Prepatory Words for the Heat of Battle
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
On this day in 1918, the Second Battle of Marne began. This photograph of the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery was taken in 1928.
Having no idea about the story or the significance of this World War I battle, I did a bit of reading about this major offensive and was struck by the ferocity of General Gouraud’s words (especially his ending lines) appealing to his French troops and American forces well:
We may be attacked from one moment to another. You all feel that a defensive battle was never engaged in under more favorable conditions.
We are warned, and we are on our guard. We have received strong reinforcements of infantry and artillery. You will fight on ground which by your assiduous labor you have transformed into a formidable fortress, into a fortress which is invincible if the passages are well guarded.
The bombardment will be terrible. You will endure it without weakness. The attack in a cloud of dust and gas will be fierce, but your positions and your armament are formidable.
The strong and brave hearts of free men beat in your breasts. None will look behind, none will give way. Every man will have but one thought: “Kill them, kill them in abundance, until they have had enough.”
And therefore your General tells you it will be a glorious day.
(source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. VI, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923