September 5, 1917, has been set as the birthday of the 353rd Infantry, 89th Division. Colonel Reeves and many of the officers were on the ground several days earlier, but not until September 5 did the "first five per cent" of the Regiment's enlisted personnel arrive in the unit area at Camp Funston. Five months lacking one day since the declaration of war between the United States and Germany on April 6, 1917, had been spent in preparation for this mere beginning of the mobilization and organization of man power for the nation's part in the World War. The cantonment had been built, equipment supplied, officers trained. Now the Selective Service Law was in operation. And the "Rookies," veterans of the future, were actually born into the service. Only those who have left civil occupations and homes for the camp and field can ever appreciate the change which this transition brings into the lives of men. It is little wonder that the 5th of each succeeding month grew in significance for every man in the 353rd Infantry.
The personnel of the Regiment, as of the entire National Army, came from three sources: the Regular Army, the Officers' Reserve Corps, and the citizenship of the country between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one years. The initial personnel of the 353rd Infantry follows: From the Regular Army: Col. James H. Reeves, Lieut. Col. Frank B. Hawkins, Maj. Jans E. Stedge, Maj. W. F. C. Jepson, and thirty-four non-commissioned officers. From the Officers' Reserve Corps: eighty-four officers (from the 5th Company, 14th Provisional Training Regiment at Fort Riley). From the State of Kansas under the operation of the Selective Service Law: three hundred twenty-three enlisted men on September 5; one thousand seven hundred ninety-one on September 19; and six hundred eighty on October 5th--a total of two thousand nine hundred seventy-four Kansas men. From these initial increments of National Army men the Regiment received its name, "The All-Kansas Regiment."
Like all National Army Regiments the 353rd Infantry was called upon to transfer men to other organizations and to receive replacements from later drafts. These transfers were made to the Engineers' Corps, to the Headquarters Battalion of the A. E. F., to the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps, and various other branches of the service where men were immediately needed. The largest detachments were sent to the 35th Division and to the 4th Division. A. E. F. officers, too, were transferred to various organizations and seventy-eight others from the 2nd Training Camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison began their service in the Regiment in December, 1917.
These unsettled conditions in the personnel of the Regiment were trying to both officers and men. "Are we to be a depot outfit after all?" was a question of frequent recurrence. The final effect of the
transfers is seen in this announcement of the Regimental Bulletin of April 11, 1918:
Timely assurance from the War Department saved the morale of the men. The Regimental Bulletin of February 19 had this announcement:
Further assurance came on February 25th in the requirement of "indispensable lists." "All non-commissioned officers plus 5% of the remaining enlisted strength" were to be retained in each company. There were still enough when reduced to the lowest number to "carry on" and soon replacements began to appear. With new men came new hope of service over sea.
These replacements were as follows:
The monthly return for May, 1918, made up at Camp Mills, N. Y., showed a total of three thousand five hundred two enlisted men and one hundred officers in the Regiment. The Medical Detachment, in addition, consisted of fifty-two men and eleven officers. The regiment was now practically up to war strength.
But changes in personnel must continue and were now accepted as part of the game. In the place of "indispensables" all became "expendibles." Nineteen lieutenants came to the Regiment in The Reynel Training area, France, from the A. E. F. candidates school. While all were rejoicing in a more complete line-up of officers for early duty at the front, several of the old officers were recalled to the United States as instructors.
These changes in personnel seemed at the time to be striking at the progress and efficiency of the organization. There's something in the association of men as "bunkies"that ties them together once
for all. "I'm ready to go," said the transferred man, "but I should like to go with my old outfit." And the man who was left behind answered, "We're going to be filled up with strangers. I don't like it either." But it remained for the experience of campaigns to reveal the true value of replacements for renewed effectiveness. When the ranks had been thinned in the Lucey Sector, in the St. Mihiel Offensive, and in the Euvezin Sector, seven hundred eighty-one new men from the 86th Division found little difficulty in swinging into line with the veterans of previous campaigns. The new men were glad to give some of their extra shoes and equipment to the old men; and the old men free to give the new men the full benefit of their experience as fighters.
