36th Division in World War I


W. D. Cope

The entire National Guard of Texas, as it existed in 1917 was mustered into the Federal service, Texas Guardsmen constituting the major portion of the 36th Division and a part of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division.

The Rainbow Division, which was the first National Guard Division to go overseas, was composed of National Guard troops from all parts of the United States, Texas, furnishing the 117th Supply Train. which was made up of Motor Truck Companies 1 to 6 inclusive, from Dallas, Austin, Houston and Big Spring. The glorious record of this division, the many engagements in which it participated with honor and distinction, the praises, citations, and decorations which were won by this division as a fighting unit, and by its individual members, are known to all who followed the history of the World War in the making. I shall not therefore dwell at length upon the fortunes of this division, but shall hasten to the consideration of Texas’ Own

The 36th Division

Certainly my report would not be complete without some account of the achievements of this division, composed very largely of Texas National Guardsmen, which, although it sailed for France at a much later date than the Rainbow Division, nevertheless saw fighting that was quite as fierce, and achieved quite, as much glory (in the hearts of Texans, at least) as any American Division in France. If space would permit, I would submit to you in full the official history of the 36th Division as it was compiled by Captain Alexander White Spence of Dallas, who was Aide-de-Camp to Major General William R. Smith, for a more comprehensive, and, at the same time, more thoroughly interesting account of this division’s activities could scarcely be written. I very much regret that funds have not been available for the publication of this history, so that a copy thereof might be placed in every school and every public library in the State of Texas. To the manuscript of Captain Spence’s history which has been filed in this office, I am indebted for the principal facts set forth below:

The 36th Division, which as such, was organized between August 5th and October 15th, 1917, was composed of the Texas and Oklahoma National Guards, Texas furnishing about eighteen thousand officers and men, while Oklahoma furnished about twenty-five hundred officers and men. To this was added at later dates, some eight thousand, five hundred drafted men. From the time of its organization until it was ready to move overseas, the Division was commanded by Major General E. St. John Greble. He was succeeded by Major General William R. Smith, who commanded the division from the time it sailed for France, in July 1918, until its return to the United States in the spring of 1919.

Organizations which went to make up the 36th Division. were the 1st Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General Henry Hutchings, and consisting of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments, Texas Infantry; the 2nd Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General John A. Hulen, and consisting of the 1st, 5th and 6th Regiments, Texas Infantry, and the following separate organizations:

The 7th Texas Infantry, the 1st Texas Cavalry, the 1st and 2nd Regiments, Field Artillery, the 1st Battalion of Engineers, Headquarters Train and Military Police, Division Headquarters Detachment, Division Headquarters Troop, 1st Field Signal Battalion, Ambulance Companies No. 1 and 2, and Field Hospital Company No. 1.

With the exception of the 1st Infantry Brigade, one squadron of the 1st Cavalry, Battery A, 1st Field Artillery, Companies A and B, 1st Engineers, and Field Hospital, Co. 1, all of these organizations had come into existence since the declaration of war against Germany. The old Guard had served on the Mexican Border from May 9, 1916 to March 26, 1917, when it was mustered out of Federal Service, only to be called back again five days later (with the exception of the Brigadier General and his Staff, Field Hospital Co. No. 1, Battery A, 1st Field Artillery, and Companies A and B, Engineers) and sent to the Border, where it remained until early in October when it was ordered to report to Camp Bowie at Fort Worth. The new units which were organized during the Spring and Summer were all mustered into Federal Service on August 5, 1917 and ordered to report immediately to Camp Bowie.

The organization of the various National Guard units into a division was not an easy task, for, in the first place, many radical changes were necessary to make the units conform with the new Tables of Organization which had just been published by the War Department; and. in the second place there were certain inharmonious elements, thrown together in the new organization. The Division Commander and his staff were of the Regular Army, and at that time Regular Army officers and National Guard officers did not have the respect for each other that they were to gain in the days of training and fighting that followed. The situation was not improved by the arrival of a large number of Reserve officers, fresh from the First Training Camp at Camp Sheridan, Ill. The National Guard officers, who had worked hard, and not infrequently spent considerable money from their own pockets in organizing their units, were inclined to resent the presence of these new officers; while the Reserve officers, who had just completed a very strenuous course of training in order to secure their commissions, were often inclined to regard the National Guard officers as men who had obtained their commissions through political influence, regardless of merit. Finally, the National Guards of Texas and Oklahoma had each cherished the hope of being the nucleus for a separate division, and each was opposed, at the outset, to the amalgamation.

The reorganization went steadily forward, however, being completed, on paper at least, by October 15. and in the months of hard training that followed old prejudices were laid aside and gradually forgotten.

