The 10th Engineers and 11th and 12th Battalions, 20th Engineers
The Tenth Engineers
Note: Most of the text of this article comes from "TWENTIETH ENGINEERS -- FRANCE -- 1917-1918-1919"
The Tenth Engineers (Forestry) was one of the pioneer units in the new war Army of the United States. The formation of this unique body of engineers was commenced in May, 1917 , the organization and recruiting being very largely accomplished by Forest Service, from which also came an important percentage of the personnel.
One of the aluminum "dog tags" belonging to F. E. Bitler, originally assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 10th Engineers. You can see the dogtag was later overstamped so the battalion designation no longer showed, and a 2 was superimposed over the 1 to change the designation from 10th to 20th Engineers. Also shown in the service number 241336 belonging to Bitler, plus the fact that he was in the "National Army," the part of the Army that was permanent and not just raised for the war.
The two battalions were formed by the 1st of August at American University, at which camp they were among the newcomers, and from then until September 8th was spent in military drill and equipping. Sunday, the 9th of September, the regiment marched to Roslyn where it entrained for Jersey City, arriving there the morning of the 10th. Ferried across the Hudson to the Cunard pier on the New York side of the Hudson and boarding the RMS Carpathia, the first forest troops left for France on the evening of the same day. On board were the Second Engineers only besides the foresters. The 10th Engineers were among the first 10,000 troops sent to France.
Two days more and the Carpathia reached Halifax N.S. where the formation of a convoy was in progress. On the 21st the convoy of thirteen ships, some with Australian and Canadian troops aboard, headed for England in three columns. ''Carpathia'' enjoyed a voyage unmolested by enemy subs and upon arrival at Glasgow, on the Clyde, the American troops were received by the Scotch with enthusiasm. These were the first Yanks to land in the historic city and the excitement was intense as the soldiers of the new Ally disembarked.
A few days were spent in camp at Southampton, and on the night of October 6th the regiment crossed the Channel on "La Marguerite,'' arriving in Havre at 5 o'clock in the morning. A short period was spent in a British 'rest camp' at Havre and at 10 P.M. a thirty six hour boxcar ride began which men past the palace of Versailles and set them down almost in the center of France.
Click on the postcard of the La Marguerite for more information on this workhorse cross-Channel steamer
Two weeks were spent in the mud there while the arrival of motor and sawmill equipment from the "Carpathia'' was awaited, during which time the inevitable drill was indulged in extensively. Only a part of the regiment's equipment had arrived on the "Carpathia.''
The immediate needs of the vigorous young A. E. F. were such as to require the forest troops to be split into several parts for service in widely separated regions of France. Two battalion headquarters were established by the 1st of November, one at Pontenx-les-Forges in the Landes pines and the other in the fir region, at Levier (Doubs). The logging equipment was at that time very incomplete and some of the detachments were reduced to the expedient of hauling logs by manpower. The first mill to begin operations was a small French affair that bit into the first log sawed by American forest troops on November 25th, 1917, at Levier. Two days later the Mortumier operation, near Gien (Loiret) started the first American mill. During the month of December a large part of the work was necessarily confined to the production of round products. Two French and one American mills were under way by the first of the month and before the end of December two American and four French mills were at work. The December production, all to the credit of the Tenth Engineers, was as follows: Lumber, 321,000 F. B. M.; Piling, 205 pieces; Ties, 12,031 pieces; Poles, 20,025 pieces; Logs, 33,864 pieces; Cord wood, 4,164 steres (cubic meters); Fagots, 1,500 steres.
Company E, 10th Engineer Regiment (36th Company, 20th Engineer Regiment)
Camp Mills, New York - 11 February 1919
The early distribution of the regiment may be briefly summarized as follows, together with the first stations that each detachment held and the designations given the companies after the reorganization, of the forest troops consolidated them all under the Twentieth Engineers. The old designations will be used as a rule.
Regimental HeadquartersTours, merged with HQ. of Twentieth.
First Bn. Hq.Pontenx, Eleventh Bn.
Co. A. -Thirty second Co. 1/2 Pontenx District; 1/2 Brittany.
Co. B. -Thirty - third Co.Pontenx District.
Co. C. -Thirty - fourth Co.Pontenx District.
Second Bn. Hq.Levier, later Besancon, in the Doubs, Twelfth Bn.,
Co. D.-Thirty - fifth Co.Arc-sous-Montenot (Doubs).
Co. E.- Thirty - sixth Co.1/2 Vaney (Cote d Or); 1/2 at Gien (Loiret).
Co. F.Thirty - seventh Co.Levier (Doubs).
