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York's famous Machinegun finds a home

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    Thank you for your interest and I will do my best to provide everyone following this thread with the most complete account of what really happened that morning with the largest assemblage of archival documentation ever put together in recent times on this subject as well as the findings of the scientific research conducted in the field by Dr. Tom Nolan.

    Maybe after we finish this project we can focus some attention to some of the other epic battles and individual feats of bravery during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive that are today unfortunately forgotten.


      If the some of my detailing the German account seems repetitious it is because I want to be sure everyone can see just exactly how much the Germans knew about what was happening to them and how they recorded this in their unit history. The incorrect location of the monument on the battlefield today is a result of a man who says that the crucial keys to firing out where the York fight occurred were found in the German archives. From what we have already seen in the 1929 German rebuttal there was nothing in their that suggests the fight could have taken place anywhere else other than where the American accounts agree it did – in the wooded ravine.

      As you recall there was an “X” on the German map, but s we found out this is incorrect. It is uncertain whether they really had no clue where they were or they were intentionally placing the fight closer to the main attack of 2/328th Infantry in an attempt to illustrate that it was a larger force than 17 men who were the cause of this embarrassing situation for them.

      To start with the German archival documents I would like to show the 120th LDW History that was published in 1922. The title is: Das wuerttembergischen Regimenter im Weltkrieg 1914 – 1918, Band 25 Das Wuerttembergische Landwehr Infanterie Regiment Nr. 120. As with all of the German documents I cite, this was officially translated by a German court appointed translator.

      Here is a scan of the front cover. Note: the Stuttgart Archives citation on the left side.
      Attached Files


        Here is an excerpt from the 120th LDW regimental history describing the night of 7 October:

        “…While these reserves were approaching, the 1st Battalion, 120th Landwehr was pulled forward from the Humserberg into the valley west of Chatel, and together with local reserves of the 125th Landwehr, and with the 210th Infantry Regiment (150 rifles), which had just arrived by motor truck, were to attack Schoene Aussicht. In heavy enemy artillery fire that was placed on the southern slope of the Humserberg the companies of the battalion led by Lieutenant Vollmer had lost cohesion, and it was only during the course of the night that they could reestablish contact with the Battalion Commander.”

        “So at the end of the day the Hohenbornhoehe was held, but the Americans were in possession of Schoene Aussicht. And that was bad. The danger which threatened the rear could not be countered by reserves. Battalion Krimmel was engaged up to the last man, the 1st Battalion was scattered during the advance, and, based on what could be seen and heard, little could be expected of the few remaining men from the 210th Regiment lying in the meadows in the direction of Chatel.”

        (SUMMARY: From what we see here the 2nd LDW Division was pulling their reserves from the Humserberg and sending them in the direction of Chatel Chehery including LT Vollmer’s 1st Battalion 120th LDW. It looks like he had a bad night on the slope of the Humserberg. It also sounds like that the few remaining men of the 210th RIR were not going to do much.)

        The following describe the morning of 8 October:

        “…The 4th Company from the 1st Battalion had finally arrived. They lay in the meadows in the direction of Chatel. First Lieutenant Vollmer went up to them; he had spent the night with Captain Krimmel. Suddenly, through the fog, Captain Krimmel heard the sound of loud infantry combat coming from the valley. Ricochets whistle through the air. That lasted some time, then it became quiet.”
        “The flank security element of the 6th Company reported an enemy surprise attack. Soon afterwards individual men from the 4th Company came up and reported that their company and men from the 210th Regiment had been attacked with surprise, that the company commander Lieutenant Endress had been killed, and that the company had been reduced to stragglers or captured. Lieutenant Vollmer also fell into the hands of the Americans. Now the situation was worse than ever, bad news followed more bad news. From Chatel and from Schoene Aussicht heavy enemy columns penetrated, following the course of the Schiesstalmulde and the Boulasson creek through the woods towards the North – South Road.”

