Armistice100: Tank battle near Metz and first use of the term ‘D Day’

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Dateline: September 19, 1918...

Hiding between stories of mass hangings in Petrograd, the daily struggle of the housewife to make bread, a gas leak which left one woman unconscious and the evocatively headlined ‘Aliens in Harrogate’ (a reference to Germans being sighted there, which turned out to be false), one other story catches our eye from the pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post on this day in 1918.

It was an account by an American soldier of a tank battle at St-Mihiel (September 12-15), which has the distinction of being the first time the Americans used the term ‘D Day’ and ‘H Hour’. The battle was an attempt by the US to break the German lines in order to get to the fortified city of Metz.

The account details a skirmish between two tanks in particular and runs thus:-

“At first, everything went without hitch, until we got bogged down in some soft ground and enfiladed by machine guns. It was a helpless feeling waiting for orders or for something to happen but they held us in until a couple of tanks flattened out the opposition... our fleet of iron buses spread out lust like a lot of battleships. We went after... and I saw something which tickled me to death... a strong point beyond Fritz’s line began to move... it was a German tank. One of ours made for it as fast as he could lick. He lurched into and out of holes like a ship in heavy seas. When I sent over, I could see the trap into which the Hun was trying to lead out ‘bird’. This was a wide trench.

“But [ours] made a detour and the Hun had overstepped himself. Before he could get away, our man had got abreast of him and fires all his guns, then he went all out for him.”