36th Division in World War I

Chapter II:
The Formation of the 36th Division

[32] The Texas and Oklahoma battalions of engineers became the 111th Regiment Engineers; the 1st Texas Field Signal Battalion, the 111th Field Signal Battalion; the Oklahoma cavalry and selected men from other Texas and Oklahoma units, the 111th Ammunition Train; and the Texas and Oklahoma ambulance and field hospital companies, the 111th Sanitary Train. The 111th Supply Train was skeletonized from all Guard units, the 111th Train Headquarters and Military Police was the same as the Texas Train Headquarters and Military Police, and the 111th Engineer Train was selected from the new 111th Regiment Engineers. The Texas Headquarters Troop formed the Divisional Headquarters Troop and men from the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Texas and 1st Regiment of Oklahoma Infantry comprised the separate 131st Machine Gun Battalion. The composition of the several brigades and separate units was arranged so as to mix veteran Guardsmen with the green recruits and "to produce the highest proficiency." One Guard outfit, the 1st Texas Supply Train, commanded by Major A. E. Devine, was transferred to the 42nd Division and did not participate in the organization of the 36th.

No mention of Hoffman’s 61st Depot Brigade was made in Blakely’s order. The precise status of this brigade and its relationship to the 36th was not clear in the beginning. It was now apparent that it was not technically a part of the division. Surplus personnel and transfers from other stations would undergo processing and some training in this brigade and be fed into the 36th as needed.8

Presently Blakely issued the necessary order for the assignment of officers. Designated as regimental colonels and lieutenant colonels were Guessaz and Will E. Jackson, 141st Infantry; Bloor and Jayne, 142nd Infantry; Hoover and Holman Taylor, 143rd Infantry; Muchert and Oscar E. Roberts, 144th Infantry; Birkhead and John D. Jennings, 131st Field Artillery; Sholars and Golding, 132nd Field Artillery; Logan and C. 0. Elliott, 133rd Field Artillery; and W. J. Barden, 111th Engineers. The last-named regiment evidently had no lieutenant colonel until November when Captain Baker, who supervised the construction of Camp Bowie, was elevated two grades in the National Army and transferred to the 36th.

Other field officers and units to which they were assigned were Colonel Rains, 111th Train Headquarters and Military Police; [33] Lieutenant Colonel Stevenson, 111th Ammunition Train; Major George A. Robinson, 111th Field Signal Battalion; and Majors Ellis Stephenson, Preston Weatherred, and Louis Davidson, 1131st, 132nd, and 133rd Machine Gun Battalions, respectively. The 111th Sanitary Train, which was divided into two sections, had no commanding officer until the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel John J. O’Reilly to the post in February, 1918.

All of the officers immediately above except Baker and Barden were National Guard. The hometowns of those Guard officers not previously mentioned were Jackson, Hillsboro; Roberts, Taylor; O’Reilly, Fort Worth; Jennings, Timpson; Elliott, Fort Worth; Robinson, Dallas; Stephenson, Oklahoma City; Weatherred, Waco; and Davidson, Dallas. Birkhead and Weatherred would many years later command the Texas National Guard. Another Guard officer, Captain Raymond S. McLain of Oklahoma City, who was assigned to Stephenson’s battalion, would serve as a general officer in World War II. Two Guard officers who received positions on the division staff either during the consolidation period or soon thereafter were Major Clark C. Wren of Houston as judge advocate and Major Bolend as sanitation inspector.9

Blakely’s divisional organization and assignment-of-officers orders were met with considerable unhappiness. Much pride existed in the veteran Guard units and their members reluctantly accepted the new organizations which not only were numbered differently than the Guard but also made no reference to the state of origination. Presumably the Guardsmen generally did not know until Blakely’s September 23 order that they would no longer be identified by their old unit designations. The Guard generals, however, knew of the pending changes in advance and were probably responsible for Greble’s not issuing the organizational order himself before the general left for France.

