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- 04 -062017

Lafayette, We Are Here! : episode 12

Troops of the 1st Infantry Division at Saint-Nazaire, 25 June 1917. © Daniau/ECPAD/Défense

Troops of the 1st Infantry Division at Saint-Nazaire, 25 June 1917. © Daniau/ECPAD/Défense

The 1st Infantry Division. © Daniau/ECPAD/Défense

Austerlitz Train Station, Paris on 3 July 1917 © BDIC



The First U.S. Troops Arrive in France

At Long Last, They Are Here !

On 28 June 1917, the First Expeditionary Division, later designated 1st Infantry Division and soon to become known as “The Big Red One” landed at St-Nazaire under the command of General William L. Sibert (1860-1935) in presence of Generals Pershing and Etienne Pelletier standing of the pier. Journalists and photographers and cameramen were also present to immortalize the event. Once the ceremony over, German POW and African American soldiers unloaded the military equipment.  The 1st Infantry Division marched to rest camp situated on the outskirts of the city. This division consisted of 28.00 men and included two organic brigades of two infantry regiments each, one field artillery brigade of three field artillery regiments and smaller units. It underwent its baptism of fire on 3 November 1917.

Ports of Disembarkation

The port facilities of Saint-Nazaire being too small in capacity for the expected amount of tonnage and number of troops of the U.S. Army, the port facilities of Brest, Bordeaux and Cherbourg were also made available to the A.E.F.. The port of Brest was to become the main port of disembarkation for troops and equipment. In November 1917, the U.S. Army installed a military base nearby were more than 7.500 soldiers transited. The capacity of the port was greatly improved as the Engineers built wharves, railways tracks and warehouses, services such as telephone and telegraph were also installed.

A military police station, a hospital, a prison and offices for the YMCA and the American Red Cross were built. The American population was at the time higher than the French in the vicinity. In all, some 804.000 American soldiers disembarked in the port of Brest.

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