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Organization and Training of the 88th Division At Camp Dodge


FOLLOWING tho passage of the Selective Service Act and the registration June 5, 1917, of approximately 10,000,000 men, the problem of housing the new army had been solved only on paper. The plan adopted by the War Department called for sixteen National Army cantonments having a capacity of approximately 40,000 men each, and ground for drill, maneuvers and target ranges adequate for the training needs of such a number.

On the 18th of June, 1917, the War Department announced by General Order that an infantry (the 88th) Division would be organized at Camp Dodge, near Des Moines, Iowa. The site selected for Camp Dodge was ten miles northwest of Des Moines, the state capital of Iowa. It had for many years been the camping ground of the Iowa National Guard.

On June 29, 1917, when Major N. A. Butler, the constructing quartermaster, first rode over the cantonment site, there were no buildings except 12 company mess halls, which were used by the National Guard organizations during their annual encampments there.

There was also the arsenal of the Iowa National Guard, a concrete building of considerable size, located on the railway; and a small brick house, which was utilized as a Headquarters Building for several months.

Limited as they were by the lack of adequate railroad facilities, the construction of Camp Dodge was no less remarkable than that of the other fifteen camps.

A single track electric railway between Des Moines and Perry, Iowa, in no way adapted to the heavy freight traffic and almost totally lacking in passenger cars for more than civilian patronage, made the transportation of materials extremely difficult.

By November 21st, all buildings authorized to that date for the camp were completed with the exception of the theatre and two officers’ quarters at the Base Hospital. The 129 individual heating plants for officers’ quarters and medical buildings, the sewer system with a total length of 131,052 feet, all water mains, having a total length of 170,355 feet, the pumping stations, wells and million gallon reservoir, the electric lighting system, the telephone system and road work were all completed. There were many changes and additions to the original plans, but these are incidental to the history of the division.

An important feature of the cantonment which contributed in a large way to the welfare of the men was a part of the camp, centrally located, and known as the Civic Center. Here a government-built and managed theatre seating 3,000 persons, a Y. W. C. A. Hostess House, a Y. M. C. A. Auditorium, a Lutheran Brotherhood Building, a Knights of Columbus Auditorium and a library erected by the American Library Association, provided facilities for education, recreation and amusement of all kinds.

The history of the 88th Division may be said to have commenced on the 25th of August, 1917, at which time, in compliance with a War Department order, Major General Edward II. Plummer arrived at Camp Dodge and assumed command, he was directed to organize a division according to the following table:

  • Division Headquarters Headquarters Troop
  • 337th Machine Gun Battalion
  • 175th Infantry Brigade
  • 319th Infantry
  • 350th Infantry
  • 338th Machine Gun Battalion
  • 176th Infantry Brigade
  • 351st Infantry
  • 352d Infantry
  • 339th Machine Gun Battalion
  • 163d Field Artillery Brigade
  • 337th Field Artillery
  • 338th Field Artillery
  • 339th Field Artillery
  • 313th Trench Mortar Battery
  • 313th Engineers
  • 313th Train Headquarters and Military Police
  • 313th Ammunition Train
  • 313th Supply Train
  • 313th Sanitary Train

In addition to the division organizations, the 163d Depot Brigade was established to which, later, all incoming drafted men were attached before being permanently assigned to the division. The Depot Brigade served also to take care of men physically unfit for combatant branches of the service, and to hold specialists, such as psychologists, chemists, etc., pending their assignment to special services. The camp, at this time, was only a row of partly completed wooden barracks, without water supply or lights.

Headquarters were established in an old brick house near the southern end of camp and the following assignments made for division staff:

  • Major Sam M. Parker, Division Adjutant
  • Major Cary I. Crockett, Division Inspector and Acting Chief of Staff
  • Lt. Col. Henry C. Bonnycastle, Division Quartermaster
  • Lt. Col. Jay R. Shook, Division Surgeon
  • Major Clarence G. Fronk, Division Sanitary Inspector
  • Major Clyde L. Eastman, Division Signal Officer
  • Major Win. A. Graham, Division Judge Advocate
  • 1st Lt. George N. Northrop, Division Statistical Officer
  • 2d Lt. Michael M. Kinkead, Division Statistical Officer
  • 2d Lt. Nazard M. Coursolle, Division Statistical Officer

