36th Division in World War I


[25] Four veteran troops of the 1st Texas Cavalry, replete with horses and equipment, under Major, soon-to-be Lieutenant Colonel, John B. Golding of Amarillo detrained in Fort Worth on July 26, 1917. Their home bases were Amarillo, Corsicana, Houston, and San Antonio. They came from San Antonio though they had until recently been stationed in the Big Bend. They were the first Guardsmen of the as-yet unorganized 36th Division to occupy Camp Bowie and Major Golding was its first commandant. The purpose of their early arrival was to guard the camp during its construction.1

Other units—notably two companies of the 1st Texas Engineers from Dallas and Port Arthur; two companies of Oklahoma engineers from Oklahoma City and Tulsa under Major King; and six companies of the 1st Texas Infantry from Laredo, Lockhart, San Antonio, and San Marcos, accompanied by Colonel Guessaz, Lieutenant Colonel Herbert E. Stevenson of El Paso, and Major Edwin G. Hutchings—reported for duty in August. Their arrivals marked the real beginning of the Texas-Oklahoma Guard movement to Camp Bowie.2

That the 36th Division was about to take shape in fact—technically it had been created by the federalization of the two Guards on August 5—was clearly signified on the afternoon of August 23 when Major General Edwin St. John Greble and his aide, Captain William C. Houghton, stepped off the train from El [26] Paso in Fort Worth. The new commanding general of the 36th Division was greeted without ceremony by Captain Purcell, the camp quartermaster, and a plethora of newspapermen. The reporters noted that Greble was a big man physically, sported a gray mustache, radiated "friendliness and good fellowship," and looked every inch the general officer that he was. He was no stranger to Fort Worth for he and his wife and daughters had participated in the horse show events of the Fat Stock Show "in years past."

After a brief statement in which he promised that Texas would have reason to be proud of the 36th, Greble was driven by auto to the home of Captain and Mrs. Purcell for the night. The next morning he assumed command of Camp Bowie from Colonel Guessaz, Golding’s successor as commandant, thus formally opening the post for business. As commander of a divisional training camp, Greble was authorized to bypass the Southern Department and to report directly to the War Department. This World War I arrangement was designed to cut red tape and save precious time.

Nearly all National Guard divisions, including the 36th, were commanded by Regular Army officers. One familiar with the military history of the great war may recall the distinguished service of Major General John F. O’Ryan as commanding general of the 27th New York National Guard Division. He was as a National Guard divisional commander an exception since at least 44 states had no major generals in their Guard organizations.

Born at West Point, New York, in 1859, Greble received an at-large appointment to the United States Military Academy while residing in Pennsylvania. He graduated sixth in the class of 1881, and was commissioned a second lieutenant of artillery. His father, who was killed at Big Bethel in 1861, was a West Point graduate, as was his son, a major in a Georgia training camp. During his long career, General Greble attended military schools at Forts Leavenworth and Monroe and the Army War College; taught at West Point; toured Europe as an observer; and served in Cuba on two separate occasions. He was at divers times commandant of Fort Sill, a member of the General Staff, and an artillery commander at Naco, Douglas, and El Paso during the Mexican border troubles. He rose steadily through the officer ranks to brigadier general in the Regular Army in 1916 and to major [27] general in the National Army in 1917. So recent was his last promotion that he was still wearing the single star of a brigadier general at the time of his arrival in Fort Worth.3

Brigadier Generals Hoffman, Hulen, Hutchings, and George Blakely and Lieutenant Colonel Ezekiel J. Williams reported to Greble in the days immediately following the latter’s assumption of command at Camp Bowie. Blakely, the only Regular Army officer of the brigadiers, was a native of Pennsylvania, 47 years old, a graduate of West Point, a former math instructor at his alma mater, and an old artilleryman. He was serving as a War Department inspector general at the time of his appointment as brigadier general in the National Army and assignment to the 36th. Williams was a native of Georgia, a former school teacher and principal, a Spanish American War veteran, and a Regular Army officer. He had recently been jumped two grades to lieutenant colonel in the National Army and sent to the 36th as chief of staff.

Other officials assigned to the divisional staff by the War Department and soon to arrive were Lieutenant Colonel Raymond F. Metcalfe, surgeon; Major J. S. Upham, assistant chief of staff; Major E. F. Graham, adjutant; Major Paul M. Goodrich, signal officer; Major J. V. Kuznik, ordnance officer; Major John P. Hasson, quartermaster; and Major Harry S. Grier, inspector. All were Regular Army and nearly all held, or would soon hold, rank in the National Army.

