Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.
A tank with the 28th Division on its way through Varennes-en-Argonne to join the offensive on September 27, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

A tank with the 28th Division on its way through Varennes-en-Argonne to join the offensive on September 27, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

Pennsylvanians served with honor and distinction in World War I, with more than 297,000 men from the Keystone State engaged in the conflict as part of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), established in July 1917 to join the Allied Powers (France, Great Britain, Russia and Italy) in the fight against the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey and Bulgaria). The majority of Pennsylvanians in the Army served in three infantry divisions: the 28th, the 79th and the 80th. All three divisions played significant roles in the largest and bloodiest operation of the war, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the last push of the Allies, which began on September 26, 1918, and led to the Armistice with Germany that year on November 11.

The 28th, known as the Keystone Division, was made up of units from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and had been federalized for the war. It consisted of the 55th Infantry Brigade, which included men from Philadelphia, Scranton and southeastern Pennsylvania; the 56th Infantry Brigade, with troopers from Pittsburgh and northwestern Pennsylvania; and the 53rd Field Artillery Brigade, which contained men from across the state, stretching from Pittsburgh to Phoenixville, with many from the Wilkes-Barre area (see “Keystone Men of Iron: The 28th Infantry Division in the Great War, ” Winter 2018).

The 79th Division was made up of soldiers hailing from eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Men from the commonwealth’s mining regions filled out the division’s 311th Field Artillery and 314th Infantry Regiment. Troopers from central and south-central Pennsylvania served in the 316th Infantry, 304th Engineers, and the 310th and 311th machine gun battalions.

The 80th, nicknamed the “Blue Ridge Division,” was composed of men from western Pennsylvania as well as Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Units that predominantly incorporated Pennsylvanians were the 159th Brigade’s 313th Machine Gun Battalion (mostly from Erie); the 160th Brigade’s 319th Infantry Regiment, 320th Infantry Regiment (mainly from Pittsburgh), and 315th Machine Gun Battalion (many from Pittsburgh and Erie); and the 305th Engineers and 305th Trains.



On August 30, 1918, Supreme Allied Commander Ferdinand Foch of France met with AEF commander Gen. John J. Pershing at Ligny-en-Barrois to discuss the overall command of the AEF during an offensive to eliminate German fortifications in nearby Saint-Mihiel. Pershing was sure that he and his officers could not only command efficiently but successfully. Foch disagreed on the volume of troops Pershing planned to deploy and intended to use a large number of men immediately for the plan he and his associates were hatching, an offensive in northeastern France at the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest. During the dispute, Foch barked at Pershing, “Do you wish to take part in the battle?” Pershing responded, “As an American Army and in no other way!”

Pennsylvania native Col. George C. Marshall worked closely with Gen. John J. Pershing in planning and organizing the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania native Col. George C. Marshall worked closely with Gen. John J. Pershing in planning and organizing the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Wikimedia Commons

Eventually Foch relented, agreeing to Pershing’s command of the AEF and providing the troops he needed. Fortunately for Pershing he was able to muster roughly five times the amount of men than the Germans, who retreated, allowing the capture of 16,000 men. This was not without approximately 7,000 casualties, however. After securing the victory at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, more than 400,000 troops were shifted to Meuse-Argonne, a logistical move planned by a Pennsylvanian, Col. George C. Marshall of Uniontown, Fayette County. Not only had Pershing fulfilled his promise to triumph over the Germans at Saint-Mihiel, he now delivered on the promise to Foch to reinforce the Allies gearing up for the offensive.

The American forces had seen considerable bloodshed at Saint-Mihiel and were due for a rest, but instead they were routed toward the front. There they found their Allied comrades in the trenches, part of the defensive line that encompassed the entire Western Front. The men found that the land was rough, thick with brush, and comprised of steep drop-offs and sudden steps. The I Corps commander, Gen. Hunter Liggett, a native of Pennsylvania from Reading, Berks County, said this place was “a natural fortress, beside which the Wilderness in which Grant and Lee fought was a park.”

The Germans used the natural barriers of the Argonne Forest — ravines, underbrush and streams — along with numerous man-made obstacles — trenches, reinforced dugouts, barbed wire and machine-gun nests — to slow any type of enemy advance. Adding to this stage of destruction and massacre, the Germans held the high ground east of the Meuse River, from which they could pepper the Americans with machine-gun fire and artillery shelling. The Germans clearly had the advantage at the outset. On September 26, 1918, at 2:30 in the morning, an outburst of gunfire marked the beginning of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.


