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Seventy-ninth [79th] Division, Headquarters Troop: A Record

CAIN, JAMES M. & GILBERT MALCOLM 1919. Privately Printed. First Edition of James M. Cain Rare First Book.
A history of Cain's army unit in World War I, printed in a tiny quantity exclusively for the members of his unit.
Hardbound in full blue cloth with gilt-stamping.
 
This extremely rare book was donated to appear in this website by an anonymous donor
who wishes to tell the story of all the brave soldiers listed in this book,
and to remember their sacrifices and dedication to protecting our freedoms.

 
 
(You can click on any book page to see the full-size scan)

 

 
Seventy-ninth [79th] Division, Headquarters Troop: A Record Book - Cover
 
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Seventy-ninth [79th] Division, Headquarters Troop: A Record


 
Headquarters Troop - SEVENTY-NINTH DIVISION
HEADQUARTERS 79TH DIVISION
Am.E.F., France.
14th November 1918
From: Commanding General
To: Commanding Officer, Headquarters Troop
Subject: Conduct of Personnel
While it was not given to your organization to take part in the actual fighting,
it is nevertheless true that its work was essential for the proper functioning of the Division as a while.
Its work was not without its hardships and frequently involved danger.
The personnel of teh Troop have, without exception, performed their duties conscientiously and well and I desire that you express to them my appreciation of their efforts toward the common end which seems now in a fair way of accomplishment.
Joseph E. Kuhn,
Major General U.S.A.
TR-ep
79th Division HEADQUARTERS TROOP: A Record
The purpose of this little book is to record the achievements of those fine soldiers whose energy, resourcefulness and unselfishness made possible the success of Headquarters Troop, 79th Division. The book is the result of the work of Gilbert Malcolm and James M. Cain, who prepared the material, and Frank E. Horn, who drew the sketches. I believe that it will be an interesting reminder of days spent in the Army. E. W. M. December 1, 1919.
To the memory of those busy days when we all worked together as members of
HEADQUARTERS TROOP, 79th DIVISION
THE average civilian has not a very clear idea of the functioning of a large military unit. He, of course, knows that there are various arms of the service - infantry, artillery, motor transport -- each with its particular duty to perform, and he realizes that there must be some means of keeping communication, "liaison," between these arms, but he does not comprehend the vast administrative system necessary to weld these arms into one coordinated unit. In the American Army, the smallest coordinated unit of this sort is the division. The American division is complete in itself; that is, it has all the necessary departments for sustaining itself either in action against the enemy or in garrison. To coordinate these departments into a smoothly running whole, the division has a headquarters, which consists of the Division Commander and his Staff; the heads of various departments and their assistants. To guard this headquarters, to care for the needs of the Division Commander and his Staff and to be available in any way and at any time to maintain the proper coordination of the division, there is, as a part of the division headquarters, a Headquarters Troop.

Headquarters Troop consists of 3 officers and 122 enlisted men. Its duties are many and varied. It must operate messes for the officers and men of divisian headquarters; it must provide ample sleeping accommodation for them; it must maintain the vicinity of headquarters in a proper state of police; it must have available at all times horses and motors so that officers may proceed without delay wherever their duties call them. The horses must be kept in perfect condition even when food is scarce and difficult to


transport. The motors must always be in working order; parts must be obtained even though supposed to be unobtainable; the drivers must be expert and must overcome every obstacle. To execute the countIess minor errands, there must be a force of orderlies, each of whom can be depended on to accomplish what he is sent to do, no matter what it may be. In spite of the radio, the telegraph and the telephone, there must be dispatch bearers, on foot, on horse and on motorcycle. They must get to their destinations as quickly as possible, even though their ways lie over dark roads, torn to pieces by shell fire and congested with traffic.

To perform these duties, the personnel of Headquarters Troop consists of a number of drivers of motor cars and motorcycles, and men to keep them in proper repair at all times, mounted orderlies, wagoners, and horseshoers to care for the horses, orderlies for the Headquarters Officers, and enough men to perform the other duties incidental to the maintenance of division headquarters. These duties pass unnoticed by those who have never been in the army, and indeed are thought lightly of by many soldiers. But no organization needs men of a higher type than a division headquarters troop. The men must be intelligent, resourceful, persevering, and, above all, dependable. From them are wanted no excuses. It does not matter by what means they accomplish their task; but they must accomplish it. On their efficiency depends largely the smooth functioning of the division

Headquarters Troop, 79th Division, performed its duty well. Every man realized fully what was expected of him and willingly and cheerfully carried out


what was set for him to do, not from any fear of punishment, but from a sense of pride that whatever was his duty must be done well.

Headquarters Troop, 79th Division, was organized at Camp Meade, Md., on August 29, 1917. On that day the Troop officers, Captain Eugene S. Pleasonton, First Lieutenant Edward W. Madeira and Second Lieutenant Russell A. Freas, reported for duty. The first enlisted man of the Troop, Sergeant Charlie Elmore, the chauffeur for the Division Commander, reported on September 6th. From this time on, men transferred to the Troop as rapidly as those possessing the proper qualifications could be found.

