Adjustments in the American Army to meet the needs of World War conditions brought up many difficult problems of organization. Increase in the personnel and equipment of Infantry Regiments demanded larger provision for over-head control. The staff had to be enlarged to include a greater number of officers and enlisted men and the infantry had added certain auxiliary weapons to its equipment, which required specially trained personnel. The Stokes mortar had been adopted from the British Army, and the 37 mm. gun had come from the French Army where it, too, had proved its value. It was not possible to have one of these guns with each company of infantry but one platoon of the regiment with two or three guns could be specially trained in handling them, and, under direct orders of the regimental commander, could be used in any part of the regimental sector at any time. Among the many innovations, therefore, in the organization of an infantry regiment, that of principal importance, perhaps, was the creation of a Headquarters Company. Only the regimental band, a small enlisted staff and mounted orderly section had heretofore been attached to regimental headquarters, but now the Headquarters Company was to be the largest single company in the regiment and would consist of the following:
The task of organizing this body was doubly difficult because men had to be trained in both infantry warfare and in the diversified lines of their specialties. The personnel was chosen from the entire regiment and assigned to the different platoons on the basis of special qualifications. Lieut. Thurman E. Keim, who had early been given command, fearlessly undertook this difficult task.
At first, it was "squads east, west," the same as in the letter companies but all the while officers were carefully studying their specialties and planning the instruction of their platoons. Lieut. R. A. Ballweg took command of the Bombers; Lieut. Morton B. Shepard,
the Pioneers; Lieutenant Biggs, the Intelligence Section; Lieutenant Benning, the Signal Platoon. Capt. George W. English commanded the company for a short period, but on receiving his majority was placed in command of the First Battalion. Lieutenant Keim again resumed command and was made captain.
On June 24th we arrived at Manois, France, for our final equipment and training before moving up to the front. Each platoon commander now drilled his men in their own specialty. Captain Keim with the able assistance of his first sergeant, Lloyd E. Craig, devoted most of his time to the big task of equipping the company. The 4th of August found our regiment occupying its first sector of the trenches with Regimental Headquarters in the hillside P. C. at Jacksonville, half a kilometer north of Manonville, and Headquarters Company in the old chateau in Manonville.
Now the Headquarters Company, as a company, ceased to exist. "The greatest of all is the servant of all," expresses the case of the company. With the bombers and pounders at the front, the signal platoon scattered all over the regimental area keeping up communication, the pioneers doing construction work at the various points in the sector, and many men detailed as clerks, stenographers, observers, messengers, sergeants-major, etc., at regimental headquarters and with the three battalions, the company was literally scattered
to the four winds. From now on until the signing of the armistice, the units of the company were to be widely separated in the performance of their duties. For this reason it is necessary to record their activities individually.
To be historically correct an account of the Adjutant's Office should include the statements of four or five diverse departments into which the Adjutant's Office developed in the course of the American Army's reorganization. Originally the sole purpose of this office was to provide the machinery for the supervision, command, and check of the manifold duties involved in the existence and operation of an Infantry Regiment.
As the war progressed, special departments to cope with the diverse problems became imperative. Consequently, from the Adjutant's Office with its increased personnel sprang the Intelligence, Operation, and Personnel Sections to take care of the duties indicated by their names. It must not be inferred, however, that the Adjutant's Office through these dispensations became an insignificant part of the regiment, for the Adjutant's Office retained the first and last word and was forced to hold itself responsible for the trials and mistakes of the new-born sections.
When the day for entraining , May 25, 1918, came, the "indispensable" contents of the spacious quarters in Camp Funston were crowded info a few cubic feet of boxes and shipped for the A. E. F. Cases and field desks were stuffed to capacity. We were sure then that this limited supply of material would hamper our operations, but this was the period of apprenticeship. Later when an order came to move, the sergeant-major would stick the "indispensable" papers in his coat pocket, sling his pack, and away would go the Adjutant's Office. It is freely admitted, however, that this mobility was acquired only after intensive training as well as bitter experience. "Over There," the Adjutant's Office was the first to experience a barrage. It was a barrage of shipping lists, service records, memoranda, and orders of all descriptions. The ordeal was trying but the personnel of the Adjutant's Office survived and advanced to comparative rest as the regiment neared the line.
