a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance" means in the following sentences:

"I accepted a commission as first lieutenant when it began. In the Argonne Forest I took two machine-gun detachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance. We stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men with sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead. I was promoted to be a major, and every Allied government gave me a decoration—even Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea!"

This is an excerpt from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby was telling Nick about his life, how he participated in the World War I, and how he lead the machine-gun detachments and won the decoration.

But here, I could not understand what exactly Gatsby did. Was he a leader of two machine-gun detachments, but, due to his mistake, came to make his detachments stuck in a place? But if the infantry was following behind his detachments, how did it come to be a half mile gap "on either side of us" where it couldn't advance?

I am totally confused. I would very much appreciate your help.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    This refers to an actual WWI incident in which a large number of American soldiers — later known as the “Lost Battalion” — were cut off in the Argonne Forest, under enemy fire and with the Allied troops on their flanks unable to reach them because they’d advanced so far into the forest. There’s plenty of information about it online, for example here: Charles Whittlesey - Commander of the Lost Battalion and here: The Lost Battalion | AMERICAN HERITAGE

    The comment in red relates to the bold text in the OP.
     
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    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear lingobingo,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So it was all real; I didn't know there was such an incident.
    Then the formation inside the forest would be, the Lost Battalion being at the center of a doughnut, which is the German forces, and the Allied forces outside of the doughnut.
    I really appreciate your help.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear lingobingo,

    That is a strange coincidence! I actually learned the term "doughboys" from the link you gave me above.
    Thank you so much for letting me know. :)
     
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