The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces
History and Operations of
A Typical AEF Infantry Regiment
The 147th Infantry, 37th "Buckeye" Division
Contributed by Tom McLeod
Regimental Victory Parade in Cincinnati, 1919
Late 19th Century Roots
During the Spanish-American War, the State of Ohio proudly furnished
15,000 troops out of the 200,000 called into service by the American
government. The United States' War Department ordered the 6th Regiment,
Ohio Volunteer Infantry into federal service on 7 May 1898 at Camp Bushnell,
Ohio for duty in the Spanish-American War. This duty, which entailed no
combat service, took the 6th Infantry to Cuba from 3 January 1899 through 21
April 1899. They were stationed in Ceinfugas, Casilda, Trinidad and other
outposts. The unit returned to the United States on 18 May 1899 and the 6th
Ohio Infantry reverted to its original status as a state militia unit. They
mustered out of federal service in Cincinnati on 25 October 1898.
Following the Spanish-American War, the 6th Volunteer regimental
organization was again broken up on 14 April 1899 with elements continuing
as unattached companies. Soon after reorganization, Cincinnati companies
were consolidated to form the 1st Separate Infantry Battalion. Companies in
the Hamilton area were consolidated to form the 2nd Separate Infantry
Battalion. The Adjutant General's office made these consolidations
effective 6 November 1899. Fourteen months later, on 22 January 1902, these
two battalion units were again consolidated to form the 1st Infantry
Regiment. This regimental organization was broken up on 7 February 1913 and
reorganized again on 22 April 1914.
The Coming of War
The 1st Infantry Regiment mustered into federal service on 19 June
1916. The Ohio National Guard, less the 1st and 7th Infantry Regiments and
9th Battalion, fulfilled their duty on the Mexican border at Camp Pershing
near El Paso, Texas for nine months by patrolling the border in that sector.
All but the 3rd and 6th Infantry Regiments, artillery, engineers and signal
unit were mustered out of federal service on 17 March 1917.
Just ten days after being released from the Mexican Border, units of
the Ohio National Guard faced their first call to active service in World
War I on 27 March 1917. The 3rd and 6th Ohio Regiments and the 1st Ohio
Field Cavalry were fully mobilized. The Adjutant General sent units to guard
the state arsenal, viaducts, bridges, docks and other vital points within
the state. The War Department diverted the Ohio National Guard from state
control into service of the United States on 15 July.
A Call to Arms
President Woodrow Wilson called for the first mobilization of troops
for the defense of France in early July 1917. He set the mobilization date
for 15 July 1917. In compliance with General Order 101, War Department, 18
July 1917, the 37th Division "Ohio's Own," later known as the "Buckeye
Division" was ordered into federal service and began forming. Responding to
this call, the 1st through 8th and 10th Ohio Infantry Regiments, 9th
(Colored) Battalion, 1st Ohio Field Artillery, 1st Ohio Cavalry, Ohio Signal
Battalion and 1st Ohio Engineers were mobilized on 15 July 1917. These
units were all formally part of the Ohio National Guard.
The 37th Infantry Division was not the artificial product of
arbitrary action of the War Department; but the child of grace Ohio long
requested and was finally granted. The State of Ohio proudly responded with the 4th largest number of personnel the original 48-states contributed. Ohio sent 200,293 men to the
muddy fields of France. This represented 5.33 percent of the total American
Expeditionary Force. Only New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois gave greater
representation during the entire war.
The War Department announced Ohio troops were to encamp and train at
Camp Sheridan, Alabama, just outside of Montgomery. The first troops of the
Ohio National Guard began to arrive 25 August 1917 and were fully assembled
by the end of October. The camp was nothing more than an open expanse of cotton fields and
waste land in the central part of Alabama. Actual construction of the camp began 24 July 1917 but was not completed until December 1917. Construction work and training went on concurrently. As the 37th prepared itself for battle, instructors stressed familiarity
with new arms and new methods of fighting.
147th Infantry Barracks
A detachment of sixteen men from each company of the Regiment, was
ordered by the Adjutant General of Ohio to assemble at Camp Perry, near
Cincinnati in early August. They merged with the 42nd Division, which was
part of the Rainbow Division, and were designated for immediate service
The 147th Infantry
The 147th Infantry Regiment was officially born 25 October 1917.
