36th Division in World War I

Chapter III:
Camp Bowie

The coordinated exercises provided valuable training to all brigades and separate units which had previously practiced independently. They were particularly worthwhile to the 111th Field Signal Battalion which used most of its means of communication—field telephones, radios, buzzer telegraph, heliograph, flags, carrier pigeons, rockets, colored lights, motorcycles, and runners—plus airplanes from Taliaferro Field in providing liaison between units and between them and the divisional post of command (PC).6

The problem of inexperienced officers and non-coms was remedied by the 36th’s long training period and by schools at Camp Bowie and elsewhere. The 36th was barely organized when a divisional school of arms was established. The school included several departments which were referred to as schools and were attended separately as such. Thus the hand and rifle grenade, bayonet, rifle and pistol, automatic arms, machine gun, musketry and field fortification, gas defense, sniper, and intelligence schools constituted the school of arms as initially organized. They were, as a general rule, attended by at least one non-com from each company and one officer from each regiment or battalion who were expected to teach the others in their organizations.

Veteran British and French officers and non-coms, who began coming in during the fall of 1917, advised the 36th in practically every aspect of its training and they were nowhere more prominent than in the school of arms. The general practice was for each school to have an instructor from the 36th and an "advisory instructor" or two from the ranks of the foreign advisers. For example, the bayonet school was conducted by First Lieutenant B. H. Davis, a National Guard officer, with First Lieutenant J. A. Campbell of the British Army serving in an advisory capacity. Conspicuous among the score or more foreign advisers were Captains Rene V. A. Happe, E. S. Peck, and R. S. Mayne, experts in trench fighting and field fortifications, gas warfare, and machine gun tactics, respectively. Instruction in the school of arms was, like the entire training program, hampered in the beginning by shortages of equipment and weapons.

Liaison, wagoners and teamsters, staff officers, discipline, clerical, and other schools were established as time went on. The [66] school for staff officers was taught by foreign officers and was attended by all brigade, regimental, and separate-unit commanders, members of the divisional staff, Greble, and certain other officers. The school on discipline was conducted by Captain Houghton and "practically all officers" took the course at one time or another.

The latter school was established by Greble in response to the stress placed on the necessity of good discipline by General Pershing during the visit of the divisional commanders in France. Discipline in the National Guard divisions, and the 36th was no exception, was not the best in part because many officers and men, having been friends in civilian life, were prone to "excessive familiarity." Pershing believed the salute was the most evident sign of good discipline and, accordingly, Greble insisted that this aspect of military courtesy be observed by everyone at all times. "The various Divisions sent over to Europe," Greble lectured his officers, "are very likely to be judged as to their readiness for battle by the manner in which they observe regulations ... [and] the regulation on saluting is one which shows up first."

Many officers, especially regimental commanders, were sent to schools elsewhere, mainly the Brigade and Field Officers School at Fort Sam Houston and the School of "Fire" at Fort Sill. Among those who attended one or both were Colonels Muchert, Hoover, Bloor, Guessaz, Logan, Birkhead, Sholars, and Elliott.

The large majority of officers however weak they may have been at the outset profited from the schools and the on-the-job training at Camp Bowie and measured-up to the high standards required of officers in World War I. Although most vacancies seemingly were filled with transfers, there were a number of promotions. Among those promoted were Williams and Jackson to full colonel and Hasson and Kuznik to lieutenant colonel. Jackson replaced Guessaz as commander of the 141st Infantry some time after the latter was assigned as rifle range officer.7

A minority of officers did not come up to standards, however, owing either to physical disability or to ineptness and were transferred or discharged, usually the latter. If Colonel Donaldson, the War Department inspector general who visited the division before training was truly in full swing, had been given his way, nearly all of the National Guard officers would have been released. Donaldson reported that nearly two-thirds of the 36th [67] officers—he meant the National Guard officers—had no military experience prior to the summer of 1917 and many were not knowledgeable enough of their positions. The same was true of the majority of non-coms "who owed their appointments frequently not to their military knowledge or experience, but because they were thought to possess possible ability as noncommissioned officers."