One half of Co. A, known also as the Third Detachment, Tenth Engineers, and as "The Kelly Outfit," consisted of 130 men, later reinforced by men from the Third and Fourth Battalions, Twentieth Engineers. The Detachment built camp at Bellevue, near Pontenx, (known as ''Kellyville in recognition of the energetic commanding officer), where it was joined by the reinforcements of the Twentieth from Blois early in February. The first mill was a small and inefficient piece of machinery, but it sufficed to turn out lumber for the construction of the camp buildings and the new 20-M American mill which was completed in the latter part of March, and started on two 10 hour shifts. At about the time of the completion mill, Lt. Kelly was killed in a motorcycle accident while hastening for spare parts.
36th Company, 20th Engineers - Company E, 10th Engineers in action
The mill averaged from 27,000 feet of inch boards to 45,000 feet of other lumber each shift. The head sawyer (Johnson from Mississippi) was a buck private until only a few months before the outfit went home. At first teams were used to haul logs into the mill, but a steam engine was soon substituted. A detachment of Co. D, Forty-first Engineers, was added to the strength of the operation in May. With the strength of a full company the operation kept six or eight crews in the woods and averaged 80 to 100 logs a day each.
In September, the Detachment for a new station at Sore, a small place near the town of Labouheyre, an important junction on the Midi line from Bordeaux to Madrid, Spain, being relived at Pontenx by the balance of the Forty - first Co. The Sore operations were carried on until the Detachment joined the rest of the First Battalion on its homeward journey. Several of the companies of the Regiment were reinforced by transfers from the Twentieth, and were soon up to the new war strength. The Regimental strength, after reinforcement was 1,485 men and 34 officers.
Click on the image to view a booklet published by Company E, 10th Engineers after the war
It includes narrative, photographs, and a roster of unit personnel
Company B was assigned to what was perhaps unusual operation of any attempted by the forest troops. The 20-M American mill was built on the east shore of Lake Aureilhan, opposite the shooting lodge of "'is Gryce,'' the Duke of Westminster, and five miles west of the village of Pontenx. Part of the company operated the mill; the rest of the men were stationed in what was known as 'the river camp," four miles northwest. A narrow gauge railroad took the logs to the river on which they were driven to the lake. At the mouth of the river booms were built and the logs were rafted across to the mill by means of a 24 foot French motorboat. After 13 months of operation the Armistice came along and on Armistice day essential parts of the mill were thrown into the lake, stopping the works. Shortly after the end of 1918, the outfit left for home with the other Pontenx units of the Regiment, and other troops took over the Aureilhan mill.
Company C built camp and mill at La Broquette, a hamlet one mile east of St. Eulalie (''Ukelele'') and three miles west of Pontenx. Three miles of narrow gauge were built to haul production to the main line at Pontenx. The mill, a 20-M American plant, was completed in February. Forty men and a shavetail from Company A of the 42nd Engineers arrived to reinforce the operation early in June.
A few of the red letter days at Pontenx are here given to recall some of the big events. April 16th Captain Guthrie left his command, to the sincere regret of these with whom he had served. May 6th brought Elsie Janis to cheer the homesick ones with the sight and sound of a real live American girl. During April and May drill was enjoyed after working hours, on Sundays, and Saturday afternoons. Decoration Day the First Battalion of the Tenth defeated the Fourth Battalion of the Twentieth in baseball, 2 to 1. June 14th brought new orders for no more weekend passes to Arcacahon, no overnight passes, and blouses were required to be worn when not working.
Officers of 36th Company watching a baseball game at St. Julian
The appreciation of the men for several blessings, shared alike with all the grateful forest troops, should go on record. Chaplain Williams has a friend in every man of the forest forces. Friendly, fair, and forceful, he was found to be a man who knew what the men needed and how to get it. The Chaplain was in the habit of paying little visits of a few days' duration to each camp, living in camp and "observing all that took place within sight or hearing." He noted cases of mistreatment, of inadequate provision for the safety and comfort of the men and after he had left how things mysteriously improved. At one time a 1etter from a mere Corporal to the Senior Chaplain started an investigation of the officers' mess finances in one outfit that had most satisfactory resultsto the enlisted men. In one instance the negligence of a megacephalic battalion commander was working a hardship on the men in the woods and his personal example was unsatisfactory in the extreme. The Senior Chaplain noted all these things, and shortly after his departure a Colonel with a strange but determined countenance suddenly appeared in the woods. In a few days the battalion commander was on his way.
Another boon to the woods-bound lumberjack was the overseas woman. The men were appreciated, especially a certain jazz band and the First Army Quartet. But the real thing was the feminine element in the traveling troupes of entertainers and in the canteens of the leave areas. The Mademoiselle Cappelles and the Elsie Janises and the sweet, sisterly Y-girls were 100 proof in the eyes of Pvt. P. V. Stock, Engineer (Forestry).
Armored Cruiser USS North Carolina
The two battalions of the original 10th Engineers were the first to return to the United States, shipping out on the Armored Cruiser USS North Carolina in January 1919.
Click the image above for additional history about the 10th Engineers, as published in a pamphlet from its veterans, The Carpathians. The pamphlet includes a full roster of all personnel assigned to the 10th Engineers.