Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Wartime Christmas

A hundred years ago in December 1917, Captain Mike Hogg and his 250 men of Company D, First Battalion, 360th Infantry Regiment, 180th Brigade, 90th Division, spent the holidays learning how to shoot a rifle. This account is from a history of Company D:

                  The adjustment from civil to army life was a grinding ordeal to say the least, yet the spirit and cooperation of the men was such that it was evident Company D would prove of sterling worth when the time to meet the enemy arrived. On December 12th the Company marched to the Division Target Range where it received its first instruction in rifle firing In addition to target practice problems and maneuvres were carried out each day, and proved interesting as well as instructive. Classes of instruction in the use of the Browning, Lewis, Chauchat automatic rifles were also held. The Christmas Holidays were spent at the range, and the bitter experience of being away from the home fireside on festive days was an added test to the quality of the men. However, the new interest held sway. About three weeks were spent at Camp Bullis, then the Company moved back to its quarters at Travis.”
         --“History of Company D.
Excerpt from my book, The Smell of War: Three Americans in the Trenches of World War I (Texas A&M Press, 2017).

         Sometime after Christmas 1917 Mike wrote to Ima that the Red Cross had sent every man in his regiment a wool “trench sweater,” most of them hand-knitted. He wrote proudly of  “my lieutenants.”

         They would sail for France in June, 1918. In August, they would be in the trenches of the Western Front.