Friday, October 27, 2017

October 1917: On the edge of war at Camp Dodge

These three images are parts of a panoramic photograph of Camp Dodge in its early phase, taken during October of 1917. The original is part of the Library of Congress collection. Before World War I ended, the camp would contain 1,500 buildings capable of serving 40,000 troops and support staff. Read the images, from top to bottom, as left, center and right. Right click and open in new windows to enlarge.


The U.S. World War I effort was just six months old a century ago --- during October of 1917 --- and Lucas Countyans had little idea of what the ultimate cost would be even though each edition of Chariton newspapers contained reports of recent draftees, some products had become scarce on store shelves and there was intense pressure to buy Liberty Bonds as a "badge of loyalty."

One reason for the disconnect was the fact that, commencing in September, Iowa draftees (and those who enlisted as well) had been sent off to Camp Dodge just north of Des Moines, relatively close to home, and so far had remained there although transfers to other training units were looming on the horizon. Massive deployment of newly trained U.S. troops to Europe would not begin until 1918.

War had been declared during April and, in June, the Iowa National Guard's Camp Dodge --- established in 1909 --- was selected as one of 16 regional training centers for the National Army of the United States, home to the 13th National Army Cantonment serving troops conscripted (or enlisted) in Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and a portion of Illinois.

A massive building project that would turn the small camp into a self-contained complex of some 1,500 buildings on 5,200 acres capable of housing 40,000 had commenced during June and in September, with organization of the 88th Infantry Division, basic training commenced. Later on, during November, Camp Dodge would be the launch site for the 366th Infantry Regiment, a segregated black unit (as all U.S. military units were at the time).

Small-town Iowans, and others, were kept up to date on what was happening at Camp Dodge by Joseph W. Jarnagin, a veteran newspaperman (and editor during the 1870s of the short-lived Chariton Republican) who by now was editing the Des Moines-based Iowa Farmer and also distributing a weekly newsletter to some 70 Iowa newspapers --- including The Herald-Patriot. Here is his report for the last week in October, published in Chariton on Oct. 25.

Camp Dodge, Iowa, October 24, 1917
By J.W. Jarnagin

An order last week from the war department for the distribution of 12,000 men from Camp Dodge to other military centers greatly disturbed the men here. They were getting settled in good form when the order broke in upon them. The uncertainty as to whom would be taken created considerable interest. Many of the men wrote to the home folks that this may be their last week here and the result was that thousands of visitors came to the camp Saturday and Sunday from every state represented at the cantonment.

Along with this order came another asking that 1,600 men be selected for the aviation service. Just what disposition will be made of them is not given out. It is rumored that an aviation training camp may be located here but this is not likely as winter would interfere with practical results.

The orders now held at division headquarters call for 3,000 selected men from Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota to be sent to Camp Cody, Deming, New Mexico, presumably to bring national guard organizations of their respective states to war strength. One thousand men, the orders say, are to be sent to Camp Logan, Houston, Texas, from among the recruits reporting from Illinois to fill that state's national guard organizations to war strength. An additional 8,000 recruits also will be sent to Camp Pike, near Little Rock, Arkansas, in furtherance of the department's recently announced intention of forming a division of the national army there.

The depot brigade (the 163rd Depot Brigade) as a part of the national army division is an entirely new organization in American military affairs. It has no set strength. It is maintained as a unit in which surplus numbers of men wait or are assigned pending their transfer to the actual fighting organizations, such as the infantry, artillery or other units. There are 3,000 men in this division. the total number of men selected for service with the Eighty-eighth division minus the rejections because of physical inferiority, will be between 45,000 and 50,000 recruits.

Two hundred and fifty-one enlisted men of the coast artillery service arrived at Camp Dodge Saturday morning under command of non-commissioned officers.

The orders calling for the mobilization at Camp Dodge of negroes from Alabama as well as from the states included in the thirteenth district does not mean that there will be a preponderance of negro soldiers at the camp. After all transfers are made, the enlisted strength at Camp Dodge will be 39,575 men, 6,000 of whom will be negroes, it now is definitely determined.

