36th Division in World War I

CHAPTER SEVEN
MARKING TIME AT TONNERRE

[181] The 36th was relieved from duty with the 7th Corps, with which it had served less than a week, on November 16. Two days later, the Arrow Heads hit the road for the 16th Training Area about 100 miles to the south-southwest. With them went Companies A and E, 111th Supply Train, which had rejoined the command shortly after the Armistice. As if moving the division under normal conditions was not headache enough for the officers, the 36th received some 3,600 "unequipped" replacements "in poor physical condition" and about 430 animals for disposition soon after heading out.

The main axis of the movement, which utilized several different roads, lay through Bar-le-Duc, St. Dizier, Essoyes, and Les Riceys. Worn-out shoes, "badly fitting socks," rain, muddy roads, and physical weariness from months of hard service notwithstanding, march discipline and straggling were no more than minor problems. A G-3 officer, though generally pleased with the conduct of the march, found a dozen stragglers in one battalion "plugging along with intent to rejoin the column when it reached the top of the hill" and observed the 142nd Ambulance Company, 111th Sanitary Train, marching through Bar-sur-Aube at something akin to route step when it was supposed to be at attention. During a one-day rest stop in their old training area, which adjoined the 16th on the northeast, the Arrow Heads were literally wined and dined by the French people.

Occasionally the troops burst forth in song to break the monotony. Conspicuous for its absence from their repertoire, since many of their comrades were no longer present, was an old Camp Bowie favorite, Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here. An [182] addition to their list was the little AEF ditty, Mademoiselle From Armentieres. "With her I flirted, I confess, But she got revenge when she said ‘yes’" were lines that would hold special meaning for a number of unlucky if not indiscreet Arrow Heads before they left France.

Smith announced on November 27 that the 36th was (again) assigned to the 1st Corps, First American Army, commanded by Major General William M. Wright, headquarters at Tonnerre, the State of Yonne, on the Armancon River and Paris highway. Part of the division arrived in the new area on the 28th, Thanksgiving Day, while the rest trudged in on the 29th. Each unit up and down the chain of command was billeted in villages around the one housing the headquarters. There was no lack of villages at Tonnerre, or elsewhere in France for that matter, at which to station troops, for, as one Arrow Head wrote home, the French peasants "all live in small villages and do not live on farms as we do there."

Smith established his headquarters first at Tronchoy and then at Cheney. The latter town was about six miles northwest of Tonnerre and some 100 miles southeast of Paris. Other headquarters were located as follows: 71st Brigade, Flogny; 72nd Brigade, Tanlay; 141st Infantry, Chaource; 142nd Infantry, Flogny; 143rd Infantry, Serrigny; 144th Infantry, Tanlay; 131st Machine Gun Battalion, Vallieres; 111th Sanitary Train, Epineuil; 111th Field Signal Battalion, Dannemoine; 111th Supply Train, Ervy (the divisional railhead); and 111th Ammunition Train, Davrey. The 111th Engineers rejoined the 36th as the division arrived and was headquartered first at Roffey and later at Chesley. To the south and east of the 36th were the other divisions of the 1st Corps, the 78th and the 80th.1

The first six or eight weeks in the Tonnerre area were the most difficult. The place had to be cleaned up, bath houses repaired and heated, mess halls and kitchens "put under shelter," stoves improvised, and drinking water boiled or chlorinated. Men quartered in stables slept on the ground until planks and wire netting could be obtained to construct beds. To reduce "respiratory diseases" the 36th installed the cubicle system of bunking—the first combat division in the AEF to do so—which consisted of placing a blanket or shelter half between "the individual spaces of sleeping men." Bed sacking was available [183] almost immediately, but other needed supplies, most notably shoes, did not arrive until January, 1919. Until that time, a considerable number of nearly-barefoot soldiers were relieved from duty. Wood for fuel was always in short supply and much of that shipped in was too green to burn. Fortunately, the winter was relatively mild; otherwise, the discomfort might have been intolerable.