These replacements from the 86th Division were from various middle-western states-Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and South Dakota mainly. The enlisted personnel of the Regiment remained approximately sixty per cent Kansas men throughout the entire period of service. The officers, however, represented every state in the Union. And "The All Kansas Regiment" came to be the most typically middle-west regiment of the Middle-West Division.
More important than the numbers and source of this personnel were its qualifications for the task and its qualities of character, which accounts for its high service as a part of the A. E. F. The four officers and thirty-four non-commissioned officers of the Regular Army were to form the framework of the new organization. These men, especially Colonel Reeves, gave to the Regiment its policies and standards of efficiency.
For twenty-nine years Colonel Reeves had seen continuous military service. His service included duty with troops, staff work, special duty with the Ppilippine Government, and long experience as a military attaché. This broad experience gave him a sympathetic understanding of men as well as military affairs, both essential to the building of a National Army regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkins, second in command from the organization of the Regiment until the occupation of the Lucey Sector, had been in the service since the Spanish-American War. His experience at the Fort Slocum and Fort Logan Recruit Depots was especially valuable in the training of the new National Army men. Major Stedge enlisted as a private in 1894. He not only knew soldiering at first hand from the ranks to the commissioned grades, but even more important, Major Stedge impressed the new men in unmistakable and picturesque terms with the gravity of military service. He "nailed them to the cross" and at the same time strengthened their confidence in themselves. Major Jepson was with the Regiment only a few days when he was transferred to another organization.
More immediate than the influence of the Regular Army officers was the service of the non-commissioned personnel of the Regular Army. They spoke not of years but of "hitches" in the service. They understood guard mount exactly and knew the technique of the duty roster to the fraction of a minute even though its tours were
longer in the National Army than they had ever known with the Regulars. They surprised the new Reserve Officers with their ready use of the third person and taught its practical value to the rookies. They were soldiers by profession and played the game in a manner worthy of the best traditions of the old army.
These officers and enlisted men of the Regular Army were a tried lot. Thorough training and actual experience gave them confidence in themselves and the record they had made, entitled them the confidence of the whole country. But there was a bit of apprehension about the future of the new officers and enlisted men who were to take part in the World War with so little training and even less experience. This apprehension was greatest in the minds of the new officers and men themselves. True to American spirit, however, they balanced lack of confidence with determination and lack of experience with intensity of effort.
The Reserve Officers of the 353rd Infantry were men who responded to the call for volunteers under Section 54 of the National Defense Act, June, 1916. They were plain citizens who wished to serve their country to the fullest. Of the eighty-four who reported to Camp Funston for duty with the Regiment, fifteen had been engaged in business, eight had left study in colleges and universities, six resigned as teachers, and others came from such ocupations as law, journalism, engineering, and medicine. Of these same men, three had had training in military schools, nine had seen service in the National Guard, ten had been in the Regular Army, and the rest were wholly inexperienced in military matters. In respect to the variety of their previous occupations and their military experience these men were representative of the Reserve Officers of the National Army generally.
These officers began their training at Fort Riley in May and received their commissions in August. Training Camp Bulletin No.49 has some striking statements concerning the process. For example, "The schedule is based on a minimum day of ten hours." As a matter of fact, the day was not based on hours at all but upon the limit of human endurance. "All must forget rank," the bulletin continued, "and live and work on equal terms." Training began with a "hike"; by the end of the week company drill was in progress. By the sixth week range work was on with drill between platoon turns at firing. In spite of dust and heat, inoculations and vaccinations, the men stuck to the schedule. Occasionally the surgeons ruled out a candidate on physical disability, but no one "fell out." It was understood from the first that commissions would be granted on the basis of the survival of the fittest. General Sherman's epithet came to be freely applied to training camps as well as to war. The men, however, recognized in these strenuous conditions the peril of their country and did their best to help redeem a bad situation.