In the conversion of the Texas and Oklahoma National Guards into the 36th Division, the following plan, as outlined in Memorandum No. 56, Headquarters 36th Division, September 23, 1917, was followed:

New Organization Formed From
Division Headquarters Troop Texas Headquarters Troop
132nd Machine Gun Battalion
(4 Company)
M. G. Companies of the 3rd and 4th Texas Infantry and the 1st Oklahoma Infantry.
71st. Infantry Brigade
Brig. General Henry Hutchings, Commanding
132nd Machine Gun Battalion
(3 Company)
M. G. Company of the 1st Texas Infantry, (nucleus).
141st Infantry 1st Texas Infantry (less M. G. Company and 2nd Texas Infantry.
142nd Infantry 7th Texas Infantry and 1st Oklahoma Infantry (less M. G. Company).
72nd. Infantry Brigade
Brig. General John A. Hulen, Commanding
133rd Machine Gun Battalion
(3 Company)
Machine Gun Troop, 1st Texas Cavalry, (nucleus).
143rd Infantry 3rd Texas Infantry (less M. G. Company) and 5th Texas Infantry.
144th Infantry 4th Texas Infantry, (less M. G. Company and 6th Texas Infantry).
61st. Field Artillery Brigade
Brig. General George Blakely, Commanding
Brigade Headquarters One lettered troop, 1st Texas Cavalry, (surplus men thereof to Trench Mortar Battery).
131st Field Artillery (3 inch guns) 2nd Texas Field Artillery.
132nd Field Artillery (3 inch guns) 1st Texas Cavalry (less 2 lettered troops and M. G. Troop).
133rd Field Artillery (6 in. Howitzers) 1st Texas Field Artillery.
111th Trench Mortar Battery One lettered Troop, 1st Texas Cavalry plus surplus men from Troop assigned to 61st F. A. Brigade Headquarters.
111th Regiment Engineers
Col. W. J. Barden, Commanding
1st Battalion Texas Engineers and 1st Battalion Oklahoma Engineers
111th. Field Signal Battalion
Major G. A. Robinson, Commanding
1st Texas Field Signal Battalion.
111th Train Headquarters and Military Police.
Major John H. Zachary, Commanding.
Texas Train Headquarters and Military Police
111th. Ammunition Train
Major Donald R. Bonfoey, Commanding.
1st. Separate Squadron Oklahoma Cavalry( nucleus for horse section,) Motor section skeletonized by selection of suitable men from entire division.
111th Supply Train
Major J. H. Zachary, Attached
Skeletonized by the transfer of suitable men from entire division.
111th. Sanitary Train  
141st. Ambulance Company 2nd. Texas Ambulance Company.
142nd. Ambulance Company 1st. Texas Ambulance Company.
143rd. Ambulance Company 2nd. Texas Ambulance Company
144th. Ambulance Company 1st. Texas Ambulance Company
141st. Field Hospital Company 2nd. Texas Field Hospital Company.
142nd. Field Hospital Company 1st. Texas Field Hospital Company
143rd. Field Hospital Company 2nd. Texas Field Hospital Company.
144th. Field Hospital Company 1st. Oklahoma Field Hospital Co.
111th. Engineer Train Transfer of officers and men of the 111th. Engineers

The training of the new Division proceeded under great difficulties at the outset, owing to the impossibility of securing sufficient equipment. As has been previously shown, the majority of the organizations had been formed during the preceding summer, so that the greater part of the men had had little, if any training before they reached Camp Bowie. Arriving at camp in their civilian clothes, it was weeks before uniforms could be provided for all, and much longer before they could be equipped with rifles. For a time the men drilled and did guard duty with sticks and clubs, but as soon as the units of the old guard arrived from the Border, the rifles with which they were equipped were distributed throughout the Division in order that all troops might have a chance to familiarize themselves with the handling of a gun. A range was built near Camp Bowie where the troops could fire the regulation target course; also an elaborate system of trenches was constructed and from time to time different units were ordered for a tour of duty in these trenches where they received instruction from officers and non-commissioned officers detailed from the French and English Armies, under conditions approximating the conditions actually existing on the Front at that time.

Cold weather, which came with extraordinary severity, for Texas, in early November, caused a great deal of hardship among the men, owing to the fact that it had been impossible to obtain winter clothing for them. Many cases of pneumonia and not a few deaths resulted, but after the first month conditions were very much improved, the overcoats and wollen clothing having finally arrived, and the tents in which the men lived having been made more comfortable by being floored with wood.

