Note: The text of this article comes from "TWENTIETH ENGINEERS -- FRANCE -- 1917-1918-1919"
A short time after the United States declared the existence of a state of war with the Imperial German Government, plans for an adequate force of forest engineers were promulgated and rapidly driven forward. Urged by the Joffre Mission to America by the British Mission by the cabled requests of General Pershing and by the example of the Canadian Government, the War Department made the rapid formation of forestry troops one of its primary obligations to the American Expeditionary Forces. The cables of the American overseas Commander in Chief forcibly conveyed the information that to send fighting troops before an adequate supply of lumber could be assured was without available and that lumbermen were needed among the first. The lines of communication depended upon great amounts of timer and ties; docks, lighterage, storage facilities, shelter, hospitalization, ice-making plants, bakeries, fuel,--and, in fact, all of the construction in the Service of Supplies--were dependent upon lumber; and the Front Lines required it for dugouts, trench construction entanglements, compounds for prisoners, bridges, and a great variety of other uses. Even coffin lumber was to be provided by the forest troops. And the already heavy demands upon the shipping facilities of the world, increased by the relentless submarine campaign of the enemy, made it of paramount importance to produce the lumber in France.
The first steps taken to this end provided for the organization of the Tenth Reserve Engineers (Forestry), the first troops ever recruited for lumbering in the history of American military operations. This regiment, consisting of two battalions of three companies each, was authorized as an emergency measure May 17th, 1917, and formally authorized by General Order No. 78 on June 27th. The United States Forest Service assumed the task of recruiting the regiment, many of the Government foresters joining at the call to arms. A period of preparation at American University on the outskirts of Washington, D. C. was marked by the immediate application of woods operations made necessary by clearing camp grounds. Under the command of Col James A. Woodruff, Corps of Engineers, the Tenth sailed from New York on the "Carpathia" on September 10th. A nine-day wait occurred at Halifax, N. S., for the formation of a convoy of 13 ships, some of them with American, Canadian, and Australian troops aboard. A zig-zag course was followed on the voyage, and great precautions observed especially at night. Ten destroyers escorted the convoy through the danger zone near the British Isles. Part of the convoy put in at Liverpool; the "Carpathia" and several other vessels went to Glasgow, where the Tenth Engineers, the first Americans to land in Scotland, received a hearty ovation. A few days in a rest camp at Southampton, a trip across the Channel to Le Havre, and a box-car journey acrosss France, brought the regiment to Nevers, where the units separated and proceeded to their widely-scattered stations.
It was realized that the first regiment sent to cut timber in France was only the beginning of the force needed to supply with forest products the contemplated army of America in Europe. General Pershing asked for more troops. In cable No. 27 (July 4th) he requested four additional regiments of lumbermen. Cable No. 72 (July 31st), No. 77 (August 5th), and No. 150 (September 9th) repeated and amplified his requirements. On the 17th of July, the Chief of Engineers submitted to the Adjutant General a schedule containing four forest regiments (5,000 men) and forty labor companies (10,000 men). This schedule was returned to the War College Division for further study and as the result General Order 108, August 15th, 1917, was issued, including among other special troops the authorization of one regimental headquarters, 10 battalions of engineers (forestry) of three companies each, and nine service battalions of four companies each. But on August 28th the Chief of Engineers was notified that but 10,000 of the 48,000 special engineer troops authorized by G. O. No. 108 could be organized at once, due to lack of clothing and limited shelter.
August 25th the Chief of Engineers wrote to Mr. W. L. Hall of the Forest Service in regard to assistance in providing officers for the forest troops about to be assembled. It was suggested that provision be made to supply officers for 15 battalions of forestry troops and three service battalions, including a total of 28 Majors, 127 Captains, 215 First Lieutenants, and 155 Second Lieutenants. These men were to be 25 per cent forestry experts, 25 per cent officers with military training, and 50 percent sawmill and logging men. Committees of prominent men in the lumber trade were formed in many parts of the country to meet applicants for commissions and to decide upon their fitness as officer material. The ranks of the new forest regiment, known as the Twentieth Engineers (Forestry), were filled from the Engineer Enlisted Reserve Corps, be recruiting, by the Forest Service, and from the scheduled draft.
The actual organization of the Twentieth Engineers was affected September 9th, 1917 at American University. Major Earl S. Atkinson was in command until relieved on the 15th by Col. W. A. Mitchell, who had been stationed in the office of the Chief of the Engineers and actively engaged in the work of organization. The headquarters was established at American University where nearly all of the companies underwent organization, increase to authorized strength, equipment, and military drill. Due to the inability of this new camp to accommodate the rapidly growing regiment, some of the troops were stationed for varying periods at Fort Myer and Camp Belvoir, Virginia.