The work of the Troop at Camp Meade was essentially the same as was later encountered in France. The relatively small extent of the camp, however, and the ideal cantonment conditions made it possible to perform the usual duties with fewer men; the full quota of 122 was not made up until just before the departure of the division for Europe. The care of a stable of horses, the maintenance of a guard, driving automobiles and motorcycles, and dispatch-bearing in the Camp made up the routine. The months passed at the Troop barracks in much the same way as in sections of the Camp. A protracted quarantine


for measles at Christmas, 1917, and the departure of a number of the Troop for the Officers' Training Camp at Camp Meade in January, 1918, were the principal features of the winter. At this time, the Troop was in reality a mounted organization. Afterwards, in France, it was found that the work could be done better with motor equipment or on foot; with only a few horses to care for, many men could be released for more useful work. But at Camp Meade, training regulations prescribed that Headquarters Troop should be mounted, and these regulations were adhered to. Regular schedules of training were followed as far as the duties of the Troop permitted, and each man received substantial instruction in the fundamentals of almost every sort of work which he later might be called upon to perform

The only change in the commissioned personnel of the Troop at Camp Meade occurred on December 12, 1917, when Captain Pleasonton was sent overseas to become a student at the Army General Staff College at Langres, France. Lieutenant Madeira assumed command of the Troop, as it was expected that Captain Pleasonton would resume the command after completing the course at Langres. But in May, when Captain Pleasonton returned from France, he was appointed Major and assigned as Adjutant of the 157th Infantry Brigade. Lieutenant Madeira was made Captain to fill the vacancy caused by Captain Pleasonton's promotion; Second Lieutenant Areas was made First Lieutenant; and Second Lieutenant Charles R. Ace, who had been on special duty with the Troop since the middle of December, was transferred to the Troop.


From the middle of May, 1918, it was generally understood that the days of the 79th Division in the United States were numbered. Preparations for departure for France proceeded all over Camp, and the Troop was a busy organization. Countless things had to be done. Issue of overseas clothing had to be made; qualified men had to be secured in order to bring the Troop up to authorized strength; horses, wagons, automobiles, motorcycles, and all the great quantity of training camp equipment had to be turned in. For a month all was preparation.

On July 6, 1918, Headquarters Troop left Camp Meade. The hike to Admiral station proceeded in the early afternoon, under full pack, on one of the hottest days of the year. The troop train -- we thought it was slow and uncomfortable, but we were to learn more about that --- pullled into Jersey City about midnight. We stayed on the train until early the next morning, when we took the ferry for the U. S. S. Leviathan, which was to take us to France.

That was in the days when it was forbidden to mention the names of transports, and it was not until after we were on board that we knew we were on the biggest ship afloat. The Leviathan had no convoy, her speed being her greatest asset, and the race across the Atlantic and through the submarine zone will live


long in the memories of the ten thousand men who were aboard, We left New York at six o'clock on the evening of July 8th, and arrived at Brest on the morning of July 15th, having made the trip in six and a half days. We landed at Brest on the morning of July 16th.

After a three-mile hike from Brest on the morning of July 16th, the Troop reached Pontanezen Barracks, a rest camp -- we will remember it the rest of our lives. There we stayed until the afternoon of the l9th. There was another hike back to the railroad station, where we boarded the train for the training area.

Those days in the middle of July were when the British, the French, and the Americans feeling their real strength for the first time, made their noble resistance to the last German offensive. While we were on the train we received the first uncertain reports of the Allied attacks and the beginning of the German retreat. Our joy, great even at these uncertain reports, was unbounded when we realized the wonderful Allied successes.


In the training area the Troop got its first taste of war. After three days in Mussy-sur-Seine, we were moved to Prauthoy, near Dijon. The barracks at Camp Meade had seemed bleak enough, and had offended our aesthetic sense by their unpainted board sides; but they would have been welcome after we got our first sight of the billets in a French village. At Prauthoy, most of us slept in lofts above stone barns, where the rats ran races on moonlight nights. Rats,
imcidentally, formed a sort of unwelcome escort of honor to all our doings in France. The mess sergeant, too, had a taste of getting meals together under adverse circumstances. Water was at a premium; there was little fuel; and sometimes the rations were a bit lacking, both as to quantity and quality. Work, too, was harder than it had been at Camp Meade. The division was scattered all over an area as large as an American county, and each organization had to be kept in touch with Division Headquarters regularly. This meant much riding for men on motorcycles; long trips for men with automobiles and trucks, and hard work for all other members of the Troop. The sanitary conditions at Prauthoy necessitated a great deal of "policing." Fatigues were numerous; likewise were division maneuvers, which meant double work for everybody. So there were few who were not willing to be found present when the check-up came after taps. All this came to an end soon enough, however, and on September 8th, on a rainy Sunday nights the Troop and Division Headquarters boarded a train for the Front.
The Division entered the lines on September 12th, in Sector 304, a few kilometers west of Verdun, and held this quiet sector for about two weeks. Then, on the morning of the memorable 26th of September, it advanced, with the rest of the First American Army, in the beginning of the now-famous Meuse-Argonne Offensive. From the 26th until the 30th, the Division pressed on, capturing Montfaucon, the formidable German stronghold, on the 27th, Nantillois the next day, and finally approaching the Madeleine Farm, where it held on until its relief was effected on September 30th, by the Third Divisian. The total division advance was nine and a half kilometers -- about six miles.

