We were therefor forced to deploy 1/171 to this gap. 1st and 2nd Coy were sent to ?.?.? III/171 at around 9 o’clock. 2/171 took the positions in the reserve trenches formerly occupied by 11/171.

They arrived there at 10:20.

At 10:15 the Batallion came under heavy enemy fire from Hill 218 and North-east of there. But despite heavy enemy artillery fire this attack was repelled.

At 11:30 the frontline came under heavy fire again.Apparently the enemy had shifted their artillery forwards. They attacked once more from Gesnes, but our Batallion could drive them back. We noticed a large gathering of the enemy in Gesnes.


Page 271 starts with the writer recollecting how he was on his way to 10 Coy, with the order to deploy a Machine Gun troop somewhere, but on his way there he encountered, behind a little bush an apparently rested, and ready to deploy, Machine Gun troop of IR169. 

So he used that troop instead.

They positioned themselves close to Gesnes, from where they could cover Gesnes main street, which was full of Americans. 


Two of our men got killed, one wounded. Through our machinegun fire the enemy was driven out of Gesnes. Our field guards were sent to Gesnes immediately, and they found the place deserted and noted heavy casualties on the enemy side, which was confirmed by the many wounded transports into the hinterland that we noticed later on.

The 9th of October would become an even heavier day for IR171 with many more casualties. Almost the entire II/171 was wiped out. [“Er [Der Tag] rasste fast das ganze II/171 hinweg” 

And then it goes on about the Commander of IR171 (Major Kaulbach) who got a new posting (to IR136) a few days earlier, and he would be killed not much later near Romagne.

New commander was Hauptmann Fahnert, Fliegeroffizier (!), who had volunteered for the Infantry. He was always to be found in the frontline.

Thick fog lingered over our positions in the early morning hours, as was usual in these October-days.


Heavy fire from around 09:30 led us to expect something special.

And indeed the Americans suddenly attacked en masse.

Their weapons pushed through the thin lines at II/171 , east from Gesnes.

The machinegun crews in the back couldn't see anything because of the thick fog, and therefor could not aim and fire.

The Minenwerfer in the frontline was overrun.

Neither Batl. Kiesslich, nor the Regiment could send any help, as the first was also under heavy attack, and one Battl. 109, upto then in reserve, was sent to IR 173 already.

The left and right flanks were closed off, but the Americans did however, coming from the east of Gesnes, encircled the main part of II/171, for a part killing many {niedermachen: to butcher, to slaughter], and capturing the rest. Only a few escaped, amongst whom the Batls.Commander.

III/171 Hauptmann Kiesslich desperately fought on.

The Americans were halted by a counter-attack from 10/171 and a Company of the Leibgrenadier Regiment 109, at the old front of II/171.

Parts of II/173 counterattacked from the north in the direction of the former left-wing of II/171.

Repeated attacks with heavy artillery-fire, including attacks with tank, of which one was destroyed, were repelled, even though the Americans, who were already in the vicinity of the “Robinette Fm” [Robinette Farm?], behind III/171, and fired at them from there.

How persistent the fighting was is evidenced by one single Machine gun which fired 13000 rounds.

At around 08:30 at night the III/171, which lost over 70 men, got the order to withdraw to the Kriemhild-Stellung, where they were joined by their neighbours.

As also to the south of Romagne the Americans had attacked heavily.

Only after many casualties were they pushed back. They had to retreat because of the renewed attacks.

Reinforcements, which took over south of Romagne, held the line.

At night the front ran somewhat along the road Somerance-Romagne-Cunel.

Sequence of regiments, from west to east: IR171, IR 173, IR 136.



With great Thanks to JWK

That covers the events from the 5th October 1918.




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Interestingly, the situation on the ground now is almost exactly as it was some 100 years ago (Search for Gesnes-en-Argonne on Google Maps):


Burial place (as per Martin's map)  and Höhe 255



Höhe 255, from the little road north of Gesnes.

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Martin Feledziak

Great Jan - That is how I imagined it,


I did not go to the spot where we think Max was killed.

I was there 2 years ago doing a recce for what I believe were the footsteps of my GF.

He was sure to have been on top of 255



I could not believe that war had been there,

it was just green and peaceful


And for Justin, Max is deeply respected, with all of those who went with him,  at their final resting place - just epic.







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Justin, you may want to run this article through Google Translate (which does a remarkable job with this article actually!)