The inspector was most distressed that the line officers above the rank of captain, Regulars excluded, were not "energetic" or did not possess "extended military experience." Every one of them "should be examined by a board of regular officers to determine their mental and physical fitness for command." Donaldson’s assessment seems unduly harsh even for an inspector general bent upon holding the highest standards and no doubt may be attributed in part to Regular Army prejudice against National Guard officers. Donaldson inspected two other National Guard divisions besides the 36th and did not see much hope for the higher-ranking Guard officers in any of them.

Donaldson singled out four colonels as especially unfit for command; these were Delamater, Guessaz, Hoover, and Nimon. Delamater lacked physical stamina "due to age." Guessaz had "a fine record" but lacked "force and energy" and was too old "for active service." Hoover was "unfitted temperamentally" because he "used profane and obscene language while handling his men. And Nimon had told a group of young Reserve officers, from which he had been instructed to select six for promotion, that there were many Guard officers more deserving of promotion than any of them. Hoover and Nimon were retained, but Delamater was sent to another station and Guessaz was retired. Nimon succeeded Guessaz as rifle range officer and was subsequently appointed commander of the military police in place of Colonel Rains, who was transferred. Rains served the remainder of his World War I career at camps in South Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama and was afterwards a general officer in the Texas National Guard.

Greble may have had Donaldson’s critical report in mind in January, 1918, when he announced that officers and non-coms who did not thenceforth perform satisfactorily would be dropped. The "old man," as he was called when he was not around, often gave personal instruction to officers and non-coms who were [68] experiencing difficulty during his daily rounds of the camp on Gray Bill. Greble seems to have been patient with the Guardsmen, perhaps a little too much so, in view of future events, with some of his marginal officers.

The evaluation of officer personnel by another War Department inspector general, Colonel Herbert 0. Williams, who appeared at Camp Bowie in the spring of 1918 was less severe than Donaldson’s, perhaps because many of the inexperienced officers had taken hold by that time, but it was critical enough. Williams noted that as of June 24, 1918, only 65 officers had been brought before efficiency boards. Of these, 21 had been discharged and the fate of about that many more had not been decided. These figures do not include a number of officers who failed the physicals administered to them by Metcalfe following Donaldson’s inspection. Williams complained in his report that "the small number of Regular officers of high rank" and "old political or National Guard ties" among the Guard officers made it "difficult to secure efficiency boards that would eliminate the unfit."

Among the higher-ranking officers whose competence was challenged by the inspector were Major J. H. Zachry, commander of the 111th Supply Train, Lieutenant Colonels Jayne, Elliott, Lapowski, and Taylor, and Brigadier Generals Blakely and Hutchings. It was alleged that Zachry did "not possess the ability necessary to properly perform the duties of his grade"; that Jayne was not a good officer; that Elliott was incapable as an artillery commander; that Lapowski spoke English with difficulty, was "slow mentally," lacked "professional education," and was too old; that Taylor lacked "force," "voice," and "presence"; that Blakely was "a poor mixer," did not possess "force," made "an ungainly figure on horseback," and was "a weak representative of the Regular Army in this division"; and that Hutchings lacked "physical force," "presence," "decision," and "confidence" and was inexperienced "in the tactical handling of a brigade."

The descriptions of Generals Blakely and Hutchings by the inspector were in sharp contrast to those of the two brigade commanders in the Star-Telegram. Blakely was described as modest, scholarly, hard-working, and highly-esteemed by the troops. He was physically of medium build, smoked a briar pipe, and although his face was "usually immobile," he had "a good American sense of humor." According to reporter Nell Flanagan, [69] Hutchings was a pleasant, modest, "skilled," and popular commander with a "flashing smile," dark mustache, and "fatherly" attitude toward his men. General Hulen, too, made a positive impression on Flanagan who reported that he was a big, "perfectly groomed," "keen and alert" officer. His "watchword" was "think," he enjoyed a reputation as a disciplinarian, and he was fond of outdoor sports.

Williams recommended and Greble concurred that Zachry, Elliott, Jayne, and Lapowski should be discharged and that Blakely should be assigned "to some staff duty or to the Coast Artillery." Zachry and Elliott lost their positions; Taylor was boarded but retained; Blakely was transferred to Camp Jackson, South Carolina; and the War Department did not approve the recommended discharges of Jayne and Lapowski. Greble "did not agree with the inspector in his estimate of General Hutchings" whom he gave a fairly low though passing efficiency rating and the War Department respected Greble’s assessment. Interestingly enough Greble scored Hulen, whose competence was not questioned, the same as Hutchings.8

Greble saved Hutchings from discharge or transfer, but he was unable to retain his own place as commanding general of the 36th. As a matter of fact, Greble first learned in March, 1918, from an Associated Press dispatch handed him by a reporter that he had been adjudged physically unfit for overseas duty. Although he soon lost his major generalcy in the National Army, he remained in command of the 36th in his Regular Army rank of brigadier general until the division left for Europe.

