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"That regiment can do anything!"

(This is another in a continuing series of true stories from the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to commemorate the Corps' 225th year. All material is from the History Office publication, "Historical Vignettes - Volume 2," EP 870-1-1, available on-line under USACE Publications, Engineer Pamphlets, Historical.)

During World War I, the 2nd Engineer Regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division was considered one of the best regiments in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France. Because of its bloody engagements in Belleau Woods, Chateau Thierry, Soissons, and Meuse-Argonne, the division's infantry units sustained the highest percentage of major casualties among AEF units -- 30.08 percent.

The 2nd Engineers, moreover, stood 15th on the list of casualties with 12.73 percent, by far the highest of any engineer unit.

The reasons were simple -- the trench war was preeminently an engineer's war. Cutting barbed wire entanglements, putting them up, digging bunkers, machine gun positions, and trenches, and often fighting as infantry.

Throughout its time in combat, the regiment maintained high morale and unexcelled performance in all its assignments. An unnamed American general said that "the 2nd Engineers is the best regiment I ever saw...The regiment has assisted the artillery, has helped the tanks, built railroads, manned machine guns and fought time-after-time as infantry. That regiment can do anything."

One reason for its excellent performance was the high standards its officers and men required of themselves and each other. These standards applied throughout the regiment and were vigorously enforced.

 
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