3rd Division
3rd   Division


Part Two

Time Frame: Boot Camp thru Shipping Over
     Continuous from April 1917


Secretary Baker Draws First Draft Number

After declaring war, the United States institutes conscription, federalizes the National Guard and expands the Regular Army and Marine Corps. Secretary of War Newton Baker here picks the first draft number.

An order came from the War Department to present myself at the local draft board on Sunday morning... at 6:45 am, prepared for roll call, as it was put. I reported on time but had a long wait for it was not until 10:20 am that I marched down Germantown Avenue to Broad Street with hundreds of others who had likewise been ordered to go to camp. Crowds lined the avenue...

Sgt. Maximilian Boll, 79th Division
Unpublished manuscript, FIRST JOURNEY

Arrived at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, New Jersey 10 PM. Stood in pouring rain until midnight while two men in contingent were deloused. Then marched to barracks.

Corporal Eugene Kennedy, 78th Division

Recruits Arrive

Report In

...From 7:30 to 10:45 we have infantry drill, bayonet drill and physical exercise. That doesn't mean 5 minutes drill and rest either... A total 20 minutes rest in that time. We generally have ... combat problems between 1:00 and 4:00 pm rain, mud or dust... [Then] 28 inch steps at 140 steps per [minute] on a hike of several miles...

Recruit Named Bill

Dear Agnes,
You probably are thinking the army has swallowed me up and that consequently all of my relations with civilization have been severed... After 10 weeks in the army I am, of course, getting accustomed to the life. But I can't say I like it.

Signature unreadable

Dear Ma:
I have saved a little money, and when I get back home I'm goin' to buy me two mules, and name on of 'em Corporal and the other one Sergeant; then I'm goin' to lick hell out of both of 'em!

Signature unreadable
Post Card



Why It's
Boot Camp


Rifle Range


Leaving Home
Saying Goodbye
Nearly every fellow's parents and sweetheart were down to the train to see us off. Will, Del, and myself rode down with Art in his machine. The send off we received was a royal one and gave us a thrill we will long remember. Bill, Del, Ensley, and I were put into different cars but we managed to get to-gether despite specific orders not to leave our coaches. After four different officers had counted us to see that none were missing we finally pulled out for a destination unknown. As soon as we passed Delray and crossed the Pere Marquette tracks I knew that we were on the Toledo division and were going around Lake Erie. Donations of tobacco and gum that had been given us were passed around and we settled ourselves for a long journey passing the time in various ways; some playing cards, others shooting craps, and still others singing and playing string instruments which they had brought along.

Pvt. Hazen S. Helmrich, 3rd Army Hospital/Base Hospital 17
Dear Aunt,

Well we are in NY. At last we arrived last night about nine o clock we are now on the Hudson river about 20 miles from NY on the New Jersey side. We are going to be here tell they get us every thing for over seas service. That will take about two or three days. We have to be examined again before we leave.

Well Minnie I never had a better time in my life than I did on this trip. We were yelling at everything even like hills and trees. When we went through a city we were all hanging out the windows and yelling with all our might we were met at every station by people they were sure glad to see us they waved flags and thrower kisses at us at home the people are nothing like the people here they are more connected with the war. When we arrived at new Jersey City We were met by a lot of girls some of the boys went a little strong on there talk those who behaved there selves were treated fine. I kissed a hundred girls and some of them two or three times; there was one little girl who I would of liked to take along. She was a little basfull but when she came to me she said I was a pretty nice boy I had one of the boys hold my feet and hung out the window and she loved me something offel [awful].

. . .[T]ell all the boys at home to get into there fighting cloths and be ready to back us up and tell the girls that there is a very important duty for them that is to keep the boys in good humer and not be stuck up. . .[and] tell everybody that I am on my way and am going to keep going till I get to Berlin.

Pvt. Joseph Reisacker, 356th Infantry, 89th Division

Dear Folks,
...As to leaving, we hear rumors and rumors and then some more rumors, but I have it directly and on the very best of authority that tonight is the night... All I can say is when letters stop, I've left here.

Private Gerald Keith, 74th Artillery

Weds. 2nd Got paid, and left Camp Devens at 2:30 P.M. and finished the day in New York...

