Delaware National Guard in World War I, The 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment Brig. Gen. Kennard R. Wiggins Jr. (DE ANG Ret.)
Author's note: This little history was inspired by an inquiry from Ms. Sara Soules of Magnolia Delaware, who wrote to me asking for some help identifying an airplane her father had flown. She mentioned her grandfather Aloysious Paul Dolan, who had served with the 59th Pioneer Infantry, in Headquarters Company, and did I have any information? I did have some material I had collected over the years, but had never quite put it together in anything like a history, and so a quest was begun to write a modest history of the Delaware boys who served in World War I with the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment. This account draws from among other sources, the official history depicted above, published in 1919 as well as letters and a diary from Sergeant Albert Summers of the Supply Company. There is a general history of the Regiment followed by brief individual Company histories.
America Declares War Camp McClellan, Alabama, September 1917 -March 1918 Fort Dix, New Jersey March-August 1918 The Trans-Atlantic Voyage, August-September 1918 The 59th in France, September - November 1918 Troop Dispositions, Meuse-Argonne Postwar Garrison Duty, Salvage and Demolition, November 1918-July 1919 Pioneer Poem, Ode to the Pioneers Individual Company Histories Postscript Postwar at home Sources The USS Leviathan
America Declares War
As international tensions arose between the United States and Germany, America went on the alert. War fever was growing and even before declaring hostilities, national conscription was forwarded on April 7, one day after the declaration of War, as a means to meet the threat, and included in the Selective Service Act of 1917, signed into law on May 18. National Guard units that had not yet completely mustered out from their Mexican border service were recalled to active duty as early as March 20, 1917. Among them was the First Delaware Infantry Regiment.
On March 25, 1917, only six weeks after they had returned from eight months' service on the Mexican border, the men of the First Battalion, First Delaware Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel J. Warner Reed, were once again called into Federal service to defend vital utility and communications points in Delaware against possible German sabotage. It was feared that the German sabotage apparatus might be far greater than anyone could know and the Declaration of War might trigger widespread terror. The First Battalion headquarters was at the Wilmington Armory. The Second Battalion was held in State service for four more months until called by the President on July 25th.
Two weeks later, on April 6, the nation was officially at war with the Central Powers. At that time some 66,594 National Guardsmen were still serving on the Mexican border.
Delaware immediately applied to the War Department for authority to organize a third battalion in its regiment so that the entire regiment would be able to go into service as a single unit, rather than as separate battalions as it had in New Mexico the previous year.
Permission was soon obtained, and while the first battalion continued its guard duty, the second immediately went to work recruiting as their highest priority. The recruiters sounded the pitch, "Join up and go with the hometown boys". A favorite play was to deny a weekend pass or furlough to any soldier unless he promised to return with a new recruit. The Newark and New Castle companies were assigned the upper part of the state, the Dover and Milford units the lower part.
President Wilson ordered the Guard to active federal service on July 15, 1917 in two increments, to ameliorate the formidable mustering of 400,000 men all at once. Eleven states were in the initial call- up, and the balance would follow on July 25. By August 5, the entire National Guard - 379,701 troops, were on active duty at mobilization camps across America.
By July 25, the date set for muster into Federal service, enough Delaware men had been signed up for a full regiment. The new battalion was officially organized that day, restoring Sussex County to the rolls of the regiment after almost 20 years of military inactivity, and the battalion already on active duty was joined by the rest of the regiment. The regiment at this time consisted of three battalions of four companies each: Headquarters, Supply, Machine Gun Company, Sanitary Detachment, aggregating 58 officers and 1349 enlisted men.
The regiment was no sooner in Federal service than an amazing order came from Washington. For 150 years, National Guard troops of the various states had answered the President's call to meet national emergencies. While they were in Federal service, they were completely under the command of the Army and their responsibilities to their governors were temporarily suspended.
However, when the national emergency ended, they had always been returned to their State to finish whatever part of their State enlistment still remained. It was around these men that the States had reorganized their National Guards after each war. One of the reasons reorganization had been so difficult after the Civil War was the fact that all State enlistments had expired during the four years of hostilities, and there was no core of experienced men still in State service around which a new Guard could be built.
In July, 1917, the War Department changed the old procedure. It ordered that all National Guardsmen in Federal service were to be discharged from the National Guard and drafted into Federal service. Off came their bronze discs with the state abbreviation, "DEL", replaced by the "U. S." of federal service. As far as the men went, it did not affect them - they were already in the Army. But it could have resulted in an eventual death blow to the National Guard itself, since it would return the men directly to civilian life after the war, rather than to the National Guard so that the governor could use them as a nucleus for reorganizing the States military forces.
The previous year, the War Department had sponsored legislation to abolish the National Guard. Contrary to the United States Constitution, they sought to replace it by a force under purely Federal control, one that would not be available for State service during peacetime emergencies and disasters. Fortunately for the nation, the effort to abolish the Guard by law failed. Only a year later, the National Guard furnished the Army with 17 divisions at a time when it had only four of its own. In spite of the National Guards proved performance, however, a few misguided military men in Washington saw that the mobilization gave them an opportunity to accomplish indirectly what they had been unable to do through Congress. The order to discharge men from their State obligations was probably unconstitutional, but it was not tested in the courts at that time because all members of the Guard were too busy preparing to go to France.
When peace came Congress quickly corrected the situation by spelling out very clearly in the law that men who still had time to go on their State enlistments would be returned to their State's National Guard after Federal service, rather than directly to civilian life.
Camp McClellan, Alabama
The entire National Guard traveled to warm parts of the country for assembly and training. The movement of around a third of a million men to these camps placed a severe strain on the nation's rail system, but by it was accomplished nevertheless. In September, 1917, the First Delaware Regiment received orders to move from the State Rifle Range below New Castle to Camp McClellan, Alabama. The regiment was assigned to the 29th Division "Blue and Gray" mostly with Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia Guardsmen. They arrived on Oct. 6 and found waiting for them another blow to the National Guard. The regiment was broken up, with most of the men and some of the officers assigned to the 114th Infantry Regiment of the expanded army. Other men were scattered throughout the 29th Division, and most of the officers found themselves deprived of their commands and assigned to the 54th Depot Brigade.
This was too much for the people of Delaware to take. Even the identity of their unit was being taken away, although the Army had assured Delaware that its regiment would be maintained if the State could furnish three, battalions
While the Delaware men froze in tents through one of the coldest winters in Alabama history, deprived even of the minor comfort of freezing with men they knew, the people of Delaware went to work. On Jan. 7, 1918, U. S. Senator Willard Saulsbury announced that the Army had finally agreed to live up to its original promise, and the men of the First Delaware were to be reassembled in their own unit.
Two days before, Col. J. Warner Reed, the regimental commander, had been summoned to 29th Division headquarters and told the news. The First Delaware was already in the process of reassembling. By the middle of the month, it had arrived at Camp Dix to begin training as a regiment of a new type, Pioneer Infantry.
The United States Army formed many pioneer infantry regiments for World War One. They were cross-trained in combat engineering and infantry tactics. As one of their officers remarked "they did everything the Infantry was too proud to do, and the Engineers too lazy to do."
In those days the question was frequently asked "What is a Pioneer?" and many and varied were the explanations. The Personnel Bureau of the War Department, in its directions for selecting soldiers for various services, laid down the following suggestions — "Men experienced in life in the open, skilled in woodcraft and simple carpentry — substitute occupations, rancher, prospector, hunter, scout."
The military definition of a Pioneer is "Pioneers march at the head of each battalion to clear a pas- sage for it through woods or other obstructions, improve roads, make bridges and generally do any minor engineering or construction work that may be necessary." Regiments or detachments known as pioneers had been an important part of armies since the middle ages, their earlier use being to effect breaches in the walls of besieged cities. Gen. Grant in his "Memoirs" speaks of a pioneer regiment constructing an embankment before Petersburg. The general use of the term "pioneers" as those who go ahead, clearing the way for those to follow, seems to have fairly described the duties of these troops in former wars. All the European nations in the past great conflict employed "Pioneer" regiments, notably the Germans who used them not only in the construction of gun emplacements, trenches and wire entanglements on the front, but also had pioneer regiments specially trained for delivering gas attacks, etc. The general idea of the European armies was to use as pioneers, troops who would be more skilled in the requirements of simple field construction than infantry and not so technical as the engineers; the heavy losses in purely technical troops having- seriously inconvenienced their operations. "Pioneer" troops as the term was used in our army may be described as regiments trained and equipped as infantry to be used as troops of emergency, either for combat or simple engineering construction.
The pioneer regiments included such specialists as mechanics, carpenters, farriers and masons. They were supposed to work under the direction of the Engineers to build roads, bridges, gun emplacements and camps "within the sound of the guns." They received standard infantry training so that they could defend themselves, but there are very few documented instances of any pioneer troops unslinging their rifles.
Several of the newly constituted regiments of pioneer infantry drew their personnel from the breakup of National Guard units. Resembling standard infantry regiments only in size (3,551 men) they were in reality a labor force used primarily to repair roads and bridges. Thirty seven regiments were organized in all, the 1st through the 6th, 51st through 65th, and 801st through 816th. National Guard personnel went into the 1st through the 59th regiments and drafted men into the 60th through the 65th. The outfits in the 800 series were formed of Negro personnel in 1918 to relieve the 1st through the 61st regiments, so that the latter could reorganize for service as combat infantry.
Fort Dix, New Jersey
No specific information was given the regiment as to what the duties of pioneer infantry were, so after arriving at Camp Dix, Colonel Reed began training them as regular infantry. After a time, the regiment was finally told that its duty was engineer service, with infantry combat duty when required. On Feb. 27, it was officially designated the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment. The unit strength at that time was 52 officers and 1,663 enlisted men, and its duties were to be similar to those of the British Pioneer Infantry. A pioneer is a soldier employed to perform engineering tasks. The term is in principle similar to sapper.
Pioneers were originally part of the Artillery branch of European armies. Their primary job was to assist other arms in tasks such as construction of field fortifications or military camps. During the First World War pioneers were often engaged in construction and repair of military railways.
On March 16, 1918, troops from Company "B" 307th Machine Gun Battalion, a unit of the 78th Division comprising men from Delaware, were transferred to the regiment, and on April 1, following 293 recruits from Delaware arrived at Camp Dix and were assigned to the regiment. More men were assigned to it from the draft in Delaware, and it was finally rounded out to full strength by the addition of recruits from New Jersey and New York. The new men were required because the new type regiments were considerably larger than the pre-war ones. On April 26, 1918 609 recruits were received and on July 24, orders were received to fill out the regiment to war strength from the July draft. On August 6, 1918, 1309 recruits were received from the 153rd Depot Brigade.