National Army rank was temporary since the component itself was created for the emergency. Many Regular and some National Guard officers held National Army commissions. Because it seems appropriate in some instances to distinguish between the basic components of officers, the reader is warned that many officers referred to herein as Guard or Regular Army also held rank in the National Army. As a general rule, Regular Army and Guard officers did not mix well in World War I; basically their animosity for each other, where it existed, was one of full-time professionals versus part-time citizen soldiers. Regulars tended to be rigid, formal, well-trained, perhaps rank-hungry career officers while Guard officers were likely to be somewhat loose, informal, moderately-trained non-professionals.4

General Greble established divisional headquarters in a tent north of Arlington Heights Boulevard overlooking the city and [28] most of the camp. There in succeeding weeks he met regularly with his generals and staff officers to prepare a training program, to plan the organization of the division according to a new table of organization prescribed by the War Department, to rearrange the War Department’s schedule for bringing in the remainder of the Guardsmen, and to provide for the federal muster-in of those Guard units that had not participated in a general prefederalization inspection by Regular Army officers conducted late in July.

Although several Guard organizations had arrived at Camp Bowie, the large majority were still at collection points scattered about Texas and Oklahoma awaiting transportation. The War Department planned their movement for September 3rd and 4th, but the incomplete state of camp construction, especially of water facilities, which had been delayed owing to the accident of the train conveying the necessary pipes, precluded the handling of more than one regiment at a time. Greble therefore rearranged the troop train schedules so as to stagger the arrivals of the remaining units. The change inconvenienced many Guardsmen, such as those at El Paso who were aboard railway cars when word came that their departure had been postponed, but Greble and his chief of staff believed their discomfort was minor in comparison to what it would have been had they been transported as originally planned.

The movement of almost the entire National Guard of the United States was completed between August 15 and October 15, 1917. Involved in the massive operation were 920 special trains loaded with nearly 295,000 men. Some 50,000 Guardsmen rode regular trains or provided their own transportation. Of the 22,341 Guardsmen who came to Camp Bowie, the whole Oklahoma Guard and at least 10,300 troops of the Texas Guard were conveyed by 45 special trains.

It was truly hustle and bustle at Camp Bowie during late August, September, and much of October as the bulk of the Texans and Oklahomans detrained in Fort Worth, hiked to their quarters, underwent processing, were assigned to new organizations, and commenced training. Clothing was distributed to uniformless men and physical examinations including shots for typhoid and smallpox were administered to those who had not received them. Each unit was inspected soon after its arrival, sometimes by General Greble himself.

[29] There was confusion, but for the most part, thanks to the change in the arrival schedules, the reception of the troops went rather smoothly. On August 30, one company of engineers from Ardmore, Oklahoma, reached Camp Bowie at about the same time as the 1st Oklahoma Infantry left Lawton. The rousing sendoff of the Oklahoma infantrymen by 10,000 well-wishers and the town band was typical of those given to Guard units elsewhere. Upon arriving at Camp Bowie the next day the Oklahomans found to their consternation that the water in their area was temporarily undrinkable because of "a trace of iron and oil" in the new pipes and that electric lights had not yet been installed in their mess halls.

Infantrymen, artillerymen, cavalrymen, and others, in large and small numbers, trickled in during the ensuing seven weeks. About 600 men mostly of the 1st and 7th Regiments of Texas Infantry arrived on September 3, and a contingent of 6th Texas Infantry under Colonel Muchert reported on September 4. As if their introduction to army life was not traumatic enough, the several companies of the 1st, 5th, and 7th Regiments of Texas Infantry that reached the post on September 6 were greeted by a violent wind and rain storm that blew down tents, turned company streets into "rivers," and soaked "everybody and everything." By the end of September only those organizations on border assignment remained to be delivered. On October 11 the first of these, three companies of the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Texas Infantry under Colonel Hoover, which had been guarding Camp Travis, came in. The arrival on October 17 of six companies of the 3rd Regiment of Texas Infantry, which came from Corpus Christi on 15 coaches, concluded the movement to Camp Bowie. Most of the veteran units were among the last to report; this was probably planned deliberately since they were less in need of the basic training in progress than the recently-created organizations. Simultaneously with the troop operation, Camp Bowie received large shipments of horses, supplies, and equipment.5