State pride was so great in both Guards that Texas officials sought as early as May, 1917, the permission of Secretary Baker to form a purely Texas division, and Oklahomans in July applied political pressure to have their Guardsmen trained in Oklahoma. The new divisional arrangement was particularly galling to the 1st Oklahoma, the pride of the Sooner state, whose recruits had been promised during the summer enlistment campaign that the regiment would retain its state identity. To make matters worse, the 1st Oklahoma was not to form a separate regiment, but was to [34] be merged with the 7th Texas Infantry to comprise the 142nd Infantry.

Of the Oklahoma officers, the most upset was Lieutenant Colonel Jayne, who complained that there would "be no Oklahoma unit anywhere." There were "so many Texas regiments" that they cannot lose their identity, merely taking different numerals." Captain A. H. Drake of Childress, 7th Texas Infantry, perhaps reflected the sentiment of the Texans in his statement that the 1st Oklahomans "will not lose their identity any more than we will." The 7th Texas would not be known as such "any more either."

Oklahomans at home felt strongly enough about the matter to seek redress in Washington. Their efforts were to no avail, for Secretary Baker in a meeting with "prominent Oklahomans" on September 29 flatly refused to budge from the War Department’s decision to renumber the divisional units without reference to states. Consequently, Blakely’s order stood, though he was constrained, owing to the furor, to amend it to move back the date for the completion of consolidation and removal of the Guardsmen to their new unit locations at Camp Bowie to October 15.

Jayne was presumably so distressed that he took a 10-day furlough, leaving Bloor as the new commanding officer of the 142nd to deal with the unruly Oklahomans in the best way he could. Fortunately for Bloor, General Hoffman, who had every reason to be as dissatisfied with the rearrangement of units, which left his brigade without a single Oklahoma organization, as Jayne, urged the men of his former regiment in a farewell speech to accept consolidation. Standing on "a dry goods box" on October 12, Hoffman told the 1st Oklahoma troops, who were gathered around him, that orders "were orders, and you are soldiers." He wanted them "to be friendly to the men of the Seventh" and to accept their new commander whom he declared was "one of the best colonels in the American Army." Following Hoffman’s remarks, Bloor welcomed the Oklahomans to the 142nd and asked them as "experienced veterans" to assist the green Texans in becoming soldiers. "We want to make this the best regiment in camp."

[35] This instance showed Bloor and Hoffman to be the fine officers that time would prove them to be beyond a doubt. Hoffman was known as the "democratic general" on account of his informality and enjoyed "a close hold" on the Oklahomans who generally responded to his urgings. And Bloor applied just the right psychology in asking them, in effect, to transfer their loyalty to the 142nd. There is evidence to indicate that at least some of the Oklahomans were beginning to resign themselves to their fate even before Hoffman’s and Bloor’s entreaty. "We like Texans," declared Lieutenant Chastaine on September 28, "and if our regiment must be broken up we prefer to be with them than any others." Still over 200 diehards went AWOL upon consolidation, "straggled back" one by one, were clapped in the guardhouse, and were fined by a summary court. As early as November, 1917, however, the Oklahomans were reported "well satisfied" by Sooner Congressman Thomas D. McKeown who visited Camp Bowie. Suffice it to say that Oklahomans generally came to regard the 142nd as their own and that their pride in the division as a whole matched that of the Texans.

The changeovers at the company and battery levels were seemingly better accepted than those at the regimental level. Blakely instructed the brigade commanders in forming subordinate organizations to give "due consideration to locality from which the men originally came" and to see that, as a general rule, two old companies were utilized in forming one new. There were eight Guard regiments of infantry from which to draw in forming the 141st, 142nd, 143rd and 144th Infantry Regiments and there was no particular problem in following these instructions. Many of the old companies contained fewer than the authorized 150 men and the new 250-man rifle companies absorbed them on a two-for-one basis.