During their stay at Fort Dix, Major General Hugh L. Scott was in command of the 87th Division and afterwards became camp commander at Fort Dix just prior to his retirement. Scott had earlier been the Chief of Staff of the Army.
The 59th regiment paraded in Philadelphia on April 27, 1918 joining other troops in a demonstration for the Third Liberty Loan bond drive.
Colonel Reed was notified on May 7, 1918 that the regiment would proceed overseas, the notice being preliminary, as immediate movement of troops was not ordered. During all this time, it was necessary to observe great secrecy regarding the movement of troops and regarding certain items of training, owing to the system of espionage which the enemy was known to have in all parts of the United States.
A particular and virtually unique contribution to the war effort involved the testing and evaluation of new and experimental chemical warfare gas masks that were eventually mass produced and deployed to the US troops in the field. The 59th won high praise at Camp Dix for its excellent training, and Co. E, under Capt. Jesse A. McKay, was commended for its part in field testing the new model of the Army gas mask at Lakehurst station.
While at Camp Dix the mess kitchens of the 59th Pioneer Infantry became noteworthy for their cleanliness and the quality of the mess, so much so that the commanding general frequently conducted visitors to the mess hall and kitchens, exhibiting them as examples of what might be done. The letter from General Scott regarding the police of the area at the time of the overseas movement indicates the excellent condition in which the regiment area was always maintained.
After the 78th Division moved out of Camp Dix in May for overseas service, better opportunity was afforded for rifle practice and for other training which had been subordinated to the necessity of giving troops scheduled for overseas duty all possible facilities. Three weeks of intensive target practice and field firing ensued for the 59th in May and June.
Sergeant Anthony Summers of the Supply Company described the preparations from his perspective. “Our company had been very busy the last two weeks previous to our departure…working day and night receiving equipment…and issuing equipment to the several companies. There was a great scuffling in the various offices…as there were service records and all papers …containing the pedigree of every man to be carefully checked and rechecked, passenger lists to be made out, and final settlements of company accounts… consolidation of invoices and receipts and final check on property.”
On August 21, 1918 embarkation orders were received, and on the 23rd of August Governor John G. Townsend Jr, visited the boys at Camp Dix to pay an official farewell to the sons of Delaware. He was joined by the “mothers, wives, sweethearts, of the stout-hearted boys before their departure to fight for “the virtue of womanhood, and the liberty and independence of the universe”, according to Sergeant Summers account of the departure.
Summers account explained, “When the order came on August 27th to pack for overseas, well we had to pack enough to load down an ordinary pack mule, but nevertheless, it was packed. We fell in alongside our barrack in full, heavy, overseas marching order.
The soldier’s kit included: Rifle and equipment, haversack and pack carrier, cartridge belt, canteen and cover, overcoat, slicker, shelter half and rope, pins, pole, blanket, extra shirt, suit of underwear, three pairs of socks, razor, shoe brush, shaving brush, soap, towels, mirror, hair brush and comb, two pairs of shoe strings, extra pair of hob-nails, condiment can filled with coffee, sugar, and salt, two reserve rations, mess outfit and a few personal articles which the individual desired, which included to a great extent, extra packages of cigarettes.
After enjoying a feast and packing two beef sandwiches for the journey, the men of the battalion started to move out in the late evening after a roll call. “We swung around 2nd Street and New Jersey Avenue as eager and proud as any paint besmeared warrior of the ancient forests”, according to Summers.
One unusual feature of the 59th Pioneer Infantry was their specific distinctive unit identification. It was designed by Captain Lewis J. Ellison who commanded supply company. They were identified by a gold swastika emblem, an old Indian good luck symbol, which later became unacceptable with the rise of Adolf Hitler in the years following WWI. The 59th insignia had attributes completely separate from the Third Reich emblem in that the swastika was yellow on blue with a yellow border, as opposed to the black on white with red associated with the Nazi regime. The 59th was the only other unit besides the 45th Infantry Division to use the swastika as the main charge on their insignia. At a 1937 regimental reunion at the National Guard training site at Bethany Beach, veterans of the 59th voted to replace the old insignia with one bearing a covered wagon (an apt symbol for a pioneer) on a gold-bordered blue diamond.
The 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment traveled by rail from Fort Dix to Hoboken New Jersey during the night of August 27/28, the men boarding around midnight and seated two by two on the seats. They reached Jersey City terminal at about 5:00 AM, detrained and marched to the port in semi-darkness. They then voyaged across New York Harbor on a large ferry. They were greeted by several large camouflaged ships at anchor. These were dwarfed by the largest ship in the world at that time, the “Leviathan”, formerly the German built liner “Vaterland”.
The men landed at Hoboken pier around 6:00AM just as it began to rain. They were ushered into a closed passage way, where they were served hot coffee and rolls by the Red Cross. The Pioneers were also given two postcards inscribed,”The boat on which I sailed has arrived safely overseas”. These cards were to be filled out and mailed as the men boarded the ship, so on arrival they could be mailed.
The soldiers queued up for embarkation at around 9:00 AM on the gangplank of the Leviathan, where an officer called each man by name and issued a billeting assignment ticket for the passage. The ship was 954 feet long and had a 100 foot beam with 14 decks. Each compartment held up to 225 men in canvas bunks, three deep. The regiment was held in harbor for two more days as boarding proceeded. The weather was very hot with minimal air circulation below decks. The soldiers lined up for mess and marched into the vast dining room which had formerly been a dance hall and entertainment saloon. They thought they “would melt” according to Sergeant Summers diary. The men attempted to bathe to cool off, but complained that the salt water would not lather their soap, and relief seemed impossible.
On Saturday, August 30 at about 2:00 PM, the soldiers were ordered on deck with their life preservers. The ship’s whistle shrieked and everyone was relieved that they were about to get underway. Some twenty tugs were needed to maneuver the giant ship down the roads from her mooring. The men enjoyed the New York harbor scenery and the fresh breeze. They especially enjoyed the sight of the Statue of Liberty as they bid their goodbyes to home and country. The general topic was described as “How long again will it be before we will again see you, Miss Liberty”.
The Pioneers were cheered by the sight of ferry boats whose passengers would doff their hats and cheer at the sight of the soldiers going off to war. They sailed out of the harbor to meet their blue water escort of torpedo boat destroyers, submarine chasers, and submarines by their side, with aeroplanes and balloons overhead. A pair of “ocean giants” one on each side, were in turn dwarfed by the “Leviathan” for the entire voyage.
The Leviathan’s passage through the seas began to move the circulating air throughout the ship, to the relief of the men. With the ship underway, the men were ordered back to their compartments and washed for their meal. The food was described as first class and plentiful but the men were only fed twice a day due to the crowded conditions on board. Most of the men turned in early because few had enjoyed any sleep the night before due to the heat and humidity in port.
Nevertheless, some were described as sleepless as they dreamt of submarines, torpedoes, and other menaces the enemy might bring to bear. But most were comforted by the plentiful 6 inch guns mounted all over the boat along with their alert crews. Some of the boys were sea-sick, home-sick or scare –sick from their briny voyage. Sergeant Summer’s diary describes the homesick as "those who would entertain themselves by viewing portraits of mother, sister or sweetie. The scare-sick would moan and groan all day and cry at night, when a crowd would gather to discuss the probability of a submarine attack, or whenever one of the six-inchers would belch forth and clear the rust from its barrel. He would keel over and ask for medical aid, or request a chaplain for a last conversation with the “sky-pilot”.
The monotony of the voyage was broken somewhat by a daily “abandon ship” drill. At the sound of a bugle, the men would assemble on his piece of the deck with his life preserver and a canteen of water usually within ten minutes of the alarm. The soldiers would remain on deck for an hour or two and gaze at the ocean and clouds with an occasional sighting of a school of fish or a fleet of ships.
The voyage took seven days and the Leviathan sailed past the mountainous cliffs of the French coast around 5:00 PM on Saturday, September 7th at the Brest harbor where it dropped anchor for the night. All the seasick, homesick, scared sick soldiers were at once made whole, laughing and chatting heartily. The next day, after breakfast, the men disembarked upon a barge to take them ashore for the first time in France. The Leviathan was too large to moor at the pier.
The men bore witness to a huge ship in the distance, the Mount Vernon, which had been torpedoed a few days previous with the loss of some 36 lives. Owing to the water-tight compartments she was able to return to port.
The 59th In France
The Pioneers landed and lined up at the railroad, where a series of boxcars mounted on high wheels labeled “Hommes 36-40, Chevaux 8 “ which translated means 40 men or 8 horses, which every soldier who has ever been to France will never forget. The men marched through the port of Brest as children came out to ask for pennies. The children also sang a pretty fair rendition of “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here” in good English.
A description from the First Pioneer Regiment history describes Brest in July, 1918: "At last we came in view of the rocky Breton coast, a great war balloon floating high above the cliffs and red- sailed fisher boats skimming over the waves. We dropped anchor in Brest harbor and we could see the old gray city lying among the hills, and the ancient castle frowning over the harbor. We were at last in France. It seemed hard to believe that our great adventure had progressed so far. On landing the regiment was marched through Brest, its hilly streets bordered with old and quaint roofed houses, to the famous Pontenezen Barracks some four miles from the docks. The barracks, interesting relics of Napoleon's sturdy soldiers, were there it is true, but our portion of the "rest camp," as it had been called in orders, were fields in which we planted the humble "flop." Fields are all very well but some of these were practically under water and all were a sea of mud. Every stick of firewood and pound of food was carried by hand from the commissary. All of these things are but an ordinary part of a soldier's existence to be sure, but it did grate later to read an inspired article in an American newspaper lauding the efficiency of the camp authorities for leasing the fields for our camp that same day, so when "the tired and hungry troops arrived they found their camp ready and a smoking hot meal awaiting them."
The Pioneers pitched their shelter tents. The weather was continually rainy. The barracks used as the quartermaster depot were constructed by Napoleon as preparation for the invasion of England. Napoleon’s mansion is nearby and the gates and doors were still opened and locked by large keys such as were used in his era. Two young officers, Lt. William Berl and Lt. Harry Van Sciver, who both spoke French, were instrumental in helping the Regiment communicate among the French authorities.
