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Battle of Cambrai: 100 years ago first U.S. doughboys enter WWI combat

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The first American units saw action in World War I during the battle of Cambrai, France, Nov. 20-Dec. 7, 1917. The same battle also showcased the first large-scale effective use of combined arms, marking an evolution in warfare, said Brian F. Neumann, a historian and World War I subject matter expert with the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

The battle began with a successful British offensive against the Germans, Neumann said.

The success of the offensive, he said, was due to the effective coordination of combined arms, which included infantry, artillery, tanks and combat air support. All were used to overrun the German trench lines in the vicinity of the northern French town of Cambrai.

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The use of combined arms gave the battlefield more of a three-dimensional look, with air, tanks and artillery all supporting infantry, along with some cavalry support, he said.

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The British employed several hundred tanks, which were used to overrun the German trenches and tear holes through their lines, he said. It was the most significant utilization of tanks to date.

The Americans

The Army’s role in the fighting was fairly limited, he said, noting that it consisted of soldiers from the 11th, 12th and 14th Engineer Regiments, who were engaged in railway construction work behind the trench lines in support of the British.

Although America’s role in the battle was limited, the news that soldiers were finally engaged in a major battle for the first time since war was declared in April made headlines and boosted morale on the home front, he said.

By Nov. 30, the British had essentially outrun their supply lines and artillery support, and that’s when the Germans mounted a successful counterattack, Neumann said.

Luck for the Army engineers ran out on that day as well, when the Germans overran their area, resulting in 28 U.S. casualties.

The survivors regrouped and were reorganized into reserve infantry with their main effort being to build trenches and help the British to stabilize their lines, he said.

The Battle of Cambrai, though heralded for successful use of combined arms, was actually a fairly typical World War I battle in that a successful offensive was then met by a successful counteroffensive, with the lines between friend and foe not shifting that much and a lot of casualties taken on both sides: around 45,000 on each side, he said.

Although America had declared war against Germany seven months earlier, the American Army wasn’t yet ready for large-scale combat operations, Neumann said.

While the roughly four U.S. combat divisions in France were still in training in late 1917, he said, they would see plenty of action in 1918.

Big League National Security

NEW: Joe Biden Bashes Incoming Trump Administration In Leaked 2016 Call to President of Ukraine

Completely inappropriate.

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Joe Biden speaks in critical and partisan terms of the incoming Trump administration in a new leaked call to the President of Ukraine unveiled Wednesday.

In the call, conducted in November 2016 a week after then-candidate Trump’s election victory, Biden bashes the incoming administration to the foreign leader, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Biden assails the Trump transition team as incompetent, turning down the idea of visiting the country before the January transition before Trump is “fully briefed” on matters related to Ukraine.

In a second call, Biden asks for Poroshenko to describe his conversations with incoming President Trump, going to to speak of Trump in more dismissive terms. He describes Trump as a “dog who caught the car, and who doesn’t know what to do.” Not quite a “dog-faced pony soldier,” but definitely not an appropriate way for an outgoing vice president to describe an incoming president to a foreign leader.

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A Ukrainian comedian originally released the calls, suggesting questionable operational security within the conversations of Joe Biden and Poroshenko. Biden has a lengthy history of ethical questions regarding his relationship with Ukraine, including looking the other way as his son Hunter secured an extremely lucrative position at a Ukrainian oil company without any experience whatsoever in the energy industry.

Biden himself would later go on to demand the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating corruption allegations against the younger Biden, a clear conflict of interest Biden merely dismissed when he spoke openly of securing the prosecutor’s firing at a Council on Foreign Relations public event.

This is a totally inappropriate way for a Vice President to speak to a foreign leader, and the public should be concerned about how Biden plans to conduct diplomacy should he be elected President.

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