The mergers were, for the most part, executed in such manner that men recruited in a particular city or area were placed in the same company. The company therefore would be known by the place whence the men had come. For examples, Company B, 144th Infantry, was a Dallas company and Company H, 142nd Infantry, was a Texas Panhandle company. The three Texas Guard artillery and cavalry regiments generally became the three divisional artillery regiments and therefore batteries remained pretty much the same in points of origin. Battery C, 132nd [36] Field Artillery, was a Fort Worth battery and the majority of the 133rd Field Artillery was comprised of Dallas troops. Similarly, the 111th Ammunition Train was composed in considerable part of Oklahomans who were transferred from the old Oklahoma cavalry.

It seems worth noting that many companies and batteries referred to in terms of origin often were merely the places the men had been recruited. For example, Company K, 142nd Infantry, originated in part from Company G, 7th Texas Infantry, which though recruited in Wichita Falls contained many men, such as Bruce Cobb, Archibald S. Hart, and John A. White, from neighboring communities.

The organization of the 36th was thus accomplished as painlessly as possible. Perhaps the most unhappy men among the Texas Guardsmen were those of the 1st Texas Cavalry. Since the cavalry had, according to Captain Spence, always considered itself "to be the superior branch of service," it was quite a comedown for them to become artillerymen.10

One source of discontent to the men who expected at the time of enlistment to serve under them, and certainly to the officers involved, was the assignment of many officers to positions which were not comparable to their former ones in the Guard or which placed them among men from a locality other than that whence they came, or both. There were simply not enough slots in some posts from company to regiment in a Square Division to give all officers places of importance equal to those they had held in the Guard units. Colonel Rains’s position as commander of the 111th Train Headquarters and Military Police was not comparable to his former regimental command. The assignments of Colonels Delamater and Nimon and Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Lapowski of El Paso to posts in the 61st Depot Brigade hardly compared with their former ones in the Texas infantry regiments. The command of the Depot Brigade, which fell to Nimon in December, 1917, was by no means comparable to a regimental command in the 36th. Certainly the post was below the talents of General Hoffman, Nimon’s predecessor, who was transferred to Newport News, Virginia, and given command of the 93rd (Negro) Division, which he took to France. At the time of his retirement many years later Hoffman was the commanding general of the 45th (Oklahoma-Arizona-Colorado-New Mexico) National Guard Division.

[37] One reading the sources relating to the assignment of officers may be somewhat misled by the casual references to surplus officers. There was indeed a surplus in some grades, but in others, specifically the lieutenant ranks, there existed a shortage. The deficiency was caused mainly by the creation of new and larger units. Although there were only four infantry regiments under the Square-Division table, the rifle companies required six lieutenants each as opposed to two in those of the eight infantry regiments of the Guard. Despite the shortages, many lieutenants found themselves unassigned or placed temporarily in the Depot Brigade where they were considered surplus. Finding the "right" place for some of them was evidently a problem that lent itself either to delay or to considerable shifting about, or both. One junior officer complained that he was assigned to four different organizations in as many days.

Among the "surplus" officers placed in the Depot Brigade were 216 Reserve-officer graduates of the Officer Training Camp at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, who were sent from Camp Grant to Camp Bowie by the War Department early in September "to fill out vacancies." Some were given spots in the old Guard units, especially the 1st Oklahoma, but they were resented by the Guard officers, who considered them "interlopers" and competitors, and they were subsequently transferred to the Depot Brigade until the Guard officers could be placed in the 36th. Although the Camp Grant officers were given the option of remaining or transferring to training camps of their home states, most stayed and were gradually assigned positions in the 36th Division.

Above the lieutenant grades there was a genuine surplus of officers, especially at the captaincy level. Although a number of new positions calling for the rank of captain were created in the four Square-Division infantry regiments and three machine gun battalions, they were not enough to accommodate all captains who commanded companies in the eight Guard infantry regiments. Surplus captains were attached to consolidated companies or were placed in the Depot Brigade for a time, but eventually those for whom positions were not found were either transferred or discharged.