On September 14, barely a week later, the unit transshipped by rail on a three day journey through the lovely French farm country with the little white villages glistening among the trees. It was then that the men learned the true meaning of “Hommes 40, Chevaux 8” as forty men crowded into the boxcars. They enjoyed the scenery by day, but struggled all night for a place to sleep. The soldiers passed through town after town stopping only every 10-12 hours to stretch their cramped limbs. They passed through historic locales such as Versailles, Tours, and even caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower as they were on the outskirts of Paris. The train turned South causing speculation that they were bound for Italy. The Pioneers passed through some of the most scenic parts of France with valleys and hills until finally stopping at a village called Foulain, Dept. Haute-Marne.
The place was described in Sergeant Summers diary. "The large towns and cities resemble the large towns and cities in the U.S.A. excepting there are no frame buildings, everything is stone in which the country abounds. In the rural districts the people do not live on the farms, but a big beautiful church is built and all the inhabitants of the neighborhood build their houses around the church. The houses and barns are combined and built as one building composed entirely of stone. You open the kitchen door and enter right into the stable where the horse, cattle and sheep are housed along with an occasional few fowl such as geese, ducks, chickens and guineas. The people take care of their stock, you never see an animal unless it is rolling in fat. The people cultivate the neighboring ground raising considerable rye, potatoes, sugar beets, rutabagas, and hay. Very little corn being raised as the weather is too cool and wet to raise it profitably. The people are great wine drinkers, they drink it for breakfast, dinner and supper, just as we drink coffee."
The Pioneers pitched their shelter tents in a garden spot of green grass. The encampment was alongside the Seine-Marne Canal, so for the first time in two weeks the men had the opportunity for a cold fresh water bath, and took full advantage of their circumstances.
All was dull and uneventful until the following Sunday, September 22, when the mademoiselles in the surrounding neighborhood paid a visit, which cheered the boys greatly. While the French were generally welcoming, and pleasant, a soldier noted that whenever Americans were present, the price of "vin" and champagne seemed to instantly escalate. The favorite times for doughboys were mail call, and payday. Letters from friends, family and loved ones were morale boosters, and failure to get a letter from home would cast a pall of gloom. The men were paid in French Francs. The men considered its appearance inferior to the American greenback but happily accepted their reward nevertheless.
A Negro organization arrived at this encampment a few days after the arrival of the 59th. When one of their party also bathed in the canal, a man was lost to drowning in the cold water when he tried to swim across the canal.
While at Foulain, the 59th lost two men to disease, who fell victim within a few days. The Spanish influenza which had begun in the Spring in the training camps would emerge in the autumn and winter with even more strength. The flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed more people worldwide than the war itself, at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. It has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history.
At Foulain, the regiment was trained in gas defense.
The French greeted the mostly green soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force with joy. France and Britain were militarily and spiritually spent after three years of deadlock. Their losses had been catastrophic. The first Americans troops to parade down Parisian boulevards were greeted by crying and cheering Frenchmen who threw flowers and kisses at the troops. An aide to the American Commander General John J. Pershing; Colonel Charles E. Stanton, would declare, "Lafayette, we are here." These words were spoken at the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette during a speech honoring his heroic service in the cause of the American Revolution. On 4 July 1917 Paris celebrated American Independence Day. A U.S. battalion marched to the Picpus Cemetery, where several speeches were made at Lafayette's tomb. The historic words uttered on that occasion, "Lafayette, nous voilà" (Lafayette, we are here), have been popularly, but erroneously, attributed to General John J. Pershing. He stated that they were spoken by Colonel Charles E. Stanton, and "to him must go the credit for coining so happy and felicitous a phrase."
The 59th remained an independent unit, and was not merged with any division until the formation of field armies in France. Because of the urgent need for troops at the front, the units of the 59th were almost immediately assigned to duty at various points in the First Army's zone in the Meuse-Argonne area. The enemy was already on the defensive as the American forces worked their way up to full strength.
On September 26, the Americans began their strike towards the vital rail link at Sedan in the south; British and Belgian divisions drove towards Ghent (Belgium) on the 27th, and then British and French armies attacked across northern France on the 28th. The scale of the overall offensive, bolstered by the fresh and eager but largely untried and inexperienced U.S. troops, signaled renewed vigor among the Allies and sharply dimmed German hopes for victory. The Meuse- Argonne offensive, shared by the U.S. forces with the French 4th Army on the left, was the biggest operation and victory of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I. The bulk of the AEF had not gone into action until 1918. The Meuse-Argonne battle was the largest front line commitment of troops by the U.S. Army in World War I, and also its deadliest. It would be a 47-day Offensive, employing 22 American Divisions, with 750,000 men, and over 400 heavy guns in a pivotal attack which smashed the Hindenburg line on the western front and forced the imperial German command to sue for armistice. It was the largest military operation yet seen in American history.
Most of the 59th Regiment was sent towards the front from Foulain on or about September 27 during the Argonne offensive. Their war had begun in earnest. It would be relatively brief, as the armistice was only some six weeks in the future.
The scene that greeted the Pioneers, for all its terrors, was a beautiful one. After the fog had lifted, it was clear autumn weather. Machine guns and rifles rattled on every side as the troops went forward over the almost impassable terrain, scarred by years of warfare. Overhead, our aeroplanes were engaged in constant combat with the Huns, swirling about like a cluster of autumn leaves in the wind. Here and there behind us a daring enemy aviator worked his too oft repeated trick of destroying an observation balloon and racing for his own lines under a storm of fire.
The roads were congested with miles and miles of traffic: — troops — ambulances — trucks — wagons- tanks and later tractors, guns and caissons stretched in endless lines, sometimes motionless for hours as some block was cleared away. Prisoners filtered through in bodies of twenty to two hundred, occasionally carrying wounded Americans. Haughty Prussian officers with gold monocles, hard, sulky-looking soldiers, frightened Slavs with rosaries prominently displayed as if to appeal to the feelings of their captors and many boys certainly under sixteen years of age who in happier times would have been romping to school but now clumping along with hanging heads in their green uniforms, round hats and leather boots."
On Oct. 10, 1918 when the Second Army was formed, regimental headquarters and the First and Second Battalions were assigned to it, with the Third Battalion remaining with the First Army. The 59th was split up with different companies detailed to separate points.
Troop Disposition of the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment in the Meuse-Argonne
Regimental Headquarters: Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Headquarters Company: Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Supply Company:Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Medical Department:Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse First Battalion Headquarters:Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Companies "C" and "D":Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Second Battalion Headquarters: Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Companies "E" "F" "G" and "H": Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Company A: Belleville, Dept. Meurthe-et-Moselle Company B: Liverdun, Dept. Meurthe-et-Moselle Third Battalion Headquarters: Clement-en-Argonne, Dept. Meuse Companies "K" and "L": Clement-en-Argonne, Dept. Meuse Company "I": Les Islettes, Dept. Marne Company "M": Dombasle, Dept. Meuse
Companies A and F were engaged in road building and maintenance; Company B operated a concrete block factory; Company E and H did general construction; Company G was a camouflage unit; Companies C, D, I, and M worked on water supply, building and operating reservoirs, treatment plants and pipelines; Companies K and L built railroads.
The Third Battalion, Companies I, K, L, and M, did its work in the Argonne Forest at the height of the battle, building their water and railway systems under almost continuous air raids and shell fire, including gas shells. This service is commemorated on the colors of the present day Delaware National Guard units descended from the 59th by the rainbow hued battle streamer for the Meuse Argonne.
The men of the 59th were frequently moved hither and yon, sometimes by rail, sometimes by truck, and very often by foot, and when in the combat zone, often at night. A Pioneer describes his experiences — "Promptly at 1500, we moved out of the woods and took the road under a dark and threatening sky. The marching was under, as always, a heavy pack and equipment, including entrenching tools, rifles and a hundred rounds of ammunition and steel helmets, and the formation a column of twos. The ground showed everywhere traces of severe fighting, dead men and animals were passed along the road and a stormy atmospheric condition added gloom to the tragic picture. An early darkness fell, yet slightly to the left ahead the sky seemed on fire along the skyline owing to a peculiar sunset effect. This died out after a time and we were marching through absolute darkness in utter silence, seeing but faintly the road ahead by fitful flashes in the sky. Eerie whistling noises sounded overhead from unseen missiles in action all around in the darkness.
After some hours march through total darkness the ghostly indistinct outlines of the shattered walls of the outskirts of the city crept like gray inky shadows out of the blackness and the way was picked through the debris-piled streets, between jagged shadowy walls that once were buildings, in darkness so intense that the man ahead could not be seen more than five feet away. This place was at intervals heavily shelled, yet during the time that we passed through there was nothing but blackness and a silence that was oppressive. Shortly after the regiment had passed through, however, a heavy shelling of the city occurred from German batteries that had accurate range. When this took place our company was lying on the ground along a fringe of trees near the city's edge, so we were ordered behind an embankment at the edge of a woods a quarter of a mile away where we remained through the night, taking-cover in the woods."
On October 10, 1918 the Second Army was formed and Regimental Headquarters with the entire First and Second Battalions was transferred to the Second Army, the Third Battalion remaining with the First Army.
Combat service approached the limits of some mens endurance. Artillery barrages, hour after hour drove some men mad. The men burrowed into their trenches or dugouts only to re-roil the mud. Their bunkmates were the rats. The soldiers suffered from lice (cooties), and forced them to disrobe at every opportunity in order to run fingernails down the seams of their uniforms to dislodge the disagreeable creatures. "We can hear the cannons roaring on the front lines, as we are only about 20 miles from St. Mihiel and we see the aeroplanes fly overhead so much that we will have sprained necks by the time we return" wrote Sergeant Summers. On November 3, he added, "Pop" returned and reiterated all about his wondrous trip (to the front). He had some hair- breadth escapes and brought back as a memento three Boche helmets, dozens of buttons, and a few pfennigs which he had procured from the enemy. Told all about the Metz front where he was compelled to seek shelter in a protected dug-out. Also visited the Argonne Forests where the gas gongs sounded and all were compelled to resort to their old comrade the gas mask. He said the firing was intense from the big guns. Also stated that if a man lived at the front of them very long he would never again become civilized. During the week, we have had an air raid almost every night and the sky would be lighted up by the bursting shells from the anti-aircraft guns close by." Despite these hardships the fighting spirit of the men endured.