For several reasons, principally those of clothing and shelter, it was found impossible to recruit and train the entire regiment at one time. One or two battalions taxed the capacity of American University Camp. On August 28th, the First and Second Battalions were authorized to be formed, with a maximum of 1,200 men; this strength was increased September 28th to 1,600 men. These battalions were formed of surplus men transferred from the Tenth Engineers on September 8th, by order of the Commanding Officer of the Eastern Department. Their training completed, the First and Second Battalions were delayed in their departure for France by the lack of denim coats, trousers and woolen gloves. The difficulties encountered in properly and rapidly equipping the men are indicated by the following quotation from a letter of General E. E. Winslow to General Harry Taylor, Chief of Engineers, A. E. F., dated October 26.
"3. In fact the two first battalions of the Twentieth Engineers (Forestry) are still in this country. After much work we finally got them a place on the priority list as scheduled to sail October 10th, but when the Ninth came along, Mitchell called the attention of the Chief of Staff to the fact that it was dangerous to send men across the ocean at this period of the year in think underclothes, khaki overclothes and no overcoats. He was then ordered not to try and take his en across until clothing was available and has been scouring the country for clothes. He has managed to steal some from Camp Meade, at Annapolis Junction, Maryland, has sent his motor trucks over to Baltimore and grabbed some overcoats under manufacture and not yet delivered to the Quartermaster Department, and so on, but even now, over two weeks after the regiment should have been on the high seas, it is not outfitted."
The Third and Fourth Battalions were authorized September 28th, as was the 503rd Engineer Service Battalion. The Third Battalion was stationed at Camp Belvoir and the Fourth, initiated by transfers from the Third, was at the University. These two battalions were beset with clothing difficulties to the extent that recruiting for them was stopped for a time. They were given clothing and equipment priority over all other troops except those ordered overseas in October. December 7th, the War Department directed that the organization of the remaining six battalions be proceeded with, and the Chief of Engineers reported to the Chief of Staff that the Third and Fourth Battalions would be ready sail about December 12th. December 15th, the Secretary of War reviewed the two battalions, which were sent overseas on January 4th.
Regimental Headquarters was authorized September 28th and organized on the 11th of October, as follows:
Commanding Officer - Col. W. A. Mitchell
Regimental Surgeon - Maj. W. C. Moore
Regimental Adjutant - Capt. H. C. Bowlby
Regimental Engineer Officer - Capt. F. M. Bartelme
Regimental Supply Officer - Capt. P. E. Hinkley
Col. Mitchell and Capt. Hinkley accompanied the first five battalions to the Port of Embarkation (Hoboken) to direct the intricate work of getting the troops properly on board ship. The Colonel sailed for France with the Eighth Battalion, leaving the final work in connection with the Ninth and Tenth in charge of Lt. Col. Edwin H. Marks.
Ten percent of the Twentieth Engineers was armed; in other respects the regiment carried the regular equipment. The Chief of Engineers recommended, however, that the troops be fully armed because of the probability that occasions would arise wherein the forest troops would be used solely as combatant units. This recommendation was approved by the Adjutant General, who stated that the steps necessary to that end would be taken when arms were available. The contingency never arose that required such action. General Pershing directed full tentage for the Twentieth, because there would be no chance to billet the or to house them in permanent barracks and this regiment was one of the few to carry tents to France.
The supplies of the Twentieth, consisting of everything need by noncombatant troops plus the equipment of a complete logging and sawing operation, were vast in variety and amount. It is probable that no other organization required the shipment overseas of such an immense total of bulky material, such as sawmills, boilers, trucks, donkey engines, and railroad supplies. There was much difficulty experienced in getting the equipment aboard. About December 21st, Major George H. Kelly investigated the situation and called the attention of the officer responsible to the fact that there were 1,500 men of the regiment overseas without sawmills, two more battalions were ready to sail, and enough more men assembled to make a fifth battalion. In fact, this very large regiment was one-half completed and no suitable machinery had been shipped abroad.
The following official list sums up the departure of the battalions from the United States:
The authorized strength of the forest troops was as follows:
MOVEMENTS OF FOREST TROOPS TO FRANCE
The transportation to France of these twenty thousand men was accomplished with but one serious mishap--the torpedoing and sinking of the "Tuscania"--in which tragedy 95 men of the Sixth Battalion lost their lives. Upon arrival overseas each outfit went promptly to the station to which it was assigned and got to work. Companies were split up into detachments in many instances, and in exceptional operations several companies united in a single large project. After the Armistice many of the units were moved from one operation to another to facilitate winding up the overseas logging. The accompanying map of France shows the status of the regiment under war conditions, on Nov. 11, 1918.
