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Major Leaguer Gassed in the Meuse-Argonne, October 12, 1918
Our last post described the 91st Division's attack across two miles of open fields to take the village of Gesnes during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Though successful in taking Gesnes, the division had advanced farther than its neighboring units and was at risk of flanking action by the Germans, so they were ordered to withdraw two miles to the point at which they initiated the attack.
Starting the offensive with just under 20,000 men, the first four days of the battle cost the 91st Division 8 field officers (majors and above), 125 company officers (captains and lieutenants), and 3,000 enlisted men. The 362nd Regiment alone lost 500 men in the attack on Gesnes.
After withdrawing the night of September 29, most of the 362nd was sent into reserve to consolidate. After resting for a week, the 362nd and its sibling regiment, the 361st, were sent back into the line on October 6th. Over the next six days, the 361st and 362nd participated in several attacks that took key hills in the area and wiped up other enemy resistance. They were withdrawn from action on October 12 and ordered to march forty miles where they boarded a train for to take part in another offensive.
Among the casualties in the Meuse-Argonne between October 6 and 12 was Louis Guisto. The son of Italian immigrants, Guisto grew up in Napa, California, before starring in baseball and football at St. Mary's University. After graduating, Guisto spent the end of the 1916 and the beginning of the 1917 seasons playing first base for the Cleveland Indians. He was drafted into the Army in August 1917 and, as a Californian, was ordered to report to Camp Lewis, near Spokane, Washington, as part of the 91st Division. Once there, he joined the camp football team. While he is not known to have appeared in a game, the Camp Lewis team was among the best in the country and finished the season by playing in the 1918 Rose Bowl.
Guisto was wounded in the thigh and gassed while in the Meuse-Argonne. Although Guisto recovered from the thigh wound without problem, the gassing proved more problematic. After the war, Guisto rejoined the Indians for several stints during the 1921, 1922, and 1923 seasons, but he had difficulty breathing in Cleveland’s climate and polluted air and returned to the minors each time.
He played minor league baseball for several years on the West Coast and managed minor league teams from 1929 to 1931. Guisto then took over the baseball program at St. Mary’s, where he coached until 1955. Early on, he also was an assistant football coach at St. Mary’s and ran the student commissary for years. St. Mary’s named its baseball stadium for him in 1928. It remains named in his honor today.
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