        (SUMMARY: Not really a lot said about that, especially the circumstances for the virtual destruction of the 4th Company and the 210th RIR in addition to the death of the Company Commander and capture of the Battalion Commander. They do, however, mention a “surprise attack”. At the time this book was written no German had heard of SGT York or that a 17 man American patrol had inflicted such a devastating blow. So in that sense there may not have been necessary to describe in detail because as it looks they were having trouble on all fronts)

        Here is another view of the map with the German place names.
        Attached Files


          The next document I want to discuss is the War Diary for the 2nd LDW Division. Here is where the original can be found:

          National Archives and Records Administration
          College Park Maryland
          Record Group 165
          Folder II 864 – 33.5

          Here is an interesting message sent by pigeon on 7 October that contradicts some statements by a modern researcher who claims that Vollmer was preparing to re-take Schossberg (Hill 223) when the York fight took place. From this it looks like it was getting called off.

          4:50 PM
          Carrier Pigeon Report

          “Just now a report came from my right flank that the enemy is pushing through there and has taken the greater part of 12th Company during hand to hand combat, have sent the 7th Company to counter this, but its strength is just 1 platoon. Given the circumstances I have told 1st Lieutenant Vollmer (1/120) he should delay assault on Schlossberg, so that the enemy will not be able to break through at his rear. My 10th Company also completely wiped out. Enemy continues to attack repeatedly.”

          v. Sick
          3rd Battalion, 120th Landwehr Infantry

          And a 6:50 pm another messages from v Sick and here he seems a little more sincere about his concerns for any attempt to re-take (Hill 223). He also seems gives a little insight as to the condition of the German soldiers under his command.

          6:50 PM
          v. Sick, Rittmeister

          “Situation still threatening, 6th Company, which was to advance its right flank at the North-South road to counterattack is left hanging unsecured. Not currently possible to link up with 122nd. Therefore consider Vollmer’s Battalion still to be urgently needed. From knowledge of local conditions I allow myself to urgently advise giving up the assault of Schlossberg in order to maintain secure hold on main line of resistance. Repeated enemy attacks, with forces far superior to the weak remnants of the committed companies, hence the need for reserves. The company commanders report their troops at the end of their strength; I must concur, nearly all leaders and noncommissioned officers are wounded. Average strength of companies is 12 – 15 men, thus very thin crews.”

          III/ L120

          The following messages were sent by von Sick on the morning of 8 October. In this message he says that his right flank was probed – that would be elements of the 28th Division operating southwest of Chatel. He indicates that the 17 men from the 210th RIR went into position 400 meters north of him in the woods. That is, in the wooded ravine.

          8:40 AM
          Carrier pigeon report

          “Night generally quiet. Towards morning the enemy probed the right flank with patrols. Still quiet at the North-South road before left & center. Battalion is holding its previous line with its own remnants and all companies of the 2nd Battalion.”
          “6:10 in the morning 2 officers and 15 men of the 210th Regiment arrived at this location and took up positions in the woods 400 meters north of here.”

          v. Sick 3rd Battalion, 120th Landwehr Infantry Regiment

          In this next message v Sick seems a little confused about the location of the Bavarians. By this time the York fight had more than likely already happened which would actually place the Bavarians no longer in reserve and in the ravine with the 210th RIR. Of course the time could be the time that the message arrived at the 2nd LDW Division and in reality was sent much earlier.

          10:15 AM
          Carrier pigeon report

          “Schlossberg occupied by strong enemy forces, enemy now trying to push through the valley west of Lancon and in the direction of the wood line near “153”. Therefore the 4th Company, 120th Landwehr Infantry Regiment positioned to interdict; to the right, contact with left flank. Left with 7th Company, 125th Landwehr Infantry Regiment, behind it 2 platoons of the Bavarian Mineur Company as reserves, so no fear of a breakthrough there.”

          v. Sick 3rd Battalion, 120th Landwehr Infantry Regiment

          Captain v Stetten sends the following report. These field messages along with a few war diary entries are the only real clues that the Germans give us about the fight as it occurred. What is very interesting is the location of the Bavarian Mineurs. He places them northwest of Hohenbornhoehe and says they were struck in the flank and rear. He is however misinformed in reporting that v Sick had also been captured.

          11:30 AM
          From Captain v. Stetten

          “Three engineers from the Bavarian 7th Mineur Company returned from capture reported: “Greater part of the Bavarian 7th Mineur Company captured along with parts of the 120th Landwehr Regiment”. Two officer patrols from the 120th Landwehr Infantry Regiment were sent forward. Rittmeister v. Sick appears to also have been captured. The Bavarian Mineur Company was positioned on the path northwest of Hohenbornhoehe & was struck in the flank & rear.”

