By summer 1918, the Allies had repelled the last of the German offensives on the western front and had gone on the counterattack. General Pershing had also achieved his goal of building up a substantial American army of more than 500,000 under his direct command and at the ready to conduct a major offensive against the Germans. On September 12, U.S. forces with the assistance of 100,000 French soldiers, attacked the Germans where the front lines bulged into Allied-held territory around the French town of St. Mihiel. This was the first taste of combat for many American soldiers. The five-day battle succeeded in pushing the Germans out of the St. Mihiel pocket. The quick success came, in part, because the Germans had already begun withdrawing forces from the area before the attack began in order to improve their defensive position.