Greble guessed advanced age—he was 58 years old—as the cause of his discomfiture because he had passed the required physical examination for overseas service in Washington upon his return from Europe. Greble also believed that his relief was simply a decision made by the War Department. Actually, General Pershing, who preferred relatively young divisional commanders because the rigors of modern warfare required them to "get down in the trenches" with their troops, was responsible. Of fourteen major generals brought to Europe late in 1917 to acquaint themselves with conditions at the front, five, including Greble, were unacceptable to the Commander-in-Chief of the AEF because they were either physically unfit or unreceptive to new ideas. They were, in short, too old for Pershing’s tastes. Therefore [70] Pershing recommended to Secretary Baker and General Bliss that they be retired or left at home for other duty.

Pershing based his recommendations at least in part on the reports of the commanders of British divisions to which the major generals were attached at the front. In Greble’s case, however, Pershing acted on his own observations since Greble failed to attach himself to "any unit" of the British Fourth Army as it was intended that he should. In a meeting with the touring generals Pershing told "them personally my conception of the course of training that should be followed at home, making a special point of rigid discipline, rifle practice, and the instruction of junior officers in open warfare." Greble seems to have paid more attention to Pershing’s wishes regarding discipline and rifle practice than that on open warfare instruction.9

The members of the 36th and the citizens of Fort Worth, Oklahoma, and Texas were surprised and many indignant at Greble’s relief. Greble was a congenial, jovial, energetic, optimistic, personable, and well-liked officer who worked hard not only at training the division, but also at maintaining good public relations. He allowed civilians to watch the men drill, his camp visitation policy was liberal, and his door was open to visitors until the traffic became so heavy that he was forced to impose restrictions. One of the "hundreds of prominent citizens and officials" who visited him was Jacob Wolters, a leading Texas Militia enthusiast from Houston, who came away highly impressed with the general both personally and professionally. Newspapermen enjoyed almost free run of the camp and one, Star-Telegram reporter B. C. Utecht, who visited the post daily and wrote numerous stories about the 36th, was one of Greble’s most devoted admirers. Although Colonel Ezekiel J. Williams acted as the official division spokesman, Greble himself was seemingly never too busy to talk to the press. Several eminent citizens considered applying political pressure in Washington to have Greble retained as permanent commander, but he discouraged them from doing so because a decision by the War Department was final.10

There was little Greble and city officials asked of each other that was not granted. Twin matters on which Greble received local cooperation were those related to illegal sales of liquor and sex to soldiers. Drinking and prostitution were of much concern to [71] President Wilson and Secretary Baker who wished to contain both for moral and manpower reasons, primarily the latter since the two combined often produced crippling venereal disease. A lawyer and social worker named Raymond B. Fosdick investigated the drinking and vice problem for Baker during the Mexican border troubles. In the spring of 1917 the Secretary created a Commission on Training Camp Activities and appointed Fosdick as chairman.

Part of Fosdick’s responsibility was to enforce the sections of the Selective Service Act of 1917 which prescribed vice-free areas around military camps and prohibited the sale of liquor to men in uniform. Numerous red-light districts were shut down and an extensive education program on the hazards of venereal disease was conducted in the camps. Some politicians protested the execution of the government’s policy, but Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Texas officials seem not to have been among them.

The Guard movement to Camp Bowie was in progress when Greble touched on bootlegging, vice, and still another problem in an address to the Rotary Club. The bootlegger "was one of the chief menaces to the soldiers" because drinking "led to worse vices and might impair the army." The Guardsmen were a fine "lot of men" but because there were undoubtedly "bad men" in every outfit, his commanders were telling their troops to respect the local ladies. Nevertheless, it was a good idea for Fort Worth to do some "missionary work" of its own in this regard. Fort Worth and Tarrant County each appointed a woman officer to see that females were properly dressed and escorted and stayed out of dance halls, especially those where booze was sold.