With the release of a large number of civilian cooks and bakers from services, orders have been issued by Major General H.E. Plummer for the immediate opening of an army school for men in this department. The course of training will run two months for privates and longer for sergeants.

THE GOVERNMENT has sent to Camp Dodge the following: Men, 20,324; bed sacks, 26,520; blankets, 68,859; cotton breeches, 14,877; woolen breechees, 15,057; cotton coats, 4,646; woolen winter drawers, 77,250; overcoats, 16,146; flannel shirts, 73,544; cotton stockings, 104,655; light wool stockings, 67,739; cotton undershirts, 45,000; woolen undershirts, 86,198; shoes, 77,786.

ALABAMA NEGROES drafted for the national army service will be sent to Camp Dodge for training along with the negroes from Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Illinois. Adjutant General McCain estimated that 6,600 negroes would be here for training. Former plans called for the formation of one negro regiment at Camp Dodge. With the arrival of the Alabama men, however, two provisional regiments and a machine gun battalion will be formed.

THE DES MOINES city council and the board of supervisors of Polk county are constructing twelve miles of paved streets and highways, connecting Des Moines with Camp Dodge. F. H. Mann, of Ames, for several years connected with the engineering department of the state highway commission, has been placed in charge of the county work. The road is one of the biggest pieces of monolithic brick pavement ever constructed in the state. The work will cost about $200,000 and will be five miles long, having a width of 32 feet of surfaced roadway.

MEMBERS of the Eighty-eighth division are requested by the secretary of war to do everything possible for the relief of the Belgians. As a result, a number of men have decided to turn in civilian clothes to their company commanders, to be sent to the Belgians. In each regimental organization there will be an officer detailed to store such clothing and when the proper time comes, to pack it and send it to a central point, from where it will be sent to Europe.

EVERY STATE represented at Camp Dodge has a law protecting selected men from greedy creditors or overzealous landlords. The Iowa law affords a fair sample when it declares that all men in the service of their country are hereby exempted while in such service and for a period of six months after the termination of the war or said service or death from the payment of any bills or exchange or of any negotiable instruments or of any other payment in pursuiance of any contract or from any writ of attachment or execution. The homestead of all soldiers, sailors or other persons in the military or naval service of the United States shall be exempt from taxes during their term of service in the present war; or other property to the actual value of $10,000 in the event of no such homestead. That the statute of limitations shall not run against anyone affected by this act during the time the same is stayed by the terms of this act. If any suit is pending in court in which a conscripted man has an interest, the same shall be continued upon the docket until his return.

AFTER CONSIDERABLE dickering with the farm owners a strip of ground a mile wide and nearly five miles long has been selected for an artillery range. The farmers who have leased the land to the government did so under protest. They imagine that shrapnel, exploded shells, trenches and various other things will leave their rich, well improved farms in a sorry plight for future use. Major Blank, of Fort Leavenworth, in charge of the range, has instructed Colonel Raymond, of the Three Hundred Thirteenth engineers regiment, to have his men start at once the work of laying out the range.

CLASSES TO TEACH officers conversational French will be started this week. The war recreatation board has secured four teachers and is waiting for General Plummer to give the word to start. The plan is to start schools later on for privates. A nominal fee will be charged the officers for instruction. More instructors are needed, states R.B. Patin, secretary. The four instructors now secured are L. H. DeRivieres. He was born in France and taught school there. He is a veteran of the Spanish American war. Alfred J. Pearson, an instructor at Drake university; Mrs. F. Holdrook, of Des Moines; Paul Constant, a Greek. He is now teaching at Highland Park. Jene De Nelle is interpreter for the ambulance company. He speaks six different languages. French text books are on sale at the book stores and at news stands at the railway stations.

THE FIRST GENERAL court martial held at Camp Dodge will be convened to pass upon four members of the Industrial Workers of the World who were captured at Devil's Lake, North Dakota. They gave their names as Elmer J. Kepler, Victor Anderson, James R. Truax, and Felix Thornton. According to the reports received at Camp Dodge the men were certified for the first draft and were believed to be on their way to Canada when apprehended. They were brought here and delivered to Colonel Harbeson, of the military police, by Sergeant Wm. Patterson and Corporal Don Young, of the Thirty-sixth infantry, Fort Snelling. They are alleged to have had with them a grip filled with incendiary literature, both in English and foreign languages.