In this connection a word of recognition is due the officers of the Regular Army for the part they played in training the new officers. Capt. Levi G. Brown (Later Lieutenant-Colonel Brown) commanded
the 5th Company, 14th Provisional Training Regiment, in which the first officers assigned to the 353rd Infantry were trained. He appreciated fully the position of a candidate called from the ranks for the first time to take charge of a company. If a mix-up occurred because the commander forgot his command, or those commanded had no chance to execute automatically, the captain never scored until he saw the final solution of the situation. To avoid a bad situation was commendable; to save a bad situation was creditable. Regular Army officers held to their standards of efficiency but almost without exception they emphasized these standards as goals to be approached and not as ends immediately attainable.
Under this instruction the candidates from civilian life had by the 15th of August, as summed up by Colonel Rivers, the Camp Commander in his final message to the successful candidates in the Riding Hall at Fort Riley, "a slight knowledge of a good many things." His parting words were, "Remember it's up to you to justify your commissions. In this statement he revealed the secret of success to the new officers. They took the cue without hesitation. In camp the new officers studied while their men rested on the drill ground, attended battalion schools at night, crammed for special examinations--all this under threat of summons before the "benzine" board. Not by the acquirements of three months in the training camp did they succeed but by ceaseless effort throughout their entire service.
The third element in the personnel of the 353rd Infantry, the enlisted men, was, above all, typical of the population of the Middle West. A glance at any roster revealed almost every language. The following are specimens from Company "A": McClowsky, Christensen, Armigo, Lopriore, Biskoe, Van Dusen, England, Plov, Kirschbaum, Massier. While all nationalities were represented, few were of foreign birth; ancestry of the men of the 353rd Infantry was usually stated in the Service Record, "American." Even more striking than the sound of their names was the appearance of the men themselves as they stood in line even for the first time. They were tall, broad-shouldered men with tan on their faces and blisters on their hands. They looked each other and their officers straight in the eyes with a guarantee of intelligence, sincerity, and loyalty that inspired confidence immediately. They needed only the precision and discipline of military drill to make of them soldiers fit for the arduous duties of the World War. As the historian of Company "G" observed,
The enlisted men of the Regiment, like the Reserve Officers, represented all lines of civilian occupation. One hundred men
taken in alphabetical order from the roster of Headquarters Company claimed thirty-nine different occupations. Twenty-seven of these were farmers, seven were miners; railroad men, salesmen, barbers, tailors, and others followed. This variety in experience fitted well into the needs of the new organizations. Company Commanders lost no time in investigating the ability of their men and soon had each one working at his highest efficiency. Carpenters completed the barracks, cooks went to the kitchens, barbers and tailors established their shops. No matter what the task, (with the possible exception of bugling) there could be found in the Regiment a man equal to the occasion, already trained in the school of civilian service.
Very few had had any experience in military matters--and yet the list of non-commissioned officers picked from the new men numbered two hundred sixteen by October 1st. It was made clear at the outset that merit was to be the basis of promotion in the National Army. The response of the men to this challenge of duty and opportunity is seen in the fact that eighty-three enlisted men of the 353rd Infantry were sent to Officers' Training camps. The enlisted personnel did not, however, accept military service as a profession. It was the end to be attained, not the process of attaining the end, that called forth their utmost efforts. On the night of the 31st of October, just preceding the advance in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the 353rd Infantry was commended because there was not a single straggler, but when the call was made for re-enlistment at the time of demobilization not a man volunteered. The end of the war had been attained. The soldier's interest returned irresistibly to home and civilian occupation.
In brief, the personnel of the 353rd Infantry, both in its source and qualifications was typically American. Its elements were called together from peaceful pursuits, under pressure of one of the gravest emergencies that had ever occurred in the life of the Nation. The representatives of the Regular Army realized fully the task of building an organization to contend with the disciplined veterans of Europe. They were steadied in their part by thorough training and actual service under fire. The new officers and men accepted without reserve the call to service. They brought to the task the vigor and determination of the Midle-West. Finally, through all ranks and elements ran, with ever increasing power, the consciousness of obligation to the principles recognized throughout the world as American.
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