          12,10 N.
          From 120th
          Attached Files


            And basically the same situation overlayed on the modern map.
            Attached Files


              I have official translated copies of the following German documents. That is; archive provided scans of the original documents and officially translated copies. As probably everyone knows it is a task in itself to transcribe the “Suetterlin” old German script into modern text. That endeavor and the officially translated copies can be quiet expensive not including the archive visit itself.

              Here are the German documents I used in this research:

              2nd LDW Division – war diary
              45th Reserve Infantry Brigade (210th RIR was a member of this brigade) – war diary
              120th LDW Regiment – history and war diary
              1st MG Company, 120th LDW Regiment – war diary
              2nd MG Company, 120th LDW Regiment – war diary
              122nd LDW Regiment – history and war diary
              125th LDW Regiment – history and war diary
              7th Bavarian Mineur Company – unit roster with all casualties listed. No war diary exists for 1918
              LT Thoma – personal folder/files

              In addition I viewed the supplementary information folders for all of the units listed above as well as unit rosters (for those units who had them). I also viewed the personal folders of CPT von Sick, LT Vollmer and LT Endriss, but unfortunately these three personal folders were found to be missing a great deal of material and there was virtually nothing there that could link these three individuals to being captured/killed or otherwise involved in action at Chatel Chehery other than a unit designation on one or two pieces of paperwork. Two of the archivist in the Stuttgart Archives also found this strange and told us that they have the feeling some of the documents in these folders had “gone missing” in very recent times.

              When we were in the Munich archives viewing the documents related to LT Thoma and the 7th Bavarian Mineur Company the archivist there told us those the last time those documents had been looked at was over 30 years ago, thus Thoma’s personal folder was intact and we were able to locate the military document Thoma signed in 1919 that gave some details about his capture. That was evidently the practice (at least in Bavaria) for returning officer POWs. This document would be used to determine if the officer had exhibited cowardice in his capture or otherwise surrendered without a fight.

              One thing can be said about all of the documents we viewed. In the years between 1914 and 1916 German unit records are very detailed with often very colorful and skillfully drawn maps of unit positions and actions. But in 1917 and 1918 this changed and the records are poorly written, often summarized entries discussing several days of action. A lot of the 1918 material was altogether missing and the archivists at both archives told us this is common in late war German military records.

              Here are a few sample views of what some of these war diaries look like:
              Attached Files


                And a view inside one of them. Some are hand written, a few typed and some written in what appears to be a long squigly line that most Germans today cannot read at all.
                Attached Files


                  Here is an excerpt from the war diary of the regimental staff – 120th LDW and here is where the originals can be found:

                  Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart
                  M411 382/2700
                  Pages 22 – 23

                  “On 8 October at 9:45 in the morning the enemy attacked from the east in the direction of the Schiesstalmulde - Rezonvaunbachmulde after heavy artillery preparation, here the 4th Company, 120th Landwehr Infantry, 4 platoons of the 7th Bavarian Mineur Company and 210th Reserve Infantry Regiment were overrun and are largely missing since.”

                  And the operations report of 1st Battalion 120th LDW

                  Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart
                  M411 385/2715
                  Pages 15 – 17

                  Evening of 7 October, 1918

                  “…..4th Company was about 400 meters north (200 meters south of 153 in (square) 1429 Map 1:25,000), assigned to secure the edge of the woods opposite Schlossberg and Chatel in connection with Battalion v. Sick to the right and the 125th Landwehr Infantry to the left. 1 platoon of the 1st Machine Gun Company is deployed at the crossroads Chatel – Lancon, the remainder to bolster the left flank. Lt. Bayer, the Battalion Adjutant, came down with fever due to the continued use of gas and is put into the military hospital. Acting Adjutant Lt. Glass.”

                  (The account above specifically places the 4th Company right where they should be at the mouth of the ravine.)


                  8 October, 1918

                  “On the morning of 8 October, 1st Lieutenant Vollmer and Acting Adjutant Glass inspected the 4th Company’s position. While he was there the enemy was apparently able to bypass and encircle the 4th Company. During the morning a large part of the company, including Lts. Endriss and Kubler, 1st Lieutenant Vollmer and Lieutenant Glass were captured by the Americans. Soon after that a patrol arrived at the place and was only able to locate a number of dead from the 4th Company.”

