The 32nd 'Red Arrow' Veteran Association
The 32nd Division
in World War I
|Activation and Mobilization of Wisconsin and Michigan National Guards|
|Meuse – Argonne|
|March to the Rhine|
|Army of Occupation - Die Wacht am Rhein|
On 15 July 1917 the National Guards of Wisconsin and Michigan were officially ordered into Federal Service and mobilization commenced at state camps.
The 32nd Division was organized under War Department orders of 18 July 1917 from National Guard troops from Wisconsin and Michigan.
In early August 1917 the movement to the Division’s training camp at Camp MacArthur, Texas (near Waco) commenced. Battery F, 121st Field Artillery Regiment was the first unit to arrive on 4 August 1917. The last (Wisconsin) unit arrived on 1 October; I currently have no information pertaining to the arrival of the Michigan units.
On 17 August 1917 Major General James 'Galloping Jim' Parker assumed command of the 32nd Division. On 18 September he left for France on special duty. He returned in early December, but was almost immediately transferred to the 85th Division at Camp Custer, Michigan.
On 18 September 1917 Brigadier General William G.
(then commander of the 57th Field Artillery Brigade) became acting
of the 32nd Division. BG Haan officially assumed command of the 32nd in
December, when MG Parker was transferred to the 85th Division. Gen.
McGlachlin assumed command of the 57th FA Brigade when BG Haan became
32nd Division commander.
A newspaper article from 2 October 1917 stated that the
Division had been given the nickname, "The Iron Jaw Division."
Co. K, 127th Inf., Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas.
The first troops left Camp MacArthur on 2 January 1918,
for Camp Merritt, New Jersey and then onto the Port of Embarkation at
New Jersey. Camp MacArthur was cleared by 1 March.
On 18 January the
127th Inf. left Camp MacArthur for Camp Merrit, New Jersey.
On 24 January 1918 the advance party of the 32nd Division arrived at Brest, France.
The 32nd Division suffered its first casualties of the war
February, the Tuscania was sunk by a German submarine while
the Atlantic. The 107th Engineer Train,, 107th MP's, 107th Supply Train
and parts of other 32nd Division units were aboard the Tuscania and 13
men of those 32nd Division units died as a result of the attack. In
to the above mentioned 32nd Division units, there were also other
units; about 230 soldiers and ship's crew members died in the attack.
On 5 February, the
120th FA left Camp MacArthur for Camp Merrit, New Jersey. Shortly after
it went to Hoboken, New Jersey where it, and other units, embarked the
On 7 February 1918 General Haan was promoted to the
rank of Major
On 15-16 February, the
127th Inf. boarded the transport U.S.S. George Washington. The convoy
of 9 ships, headed by the cruiser U.S.S. Huntington, sailed an hour
after midnight 18 February.
The 128th Inf. also sailed on this convoy.
The first 32nd Division Command Post (in Europe) was set up on 24
February 1918 near Prauthoy, France, the designated training ground
for the Division. The 32nd was the sixth Division to join the
(American Expeditionary Force). The 1st Division (RA), 26th 'Yankee'
(New England National Guard), 42nd 'Rainbow' Division (National Guard
from 26 states and Washington D.C.), 2nd Division (RA) and either the
Division (RA) or the 28th 'Keystone' Division (Pennsylvania National
arrived in France ahead of the 32nd Division.
On 3 March, the U.S.S.
Leviathan left Hoboken, New Jersey, with the 120th FA, 121st FA, and
other units, aboard.
On 4 March, the 127th
Inf. and 128th Inf. arrived in Brest, France.
On 13 March, the
U.S.S. Leviathan reached Liverpool, England, with the 120th FA, 121st
FA, and other units, aboard.
On 20 March, the 120th
FA and 121st FA landed at LeHarve, France.