EXAMINATIONS are well under way to ascertain how many of the soldiers have tubercular symptoms. As other increments report, they will be given a thorough going over, after the regular examination has been finished. A tuberculosis examining board has been appointed with Capt. J.H. Peck, of Des Moines, as chairman. Capt. Peck has only recently been transferred to Camp Dodge from Fort Des Moines. Whether men showing symptoms of tuberculosis will be discharged, or treated, is not known at the camp, as word from Washington is awaIted regarding this matter. Rejections of about 200 men of the second increment have been decided on by the division surgeon, and their discharge will come as soon as Major General Plummer, division commander, acts on the matter.

EVERY PHASE of athletics is being encouraged. Each company has men who have a local record in some branch of gymnastics. There are foot ball stars, semi-professional boxers, baseball specialists, boxers, wrestlers, jumpers and runners. Acrobats there are who can pull off all kinds of stunts. Circus clowns, bareback riders, trapeze performers, ventriloquists and slight of hand jugglers galore. A number of the officers have distinguished themselves in days agone in athletics. "The greatest football captain that West Point ever had" is the title bestowed upon Major Charles D. Daly, commander of a battalion of the 338th Field Artillery. Major Daly led the army team in 1904. With such an array of talent it is not likely that there will be any dull moments when the men are off duty. Boxing is to be featured by some of the country's most noted pugilists. The officers contend that boxing develops alertness and that is a valuable asset in war. Organization of a divisional athletic council has been announced. Under the provision each company will designate one officer as athletic officer. These in turn will name a regimental board which will have a supreme board with the physical directors of the Y.M.C.A. and Knights of Columbus as members.

FORTY-EIGHT new medical men arrived at Camp Dodge Saturday and reported to division headquarters for assignment. They were ordered here from Fort Riley, and are among physicians of the northwest who were sent there for training. These men generally are of the rank of lieutenants and will be assigned to the various units of the division at Camp Dodge. Camp Dodge and Fort Des Moines will have distinguished visitors in the near future. Surgeon General Gorgas, of the army; Surgeon General Braisted, of the navy; Surgeon General Blue and Assistant Surgeon General Rucker, of the public health service, together with British and French medical officers co-operating with the army medical department, will visit the Fort Des Moines training camp soon. Colonel T.H. Goodwin, of the royal army medical corps and Colonel Charles U. Derele, surgeon of the French army, are the foreign doctors who will be members of the party.

THE HUNDREDS of women who visit husbands, brothers or lovers at Camp Dodge have no comfort stations for their entertainment. The Methodist church is erecting a club house for this purpose but its capacity is limited. It is for these tired women at Camp Dodge that the women of North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota are busy with a campaign to raise $300,000 as their share of the $3,000,000 which has been voted by the national board of the Y.W. C.A. for a war fund. General Plummer wrote to the Y.W.C.A. national board asking them to erect and take charge of a hostess house within the camp ground. The board wired the north field central committee with their headquarters in Minneapolis to take the responsibility. Accordingly Miss Ada V. Starkweather, field economic secretary, came to Des Moines to receive directions from General Plummer. The result of the conference was that the Y.W.C.A. will erect one central building to be known as the hostess house of the Y.W.C.A. for the purpose of caring for wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts who visit the soldiers.

MEMBERS of the Catholic faith are given special attention and spiritual consolation at Camp Dodge. Father McDonald, of Massena, Iowa, is the duly accredited chaplain of the K.C. He entered upon his duties last week and Sunday conducted Mass four times during the morning. Special Representative Knight W.J. Moriarity, of New York City, spent Wednesday with Raymond Wright, local grand knight, studying the needs of Camp Dodge, and they jointly decided to erect two more Knights of Columbus buildings, making a total of five in all. Father C.P. O'neal, of the Sacred Heart church of Rock Island, was secured to deliver the Columbus Day address on October 12th.

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