This map shows movements of various U.S. units in northeastern France during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 26–November 11, 1918. From Collier’s New Encyclopedia, Vol. 10 (P.F. Collier & Son, 1921)

This map shows movements of various U.S. units in northeastern France during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, September 26–November 11, 1918. From Collier’s New Encyclopedia, Vol. 10 (P.F. Collier & Son, 1921)


First Phase, September 26 – October 4

On the night of September 25, men of the 79th Division amassed with combat packs, two days of rations, and approximately 70 pounds of ammunition per man. As their kits pulled on their shoulders and pockets full of hand grenades fell heavy on their waists, the men were ready for war. Capt. Ben Hewit of Company F, 316th Infantry, remarked, “Let’s finish the job quick, so we can go home.”

Home was not to come for some time, however, as the men of the 79th fell into line beneath the flashing and bursting guns ringing out in the early hours of September 26. The bombardment from both sides became a pulsating wave of concussions and screaming of shells. It was so loud, according to some accounts, that the men’s eardrums ached. “The preliminary bombardment began over a forty-mile front,” according to a regimental history of the 80th Division. “Guns of all calibers to the number of some 3,700 took part in the rain of steel and high explosive upon the Boche lines. One’s heart beat faster, one’s breath came quicker, in the presence of the most terrific and awe-inspiring bombardment yet witnessed in the annals of war.” In addition to the shelling, the men constantly faced fire from machine gun nests and snipers. Running from trench to trench, the men of the 79th managed to advance.

Meanwhile, the men of the 28th and 80th divisions stuffed rations, ammunition, grenades and extra gear into their packs. The soldiers were given four boxes of hardtack and a 2-pound can of roast beef, enough for two days. Little did they know that more than a month of hard fighting lay ahead of them as they stepped off the line and marched down the muddy road headed east to the Argonne Forest.

Moving further into no-man’s-land, the men eventually found themselves jumping from trench to trench meeting up with engineers who were already fast at work building a road for ammunition and rations to be brought to the front. The trenches they crossed were several years old, once occupied by the French holding the line against the German Empire. George W. Cooper of the 111th Infantry, 28th Division, was astonished to learn that for almost four years the line had not moved. Seeing his first dugout, reality set in. The dugouts were almost like homes — well-built and secure — with barbed-wire fencing across the top. Cooper later noted, “We saw the skull of a man and about twenty feet further there was a shoe with the bone of leg up to the knee sticking in it. Apparently these were the remains of some soldier who had been killed out there on a patrol at night and his body had never been recovered.”


Companies A and E of the 103rd Engineer Regiment, 28th Division, repaired this bridge at Bourevillers, Meuse, allowing the troops to pass on September 28, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

Companies A and E of the 103rd Engineer Regiment, 28th Division, repaired this bridge at Bourevillers, Meuse, allowing the troops to pass on September 28, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

The First U.S. Army, teaming up with the Fourth French Army, was ordered to attack the German line from the Meuse River toward the Argonne Forest on September 26. On the right, the U.S. III Corps held the line comprised of the 4th, 33rd and 80th divisions. For this maneuver, men of the 80th were drawn from the 317th, 318th, 319th and 320th infantry regiments. Well-manned, the 80th Division spanned the area from Verdun to Bethincourt with a dogleg north toward the Meuse River.

Eventually, the men reached the front line just outside of the Argonne Forest. It was dark and the smell of death and gunpowder hung in the air. As they parted the safety of the trench, the men were ordered not to smoke or talk. When they drew nearer to the enemy, they dropped into one of the abandoned German trenches, where they would be relatively safe from sniper fire.

At 6 o’clock in the morning on September 27, machine-gun fire and shelling filled the foggy morning replacing the screams and moans of the wounded from the night before. The day was met with intense fighting. Word came that the 79th’s 313th Infantry had driven the Germans out of Montfaucon. As Company F, 316th Infantry, advanced the line, Capt. Ben Hewit and a comrade encountered a wounded German soldier begging for a drink of water; the men obliged him and then pressed on.