In addition to these the following assignments were made among general and field officers who had reported:

  • Brig. Gen. Charles C. Ballou, 175th Infantry Brigade (never joined Brigade)
  • Brig. Gen. William D. Beach, 176th Infantry Brigade
  • Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Foote, 163d Field Artillery Brigade
  • Brig. Gen. Robert N. Getty, 163d Depot Brigade
  • Col. George E. Houle, 349th Infantry
  • Col. Clyde E. Hawkins, 352d Infantry
  • Col. George R. Greene, 337th Field Artillery
  • Col. Samuel C. Vestal. 339th Field Artillery
  • Col. Harrison J. Price (later Brigadier General) and Col. Girard Sturtevant, 163d Depot Brigade
  • Col. James P. Harbeson, Division Trains
  • Lt. Col John J. Ryan, 349th Infantry
  • Lt. Col. Rush S. Wells, 350th Infantry
  • Lt. Col. James F. McKinley, 351st Infantry
  • Lt. Col. Francis W. Honeycutt, 338th Field Artillery
  • Lt. Col. Robert R. Wallach, 313th Ammunition Train
  • Lt. Col. Robert P. Howell, 313th Engineers
  • Major R. B. Ellis, 351st Infantry
  • Major Horace N. Munro, 350th Infantry
  • Major Henry A. Meyer, 352d Infantry
  • Major Arthur .1. Lynch, 349th Infantry
  • Major Peter J. Hennessey, 349th Infantry
  • Major William J. O'Loughlin, 337th Machine Gun Battalion
  • Major George R. Somerville, 338th Machine Gun Battalion
  • Major Thomas 11. Cunningham, 339th Machine Gun Battalion

The First Reserve Officers Training Camp which closed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, August 15, 1917, supplied the division with its first assignment of junior officers, who had all arrived at Camp Dodge by August 29th.

A definite plan was adopted in assigning these officers to commands: the first and second companies from Fort Snelling were used to officer the 349th Infantry, the third and fourth companies the 350th Infantry, the fifth and sixth companies the 351st Infantry, the seventh and ninth companies the 352d Infantry and the eighth company the three machine gun battalions.

Likewise, the officers from the three batteries were assigned to the 163d Field Artillery Brigade, the 313th Ammunition Train and the 313th Trench Mortar Battery.

Thus officers who had been in the same company at the training camp were to a large extent kept together. This distribution made, 200 of the remaining officers were relieved and ordered to the 33d (National Guard) Division at Houston, Texas, September 2d, 1919, and fifty-two to the 42d (National “Rainbow” Guard) Division, at Mineóla, Long Island, N. Y., September 1st.

The officers’ enthusiasm over their new work was the predominating note, together with an insistent desire to get “‘over there” as soon as possible.

The prospects for Germany were not at that time as bright as they had been earlier and as they became later, and much of the anxiety to sail for France was due to a fear that t he war might end soon. This fear was a factor in causing many to decide to choose to go to other divisions.

By the 5th of September, 1917, the Division had been organized—almost complete in officers—but without enlisted personnel. On that date the first draft men began to arrive, from Alinnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and Central Illinois.

Coming from their comfortable homes, most of them without any conception of military life, they did not know what to expect, and the first impressions were not reassuring nor comforting.

September 8, 1917, Lt. Col. Charles S. Lincoln, General Staff, reported at Camp Dodge and was assigned to duty as Chief of Staff. With the exception of the period the following winter when he went to France with General Plummer, he held this position until October, 1918, when he became a victim of Spanish Influenza during the Division’s stay at Hericourt (Haute Saone), France.

He recovered sufficiently after several weeks to go to the Riviera, where he regained his health. He did not return to the Division, but became Deputy G-l at General Headquarters, Chaumont, and finally G-l of the A. E. F. During Colonel Lincoln’s absence in France, the winter of 1917-18, his duties were performed by Lt. Col. H. L. Cooper.

By September 9th, practically all the five per cent draft contingent had reported at Camp Dodge, but the quota amounted only to 2,350 men. About this time, there began to arrive in frequent detachments non-commissioned officers and privates from cavalry and infantry organizations of the Regular Army.