(It's from 2012)


As every year, on November 11, the commune of Gesnes and its inhabitants honors Major Oscar Franklin Miller who died on the territory of Gesnes on September 28, 1918. Indeed, for several years, the commune of Gesnes is sponsoring his grave in the cemetery of Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. It is after the ceremony of the American cemetery that the population and the municipality laid a wreath to honor his memory.


This November 11 was therefore an opportunity to remember the sacrifice of all those American heroes who gave their lives for France and who died on the territory of Gesnes in particular. Dominique Didiot, who works at the American cemetery in Romagna, then shared with those present the emotion he felt when a descendant of Oscar F Miller showed up very recently at the cemetery's offices to go to his grave . In fact, Oscar F Miller's 70-year-old nephew is the son of a brother of Oscar F Miller. He also taught us the untimely death of Oscar F Miller's only son from the Spanish flu just after the end of the First World War. Everyone felt a great deal of emotion listening to this story. A photo was made that will be sent to Oscar F Miller's family.
When the ceremony was held at the war memorial in Gesnes, Chantal Didiot, mayor of Gesnes, read the speech by the secretary of state. Gesnes veterans Hubert Morin and Bernard Julien then laid a wreath at the Gesnes War Memorial. A wine of honor offered by the municipality then brought the whole population to the town hall.







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Martin Feledziak

Just having a look at the Red Cross records and here is some information held in relation to

Walter SZULAKIEWIEZ index card dated 5th October 1918






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Martin Feledziak

This is  the card which is linked to the index tag.




It should be noted that it was the report made by Walter which described the circumstances surrounding the death of Max POLAK.

And the citation for the medal award.


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Martin Feledziak
On 09/11/2017 at 16:49, JWK said:

General von Kleist, former commander of 115 Inf. Div


Appears to have been awarded "Pour Le Merite" for leadership during this campaign. 08 October 1918

Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Alfred von Kleist
(16.11.1857 - 13.05.1921)


from The Prussian Machine







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Martin Feledziak
On 09/11/2017 at 16:49, JWK said:

Hauptmann Buchholtz, who, as Regiments-Adjutant of IR 171


I assume this is the same fellow who co wrote this very passage and the rest of the regimental history.


Das Infanterie - Regiment Nr. 171 im Weltkriege. 2. Oberelsässisches Infanterie - Regiment. Auf Grund der amtlichen Kriegstagebücher bearbeitet im Auftrage des Reichsarchives.

Kaiser, Generlamajor a.D. / Major Buchholtz / Hauptmann a.D. Renovanz,

Published by Stalling, Oldenburg, 1927 




Even if I could read German that price is way out of my spending limits



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Martin Feledziak
On 06/07/2016 at 10:29, Martin Feledziak said:



Here is the other co- auther picking up a wounding.




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Whilst riding his horse on his way to Tuilerie Farm a grenade exploded under his horse killing it from underneath him [Und tötete dieses dem Reiter unter dem Leibe]  . Oblt Renovanz was wounded by many pieces of shrapnel.


Oh, and it happened in the afternoon with him trotting down to his new job, after Division's Staff had sent him on his way to take over the duties of Brigade-Adjudant (with Elsass-Lothringse 115)

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Martin Feledziak

That is great Jan.

what a shame for the poor Reiter - which must be the Horse.


I can see Tuilerie Farm on the Skizze 22 map below.

perhaps it was just a random, and very unlucky shell which did for him.



That passage comes from page 276 of the history and I think refers to 9th October 1918.





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Reiter = rider

Pferd = horse


And I think he was on his way there because the whole Brigade-Staff was in bed with the flu!

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Martin Feledziak
On 17/11/2017 at 20:40, JWK said:

in bed


Very good point Jan.


I am not sure where the 1918 Flu pandemic started but it could be quite possible that many victims were taken here in the Argonne too.




The influenza pandemic during the fall of 1918 took the lives of more than 25,000 men from the AEF, while another 360,000 became gravely ill.


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Hmmm, could well have been the Spanish flu!  Early october is a bit early for the common influenza.

The report speaks of "Grippe", which means influenza, and the entire Brigade-staff was sick.


But then: why was the entire staff affected? Normally with flu some people get sick, and other people show no or slight symptoms.

Same with Spanish flu: my grandmother died of it some 5 weeks later, she lived way up North in neutral the Netherlands, and neither my grandfather nor her son (my father)  nor her siblings or parents got sick (Besides her brother who was living in the US at the time, he got it too)


Maybe it was what they had for dinner the previous night that landed them all in the sick-bay?5a172ee26c251_vomit1f92e.jpg.dd3ad0f73b519484ba6bd130e4075889.jpg

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Martin Feledziak
On 21/11/2017 at 21:22, JWK said:

my grandmother died


That is very sad - she must have been very young. Just reading about the Spanish Flu, it would appear to have been a very aggressive virus and actually found more of it's victims amongst the stronger and fitter people.