Elements of Company F advanced on Bois 28 taking heavy artillery fire as they began to cross the open valley. The men faced the stark reality of the orders they were given; by advancing their flanks they were risking being cut down by enemy artillery. Private John Thomas, an Albanian restaurant owner from Philadelphia, was able to advance by leaning over to keep his head beneath incoming fire. Carrying his Browning Automatic Rifle, he then went into a low crawl and eventually reached position. He opened fire, killing one gunner and capturing the other. For his actions Thomas would receive the Distinguished Service Cross.

The following day on September 28, men of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Division, were given orders to advance their sector. To their immediate left was the 77th Division, who by all accounts was facing an empty trench, abandoned by the Germans earlier. Advancing men of the 28th reported seeing a 77th officer inspecting the empty trench and taking dubious notes on what was found and captured. Resting, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to yet again advance toward Varennes. Overall, completion of the objective allowed the 28th to claim Apremont, the high ground of Chene Tondu, and the northern edge of the Bois de Bouzon.


The 28th Division advances on September 28, 1918, on the road between Bourevillers and Varennes-en-Argonne.

The 28th Division advances on September 28, 1918, on the road between Bourevillers and Varennes-en-Argonne.
Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

Meanwhile, the 80th Division was engaged in exchanges of machine-gun fire and artillery barrage; the men of the 318th Infantry were ordered to improve their positions, ready themselves, and send out countless patrols to yield considerable information for the commanding general of the 8th Brigade. From September 29 to October 3 the 80th (excluding their artillery and 318th Infantry) were relieved by the 33rd Division. Machine-gun companies and related infantry regiments were attached to other units going over the top and defending their sector.

Elsewhere on the line, the 79th Division had 37,000 rifles deep, which according to their divisional history equated to 321 rifles for every 100 yards of the area for which they were accountable. Supporting these riflemen were approximately 2,700 guns, 189 small tanks and 821 airplanes. Unfortunately, with unreliable communication lines, the division commander found it challenging on the evening of September 26 to know the position of the troops. Additionally, the 79th Division was cut off from the American front lines because the 214th Aero Squadron failed to deliver their message about their whereabouts or enemy positions.

A little before midnight an order came down for the 79th Division to advance alongside of the 4th Division. Over the course of several hours into the evening of September 27, the division was bombarded by the enemy’s heavy artillery. Positioning was the main problem. Taking the hills of the Argonne left them vulnerable to attack and gave the enemy a clear shot by artillery or machine gun.

As night fell, the front line of the 79th Division lay north of Montfaucon. Having captured the town, they shifted their focus toward capturing Nantillois and clearing the enemy from the eastern part of the Bois de Beuge.

While awaiting orders for the division to advance, Gen. Joseph E. Kuhn relieved various regiments so that men who had been fighting for days straight could take a needed rest. Those serving in the 313th and 314th regiments had in fact gone without proper meals for days during the intense fighting. Meanwhile, replacements were brought in to refresh the front line.

Field Order No. 8 arrived for the attack on September 28. The 4th, 37th and 79th divisions were to align and strengthen one another. The advance began as planned, but once the 79th reached the enemy, communications were lost. Commanding the Third Battalion Maj. J. Baird Atwood reported, “Being fired at point blank by field pieces. For God’s sake get artillery or we’ll be annihilated.”

With the Bois de Beugue ahead, an elevated enemy position was conveniently located in the sparse tree cover where the enemy dug in machine guns, short mortars and 88-mm guns. A man in the 316th Regiment recounted, “The lines dropped; automatics opened a sputtering reply; here and there a group rushed, dropped, and crawled . . . the lines crept on – forward; delayed, harassed . . . their dead behind them, their tortured wounded moaning to the winds that most heart-breaking cry of the battlefield. . . . German Artillery, some of it from beyond the distant Meuse, dropped a hail of shrapnel and high explosives; machine guns spewed . . . the regiment crawled on.”


Second Phase, October 5 – 31

Gen. Hunter Liggett, a native of Reading, was the commander of I Corps during the offensive. Library of Congress

Gen. Hunter Liggett, a native of Reading, was the commander of I Corps during the offensive. Library of Congress

The men of the 28th, 79th and 80th division were battle-torn, but rest eluded them. The three divisions in their respective I, IV and III corps readied themselves for what would amount to another month of hard fighting and painful losses.