These regular army soldiers proved an important adjunct to the training staff, but however competent the instructors might have been, too much cannot be said of the splendid spirit displayed by the men who came with the draft.

It was a matter of constant remark how they took hold of their work and how suddenly they emerged from untrained citizenry into alert, intelligent, well-set-up soldiers.

Training was at first the same as for all American soldiers, with stress on physical drill. School of the soldier and school of the squad without arms became the daily routine, but it was never allowed to become a drudgery.

The new men showed themselves apt and intelligent. In a remarkably short time, the men had been whipped into shape and these formed the foundation of a skeleton division of select non-commissioned officers and privates who could be ready, in turn, to train the men of the next draft.

On September 10th, 1917, Major L. A. Toombs was assigned as Assistant Division Adjutant and April 8, 1918, became Division Adjutant, lie succeeded Major Edward S. Hayes, who was appointed November 13, 1917. Colonel Toombs remained with the Division until February, 1919, when he was sent to Rome as American Provost Marshal of Italy.

Camp Dodge was completed sufficiently to house troops as far as 7th Street when the first drafted men arrived. The camp was being built by a combine of contractors under Charles Weitz’ Sons and their performance was unquestionably a feat of swift construction.

The company buildings were erected according to plans and specifications made early in the war and were designed to hold 150-men companies. But in adapting the United States forces to be brigaded with French and British troops and to relieve corresponding units in trenches, certain changes were made, among them, the increase of company strength to 250. It therefore became necessary to use three buildings to house two companies.

In order to rush construction for the accommodation of other early arriving increments of drafted men, it had been necessary to impress every available man into the service of the builders, and it was a poor worker indeed who could not draw $7 to $10 per day at work in which he claimed to be proficient, but regarding which he knew almost nothing at the start.

The contractors’ report for the week ending September 15th shows that 5,759 men were employed. In spite of many poor workmen, construction proceeded swiftly and while heating apparatus was scarcely in by the first real cold weather, progress cannot he said to have been anything hut marvelous and the work well done.

On September 19th. the second increment to the first draft began to arrive at camp. By the end of September, the division had 681 officers and 18,128 enlisted men regularly assigned and 259 officers and 228 enlisted men attached.

The 1st Infantry, Iowa National Guard, which had been encamped adjoining the grounds and had performed good service guarding Government property, had departed.

Hardly had the latest recruit been put through the rudiments of military drill when there began a series of events which, in the succeeding months, threatened to take all the enthusiasm out of the officers and non-commissioned staff.

On October 22d, in compliance with War Department orders, 3,000 men were transferred from the division to the 34th Division at Camp Cody, New Mexico.

On the 25th, 1,000 more were transferred to the 33d Division at Camp Logan, Houston, Texas. November 16th to 19th, 8,000 were sent to Camp Pike, Arkansas. By December 10, 13,500 had been transferred from the Division.

The loss of men was altogether disheartening to those who had come to look upon them as part of a permanent organization, but the rest of the division history at Camp Dodge is practically a repetition of this experience.

New draftmen would arrive, be in camp for a few weeks and just as military progress was becoming marked, they were withdrawn and sent away to fill up other divisions destined for early departure for France.

The next increments were due February 15, 1918, but on account of railroad congestion, they were delayed. About 15,000 Iowa and Minnesota men arrived late in February, but in March came another heavy drain on personnel, 4,082 men being sent to Camp Doniphan on the 15th, later 2,800 to Camp Gordon, Georgia, 1,500 to Camp Sevier, S. C. (30th Division), 1,017 to Camp Upton, L. I., and similar detachments to engineer regiments at American University, Washington, D. C., Camp Custer, Fort Leavenworth, Camp Meade and other points, while almost every day small groups left camp for various schools in various instruction centers. The division trained and transferred approximately 10,000 men before it received the permanent personnel which came to France.

By this time, most of the officers with the division had come to believe that the 88th was to be a replacement division and as a consequence, interest in training flagged for the moment. But in February a War Department telegram regarding the disposition of the February draft directed that troops of the Depot Brigade ordered to other camps be transferred to the 88th Division instead, all men transferred to have had at least three months training. Transfers continued fast through April and on the 26th, 9,000 men of the second draft began to arrive, so that at the end of the month the division had 7,539 men.