                  The 2nd Battalion 120th LDW war diary does not really provide much information about this since they were merged into the 3rd Battalion under von Sick. They explain in some detail their losses over those two days and only mention that Vollmer from the 1st Battalion had been captured. The war diary can be found here:

                  Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart
                  M411 386/2723
                  2 pages concerning 7 – 8 October, 1918

                  Here is an excerpt from the war diary of the 3rd Battalion 120th LDW under von Sick. Once again it really does not tell us a lot. The original war diary can be found here:

                  Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart
                  M411 388/2733
                  3 pages concerning 7 – 8 October, 1918

                  8 October, 1918

                  “The night was generally quiet. Towards morning the enemy probed with patrols against the right flank on the North – South Road. The left flank and center are still quiet. The battalion is using its sentinels and all companies of the 2nd Battalion to hold its previous line.”

                  “6:10 in the morning the 210th Regiment arrives with a strength of 2 officers and 15 men, and takes up position in the woods 400 meters west of here.”

                  “9:45 in the morning heavy American attack from the east against the Schiesstalmulde where they succeed in overrunning the 7th Bavarian Mineur Company.”

                  “10:40 in the morning west of the Boulancon creek in direction of the North -
                  South Road Americans in great numbers.”

                  “In view of the imminent danger of being cut off, the companies receive orders around 10:50 in the morning to immediately coordinate the pull out.”

                  “11:00 o’clock in the morning companies withdraw per orders. Withdrawal takes place without any interference from the enemy on the North – South Road. This road is occupied, with the front facing east, from fork in the road south of Chatel – Lancon along the North-South Road to the benzen-powered rail line 243 - 1329.”

                  “In the course of the afternoon enemy patrols up to the road are repelled.”

                  The only other document that contained anything that would give us a clue was the war diary of the 1st Machinegun Company, 120th LDW. The one clue is what we read earlier about two NCOs named Willig and Kirchner who were mentioned in the statements taken in 1929 by the Reichsarchiv. According to those statements these two men were evidently looking for a suitable place for the weapons and ended up being captured by York ad the American patrol.

                  Here is what the 1st MG Company war diary says and it can be found here:

                  Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart
                  M411 388a/1389
                  1 page concerning 7 – 8 October, 1918

                  8 October, 1918

                  “Nordsuedstrasse crossroads Chatel Lancon”

                  “The enemy is firing on our position with light and medium calibers. Senior Sergeant Kirchner and Sergeant Willig were captured while looking for suitable machine gun positions.”


                    Here is the map meant to go with the reports above in the last post. For those following should now have a pretty good grasp of the maps and what the Americans and Germans plce names were so I do not want to continue posting the same map with the same graphics over and over.
                    Attached Files


                      I will finish tonight with another then and now look of the valley between Hill 223 and 167 where the main attack of 2/328 was taking place with the positions of the German units in this area as well as the relative position of G Company when the 17 man patrol departed on their mission to get in behind and silence the German machineguns and rifle fire that was holding up the left flank of G Company 328th Infantry.

                      The purpose here is to also show the difference in vegetation in the 1919 landscape and the way the valley looks today.

                      If you are ever in France I highly recommend a visit to this battlefield. Let me know, and I can show it to you myself.
                      Attached Files


                        Photo taken from the base of Hill 223 looking southwest.
                        Attached Files


                          This is the 1919 photo of Hill 167. The Champrocher (aka: Cornay Ridge) or the southern part of the "Humserberg" can be seen in the distance.
                          Attached Files


                            That is it for tonight. I will probably be able to sneak in a few posts through the weekend, but will be back on Sunday to start working on finishing this thread.

                            Now what really remains is looking at all of the other documents that appear to relate directly to this event as well as discussing the artifact distributions found in the ravine where the fight occured.


                              "Now what really remains is looking at all of the other documents that appear to relate directly to this event as well as discussing the artifact distributions found in the ravine where the fight occured. "

                              Let me guess: were the 21 spent .45 casings found by the army team found very near a bunch of German bullet ridden equipment in the ravine?
                              Autopsy of a Battle, the War in Southern France: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZrhUoRdsAQ


                                Not quiet, and I will get to that very soon :-)


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