The lack of sufficient supplies was due to poor roads and inadequate "truckage." The roads, nearly all paved, were not bad at first, but because they contained no foundation the heavy truck traffic cut them to pieces. New trucks "with cargo bodies" were eventually received to replace the old vehicles of "smaller capacity," but the roads were always a problem. To keep the supplies flowing and to maintain the roads in accordance with AEF policy that they should be left, when the time came, in as good condition as they were found, it was necessary to make continuous repairs on them. Thus the 111th Engineers no sooner arrived than they were set to work resurfacing the numerous roads, including the Tonnerre-Paris highway.

Second Lieutenant Ross A. Taylor, Company E, stated that the roads were no problem during freezing weather, but when it rained, they thawed and disintegrated. Several quarries were opened, the largest at Tronchoy, and much crushed stone was shipped by means of canal boats. When working the quarries, distributing the granulated rock, and making the repairs proved to be more than the engineers could handle, Smith ordered the assignment of road-work details from other units. By late January, 1919, at least 20 percent of the division was engaged in making "little uns out of big uns." Two months later, troops were reported on every road from Praslin to Percey and from Chaource to Tanlay, "breaking rock, filling ruts or grading."2

The "pick and shovel" labor for the infantrymen and others was relished no more than training, which began in earnest in December, 1918. The exercises, which took into account the lessons learned at the front, were conducted on all levels of command from company to division. Combined with less-than-desirable living conditions, the military duties produced much grumbling. The war was over and the Texans and Oklahomans wanted to go home!

The situation in the 36th was not substantially different from that in the AEF as a whole. The 36th did not, however, as did [184] "parts" of Pershing’s command, suffer any appreciable loss of spirit. One nevertheless suspects that had things not improved considerably as the months passed, a dark cloud of depression would have formed over the Tonnerre area.

Pershing was not unaware of the growing unhappiness in his command. In less than two months after the Armistice, the Commander-in-Chief modified drill regulations and urged his commanders to institute an extensive athletic program for purposes of recreation and physical conditioning. He also enlisted Raymond B. Fosdick as a civilian aide, and Fosdick, after a series of excursions into the field, told Pershing, in effect, that his efforts to deal with the morale problem were insufficient. The question of when the men would go home was "almost a mania" in some outfits and they were "impatient with any attempt to continue unrelieved the military tasks for which most of them have no natural fondness." Winning the war was the "impelling motive for work and sacrifice" before November 11; in peacetime, "other motivating forces" to achieve these ends were necessary.

Pershing was also spurred to further action by a cable from Secretary Baker in February, 1919, expressing concern over the poor living conditions and "bitterness" of the men in the AEF. Clearly the resentment of the Yanks had filtered across the Atlantic to the folks at home and Baker was feeling the heat. Thus Pershing took to the inspection circuit as much for the purpose of being seen as for that of seeing and initiated measures to increase the athletic program, to liberalize leave policies, and to establish schools. Welfare organizations already at work were encouraged, directly or indirectly, to augment their efforts and commanders, in accordance with Pershing’s desire to send the army home "with high morale, clean physically and clean morally," sought to make the remaining months of the AEFs stay in France as palatable as possible. Discipline and regulations were maintained, but drill and maneuvers were continued on a less-urgent basis and recreation was upgraded immeasurably. The adjustments in training and recreation accomplished their purpose. In the 36th, General Smith implemented AEF policy fully and competently, and the results, under the circumstances, could scarcely have been better.3

Perhaps nothing contributed more to the maintenance of morale in the 36th than the divisional newspaper, the Arrow [185] Head, whose development required much "time and pains" and which began weekly publication on February 27, 1919. The composition of the newspaper staff changed slightly as time went on, but its only editor-in-chief was Private Hugh J. Kent, a former employee of the Dallas Evening Journal, who was reported to have a "scar" on the back of his head "that is a perfect reproduction of the Division’s insignia." The title of the paper, which reflected the 36th’s emblem, was selected from a list of names, among them "The Lone Star Round-up," "The Tex-Homa Bugler Overseas," and "The Panther Record," submitted by the troops. It was composed at Cheney and published about 25 miles to the west at the plant of the French newspaper Le Bourguignon in Auxerre.