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Martin Feledziak

Reading the thread about Artillery Plotting maps got me thinking that I always look at maps with North at the top.

The Germans obviously invaded East to West or, in the Argonne, North to South too. So they would look at maps upside down. 


When I don't have my sat nav and need to use a map I end up turning the map to the direction of travel, tricky when reading upside down.



Anyway here is my new perspective for direction Verdun. From North to South and a little tilted too.

with Skizzie 22 upside down. Happily Google Earth rotates the place names and my annotations.



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Greetings, John Rieth here.

  I’ve enjoyed reading this chat on the German side of the Meuse-Argonne Campaign.   I thought other followers may interested in the recently released 2nd Edition of my book, Germany's Iron Regiment of the First World War: War Memories of Service with Infantry Regiment 169, 1914-1918.   Among topics in this German regimental history is a detailed exploration of the unit’s service in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, in which the content of this battle expands in the new edition from 16 to 50 pages.


    One of the most significant additions come from newly translated excerpts of the memoirs of IR 169 veteran Otto Lais, including his 1936 book, A Regiment Dies a Hero’s Death, which details his 1918 experiences in the war.  In the Argonne, Leutnant Lais commanded IR 169’s 2nd Machine Gun Company.  Lais provides a gripping, day-by-day account of IR 169’s service in the campaign, which spanned from its 29 September 1918 entry at Exermont through its annihilation at Landres St. Georges on 1 November.  Of the 1,500 men the regiment deployed at the start of the battle, only a few dozen where left on the ranks at its end.  (Lais narrowly escaped becoming a battle casualty by being transferred to a staff assignment two days before IR 169’s destruction.)      Meuse-Argonne highlights from Lais, and other new sources, include the following vignettes:


-  Participation in the 52nd Division counterattack that took Exermont on 29 September.  Lais detailed his role in executing an integrated artillery/machine gun kill sack that devastated the US Army’s 140th Infantry Regiment and the ambush of several American tanks.

-  Defense of the Montrebeau Woods.

-  Battle for the Romange Heights.

-  Retreat to the Kriemhilde Stellung and night ambush of US reconnaissance patrol.  

-  Five day reorganization Mouzon.

-  Return to the front and destruction at Landres St. George when overrun by tanks and the Marine Brigade of the US 2nd Infantry Division.


     The second addition also adds over 100 pages of text, maps and pictures that were not available in the initial 2014 publication.   Much of the new content also focuses on IR 169’s service in the 1917 Aisne Campaign and Spring 1918 Offensives.  Creation of the book was inspired by a wartime journal left by my Grandfather, Albert Rieth, who was a 1914-15 veteran of the regiment (and medically discharged after being wounded in Flanders).   With this second edition, I do think the ‘Iron Regiment’ now offers a complete English-language account of a German infantry division that fought across the Western Front from the very start to the very end of the war.


    For those interested, please refer to the website www.ironregiment169.com, which provides more information on the book.  The website also has a link to a google map that details IR 169’s history.


     Thanks much for your consideration and I welcome your comments. 


    Best Regards,


      John Rieth











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Martin Feledziak
On 26/11/2017 at 21:11, German IR 169 said:

The second addition


Greetings John,


Yes I got your first edition not long after you had it published.

Great book and filled with events which are not normally discussed. or more specifically not available in English, Early phase battles on the Germany France borders.

A time of Swords and colourful tunics - poor tactics and heated tensions between peoples living on the limits.


Then the trench warfare of the static times, you have it all covered.

Very, Very Grim times on the Somme battlefields, death, death and more death.


I realized, early on, that my Gf's regiment were fighting next to IR169 in the final phase of the war. Then reading about Max POLAK ( not your book ) and the Americans it all fitted together.


Yet more death and destruction. But all very valuable material, just trying to understand it, and all parts of the jig saw.


I have added your 2nd edition to my Christmas list.

I am sure I will need those extra pages.



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Martin Feledziak

Here are two maps which illustrate the area on a meeting of divisions, not only for the German Divisions

but for the American divisions to.


The maps are from this excellent site.


I have added two blue dashes to highlight Tuilerie Farm - (Where Oblt RENOVANZ had his horse blown out from under him )








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  • Martin Feledziak changed the title to American 77th Division - Meuse Argonne and another reluctant pigeon

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