October 18th, 1918, General Order 47, Headquarters of the Service of Supplies, reorganized the forest forces into one regiment, the Twentieth Engineers, with 14 battalion headquarters, 49 forestry companies, 28 engineer service companies (forestry), and 2 attached engineer service battalions. In addition there were about 10,00 Quartermaster troops under the supervision of the Forestry Section of the Division of Construction and Forestry. The Sixth Battalion was authorized, on June 4th, 1918, to be increased by one company, which extra company was organized by the Commanding General, A. E. F. It finally appeared in the Tenth Battalion, the Commander in Chief, A. E. F. having authority to make changes and transfers in the Twentieth Engineers. A summary of the strength of the regiment follows:
The original Tenth, Twentieth, 41st, 42nd, and 43rd Engineers, the three latter having been designated as Road and Bridge Engineers before their adaptation to lumbering, were merged in the reorganization into the Twentieth Engineers proper, consisting of a regimental headquarters, 14 battalion headquarters, and 49 forestry companies, a total strength of about 12,000. The 503rd, 507th, 517th, 519th, 531st, and 533rd Engineers were reorganized into service companies (forestry) without battalion headquarters, and numbering 6,000 men. It is the forestry companies and the engineer service companies (forestry) that together constitute the 18,000 men of the biggest regiment in the world.
There remained to be organized in the United States 15 battalion headquarters, 96 forestry companies, and 36 engineer service companies (forestry). Of these reinforcements, 500 men were reported ready October 30th, 1918, and 250 more on November 11th. On that date there were about 8,000 troops at Camp Forrest, Georgia, available for use as replacement if needed.
NOVEMBER 11TH, 1918
FORESTRY SERVICE COMPANIES
ENGINEER SERVICE BATTALIONS ATTACHED TO TWENTIETH ENGINEERS
Quartermaster Units engaged upon Fuelwood Project in Advance Section, either in conjunction with engineer forestry projects or under technical supervision of forestry organization.
DELIVERING THE GOODS
The A. E. F. was in its infancy when, on November 26th, 1917, the first board was sawed in France by the forest troops. And late in August, 1919, when the last of the Twentieth Engineers sailed for home, the A. E. F. had reached a withered old age. In the period of its service the regiment had spread widely throughout the forested regions of France, had got out the lumber required, closed up its affairs in a businesslike way, and left behind it a unique and clean record.
The first operations were started in the pineries of the Landes, in the valley of the Loire, and in the softwood forests of the Vosges and Jura mountains. Many of the operations were started temporarily with small mills obtained in France, which were overhauled and made to increase their rated capacities several times over. As rapidly as American equipment was received the French affairs were discarded and one of three types of our own mills put into service. The largest unit was a permanent and powerful steam plant rated at 20,000 feet in 10 hours and there were two portable mills used- a portable steam mill of 10,000 feet capacity and a light bolter mill drive by steam or gas tractor and rated at 5,000 feet in 10 hours. Twenty of the large mills were erected in locations where the timber supply permitted eight months or more of work. Practically all the mills were kept going day and night, some two shifts of ten hours and some three eight-hour hitches. Enormous quantities of fuel wood were saved by the use of dutch ovens for burning sawdust.
Standard gauge railroads up to three miles in length were built at two-thirds of the operations for connecting the mill docks with the French lines. Light railway of three-foot, meter, and 60 centimeter gauge were laid in great amounts with steam or gas locomotives, horses, or mules to pull the log trains. In the Vosges a narrow gauge road 4,000 feet long and with an average grade of 35 per cent was handled by a donkey engine. Much of the logging was done with horses and mules with log wagons, spool carts, or high wheels, and motor trucks and tractors were often used.
The current monthly needs of the Army rse to 50,000,000 feet of lumber and timbers, 250,000 railroad ties, 6,500 pieces of piling and cribbing, 1,500,000 poles and entanglement stakes, and over 100,000 cords of fuelwood. With the exception of a small quantity of piling and timbers for the Bassens dock, none of the great supply of forest products came from the United States. Limited quantities were obtained from France, Switzerland, and Norway, and some ties were obtained under contract in Spain and Portugal, but the great bulk of the material was produced by the forest troops. In spite of car shortages and other transportation difficulties the current shipments were kept up to 70 per cent of production.
