From Historians


“An excellent and highly recommended work.”

– Charles Messenger, Western Front Association; retired British Army officer and author of over 40 books on historical and defense matters.

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“A careful study of a little-remembered division, in a little-remembered battle, in a little-remembered war. All of which is a pity, because as Gene Fax points out, the accomplishments of the 79th Division were remarkable and reflected better on the record of the American Expeditionary Force than historians often assume. A meticulous story, compellingly told.”

Eliot A. Cohen, author of The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force.


“With Their Bare Hands is an unvarnished examination of all corners of the battlefield, filled with failures and setbacks, courage and fear, noble sacrifices and, in many places unnecessary casualties. Mr. Fax considers the battle on its own terms and n its own time, allowing the reader an unfiltered view of combat and confusion and command decisions–both wise and unwise.”

Matthew J. Davenport, The Wall Street Journal.

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“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, author of Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War and The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 1919-1939.


“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, author of German Military History, 1648-1982: A Critical Biography.


“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 the Press

History of War

“Here the Hundred Days Offensive is told through the eyes of the new kids on the block. Gene Fax’s book is a masterpiece of narrative history, focusing on one of the first American divisions to join the war effort and giving an invaluable look into the formation of the American Expeditionary Forces.  The training and experiences of the 79th Division make for compelling reading, and the book continually surprises (when it left for France, for instance, half the division had received no training.) It’s a brilliant look inside the workings of a World War I division.”

History of War

World War One Illustrated

“Gene Fax earned well-deserved praise for this very detailed presentation of the U.S. 79th Division’s famous assault on the heavily fortified German position on Montfaucon . . . Nicely written, filled with anecdotes, this terrific book was a finalist for a Distinguished Writing Award by the Army Historical Foundation.”

–World War One Illustrated

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Military History Matters

“This is a ground-breaking study of the US’s most devastating battle during the Great War.  Using original documents, including orders, field messages, and letters and diaries of the soldier themselves, it focuses on the 79th division, from its time at Boot Camp in Maryland and through the War up to that last climactic conflict.”

Military History Matters (published in the UK)

Army Magazine

“[T]he definitive word on the 79th Division in World War I. . . One of the best aspects of this book is the extensive use of German unit histories. This is not just another one-sided story, so common in American books on World War I. The scholarship and depth of sources from both sides of the Atlantic are impressive. . . The book is well-written, a good read and a fine addition to the World War I centennial commemorations.”

— Col. Douglas Mastriano, Army Magazine

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Military History Magazine

“The author vividly describes the accompanying indecision, pervasive poor planning, inconsistency and befuddlement, resulting in bungled staff work, muddled chains of command, failed communications, misdirected artillery support and frontal attacks made over poor terrain and virtually at random. ”

– Historynet Staff,

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Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

“In his superb account of the final, violent throes of World War I, military historian Gene Fax tells of an American lieutenant who watched as ambulances pulled to the side of the road to let the artillery, “which had priority,” pass.”

– Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

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Matthew J. Davenport, Wall Street Journal

“The soldiers of the 79th were forced to fight for over three days and nights on a single meal and two canteens of water. In “With Their Bare Hands: General Pershing, the 79th Division, and the Battle for Montfaucon” Gene Fax masterfully recounts their nightmarish struggle.”

– Matthew J. Davenport, Wall Street Journal

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