The Ohio 1st Infantry Regiment, from the Toledo area of northwestern Ohio,
united with Ohio's 6th Infantry Regiment and parts of Companies D, F, H, K,
L, and M from the 5th Ohio Infantry to form the 147th Infantry Regiment.
The War Department then assigned the 147th Infantry to the 37th Division.
This dual lineage has long caused both Cincinnati (5th and 6th Ohio
Infantry Regiments) and Toledo (1st Ohio Infantry Regiment) to proudly claim
parentage of the 147th Infantry.
Construction of Camp Sheridan went forward at a rapid pace. Although
tents were provided for housing the soldiers, a considerable number of
wooden buildings were necessary, as well as water supply, sewerage, electric
light, and roadway construction. Yhere were schools for training men for special services, such as: Artillery, Aviation, Engineer Corps, Chemical Warfare, Tank Corps and
Quartermaster Corps. This was to be the proving ground and testing field
for a new type of warfare, currently being waged in France.
The completed organization (except the 9th Battalion, Colored), was
combined into the 37th Division. The division consisted of:
- Headquarters Troop
- The 73rd Infantry Brigade which included the 145th and 146th Infantry with the 134th Machine Gun Battalion.
- The 74th Infantry Brigade comprising the 147th and 148th Infantry with the 135th Machine Gun Battalion.
- The 62nd Field Artillery Brigade which consisted of the 134th, 135th, and 136th Field Artillery.
- The 112th Trench Mortar Battery was formed from units of the 112th Engineers; 112th Engineer Train;
- 114th Mobile Veterinary Unit; 112th Field Signal Battalion; 112th Ammunition Train; 112th Supply
- Train; 112th Sanitary Train; and the 112th Military Police.
1918 "OVER THERE - OVER THERE"
The 37th Division initially trained under the leadership of MGen.
Charles G. Treat who was relieved of his command on 24 April 1918. MGen.
Charles S. Farnsworth was assigned as commander on 8 May 1918. General
Farnsworth retained this position until the division returned to the United
States and was disbanded.
Less than two weeks later, on 20 May 1918, Division HQ, HQ Troop,
all infantry regiments, machine gun battalions, engineers, train and field
signal battalions loaded out for Camp Lee, Virginia. Intensive war training
and filling of the division to war strength occupied the attention of the
men for 2 weeks. Men were drafted to complete the division from Camps
Meade, Mills, Lee, Upton, and Jackson.
The 37th was broken up on 11 June 1918, when Division HQ, HQ Troop,
the 134th Machine Gun Battalion and 137th Infantry Brigade began a move to
the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey.
The 74th Brigade (including the 147th Infantry) and engineers
followed from Newport News, Virginia. They embarked 28 June 1918, on three
ships: the Susquehanna, Caserta and Pocahontas. The convoy was joined by 4
freight steamers with submarine chasers and battleships. These escorts
provided protection for the ships because enemy submarines were known to be
patrolling the seas near England and France.
The 74th Brigade arrived in Brest on 5 July, then proceeded in
boxcars to Division HQ. The 73rd Brigade was stationed in the Bourmont
(Haute-Marne) area. These boxcars were designated as 40/8, meaning they had
the capacity for 40 men or eight horses. The unit completed the move by 12
July. The 147th Infantry was placed with the 74th Infantry Brigade in the
3rd Training Area. The 147th underwent intensive training until the latter
part of July, when High Command ordered them to the Baccarat Sector.
Division HQ was placed in the Bourmont area. The 37th Division was
now completed; with exception of the field artillery brigade and ammunition
train. These two units were separated from the division and sent to
Camp-de-Souge, France for a training course in firing French 105-MM. and
Two out of every three American soldiers who reached France took
part in battle. The number who reached France was 2,084,000, and of these
1,390,000 saw active service in the front line. American combat forces were organized into divisions, which consisted of some 83,000 officers and men. These divisions were the largest on the western front. British divisions numbered about 15,000. French
strength was 12,000, as were those of Germany. 42 American divisions and
several hundred-thousand supplementary artillery and service of supply
troops were sent overseas.
Of the 42 divisions reaching France, 29 took part in active combat
service, while the others were used for replacements or were just arriving
during the last month of hostilities. 7 were Regular Army, 11 were National
Guard and 11 were National Army troops.