Coming after the Canadians had become established in the woods of France, the Americans were obliged to scout and acquire stumpage in more and more inaccessible locations as time went on. In the summer of 1918 it was necessary to push out into the southern Jura region and the Central Plateau of France to obtain the required amounts of standing timber. Nearly all of the country south of the northern provinces was scouted and the work even extended into the Pyrennes and the French Alps to provide for the operations of the 24th; additional forest troops approved by the War Department in September. At the Armistice, 630,000,000 feet of timber and 700,000 cords of fuel wood had been acquired and half as much located and in the process of purchase.
Preparations for the St. Miheil and Argonne Drives kept the regiment at it with even greater intensity, ties and planks and stakes being needed in immense quantities and in a tremendous hurry. Leaves were hardly considered during the tense months of 1918. More pressure and still more was the order of the days. Men got out after supper and hewed ties on their own time; they worked all night repairing railroads and mills; they loaded cars Sundays; and they hit the ball ten hours a day in the driving rain and in the scorching sun, with very often the additional handicap of hunger.
Wagon tongues, wood for artificial limbs, aircraft spruce, tent pins, bunk lumber, were special jobs done by the regiment. At first many of the outfits were under canvas, but as the second winter approached squad houses were made. Machine shops, kitchens, Y. M. C. A. huts, stables and in fact everything down to furniture and picture frames was made at the camps by the men. Even a surf board was ordered for one of the battalion commanders, and it was duly and promptly turned out and delivered.
Detachments of trained woods men were needed with the armies at the Front and these forces were furnished by the regiment. Several of the outfits were under fire at different times and two officers were killed by enemy machine gunners as they were looking for mill locations. These operations with the First and Second Armies covered a period of three months in the Argonne and Toul Sectors, during which time the following was produced:
TOTAL CUT OF FORESTRY SECTION
December 1, 1917 to April 1, 1919
The Units working for the Am. E. F. also cut 39,095 pieces of piling.
The greatest number of active operations at any one time was in October, 1918, when there were 107 (one hundred seven) mills of varying capacity operating in 14 districts. The District organization, as of November 11, 1918, together with going operations, are listed below.
BAUGE DISTRICT..........CAPT. KARL VAIL
CHATEAUROUX DISTRICT..........CAPT. HENRY A. MAAS
BOURGES DISTRICT..........MAJ. P. E. HINKLEY
GIEN DISTRICT..........CAPT. JOHN P. LYNCH
ECLARON DISTRICT..........MAJ. F. F. SPENCER
EPINAL DISTRICT..........MAJ. S. O. JOHNSON
DIJON DISTRICT..........MAJ. H. W. SANBORN
BESANCON DISTRICT..........MAJ. EVAN W. KELLY
BOURG DISTRICT..........MAJ. F. R. BARNES
LE PUY DISTRICT..........MAJ. F. M. BARTELME
LABRIT DISTRICT..........MAJ. F. S. KELLOGG
PONTENX DISTRICT..........MAJ. JOHN LAFON
MIMIZAN DISTRICT.......... CAPT. S. C. PHIPPS
DAX DISTRICT..........MAJ. W. D. BROOKINGS
BRIG. GENERAL EDGAR JADWIN
Director of Construction & Forestry
COL. J. A. WOODRUFF
C. O., 20th Engrs. & Dep. Dir. C. & F.
CENTRAL HEADQUARTERS, ENGINEERS (FORESTRY)
LIEUT.-COL. W. B. GREELEY
Chief, Forestry Section
Acquisition of Timber
Technical Equipment and Operation Supplies
Product and Shipment
Fuelwood Project, Advance Section
Military Administration Personnel
CAPT. G. P. GRAHAM
The regiment reached its maximum production in October, 1918, but when the news came to the camps that the Germans had signed on the dotted line things kept right on as a rule until the next day when a good time was had by all. One earnest C. O. declined to give his permission for the men to give vent to their joy by tieing down the mill whistle for a few minutes, because the sounds would reach the woods crews and call them in. As a general thing logging came to a close soon after the Armistice, scattered clumps of timber being leveled off to make a neat job. Shipments from the well filled yards had to continue for months and sawing kept up while the surplus of logs lasted. The old Tenth Engineers were fortunate in getting sailing orders early in January, but there was a discouragingly long gap between their departure and the sailing of the next in line. The C. in C. wanted the French roads fixed, and it fell to the lot of the Twentieth Engineers to do a lot of that. They felt that they were being kept after school for no good reason and that the sight of home and mother's cooking would help out a lot. The Burned Area was saddled on their tired backs in addition to other clean-up work and it was six long months after the Armistice before the exodus began in reality.