Further complicating the placement-of-officers process was the arrival of 61 captains and lieutenants from Camp Kearny, California. Most of this group were graduates of the First Officer [38] Training Camp at Leon Springs—officer training camp graduates in World War I were sometimes commissioned in ranks higher than second lieutenant—who had been sent to the 40th Division. Most were Texans, but even so the Guard officers resented them as much as the Camp Grant transfers. Some were assigned to the Depot Brigade while the majority were placed in the 36th. One of the Reserve officers given a post in the division was Captain Spence, whose rank at the time was first lieutenant. In December, 1917, the remaining unassigned Reserve and Guard officers were shipped out to other training camps or to units of a new Texas National Guard undergoing organization for home service.

That there was no general surplus of officers at the time is indicated by a statement in the Star-Telegram in November, 1917, that nearly all organizations were short of officers and the problem was solved by the commissioning shortly thereafter of 94 enlisted men as second lieutenants. Presumably those officers transferred in December were considered weak prospects or there were no positions available to them in their skills or ranks.

Much of the ill-feeling evinced by the Guard officers toward the Reserve officers during the early months at Camp Bowie stemmed simply from the fact that they were Reserve officers, some from states other than Texas and Oklahoma. Further, many Guard officers had spent much of their time and money in recruiting and organizing companies during the pre-federalization months and/or were veteran Guardsmen who felt they should receive priority over the Reserve officers. On the other hand, the Reserve officers had won their commissions after "strenuous competition" as opposed to many inexperienced Guard officers who received commissions "by political means." Notwithstanding the infusion of Reserve officers, the majority of 36th officers remained National Guard and, to win acceptance, the Reserve officers found it judicious to accept commissions in the Guard. As to the relationship between the Guard and Regular Army officers, Chastaine recalled "a keen feeling of resentment" against the Regulars "at first" which "gradually wore away." The Regulars were few in number, however, and any animosity displayed by the officers of either component toward the other was of little consequence at Camp Bowie.11

The officer placement problem was by the end of 1917 no longer a major concern. Still, there continued some movement of officers [39] owing to discharges for physical disability or incompetence—this story will receive attention later—and to routine transfers in and out. Early in 1918 Major Irving Phillipson, a West Point graduate from Michigan, relieved Major Grier as division inspector. In another change at divisional headquarters, Major Graham was replaced as adjutant by West Point graduate Major W. R. Scott. Although the 36th staff by this time contained several Guard and Reserve officers in command or assistantship positions, it remained a largely Regular Army body. In April, Colonel William A. Johnson came in to replace Colonel Barden, who was transferred out, as commander of the 111th Engineers. Johnson, a West Point graduate just over 30 years of age, was the youngest colonel in the division.

Most vacancies in the junior officer ranks were filled during the spring of 1918 by graduates of the "Third" Officer Training Camp at Camp Bowie. The army authorized a series of at least four three-month officer training camps during World War I and what was actually the first such school at Camp Bowie was just one in the third series of camps in the United States. Nearly one-half the army officers in the war received their commissions in these schools.

The officer training camps were conducted under the supervision of divisional training camp commanders. According to Spence, the 36th was "the only National Guard Division which was permitted to conduct a school of its own." Appointed commandant and executive officer of the Third Officer Training Camp at Camp Bowie were Majors William L. Culberson and Alvin M. Owsley, respectively. Both officers were veteran Texas Guardsmen in the 142nd Infantry. Owsley was from Denton and Culberson, a relative of U. S. Senator Charles A. Culberson, was a former Hillsboro school administrator. Of the 530 applicants accepted for admission to the Camp Bowie school, 438 were enlisted soldiers of the 36th; the rest were "from other places." Several were former National Guard lieutenants, captains, and majors who had been released for incompetence and wished to "enter the army as officers once more."

The quarters of the officer trainees were located north of Arlington Heights Boulevard near the Depot Brigade. The school began early in January, 1918, and offered both infantry and artillery instruction with emphasis on the basics. The training was [40] arduous and each "cadet" was watched closely. Three hundred men graduated but no more than 60 percent were actually commissioned. Although a considerable number of the "90-day wonders" were sent to other divisions, many were assigned to the 36th. Those who did not recieve commissions were returned to their old units.