On October 23, men of the Supply Company received a mailbag, took a walk to the YMCA for some writing paper, and drew books from the library. They returned and began to read their books including Coopers, "Wing on Wing". As he was reading about the battery at the port of Elba opening fire on a "lugger", an explosion was heard close by. The men rushed out to see what was coming off, and saw an enemy aeroplane dropping bombs close by, and saw the bombs explode, tearing up earth all around them. Then they heard the anti-aircraft guns belch forth and explode its golden stars in the bright moonlit sky. Then a machine gun opened fire in the air, which was recognized to be an allied aircraft, it was then that the Frenchmen crawled out of their shell-proof bunkers and exclaimed "Boche finis."
November 1918 brought cool dry clement and pleasantly sunny weather with cool frosty nights. The men were given their winter uniforms and new equipment. Encouraging news came that Turkey had signed peace terms and Austria was in a state of revolt. The Italians were advancing to the German border as well. The Pioneers were "entertained" in the evening by the buzz of machinery running smoothly in the air, then you would hear a "hit and miss" sound like a four cylinder auto running on three cylinders, and would recognize this to be a bombing plane, then the searchlights would locate the machine, and the sky would be lighted up with bursting shells from our anti-aircraft guns", in a description by Sergeant Anthony Summers, of the Supply Company.
The local townspeople were very much agitated about news that Germany was seeking a peace. The Frenchmen would stand up to you and discuss things in his own language for an hour at a time, and all you have to say is "oui, oui" or "compree" and guess what he was saying.
Finally on Monday, November 11, 1918 the armistice was signed by Germany ending the war. Church bells tolled incessantly, guns were fired into the air and flags were flying from every house and public building, the French tricolor and the Stars and Stripes side by side. Commander in Chief, French Marshall Foch sent the following message:
Chief of Staff.
G. Q. G. A, 12 November, 1918 OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS SOLDIERS OF THE ALLIED ARMIES
After having resolutely stopped the enemy you have for months attacked him without respite, with an untiring faith and energy.
You have won the greatest battle of history and saved the most sacred of causes: the liberty of the world. Be proud.
You have covered your colors with immortal glory. Posterity will hold you in grateful remembrance.
The Marshal of France. Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies.
The exhausted doughboys of the American Expeditionary Force climbed from their muddy trenches, lit warming fires, and reflected upon the high cost of their victory. In 200 days of combat, 50,280 med had died and over 200,000 were wounded. The American Expeditionary Force had 43 divisions in France. Officially, seventeen of them were National Guard divisions, about 40% of the total in the field. The records of the German High Command released after the war list eight AEF divisions as excellent or superior. Six of these highly rated divisions were National Guard divisions. Dr. Jim Dan Hill in "The Minuteman in Peace and War", argues that the National Guard provided the equivalent of 20 divisions if one counts the contributions of the non- divisional units including the 1st army Headquarters Regiment, two separate Brigade headquarters, two Field Signal Battalions, and 14 regiments of Pioneer Infantry.
With the stability of peace, the Pioneers began to improve their lot somewhat with the arrival of barrack stoves to warm their quarters as the cold of winter approached. On November 17th, the men observed the Sabbath by washing themselves and their clothing. The men of the Supply Company rode army bicycles three kilometers to the nearby town of Void and observed German prisoners constructing barracks and auxiliary buildings. The soldiers were permitted to write home, and for the first time, accurately report their actual whereabouts vs. the usual "somewhere in France". The peacetime routine began to rapidly reassert itself. The bulletin board drill schedule for November 25 listed breakfast at 0700, drill from 0800-1100, dinner at 1200, more drill 1300- 11600, supper at 1700, retreat at 1730 with a field inspection for the following day. Like schoolboys, the men prayed for a four foot snow that would cancel the drill and inspections.
A rainy and gloomy Thanksgiving was welcomed by a feast of roasted pig, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, bread and butter, coffee, raisin pie, nuts and grapes. The Regiment was slowly re- assembled. In late November A, E, And G, Companies re-united. In early December, they were followed by Companies B, C, D, and F, at Sorcy.
On Christmas Day, 1918 at Sorcy-sur-Meuse, at Raulecourt, the station of the 2nd Battalion, and at Boucq, the station of the 3rd Battalion, Christmas celebrations were held and every man in the regiment was presented with a souvenir of France, and every mess was supplied with a ration of either turkey or goose. The men slept in until 9 AM after Christmas Eve revelries. The men fell in at 2 PM and marched to the square where a Christmas tree had been erected next to the YMCA hut and enjoyed an entertainment. The men sang "the Star Spangled Banner" accompanied by the band, followed by about 100 French children singing "the Marseilles". Then each child was presented with a small token. Speeches were made by Colonel Reed, Chaplain Davis, and Major LaFevre. The men dined at 4:30 PM. Boxing was their Christmas entertainment, and eight bouts of three rounds each were held. The Christmas of 1918 was long remembered by the inhabitants of the towns where the 59th Infantry were billeted.
After the armistice, the units of the 59th were assigned to duty salvaging German war material, ordnance demolition, and operation of quartermaster and ordnance depots. The casualties were not at an end however. Tragically on January 22, 1919 Wilmington soldiers Thomas Davis, Harvey Hadley, Howard Johnson, and John Chandler and three other regiment soldiers from Company "I" were killed in a mine explosion in Rehon, near Toul France. During the actual hostilities, none of the regiment men were killed, even though they were frequently under shell fire during the drive in the Argonne Forest. Several Pioneer Infantry soldiers perished as a result of disease however.
A list of the articles to be salvaged would require a catalog. Chiefly they were Allied and enemy weapons and cannon, web and leather equipment, clothing and blankets, rolling stock, aviation, electrical, and engineer equipment. It was a gigantic task, and did not near completion until the first week in March, when more than 3,000 French carloads had been shipped. For some weeks truck transportation was scarce, and work was slow, and consisted largely in getting material to roadsides.
Despite the hardships and the heavy work of salvage and demolition, there were compensating benefits. The men were issued passes and took full advantage of the opportunity to see the sights and enjoy the French culture. Sergeant Albert Summer's letters record visits to the birthplace of Joan of Arc at Demremy in the Vosges in January. In March he was granted a pass to visit Paris, where he passed through Toul, Vitrol-Francaise, the beautiful Marne Valley, the rolling plains of Chalons-sur-Marne, Epernay, and Chateau-Thiery. In Paris they visited the Pantheon, Musee de Cluny, the University of Paris, the Quai de Orsay, the Louvre, Versailles, and enjoyed statuary and mingling with the mademoiselles.
Summers went on to describe a brief sightseeing expedition in January 1919 to Montsec. "We started out walking towards St. Mihiel but had only gone three kilometers viewing the artillery emplacements along the narrow gauge and the machine gun nests in the tree tops, when one of our Fords came along and we drove on up to where the Headquarters of our 2nd battalion is located in Rolencourt, about eight kilometers from Boucq. We then decided to visit that famous slaughter house of Montsec. So we drove on through four or five "has been" towns, but are now nothing but masses of ruins, not a single room being left in the towns. The picture is indescribable. All along the road are shell holes both great and small, for it was here that some of the most stubborn fighting in the war was pulled off. Montsec is about 15 kilometers from here and it was this mount that the Germans occupied until September, 1918. It is an isolated spot of the Vosges Range. The Germans had erected at the foot of same a large iron cross and had built some fine concrete dugouts. A continuous tunnel runs around the mountain near the peak, but as the wire had been disconnected and parts of the tunnel caved in, we could only find our way around by the aid of a searchlight. The top is bare of trees from the continual artillery fire. From the top of this mount Metz can be seen in the distance. The French tried to rush this place and in so doing lost 36,000 men in 24 hours. When the Americans took it in September 1918, they lost 35 men. With the loss of Montsec, the St. Mihiel sector withered away, and the Boche was kept on the run. After walking all over the mount we returned to our machine and returned to our roosting place in time to sign the pay-roll."
Meanwhile the ruined Argonne was re-clothing itself in the vestments of Spring. Beside the thousands of little crosses which marked the graves of brave American soldiers, there sprang up the "pierce-niege" (snow drop), and the fields bloomed with the ever-present "cocou" (a species of yellow primrose). The rains were less frequent, and there were many days of such beautiful weather that men who had come to the conclusion that there was no sun in France, changed their minds.
On 21 March, 1919 the 59th Pioneer Infantry was transferred from the 2nd Army to the Advance Section, Service of Supply. By now, all the Pioneers were sick and tired of France and the dull routine of garrison duty. Rumors circulated among the disheartened troops that they would soon ship home. Their hopes of early embarkation were repeatedly dashed.
The Regiment re-united at LeMans on May 25. The soldiers camped about two kilometers from town in British hospital tents in a little green apple orchard garden. It appeared that they were side-tracked without any idea when they might return to Hoboken. According to Sergeant Summers, "Everyone was trying to make the best of it, but it was very disheartening when one thinks one is homeward bound." At last, they entrained for Brest on June 14 where they were physically examined and re-equipped. They decamped from Camp Pontanegen, Brest on July 27 and boarded the Leviathan.
On June 29, 1919, Headquarters of the 59th sailed from Brest once again on the Leviathan, arriving at Hoboken on July 5. Other units sailed separately during the month. In July, the men of the regiment were discharged at Camp Dix. They came home 1,500 Delawareans, and many of the men from New Jersey and New York who served with the outfit to the most rousing parade and civic reception Wilmington had ever seen.
For the first time since the Civil War, however, Delaware was without a National Guard, and with no provisions for reorganizing it. The other States were in the same situation. In 1920, Congress corrected the situation by spelling out very clearly how the States were to raise and maintain the militia guaranteed to them by the United State Constitution.
The 1920 law also provided smoother mobilization procedures, so the Guard could more quickly take its Place as part of the Army in case of future war. At the same time, Congress specifically prohibited high handed War Department actions designed to marginalize the Guard, such as the 1917 order discharging Guardsmen from State service. The 1917 order all but accomplished that result, and would have succeeded except for quick action by the discharged Guardsmen and their elected representatives in Congress.
The National Guard won the 1920 battle for its existence, and by 1940 was able to furnish 19 divisions at a time when our Regular forces included only six divisions and our other reserve forces were only skeleton units made up entirely of officers. If the Guard had lost its 1920 struggle with the War Department, and these 19 divisions had not been available 20 years later, the history of Word War II would have been written much differently.
Finally, we offer this poem by an unknown author that neatly summarizes the experience of the 59th during the Great War. (Contributed by Mike Morgan).