As the strenuous training continued during the winter and spring, officers and men began to wonder if the Division would ever receive overseas’ orders. Rumor after rumor went through the camp, the frequency and credibility of the rumors increasing as active preparations for a move were begun by the various organizations, boxes and equipment being marked and everything put in readiness for the expected orders. Actual warning orders for the movement to the Port of Embarkation were received on May 16th. At about the same time, the Division received as replacement about sixty-two hundred drafted men from Texas and Oklahoma. The Division had been called upon at various times during the training period to furnish replacements for organizations going overseas, a great many picked men and specialists having been given up to other organizations, so that it was necessary, in order to bring the strength of the Division back to normal, that these untrained men be taken in and assimilated, as far as possible, during the last few weeks of the training period. The drafted men were kept in an isolation camp for a period of three weeks and were given some rudimentary training in footdrills there, but very little time remained for their training after they were assigned to organizations.

The order directing the immediate commencement of the movement of the 36th Division to the Port of Embarkation came on July 2nd, and on July 3rd, the advance party left Camp Bowie. The movement of the main body of the Division began on July 8, all organizations going to New York with the exception of the 143rd Infantry, which sailed from Newport News. On July 13th, Maj. Gen. William R. Smith formally assumed command of the Division, and at the same time, Brigadier General John E. Stevens took command of the 61st Field Artillery Brigade, Brigadier General George Blakely who had commanded the Brigade during the training period having been assigned to duty with the Coast Artillery Corps when the Division left Camp Bowie. The advance party for the Division Railed from New York on July 15, while the last detachment set sail on August 5th.

On July 27th, Division Headquarters were established at Bar-sur-Aube in the 13th Training Area, and during the succeeding few weeks all organizations of the Division, with the exception of the 61st Field Artillery Brigade, and one or two smaller organizations, reached this area. Upon landing in France, the 61st Field Artillery Brigade, less Companies C and D of the 111th Ammunition Train which remained with the Division proper, was sent to the Artillery Training Camp at Coetquidan, where it was to remain until after the signing of the Armistice.

During the training period in the United States, the Division had been trained chiefly in the tactics of trench warfare, but before its arrival in France the old deadlock on the Western Front had been broken, and the armies were fighting in the field. It was necessary therefore, during the training period at Bar-sur-Aube, to give the Division intensive training in the new kind of fighting. The training program called for many hikes and maneuvers, and field exercises, designed to accustom the men to fighting in the open. As a part of the training, eighty officers and eighty-six non-conimissioned officers were sent to the various A. E. F. training schools, while seventy-five lieutenants, graduates of such training schools were detailed to the Division as instructors. The fact that the Artillery Brigade had been separated from the main body of the Division, and that the Division had no tanks, proved to be very unfortunate, the men having to go into the lines without having ever had any experience in maneuvering with an artillery barrage, or with tanks.

In this connection, it should be mentioned that the Division was exceedingly short in equipment of all kinds. So many men had been rushed overseas during the summer of 1918 that it had been utterly impossible to get the necessary equipment across the sea, with the available shipping, or to obtain such equipment in Europe, and that equipment and material which was available, had at that time been placed at the disposal of the First American Army which was preparing for the great offensives of St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. Only a bare one-third of the authorized number of animals could be obtained, while of the three hundred combat carts allowed, the Division obtained only seventy. Of seventy-six water carts and seventy-eight rolling kitchens allowed, the Division had three and eight respectively. In wagons there was a shortage of only 13 per cent, but the shortage of animals made it impossible to use all of the equipment on hand. This condition was particularly unfortunate with respect to the machine gun battalions, which had their full allowance of carts, but no animals to draw them. Motor transportation was likewise very short, and while the Division had been able to get it’s full quota of most of the items of ordnance equipment, it had no Stokes mortars, no Very (signal) pistols, and only 36 per cent of the allowance of automatic pistols.

In addition to the shortage in equipment, the Division was also very much under strength, having landed in France with some fifteen hundred less men than authorized by tables of organization, and having had its strength depleted further by the transfer on September 10th of the 111th Engineers to First American Army, and the dispatch of two thousand trained infantrymen as replacements to other American divisions. The influenza epidemic which visited the Division while in the Bar-sur-Aube area still further reduced its strength, but all efforts to secure replacements before going into the Lines proved futile.

But in spite of the difficulties under which they had been trained, in spite of their meager equipment and, depleted ranks, the morale of the men who constituted the 36th Division was very fine. In this connection, I wish to quote briefly from Captain Spence’s manuscript:

" . . . Save for the lingering effects of the influenza epidemic, the physical condition of officers and men was excellent. Naturally big and aggressive, their year of training had made them strong and agile. Their morale was nothing short of superb. Although they had never been under fire, a doubt as to their bravery never entered anyone’s mind; and, during their entire training period, both in the States and at Bar-sur-Aube, their spirit esprit, and military aptitude had been the comment of all their instructors, French, English, and American. Their confidence in themselves was amazing; they had come to France to whip the Boche, and it never occurred to any of them that they would not do it."