In the Toul sector the possibilities of incurring casualties in the Adjutant's Office was markedly reduced. The entire force was cut to two persons--Captain Turner, who succeeded Captain Masseck, and Sergeant-Major Davis. Nevertheless, this personnel must have a place of business and an immense room in the old Chateau Manonville was reserved for its quarters.
The Adjutant's Office of a regiment is always, in the Opinion of the staff, a target for enemy registration, but orders must be written and streets policed. The personnel must function in spite of enemy artillery. It is a fact well worth recording in the annals of the 353rd
Infantry and well worth the consideration of those critics who declare that the specialty men of Headquarters Company do not get the necessary training in self-defense, that on several occasions visitors to this office would have searched in vain in the usual places for the personnel of the Adjutant's Department. They were under cover of the furniture and in posture prescribed by the I. D. R., while some "barrack bag" whistled on to its destination.
The zero hour of September 12th found the Adjutant's Office safely packed away in a forty-foot dugout in the town of Minorville, fourteen kilometers from the front lines. Close scrutiny of the instructions pertaining to the duties of Regimental Headquarters, the nerve center and brain of the organization, not only justified this location but made it a matter of actual requirement. However, we did not remain there long.
Amid the heavy rain of shells from a watchful enemy, the office was packed into the Winton and moved to Bouillonville. With the reassembly of forces and organization of positions came a flood of work. When the 353rd Infantry shifted to the westward, the Adjutant and his personnel followed on to Beney, Here the staff felt the true bitterness and danger of the front. Incessant shelling day and night rendered movement impossible. Residence in a P. C. at the front can alone give an appreciation of the humor and tragedy of the situation. Colonels, adjutants, clerks, sergeants, and runners nervously fishing about for this order and that, clicking away on Coronas, diving for safety at irregular intervals, operated and co-operated. The experience was intensive but interesting.
By this time packing up had become a matter of little consequence to the personnel of the Adjutant's Office. When the 353rd Infantry shifted to the Argonne-Meuse sector, the Adjutant's Office finally landed in a shell-shocked, riddled, old barn of Ecles Fontaine. Captain Turner was now placed in command of Headquarters Company and Captain Biggs became the new adjutant. In addition to his other duties, he was in charge of the rear echelon of the regiment and had surveillance of all liaison with the advanced troops. The salvage which had been collected in Ecles Fontaine was straightway dedicated to the comfort of the men in the rear echelon; and though the song of passing shells kept the mind in a nervous state, the physical man had some opportunity for rest.
With the armistice on November 11th, the Adjutant's Office again came into full and proper sway. The personnel marched or rode in fitting authority to the city of Stenay on the Meuse River. Upon arrival, boxes were pried open and contents poured out in the form of orders and memoranda upon a weary, waiting regiment.
Then came the long, slow march across Belgium and Luxemburg into Germany. The Adjutant's Office had learned to spread its wings at a moment's notice. Captain Biggs was made operations officer while the regiment was on the march into Germany, and Capt. C. S. Turner was again detailed as adjutant and remained as such until the regiment was demobilized. New officers came with lighining rapidity, so that the enlisted personnel grew facile in the art of
adaptation to new adjutants. Moreover, the personnel learned to occupy the best possible places with the greatest possible expansion, and the meanest places with the least possible inconvenience. So far as known, the personnel of the Adjutant's Office suffered no casualties except through "fair wear and tear." But always whatever the situation, the personnel of the Adjutant's Office found a solution and "carried on."
Bandmaster Meyers said it himself, "I raised that band from puppies up." And it was true. Mr. Meyers had transferred from the old 13th Cavalry to 353rd Infantry at its very birth. He chose for membership in his band the best talent available from the great mass of civilians that was being formed into this new regiment. Mr. Meyers belonged to the classic school, having received his musical education in Europe. A few weeks under his instruction enabled the band to give Sunday evening concerts in the Kansas Building and on the 9th of March, 1918, a tour was made of the state of Kansas. Twenty-nine concerts in twenty-three days on this trip established the reputation of the 353rd Infantry Band.
While our regiment was in training at Manois, France, the band was rehearsing and giving evening concerts for the men. On the 13th of July, the First Battalion and our Regimental Band were
chosen to represent the 89th Division in a parade before General Pershing at G. H. Q., Chaumont. The A. E. F. Commander was satisfied from the showing made that our division was capable of holding its own in the line. No small credit was due the band for this good showing.
