On 28 May 1918, the 28th Infantry Regiment of the US First Division launched an attack on German-held Cantigny. This battle was the first major action the Americans had seen during the Great War.
The aim of the attack was to secure Cantigny and part of the plateau. Preceded by an hour long intense preparatory barrage, the attack, supported by French Schneider tanks and aviation, began at 5.45am. Protected by a rolling barrage, the infantrymen met light resitance and reached their objectives by 7.20am. The Germans later launched several counter-attacks, but were driven off. The new American position had been secured by 30 May and the 28th Infantry Regiment was relieved by the 16th. The First Division suffered 1,067 casualties during this battle.
Allied morale was greatly bolstered by the Americans' success, which was the first of a series of successes amplified by the heroic stands of the 2nd and 3rd Divisions along the Marne just a few days later. The Americans had shown that they could fight, and there were now nearly a million of them in France.
Four American Memorials
Today, four memorials commemorate the American Battle of Cantigny. The first, unveiled in 1937, was erected by the American Battle Monuments Commission, and bears the following inscriptions in English and in French: ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO COMMEMORATE THE FIRST ATTACK BY AN AMERICAN DIVISION IN THE WORLD WAR / THE FIRST DIVISION UNITED STATES ARMY OPERATING UNDER THE X FRENCH CORPS CAPTURED THE TOWN OF CANTIGNY ON MAY 28 1918 AND HELD IT AGAINST NUMEROUS COUNTERATTACKS.
To the south-east of the village is one of five memorials erected by the First Division, which commemorates the men who died in the vicinity of Cantigny. In the centre of Cantigny, a small monument was unveiled in 2005 in commemoration of Colonel Robert R McCormick, and on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Cantigny, a fourth memorial, depicting a Doughboy and entitled The Lion of Cantigny, was unveiled by the McCormick Foundation.