The idea for the Arrow Head was undoubtedly derived from the success of the AEF publication, Stars and Stripes, which Pershing believed contributed more to the morale of the AEF than any other "one factor." Its success as a newspaper on the AEF level beginning in February, 1918, was matched a year later on the division level by the Arrow Head. The 1,000 copies of the first issue allotted to the 143rd Infantry sold out at 25 centimes per copy in 20 minutes. An extra 1,000 copies were printed, circulation was increased to 10,000, and coverage was expanded. Small errors were troublesome, but they could not be helped because, the editor explained, "The frog [printer] don’t have the least idea what he is writing as he picks out the words letter by letter."

The announced purposes of the Arrow Head were to "sustain the morale of the men"; to "maintain a division spirit"; to "inform the men"; to "let the folks at home know what the 36th Division is doing"; to "foster athletics, healthful sports and clean entertainments"; and to "give the enlisted men a medium of expression." It reported everything of interest related to the division; contained columns devoted to unit news; and printed letters, poems, jokes, and cartoons. Some of the content dealt with the subject foremost on the minds of all, going home. One poem was entitled, "Just Waitin’" and one four-picture cartoon showed a panther evolving into a frog.4

Smith announced in the first issue that the 36th would sail "third from last" in the First American Army. Two of the nine divisions in the First Army were currently processing at Le Mans [186] through which all would pass on the way to the port. The general explained the necessity of American divisions remaining in France after November 11 on the grounds that the Armistice was not a treaty. Until a permanent peace could be "reached and signed" the AEF "must remain on guard." In anticipation of a settlement at the peace conference convened at Paris in January and still in session, "the homecoming" of the AEF was "being planned." As to when the 36th would depart, the troops knew "as much about it" as he did.

Although Smith could not answer the main question, the information that the 36th’s departure was in the works was welcome news. More data on the subject was provided the next day by the Stars and Stripes. All divisions were to be returned "in the order of the arrival of their respective Divisional Headquarters in France." There would be exceptions in the case of Regular Army divisions and in instances "where availability of rail and sea transportation, location relative to ports, or the controlling military situation makes changes advisable." Over one-sixth of the AEF had already sailed and 19 divisions were scheduled for departure in March, April, May and June. The 36th was not on the list, but the Arrow Heads could take heart in the fact that the exodus from France was in progress and that it was just a matter of time until their number came up.5

The exceptions to the general rule for the return of divisions and a report that the 36th had been "pushed" off the February schedule evidently provided grist for complaint by Oklahoma Congressman James V. (Jim) McClintic who was urging the immediate return of the 36th in response to pressure from his constituents. In a letter to McClintic in April, Army Adjutant General Peter C. Harris denied that another division had replaced the 36th for early shipment and explained that recently-arrived divisions in France brought back ahead of the 36th were not only "incomplete," but were also "favorably located" for quick transport home. The confusion undoubtedly arose from the inclusion of the 61st Field Artillery Brigade, the 111th Ammunition Train, and the 111th Trench Mortar Battery at Coetquidan on the schedule; these units had sailed. The return of divisions had not and would not be influenced by appeals made in their behalf. Hardship "among mothers and wives with children" was not a valid reason to bring any division home because "distress" discharges of individuals were available in the AEF.6

[187] While the Arrow Heads in the Tonnerre area waited, they were entertained, or perhaps more accurately, they entertained themselves in a manner reminiscent of Camp Bowie. Many athletic contests and entertainments were held in the AEF the day the first 36th units arrived at Tonnerre. Though excluded from these events, the division compensated for it in succeeding months, especially after the far-reaching athletic program ordered by Pershing late in December, 1918, and the pledge of $1,000,000 by the Commission on Training Camp Activities in the States for its furtherance. The timing of Pershing’s order could not have been better, coming as it did during the holiday season when thoughts of home were at their peak.