Before the 32nd Division arrived in France, the General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force had made the decision that the sixth American division to arrive in France would be designated as a replacement organization. The 32nd Division had the misfortune of being the sixth division to arrive and was informed of its fate as soon as it debarked. This decision would soon be reversed (due, in part, to a German offensive), the 32nd Division would remain intact as a fighting unit, but not before approximately 7,000 of its soldiers were farmed out as replacements to other American units (the Division had 27,000 men when it left for France).
The 125th, 126th and 127th Infantry Regiments were assigned as
labor troops immediately after their arrival, and went to work on
projects in the Service of Supply (mainly constructing supply depots).
Because of this, only scattered detachments reached the 10th Training
during the first month the Division was in France. The 57th Artillery
went to the artillery training area at Camp Coetquidan and the 107th
were assigned to engineering work in the Service of Supply.
The 128th Infantry, however, reached the 10th Training Area in March, and bore the brunt of the replacement blow. For about four weeks the Division functioned as a replacement organization and during that time all the privates and captains of the 128th who were present for duty were transferred to the 1st "Big Red One" Division as replacements. The 1st Division had completed its training and was in the trenches. Many NCOs of the 128th asked to be reduced in rank so they could accompany their comrades, but they were needed to train the new men the Division would soon get and their requests were not granted.
Most of the Division, still minus the artillery and engineers, was finally assembled in the 10th Training Area on 10 April 1918.
On 9 June, Battery A
fired the first shot of the war for the 120th FA. Several days later
the 120th FA suffered its first casualty of the war when PVT Kenneth
Head, from Battery B, was seriously wounded on 16 June.
By 15 June, eight battalions of the 32nd Division were
front line (the other four battalions were in support). The Divisions
of the front stretched 27 kilometers, from Aspach le Bas to the Swiss
In the middle of June the 57th Field Artillery Brigade joined the
in Alsace, and a few days later was firing in support of the infantry.
The 107th Engineers joined the Division about the same time, so that on
June 1918 the Division was practically complete, except for the
of about 2,000 enlisted men, mostly from the infantry. The 32nd was
here to complete its combat training in order to prepare to be sent to
a more active sector in the future. This area was considered a quiet
no major combat activity was taking place in this area at this time.
patrols and raids were the normal activity here, patrols from both
met and clashed in no man’s land almost nightly.
Early in July 1918, General Pershing inspected the 32nd
General Haan expressed the opinion that his men would give a good
of themselves, and hoped that he would soon get orders to go to an
front. General Pershing replied, “I like the snap in
your Division, and
unless I am mistaken you will be on your way to a more active front in
the very near future. Tell your men I like their spirit.”
Pvt. Leo R. Hahn, sniper, Intelligence Section, 127th Inf., 32nd Division, in trench at Benholz, Alsace, 1 July 1918.
D. Purdy, from
On 12 July COL Russell
C. Langdon assumed command of the 127th Inf. from COL Wilbur M. Lee.
On 19 July 1918 the Division began to pull out of Alsace, bound for a different sector of the front. There had been three German Divisions, the 30th Bavarian Reserve Division, the 44th Landwehr and the 25th Landwehr, in the trenches opposite the 32nd Division in the Alsace sector. The Division suffered 440 losses from all causes, including: killed, 1 officer and 39 men; severely wounded, 3 officers and 79 men; slightly wounded, 9 officers and 211 men; gassed, 7 officers and 67 men; died of wounds, 1 officer and 15 men; taken prisoner, 8 (8 German prisoners were captured).
After nightfall on 29 July, the 64th Brigade (127th and 128th Infantry) began to filter forward to relieve the 3rd Infantry Division in the front line, on the Ourcq in the vicinity of Roncheres. The 3rd Division had been fighting continuously since the German offensive started about 15 July and was exhausted, being at the time held up by strong German resistance in the Bois de Grimpettes.