The greatest challenge facing the division high command during the early weeks of Camp Bowie’s occupation was to organize the division according to the table of organization favored by General Pershing and recently adopted by the War Department. The table provided for a powerful "Square Division" built around two infantry brigades, each containing two [30] massive regiments totalling 7,440 enlisted men. An artillery brigade was to be formed of three regiments. These and numerous separate units called for a division of 991 officers and 27,114 men.6

In connection with the organization—contemporaries often referred to it as "reorganization"—of the National Guard divisions, the War Department ordered the renumbering of brigades and regiments without reference to home states. The numbers for the National Guard infantry and field artillery brigades began with 51 and infantry and artillery regiments and all separate regiments, battalions, trains, and service units with 101. The purpose of this numbering system was, as in the case of divisions, to make bookkeeping easier and perhaps to minimize the individuality of the National Guard units, which the Regular Army frowned upon as detrimental to military unity. Nevertheless, divisions continued to be known by their states of origin and subordinate units managed to retain a measure of local identity.

The numerical structure of the 36th Division was the 71st and 72nd Infantry Brigades; the 141st, 142nd, 143rd, and 144th Infantry Regiments; the 61st Field Artillery Brigade; the 131st, 132nd, and 133rd Field Regiments; the 111th Regiment Engineers; the 111th Ammunition Train; the 111th Field Signal Battalion; and so on. One should keep in mind in trying to understand the numerical system that the numbering of National Guard divisions began with 26 and that the 36th Division was the 11th in the order of numbering. The numbers for the two infantry brigades of the 26th Division were, for example, as the first National Guard division, 51 and 52 and those for the 36th Division, as the 11th, 71 and 72.

Given some thought the numerical arrangement for divisional units may perhaps be discernible here, but contemporaries at the outset found the system difficult to understand. In August, 1917, the War Department assigned Generals Hulen and Hutchings as commanders of the "70th" and "61st" Infantry Brigades. Early in September it was announced by Lieutenant Colonel Williams that Hulen and Hutchings would command the "71st" and "70th" Infantry Brigades, respectively. Finally, the matter was cleared up and Hutchings was given the 71st and Hulen the 72nd. Blakely was from the beginning assigned to the 61st Field Artillery Brigade and Hoffman to the 61st Depot Brigade.

[31] The formal organization of many divisions, including the 36th, wag delayed because the War Department was dilatory in making copies of the divisional tables containing the details of their composition available to commanders. At Camp Bowie Greble ordered a temporary arrangement on September 1 placing the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th Regiments of Texas Infantry and the 1st Regiment of Texas Cavalry in the "70th" (71st) Infantry Brigade under Hutchings; the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments of Texas Infantry in the "71st" (72nd) Infantry Brigade under Hulen; the Texas artillery and several miscellaneous units in the 61st Field Artillery Brigade under Blakely; and the 1st Regiment of Oklahoma Infantry and remaining miscellaneous units in the 61st Depot Brigade under Hoffman. Shortly afterwards the 7th Regiment of Texas Infantry was shifted to Hoffman. Hutchings, Hulen, and Hoffman’s commands were commonly known at Camp Bowie as the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigades.7

After receiving a copy of the table with the exact information needed, Greble together with Williams and other officers formulated a plan for the organization of the 36th. Before it was finally completed, or ordered into effect, Greble, accompanied by Williams, Houghton, and two enlisted men, left the post in accordance with General Pershing’s policy of bringing divisional training camp commanders to Europe for a tour of the Western Front. Thus it was left to General Blakely, four days later, on September 23, as acting divisional commander, to order the transfers of old units to the new. Both the organization of the division and the relocation of units necessitated thereby were to be completed by October 1, 1917.

In accordance with Blakely’s order, the 71st Infantry Brigade, consisting of the 141st and 142nd Regiments and the 132nd Machine Gun Battalion, was formed from the 1st, 2nd and 7th Regiments of Texas Infantry and the 1st Regiment of Oklahoma Infantry. The 72nd Infantry Brigade, composed of the 143rd and 144th Regiments and the 133rd Machine Gun Battalion, was taken from the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Regiments of Texas Infantry and the 1st Regiment of Texas Cavalry. The 61st Field Artillery Brigade, constituted of the 131st, 132nd, and 133rd Regiments and the 111th Trench Mortar Battery, originated from the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Texas Field Artillery and the 1st Regiment of Texas Cavalry.

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