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Review of Camp Dodger and The Bayonet Camp Newspapers - 1918/1919

Camp Dodger of the 88th Division

The first newspaper in the National Army, The Camp Dodger, the Eighty-Eighth Division official publication, U.S.N.A., published at Camp Dodge, Iowa, is a four-page eight-column sheet of vital interests. The reproduction will show what the front page looks like.

The Camp Dodger - a Camp Dodge Newspaper Shows the Format of a Typical Front Page

The Camp Dodger - a Camp Dodge Newspaper Shows the Format of a Typical Front Page. GGA Image ID # 18722fbbff

The Bayonet of Camp Lee of the 80th Division

The Bayonet is the official newspaper of the Eightieth Division at Camp Lee, Virginia. It is one of the most interesting soldiers' camp newspapers in this country. Its editor-in-chief is Herbert S. Richland, formerly with the Federal Advertising Agency, New York.

It is very much of a newspaper—ten pages, seven columns wide. The treatment of all pages is following good publishing practices. Advertisements are arranged pyramidically.

The editorial page has its editorials and miscellany. The front page shown herewith has an illustration in the upper center with large display heads on both sides.

We marvel at the possibility of producing a soldiers' newspaper so thoroughly good. There is also a pictorial section of four pages. The front page is a reproduction of a cover of a recent issue of La Baïonnette, a French namesake of the American publication. The rear page shows the boys' view on entering camp and their appearance after being drilled and uniformed.

The Cass City (Michigan) Chronicle's recent sixteen-page Bargain Day edition shows that the Chronicle can easily adjust itself to any emergency.

"The Bayonet" falls naturally into two chronological divisions. The first period opens on 5 October 1917 and closes on 10 May 1918.

"The Bayonet" was then suspended for about six weeks on account of the preparations for the embarkation of the 80th Division for France.

The publication was resumed on 21 June 1918 and continued to 9 May 1919. This second period of the publication covers the Eighth Regular Army Division's training and the draft incremental and the final homecoming and demobilization of the 80th Division.

By "Overseas Camp Dodger" News Service

GONDRECOURT, France. January, 1919 (Special): In a dusty little French print shop on the upper Meuse, very late one night last month, an ink-smeared American soldier stuck his head through the composing room door and bawled out “Thirty" at the top of his lungs ; which is the way American newspapermen have of telling the other fellow that the copy is all in for the night and the pressman can start his roller going just as soon as he wants to.

The ink-smeared soldier was Pvt. George L. O'Brien of the 352d Infantry. The other fellow was Pvt. Tonquin Gregory of the 349th. An hour later Private Gregory emerged jubilantly from the press room and went into ecstasies with Private O'Brien over a very ordinary appearing newspaper upon which the ink was still fresh.

That particular paper was, however, one of the most unusual ever run off by an American pressman. It was the first edition of the Overseas Camp Dodger, the oldest newspaper in the National Army and the first publication ever to be carried across the seas by its founders and survive the havoc of campaigning in the world war.

Furthermore, it was the first soldier newspaper which ever successfully attempted publishing simultaneously on two continents, for there are now two Camp Dodgers—the first one founded by the 88th Division at Camp Dodge in September, 1917, and the overseas edition now being issued by the same organization on the upper Meuse in France.

Aside from being one of the most unique in the history of American newspapering, the story of the Overseas Camp Dodger has come to be regarded by the men of the 88th as one of their proudest boasts.

Today it not only is the principal means of maintaining contact between the soldiers of the numerous organizations of a great division, but it has reached out still farther and is assisting the relatives and friends of those same soldiers to keep in touch with the things that these men are doing over in France.

This latter is being accomplished by means of a monster news agency, inaugurated by the paper during the middle part of January, which now serves more than a thousand newspapers all over the United States.

By means of articles, photographs, and cable dispatches, this bureau keeps these papers constantly informed about what the men from their particular territory are doing, stories about the part they have already taken in the fighting now finished, and anything else which those interested in these particular soldiers may ask for.

Those men who founded The Camp Dodger back in the states in 1917, and later developed it into the leading camp newspaper in the Army, faced probably the most severe obstacles ever coped with by a military publication when they launched the initial issue of their overseas edition and founded the news bureau which is now serving the home states.

In the first place, the divisional training area at Gondrecourt is in the heart of the upper Meuse, miles away from any printing plant, and the division itself scattered over an area of more than 25 miles.

To collect the news each week from this vast territory, with practically no transportation, was a problem in itself. But, on top of this, the nearest printing office was 30 miles still farther to the north, at Bar-le-Duc ; and, as a climax, this little French print-shop had neither linotype machines nor hand compositors.

All the printers had gone to war, and the only remaining inhabitant of the office was a feeble old pressman, who stated that he knew something about running a machine, but that he wasn’t able to work on a very strenuous time schedule.

To add to these troubles, the print paper situation in France is about the worst in the world. All paper is controlled by the government, the same as bread and other foodstuffs. Only the larger plants can buy any quantity.

