Wednesday, December 13, 2017

100 Years Ago: 126th Infantry finalizes training and prepares for embarkation to France

West Michigan's 126th Infantry and its parent 32nd Division (Michigan and Wisconsin) were ensconced in in a rigid training camp at Waco, Texas throughout the fall and early winter of 1917-18, as they awaited impending orders for transport to Europe.

Toward the latter part of November, new training schedules were taken up including instruction in the "new infantry weapons and specialties for all troops." This included new offensive maneuvers based on lessons learned from the European battlefields. The all-important training in the wearing of a gas mask and the digging of trenches were undertaken. Full-pack night marches as long as nine miles was part of the regular regimen.

The disciplined training paid off.
"During the latter part of November and early in December the Division was visited and carefully examined by War Department artillery and infantry inspectors, and was judged ready for overseas service. Their reports to Washington indicated that the 32nd was more advanced in its training at that time than any other division then in the U.S. Its equipment was very nearly complete, and the spirit which had developed no doubt also influenced the inspectors. Accordingly notice was shortly forthcoming from Washington that the Division would be sent to France at the earliest practicable date.
"Many officers and men, of course, desired furloughs to say good-bye to the folks at home; but the journey north was a long one, and there was considerable uncertainty as to just when the movement would begin, so leaves were impracticable, and relatives who took the hint that there might shortley be 'something doing' came to Waco for the final farewells."
Despite large numbers of men received from Camp Custer (Michigan) and Camp Grant (Illinois) during the last three months, the division would still be greatly under strength at the time of embarkation in January 1918.



The 32nd Division was organized with the following principle units:

63rd Infantry Brigade
125th Infantry Regiment (Michigan)
126th Infantry Regiment (Michigan)
120th Machine Gun Battalion

64th Infantry Brigade
127th Infantry Regiment (Wisconsin)
128th Infantry Regiment (Wisconsin)
121st Machine Gun Battalion

57th Field Artillery Brigade
119th Field Artillery Regiment (75mm)
120th Field Artillery Regiment (75mm)
121st Field Artillery Regiment (155mm)
107th Trench Mortar Battery

Divisional Troops
Headquarters Troop
119th Machine Gun Battalion
107th Engineer Regiment
107th Field Signal Battalion
Division Trains (supply and service)

There had been several significant reorganizations of the division and regiments during the train-up period which resulted in the following organization of 126th elements and cities each originated from:

1st Battalion, 126th Infantry
Company A, Coldwater
Company B, Adrian
Company C, Kalamazoo
Company D, Ionia

2nd Battalion, 126th Infantry
Company E, Ann Arbor
Company F, Jackson
Company G, Detroit
Company H, Detroit

3rd Battalion, 126th Infantry
Company I, Big Rapids and Muskegon
Company K, Grand Rapids
Company L, Grand Haven and Muskegon
Company M, Grand Rapids

The Machine Gun Company, Supply Company, Sanitary Detachment, and Band, all from Grand Rapids, virtually remained unchanged except to receive personnel from throughout the regiment to bring them to full strength. The regimental headquarters detachment was also from Grand Rapids and made up of men from the former Company L.

About this time, Brigadier General William G. Haan, a regular army officer, was placed permanently in command of the Division. He would come to be respected and loved by his soldiers.
"The period of training at Camp MacArthur until the middle of January was onecontinual round of hard work from early morning until late at night. It was a period, Ithink when we first realized the possibilities of the human body and mind to withstandfatigue." (Hamburger)

Sources:

Gansser, Emil B. History of The 126th Infantry in the War with Germany. Grand Rapids, MI. 1920

Britten, David G., Lieutenant Colonel. Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard. Xlibris, 2004

American Battle Monuments Commission: 32d Division Summary of Operations in the World War, 1943

Joint War History Commissions of Michigan and Wisconsin: The 32nd Division in the World War. 1920

Crothers, Herbert D. Diary of Company M 126th Infantry, 32nd Division in the World War. Unpublished Manuscript.

Hamburger, Kenneth E., Learning Lessons in the American Expeditionary Forces. Publication 24-1. United States Army Center for Military History.