The 32nd Division received its baptism of fire (first major
action) at 1430 hrs on 30 July 1918 when the 127th Infantry
over the top and followed a rolling barrage into the Bois des
The 127th pushed through the woods until they were stopped by machine
fire from the right flank. On this flank, from positions in the Bois de
Cierges, the Germans continued to oppose every effort to advance, but
127th Infantry gained the edge of those woods and established
there. During the night the Germans launched a counter attack from the
Bois de Meuniere and a bayonet melee raged for hours in the dark,
woods, until the attacking force was finally routed.
PVT Edwin Austin, from Shawano, Wis., a soldier in Co. F, 127th Inf., was KIA in this attack near Roncheres, France, on 30 July 1918, and was postumously awarded the DSC for his actions that day. PVT Austin's citation reads: “He volunteered to go out in advance of our front lines and bring back wounded who had been left there when his company was withdrawn. He made two trips, under heavy fire, bringing back wounded with the aid of another soldier, but was killed by machine-gun fire when he went out the third time.”
PVT James C.
During the night of 30 July, the 63rd Brigade (125th and 126th Infantry) moved up from support to relieve the 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard (adjacent and on the left of the 64th Brigade, the 4th French Division was on our right).
On the morning of 31 July, both Infantry Brigades of the 32nd Division went into action side by side. Directly in front of us was the long, open slope of the Ourcq Valley, reaching to the woods of Les Jomblettes on Hill 212, a spur of Hill 230. This objective constituted one of the strongest German positions on the line of the Ourcq, and the success of the contemplated operation meant the breaking of the Kaiser’s last formidable line of resistance south of the Vesle. Les Jomblettes was not only holding up the 32nd Division, machine gun nests there and in the Bois Pelger, further back, flanked the open ground in front of the 42nd Division and absolutely prevented any advance by the “Rainbows”. On the left, the 63rd Brigade promptly reached its objective, Hill 212, after some wicked fighting. They dove into Les Jomblettes and mopped it up and then cleaned out the Bois Pelger, allowing the 42nd Division to advance. On the right, the127th Infantry pushed their attack through the village of Cierges and passed beyond, only to be held up by a withering hail of machine gun bullets from Bellevue Farm, which had been organized into a very strong center of resistance which the artillery had failed to smother.
The attack was renewed on the morning of 1 August 1918.
of the 63rd Brigade was Hill 230. The mission of the 64th was to take
Farm, which had stopped the attack the day before. The Germans resisted
desperately and were amply supported by machine guns and artillery. But
“Les Terribles” were not to be denied. The objectives were gained and
dark the 32nd Division dominated Hill 230. The Germans were forced to
after they lost this commanding high ground.
The situation was now such that the commander of the 6th French Army thought it probable that a consolidated advance could break through. Such an advance was ordered to begin on the morning of 2 August. The German resistance was not as stubborn as it had been over the last few days. As a result, the 32nd Division advanced rapidly. The pursuit was continued to a line north of the village of Dravegny, which the 32nd reached by nightfall, after an advance of about 6 km.
On 3 August, the pursuit was resumed and our troops
to steadily gain ground, although meeting with increased resistance,
on the left flank, where the 42nd Division was unable to advance as
as the 32nd. By the end of the day, the Division’s front line had
about 7 km to the hills overlooking the valley of the Vesle, about 1 km
south of the Vesle on the left and 2 km south of Fismes on the right.
considerable resistance was met from the German rear guard, which was
a stand to protect the withdrawal over the river.
G. Noble, from
On 4 August the 127th moved out toward Fismes, while the 63rd Brigade attacked the railroad yards on their front. The enemy had no intentions of yielding without a bitter battle and by means of very heavy artillery and machine gun fire was able to hold the town and railroad yards during the early hours of the afternoon. In its attack on Fismes, the 127th was badly cut up and late in the day Colonel Langdon organized a provisional battalion out of what was left of his regiment and sent it forward to storm the town. His shattered companies made a desperate assault and finally suceeded, about nightfall, in passing through the town and establishing a position on the south bank of the river. On the left, the 63rd Brigade took the railroad yards and succeeded in getting a few small patrols across the river during the night, but was unable to maintain them there so they were withdrawn.