We read about the doughboys and their valor, which is true, And of the gallant part they played for the old Red, White, And Blue: We read about the H.F. A. and their ever-roaring guns, Also the heavy part they played in blowing up the Huns; The Infantry, the Cavalry, the hardy Engineers, But we never read a single word about "The Pioneers".
They slept in pup tents in the cold and worked in mud and mire, They filled up shell holes in the roads, 'most always under fire; Far o'er the lines the scout plane goes, directing the barrage, Just as zero hour draws nigh, or just before the charge. As o'er the top the doughboy goes, to put the Hun to tears, But who went out and cut the wire? "The Husky Pioneers."
They buried beaucoup horses and carried beaucoup shells. From every dump on every front, the kind of work that tells. A heavy pack on every back, on every track in France, They never wore the "Croix de Guerre"- They never had a chance. And as the heavy trucks rolled by, they worked to calm their fears. Who made the rocky roads so smooth? "The same old Pioneers."
Each branch deserves much credit, and I like to read their praise, We helped them all, both great and small, in many different ways; The Shock Troops and brave Marines, the Ammunition Train, The Signal Corps, the Tank Corps, and the Observation Plane. The War is won, the work is done, so here's three hearty cheers, For the outfit that I soldiered with, "The Good Old PIONEERS." (One of Them)
From "Philadelphia in the World War, 1914-1919", Philadelphia War History Committee, Wynkoop Hollenback and Crawford, New York, 1922
59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment Field and Staff Officers* Colonel J. Warner Reed, Commander, Wilmington Lt. Colonel Jas. Austin Ellison, Wilmington Capt. Joshua Danforth Bush, Wilmington Capt. Harry Blythe Van Sciver, Personnel Adjutant, Ventnor NJ Charles H. Hutson, Sergeant Major John J. Dugan, Sergeant Major William J. Stone, Color Sergeant George J. Johnson, Color Sergeant
First Battalion Major William Edward Lank, Commander, Milford 1st Lt. Jas. Lester Scotton, Hartley Titus C. Geesey, Sergeant Major
Second Battalion Major Earnest Courtland Parks, Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt. Jas. Carlton Hastings, Sharptown MD William R. Kern, Sergeant Major
Third Battalion Major John Prevost LeFevre, Commander, Dover 1st Lt. Byron Ramon Foster Ocean City, NJ
*The Evening Journal, May 28,1919, p.11
59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment Company Histories
Headquarters Company: Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. David Murphy Salter, Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt. Herbert Wilkin Weir, Wilmington 2nd Lt Gerald Swallow, Norristown PA 2nd Lt Harry Maltman, Wilmington Harry M. Brubaker, Bandleader Arrigo E. Marconetti, 1st Sergeant
The Headquarters Company included the famous 59th Pioneer Infantry Band, at "the top of the list of bands representing the Second Army", as well as Musicians, Cooks, Mechanics, Buglers, and one Horseshoer.
On Sept. 14, the entire company, with the first and second battalions left for Foulain, Haute- Marne. On Sept. 26, the HQ Company was ordered to Sorcy at an Engineering Dump at Sorcy Gare (Meuse). The Company on Nov. 10, 1918 was ordered to Grosrouvres to build the veterinary evacuation stables and hospital which they completed by Nov. 23. They were then ordered to complete an inventory of supplies at Sorcy Gare and move them to Leonval. On Jan. 21, 1919 the company was ordered to Boucq.
The 59th Pioneer Infantry Band gained fame throughout the area as one of the best. When "Leviathan" anchored at Brest, Sept. 7, 1918 the band remained on board playing during the time it took to coal the ship. Debarkation was completed on Sept. 9th and the band proceeded to through Brest to Pontanezen Barracks performing a number of concerts to relieve the monotony and the hardships among the men. Their music library was lost in transit, but finally replaced in Sorcy where they entertained the troops. On Christmas Day 1918, trucks took the band to Boucq to entertain the 3rd Battalion. The band also performed at Toul, for Second Army Headquarters, and numerous base hospitals nearby. The city was also the primary base of the United States Air Service during World War I. As such, it was a base for many of the 45 war time squadrons. After their selection as the best band in a competition held by Second Army, they were assigned to the French Riviera, which was a leave area, to perform at Monte Carlo for veterans on leave from the front.
According to the wartime diary of veteran Anthony Summers, "The men work all day and during the evening visit the "soda water" resorts, or gather around for a card party, or play a visit to the Y.M.C.A. hut to play a game of dominoes, write a letter, or listen to the beautiful strains of "Joan of Arc", played by the world famous 59th Pioneer Infantry Band."
Supply Company:Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. Lewis Joshua Ellison, Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt. Horace Noble Wilkinson, Wilmington 1st Lt William Thomas Turnerm Wilmington 2nd Lt Abel Lawrence Pierson, Essex Fell NJ 2nd Lt Allen Arthur Lowe, Northhampton Mass. 2nd Lt John Vincent McAvoy, New York NY Horace P. Waddington, 1st Sergeant
On Sept. 27, 1918 a detail of 27 men under the command of Lt. Allen A. Lowe entrained at Foulain with the 3rd Battalion and was stationed at Headquarters Clermont-en-Argonne. The remainder of the company, five officers and 125 enlisted men entrained on the same date for Sorcy-sur- Meuse. There, they established themselves in a chateau that was once the home of Charles II of England and Queen Henrietta during the reign of Cromwell. On Nov. 8, 40 skilled mechanics were sent to Grosrouvres for construction work. The remainder procured about 100 German prisoners to clean up the town (Void). "They worked and grunted all afternoon under the vigilant eyes of our guard who, with bayonets fixed and rifles loaded had all they could do to keep the French populace calm and away from them," according to Albert Summers diary. He continued, " "It is very interesting to watch the fair sex as a body of prisoners pass. They argue with one another and shake their fists at their former antagonists who in reply only smile that German smile of defiance. The prisoners are mostly boys, who do not look to be over 15 to 16 years of age at most."
The Grosrouvres contingent returned on November 24 "all fagged out". The Sorcy boys marched to Boucq (Meurthe-et-Moselle) on Jan. 25, 1919. Sergeant Summers diary described the place: "This town is located about eight miles from Sorcy and had been much "shot up" by aerial raids. Some of the buildings are missing a whole side. The town is built on top of a high hill from which can be seen Moutsec, which is only six miles distant and noted for the great slaughter of French troops. In the center of town is a grand chateau occupied by a retired French general and all around the chateau are many sizes and kinds of buildings some of which are affected by shellfire. In one of these we were billeted the part for the "chevaux" (horses) and the upper for the men. Our company office and my rooms are situated on the ground floor the doors of which open upon the stables."
They were told to move to Claremont in early May, but the orders were canceled. The monotony on their hilltop was broken only by movies or a show. A few days later the company was ordered to move out. On May 6, the men got busy packing equipment and property, loading it onto trucks. They left Boucq about 1030 by way of Trodes, Pagny-sur-Meuse, Voucoulers, Domremy and on to Neufchateau. The sun rose bright and dried everything so the roads were very dusty. The men looked like they had been covered with flour when they reached their destination. The land was beautiful as the farmers sowed their grain, the meadows green with grass made more picturesque by the mountain slopes. The supply company proceeded some 80 kilometers to Rimacourt and the American built barracks there, a relief from the French billets with the manure pile in front of it. They devoured a late dinner at 2030.
The Company stayed at Rimecourt for one week. It is a small town and much cleaner than their previous abodes since arriving in France. The gardens were blooming with flowers and you could go into town and get an egg supper for four francs. The men of the supply company boarded the train on May 12 at 1000 traveling via Jonchery, Chaumont Junction, on to St. Aignan. They journeyed along the Cher River down a beautiful valley and finally reached the little town of Tehee, an ancient place built into the sides of the hills alongside the river. The hills are of solid rock and out of the cliffs one sights a chimney, like cliff dwellers. The men traveled not in coaches but in the ubiquitous boxcars, eating "corn willie" (corned beef) and hardtack (hard biscquit) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The men finally arrived at Tours at 1900 on May 13, wearily encamping in their pyramidal tents for a well-deserved rest after two night without sleep.
The next morning the excited men of Supply Company were told what they could bring with them to the embarkation point. They started packing at once and went through a de-lousing station and underwent a "short arm" inspection (medical genital exam). As they were drawing up passenger lists the men were ordered to cease preparations. They were crestfallen to learn that they would be detailed to forwarding barracks in order to assist with the construction of a stadium in Paris fro athletic feats scheduled in June. With all hopes of an early sailing dashed the despondent soldiers said some things "not fit for publication." they began to wonder if they were to be turned over to France permanently to clean up the rest of her devastated areas.
During operations the company suffered no combat casualties and only two deaths from sickness.
On March 29, 1919 the company was stationed as follows:
Medical Department:Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Major William Marshall Jr, Commander, Milford DE Capt. William Thomas Hilliard, Salem NJ Capt. Richard Oliver Miller, Erie PA 1st Lt Abram Halprin, Philadelphia 1st Lt George Francis Hogan, Brooklyn NY 1st Lt Alexander Joseph Conlon, Philadelphia 1st Lt James Wiley Beard, Troy AL 1st Lt Philip Combs Southard, Wilmington 1st Lt George Porter Kensley, Rochester PA Chaplain 1st Lt Howard Davis, Baltimore Chaplain 1st Lt Joseph Michael Kelly, Hoboken NJ Sergeant 1st Class John H. Allen, Wilmington
The Medical Detachment, 59th Pioneer Infantry with a strength of 11 officers and 52 enlisted men debarked at Brest on Sept. 8, 1918. The medical equipment consisted solely of supplies in the personal possession of the men, the bulk of the equipment having been salvaged at the time of debarkation. The health of the men of the regiment was generally very good. Major Marshall endured an accident at Foulain and did not return to service until February 1919.
Company "A" Capt. Charles R. Jefferis, Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt Henry C. Ray, Wilmington 1st Lt Herman t. Betts, Milford 1st Lt William Stewart Jr, Wilmington 2nd Lt William S. Weggemann, New Castle 2nd Lt James P. Truss, Wilmington 1st Sgt John R. Gallagher
Company "A", 59th Pioneer Infantry 7 officers and 211 enlisted men entrained at Foulain (Haute Marne) for Belleville (Meurthe-et-Moselle) on 29 Sept. 1918. There, they worked at the railhead until Oct. 3 they marched to Marbache (Meurthe-et-Moselle) and went into billets. On Oct 5 the company moved by truck to Limey and Regnieville (Meurthe -et-Moselle). Company headquarters and the first and second platoons were stationed at Limey. The second detachment was stationed at Regnieville.
