Regimental Training

July 11, 1918 – Full diary entry:

“Reg. maneuver in a.m.

Throw hand grenades in p.m.

Wrote to Elinore.”

This is the first time Robert mentions a training exercise at the Regimental level, and it’s a good opportunity for me to write a little about another of the enormous challenges caused by the hurried growth of the U.S. Army and the convoluted training plans that were created – and changed, and changed again – to get all of these new soldiers ready for battle.

Remember, this is July 11. Robert reported to Camp Dodge on February 6 and trained there for 45 days. After reaching France, he trained for three or four days near Le Havre and another three weeks in Monchaux. Then 12 days near Arches and finally the last 10 days or so in Saulxures-sur-Moselotte. During this time they moved and settled in several times, and were attached to and detached from different units in the British and French armies. They were learning how to march, how to fight in and out of a trench, how to attack and defend with a bayonet, how to fire three different rifles, how to use a gas mask, how to throw hand grenades, how to put on their spiral puttees.

What I had never thought about is that there are huge differences in training individual soldiers, vs. a company of soldiers, vs. a regiment or division of soldiers. At some point, you need to practice having all 4,000+ members of an infantry regiment on the field together and coordinating their movements. And with very little time to accomplish all of this, it’s no wonder that in retrospect they were simply not ready for the war. From “The Questionable Training of the AEF in World War 1″ by James Rainey:

The Army Inspector General received a memorandum on 31 July 1918 titled “Training of Troops in Camp in This Country,” written by Lieutenant Colonel R. C. Humber of the Inspector General’s office. Humber stated bluntly that, after personally conducting many inspections of units in training in the United States and after reviewing the reports of training inspections submitted by other inspectors general, “the results of the training … conducted have not been commensurate with the time and energy expended.” 

The reason for this wasted effort, Humber argued, was the “faulty system” that had been adopted by the War Department. This system emphasized the training of individual specialists and of specialty units first. So much stress was placed on the training of the exclusive parts of the division that these parts rarely were allowed to join together and become whole. This system of training explains Pershing’s oft-stated criticism that the divisions he received from the United States were not fully trained as cohesive units.


Where was Robert today? See the timeline.

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