The Bar-le-Duc shop had no regular print paper, but the owner had purchased a small extra supply of book paper before the war, and he offered the use of this until a supply of the ordinary stock could be obtained.

It is this paper which the Overseas Camp Dodger is now using. In the meantime, appeals are going to Paris for help. Whether or not they will obtain results is doubtful.

To meet these unusual conditions and at the same time publish with regularity, an equally unusual organization was instituted. Lieut. L. R. Fairall, founder of the original Camp Dodger in the home states, was placed in charge of the new overseas edition and, together with all of the staff of the old paper, set about to assemble the news forces of the twenty or more different units of the division under one head.

A system of regimental representatives, with individual news couriers, was instituted, and this big chain united with a central receiving office under Corp. Fred Bunch, late telegraph editor of the San Francisco Examiner. In the main office at Gondrecourt a corps of reporters was assembled to write the material thus gathered and arrange it for both the paper and the overseas news service to the home states.

The printing problem was solved by two old-time compositors, brought down from one of the regiments. Every week now the copy is assembled at Gondrecourt, dispatched 30 miles by courier to Bar-le-Duc, and the rest is left to these two men, who toil over it seven days in the week to get the paper out on time.

The composition is all done by hand, letter by letter, and the proofs corrected in the same way.

The actual printing of the paper is a two-day process. Just before the close of hostilities a Boche aviator dropped a bomb on the printing plant and destroyed all the presses with the exception of one very ancient model, rusty and almost shaken to pieces, which has a maximum capacity of only a few hundred papers an hour. This press is operated by an aged Frenchman, the sole survivor of the pre-war force of employees.

After the paper has been printed, it is folded by hand by a force of soldiers who are likewise brought from the office at Gond recourt. It is then loaded in motor trucks and transported to the center of the division area, whence a train of automobiles completes the distribution to the farthest companies.

In this way 10,000 papers a week are written, printed, and distributed. The process is slow and difficult, but in France a soldier has to "do as the Romans."

The paper is sold for 5 cents a copy and all profits are turned over to the Division Athletic Fund, to be used for the purchase of uniforms and equipment for the various regimental teams. Money-making is only a very small incidental, however, in the real work of the paper.

“The main purpose of a divisional newspaper is to serve its men," stated Lieutenant Fairall, the editor, in explaining the work of this new branch of the organization.

The Stars and Stripes, in beginning publication, was instructed by General Pershing to forget about making money — that the Army would call on the treasury whenever it needed funds, without requiring the assistance of a newspaper.

The Overseas Camp Dodger plans to make expenses and a small margin over, that is all. Its primary duty is to unify the division, develop an esprit de corps, promote the welfare of the man in the ranks, and bring a little cheer into the rainy wastes of the Meuse.
The overseas newspaper idea was not a new one born with the 88th Division since its arrival in France.

Long before it left the states, the directors of the paper had completed arrangements for continuing the publication of a journal on both continents, the two being linked together as closely as possible.

As a result, plans were made accordingly, but at the last minute it turned out that none of the old. original staff of the 88th’s paper were willing to stay behind when the time came for leaving.

There were only one or two minor exceptions to this, and the edition at Camp Dodge had to undergo an entire reorganization.

Then, after the division had been in France only a few weeks, and while the organization for the overseas publication was still in the process of completion, word came that the entire command was to move up to the front soon.

Immediately every member of the staff hurried back to his unit to prepare for the bigger work to come, for fighting men were needed at the front, and there was plenty of time later on for publishing newspapers, after the battling was over.

Now that the fighting is over, however, the Overseas Camp Dodger will be a regular part of the division’s life, and will be published until the organization is finally mustered out.

In a like manner, General Weigel, commanding the division, has expressed the desire to keep the home folks constantly informed from now on about what their boys are doing, and the news service will be an equally permanent feature of this new branch of headquarters.

The entire organization is still in its infancy, but it has already demonstrated its immense usefulness. What a city newspaper is to the civilian, the Overseas Camp Dodger is to the soldiers, and more, for it not only furnishes the main link which ties the thoughts and activities of more than 30,000 men into one, but it reaches even farther and brings the daily life of these men to the thousands of homes in every part of America from which they come.


Review of Publications, Publishing and Editing: Matters of Moment to the Counting Room and Editorial Room in The American Printer: A Semi-Monthly Business, Technical, and News Journal, New York: The Oswald Publishing Company, Vol. 66, No., 1, 5 January 1918, p. 46.

"By 'Overseas Camp Dodger' News Service," in Infantry Journal, Washington, DC: The United States Infantry Association, Vol. XV, No. 10, April 1919, pp. 796-798

Arthur Kyle Davis, ed., "Supplement to Virginia Camps and Cantonments "The Bayonet" Preparatory Note," in Publications of the Virginia War History Commission, Source Volume II: Virginia War History in News Paper Clippings, Richmond, VA: Virginia War History Commission, 1924, p. 407

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