The first detachment operated a stone-crusher until Nov. 5 and then moved to Flirey doing the same work until Nov 9. The two detachments were re-united, marching to Boullionville (Meurthe- et-Moselle) and bivouacked with all arms and equipment until Nov 12. contributing to the defenses of the second position, Second Army front. Both detachments then returned to their former tasks and posts at Flirey and St. Jacques Canyon. On 27 November 1918 the company moved by rail from Bernecourt to Sorcy (Meuse) and occupied billets in that town.
The second detachment occupied dugouts at Regnieville from 5 October to 1 November. On October 25 one officer and fifty men moved to Thiaucourt where the were occupied in furnishing rock for road work on the Regnieville -Pont-a-Moussan-Limey Road. On Nov 1, the platoon at Thiaucourt rejoined the detachment and moved to Metz Bridge near St. Jacques Canyon where the detachment engaged in road building. During this time they were periodically under shell fire.
Shortly after their arrival at Sorcy (Meuse) the company was selected for work at the Salvage Depot and remained at this task until January 2, 1919. They moved by truck on Jan. 5th to Rehon (Meurthe-et-Moselle) and for the following 51 days loaded material captured by American troops from the enemy at the Providence Steel Plant, one of the richest dumps abandoned by the Germans. On Feb 23 the company was ordered to Rosieres to handle munitions at the ordinance camp there. They then moved to Langres (Haute-Marne) on March 28.
Company "B": Liverdun, Dept. Meurthe-et-Moselle Capt. James W. Cannon, Commander, Milford 1st Lt Halsted P. Layton, Georgetown 1st Lt John E. Kern, Milford 1st Lt Davis J. Mays, Memphis TN 2nd Lt Roland H. Diefenderfer, Wyoming DE 2nd Lt William A. Robinson, New York 1st Sgt William J. Gaffney
Company "B" arrived at Liverdun on 27 September 1918 and were assigned to 1st Battalion, 24th Engineers on October 1st. the Company worked at the Army Concrete factory making concrete blocks used in the construction of machine gun emplacements. They also manufactured conduits use to move water to the front.
On October 15 the company was transferred to 2nd Army. Two days after the armistice plant operations were suspended and general cleanup commenced. On Dec. 3, 1918 the company moved to Sorcy where daily drills were resumed and where Christmas was celebrated. On January 8 the company moved to Conflans-Jarny where it was assigned to work in the big Quartermaster Corps warehouse. Here, they moved carloads of coal, gasoline, beef, potatoes and canned goods each month.
The Company was assigned to the construction of the Pershing Stadium near Paris, where the Inter-allied Games would be played in the summer of 1919. They returned to Norfolk and was de- mobilized at Camp Upton, New York on August 7, 1919.
Company "C" Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. Orville E. Clark, Commander, Meridien MS 1st Lt Walter G. Newton, Dover 1st Lt Dauphin D. Wharton, Dover 1st Lt Herbert N. Hartman, Wilmington 2nd Lt Norman H. Wanner, Collegeville PA 2nd Lt Stephen F. Stewart, Wilmington 2nd Lt Martin J. Owens, Hartford Conn. 1st Sgt. John E. Mitchell
After arriving at Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Company "C" was ordered to St. Mihiel to report to the 26th Engineers and assigned to Water supply service of the St.Mihiel water supply section. The St. Mihiel sector had only recently been evacuated by the Germans after a four year occupation. The Company provided water supply for troops in that district often under extended artillery fire, although they suffered no casualties as a result. After the armistice, on 13 November, the company was relieved of duty and returned to Sorcy where regimental headquarters was located.
At Sorcy, drill resumed until the company was ordered to proceed to Rehon (Meurthe-et-Moselle) on January 2. They joined Company "A" in salvaging supplies and material.
The Company was assigned to the construction of the Pershing Stadium near Paris, where the Inter-allied Games would be played in the summer of 1919. They returned to Norfolk and was de- mobilized at Camp Upton, New York on August 7, 1919.
Company "D":Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. William F. Cann, Commander, Kirkwood DE 1st Lt James H. Hazel, Dover 1st Lt Joseph Berger,Wilmington 1st Lt George Schulz, Wilmington 2nd Lt James Powell, Townsend 2nd Lt Edward K Haen, Rhinebeck NY 1st Sgt George D. Green
Company "D" was assigned to Sorcy on Sept. 27, 1918 before marching to Grosrouvres the following day where Company headquarters was established under the 26th Engineers. On Oct. 2, Lt Haen and 62 men were sent to Bois de Puvenelle to lay pipe lines. They were augmented on October 5 with an additional 29 enlisted men. On October 6, Lt. Schulz and 47 men were sent to Euvezin to lay more pipe and construct reservoirs. (Lt Schulz would later command the Delaware National Guard during World War II in the South Pacific. )
On October 16, 1918 additional men were assigned, in mostly one man details, to operate pumps and patrol pipe lines to Maizerais, Bouillonville, Nonsard, Essey, Euvezin, Thiaucourt, Dieulouard, Bois Le Pretre, Fountain-de-cups, Regnieville, Mamey, Puvenelle, St. Jacques Grisecourt and Death Valley.
The company moved to St. Martin by rail on 10 December 1918. About one hundred men were tasked to Special Duty at Commercy, building, repairing, and remodeling old buildings to be used as stables for the 2nd Army School of Equitation.
On 16 January 1919, the company proceeded from Sorcy to the Metz Tunnel to relieve Company K, 804th Pioneer Infantry (a colored regiment). Their billets were in dugouts and its duties included salvaging and destroying ammunition from other dug-outs in the Metz Tunnel vicinity. On the 23rd of January the company moved to Bouillonville while Lt. Haen and 54 men moved to Thiaucourt to destroy German ammunition. On February 24 the men were all re-assigned to St. Jean Valley where they demolished American and French ammunition.
The Company was assigned to the construction of the Pershing Stadium near Paris, where the Inter-allied Games would be played in the summer of 1919. They returned to Norfolk and was de- mobilized at Camp Upton, New York on August 7, 1919.
Company "E" Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. Jesse A. McKay, Commander, New Castle 1st Lt S. B. Irwin Duncan, Wilmington 1st Lt Fred C. Davidson, New Castle 1st Lt William A. Russell, Wilmington 2nd Lt Charles E. McCarthy, Brooklyn NY 2nd Lt Harry J. Bierman, New Castle 1st Sgt William E. Stewart
Company "E" remained at Sorcy with Regimental Headquarters until October 12, 1918 when construction was commenced on huts next to anti-aircraft batteries at Pagney, Troussey and Sorcy. On October 28, one platoon was sent to Chaudeney to construct a stockade for German prisoners. The following day a platoon was ordered to Woinville and one to Bernecourt to engage in general construction until Nov 7, 1918, when they were reassigned to Grosrouvres for construction of barracks.
One day before the armistice, the entire company was moved to Hannonville to construct Army Headquarters, which work was completely abandoned the following day. The following day the company returned to Grosrouvres to complete work on huts, stables and an infirmary. On Nov. 16, two platoons were detailed to start general construction work at Manil-la-Tour, but this work quickly became a prison cage for German prisoners at Void. On 20 December the company moved to Raulecourt. One platoon was assigned to Broussey on the day after Christmas, to load ammunition. Two platoons were moved to Vigneulles on January 17 for work on a salvage dump there.
On February 24, 1919 the company moved from Vigneulles to Trondes Ammunition Park, a large ordnance dump where they engaged on the work of demolition of ammunition. Company "E" moved from Trondes to Dijon (Haute-Marne) on 28 March 1919.
Company "F": Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. Alfred S. Herzel, Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt Eli J. Wells, Wilmington 1st Lt Ralph B. Segar, Havre de Grace MD 1st Lt Ernest S. Hutson, Wilmington 2nd Lt Hugh McCaughan, New Castle 2nd Lt Van R. Pavey, New York 1st Sgt William C. Scheid
On October 12, 1918, Company "F" was ordered to Varneville where it was attached to the Engineers, Second Colonial Corps, French Army. They were tasked with maintenance of the road from Apremont to Woinville. They salvaged material from shell-torn buildings in Apremont and operated quarries at Apremont and Arneville to secure road building materials.
On November 9, 1918 the company received a pressing order to construct a veterinary evacuation hospital at Wionville for use by evacuated and gassed animals. After great difficulty in securing adequate materials and tools, but in three days they had completed four stables, one large barracks and several smaller barracks and buildings. After the armistice "F" Company returned to Varneville and took up daily drill.
Mich. Daniel Slack wrote on November 16th, “We are having pretty cool weather over here now. And this is not such a bad country over here? But the old U.S.A. has got them all beat. And we are in German dug out now, and there is a good many hills and mountains where we are at now, and I will tell you all about this country when I get back, if I ever get back, for I can tell you better than I can write about it, for I’m to lazy to write.” (Ltr in collection of Pencader Museum)
On November 23 the company moved by rail to Commercy and then marched to Sorcy, carrying on work under the Second Army policing plan. They were ordered to join Company "G" at Rosieres-en-Haye on the 13th of December. On December 18th they returned to Sorcy. Three days later they marched to Raulecourt along with the rest of Second Battalion. Raulecourt is a small town that had been under sustained shell fire throughout the war. Considerable work was performed in order to make it fit for occupation by the American troops.
After Christmas on the 29th the Third Platoon of Company "F" was sent to Woinville (Near Montsec) to salvage ammunition. On January 16, 1919 the remainder of the Company was ordered to Belleville to do salvage work. On 15 February those at Belleville marched to Lagney. The company re-united at Raulecourt on Feb. 24. On March 8, 1919 the unit was ordered to report at the Second Army Educational Center, Lerouville France by motor transport, where they were assigned to duty as a school detachment.
Company "G": Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. William Berl Jr. Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt John P. Eckles, Wilmington 1st Lt Leon L. Lynam, Carney Point NJ 1st Lt Stephen Curtis, Wilmington DE 2nd Lt William E. Gell, Wilmington 2nd Lt Arthur F. McCann, Elmira NY 1st Sgt Francis J. A. Riley
On Sept. 27, 1918 Company "G" was assigned to the 40th Engineers, Camouflage Section for duty and then marched to Sorcy-sur-Meuse where they were to be billeted. One officer, Lt. Curtis and 17 men sere sent by truck to Nancy to act as drivers and mechanics at the Camouflage factory there. The following day, Lieutenants Gell and McCann and 61 men were driven to Souhesme-la- Grande to erect road screening to the front lines, to prevent observation by the enemy of allied troop movements. The remainder of the officers and men were sent to Camp Gerard-sas in the Foret de la Reine to do the work of preparation for camouflage.