Their first chance to close with the Boche came early in October, the training period at Bar-sur-Aube having ended September 26th. The Division moved first by rail to the Area between Epernay and Chalons, where it became a part of the Army Reserve of the French ‘Armies of the Center’. Due to the stubborn resistance which was met with by the 4th French Army in its offensive on the Champagne front, the 36th Division was transferred, on October 3rd, to the Army Reserve of this Army, and on the night of October 4th the 71st Brigade and the 111th Field Signal Battalion were moved by trucks to the vicinity of Suippes and Somme-Suippes where they were to relieve a part of the 2nd Division, which, operating with the 4th French Army, had suffered very severe casualties on the day before, but had succeeded in capturing the important Blanc Mont ridge. On the following day, the 71st Brigade was ordered to relieve the front lines of the 2nd Division, and this relief was accomplished on the night of October 6th, but not without considerable difficulty, as the guides furnished by the 2nd Division lost their way and led the relieving units around in the darkness, under continuous shell fire, for the greater part of the night.

The first day in the lines was spent in resting, reconnoitering, getting up supplies, and in preparing for an attack which was known to be impeding. The shortage of draft animals had prevented the supply trains of the Brigade from keeping up with its march, and from the evening of the 5th to tile morning of the 9th, the troops were forced to subsist on their reserve rations, with a very scanty supply of water. Orders were received for the 71st Brigade to go forward in attack at 5:15 on the morning of October 8th.

Of this attack, little need be said, except that the Texas units, under fire for the first time, weary from forced marching, harassed by hunger and thirst, under-strength, under-equipped, and confused by the partial failure of liaison arrangements which resulted in some units receiving the final orders for the attack only a short time before the attack was to commence, went forward, fighting as Texans should, and gained ground against veteran German troops. Owing to imperfect information as to the enemy’s position, the Artillery barrage which was to protect the advance fell beyond the enemy’s front lines, leaving the German troops unscathed and alert to meet the attack. As a result, the sniping and machine gun fire was intense. The French battalion of light tanks which was to accompany the 71st Brigade in its attack, failed for one reason or another to render any material assistance and was withdrawn from the attack early in the day, one tank having mistaken a party of Americans for the enemy and fired upon them. Nevertheless, ground was gained and secured along the whole front of the Brigade and before the end of the first day, the patrols of the 142nd Infantry were exploring the banks of the Arnes—a mile or more from the point of departure. During the first day’s fighting, the 71st Brigade captured about 600 prisoners and over 75 machine guns, but the day’s casualties amounted to 66 officers and 1227 men—more than 26 percent of the total number of officers and more than 20 percent of the total number of men in the Brigade. Of these casualties, 19 officers and 247 men were killed, the remainder being wounded, gassed or missing.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the 36th Division had marched up to the vicinity of Suippes and Somme-Suippes, and on the night of October 9th, the 72nd Brigade, and other units of the 36th Division entered the lines, completing the relief of the 2nd Division, with the exception of its artillery, engineers, and certain supply detachments. which were attached to the 36th Division. On the morning of October 10th, the command of the Division sector passed to the Commanding General, 36th Division.

Immediately after taking over the command, General Smith began making plans for an advance, Corps Orders having been issued for the 36th Division to move forward, cleaning out a small system of trenches which was still held by the Boche, and connecting with the advance positions of the French 7th Division on it’s left. Owing to the heavy casualties suffered by the 71st Brigade and its exhaustion from previous fighting, the plan of attack adopted was for the 72nd Brigade, which had taken up the support and reserve positions, to pass through the front line positions held by the 71st Brigade and continue the attack, the 71st Brigade, in turn taking up the support and reserve positions. For some time, there had been indications pointing to a withdrawal by the enemy. Fires and explosions had occurred behind the enemy’s lines on the preceding night, and on the morning of the 10th enemy observation balloons had been moved back and the artillery seemed to be fighting from long range. Nevertheless, when the 71st Brigade was ordered to ‘maintain contact with the enemy’, it became evident that the enemy was still there in force, every attempt to advance being met by fierce sniping, and machine gun fire. In spite of this fact, however, the 141st Infantry was able, during the afternoon of the 10th, to push its lines forward along its whole front for a distance of 500 yards.

The attack of the 72nd Brigade began between 5 and 6 o’clock in the afternoon of October 10th, but when the forward movement started the enemy laid down such an intense artillery fire that it was impossible for the 144th Infantry to continue the advance, while the advance of the 143rd Infantry was badly disorganized. During the night, however, efforts were made to organize and co-ordinate the various elements. The troops frequently found themselves in direct contact with the enemy during the night, and in one case a unit, the Headquarters Detachment, 2nd Battalion, 143rd Infantry, found itself entirely within the enemy lines and under point-blank machine gun fire. Throwing themselves upon the ground, and favored by the darkness, all the officers were able to make their escape with the exception of the Battalion Adjutant who was taken prisoner. Shortly before dawn, the enemy withdrew from the immediate front, and on the morning of the 11th, the 72nd Brigade, completing the passage of the front lines, took up the pursuit of the retiring enemy.

