The campaign record of the 353rd Infantry testifies to the efforts made by the Regiment to--reach the objectives of the Division Training Plans. Lieutenant-Colonel Hawkins specified in his Training Schedules the beginning and ending of each instruction period and checked its execution on the drill field. He had no sympathy with variations from Infantry Drill Regulations. "Letter perfect" was the requirement in explanation; "cheerful and immediate" in execution. Any uncertainty or tendency to simply "get there" was halted on the spot. In Squads Right the right flank man in the front rank must "face to the right in marching and mark time"; the other front rank men must "oblique to the right, place themselves abreast of the pivot and mark time; men of the new line must glance toward the marching flank while marking time and as the last man arrives on the line, execute, FORWARD, MARCH without command." The movement was diagrammed and demonstrated and repeated again and again until habit allowed no error in execution.
Exercises in minor tactics made up in aggressiveness where they lacked in accuracy. Both sides claimed the victory in many bloodless campaigns around Morris Hill. "You're a prisoner" was answered by "I killed you half an hour ago." In victory or defeat the intelligent thing consistent with the aggressive execution of the general plan was expected of every officer and man in the Regiment.
But the preparation of the 353rd Infantry for service included more than was written in Training Plans and Field Orders. Colonel
Reeves knew the value of recreation and comradeship. He insisted that soldiers must be broad, loyal men before they could be good fighters and that provision for the development of these qualities was as necessary as the manual of arms.
This broad policy was made effective in the Regiment through the co-operation of the entire personnel. Officers' Conference followed the close of each day's work. A Non-commissioned Officers' Committee composed of representatives of each company met at least once a week for council along co-operative lines. These meetings were open and every valuable suggestion received encouragement, From these conferences and committee meetings the officers and non-commissioned officers carried the plans back to the enlisted men in the barracks. And whatever concerned the welfare of the 353rd Infantry came to be the personal responsibility of every man in the Regiment.
The end of the first month saw the institution of the monthly dinner for officers. This dinner was held on October 5th in the mess hall of Company "C" barracks. General Wood and General Winn were the guests of honor. General Wood was the speaker of the evening. This was the first opportunity that the officers of the 353rd Infantry had to get into touch with the Division Commander. The General spoke plainly and frankly.
Thus he brought to the officers of the Regiment a vision of the task ahead. These occasions grew in favor as the 5th of each succeeding month saw the assembly of the officers together.
In order to extend these benefits to the entire Regiment and to provide a meeting place for the men with their relatives and friends, the "Kansas Building" was projected. Governor Capper took a leading interest in the movement and subscribed the first $100 on October 26, 1918. Captain Masseck, the Regimental Adjutant, assisted by Sergt. R. E. Lewis, brought the proposition home to the people of Kansas. Support was generous in every section of the state. Subscriptions ranged in amounts from a few cents to several hundred dollars. On November 5, 1917, the Regimental Bulletin announced, "Construction of the Regimental Building is begun."
Officers and enlisted men of the Regiment did the work. Segt. Samuel E. Barnes of Headquarters Company drew the plans; Capt. Robert K. Schutt was the engineer in charge. On January 15, 1918, the massive structure--96 feet wide and 236 feet long with a seating capacity of 4000--was dedicated to the welfare of Kansas men, with speeches by notable Kansas citizens and camp officials. This achievement was not only a matter of pride to the men of the Regiment but a revelation of the support on the part of the people back home.
A permanent committee of non-commissioned officers was appointed to take charge of all activities in the building. Segt. Lloyd E. Craig was chairman of this committee; Captain Masseck and Chap. Otis E. Gray were ex-officio members. There was but one requirement with regard to the use of the building and that was summed up in the general order, "Treat this building as your home."
The first important social event was the appearance of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by Madam Schumann-Heink, the latter generously giving her services. Four concerts were given on January 30 and 31, 1918. These entertainments were made possible by the patriotic spirit of the musicians. Max Zach (Conductor) came to Camp Funston with the Orchestra. Not only did the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra donate its services, but, in addition, allowed an appeal to be made at a regular Saturday concert in St. Louis, and as a result of this appeal $1060 was collected to help defray expenses. Of this amount the musicians themselves gave $300. The contribution of Madam Schumaun-Heink was no less generous. To the soldiers who had been shut up in the routine of camp life for five months, this entertainment appealed as the finest favor yet received from the co-operating forces of civilian life.
The enlisted men held open house for the first time from 1 to 5 p. m. on February 9th. Parents, brothers, sisters, sweethearts, wives and children were the guests of the Regiment. The band never played so well and refreshments came along in true Western style. On these occasions acquaintance between the men broadened to their loved ones at home and the spirit of comradeship grew stronger with the deeper appreciation of common problems and sacrifices.
Of equal importance with these greater occasions were the local gatherings that took place between times. Boxing, athletic contests, band concerts and Company entertainments helped to break the monotony of drill and study. Some objection was raised against "marching to church on Sunday evenings"; but this objection died out promptly when Colonel Reeves proposed that the question be put up to the home folks for decision. Continued association in these various activities developed deep concern for the welfare of each man. On the march, in the hospital, wherever he happened to be, a man in the 353rd Infantry was never a cog in a machine--he was a fellowman.
Perhaps the finest results of this large policy appeared in the receptions given to the men transferred for over-sea service. The first one was announced in the Regimental Bulletin February 28, 1918, as follows:
When the transferred men appeared, they were given a soldier's ovation. "Get 'em, Bill" and "Tear 'em up, Jack" were mingled with the growls of bayonet drill. And then by way of assurance, all joined in on "We're Coming Over And We Won't Come Back Till It's Over Over There." In order to make the occasion more substantial each transferred man received a dollar out of his Company Fund to cheer him on his way. The final separation was more like breaking home ties than a military transfer.
This policy, carefully cultivated at first, grew to be the strongest tradition of the Regiment and bore its finest fruits of self-sacrifice on the battlefields. When Lieutenant Wray fell on the morning of September 12th, Stretcher Bearers Homes and Lamson rushed to his aid at the cost of their own lives. It was this same policy that accounted for the presence of every man on the day before the advance of November 1st, and made the last check complete when the records of the Regiment were turned over.
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