The 42nd: Shell Shelters, Headquarters, and In the Trenches.

Over There

This Veterans Day, like most Veterans Days, I honor my veteran ancestors. This day was originally known as Armistice Day because an armistice – the cessation of hostilities – went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

Original 42nd Division Rainbow Patch.
Original 42nd Division Rainbow Patch.

Today, I also take a look at the men of the Forty-Second Infantry Division, U.S.A. Known as the “Rainbow Division,” Douglas MacArthur suggested its formation from multiple states that would “stretch over the whole country like a rainbow.” The division was created in 1917 from 26 states, including Maine, and was one of the first divisions of the American Expeditionary Force to go to Europe. Douglas MacArthur was promoted to Colonel as the Division’s Chief of Staff.

The photo below is of some of the Forty-Second Division soldiers hanging out at a shell shelter.  Two of the men are sleeping, one on the cold ground, the other on what looks to be a really uncomfortable ridge of the shell. However, it is the expressions of the other soldiers that makes me wonder.  They are all looking at something off to their left. Two of the men have odd smiles on their faces.  I wonder what they are seeing. Something definitely interesting.

Shell Shelters in use by men of the Forty-Second Division, U. S. A.

Next, we see a commander’s post.  It is unclear if this with the 42nd Division’s command post during the Champagne-Marne campaign (15–18 July 1918) or sometime before that.

A commander’s Post of the Forty-Second Division.

Finally, the New York Times gives us a glimpse of the 42nd in the trenches.  Crowded, guns at the ready, bayonets affixed. Ready for combat.

In the Forty-Second Division’s Front Trenches
From March until July, 1918, the Germans were losing about 20,000 soldiers a month on the Western Front. Total causalities were well over 100,000 soldiers a month during the same period. Four months after this picture, the armistice was signed and the bloodiest war in European history (at that time) was over.

Yes, today is a day to remember our veterans and thank them for their service. But it is also a day to reflect upon the “war to end all wars.” As a Vietnam veteran, I wish we could just find a way to only create peacetime veterans and not have any wars. Deterrence is better than battle.

The Great War – Over There – 7 April 1918

By Don Taylor

Wartime Wednesday
This week, I continue with images from the New York Times this time from “over there.”

A BRITISH TANK GOING INTO ACTION
IN THE MESSINES SECTOR.
(© Underwood & Underwood.)New York Times – 7 April 1918

This first image is one of the most iconic images I know of regarding the Great War.  The desolation of the landscape, the smoke of the diesel engines of the tank, the trench fortifications, all add together to provide an image of war.

Next, American Troops in the Aisne Sector, believed now to
be among those fighting side by side with the French and
British against the German Drive halting on a
hillside for “chow.”
New York Times – 7 April 1918

I found the photo of the American troops eating “chow” on a hillside very interesting.  It doesn’t appear that any of the people are interacting. No smiles, just serious eating or personal contemplation gazing off in the distance.

These soldiers didn’t know that a few weeks later, on May 27th, the Germans would have a major attack along the Aisne River and overrun the French and British positions along a forty-mile front.

The French, owing to the scarcity of horses, making
increasing use of dog teams.  Here is an American husky
hitched tandem fashion to one of the new French rubber-tired
 ammunition carts in use on the Front.
New York Times – 7 April 1918

Finally, I am reminded that “necessity breeds invention.” According to Wikipedia, the first practical pheumatic tire went into production in 1888, Thirty years later they found use in ammunition carts and, as we can see, gained further use as the basis for dog drawn transportation. For some reason, this image brings a smile to my face. I can visualize myself riding in a cart like this. It would be fun today, but, I’m sure, wasn’t fun in 1918 France.

An image of the entire page in context is available from The New York Timespages on Newspapers.com.  My images for this date are here.

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The Great War – Over Here – 7 April 1918

By Don Taylor

Wartime Wednesday

Recently actually an old shipmate of mine, John Travers, from the USS Kitty Hawk (1972), came across issues from the New York Times showing photos of the Great War. He didn’t know what to do with them and asked me if I would like to see them.


I immediately thought of my Grandmother Madonna (Donna) and her efforts with the Preparedness Bazaar. Also, The Great War is interesting to me in general, so I said “sure,” and he sent me a box of newspaper pages. Wow. Amazing materials. I looked at the photos and decided to group the images into three categories.

Over Here – Images of the Great War from here in the United States.
Over There – Images of the Great War from the battlefields of Europe.
Somewhere – Images of the Great War from somewhere else, typically Great Britain.

This week, I’ll write about my thoughts about the Great War, Over Here.

 The Great War – Over Here – 7 April 1918

RECRUITS TO THE UNITED STATES COAST GUARD
FROM CHICAGO, JUST ARRIVED, AND MANY
WITHOUT UNIFORMS DRILLING IN BATTERY PARK.
A Vista of Lower Broadway shows in the background.
(Times Photo Service)
New York Times – 7 April 1918

The first photo reminds me that it was commonplace to see large numbers of men drilling all across the country. Rather than having the men drill exclusively on military bases, it was common to see them drill at parks all across the nation. I think, in many ways, this helped Americans stay committed to the Great War and accept the hardships that the war made people endure.

ANN PENNINGTON, IN THE
“MIDNIGHT FROLIC,” ATOP THE
NEW AMSTERDAM THEATRE
(“Abbe.”)New York Times – 7 April 1918

Ann Pennington was an actress who was known as a “shake and quiver dancer.” During the “Midnight Frolic” she performed a “syncopated frolic.” That style reminds me of the many dances that grandmother Donna did during her shows. She starred on broadway in Ziegfeld Follies in 1913. 1914, 1915, 1916, and again in 1918 immediately following her time with “Midnight Frolic.”
Ann, unlike my grandmother, went on to achieve fame in both silent and sound motion picture. Even though the war was going on, it was important to show home beauties. Being only 10 months younger my Donna, Ann was a contemporary show business personality who also moved from coast to coast – New York to California – in pursuit of a show business career. I am certain my grandmother either knew or knew about.

GIRLS OF THE NATIONAL HONOR GUARD
OF NEW YORK
Leaving for Base Hospital No. 1, Williams-
bridge, Bronx. Bearing Fruit and Flowers for the
Soldiers Recuperating There. They Are, Left to
Right: Missus Theodora Booth, National
President of the Guard; Vera Royer, and Augusta
Davis. (Press Illustrating Service, Inc.)
New York Times – 7 April 1918

Like all wars, the Great War, injured and crippled so many of our young Americans. While in the hospital, usually far from home and family, it is always such a blessing to be visited by a friendly face. The men and women who provide cheer to our military men and women while in the hospital are a special group whose selfless actions are often forgotten. I thank the many who volunteer to bring joy and hope to our military and veterans hospitals for their service.

Thank you again, shipmate, for forwarding these images to me.

Note: These images are reduced in size for the web. I also have the same images at much higher resolution. For example, the Girls of the National Honor Guard is on the web at a resolution of 764×778, but I also have it at 2143×2183.  I am looking for a permanent home for these images. If you know of a site that would provide permanent access to the higher resolution images, I would love to hear from them. Just use the contact section below.

These images are also available from The New York Times pages on Newspapers.com.

See my images for this date here.

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