The advance continued during the day, impeded only by occasional skirmishes with the enemy’s rear guard. About noon, a brisk resistance was encountered on a ridge a mile and a half north of the town of St. Etienne, and later in the day a skirmish, under enemy artillery fire, took place around the village of Machault. After about an hour’s fighting the 144th Infantry established its front lines about three-quarters of a mile north of this village, while the 143rd established its position directly to the east of it. Early the next morning (October 12th) the advance was resumed in the direction of Givry and Attigny, towns about two and a half miles apart on the Aisne River. Pushing steadily north against light artillery resistance through Dricourt and the eastern edge of Mt. St. Remy, the regiments halted for the night on Hill 167, overlooking the valley of the Aisne from Attigny to Givry, from which positions patrols were pushed out to the banks of the Ardennes Canal, paralleling the Aisne River. The 71st Brigade had in the meantime been reorganized, and followed as Division Reserve.

Reconnaissance on the morning of the 13th showed that the enemy held the north bank of the Aisne in great force. Trees had been cut away from the south bank, bridges had been destroyed, and every attempt of the American patrols to cross the river brought forth heavy machine gun and rifle fire. This, coupled with the fact that the rapid advance of the 4th French Army on the 11th and 12th had taken it well ahead of the 1st American Army on its right and its bases of supply in the rear, made necessary a temporary rest before the offensive could be resumed. With the exception of the taking of Foret Ferme, a small but very notable operation, the remainder of the Division’s stay in the Lines was spent in reconnoitering for possible crossing places along the canal and river, building bridges and pontoons, and otherwise preparing for further advance. On the night of the 13th the 71st Brigade went into the line to the east of the 72nd, taking over the front of the 73rd Division for three quarters of a mile east of Attigny. The Division’s main line of resistance was established along the slope of Hill 167, the territory between that and the river being held by a series of small outposts. The question of supply during this period was an exceedingly serious and difficult one, owing to the Division’s shortage of transportation, and the fact that it was necessary for the supply and ammunition trains to make a daily haul of 35 miles from the nearest railroad, over shell-torn and congested roads. Nevertheless, after reaching the Aisne, all organizations were supplied with food, water, and ammunition regularly.

On the night of October 20th, because of the withdrawal of the 7th French Division, the 36th Division’s sector was extended two kilometers to the left, but two nights later the former boundary was re-established on the left, and the sector was extended four kilometers to the right in order to take over the front of the 73rd French Division, which was withdrawn. This last shift brought the Division directly opposite a strongly fortified enemy position known as Foret Ferme, about three kilometers east of Attigny. The Aisne River at this point made a horse-shoe loop, the toe of the loop pointing to the north and extending into the German lines. The Germans had withdrawn their general line from the south bank of the Aisne, but the territory enclosed within this loop, which was about three kilometers wide at the mouth and some two and a half kilometers in depth, was still held by them. The land within this loop was considerably higher than the ground immediately to the south, which was occupied by the 71st Brigade, and this position was of great tactical value to the enemy, since it could be used for observation posts, and in case of an attack on the Allied lines, would serve as a bridge-head and debouching point. For this reason, and because it would serve as a convenient salient from which to launch an attack on the German positions north of the river, it was of the utmost importance that this stronghold be wrested from the enemy.

The Boche, a past master at rear-guard defense, had taken pains to make this position as nearly impregnable as possible. The mouth of the loop was protected by machine-gun emplacements, a series of barber-wire entanglements, and a well organized trench system, and to make a successful attack more difficult, the whole position was overlooked by the enemy artillery placed on the hills along the north bank of the Aisne. An abandoned farm situated within this area gave it the name of Foret Ferme.

The 73rd French Division had launched a surprise attack on the Foret Ferme on the night of October 16th, which had broken down completely before the enemy’s machine gun fire, and on the following night, a carefully prepared attack, supported by artillery, like-wise failed.

On October 23rd General Prax, commanding the 11th French Army Corps, to which the 36th Division was then attached, directed that Division prepare and execute an attack on this position, and on October 24th, the Order of Operations formally ordering this attack to be made before October 27th was received from Corps Headquarters. On the same day, an order was received directing the relief of the 36th Division on the night of October 26th-27th, with the exception of the front line battalions in the attack on Foret Ferme, which would be relieved on the night of the 27th-28th. On the 26th of October, the Corps Commander directed the relief of the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, which was attached to the 36th Division, on the night of the 26th. In view of the complications which might result from an attack and a relief taking place on the same night, and also in view of the tremendous odds against our troops in this attack and the fact that the position seemed to have little tactical value as long as the enemy held the heights on the opposite side of the river, General Smith wrote to the Corps Commander, pointing out the advisability of postpolling the date of relief and suggesting that the attack might be made more effective if the French divisions of the 11th Corps would co-operate, making at this time an attack on the heights of Voncq which dominated the Foret Ferme position. General Prax overruled in part, the objections urged by General Smith, but nevertheless directed that the relief of the 2d Field Artillery Brigade be postponed until the night of October 27th-28th, and that of the battalions conducting the assault until the night of the 28th-29th.