American combat divisions were in battle for 200 days, from the 25th
of April, 1918, when the first regular division after long training in quiet
sectors, entered an active sector on the Picardy front, until the signing of
the armistice on 11 November 1918. American were engaged in 13 major
operations in 200 days.
The 147th Infantry, following a lengthy and intensive training in
the Bourmont area, which ended in July 1918, relieved an infantry regiment
of the United States 77th Division in the Baccarat sector of the Vosges
Mountains of eastern France on 2 August 1918. This sector extended 15 Km.
from the Forest deu-Elieux on the north to the southern edge of the
Bois-des-Petres on the south. The sector, while not considered active, was
such that all times it had to be held securely. Training in this area
continued with the combined help of the French VI Army Corps of the VII
At Baccarat, the troops received their first training under actual
combat fire. Through continually under observation, the men trained
unceasingly. Airplane attacks were numerous, 2 being heavy, in which damage
resulted. The 147th completed a successful gas attack, destroying with the
help of allied airplanes, ammunition dumps at Marcy and Blamount. This
action evened the score with the Germans for the bombings the regiment was
forced to endured. The 147th Infantry remained in the front lines until 14
September 1918, when the 14th French Division relieved them. The rest of the
37th Division took over the cold, stinking, and muddy trenches in the
Baccarat sector on 4 August.
Not a long time after, the 37th Division staged two patrol
raids which were very daring. The men penetrated the German lines for over a
kilometer, each time returning with prisoners, without loss of a single man.
They were so aggressive with night patrols that always, after occupation of
the sector, virtually controlled "No-Man's-Land." General Duport
command of the French artillery which supported the troops in this sector
and personally commended the division after it was relieved 16 September
A.E.F. commanders assigned the 37th Division to the Meuse-Argonne
front and they consequentially departed the Baccarat sector and proceeded by
rail to the vicinity of Robert-Espagne. They were moved by bus to Recicourt
4 days later and as part of the V Corps entered the Argonne offensive at
Avocourt. Division command moved the 147th Infantry to Recicourt on 21
September 1918. Local field commanders at Recicourt made the decision to
hold the 147th Infantry as reserve to the United States 79th Division in the
From this sector, the troops could plainly see Verdun to the
southeast. The 37th was the first American Division to be honored as one to
start an offensive. They were given credit for being one of the main
factors in the huge movement of troops which gave final victory to the
Allies. In the forests of Meuse-Argonne, the 37th Division covered itself
Nine divisions, destined to lead the attack, were deployed between the
Meuse River and the western edge of the Argonne Forest during the night of
the 25th. On the right was 3rd Corps, Major General Bullard commanding,
with the 33rd, 18th and 4th Divisions in line; next came 5th Corps, Major
General Cameron commanding, with the 79th, 37th and 91st Divisions; on the
left was 1st Corps, Major General Hunter Liggett commanding, with the 35th,
28th and 77th Divisions. Each corps had one division in reserve and the
army held 3 divisions as a general reserve. About 2700 guns; 189 small
tanks (142 manned by Americans)and 821 airplanes (604 manned by Americans)
were concentrated to support the infantry attack. Allied Forces held
superiority in guns, aviation and troops. The enemy possessed no tanks.
Temporary 37th Division Cemetery, Cimeburn, Near Cringer, France
The axis of the attack was the line Montfaucon-Romagne-Buzancy, the
purpose being to make the deepest penetration in the center, which, with the
4th French Army advancing west of the Argonne, would force the enemy to
evacuate that forest without the Americans having to deliver a heavy attack
in that difficult region.
This was the beginning of French General Marshal Fochs' grand plan
to encircle opposing German defenders. His idea was to have a pincers
attack with British and French Armies in the northern sectors moving to east
and American and French Armies in western sectors moving north.
Allied artillery fire began on 24 September and kept up incessantly
for 2 days. These preparations were for the infantry advance which went
down in history as one of the most brilliant of all times.Conditions of the field were adverse. Rain fell for days, adding to these poor conditions. This deluge made "No-Man's-Land" a field of
37th Division infantry, accompanied by groups with wire-cutters and
bangalore-torpedoes, went through successive bands of barbed-wire which
protected the enemy's front line and support trenches. During the first 2
days of the attack, before the enemy was able to bring up reserves, American
troops made steady progress through the network of German trenches.
