The First Americans Arrive in Europe

Just after America declared war on Imperial Germany April 1917, French and British delegations arrived in America to secure loans for their depleted war chests and offer advice and assistance in expanding the US Army. The French Field Marshal Joseph Joffre suggested an American division of one artillery and four infantry regiments deploy immediately to Europe to lift morale. MG John J Pershing, Commander of the Army’s Southern Department in Texas and freshly returned from chasing Pancho Villa in Mexico, chose the 6th Field Artillery and the 16th, 18th, 26th, and 28th Infantry Regiments for the new organization. Pershing was told to report to Washington DC to take command of the eventual American Expeditionary Force to France and oversee the planning staff responsible for its development. Pershing arrived in DC in early May 1917.
 
Among other requests, the British delegation asked for immediate help with securing the Atlantic. The British and French navies that were fighting a losing war against German U-boats in the Atlantic. In particular, the shipping channels through Irish waters were a killing ground and the Royal Navy was in desperate need of assistance. President Roosevelt agreed. On 4 May 1917 after a nine day trip, six US destroyers of Destroyer Division 8 arrived in Cork Harbor, Queenstown, Ireland under the command of Commander J.K. Taussig. They were the first American fighting forces to arrive in Europe after the US entered the First World War.
 
Upon meeting the Americans, Vice Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander in Chief of the Coasts of Ireland and Taussig’s soon-to-be immediate superior, asked “When will you be ready to go to sea?”
 
Taussig replied, “We are ready now, sir… that is, as soon as we are finished refueling.”
 
After a round of office calls, dinners both official and unofficial, meetings to discuss best practices and common operating procedures, Taussig and his men departed on their first war patrol just three days later.

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