The 3rd Battalion, commanded by CPT
Byron Beveridge, was the assault
battalion for the 127th Infantry's attack on Fismes. The 3rd Bn.
commenced their attack at 1430, covered by machine gun fire from Co. A,
Machine Gun Battalion and some artillery from the 120th Field
Artillery. The authorized strength of the battalion was 20 officers and
1,000 men, the 3rd Bn. was down to 12 officers and 350 men when they
started their assault on 4 August. They suffered many more casualties
as they advanced over 2,100 yards of mostly open ground while subjected
to intense German artillery and machine gun fire. The 2nd Bn., 127th
Inf., commanded by CPT George F. O'Connell, also understrength due to
the recent fighting, was brought into
to assist the 3rd Battalion's push toward Fismes. The 127th Inf. was
able to capture Fismes, but at terrific cost. That night, the 3rd Bn.
was down to 2 officers and 94 men; the 2nd Bn. had 5 officers and 104
men. The 1st Bn., commanded by CPT William Smith, was held in reserve
during this attack.
1LT Ray C. Dickop, from Beloit, Wis., CO of Co. L, 127th Inf. was KIA in this attack on Fismes, France, on 4 August 1918, and was posthumously awarded the DSC for his actions that day. 1LT Dickop's citation reads: “On reaching Chezelles Farm, he was shot in the head, body and legs. Although thus fatally wounded, when orders came for another assault, he gave the command ‘Charge’ to his company and led the assault until he fell dead.”
Near the end of the war, General Pershing compiled a list of the 100 greatest American heroes of the war. The list became known as Pershing's 100. Gen. Pershing included 1LT Ray C. Dickop on his list.
PVT Wilford Lloyd, a soldier in Co. L, 127th Inf., was awarded the DSC for his actions during the attack on Fismes, France, on 4 August 1918. He was serving as 1LT Dickop's orderly and was wounded at the same time as 1LT Dickop. As PVT Lloyd fell wounded, he lost his pistol. He then crawled over to a dead soldier, picked up the dead man’s rifle and joined a squad in a successful attack on the strongly fortified stone wall surrounding Chezelles Farm on the outskirts of Fismes.
On 5 August, the 127th gave their attention to mopping up the town. Attempts were also made to cross the river, but without success. On the night of 5 August, the 3rd Battalion of the 128th, the only strong battalion left in the 64th Brigade, was ordered into Fismes to reinforce the 127th. On the morning of 6 August, the 127th was relieved from Fismes. There were still German snipers in the town, and the 128th continued to mop up the place. In the eastern half of the town German and American patrols clashed and it was nightfall before the Americans could claim anything like control of the city.
It was during this action that the
32nd Division earned the
of “Les Terribles”. When this fight first started General de Mondesir,
the 38th French Corps Commander, under whose orders the 32nd was
at the time, went to the front to see how the Americans were conducting
the battle. After he personally observed the 32nd clearing the Germans
out of their powerful positions with regularity and determination, he
“Oui, Oui, Les soldats terrible, tres bien, tres bien!” General
heard of it and referred to the 32nd Division as “Les Terribles” when
asked for the Division to join his famous 10th French Army of shock
north of Soissons. He later made the nickname official when he
it in his citation for their terrific punch at Juvigny.
The 32nd Division
was the only American division to bestowed a nom-de-guerre by an Allied
nation during the war.