Montfaucon was held tenaciously by the enemy and was not captured until noon
of the 2nd day.
German defenders were demoralized by the great volume of initial
artillery fire and sudden infantry approach out of the fog. Lack of
sufficient artillery fire, later in the battle, made the road to victory
harder for the men, however they advanced continually, hanging on to their
advances with an amazing force.
The critical problem during the first few days of the battle was the
restoration of communications over "No Man's Land." There were only
4 roads available across this deep zone,. Violent artillery fire from previous
periods of the war had virtually destroyed them. Spongy soil, lack of
supplies and materials increased the difficulty. Splendid work by engineers
and pioneers soon made possible the movement of troops, artillery, and
supplies to the front.
Difficulties of advancing became harder during the days of 28-29
September as shell holes filled with mud. Unprotected without sufficient
covering artillery fire, the 37th Division made mile after mile, sweeping
all ahead of it. Wall after wall of German shock troops fell before the
relentless advance of the 37th. German High Command rushed more troops into
their collapsing front.
The 37th advanced 11 Km., capturing Baulny, Epinonville, Septsarges
and Dannevoux by the evening of the 28th. The right made a splendid advance
into the woods south of Brieullessur-Meuse, but the extreme left was meeting
strong resistance in the Argonne. The attack continued without
interruption, meeting 6 new German divisions, which the enemy threw into
line before 29 September.
German High Command developed a powerful machine-gun defense
supported by heavy artillery fire, and made frequent counter-attacks with
fresh troops, particularly on the front of the 28th and 35th Divisions.
These American divisions captured Varennes, Cheppy, Baulny and Charpentry.
The line was within 2 Km. of Apremont.
Americans were no longer engaged in a maneuver for inching out of a
salient, but were committed to a direct frontal attack against strong,
hostile positions fully manned by a determined enemy. The 1st Army line was approximately Bois-de-la-Cote through Lemont, Nantillois, and Apremont; southwest across the Argonne by nightfall on the 29th. Many divisions, especially those in the center, were subjected to
cross-fire of artillery and suffered heavily. Severe fighting, nature of
the terrain over which they attacked, fog and darkness sorely tried even the
After completing their assigned advance to Cierges, the 37th and
79th Divisions were relieved from their sector on 1 October 1918. Relief
came after fighting for days against great odds and various forms of
warfare; including Mustard Gas. The 37th and 79th Divisions were relieved
by the 32nd and 3rd Divisions respectively.
The last stage of the "Great Offensive" began on 1 November. German
power slowly began to break. American troops forced their way to the east
bank of the Meuse. They made even more rapid progress in the north,
reaching the outskirts of Sedan, cutting the Sedan-Mezi'eres Railroad,
making the German line untenable. The Battle of Meuse-Argonne was the greatest (to date) ever fought
by American troops, including the 37th Division. Few greater battles fought
In the first 2 sections of the 37th Division, a total of 3,228
officers and men were killed, wounded or missing. The wounded amounted to
more than 2,500 with 150 missing. Their total advance in the Meuse-Argonne
sector was 9.8 Km.
Following relief by the U.S. 2nd Division, the 147th Infantry
Regiment returned to Recicourt in Meuse. They remained in the U.S. 5th
Corps, 1st Army until 3 October 1918. A.E.F. commanders then attached the
147th Infantry to the U.S. 4TH Army Corps in the 2ND Armys area. The 147th
relieved an infantry regiment of the U.S. 89th Division in front line
trenches and remained on the front for 8 days.
There is no greater bond on earth than the comradeship created under
battle conditions. The common soldier fights for his friends first,
followed by his unit, and then his country. When under fire, very few
first-line combat troops consider or even care what the cause of the war is.
Fear, not anger, is ruler on the battlefield. All any combat infantryman
desires is for his friends and himself to go safely home.
Following the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a story was told which
illustrates this bond. After a short advance, a platoon of American troops
was forced to return to their starting trench. Running over the
shell-scarred terrain, all of the troops, save one, reached safety. The
wounded casualty lay where he fell; unable to move. His close friend, upon
seeing the distress of his fellow infantryman, started to leave the safety
of the trench when his lieutenant grabbed him. "Where are you going? Are
you crazy! You'll be killed!" the lieutenant said in rapid succession.