The most popular sports in the Tonnerre area were football, basketball, and baseball. Though played simultaneously, they received emphasis time-wise in the order named. Teams were organized on practically every echelon under the general direction of a division athletic officer. The equipment available was just enough "to get the teams into action." Playing fields and courts were constructed by the troops.

There were, in February, 1919, 52 football and 68 basketball teams playing as hard as the division had fought in the Champagne. The 143rd Infantry alone boasted 17 football and 16 basketball squads. Thirteen intra-division football games were played in one week. The contests were heavily attended and were accompanied by considerable betting. In one instance, some 750 men with 7,000 francs at stake watched Companies H and G, 141st Infantry, struggle to a tie.

Organizational football teams played for the championship of their units, after which the victor engaged the best of other units to decide the division title. Company B, 131st Machine Gun Battalion, scored 209 points to none for its opponents in rolling to the division "organization championship." In the regimental and separate-unit league, the 144th Infantry defeated the 142nd for the division crown. The cream of the gridiron warriors played for the division team which, as will be seen below, made football history in the best tradition of the 36th’s home states.

In basketball, elimination contests were held for the purpose of selecting a division team "from the strongest fives." As it turned out, there "were no men throughout the Division who were able to replace any of the 142nd Infantry squad" on the first string. [188] Consequently, the 142nd five with substitutes from the 111th Engineers represented the 36th in 1st Corps competition. The Arrow Heads defeated the 80th Division, but lost the corps championship 20-28 to the 78th.

The number of baseball teams surpassed that of football and basketball combined. Over 70 were formed in the 142nd Infantry alone and 16 entered the "regimental league." The 111th Sanitary Train staged an exhibition game for King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium at Bar-sur-Aube. A division team, which featured numerous professional players, was formed and despite "the absence of baseball shoes" defeated the 6th Division on a soft diamond at Tonnerre in April. Organized baseball competition was late in getting started, however, and was aborted soon after it began by orders for the 36th to pack up and head west.

Other sports activities included boxing, wrestling, tennis, track and field, and one invented by the AEF called "Doughboy." The "latest thing in military athletics," Doughboy was "a combination" of basketball, soccer, football, and a Donnybrook Fair "rolled into one." The number of players on a team was somewhat flexible and several teams utilizing dozens of men played on one field at the same time. It was on the schedule twice weekly and was devised especially for troops who were "beating drill" and not participating in any of the other sports.

Military tasks were nearly all turned into games before the division departed. The competition among the organizations to determine which was best at work activities was almost as intense as that in regular sports. They also vied with each other to see which passed the best inspection by General Smith and, in one instance, which had the cleanest kitchen in the division. The military-related competition was undoubtedly as important in sustaining morale as AEF curtainment of the work-day.

At the athletic carnival staged by the 1st Corps at Tonnerre during March, 1919, the 36th won first place in the horse show and in the majority of field events, which included rifle and pistol firing, platoon drill, and bayonet fencing. The 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry, won the battalion maneuvers contest and went on to score second in First Army competition. Private Carl S. Kennedy, 141st Infantry, shot his way through corps and army competition to 10th place in the AEF rifle match at Le Mans. Wagoner Robert L. Moore, driver, and Private R. N. Betts, brakeman, of the 111th [189] Engineers, after winning at Tonnerre, took first prize in the First Army horse show contest "for four line American escort wagons." In wrestling, Big Bob Davis, 111th Field Signal Battalion, lost the final round for the AEF light heavyweight title to the representative of the Third Army.7

Of all the athletic activities, military-related and otherwise, none sparked more excitement than the division football team. It was organized shortly after the 36th set foot in the Tonnerre area and represented the division through two seasons of football, one before Pershing’s order for a full program of athletics became reality and one after it. In the first season the 36th slashed through the opposition to win the First Army championship. The final conference game was played at Tonnerre on New Year’s Day, 1919. In a subsequent game at Paris on January 20, that had no official status, but was generally regarded as determinant of the best in the AEF, the 36th lost to the SOS champion, St. Nazaire.

