Based on meticulous research Gene Fax's fascinating account of the poorly trained 79th Division in the Meuse-Argonne offensive tells us much about how inexperience, poor communications and inadequate support compelled that division's courageous soldiers to fight “with their bare hands.” Fax tells the amazing story of how the American Expeditionary Force and the 79th Division overcame many errors and false ideas and paid a high price learning how to fight effectively.
Brigadier General (ret.) Robert A. Doughty
The men of the AEF's 79th Division were warriors for the working day: civilians in uniform. Their training was minimal, their cohesion limited, their tactics defying four years of Western Front experience. Yet the 79th's first assignment was to take one of the best-defended position in the Argonne Forest. It became a compound disaster. But the division's subsequent recovery is a case study in American soldiers' often-demonstrated high learning curve and the AEF's contribution to victory in 1918. Gene Fax's new history of the 79th Division is a masterful study of the long and difficult road to victory.
Professor Dennis Showalter
Ordered to capture the heavily fortified high-ground of Montfaucon on the first day of Meuse-Argonne, the doughboys of 79th Division-fresh from Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia-proved themselves as brave and tenacious soldiers. With Their Bare Hands is a fine testament to their courage under fire and a compelling work of history by Gene Fax
Mitchell Yockelson, author of Forty-Seven Days: How Pershing's Warrior's Came of Age to Defeat the German Army in World War I
In “With Their Bare Hands: General Pershing, the 79th Division, and the Battle for Montfaucon” Gene Fax masterfully recounts, studies and dissects [the 79th Division's] nightmarish struggle.
Mr. Fax has plumbed a variety of source materials-original memoranda, reports by both sides, daily journals and correspondence-to transport the reader along with the soldiers of the 79th through the crucible of an almost impossible mission.
“With Their Bare Hands” is an unvarnished examination of all corners of the battlefield, filled with failures and setbacks, courage and fear, noble sacrifice and, in many places, unnecessary casualties. Mr. Fax considers the battle on its own terms and in its own time, allowing the reader an unfiltered view of combat and confusion and command decisions-both wise and unwise.
Matthew Davenport, author of “First Over There: The Attack on Cantigny, America's First Battle of World War I,” a finalist for the 2015 Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History., Wall Street Journal
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