Protecting the respectable girls was easier than preventing the sale of spirits to servicemen. There were 178 saloons in Fort Worth in 1917 and a growing number of bootleggers. Those soldiers who wanted the "fiery liquor" could get it without too much difficulty. Many soldiers arriving from the "dry climate" of Oklahoma found Fort Worth an "oasis" and heavy imbibers were reduced in rank or otherwise punished at the company level.

Reports of drinking and the shutting down of several cabarets by local and military police during the fall led to rumors around Texas that drunkenness was so rampant in Fort Worth that "wagon loads" of inebriated soldiers were transported from town to camp nightly. Police Commissioner 0. R. Montgomery [72] conceded that soldiers were arrested "practically every night," but most arrests were by military police for minor military infractions such as the wearing of mixed uniforms. Police Sergeant F. J. Evans thought the Sammies were generally conducting themselves in a "remarkable and commendable" manner in town. General Hoffman branded the stories abroad as "slanderous" and a Dallas newspaperman found the reports of numerous intoxicated and diseased men at Camp Bowie to be "absolutely false." In November, 1917, the War Department released figures showing only 61 cases of venereal disease in the entire division.

The basic question was not whether soldiers were obtaining liquor and frequenting brothels, but the extent to which they were doing so. Chastaine stated in January, 1918, that bootleggers from all over Texas and Oklahoma were in Fort Worth plying their trade with the assistance "of certain persons in the military." As the result, "drunkenness among some of the regiments" had "grown to serious proportions recently." Since Chastaine did not elaborate on his assertions and there is no evidence to indicate that either drinking or venereal disease hampered the training of the 36th at any time, one is left to wonder precisely what he meant by "serious proportions." It may nevertheless be concluded that drinking was increasing and that local and military police had failed to curtail illegal sales.

Early in February, Greble mounted an all-out "morality campaign" to minimize the sales of liquor and sex. Greble pointed out to the press that soldiers and civilians involved in bootlegging or vice were subject to imprisonment and/or fine. It was a violation of regulations for soldiers even to enter a bawdy house within five miles of camp. The general conferred with local officials and ranking subordinates on "ridding the vicinity of bootleggers and houses of ill repute" on February 9 and amended his visitation policy, which allowed visitors, including girl friends, in the men’s quarters during the week, to keep unchaperoned women outside regimental limits, to prohibit civilians from entering company streets without permission, and to establish a visitation tent for each company. On February 10 Greble, in an address to the Good Government League, endorsed its goal of keeping liquor and "bad women from the soldiers" because the latter had to be sober and free of disease if they were to be trained and "disciplined." And on March 3 Greble reprimanded [73] "organizational commanders" for administering "disciplinary punishment" to soldiers in possession of whiskey instead of preferring charges for their court martial.

Although it may follow logically that increased drinking and vice prompted Greble’s "crusade," in all probability it was due to pressure from Baker and Fosdick whose informants in Texas, according to Commissioner Montgomery, knew "nothing about the actual conditions." During February Fosdick dispatched an investigator to Camps Bowie and Logan and Baker requested Governor Hobby to ask the legislature to take steps to end the "deplorable conditions" in Fort Worth and Houston. Hobby forthwith proposed, and the legislature passed, a bill prohibiting the sale of liquor within a 10-mile zone of army camps, effective April 15, 1918. A state-wide prohibition law would close every saloon in Texas just before the 36th departed for Europe.

The Ten-Mile Zone Act was supported enthusiastically by Texas prohibitionists who had advocated such a measure at their convention during the fall of 1917 because they believed it would relieve "vice conditions ... about each camp." They had asked President Wilson’s and Governor Hobby’s assistance in creating dry areas, but Hobby had evidently ignored their proposal until prodded by Baker the following February.

City, county, and military police together with federal authorities were in the process of suppressing the liquor traffic and brothels when the Ten-Mile Zone Act was passed. During the first two weeks of February, 47 women and 20 bootleggers were arrested. In subsequent raids, 69 persons were picked up in houses and hotels on Henrietta, West 13th, lower Main and Houston, and upper Jones and Calhoun Streets. Many of those "pinched" were taken before a federal grand jury established to probe vice conditions, and shady ladies were treated for venereal disease at a detention hospital or sent to a city workhouse.