From the start of this drive, the Troop was at a disadvantage. The training given at Prauthoy was inadequate for battle conditions and there was always so much to be done around Division Headquarters that there was not much time for training the Troop. Few of us had any idea of what we would be called upon to do, or the conditions under which we would do it. A dozen or so had had an opportunity to get to the front lines in the quiet period before the drive started; and they knew a little about the terrain over which the division advanced when the attack took


place. But for most it was an entirely new game; and we knew neither the rules nor the positions we were supposed to play.

But new conditions were an old story to the Troop, and the drive had no sooner started than we began to size up the situation and get things done. The infantry advanced so fast, and there was so much traffic to break down wires, that it was impossible to maintain telephonic communications regularly with the front line troops, and most messages had to be sent by courier. Here the custom of the Troop to "get there somehow" stood it and the division in good stead. Riders mounted on the horses and motorcycles available, set themselves to keep communication with the front line. i One or two had narrow escapes from shellfire and snipers. One trooper had one horse blown to pieces just after he had dismounted, and another nicked by a bullet while he was riding. But all of uS came through, and, green though we were, proved malleable in keeping liaison.

In all, about forty men accompanied the advance echelon of Division Headquarters on this drive. This was inadequate, and meant that all had to do far more than men are supposed capable of doing. There were no sleeping accommodations. Many lay down in pup tents, in the mud, out in the rain; a few more fortunate were able to sleep in trucks. The Post of Command was moved three times, and this involved the labor of moving all the heavy paraphernalia. The Division P. C. was finally located on the 27th about 1,500 meters southeast of Montfaucon. When the order came on the 30th to throw packs on the Troop truck and start hiking back to the rear echelon of


Division Headquarters at Jouy-en-Argonne, the exhausted two-score that had furnished the muscle for the Post of Command were only too glad to go.

The Troop had a three days' rest at Jouy-en-Argonne before Division Headquarters moved to Thillambois. The latter town was the Division P. C while the division was hiking from Sector 304, where it was relieved, to the Troyon Sector, which it held for three weeks. From Thillambois, Division Headquarters moved to Troyon on October 8th.

The stay in Troyon was one of comparative ease for the Troop after what it had been through during the few days the division stayed in the Argonne. Men who were ill and exhausted from the exposure and hardship they had undergone had a chance to recuperate. There were baths and a few civilians in the town to furnish a relief from the monotony of things military. Furthermore, the first rumors of the German request for an armistice had arrived, and it began to look as though the war would be over some time in the near future, a consideration which made the rigor of army routine more endurable.

On October 26th, Division Headquarters moved to Sieve, where it stayed for three days, during the division's hike from the Troyon Sector to the Grande Montagne Sector, just north of Verdun. From Dieue,


the advance echelon of Division Headquarters moved to Vachereauville on the Meuse River and established the P. C. there; the rear echelon moved to Dugny, southwest of Verdun.

The experience gained in the Argonne proved invaluable to the Troop when the division, on November 3d, resumed offensive operations east of the Meuse River. An adequate force of men was brought to Vachereauville, and everything ran with perfect smoothness. Telephonic communication was almost perfect throughout this offensive, and when couriers went out they know the roads and the location of the posts of commands they were sent out to find. There were sleeping accommodations in the dugouts at Vachereauville for everybody. There was none of the exposure that had been experienced previously at Montfaucon.

But, though work went more smoothly, Vachereauville proved more exposed to enemy shell-fire. From October 31st until the day the war ended, it was subject to desultory shelling, both gas and high explosive On the night of November 4th and 5th, the place was drenched with gas and a number of men were exposed to high concentrations. The next morning several casualties were reported. That night replacements reported to take their places.

On November 8th, the P. C. was moved forward to a dugout, which had been German a few days before, at Molleville Farm. Here also there was considerable shelling, though not as much as at Vachereauville. The work continued to go smoothly, however, and there were no more casualties.


The Troop was at Molleville Farm on the morning of November 11th, when the war ended. Though scarcely believing that it would end, we all stopped to look at General Kuhn and a small group of staff officers holding their watches on the big guns. At eleven o'clock the booming suddenly ceased. General Kuhn put his watch back into his pocket and nodded.

The war was over.


 
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