The soldier's simple reply was, "He's my friend" as he bolted into
"No-Man's Land." Running through a hail of lead, the soldier reached his friend and
began dragging him to safety. Just as they reached the crest of their own
trench, the previously unwounded soldier was hit and slid, mortally wounded,
into the trench. His lieutenant asked, "Was it worth it?" The dying
soldier looked up and replied, "Yes! When I reached my friend," he said,
"I knew you would come."
The next sector the 37th Division saw duty in was the old St. Michel
area. Headquarters was at Euvesin, France. Here the lines of the troops
extended from Bois-de-Jualny along the northern edges to Bois-de-Chatey on
the southern edge. Many villages were in sight of the trenches. Artillery
fire from the enemy devastated some and others remained within the German
When the 37th Division took over the front, there was very little
real activity. The enemy continued heavy artillery fire, shelling all
portions of the sector night and day. Airplanes made nightly visits,
dropping their terrorizing bombs in large numbers. These bombs inflicted
heavy losses and caused extreme vigilance for anti-aircraft guns crews. The
clatter of machine guns was continually ringing in the ears of the troopers.
The 37th Division's long lost field artillery brigade and ammunition
train was said to be serving nearby. Division HQ attempted to locate these
troops; but all efforts were met with failure. The 37th was withdrawn to the former camp at Pagny-sur-Meuse after 9 days. Casualties in the St. Mihiel sector were 11 killed, 180 wounded and 6
Early in October, the Allied Armies were confronted by an
insufficiency of replacements to build up exhausted divisions. Combat units
required some 90,000 replacements. No more than 45,000 would be available
before 1 November. American still had 2 divisions with the British and 2
with the French. A review of the situation, American and Allied, especially
as to resources in men for the next 2 months, convinced General Pershing the
attack of the 1st Army and Allied armies further west should be pushed to
the limit. If the 1st Army was to continue its aggressive tactics, American
Divisions with the French must be recalled and replacements obtained by
breaking up newly arrived divisions.
In discussing the withdrawal of American divisions from French
Marshal Foch and General P'etain, on 10 October, the former expressed his
appreciation by stating, "The 1st Army was striking the pivot of the German
withdrawal." Foch also indicated the Allied attack must continue. General
P'etain agreed American divisions, with the French, were essential to
American forces if they were to maintain the battle against the German
pivot. The French were, however, straining every nerve to keep up their
attacks. Before divisions with the French were released, it became necessary
for the Americans to send the 37th and 91st Divisions from the 1st Army,
which was still fighting in Meuse-Argonne, to assist the 6th French Army in
Flanders. They were to now take part in the Ypres-Lys offensive.
Ypres & Lys, Belgium
Members of the Regiment Sightseeing at Ruins of Ypres Cloth Hall
At Pagny-sur-Meuse, 2 days of bustling activity were spent preparing
the 37th to move. No one knew they were going. Little French boxcars
rattled away all of 18 October. After 3 days of travel the train stopped at
what the soldiers discovered were Saint-Jean and Wieltje, Belgium. This
area was devastated from war, only schrapnel riddled signs stood where
villages once were. The 37th Division now found itself a part of the XXX
French Army Corps in Belgium and under the command of Belgium's King Albert.
Division headquarters was established in Hooglede, Belgium, 25 from
where the train stopped. The 37th (including the 147th Infantry) now found
itself a place in history. They were placed in the Ypres area, which was to
be the scene of a great battle scheduled to begin 31 October 1918.
After only 5 minutes of artillery fire, men went over the top of
their protective trenches. The enemy answered the attack with everything
they had available, including poisonous gas. Even this could not stop
troops of the division, who donned masks and relentlessly pushed the Germans
to the Cruysauten Ridge; where they tried to regroup. The 37th, giving the
weary Germans no time to reorganize a defense, made a remarkable pursuit and
advanced in the darkness straight through the German lines for a distance of
5 miles during the night of 3 November. Aided by French artillery, the
khaki line continued to move forward until they gained their objective, the
Crysshauten Ridge. Constantly attacking, the 37th Division continued to
force the German Army into headlong retreat. This great progress enabled
the Americans to bring forward long-range guns and to shell the railway
stations of Longuyon and Montmedy.