More teams participated in the second season, which for the 36th began immediately following the first, and the schedules pointed toward an official AEF title. Assigned as head coach of the 36th was Captain Wilmot Whitney, a former Harvard star, who played quarterback and whose "generalship" a Stars and Stripes reporter believed would have changed the outcome of the St. Nazaire game. Later, Captain Walter Birge, a standout of the Texas Longhorns and captain of the 2nd Texas Infantry team, coached the line and Major Guernsey of the 80th Division, a Yale all-American, the backfield. General Smith provided the team with quarters in a palatial chateau on a high hill surrounded by Woods and iron fences outside Chaource. Practice sessions were conducted mornings and afternoons on a field in front of the mansion and a division work detail performed household duties and served double rations at meals.

The roster of players contained the names of gridiron greats from such schools as Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma A&M, Colorado, Texas Christian University, Notre Dame, Missouri, and Haskell. In this regard, the 36th was no different than other AEF teams since the flower of American manhood was in the army. A number of the players had won laurels on the 2nd Texas and Camp Bowie teams. Lineups and individual positions often changed from one game to another, but among those who saw much action were Private McCuller, end; [190] Private Bellieu, end; Sergeant Tolbert, tackle; Sergeant Gray, tackle; Sergeant Frye, center; Private Mahseet, guard; Sergeant Kelly, guard; Private Lookabaugh, right half; First Lieutenant Clark, left half; and Sergeant Cranefield, fullback. The same unit played defense and offense though individuals like Chief Mahseet who punted and passed sometimes switched positions.

The 36th whipped the 78th and 80th divisions to win the corps championship and defeated the First Army Headquarters and the 29th Division to take the First Army crown. Two games with the 29th (New Jersey-Delaware-Virginia-Maryland-District of Columbia) National Guard team were necessary because the first ended in a scoreless tie. In the showdown for the title at the natural amphitheater outside Bar-sur-Aube on March 1, Phillip (Spitz) Clark drop-kicked a 30-yard field goal for the only score of the contest. The "salient features" of the game were the outstanding backfield performances of Clark at quarterback and Grady Watson at fullback, the pass-receiving of McCuller at end, and the "brilliant defense" of the Indian right guard, Charles Choate. Thousands of soldiers witnessed the game and the 36th record "for money orders sent home" was broken the following week. Smith, who attended the game in company with Lieutenant General Liggett, was reported as happy "as if he had won the game himself."

In the quarter-finals of the AEF playoffs, the 36th eliminated Le Mans 13-0 at the velodrome in Auteuil on the western outskirt of Paris. In the semi-finals, the Arrow Heads met the Second Army champion, the 7th Division, on March 22 at the more convenient site of Bar-sur-Aube. Traffic was stopped "by the massed soldiers who lined the route" of a pre-game parade through town. Witnessing the festivities from a stand draped with flags were King Albert, Queen Elizabeth, and General Pershing. Motoring to the field, the royal entourage was greeted by the Belgium national anthem played by the 142nd Infantry band. A stately stand had been constructed at the 50-yard line and the "figure of the dainty queen in grey, seated in the center of the box was clearly thrown in relief by the attending cortege of olive drab generals" which included Pershing and Lieutenant Generals Liggett and Bullard. The box was flanked on both sides by "towering bleachers" built by and for the enlisted men. Excluded from the seats by military police, numerous officers, including [191] Smith, Williams, and "a whole flock of brigadier generals," had "to stand on the wet ground ... around the sides of the gridiron." The crowd was said to be one of the largest ever to witness a football event.

The game was as good as its billing. The difference was the 36th’s "superior weight," the running of Lookabaugh and Cranefield, and Frye’s defensive play. Passing was thwarted by a drizzling rain. With eight minutes to go and the ball on the 7th’s 45-yard line, a severe penalty put the 36th in scoring position and Lookabaugh went in for the lone touchdown of the game and Jim Kendricks kicked the extra point.