During the months of December and January, General Plummer and Colonel Lincoln were in France for a course of instruction and study of the Western Front. In the absence of the Commanding General, Brigadier General Robert N. Getty was acting division commander.

General Getty had been transferred from the Depot Brigade, September 19th, relieving Brigadier General Ballou as commander of the 175th Infantry Brigade. General Ballou, after commanding the Training Camp for Negro Officers, joined the 163d Depot Brigade.

Shortly after General Plummer’s return, he was relieved from assignment as Division Commander on account of physical unfitness for future service abroad and was ordered to Fort Sill to command the post there. General Getty remained in command until he was relieved by Brigadier General Beach of the 176th Brigade, and Brigadier General M. B. Stewart took command of the 175th Brigade.

An entire chapter could well be devoted to the subject of training and other activities which occupied the time of the men at Camp Dodge. Except for a short period in midwinter, when there was a pause in the influx of drafted men and many of the former increment had been sent away, training was of an intensive order.

At first the fire breaks and spaces between barracks were used for close order drill and exercise, but the dust storms of October and the increasing sizes of companies as each draft contingent arrived, made it necessary to transfer activities to regimental drill areas in adjoining fields.

As soon as anything like a permanent personnel had been organized, instruction was begun in every branch of the forms of warfare developed by the European hostilities. Trench warfare as practiced since 1911 had brought many new methods and instruments that were strange to American arms.

Both officers and men had to acquire an intimate knowledge of these things in addition to the standard Infantry Drill Regulations, Field Service Regulations and Firing Manuals. Schools were therefore established in charge of officers who had attended special schools at certain instruction centers.

Officers from the French and British Armies began to arrive at Camp Dodge in the fall of 1917, who acted in an advisory capacity to the training staff and conducted courses in the various schools.

November 5, 1917, schools were established in musketry (rille and pistol) and heavy machine gun. Schools for grenade warfare, bayonet combat, automatic arms (automatic rifle and light machine gun), field fortifications, gas defense, sniping and camouflage, trench mortar, signal and liaison, 37 mm. gun, intelligence, followed, besides various other schools for packers, horseshoers, mess sergeants, company clerks and cooks and bakers.

All instruction was of the most practical sort. Elaborate systems of trenches were constructed by classes from the field fortifications school; gas chambers were constructed where men attending the gas school were obliged to go through rooms filled with gas in order to gain confidence in their gas masks; bayonet courses for training in the new method of bayonet attack were built in regimental drill area and this form of fighting was gone into with absolute thoroughness; small problems were conducted by the school of musketry and snipers were given special courses in camouflage. A model battalion was formed to demonstrate the new platoon formations with the 250-men companies.

While, as stated before, intensive instruction lagged somewhat in midwinter, there was no idleness. The men had not had range firing, and in spite of the cold weather this was taken up. The day before Christmas, the Red Cross issued 16,000 sweaters, 13,000 pairs of socks, 8,000 wristlets, 4,500 mufflers and 600 woolen helmets, which helped immeasurably those organizations which were having target practice during the zero weather in January.

Krag rifles had been received to the number of 10,220 between September 12th and November 1st, while 20,300 of the new U. S. model 1917 Enfield rifle had been received up to January 16, 1918. The men received their first instruction in the handling, of the new piece at this time.

Training was not, however, the only side of the soldiers’ life at Camp Dodge. They had, at all times, proper and well-directed recreation. Drill was frequently interspersed with competitive games and these lulls in the routine were compulsory as much as any feature of the drill itself. Various welfare societies had constructed huts throughout the camp where there wen' libraries, writing rooms and musical instruments. Educational courses were offered and many classes in French were conducted.

Toward the last of May, telegrams from the War Department ordering the transfer to the Depot Brigade of all surplus officers and the establishing of a school for intensive training of field and staff officers were interpreted as indicating an early departure of the division overseas.

Finally, on July 22d, a War Department telegram was received containing instructions for the movement of the Division to the Port of Embarkation with special instruction for the Advance Detachment and Billeting Party of 52 officers and men and the advance school detachment of 110 officers and 107 men to be sent at the earliest possible date.