On Sept. 30 two men were set to Leonval, two to Marbache, four to Montauville, and twelve to Pannes to do field work on camouflage, or work in the dumps within easy range of the enemy artillery. Ultimately, the company was scattered over an area of some 150 square kilometers. Twenty men were sent to Varennes on October 5.
After the cessation of hostilities, on November 23, the greater part of the company was re- assembled and marched back to Sorcy where it remained until December 13, 1918, when it proceeded by rail to Rosieres-en-Haye to work at the ammunition dump. On the 17th the unit returned to Sorcy and on the 20th they marched to Raulecourt. Here, they remained until January 16, 1919 when they entrained once again for Rosieres-en-Haye where they remained for the next month until Feb. 24. They then moved by rail to Trondes where they engaged in demolition work. Finally, they moved from Trondes to Dijon (Haute-Marne) on 28 March 1919.
Company "H": Sorcy-sur-Meuse, Dept. Meuse Capt. Robert Kelton, Commander, Hockessin DE 1st Lt Frederick Manion, Wilmington 1st Lt Edwin S. Valliant, Laurel DE 1st Lt William W. Ramsey, Flatbush L.I. NY 2nd Lt Benjamin H. Miller, Delaware City 2nd Lt Gustave H. France, Williamsburg MD 1st Sgt Raymond C. Abbott
Company "H" arrived at Sorcy on 27 Sept. 1918. On October 17, it was split into two detachments, the first of two officers and 112 men was moved to Menil-la-Horgne (Meuse) while the second remained at Sorcy, both repairing roads damaged by shell fire. On October 24, the first detachment returned to Sorcy, and the next day was reassigned to Toul, a fortified city.
On Nov. 8th one platoon of the Sorcy detachment was marched to Lerouville, and another platoon including the company headquarters moved to Commercy. Both were engaged in general construction, repairing hospitals for wounded from the Verdun sector. On November 11th the detachment at Toul marched to Woinville, and due to the armistice, returned to Toul on the 13th. On Nov. 17th the company headquarters and the remainder of the Commercy detachment moved to Void (Meuse) to build warehouses for the Ordnance Department. Between the 25th and 29th of November, 1918 the battalion was reassembled for the first time in three months as the men reassembled at Sorcy.
On Dec. 10th two platoons moved from Sorcy to Woinville and Vaucouleurs respectively, returning a week later on the 17th. On Dec. 20th the entire company proceeded to Raulecourt, where they spent Christmas. They were one of the few fortunate American units to enjoy a turkey dinner. On Dec. 29th one platoon was moved by narrow gage rail from Raulecourt to Vieville-sous-les-Cotes. On January 15 four officers and 165 men left Raulecourt for Rosieres-en Haye (Meurthe-et-Mosele) working at the ammunition dump. A day later, the detachment at Vieville moved to Vigneulles remaining until the 24th of January 1919, when both detachments returned to Raoulecourt. On March 6th the entire company proceeded to Andilly Ammunition Park where they stayed until March 20th, returning to Raulecourt.
The photos above are from a house in Vignuelles France that served as a makeshift schoolroom while "H" Company was posted there. It is a typical "Lorraine" house built in the 1820s. The photos were contributed by the owner, Chantal Noisette who intends to preserve th writings on the wall of her attic.
Company "I": Les Islettes, Dept. Marne Capt. Herbert M. Jones, Commander, Dover 1st Lt Robert D. Simons, Dover 1st Lt George C. Scotton, Hartley 2nd Lt Charles S. Gerard, Moriches L.I. NY 2nd Lt Charles F. Callahan, Chadwicks NY 1st Sgt Edward T. W. Edsall
Company "I" left Foulain on Sept. 27, 1918 for Les Islettes (Meuse) arriving a few hours after a heavy bombardment of the town by the enemy. Work was immediately started on the railhead while awaiting orders from the 26th Engineers to report on Water Supply duties, including unloading cars of Engineer material, rations, and Quartermaster supplies of the First Army Divisions of the Argonne Sector. There were nine tracks at Islettes and eight were congested with material. Some 1500 cars were eventually unloaded. Several thousand casuals were returned to their divisions at this station and the Company "I" cooks were often called upon to furnish meals for these men on their arrival before rejoining their Divisions on the line. Thi was cheerfully done even at times to the serious depletion of Company rations.
At Les Islettes shell fire gradually moved further away indicating an enemy retreat. On Oct. 25 half the company left Islettes for Abri du Crochet, in the heart of the Argonne Forest and the balance of the company was divided into detachments, working on the water supply in conjunction with Company E, 26th Engineers. Details were sent to Cheppy, Charpentry, Apremont, Exermont, and Varennes. The work at these point were conducted under shell fire and air raids almost continuously, and dug outs and shell holes were used as shelters.
Company Headquarters moved to Buzancy (Ardennes) on Nov. 5, 1918 from Abri du Crochet and the various detachments reassembled at this point. From Buzancy, detachments were sent to various towns on water supply work, and as the enemy moved to the north, the detachments followed them. On Nov. 11, the men were in Buzancy where they were being housed in shell torn houses. On Nov. 19 the company moved to Verdun, entrained on a narrow gage railroad, then transferring at Grand-Pre to standard gage track to their destination.
Details were assigned to Etain and surrounding towns. The company was relieved of water supply work on December 8, 1918, when they were reassigned, along with the battalion, to Second Army. The Battalion assembled at Verdun and departed for Boucq on the 13th of December traveling by rail via Pagny-sur-Meuse, where they continued on foot. The Battalion moved once again on January 16th to Mangiennes (Meuse) engaging in salvage and demolition work over an alloted area in that locale. During this work a German Mine exploded resulting in the death of seven men from Company "I". The casualties included:
Dead Pvt 1st Class John A. Chandler Pvt Thomas J. Davia Pvt. Harvey Hadley Pvt. Howard W. Johnson Pvt. Michael Patwell Pvt. Howard Penn Pvt. Hohn H.H. Roder Pvt. Edward Volk
Wounded (Transferred to Base Hospital, Recovery Unknown) Pvt. Charles Mosher, Pvt. Clarence J. Riddell
The company left Mangiennes on April 22, arriving at Joncherry-Haute Marne where they were billeted at Advance Depot No. 4. Their task was to load ammunition onto trains to be shipped to the army of occupation at Coblenz and embarkation ports. On May 23 the company moved to Rimacourt by truck and then entrained with Company "M" enroute to LeMans joining the regiment on May 25. The regiment entrained for Brest on June 14 where the company was examined and reequipped. They boarded the U.S.S. Leviathan on June 27 and sailed on June 29 for Hoboken NJ, arriving on July 5. They entrained to Fort Dix NJ the same day and were discharged from federal military service on July 10.:
Company "K" : Clement-en-Argonne, dept. Meuse Capt. Joseph A. Davis, Commander, Wilmington 1st Lt Peter Sommers, W. Philadelphia 1st Lt John J. Lafferty, Wilmington 2nd Lt Delbert B. Gallagher 2nd Lt Joshua W. Davis, Newark DE Lt. Herbert W. Wier 1st Sgt. Henry Sergeant
Company "K" entrained at Foulain with six officers and 231 men for Clermont (Meuse) on Sept. 27, 1918. On Sept. 30 they were ordered to march to Esnes and report to the 27th Engineers for duty on narrow gage railway construction. Their duties included building roadbeds for connecting French railroads with newly captured German railroads about four kilometers northeast of Esnes. During the period 1-4 October the men were under shell fire including considerable gas attacks.
The Company marched to Recicourt on Oct 4 to report to the 26th Engineers for water supply work. Two details were drawn on Oct. 8. One of 32 men led by Lt. Herbert W. Wier proceeded to Bois de Montfaucon and the other of 48 men led by Lt. Gallagher was sent to Bois de Cheppy about three kilometers north of Avocourt. Each detail constructed a water tank, installed paving and pipes, assisted by the 26th Engineers. Both details endured shelling and air raids during the time they were engaged. On Oct. 9 another detail of 30 men led by Lt. Lafferty was sent to Montfaucon to install a pumping station. At this time, the enemy had targeted Montfaucon with nearly continuous shell fire which the men had to endure as they performed their tasks. Other smaller details were drawn to install tanks, horse troughs, and pavements at Gesnes, Cierges, Somerence, St. Georges, Bayonville, Sommauthe, and Baumont. Many of these were close to the front, and always in considerable danger.
On Oct. 24, Lt. Gallagher's detail joined forces with Lt. Lafferty's, one and half kilometers north of Montfaucon. They installed a pump, tank, and about 400 feet of four inch pipe and did considerable paving. The details also constructed a 1350 gallon water tank at Nantillos.
The company moved its headquarters from Recicourt to Cierges on Oct.26 and this was accomplished by marching part of the distance and them met by trucks of the 26th Engineers. Daily details of 21 men were sent from this place to Montfaucon to locate a leaks in a faulty water main that had been captured from the Germans. Another detail was sent to Romagne to install paving around a water station.
Company Headquarters was moved to Romagne on Nov.7, 1918. The balance of the company was ordered to report to Nouart on the same date. At Nouart another pumping station was installed and considerable police work was done around the town. A 50 man detail led by Lt. Gallagher was sent to Stenay from Nouart on Nov. 19 to repair that town's water damaged system. The rest of the company under Lt. Lafferty reported back to the company at Dun-sur-Meuse on Nov. 21st.
From Dun-sur- Meuse details were dispatched to salvage water points and a guard was maintained at Water Supply Salvage Dumps until relieved from First Army to Second Army by orders received 6 December, 1918. On Dec. 10 the company proceeded to Verdun and on 13 Dec. to Boucq arriving the following day. On Jan.4 a platoon under Lt. Gallagher was ordered to Toul. On Jan. 16 the company was sent to Mangiennes where it engaged in salvage and demolition work. Gallagher's detail reported back on February 24, 1919
A very nice group photograph of K Company resides in the archives of the Delaware Historical Society.