The bandmen were instructed in first-aid, for this had previously been the duty of musicians in time of war. But just as our regiment was moving up to its first sector in the line, this policy regarding bandmen was reversed. Knowing well the recuperative value of music for the worn-out doughboy with shell-shocked nerves and the stimulus of livening tunes on the morale of a man just before he goes into battle, the American Commander had decided to keep the musicians of his fighting units where they could render their most valuable service. Hence the band was held back in Manonville in the picturesque, 12th century chateau to give concerts for the men having their turn in reserve.
But even in Manonville the bandmen were not exempt from shelling. One sunny afternoon while the band was engaged in the lower end of the village, Fritz evidently spied them from his observation balloon. He sent over a token of his love in the form of a large shell that exploded a short distance froln the gathering. But the concert ended with the usual rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner."
On the 8th of September the band was ordered to Minorville and told to be ready for any emergency which might arise in the coming drive. The emergencies appeared promptly. It was found necessary to send twenty of the bandmen to Toul to bring back forty horses. Those remaining worked all day and night transferring ammunition from Manonville to Minorville.
September 12th, the day of the drive, was spent in "watchful waiting," but soon after an order called a number of the men for a burial detail near the village of Limey. Later, the entire band was ordered out, part of them to bury their dead comrades and the rest of them to salvage equipment that had been lost by the Americans or captured from the Germans. From this time on, these were almost permanent details for the musicians.
From Bouillonville the band returned to Minorville for a few days to give concerts for the sick and wounded in the nearby evacuation hospital. Thus, after the St. Mihiel offensive, the bandmen brought cheer, as they continued to serve on special details.
One of the duties of the band now was to search for the lost and missing. Under the leadership of Chaplain Carpenter, every yard of the sector covered by the regiment during the drive was thoroughly searched. All bodies found were given proper burial service.
While Regimental Headquarters were at Ecles Fontaine, in the Argonne, the band remained in the dense woods several kilometers to the rear. The instruments were stored in an old concrete dugout, used by Captain Sichterman for a regimental personnel office. There was no kitchen here, so the bandmen had to spend most of their time searching for food. When the Regimental P. C. moved up to the
Romagne Road, the band moved to Ecles Fontaine and "dug in" on a hillside.
The band was now engaged permanently in burying the dead, not only of the 89th Division but of the 32nd Division as well. In this work they gained special commendation from the Commanding General of the latter division. The following message will show the nature and extent of their work in this sector:
From Lt.-Col. Boschen.
On this duty the bandmen were frequently exposed to shell-fire. While in a 354th Infantry "chow" line in the village of Gesnes, a shell struck the kitchen, killing fifteen men and wounding as many more. Luckily all of our bandmen escaped unharmed.
Following the drive of November 1st and 2nd, the territory from Romagne to Beaufort was thoroughly searched for the dead. Under the leadership of Chaplain Ashmore, the band buried sixty-one men, friend and foe, on the 7th of November. This was the record for any one day. Later the detail worked under shell-fire from Beauclair to Beaufort.
Armistice day found the band, a very thankful outfit, in Tailly. The instruments had arrived from the woods. At the eleventh hour some snappy tunes were played for the tired men. All music ceased when the Chief-of-Staff of the division drove up in his car and informed the players that even though the armistice was in effect, the war was not yet over. As a penalty for their celebration, the entire band was sent that afternoon to bury dead horses. But the armistice soon put the band again on its old-time footing as the entertainers of the regiment. And in the days that followed the band had a large share in bringing the men of the 353rd Infantry back again to normal life.
The Bombers Platoon is equipped with six light Stokes mortars, arms especially designed for infantrymen. The limits of its range are 100 and 1800 yards, and it is most effectively fired at an angle of 45 degrees. This short range indicates that it must be employed in close support of the infantry. Its principal use is in the defense of a sector.
The first opportunity of the Bombers occurred on the morning of August 31st when the Germans sent over a silent raiding party against "L" Company. The outpost had orders, in the event of an attack, to fall back on the line of resistance unless cut off by artillery. As there was no shelling on this occasion, they dropped back down a communicating trench. When the Germans appeared, Corp. E. A. Westfall and two men were stationed with a mortar about two hundred yards to the rear of this outpost. The retiring infantrymen informed them of the raid. They opened fire with a rapid succession of about twenty shells. Observations revealed the raiding party advancing on the flank. The three men grasped their rifles, jumped out of the trench, and joined the infantrymen.
