US soldiers on the Italian front 1918
Networld: preserving WWI heritage
The United States entered WWI on April 6, 1917. Several units already arrived in 1917, but the main body of troops did not arrive to the Western Front until early 1918. Once the US troops arrived, the Allies could finally replace their losses while the Central Forces could not, a major boost. The French and Brithis commanders wanted the US troops to act purely as replacement within the Allied fighting structure. US command did not agree with that and with only a few exceptions, the US troops fought as independed units next to the Allied forces.
The disasterous Battle of Carpetto (Kobarid, or the 12th Battle of Isonzo) in October 1917 had pushed the Italian front back almost 60 miles from the Isonzo River to the Piave River. The Italian front was on the verge of collapse and to prevent that from happening, both the British and the USA sent troops to Italy despite the urgent need for fresh troops at the Western Front.
The US Army relocated the 332rd Infantry Regiment, part of the 83rd Infantry Division, The 331th Field Hospital with 30 ambulance units and a base hospital and over 50 pilots were also relocated to the Italian front. The 332rd was held in reserve but played a major role in boosting moral. It also did some ingenious deception actions. From their base behind the front, the 332nd went on endless training marches. They went out of the gates with one type of uniform, returned and continued out of the gate again wearing different uniforms and especially different caps. Thanks to this, the Central Forces thought that the Allies had a much larger army in reserve than the Allied had in reality. As one member of the 332rd stated; he would gladly kill any enemy encountered in retribution for the endless marching they had to do.
Luckily, the 332rd hardly saw battle. During most of their stay they were in reserve in the baracks in Treviso, about 10 miles from the Piave river and the front. In November, just before the armistice, they joined the fight. The Central Forces were in full retreat, already across the Tagliamento River, 40 miles to the east of Treviso. There, near the bridge for the road between Pordeone and Udine, they encountered the enemy for the first time directly. After some fighting they managed to cross the river and occupy the town of Coroipo. During this fighting, they lost one man, with four others wounded; the only casualties the 332rd took from battle. . and lost only one man in actual fighting.