At the final whistle 25,000 "wildly whooping rooters," over 8,000 of them Arrow Heads, "thronged the field" but a single blast from a bugle brought dead silence. With everyone halted in his tracks, Pershing "in a low voice" congratulated both teams on their performance and announced that the Queen wished to take photographs. Pershing grouped the teams and as the Queen adjusted her camera, "some buck in the background ... standing in the rain and mud" shouted, "Hurry up, kid, its cold out here." The Queen smiled and hurried; Albert looked at Pershing "with a grin of tolerance"; members of the royal retinue evinced expressions ranging from "horror" to "amusement"; and Pershing "glanced keenly" in the direction of the voice. From the "extreme right" came another cry, "I want to go home," whereby Pershing turned his face "casually in that direction." No more was heard from the onlookers.

The 36th’s opponent in the first superbowl in football history was the undefeated 89th (Kansas-Nebraska-Missouri-South Dakota) National Army Division, Third Army. The time was Saturday, March 29, and the place was the Parc des Princes in Paris. Some 15,000 soldiers, sailors, Frenchmen, and welfare workers witnessed the game. Special trains brought 3,600 officers and men from the Tonnerre area while several thousand "AWOLS or expert managers" secured their own transportation. Some 1,200 89th soldiers came by rail from Germany.

The 89th "bugle corps" and the 144th Infantry band provided the music, the spectators the cheers, and the teams the thrills. The 36th scored in the first quarter on a fumble recovery by McCuller and dominated the first half. At the end of the first quarter, frenzied Arrow Head fans "swept over" the sideline barrier past [192] the military police and held a "giant snake dance" on the field. At the intermission, the 89th commander, Major General Frank L. Winn, fired up his division’s squad with "one of the most effective appeals" the players "had ever listened to." In the second half, Lieutenant Potsy Clark, left halfback from Illinois, scored two touchdowns, one on a 65-yard dash in the mud, to give the 89th a 14-6 victory and the AEF championship. Sorely missed by the Arrow Heads was the defensive stalwart, Choate, who returned to the States early.

Following the final whistle, General Pershing, who attended the game with Rear Admiral Cary T. Grayson, President Wilson’s physician, Generals Liggett, Winn, and Smith, and other dignitaries, stepped onto the field and told the gladiators: "You have carried out the letter and the spirit of the plan adopted to promote clean sports" in the AEF. Afterwards, the 89th boys engaged in "a parade all their own" and did the town on money won from the Texans and Oklahomans.8

Four welfare organizations were active in the Tonnerre area. These were the Salvation Army, the Knights of Columbus, the Red Cross, and the YMCA. The problems of competition and duplication that characterized the service of the social agencies in the AEF were not as pronounced after the Armistice owing to the direction provided by General Headquarters through the appointment of area welfare officers. Colonel James was placed in overall charge of welfare activities in the Tonnerre area.

The social organizations were hampered at the outset by lack of facilities, equipment, and supplies, but toward the end of the 36th’s sojourn, they were functioning with considerable effectiveness. The Salvation Army operated a canteen in a hotel at Dannemoine. It handled the "usual run of commissary supplies," sported a piano, and boasted an orchestra composed of local troops. The Knights of Columbus worked out of Vallieres, Chaource, Ervy, and Tronchoy. It furnished much athletic equipment and dispensed free such items as candy, soap, writing materials, tobacco products, and refreshments. The Red Cross tended to "the wants" of the sick, operated a home communication service for soldiers with personal problems, and distributed without charge jam, gum, tobacco, sweaters, quilts, magazines, and the like. Incidentally, this organization had meted food, drink, and tobacco to the troops under shell fire at St. Etienne and on the Aisne.

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Panthers to Arrowheads: The 36th (Texas-Oklahoma) Division In World War I
by Lonnie J. White
Copyright 1984 1998 by Military History Associates, Inc.
All Rights Reserved - Reprinted by Permission
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