Thurs. 3rd Took ferry at Harlem & got off to go aboard transport -- Hamburg American liner "Amerika." Located in the third bunk from the deck... rotten bed tonight, but the first one in 28 hours.

Fri. 4th Pulled out of dock at 2:30 P.M. and lost sight of lights at 9 P.M. Lt. Morris & Sgt. Lawrence worked hard to get us fed and did very well. No lights or smoking on deck.

Sgt. Edwin Bemis, 29th Engineers

On July 15th, we started our voyage, at 7 am, on the transport Northern Pacific. The first day was quite thrilling with the destroyers dashing around us and a dirigible balloon and seaplane above.

But the second day -- wow ! Sick isn't a strong enough word. There were [also] a bunch of negro engineers on board from the deep south, a new experience for me.

Our convoy left us and our boat and the sister ship, Great Northern, were hitting it along at a great rate. I was called upon to furnish two shifts or reliefs of twenty-four men each for watch guard. From then on to the end of the trip I was busy day and night, roosting reliefs and on the watch for submarines. At nite we slept on the deck and the guard was fortunate as the poor fellows who were sleeping below nearly suffocated. I got sick whenever I went below, but felt OK while I was on deck.

Sgt. Edwin Gerth, 51st Artillery

...At 1:15 PM the alarm bells sounded while we were attending a lecture. We hurried to our berth compartments
as the guns boomed, and then on deck. The sub was a porpoise.

Pvt. Otis E. Briggs, 1st Division
Unpublished manuscript, A COMMON SOLDIER

Convoying the Troops


Artist's Concept of the Submarine Threat

Aboard Ship

Aboard Ship


About 2:30 in the morning we entered Havre, France. The cries and shouts of greeting of the boatmen and boatgirls woke us up. We gathered by the rail and gazed for the first time at the brilliantly lighted harbor and realized that we were in France. We could distinguish many shouts of Le Americaine out of the hubbub of French that was shouted at us. At ten in the morning while we were waiting on deck with our full equipment on, a trainload of 500 wounded came in on the wharf beside us. They were brought on board at once. About half of them were suffering from gas poisoning. Their skin was yellow and their eyes were protected from the sun by paper shades. Many had both legs amputated. A few were Germans who were put in the lowest ward below the water line. The harbor was jammed with warships, transports and hydro aeroplanes. We marched two miles to a British rest camp. We passed hundreds of German prisoners being marched to and fro from work. They were a dirty hard looking lot. They all examined us minutely and I would have given a lot to know what they thought.

Pvt. Hazen S. Helmrich
3rd Army Hospital/Base Hospital 17

Thurs. 17th Sighted land at 10 am. Came into port [Brest] at noon Tues. 22nd Aboard train -- corned beef, hardtack, coffee occasionally. Went thru Rennes, Le Mans and Tours.

Sgt. Edwin Bemis, 29th Engineers

About dusk we got into Chalons sur Marne... We left men on the train while we got off and attempted to inquire at the station where the American headquarters were. The French looked very blank for a while and then suddenly had an inspiration. "Ah, oui," they said, "les dames Americaines", and to our great surprise took us into a large waiting room where the American Red Cross had been running a canteen for two years... They served [us] chocolate, soup and little crackers.

Lt. Birge M. Clark, Balloon Observation Corps.
Unpublished manuscript, WORLD WAR I MEMOIRS

Traveling through France

Mother -
There are so many women [in France] wearing black and the other [women] show what a strain they have been thru. There are scarcely any young men seen except those who have returned minus some part of their anatomy or else in such a physical condition that they are almost helpless. All the men working are over fifty and then there are lots of boys...

Pvt. Allan Neil, USMC, 2nd Division

Last Saturday night the YMCA gave us an entertainment and it was surely fine. We could listen to an artist on a French harp now and enjoy it. One of the three girls who gave the program was a good looker and had a good voice. Afterwards, she led the singing [and]... they sang every popular song I'd ever heard. All the village notables were guests of honor, and, while they understood very little of it literally, they got the spirit of it.

Lt. Loring Phillips, Services of Supply

Or, visit any of the major sections of In Their Own Words...

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven
Before the War  Training   Arrival in 
Early Actions Second Marne/
St. Mihiel
Air War/
End Game/

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