On 7 August 1918 the 32nd Division was relieved in the front by the 28th Infantry Division. In the savage fighting that occurred since 30 July, the German line was forced steadily back, over difficult ground, from the strongly fortified position on the Ouraq River to the Vesle River, a distance of 19 kilometers. The brilliant and determined American attacks culminated in the 64th Infantry Brigade’s capture of the important town of Fismes (on the Vesle) on 7 August, and the 63rd Brigade’s capture of the important German railhead on the Vesle (in the left of the Division’s sector) on 4 August. During the past week the Division had captured 18 villages and fortified farms, captured 4 pieces of heavy artillery, five pieces of light artillery, ten trench mortars, 28 machine guns and hundreds of rifles. The Division had faced three German Divisions in this offensive: the Fourth Prussian Guards, the 200th and the 216th. One German officer and 96 soldiers were taken prisoner. The 32nd Division casualties were 4,597 losses from all causes, including: killed and died of wounds, 797; severely wounded, 1,153; slightly wounded, 2009; gassed, 618; missing, 12; captured, 2 officers and 6 men.
The relief of the 127th French Infantry Division took place on the night of 27-28 August. The 63rd Brigade went into the line and the 64th Brigade went into support (of the 63rd). (The Infantry companies were down to 50% of their authorized strength of 250 soldiers as the 32nd Division prepared to enter its second battle.) The relief was completed at 0200 hrs. The first attack was set for 0700 hrs, the precise hour that command of the sector passed to the 32nd Commander, General Haan.
The 63rd went over the top at 0700 hrs on 28 August to
in a limited attack to eliminate a dangerous salient in the sector of
59th French Division to the right of the 32nd. During the morning the
readily gained their objective, the railroad track west of the village
of Juvigny, the village was destined to be one of the high spots in the
career of “Les Terribles”. The 63rd Brigade turned in over 100
as a result of their push, and the captured Germans all testified to
complete surprise at the presence of Americans in the sector. Later the
32nd found that the position they had captured was difficult to hold.
were on high, open ground on the slope of a hill facing the enemy.
was little cover, except shell holes, and they were subjected to
and machine gun fire from positions that had excellent observation of
front. The exposed position could not be abandoned without endangering
the French, as a result, the casualties were high. Shortly after noon,
the Germans counter attacked to attempt to dislodge the Americans. Our
machine gunners held their ground and, aided by our artillery, were
to repel the German counter attack. After that, the Germans continued
harassing artillery and machine gun fire on the troops in the vicinity
of the railroad tracks.
General Mangin ordered a general attack by the entire 10th French Army (of which the 32nd was a part of at this time) to take place at 0525 hrs on 29 August, with the objective of a complete break through the German line. Two companies of tanks and a troop of Moroccan Cavalry were attached to the 32nd Division (several French Artillery units were also attached to the 57th Field Artillery Brigade of the 32nd Division). A tremendous artillery preparation had been delivered during the night, followed by a rolling barrage in front of the attacking infantry in the morning, but all this seemed to have little effect on the German machine gun nests, some of which took good advantage of numerous caves in the area. The Germans also laid down an effective counter barrage, just as our troops jumped off. The entire 10th French Army met a determined German defense occupying well sited and protected positions. Casualties were heavy on both sides and very little ground was gained. Because of the heavy casualties, the 63rd Brigade was relieved by the 64th Brigade on the night of 29-30 August in preparation for the next general attack, planned for 30 August. The 127th was on the right and the 128th on the left, each with two battalions in the line and one in support.
The planned attack for 30 August was not ordered. This
left the 32nd Division front line still exposed on the hill west of
with the troops suffering heavily. While corrective measures were being
considered, word was received from the 59th French Division on our
that its right flank had advanced in close liaison with the division to
their right, which had found a weak spot in the German line and had
through. It became apparent that this movement was going to meet with
and preparations were made for the 32nd to participate in the shove.
would give us the opportunity to attack Juvigny. When the attack was
the left flank, together with the 66th French Division on our left, was
held up by heavy fire coming from the northeast. The right flank,
moved forward, and while it encountered determined opposition in going
through the woods, it succeeded in making its way through the ravine to
a position to the south of Juvigny with the extreme right partially
the town to the east. One battalion of the 128th Infantry moved forward
west of Juvigny and reached a position north of the town, in this way
village was practically surrounded. The enemy was taken by surprise by
the attack, but recovered and delivered a counter attack on our left
This attack was repulsed by the 128th, which had been reinforced on its
left by a battalion of the 125th Infantry. With Juvigny surrounded, the
support battalion of the 127th Infantry entered the town from the
and mopped up, encountering some wicked fighting. Nearly all of the
troops holding the village were either killed or captured.