Upon the request of General Smith, the heavy artillery of the 11th Corps, the artillery of the 9th Corps, the 61st Division and the 53rd Division, and the Trench Mortar Battery of the 11th Corps were placed at his disposal, in additions to the artillery attached to the Division, which included the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade and the 2nd Trench Mortar Battery.

October 27th was designated as the day for the attack, and 16:30 (4:30 P. M.) was designated as the hour. The time allowed was sufficient to permit all elements engaged in the attack to become thoroughly familiar with the plan of attack as outlined by the Division Commander and the organization of the attack was as perfect as it could have possibly been made. Everyone, from the battalion commanders down to the automatic riflemen and grenadiers, knew exactly what part he was to play in the attack, and how to play it. The 143rd Infantry was relieved on October 26th, so that the attack was made by the two regiments of the 71st Brigade, with the remaining regiment of the 72nd Brigade (144th Infantry) standing by to maintain liaison.

At 4:10 P. M. the artillery preparation commenced, and such an inferno of high explosive was directed upon enemy positions across the river that their artillery was completely neutralized, while the Foret Ferme position was raked with shrapnel. Smoke shells were used a few minutes before the attack commenced, the smoke screen thus thrown up effectively shielding the infantry from observation and direct fire from the enemy positions north of Ill. Three minutes before "H" hour the creeping barrage started, and at exactly 4:30 the infantry "jumped off" and began the advance. The 2nd Trench Mortar Battery had concentrated its efforts on the wire entanglements, and a detail of wire cutters from the 2nd Engineers cut paths through the wire and left guides to show tile infantry the way. The attacking troops moved forward rapidly, overcoming such resistance as was offered by the enemy, cleaning out dug-outs and trenches with grenades, and sending back the prisoners under guard. Within less than an hour after the attack started, the green star signals were sent up, indicating that the objective had been reached.

The 133rd Machine Gun Battalion contributed largely to the success of this attack, furnishing forward machine gunners, and putting down a machine gun barrage to cover the attack of the infantry. The forward machine gunners went over with the infantry and when the objective was reached, helped to consolidate the position, being so placed as to be able to repel any counter attack that the enemy might attempt. The machine gun barrage, which was fired through the artillery barrage, re-enforced the latter, providing a thick hail of bullets which kept the enemy in his dug-outs until our infantry was upon him.

The total number of prisoners taken during this operation was 194, four officers, five non-commissioned officers, and 185 privates. So far as it is known, all the remainder of the Prussian Guard battalion which had occupied this position was annihilated. The total losses sustained by the attacking forces was eleven killed and thirty-six wounded.

It has been said that this attack surpassed a maneuver for perfection, the entire operation proceeding, from start to finish exactly according to the field orders.

The splendid discipline displayed by the officers and men shows how effective their training had been, and leads one to speculate upon what they might have accomplished in future operations, had it been required of them.

A very interesting feature of this operation was the outwitting of the German intelligence service, which had become very proficient in the art of "listening in" on telephone messages, and thus obtaining advance information of all our movements. Among the Oklahoma National Guardsmen, there was a considerable number of Indians, many of whom were well educated and able to speak several native dialects, besides having a good understanding of English. Preparatory to this attack, Indians of the Choctaw Tribe were detailed to the different headquarters as telephone operators, and all messages were transmitted in their native language. The members of the German intelligence service, well versed in all European languages, apparently had no knowledge of the Choctaw dialects, and were therefore completely baffled. As a result, the attack was seemingly a complete surprise to the enemy. When the Armistice was signed, the American General Headquarters had made plans for the training of a large number of Indians as telephone operators, with the idea of detailing them to all American divisions on the front.

As previously stated, the 143rd Infantry had been relieved on October 26th, and in accordance with orders from the Corps Commander, the relief of the remaining units of the 36th Division was accomplished as rapidly as possible after the attack on Foret Ferme. On the night of October 27th. the 144th Infantry, with the Third Battalion, 141st Infantry, and the First Battalion, 142nd Infantry, were relieved by French troops, and marched to the area of Somme-Py. The command of the Division Sector passed to the Commanding General of the 22nd (French) Division on the morning of October 28th. On the night of the 28th, the First Battalion, 141 Infantry and the Second Battalion, were relieved, while the Second Battalion, 141st Infantry, and the Third Battalion, 142nd Infantry, which were in the front lines, were relieved on the morning of October 29th. By the evening of the 29th the entire Division had assembled in rest camps north and northeast of Somme-Suippes, the Division P. C. being established at Camp Montpelier.