Commanded by Maj. Gen. Hunter Liggett, the I Corps, which included the 28th Division, was now tasked with advancing its right side along the Aire River and its left to organize the high ground of Le Chene Tondu. The right side of the division line would need some adjustment to properly execute the coming orders. Near La Forge, the 109th Infantry evacuated, while the remainder of the line was unchanged east of the Aire River. During the movement men found that Hill 223 and Cote 244 were held in force by the enemy. This led to there being no change in the occupation of either and no change in the line.

Around midnight on October 5, the I Corps issued orders to maintain the line and prepare to attach the following morning at 8 a.m. The orders were to capture Cote 244, while the rest of the corps would hold the line and prepare for the attack to resume on October 7. The objective of the attack was to take several strategic points in the immediate area. The men of each division were ordered to remain composed and continue advancing on the enemy positions.

The 82nd Division would relieve the 28th’s infantry regiments, while the 28th’s artillery regiments would remain. The 82nd and 28th artilleries would make subtle preparations but were ordered to do so with extreme caution, so as not to alert the enemy. Preparing the implements and tools of artillery warfare is a noisy operation; had the two divisions been careless the enemy would have known what awaited their lines the following morning.

Men remaining on the line in this sector were ordered to advance on the high ground west of Chatel-Chéhéry, but due to the enemy stronghold, this order would never be carried out. That night the line was maintained in good faith but lacked organization. Fortunately, with the 28th Division’s artillery on the right boundary at Hill 223, commanders of the I Corps issued orders to resume the advance with vigor.

Relieved of their front-line duties, the infantry was moved to Charpentry-Montblainville in reserve to the I Corps. The relief began on the evening of October 7 and was completed by the 82nd Division by 8:15 a.m. on October 8.

Once back afield, the 28th was sent to relieve the 37th Division as the leftmost division of the IV Corps in the Thiacourt Sector around the second week of October. The 28th’s left side was the French 39th Division and its immediate right was the U.S. 7th Division. For two weeks the divisions were on constant patrol seeking out enemy forces and positions. While each respective division had their assignments, the corps’ objective would be completed as a whole by November 10, allowing for the continuation of the directive for the Second Army to take their place and prepare for an offensive.

As luck would have it, the 28th Division benefited from an earlier effort securing the town of Haumont-lès-Lachaussée. As November 10 came and went, their luck would cease. Approximately five days later the German forces raided the town, pushing the American forces out. Fortunately, the 28th’s participation in this offensive would come to a close and their efforts were shifted elsewhere. By the end of their involvement in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive there would be a total of 4,272 casualties from their division.

In the second week of November, ridding the Meuse area of the enemy would be the First Army’s goal, having already accomplished both goals set out in the first and second phases. The third and final phase was comparatively short and would cease upon the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.

In order of battle, the U.S. V Corps, which incorporated the 79th Division, found itself moving on the night of October 7-8 to the zone occupied by the French II Corps, north of Saint-Mihiel. Shortly after moving into this area, the 79th assumed command, taking over the Troyon Sector, which ran from the northwest to the southeast along the steep Meuse hills. The men encountered 150-foot-tall cliff sides and 200-foot-deep ravines in this up-and-down sector.

The German line was out in the flats approximately 8 kilometers from the cliffs and included Macrhéville, Saint-Hilaire, Bougainville and surrounding areas. Upon arrival, the 79th would have no relief. Over the next 24 hours, more than 1,000 enemy shells were fired, forcing the men to live in their dugouts, coming out only to return fire or draw rations.


Ambulance companies of the 79th Division transport wounded American soldiers to a first aid station in the basement of a ravaged house in Les Éparges, Meuse, on October 14, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

Ambulance companies of the 79th Division transport wounded American soldiers to a first aid station in the basement of a ravaged house in Les Éparges, Meuse, on October 14, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

The 79th was reorganized into three columns. As October 7 approached, the men in their new formation and well-supplied took up position alongside their American and French counterparts.

In the cover of darkness, the rations were distributed; those making the delivery, such as Mess Sgt. Howard B. Melody of Lansdowne, Delaware County, ran trench to trench dodging shells and enemy fire as they returned to and from the kitchen. Melody, however, had the misfortune on October 10 to be wounded by an explosion from enemy gas-shelling.