In March the raiders began stopping and searching automobiles for bootleg liquor. The stopping of autos, especially in one instance, when military police conducted wholesale searches, caused an outside report that Fort Worth was under martial law. The hunt for bootleggers in April led to a house "just across the road" from Camp Bowie. The owner and occupant were both sentenced to Leavenworth prison for a year and a day.

The crusade was so thorough that military and civilian authorities late in April proclaimed Fort Worth "the cleanest city [74] morally in the Southwest." That prostitution remained there seems little doubt since the police subsequently found it necessary to close "all public dance halls" because they had become centers of operation for "transient women." The measures taken at Camp Bowie and at other army camps during the war were nonetheless effective enough. A study of venereal disease in five camps showed that 96 percent of the diseased men were infected before they entered the service. At Camp Bowie in mid-June, 1918, there were 105 cases of venereal disease. Not included in the figure were 400 cases "received" with the recent increment of 4,500 draftees.11

The principal reason liquor and vice were in fact no more than a minor problem was the extensive recreational program conducted in the camps and adjacent towns under the aegis of the Commission on Training Camp Activities. Under Fosdick’s capable direction, the Commission served as a coordinating body which supervised camp recreational officials, post exchanges, and social welfare organizations such as the War Camp Community Service, the YMCA, and the Red Cross. For tending to the social needs of the troops both at home and abroad in the war, the Wilson administration deserves great credit.

Fort Worth was no sooner selected as the location for a training camp in June, 1917, than a Commission representative arrived to confer with city leaders on the matter of entertaining the soldiers. A local board headed by Mayor Davis was formed as a branch of the War Camp Community Service through which the Commission operated. In July the Commission sent a welfare expert named B. 0. Greening to assist the board in its endeavors. The board raised money; worked with national organizations and agencies interested in the welfare of the troops; obtained the cooperation of local churches, private clubs, fraternal organizations, and business groups; and provided the machinery for investigating and adjusting soldier claims of price-gouging by greedy merchants. As it developed, most businessmen gave the Sammies "a square deal" and complaints of overcharging were relatively few.

Of the soldier welfare organizations none was more prominent than the YMCA which had five huts in operation by mid-October, 1917. The Y’s offered writing tables and materials and provided regular entertainment. As a general rule, two nights a week were set aside for religious services, one for stunt night, three for [75] movies, and one was kept open. Pianos and Victrolas were available for those who wished to play them and athletic contests, such as boxing, wrestling, and volleyball, were held. The movies were often watched by as many as 1,000 men crowded into a single hall. "Stories of heroic deeds appeal to the boys most," wrote reporter Benson, who noted that they "nearly raised the roof off’ when The Heart of a Hero was shown.

The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Hostess House was the most "popular place" for soldiers to meet visiting female relatives and sweethearts. In February, 1918, it contained quarters for 25 guests and facilities for serving 175 meals daily. Its guest list numbered 500 per month and it was especially favored by mothers visiting sons in the hospital. "We are," the director declared pridefully, "just as ready to put our arms around the old, bent, snuff-dipping, tobacco-chewing mother as we are the one clad in silk and emitting delicate odors of perfume."

The Hebrew Institute performed for the Hebrew soldiers "the work that is done" for the Gentiles by the YMCA, although the doors of both were open to all. The Knights of Columbus and the Red Cross also operated facilities on the post. The Red Cross recruited women volunteers with autos to take hospital patients, most of whom had never been in a car, for rides and at Christmas time distributed presents "to those who were not remembered by homefolk."

The Salvation Army built a two-story edifice, the upper for overnight guests and the lower for religious services, entertainment, and soldier relaxation, which sported a long porch with swings and chairs. Private John A. White of Haskell County, writing to his mother from one of the rooms on May 12, 1918, stated: "This hall, which has just been completed, is the nicest in camp. Every new one tries to outdo the rest of them." The YMCA halls were "out of class here now when furnishings are considered, but they have a place in every soldier’s heart because everywhere we go there is a Y hut." The artillerymen who trekked to Camp Zero Target Range no doubt would have agreed since they found a Y tent waiting for them.

Reading materials for the various halls and the hospital were provided by donations; by the local Carnegie Library, which established several stations during the fall; and by the American Library Association, which in February, 1918, formally opened a [76] library featuring 12,000 volumes. According to Benson, the soldiers took advantage of the opportunity to "read, read, and read."

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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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