Company "L": Clement-en-Argonne, dept. Meuse Capt. Henry B. Smith, Commander, New Castle 1st Lt Harry F. Schuler, Wilmington 1st Lt James P. Brown, Swarthmore PA 1st Lt Belville F. Greene, Philadelphia 2nd Lt Donald G. McDougall, Buffalo NY 2nd Lt Milton M. Rosner, New York NY 1st Sgt William L. Fluharty
Company "L" left Brest for Foulain on September 16, 1918. On September 27th it was ordered to duty under the Chief Engineer of the First Army at Clermont-en-Argonne where they were attached to the 25th Engineers, in the vicinity of Montfaucon. The company moved on Sept. 30 to Esnes after a 30 kilometer march in heavy rains and were greeted by equally heavy shell fire from the enemy, probing for the American ammunition dump.
Their task in the Argonne consisted of building seven kilometers of narrow gage railway of the Esnes -Montfaucon line linking the French Estes, and recently captured German Montfaucon segments. The work was accomplished mostly at night and completed on October 13 after eleven days of labor. The most difficult work was the grading, as the entire section was a network of shell holes, punctuated by stubborn tree stumps, which were disposed of using German hand grenades. The work was completed just in time to have ammunition sent to the artillery which was entirely without ordnance. A delay would have forced the American line to withdraw to some distant point in the rear. After the line was constructed, the company was assigned to maintain the nine kilometer track.
The Company was very fortunate, as their losses were slight in spite of the steady shell fire from artillery and enemy aircraft. The men were compelled to strike their dog tents at daybreak and not permitted to put them up until after dark, so as to remain concealed from enemy. The heavy rains meant they often slept in wet blankets as a result.
On December 22, the company was ordered to return to the Regiment at this time assigned to Second Army at Boucq. It remained there until January 16 when it was sent to Mangiennes to do salvage and demolition work. The first two weeks of this task were especially dangerous owing to the large number of German mines which were left in the field after the armistice. Once the mines were removed, the Company proceeded to the demolition and salvage of ammunition in the surrounding territory.
Company "M": Dombasle, Dept. Meuse Capt. John W. Ramsey, Commander, Newark DE 1st Lt Mahlon K. Adams, Philadelphia 1st Lt Arthur G. Heinel, Newark DE 1st Lt Augustus A. Wick, Smyrna DE 2nd Lt John R. Schultz, S. Middleton PA 2nd Lt William B. Spicer, Wilmington 1st Sgt Charles M. Allmond, Jr.
On 27 September, 1918 Company"M" entrained at Foulain for Dombasle (Meuse), a very important railhead in the zone of advance. The company assisted the Engineers in relieving the railway congestion. Here they had their first taste of combat as they were subject to air raids and cannonading day and night. The company was assigned to Company "D" of the 26th Engineers who were on Water Supply Service. They marched 10 kilometers to Bethincourt, making camp there. At Bethincourt the company built and maintained roads in the vicinity. Because many artillery batteries were located along this road between camp and town the men were occasionally detailed to carry ammunition for the big guns when heavy barrages were laid.
On October 10, a 37 man detachment of the 1st Platoon led by Lt. Adams marched to Cuisy and Septsarges to build roadways about water points. While there, they suffered their first casualty when a man was struck by shrapnel. Fortunately his wounds were not critical although he was hospitalized. The First platoon returned on October 16 and the Fourth platoon led by Lt. Heinel marched to Gercourt to build roads around water points. They were joined on the 22nd by Third platoon led by Lt. Spicer.
On October 19, Second platoon led by Lt. Wick was moved by truck to Brabant to install water points. During an enemy bombardment on the night of 28 October, a gas shell exploded at the mouth of a dugout, gassing three men inside who were all hospitalized. On November 6, the exposed platoon suffered four more casualties, all of whom were hospitalized
Lt. Adams and 1st platoon marched to Charney on Nov. 1 where they build roads and installed water lines in the vicinity of No. 2 Dressing Station, 26th Division. Company Headquarters remained in Bethincourt until 12 November, 1918. Capt. Ramsey and 2nd Lt Schultz and fifteen men then marched to Liny-devant-Dun. As a result of the armistice, all the platoons were reunited at Liny over the next several days. While there,the company policed the town, salvaging and drill. A 51 man detachment under Sgt Frank Kowalski was sent to Damvillers for two days salvaging engineer supplies from a German dump, and detachments were sent to back areas to remove pumping apparatus from useless water points and to salvage engineer supplies.
On December 10, Company "M" moved to Verdun, where the 3rd Battalion was assembling. On December 13, the battalion was relieved from duty with 1st Army and ordered to rejoin the Regiment at Boucq. They were billeted in town and resumed drill and routine duties. The unit was ordered to Damvillers for salvage duty. On January 16, 1919 the battalion was moved by truck about 100 kilometers into former German-held territory to Mangiennes to discover, and destroy German ammunition, being assisted by an ordnance detachment.
On August 8-9th, 1936 the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment held its first reunion since its last assembly during World War I, 17 years previously. It was held at the Bethany Beach training Camp of the 198th Coast Artillery. More than 2000 visitors cheered as the veterans marched onto the field and joined the guardsmen in a regimental parade.
Col. John P. LeFevre was elected as commander of the over 200 veterans in attendance. Other officers included Vice Commander, MSgt Fred L. Manion, Chaplain Lt. Joseph M. Kelley, Treasurer Capt. Horace N. Wilkinson, and Historian Eric B. Oxley.
Distinguished guests included Senator John G. Townsend Jr. Delaware's wartime governor and camp honoree. A memorial service was held for deceased members.
A sixth annual reunion was held in Trenton NJ on September 27-28, 1941. Capt. James D. Quillen of Dover, former sergeant of Company A headed the Delaware delegation as president of the association. He was commander of the Delaware Company, Delaware State Guard at the time. Mr. Howard D. Jester was listed as association historian.
USS Leviathan, a 58,000 ton (displacement) troop transport, was completed at Hamburg, Germany, in 1914 as the German flag passenger liner Vaterland. Laid up at Hoboken, New Jersey, when World War I began, she was seized when the United States joined the conflict in April 1917. The Navy took custody of the ship soon afterwards, placing her in commission as USS Vaterland in late July 1917, while she was being refitted for service as a troop transport. In early September the ship was renamed Leviathan, an appropriate name considering that she was then the largest ship in the U.S. Navy, and in the World. The Navy would not operate a bigger ship until 1945, when the slightly longer and heavier aircraft carrier Midway entered service.
Leviathan's seagoing Naval career commenced in November 1917, when she made a trial trip from Hoboken to Cuba and back. In December she took troops to Liverpool, England, but repairs delayed her return to the U.S. until mid-February 1918. A second trip to Liverpool in March was followed by more repairs. At that time she was repainted with the British-type "dazzle" camouflage scheme that she carried for the rest of the war. With the completion of that work, Leviathan began regular passages between the U.S. and Brest, France, delivering up to 14,000 persons on each trip. In all, she transported nearly 120,000 servicemen to the combat zone before the November 1918 Armistice brought the fighting to an end.
Shortly afterwards Leviathan, repainted grey overall by December 1918, started to bring American war veterans home. She made nine round-trip voyages for this purpose, completing the last in September 1919. Late in October, USS Leviathan was decommissioned and turned over to the U.S. Shipping Board. She later became the U.S. Flag ocean liner Leviathan. The great ship was scrapped in 1938.
"59th Pioneer Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces France, 1917-1918", by Colonel J. Warner Reed. His account appears in the Journal Every Evening on June 30, 1919, and was printed in an extended booklet form which included the individual Company histories as well. It is believed that the unit history was originally written by Captain J. Danforth Bush, the Regimental Adjutant, assisted by Captain Harry Van B. Sciver. Colonel Reed is credited in his status as Regimental Commander with command responsibility. The late Delaware journalist William P. Frank had a notation in his personal copy of the history, attributed to Bush and this was also confirmed by BG (ret.) Harry B. Van Sciver to Delaware National Guard historian BG (ret.) Donn Devine. This history also includes a detailed and a complete roster of names of the officers and enlisted men by rank and title, as well as gains and losses for each company. It was then re- printed a second time in 2003 by the University of Delaware. Delaware Historical Society, Wilmington. A Sept. 18, 1941 newspaper article from the Middletown Transcript references a regimental history of the 59th, first published in France, that would be reprinted (in 1941) for the sixth annual Regimental reunion in Trenton NJ on Sept. 26-27th, 1941. That might explain why most of the Company histories end so abruptly around March 1919. They must have had to meet a French publication deadline, before returning home in June/July.
"Biennial Report of the Adjutant General, State of Delaware, 1917-1918", The Adjutant General's Office, State of Delaware
"Philadelphia in the World War, 1914-1919", Philadelphia War History Committee, Wynkoop Hollenback and Crawford, New York, 1922
"The Delaware National Guard, A Historical Sketch", by Donn Devine, Captain of Artillery, The Adjutant General's Office, State of Delaware, 1968
"The Story of The First Pioneer Infantry, U. S. A." By Chester W. Davis, Late Major Inf. U. S. A. 1919. I've borrowed several vivid descriptions of the AEF effort written by soldiers and Pioneers from this well-written account of these contemporaries of the men of the 59th. The First Pioneer Infantry included Delaware National Guardsmen who had volunteered “for immediate service” in April 1918
"History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry American Expeditionary Forces" By Major Paul S. Bliss With Histories of Organizations within the Regiment by their Officers and Enlisted Men Copyright, 1919, St/ Paul Press, St Paul. Minn.
"The Minuteman in Peace and War, A History of the National Guard", by Jim Dan Hill, 1964, Stackpole Books
"World War I Remembered", Francis Ianni, 1993, Delaware Heritage Commission, Wilmington DE
"History of the Militia and the National Guard", John K. Mahon, 1983, MacMillan Publishing, New York
"A Brief History of the Militia and the National Guard", Renee Hylton-Greene and Major Robert K. Wright, July 1986 National Guard Bureau, Washington DC
"The National Guard, A Compact History", by Col. Ernest Dupuy, 1971, Hawthorne Books, New York
Diary and letters of Sergeant Anthony Summers, Supply Co. 59th Pioneer Infantry, at the Delaware State Archives, Dover DE. A great source of vivid descriptions of the daily life and routine of the soldiers written by a supply sergeant. Anthony Summers lived in Harbeson near Milton, Delaware when he was drafted into the army in 1917. After serving in France from September 1918 until July 1919, Sgt. Summers returned to Delaware and settled in Milford. He served as a postman in the Milford area for many years and also was instrumental in starting the local National Guard unit. Summers died on March 9, 1944.