The 79th’s line ran from Port-sur-Seille east of Moselle to Fresnes-en-Woëvre, southeast to Verdun by October 12. Finding the AEF to be strengthened in this sector, the German artillery rained down upon the men in hopes of slowing their advance.

Undeterred by gas and shelling, Allied attacks continued, with the 79th Division conducting nighttime reconnaissance patrols, supply runs, and troop movements. The darkness, however, provided only a mask for maneuvers. The Germans knew full well the locations of streets, trenches, buildings and troops. This information allowed them to direct well-aimed infantry and artillery fire regardless of the hour.

By October 13 many found themselves falling back to the secondary defensive position in the trenches. These trenches would be home for the next two weeks.

On October 19 a short-lived peace fell across the field but was shattered by the sound of automatic machine-gun fire, the screams of death, and the view of observation balloons overhead. This bombardment allowed the Germans to cycle replacements into position. The multiday push led up to the most determined effort by the enemy on October 23 beginning with hand grenades, machine-gun fire and infantry assaults. Days later the 79th Division would depart the Troyon Sector.

During their predawn march on October 25 the men realized they were marching not toward rest but instead to the front as the pop and illumination from flares lit the path ahead. Although spread out, the columns were eventually reunited as a whole division by October 29.

Company F of the 316th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division, arrived at their destination of the wooded Bois de Consenvoye by dawn of October 29, after having marched overnight and across the Meuse River. According to the company history, one man remarked, “when day came, a beautiful autumn day, we found ourselves in a devastated wilderness that stunk of long dead horses and men and poison gas.”

The following day the men were dug-in with their French counterparts as bombardment after bombardment fell upon them. The continuous shelling across the Meuse made the impending advance seem futile; however, through their tenacity, the men eventually reached Verdun.


A train of the 79th Division delivers water in 750-gallon tanks on Packard trucks for men on the line at Brabantsur-Meuse on November 3, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

A train of the 79th Division delivers water in 750-gallon tanks on Packard trucks for men on the line at Brabantsur-Meuse on November 3, 1918. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

Last but certainly not least, the 80th Division, a strong point of the U.S. III Corps, successfully lead numerous attacks and captured Bois des Ogons, part of the western side of Bois de Fays and the western flank of Bois de Malaumont. Largely speaking, the 80th was inundated with artillery shelling from the east bank of the Meuse, its point of origin being so closely situated to the Allies’ front line that it had a demoralizing effect on the men. By nightfall of October 4, two companies of the 2nd Battalion, 319th Infantry, succeeded in reaching the Bois des Ogons, but soon the enemy forced them to fall back to the wood line.

Once able to reapply pressure to the German line on the eastern flank of Bois des Ogons they held the position until relieved to take up another position on the western part of Bois de Fays. They were unable to advance, however, because of the overwhelming artillery and machine-gun fire. Upon relief by an element of the 4th Division, they withdrew to reorganize and reform their line. The following week through October 14, the troops of the 319th drew supplies and were able to rest.

To their pleasure, not only were they issued new overcoats, but they also received Browning Automatic Rifles and machine guns. The boost to their morale was immeasurable and the reliability of such weaponry was truly appreciated. For 10 days the men rested and had their supplies replenished for the coming fight. The energy in camp was almost electric as their rest period approached more than a week, time that was beneficial to their fighting ability.

Now on October 31 the division ordered the ranks to muster for a 25-kilometer march through the Argonne Forest. The march ended up lasting approximately 13 hours by the time they reached camp, bivouacking at just before 10 o’clock on the evening of October 31. Throughout the night, artillery fire and machine-gun fire roared. By the next morning, a plan was afoot for the division to lead a counterattack.


Third Phase, November 1–11

The battle line stretched from the North Sea to Verdun. The Germans under Gen. Erich Ludendorff had been beaten on every front by the Allies. He began withdrawing his troops in successive leaps with the goal of keeping the Allies out of Germany for as long as possible.

Despite resistance, the AEF did quite well from Verdun to Argonne, but such success was not without its bloodshed. During the second phase of the operation, the American forces saw approximately 27 kilometers of forward progress. For the entire AEF, the third phase was simply a continuation of the second, with a focus on pushing Ludendorff’s men as far back as possible until the point of surrender.

