100 years ago: N.Y.’s guardsmen shape up
The Division of Military and Naval Affairs is reminding residents about the key dates affecting New Yorkers, through the state Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, from World War I — 100 years ago. This is an excerpt of their latest article:
By November of 1917 the 27,000 soldiers of the New York National Guard’s 27th Division had said goodbye to their families, marched through New York City, and were ready to get down to serious training.
They did this at Camp Wadsworth, S.C., just outside the city of Spartanburg.
When the Guard’s 7th Regiment —renamed the 107th Infantry — showed up on Sept. 11, 1917, carpenters were still banging away some of the 1,000 buildings at the camp.
But there were still parade fields and exercise grounds and firing ranges that had once been forests filled with stumps. The 27th Division Soldiers wound up clearing those fields.
Total cost of the project was $2,223,223 in 1917 dollars, or $40 million in 2017 money.
Classes were taught in how to use trench mortars — a new weapon in 1917 — machine guns, bayonets, sniping, patrolling and reconnaissance, communications and signaling. Soldiers also learned camouflage techniques.
An especially important class, since the cars and trucks were still new, was training for the teamsters who drove teams of horses towing wagons and the Soldiers who packed gear on a horse.
There were also classes in equitation — the art of horseback riding — for noncommissioned officers and officers who were expected to ride a horse as part of their duties like some officers from the Civil War.
The division’s soldiers all spent several days living in the practice trench system to get them used to what they would be doing in Europe.
Despite, or in spite of, the need to learn trench fighting, the leaders of the 27th Division focused much time and training on what was then called “open warfare”: infantrymen maneuvering for position and using rifles and grenades to engage the enemy after breaking through the trenches.