Company "B" - 351st Infantry, 88th Division, AEF
IT was in the beginning of things. Captain Hay and Lieutenants Chinn, Dodsley, Carris, Berg, McCandless and Hugh O’Neill arrived at Camp Dodge early in September, 1917, and were assigned to the 351st Infantry and Company “B.”
After a brief period which was occupied in the skeletonization, in officer personnel, of the various organizations in the Division, there arrived from various points on the compass numerous non-commissioned officers whose function was to assist the various commanders in initiating the preliminary steps of organization.
The efficiency with which these non-commissioned officers discharged their duties and labored in the development of eager and timid “civies” in the period of military training which followed will always furnish relishing thought to the reminiscent, from the grim, unrelenting and austere officer, down to the then temerous military fledgling, who now is thoroughly developed and whose precise manner and alert bearing mark him as a veteran.
It came to pass that the new order of things wrought great and wondrous changes. Straw hats established a headquarters in the rubbish heap; stand-up white linen collars were thwarted, scorned and abolished; neckties, the delicate and the glaring, were ostracized; white shirts, of delicate design and attractive weave, were sent on leave of absence; cuff links passed away; silk socks came to the parting of the ways; English shoes met their Waterloo; and the civie-suit was torn from its possessor and pierced with more than three and twenty wounds.
This was the most unkindest cut of all. Quel revolution! What a sad demise for the foppery so long enjoyed! And the men, deprived of their habitual adornment, emerged in the new life in khaki and olive drab, round toed shoes and big service hats. Such was the change and none regrets it.
And then came the great working of miracles and men’s habits were changed and newly molded. Stampedes to “get on the line” followed the blasting of notes on an instrument hitherto associated with the selling of fish, for reveille was sounding, and the bugle, responding to the demands of its heartless and relentless master, was assassinating the peace of men.
The only pleasing notes to the ears of the men of Company “ B” upon returning from a day’s grilling by Captain Hay and his barbarian associates, Sergeants Lowther, Jacobs, Farrell and Miller were the call for “slum.”
Weeks of the hardest work came on. Men were being rounded into shape, even if it must be accredited to those barbarians. A host of new non-commissioned officers was made. But in November, 1917, the men were all lost to the regiment and only the barbarian non-commissioned officers remained behind. They were all paid for the grief they caused by intimate association, through the winter months, with coal and ash details and kitchen police work at the officer's mess.
The company was re-filled in February, 1918, with new men from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
For a second time the company lost most of its enlisted personnel in April, 1918. April, May, June and July, witnessed the hardest training known to Camp Dodge and the entire 88th Division. A keen historian has asked if some one ever counted the rounds of ammunition fired by the men on the rifle range at Camp Dodge and sari though it be to relate his relatives are still in mourning.
The men, in July, 1918, were nearly over-trained and were desperate to go overseas. And the opportunity came. On August 6th the regiment left Camp Dodge for Camp Mills, N. V. After a stay of one week at that station the company embarked, on August 15, 1918, on the good ship Saxon, for abroad.
The trip was uneventful and a landing was made at Liverpool, England, on August 28th. The company left immediately for Camp Stoney Castle, in Aldershot, which will be long remembered for its —— meals. The stay at this station was followed by a railroad journey to Southampton and across the Channel to Cherbourg, France, in an English tub.
The company had undergone some changes and Lieutenants Chinn, Ash, Berg and O’Neill remained in America. Lieutenant Davis had joined the company in January' and Lieutenant Swisher in December. This constituted the changed officer personnel, with an officer candidate, Sergeant O’Neill, in addition.
Space does not permit an elaboration of the pleasurable period spent with the delightful French inhabitants at Flavigny, Cote d’Or. From Flavigny we proceeded on September 13, 1918, to Coisevaux Haute Saone, where we were located from September 15, 1918 to October 5, 1918.
At this small French village the company received its hardest blows. Spanish Influenza reaped a harvest of destruction. One month in the trenches followed and the change of locality and the life in the trenches, paradoxical though it may seem, saw the men through the entire period of our stay in the front lines without illness.
From the trenches we proceeded to Lutran, Sermamgany, Yilley St. Etienne, Pagny-sur-Meuse, Rigny St. Martin and Houdelaincourt.
On April 2õ, 1919, Captain Hay was transferred to the 1st Division and it happened just one week before we started on our homeward journey. He has always been regarded by the men as a kind and generous commander, whose thought has ever been of his men, the guardian of their military adventures, the devoted friend of each man and it is fitting that this history record the sincerest appreciation of his officers and his men, their high regard and attachment and their best wishes for a happy and most successful future.
HOMER B. DODSLEY,
1st Lieutenant 351st Infantry.
Houdelaincourt, Meuse, France,
May 6, 1919.