America Learns How to Fight a Modern War in the Woëvre Trenches

Date(s) - 03/29/18
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Pritzker Military Library

Hosted by

Terrence Finnegan, A Delicate Affair on the Western Front: America Learns How to Fight a Modern War in the Woëvre Trenches


Thursday, March 29, 2018 6:00pm

Terrence Finnegan returns to the Museum & Library to discuss his book about the 1918 battle at Seicheprey France that introduced American troops to 20th-century warfare. Sponsored by the United Staes World War One Centennial Commission.

Could the newly arrived American troops be trusted? They were greenhorns, having seen practically no action. The surprise attack at Seicheprey on April 20 was spearheaded by the elite German stormtroopers (Stosstruppen) supported by aircraft, trench mortars, and heavy artillery and was designed as a propaganda coup against the “weak” newcomers. On the edge of the well-named Forêt de Mort Homme, the Connecticut boys of the 102nd regiment bore the brunt. The Americans fell back in disarray in a hell of hand-to-hand fighting; one U.S. cook killed two Germans with his meat cleaver. “A delicate affair” is an actual label applied by one U.S. command report after the battle—and it was an affair with significance beyond its outcome, as the first engagement between U.S. and German forces. Relying entirely on primary sources throughout, the author uses the battle as a jumping-off point to describe how all battles developed in the war, through intelligence (or lack of it) and minute-by-minute command decisions

COLONEL TERRENCE J. FINNEGAN served for 40 years in the Air Force Reserve and Department of Defense as a senior level civil servant supporting NATO and NORAD alliances. He has written articles for Studies in Intelligence, Over the Top and Over the Front, and was a contributor to Images of Conflict: Military Aerial Photography & Archaeology.