After crossing the Boche River, the Germans finally turned to face
their foe. On this river, the 37th Division was to create one of the
greatest feats of combat history.
The 37th made preparations as HQ was brought forward on 1 November.
Early in the morning of 2 November, troops began swimming toward the enemy
on the far bank. The men, working feverishly, constructed a temporary bridge
to the enemies' side of the Boche River while under a continuous hail of
lead and steel. 52 men succeeded in crossing the river by late afternoon.
Further to the south, a bridge was completed later that same evening and
other troops crossed the Boche. Not wanting to give up their new territory,
the men continued to push forward throughout the long night. Fighting
against the elite of Germany's army, the 37th crossed and took up positions
on the far side of the Escaut (Scheldt) River.
After repulsing a heavy German counterattack north of Mormal Forest
the 37th drove the enemy back beyond the Valenciennes-Avesnes Railway, which
runs through the center of the forest from west to east. Total casualties to the 37th Division were 1,612 of which 222 men were killed. The 37th was credited with capturing 366 prisoners, many field
guns, other weapons and driving the enemy back 14.56 Km.
French commanders relieved and returned exhausted 37th Division
troops to Thielt on 4-5 November. From Thielt, the 37th took trains to
Chateau-de-Huysse, France. The division was transferred to the French XXXIV
Corps on 8 November by A.E.F. HQ orders and entered front lines along the
The pursuit of the Kaiser's defeated army was delayed mainly by the
very complete destruction of the roads and railways by the Germans as they
fell back and by consequent difficulty of getting up supplies to troops.
The enemy's difficulties in retreat were, however, much greater. Far into
Belgium the roads were blocked with masses of transport and railways
overwhelmed with 1000s of trucks. Allied airplanes, swooping down from the
sky, attacked German convoys and railway lines with machine gun fire and
bombs, causing great destruction and frequent panics.
Army Command ordered the 37th to force a crossing of the Escaut
River and establish a foothold. This entry was to be the final step before
advancing directly into the heart of Germany. The assault area was to be 15 Km. south of Ghent, France.
Ohio Doughboy Memorial
State Capitol, Columbus
The 37th's leading troops arrived in the forward area at 0800 on 10
November. Near the village of Syngem, they were met with a volley of
machine gun bullets and artillery fire. Again the men of the 37th found
themselves in the thick of battle!
Troops began pushing forward on a U-bend of the river during early
hours of 11 November 1918. Germans held the bottom of the "U" and were
fully prepared to stop the American attack. German artillery fired on advancing
troops from three sides. Troops pushed forward, taking advantage of every
ground irregularity, and finally gained the river bank. They advance some 5
Km. to the towns of Dickele and Hindelgem. At 1100, on the 11th day of the
11th month, 1918, troops were halted. World War I was finally over.
Casualties on the last day amounted to 9 killed.
During active operations the 37th experienced the following losses and achievements (as
reported to the War Department 10 May 1919):
Following the end of the war, the 147th camped with the 37th Division at Le-Mans, France. They finally sailed for home in March, 1919. After arriving in the United States, the 147th Infantry Regiment was
sent to Camp Sherman, Ohio where on 19 April 1919, the War Department again
demobilized them from service.
- Battle Deaths - 992
- Wounded in Action - 4,931
- POWs - 23
- Approximately 1,250 replacements had been furnished to the 37th
Division. This placed the 37th Division, 21st out of 42 American divisions
engaged as having the most casualties.
- The 37th Division made the following captures from the enemy:
officers - 26; enlisted men - 1,474; artillery pieces - 19/77-MM. guns,
4/105-MM. guns, 1O/155-MM. guns, 7 large trench mortars, 261 - machine guns,
and thousands of small arms The Division advanced, against resistance, 37.75
- Twenty-five Distinguished Service Crosses were awarded individuals
of the 37th Division. Along with other units, the 147th Infantry Regiment
added campaign streamers for Ypres-Lys, Lorraine and Meuse-Argonne.
Sources and Thanks:
This work selected from Tom McLeod's Always Ready: The Story of the United States 147th Infantry Regiment. Tom is Historian of the 1st Marine Division Association's Museum of the Pacific. Email. MH
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