The 79th Division found itself in what was referred to as “Death Valley.” War correspondents embedded near the 79th reported, “For 5 or 6 miles stretched an area of desolation without billeting places where troops could rest, except a few rat infested and odorous, moist dugouts. . . . Troops marching into battle must run its deadly gamut before they could deploy . . . it was the neck of the fan shaped funnel of the battle line.”

Company F, 316th Infantry, dug in deeper and deeper on the line. Their energy was depleted due to a lack of rations and water, although several attempts were made to resupply them, as the runners were cut off or shot down by enemy fire. The men pooled everything left in them to survive the constant shelling and machine-gun fire. By November 6 Company F would be relieved, as the entire 316th Infantry was exhausted. Their replacements, the 313th and 315th regiments, took their places and completed the changeover by the next morning at 8 a.m.

Over the next two days, companies of men were reassigned and shifted to push the Germans from the heights of the Meuse. The Company F history notes that a relieved man reported that commissioned officers were so scarce, because of mounting casualties and lack of resources, that second lieutenants were commanding battalions.

On November 11 men were awakened by the all too familiar sound of crashing shells and machine-gun fire, but word of an armistice was in the air. Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey had already surrendered, and now the men received word that an armistice with Germany had been signed and they were to cease fire at 11 o’clock in the morning.

When the time came the front was quiet and calm. That evening the men celebrated around bonfires and sang songs. A company of men from Pennsylvania within the 79th Division coaxed their friend Jim Gerrity into singing “The Lackawanna Valley” to ring in the end of the Great War.


Soldiers of the 79th Division on the front lines at Gibercy, Meuse, on November 12, 1918, after the signing of the Armistice. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

Soldiers of the 79th Division on the front lines at Gibercy, Meuse, on November 12, 1918, after the signing of the Armistice. Pennsylvania Military Museum/Miller Collection

The 80th Division’s involvement in the third and final phase of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began with their relief of the 1st Division and the knowledge that they had in their possession orders giving them 48 hours to rest and resupply. By November 7 the men were ready and deployed to what they thought was going to be front lines in the north but instead became a march south toward Briquenay.

Four days later, November 11, the division occupied areas and fortifications once held by the French, having enough time to install electric lighting and other various comforts. The area of La Chalade seemed to escape the war unscathed for the four prior years and was described by the 80th as “the most desirable location.” The Germans, however, were found to be dug in and fortified making a considerable stand against the Allies tenable.

Weeks prior, the rumor of an armistice made its way through the companies of men but was without substance. Now the situation changed. As a history of the 318th Infantry recounts, “Finally, definite and official news came to the regiment while on march through the Argonne Forest . . . armistice had actually been signed by the German delegates.”

Once in camp the men were overjoyed by the news. After the “discovery of a large amount of pyrotechnics [explosives],” they celebrated.

Reflecting on the  division’s fight in the war, the commander wrote to the men in official capacity: “The  80th Division only  moves forward. It not  only moves forward against the Enemy, but it moves forward in the estimation of all who are capable of judging its courage, its fighting and its manly qualities.”

At war’s end, the divisions were not solely known for their numerical designation. The 28th would be known as the “Iron Division,” named by none other than Gen. John J. Pershing for their spirit and resolve. On the shoulders of the 79th Division is a patch with a blue background and a large cross, known as the Cross of Lorraine, emblematic of where they set themselves apart at Montfaucon. As for the 80th, their commander’s words, “Always moves forward,” was cemented as the division’s motto.

World War I ushered in a new age of warfare and technology. Firepower, gas warfare, air power, tactics and logistics—all were part of the major shifts and developments that took place during the war. What never changed was the spirit of Pennsylvania embodied by the men of the 28th, 79th and 80th divisions, continued by all who have fought for state and country.


The Pennsylvania Military Museum, located at 51 Boal Avenue, Boalsburg, Centre County, is commemorating the centennial of World War I in 2018. The museum’s collection contains related uniforms, weaponry, diaries, photographs, letters, paintings and posters, and even demilitarized ordinance. A rare M1917 tank was recently restored and is now on exhibit. A variety of programs emphasizing Pennsylvania’s role in the Great War will be held, including special tours, lectures and films. For more information visit pamilmuseum.org.


Tyler O. Gum is the site administrator of the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Centre County.