Suddenly a voice said in perfect English, "Don't shoot, Three Fifty Fourth." Thrown off their guard by this unexpected warning, the party hesitated for a few seconds. But the sound of some German jargon banished all doubts and the men opened fire. The Germans were driven back with a loss of nine killed and twelve wounded. From this time on, the infantrymen, whatever their opinion of the Stokes mortar, never doubted the effectiveness of this individual bomber. In further confirmation of this staying quality, the Bombers relate this story of one of their members. While his crew was near Limey, Chief Deibo, an Indian, was wounded by a piece of shrapnel which remained in his leg. The doctor asked, "Will you have an anaesthetic?" "No, give me a cigarette," was the stoical answer.
On the night of September 11th, the Stokes mortar sections, alternating cursing with coaxing, made their way through the jam and confusion of troops to positions north of Limey. At two o'clock the guns were in position. At "H" Hour the crews went over the top, lugging their guns and ammunition.
The barrel of a Stokes mortar weighs 51 pounds, its stand 20 pounds, its base-plate 20 pounds, and the bombs approximately 11 pounds each. This weight had to be distributed among the men of a squad already loaded down with rifles and rifle ammunition. Before they had gone very far in their attempt to keep up with rapidly advancing doughboys, the Bombers became discouraged with the prospect of missing the fun. They left the mortars behind in the charge of one man and advanced as ordinary riflemen, overtaking and assisting the assaulting battalion as far as the fifth objective.
The Bombers remained in Bouillonville with Regimental Headquarters until their mortars could be brought up. They took over a spacious dwelling that the former Boche occupants in their flight had left in fairly good condition. It had many of the comforts of a club house and was well furnished, even boasting a good piano. For three days, the Headquarters Company had been without a kitchen, and so naturally the efforts of all Bombers were directed toward the perfection of their mess, where their resourcefulness found its best expression.
In order to show their appreciation, the Bombers prepared a banquet in honor of "Mother" Fitzgerald and Miss Hermance. Other guests were Lieutenant Leedy, their platoon commander, Lieutenant Ballweg, and Chaplain Carpenter of the Second Battalion. An artillery outfit donated a quarter of a fresh beef and a nearby garden furnished potatoes, green cabbage, green beans, and squash. The feast was placed upon a linen-covered table with china plates and real silverware. The occasion was the source of much pleasant retrospection during the trying days which followed.
In the St. Benoit sector the Bombers suffered their first severe casualties. On the night of October 2nd the gun emplacement was struck by a shell of a large caliber. Pvt. Cecil E. Dillon was killed and Corporal Crebo seriously wounded. Our artillery was now engaged in heavy bombardments of German positions. On the night of October 3rd Fritz retaliated with a severe gas attack on our sector, claiming 11 Bombers as victims.
At Ecles Fontaine the Bombers received replacements from the 86th Division and were put under the direct command of Sergeant Aldrich, one of their old veterans. While the 89th Division was in reserve, the Bombers trained their new men and re-organized the platoon.
In the Bantheville Woods, which were subjected to continual shelling, the platoon learned more hardships of war. Kitchens were forced to remain far to the rear, and "chow" details could scarcely get through without casualties. Water was scarce and the men would sometimes, in spite of orders to the contrary, drink the seepage water from a shell hole. But regardless of trials, the Bombers "stuck it out" and "carried on."
As soon as Bantheville Woods had been mopped up and our lines established on its northern edge, the Bombers began preparations for the coming drive. By midnight the crews were in position, and at 4:30 a. m. they added their four guns to the barrage, firing a hundred and sixty rounds in an hour's time. Just before "H" Hour they hammered targets directly in front of our lines. At 5:30 the Bombers stepped off with the front wave and encountered little resistance in the first lines of the enemy. The advance proceeded about two kilometers. Our lines were now receiving direct fire from enemy artillery at very close range. Due to the heavy fog and smoke, the gun could not be located at once. However, one of the Stokes mortars was ordered into position in a shell hole behind the narrow gauge railroad. In the meantime, Sergeant Aldrich reconnoitered the situation and definitely located the target. Private Hamilton fired the mortar. The third bomb completely knocked out the artillery piece and either killed or wounded every man of the enemy crew.
From the time of the drive until the armistice, the platoon continued training and organization. It will be remembered that many of the men had joined the platoon but a few days before the drive.
But the night of November 10th found the Bombers Platoon reorganized and thoroughly imbued with the spirit of service, again in position and ready to accompany the First Battalion in its drive across the Meuse River.
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