The Third Officer Training Camp at Camp Bowie was no sooner closed than an examining board headed by Major Culberson began selecting students from among non-coms recommended by company and battery commanders for a Fourth Officer Training Camp. Besides 538 soldiers of the 36th, over 200 civilians, largely former students at the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio, attended the camp. In mid-June, 1918, about a month after it was opened, it was disbanded in anticipation of the 36th’s departure for Europe and the "third lieutenants" transferred to other schools, the infantrymen to Camp Pike, Arkansas, and the artillerymen to Camp Taylor, Kentucky.12 The 36th, which undoubtedly would have received a number of the commissioned graduates, left the post slightly understrength in officer personnel.

The shortage of junior officers during the Camp Bowie training period was seemingly less critical than that of enlisted men. The Square Division called for several thousand troops more than there were Texas and Oklahoma Guardsmen. Many National Guard divisions were similarly understrength and, consequently, the War Department authorized them to call upon the National Army divisions composed of draftees from the same states as the Guardsmen to remedy the deficiencies. The 36th drew surplus troops chiefly from Camp Travis where the 90th Division, comprised of Texas and Oklahoma conscripts, was trained.

By early November, 1917, some 5,000 draftees had reported to the Depot Brigade. They were primarily Texans and Oklahomans from Camp Travis; the rest were surplus Iowa and Minnesota draftees from Camp Dodge, the training station of the 88th Division. Detrained at the railroad spur adjacent the Camp Bowie warehouses, the several contingents were each greeted by a military band and marched by Lieutenant Colonel Lapowski to the Depot Brigade where the men were soon classified and assigned to the 36th by Colonel Nimon.13

Because the number of surplus draftees at Camp Travis was insufficient to meet the manpower needs of the 36th, the division [41] proceeded to secure men through recruitment. Major T. H. Scott, a Guard officer, physician, and politician from Oklahoma, who had served in the Regular Army, recruited some men for the field hospitals under his command in his home state soon after the Texas and Oklahoma Guards came to Camp Bowie, but the major division effort did not come until January or February, 1918. During these months about 700 men were recruited by Captain C. C. Gustine, assistant division adjutant, in charge of the enlistment campaign, with the assistance of the Confederate Veterans organizations of Texas and Oklahoma. The head of the Texas selective service also contributed to the drive to complete the division by ordering draft boards to send men directly to the 36th.

The recruitment effort was cut short in February in accordance with an army directive which prohibited beginning December 15, 1917, the enlistment of men in the draft-age bracket of 21 to 30 who had registered with the selective service. Both the Texas selective service and the 36th had unwittingly violated the prohibition. News of the directive was especially disappointing to Captain Gustine who had about 500 prospects lined up for enlistment in Oklahoma, only 50 of which fell outside the 21 to 30 age bracket and could be taken. Nevertheless, the recruitment campaign had been prolific while it lasted.14

The strength of the 36th fluctuated throughout the division’s stay at Camp Bowie. It was reported in January, 1918, that a total of 993 men had been discharged owing to physical disability, many as a result of recent examinations for "nervous and mental diseases." The number seems large, but only two other training camps could boast of fewer rejections. By late January, 200 "experts" in critical "trades," which included specialists "in French," had been transferred to other divisions and 355 more were under orders to proceed to eastern ports where they were to join divisions departing for France. The drain continued into February when it was reported that hundreds of men had been lost from the 141st Infantry alone. Moreover, a number of German and Austrian aliens, though loyal to the United States, were discharged in accordance with army policy of releasing those who did not wish to engage "their own people" in combat.

The rather heavy losses of troops caused some concern to the division high command that the 36th might become a "Depot Division" for the purpose of training men and providing [42] replacements to other divisions. It was a fact that certain divisions arriving in France were designated as such and that several National Guard divisions functioned in this capacity. It was also true that other training camp divisions were losing men to divisions higher up on the overseas priority list but were by no means replacement divisions per se. The War Department announcement in March, 1918, that a new draft call would allow understrength divisions, including the 36th, to fill to authorized strength, seemed to ease the minds of the ranking officers on this score. If the War Department intended to fill the division to strength, then it followed that it was not to become a replacement division.15

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