1LT Henry S. Blomberg, from Superior, Wis., an officer in Co. D, 127th Inf., was awarded the DSC for his bravery during this attack at Juvigny, France, on 30 August 1918. 1LT Blomberg's citation reads: “Inspiring his men by his own personal bravery, he vigorously led his company forward in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, capturing the heights overlooking Juvigny with many prisoners. After reaching the objective he repeatedly exposed himself to hostile fire time after time in reorganizing the line. During the defense of the position won he personally set up and operated a captured German machine gun against the enemy while under terrific fire.” 1LT Blomberg was later KIA on 4 October 1918.
General Mangin ordered his second general attack to take place at 1600 hrs on 31 August 1918. This attack was needed to straighten out the front line and improve the positions of some of the forward units. He ordered an artillery preparation of four hours to preceded the infantry attack. The entire 57th Artillery Brigade, commanded by BG George L. Irwin, and the artillery of the 1st Moroccan Division, which was supporting the 32nd, was assigned to General Haan for this attack. Novel use was made of this abnormal abundance of artillery in the form of a triple, rolling barrage, to cover a depth of about 1 ½ km. Some of the German prisoners taken during the day remarked that there were so many artillery shells bursting around them that they thought the Americans had a machine gun that sprayed 75 mm shells. Even after all this, the 32nd Division still suffered considerable casualties as they progressed to the Terny-Sorny-Bethancourt road, where the general advance stopped.
In an operation against a determined enemy, disposed in great depth, supported be adequate artillery and entrenched in highly organized positions in country that lent itself naturally to defense, the 32nd Division had again broken through a German key position, had penetrated his line to a depth of 5 ½ km, and started an enemy withdrawal, thus paving the way for a forward movement by the whole French 10th Army.
The 32nd was relieved by the First Moroccan Division, this
included the Foreign Legion and other famous units, on the night of 1-2
September and went into support for the 10th French Army.
On 5 September orders were received stating that the 32nd was being transferred to the First American Army, thus effecting the 32nd Divisions withdrawal from the Oise-Aisne offensive. General Mangin later decorated the Division for its actions in this offensive. He decorated the colors of all four Infantry Regiments and all three Machine Gun Battalions with the army order of the Croix de Guerre, and cited over 500 officers and men for gallantry in action while under his command. Later he also decorated the colors of the Artillery Regiments which participated in the fight. The 32nd Division casualties were 2908 losses from all causes, including: killed and died of wounds, 485; severely wounded, 599; slightly wounded, 1251; gassed, 574; missing, 14; captured, 5 men. Five German Divisions were used up in an attempt to hold the position which the 32nd stormed-the 7th, 7th Reserve, the 223rd, the 238th and the 237th. From these Divisions 937 prisoners were captured, 9 of them officers. The material captured included 2 pieces of heavy artillery, 2 pieces of light artillery, 16 trench mortars, 112 machine guns, 700 rifles and great quantities of ammunition and material.
The Division was moved to a rest area in the vicinity of Joinville, north of Chaumont, on 10 September 1918. About 5,000 new men arrived in the Division, but the rifle companies were still short three officers and 50 men each.
On 15 September General Pershing visited the 32nd Division and congratulated them on their accomplishments during the Oise-Aisne campaign.
Sources:The 32nd Division in the World War
Souvenir of the First Annual Reunion of the 32nd Division (Les Terribles)
U.S. Official Pictures of the World War - Showing America's Participation