January - April 1918

The 1st Division arrived in France without, apparently, any gas training whatever. Before going into combat it received not only the most complete combat training of any division in the AEF but the most thorough gas training. And gas training pamphlets, directives, and orders that later divisions were to seem ignorant of or profess not to have received, seem to have been immediately available and carefully studied by the 1st Division.

Despite this, the division was to make all the mistakes of human nature and inexperience when under gas attack that the other divisions later made, with the result that during its operations in both the Ansauville sector, here described, and subsequently in the Montdidier sector (the subject of a later study), it was to suffer more gas casualties than small arms or artillery shell casualties. As General Bullard said:

Gas is such an intangible thing that men are only with great difficulty made to guard themselves against it. A state of instruction adequate against the danger is extremely hard to obtain....Our gas officers were almost hysterical in their efforts to teach and impress our new troops; but knowledge and real efficient training came only after hard experience.1

The present study of the initial operations of the 1st Division concerns not only the gas training of the division but in particular a unique aspect of its experience not referred to in the well-known catalogue of "firsts" of

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that division. It was perhaps the first and last division to suffer more artillery than infantry casualties, for the principal target of both enemy HE and gas fire at Ansauville was the 1st Division artillery, not the infantry.

On both quiet and active fronts in the months to come, the infantry would be the principal, or even exclusive, target of enemy fire, and it was to suffer, it would seem, from doctrine developed by the AEF for the special protection of the artillery, as a result of the early experience of the 1st Division.