In the meantime, orders had been issued on October 28th, transferring the 36th Division to the First American Army, and directing it to assemble on October 31st in the area around Dampierre-le-Chateau. Accordingly, the movement to this area was started on October 30th. Field Order No. 95, 1st Army, designated the 36th Division as a part of the army reserve attached to the 1st Corps. After a short rest at Dampiedre, the Division moved to the vicinity of Triacourt, where it remained until after the Armistice. Immediately after the arrival of the Division at Triacourt, however, Companies A and E of the 111th Supply Train were sent to the First Army for service on the Verdun front, and these two companies continued to operate with the First Army until November 18th, when they rejoined the Division just before departure from Triacourt Area.

The 111th Engineers, which, on September 10th, had been detached from the Division and assigned as corps engineers to the First American Army Corps, had gone into position immediately, on the St. Mihiel front. When the St. Mihiel drive started on September 12th, the Engineers, in three detachments, followed behind the advancing troops, building roads and narrow gauge railways, salvaging property, destroying enemy mines, and doing all the other work which falls the lot of Engineer troops. After the completion of the St. Mihiel drive this organization rested for one day, and then began the march toward the Argonne Forest. At one point enroute, it came under direct observation from the enemy, and was heavily shelled, but the only casualties were three men wounded and a few horses killed.

Arriving in the Argonne on September 22nd, the regiment was again divided into three detachments, which were placed behind the assaulting divisions, where the "follow up" work after the advancing army was resumed and continued until a few days before the Armistice when it was relieved. After a brief rest period, the Engineers took up the march to rejoin the Division, November 16th. During the entire period of its active operations, the 111th Engineers had only one man killed and nine wounded.

Immediately after its arrival in France, the 61st Field Artillery Brigade was sent to the Artillery Training School at Camp de Coetquidan, in Brittany, where, on September 5th. it began an eight weeks’ course of preparation for service at the front. The Brigade had been well trained in the United States, and after six weeks of this course it was declared fit and ready for service. Orders were issued for it to join the 36th Division, which was then on the Champagne front, but the movement was delayed on account of the impossibility of securing horses to equip the "75" regiments and tractors for the "heavy" regiment. Before the necessary transportation could be secured, the Armistice had been signed.

On December 21st, the orders directing the 61st Field Artillery Brigade to join the 36th Division was countermanded, and the Brigade was directed to turn in all equipment and prepare for return to the United States.

The Brigade commander, Brigadier General John E. Stephens, died of pneumonia in the hospital at Camp de Coetquidan on January 4, 1919, Colonel F. A. Logan of the 133rd Field Artillery succeeding temporarily to the command of the Brigade. In February he was relieved by Colonel Otho W. B. Farr, a Regular Army officer, who commanded the Brigade until its demobilization.

On March 2nd, the movement of the Brigade from Camp de Coetquidan to St. Nazaire for embarkation to the United States began. Upon leaving Coetquidan, the Brigade was divided, the regiments sailing separately. The 131st Field Artillery was demobilized at Camp Travis, San Antonio, and the 133rd and 132nd in the order named, at Camp Bowie, Fort Worth.

A few days after the signing of the Armistice, orders were received assigning the 36th Division to the Corps, (First Army) and directing it to proceed by marching to an area around Tonnerre. The march was begun on November 18th. On the day preceding orders came in assigning thirty-six hundred replacements to the Division, the replacements themselves, arriving after the march was begun. Four hundred and thirty animals were also assigned to the Division at this time, but arriving too late to be used in the march, they were herded together and conveyed behind the troops. The march was concluded on November 29th, a distance of more than two hundred kilometers having been covered.

Arriving in the Tonnerre Area, the organizations were billeted in villages throughout the area, and the long period of waiting began. The billets available were in a very poor condition, as a rule, and owing to the continuous rain, and the scanty allowance of wood for heating purposes (which in most cases was too green to burn) the men suffered considerable physical discomfort, but nevertheless the sick rate was kept very low—much lower than it had been during the previous winter at Camp Bowie.

Although the Armistice had been signed, there was no relaxation of discipline, and rigorous military training was continued. In addition to the military training, however, time was found for the establishment of numerous schools in the Division area, wherein were taught common and high school subjects, and for the encouragement of athletics. More than three thousand men enrolled in these schools, besides which three hundred and forty-eight officers and men took advantages of a four month’s course offered by the leading French and English Universities.

In the field of athletics, the 36th Division men won honors throughout the A. E. F. The Division football team won the championship of the First Army, and with the 89th Division Team, was a contender for the A. E. F. championship, losing only by a score of 14 to 6 in favor of the 89th.

