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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

U.S. Army. First Sector Occupied by Americans 1917, inscribed: "First shot in the war Oct. 23, 1917 6:30 am. . . ." U.S. Army base map, 1918. Printed map annotated in color. Hines Collection, Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (195.00.00)

America's "First Shot" in the War

This map purports to illustrate America's first artillery salvo of the war, fired on October 23, 1917, by guns in the American 1st Division. Sergeant Alexander Arch barked the order "fire" to the crew manning the 75mm field gun. The rapid-firing artillery piece was provided by the French to American troops, who lacked a sufficient supply of weapons and ordnance. Artillery was the most devastating weapon of the land war, responsible for inflicting some 60 percent of all causalities. Detailed maps and wired communications lines were among the innovations that made World War I artillery fire more accurate and deadly than in earlier conflicts. Therefore, trenches, so strongly associated with the war, were essential to protect troops from barrages that could turn fields into virtual wastelands.