The train carrying these two detachments left Camp Dodge the night of July 28th. They were sent to Camp Upton, Long Island, New York, where equipment was checked and completed.

On August 3d, the Advance School Detachment sailed on the “Leviathan,” formerly the “Vaterland,” and arrived at Brest, August 11th. From Brest they proceeded to Chatillon-sur-Seine to the 3d Corps Schools.

The Advance Detachment and Billeting Party sailed on the Cunard Liner “Aquitania,” August 6th, arriving in Liverpool, August 12th. Following four days spent in rest camps at Liverpool and Southampton, the detachment landed at Cherbourg, August 16th and through a misunderstanding on the part of the R. T. O. at that port proceeded to Tonnerre, Cote d'Or, intended for the Headquarters of the 81st Division.

After two days at Tonnerre, the party went on to Semur, Cote d’Or, the 21st Training Area, and established Headquarters there August 20th.

Other organizations followed in their turn, spending from four to seven days in Camp Upton or Camp Mills, being inspected and equipped; and units landing in England spent from one to five days in rest camps before proceeding to France.

On August 9th, the 349th Infantry sailed on the White Star Liner “Olympic,” arriving at Southampton, August 16th. Parts of the regiment left that same day for Le Havre, the remaining units following the 17th and 18th.

The next units to leave the United States were Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Company, the 1st Battalion, Medical Detachment, Machine Gun Company and Supply Company of the 350th Infantry, which sailed on H.M.S. “Delta,” August 11th, arriving at Tilbury-on-Thames, August 25, and at Cherbourg, August 29th.

On August 15th, Regimental Headquarters, the 1st Battalion Headquarters, Company “M,” Supply Co. and Medical Detachment of the 352d Infantry and the 337th Machine Gun Battalion sailed from New York on the “Ascanius” of the Blue Funnel Line, arriving at Liverpool August 28th and at Cherbourg, September 1st.

The same day, August 14th, the 339th Machine Gun Battalion sailed from Philadelphia on the “Phens” of the Blue Funnel Line, arriving in Liverpool, August 27th and at Le Havre, August 30th. The 3d Battalion and Company G of the 350th Infantry with the 338th Machine Gun Battalion sailed August 15th from Hoboken on H. M. S. “Kashmir.”

The remainder of the 350th Infantry sailed the following day on the “Messanabie” and arrived at Liverpool with the H. M. S. “Kashmir,” August 28th. Troops aboard these ships debarked at Cherbourg, September 1st.

In the same convoy with the “Ascanius” was the U. S. S. “Ulysses,” which sailed from Philadelphia, August 15th. carrying the 2d Battalion and the 3d Battalion, less Company “M,” of the 352d Infantry, landing at Liverpool, August 28th and at Le Havre two days later.

Company “M” sailed from Philadelphia on the “City of Exeter,” August 14th, arriving at Manchester the 29th and at Le Havre the 31st. The “Ulysses” carried also the 3d Battalion of the 351st Infantry which debarked in Cherbourg from Southampton, September 6th.

The remainder of the 351st Infantry sailed August 16th, on the ships “Saxon” and “Scotian,” arriving at Liverpool, August 28th. The French port for these troops was Cherbourg.

On August 18th, the 313th Ammunition Train and 313th Sanitary Train sailed on the “Vedic,” arriving at Liverpool, August 31st and at Le Havre, September 5th.

The 313th Field Signal Battalion sailed August 17th on H. M. S. “Bohemia,” which arrived in Liverpool, August 31st. The French port for the signal battalion was Le Havre.

Division Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment and Headquarters Troop embarked at Quebec, August 15th and sailed August 21st on H. M. S. “Demosthenes,” from Sydney (Nova Scotia), arriving at Liverpool, August 31st and at Le Havre, September 4th.

The 313th Supply Train sailed August 24th on H. M. S. “Empress of Britain,” arriving at Liverpool, September 24th, and at Le Havre, September 7th.

The sailing dates of the 163d Field Artillery Brigade and the 313th Trench Mortar Battery are not available at this time, but these units never joined the division in France.

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