On April 9th, 1919, the Division was visited and inspected by General Pershing. During the ceremonies, the General conferred the Distinguished Service Cross on several members of the Division and decorated the various regimental colors. After the review, he made a short address to the officers and men commending them for their splendid service, and a few days after his visit, he sent the following letter to the Division Commander:

"MY dear General Smith:

It was with great pleasure that on April 9th, I inspected and reviewed the 36th Division north of Tonnerre. In noting the splendid physical condition of its personnel, I could well see why your combat record in France, though short compared with some others, is one of which all ranks may be well proud.

Arriving in Europe towards the end of July, the 36th Division was at once sent to an area near Bar-sur-Aube, where for two months it followed the regular course of training which had been prepared. In October, however, as the great Allied attack was nearing a crisis, it was thrown directly into the active battle without the usual preliminary month’s training in a quiet sector of the line. In this emergency, the Division responded to every call made upon it. With the veteran 2nd Division, it operated under the 4th French Army in its drive west of the Argonne, which was made in conjunction with the Meuse-Argonne attack of the First United States Army. The 71st Brigade, on October 8th, attacked from St. Etienne-a-Arnes. On the 11th, the entire Division was in and advanced in the next two days approximately 21 kilometers to the Aisne River. Continuous contact was kept with the enemy while preparations were made for crossing the Aisne. No further advance, however, was made, although on October 27th, the troops in the 71st Brigade attacked and captured Forest Farm. The Division was relieved on October 29th.

The bearing of the Division in this, its first experience in battle, showed the mettle of the officers and men, and gave promise of what it would become as a veteran. Please, therefore, extend my congratulations to the members of your Division, who may return home proud of the record of their services, with the knowledge that they have acquitted themselves well as part of the American Expeditionary Forces.

Very sincerely yours,
General, Commander-in-Chief, A.E.F."

As might be expected after the signing of the Armistice, many rumors relative to the Divisions probable return to the United States began to circulate. Hope of an early return, however was shattered by a semi-official announcement that the 36th Division would become a part of the Army of Occupation and the fact that the announced sailing schedule for the return of the A. E. F. failed to include the 36th. Indications that the Division would remain overseas indefinitely seemed to be strengthened by the breaking up of the 1st Corps, in the latter part of March, the passing to the S.0.S. of the 78th and 80th Divisions, and the transfer of the 36th to the 8th Corps. Suddenly however, out of a clear sky, on April 10th, orders came directing the Division to prepare for movement to the Le Mans area, and thence home.

The movement to the Le Mails Area began on April 26th, and was completed early in May. Upon arriving in this area, the men went through the usual "cootie Mill," being steamed and bathed, deloused, disinfected, and inspected, preparatory to return to the States. The entrainment for Brest began on May 17th, the entire Division (with the exception of the Artillery, already accounted for) embarking from this Port. The only unpleasant incident of the return voyage was a severe storm, encountered by all the troop ships, which resulted in two men of the 142nd Infantry on board the cruiser Pueblo being washed overboard and drowned.*

The 143rd Infantry landed at Newport News, the remainder of the Division landing at Hoboken. After a short stay in rest camps near the ports, where the men were again inspected and deloused, the various organizations entrained for Camp Bowie to be demobilized with the exception of the 141st Infantry, and certain casual detachments which were demobilized at Camp Travis.

Just prior to the embarkation of the 36th Division Headquarters, the French Government, through its representative at Brest, presented to General Smith, the following letter of farewell to the Division:

Paris, May 19th, 1919.

"French Premier
Minister for War

From: The French President, Minister for War.
To: Commanding General, 36th Division, U. S.

My dear General:

I am happy to extend to the 36th Division, U. S. when it is going to leave France, the cordial greeting of the Government of the Republic.

Your Division arrived in France at the time when the great battle was in progress which was to decide the fate of the War. It took a glorious part in it. The fighting which it did from the 8th of October, and which led to the Aisne, between Attigny and Givry, proved the valor and the spirit of discipline of your soldiers.

I send them my affectionate wishes at the time when they go back to their homes. I wish that the remembrances of their Campaign in France remain lively in their hearts. France will not forget the generous help which they brought to her.

Believe, my dear General, in the assurance of my very devoted feelings.

For the Premier, and by his order,

The General Commission for Franco-American War Affairs.
(Signed) Andre’ Tardieu."

*The severity of this storm is indicated by the fact that the wind reached a velocity of ninety-six miles an hour. The Pueblo, a converted battle cruiser was much lower on the water than the average liner, so that the decks were completely swept by the big waves. The men drowned were: Corporal Harry S. Hovey, Co. E, 142nd Inf. and Pvt. Joseph C. Strong, Co. H, 142nd Inf.

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