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The Best Cared For Army


The Indian Magazine
Volume 1, No. 5 — May 13, 1919

Author Unknown

Never in the history of warfare have armies been as well cared for as the American forces overseas. Of these forces the divisions that form the Army of Occupation upon the Rhine are in a particularly favorable position.

To begin with the officers and men of the Army of Occupation are quartered in comfortable billets. Beds are being obtained for every man. They are located in towns that have been the mecca for tourists for years. And they are part of the best fed army in the world today.

In a general way, the days are divided into two parts. Mornings are devoted to drill, tactical exercises, and the care of equipment. Afternoons are devoted to athletics and play, and evenings to entertainment.

Of the mornings, nothing need be said. After all, this is an army in an enemy's country, and soldiering is soldiering, the world over. Of the afternoons and evenings there is so much to be said that lack of space forbids anything but the barest mention of the hundred and one activities of the men.

Take the great carnival, horse and motor show at Coblenz, given by the Third Army, for instance. This was not the first affair of the kind, and it will not be the last, but it shows what is going on over here. This event lasted five days. It was held on an island in the Rhine at Coblenz, and special steamers, trucks and automobiles were pressed into service to carry the men to and from the show from all portions of the area. Those beyond reasonable truck distance were brought in on the railroads.

Large aviation hangars were erected and in these 6,000 men were fed every hour. The food was prepared and distributed free. There was a horse show, with races, steeplechase races and jumping competitions, and the best horses and mules in the division competed for ribbons. Escort wagons, water and medical carts, and every variety of wheeled transportation, also guns and caissons were entered in the various events.

Then there was the motor show, in another part of the grounds. Automobiles of all types were shown, trucks, ambulances, artillery tractors, motorcycles, with and without sidecars, and a side exhibit of an educational character, showing motor parts, repair shops, and German truck types.

The track and field meet was a big feature of the carnival. This was participated in by the best athletes in the Third Army. These men had been selected after gruelling elimination contests in their respective companies, regiments and divisions.

There was an airplane show that drew enormous crowds. American, English, French and German planes were exhibited, and their mode of construction and method of operation explained by fliers. The air force gave exhibitions of flying over the carnival grounds and the river, while the men in the balloon corps showed how sausage observation balloons were operated, raised in the morning, and put to bed at night.

So much for just one carnival. Each division has had horse shows of its own, and its own track meets, and the corps have had their horse and motor shows also.

But horse shows are not the whole thing by any means. Take the Rhine river excursions for instance. Every day in the week two big excursion steamers make the trip. One goes up the Rhine as far as the Lorelei rock, the other down the river as far as Bonn. The boats are crowded to capacity, and, by the way, everything is free. There is a brass band on each boat, a good hot lunch is served at noon, and a lecturer points out the various castles and objects of interest and explains the historical significance of everything. This is a trip tourists paid big money to take before the war, and spent the balance of their lives talking about.

"Leave centers" have been established at various towns. A leave center is a place where visiting soldiers from other towns find beds, food and entertainment galore during their short stay while on leave in the area. This is just by way of a change, and has nothing to do with the regular big leave that comes every four months as regularly as clockwork. At some of the leave centers are famous mineral baths where millionaires and kings tarried in other days. American soldiers splash about in the palatial tubs now.

Shows? There are soldier shows, shows from gay Paree, shows with real American girls in them, band concerts, musical comedies organized by soldiers with "a carload of special scenery," singing leaders and lectures. Good shows seem to grow on trees. Movies most every night, and in the big towns every afternoon too. All free, of course.

There are clubs for officers, which are real clubs in every sense, and there are clubs being organized for the enlisted men. The Red Cross, Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army and Y. M. C. A. cooperate in the distribution of magazines and newspapers, and the maintenance of reading and writing rooms in the various towns.

Each division has its own big division sales commissary, where the men may buy at low prices candy, clothing, and foods of various description, if they wish to add a bit to their messes, and each separate regiment now has its own regimental sales commissary. The men dine in large mess halls that have been erected, and many of the companies have gathered together real plates, cups, knives, forks and spoons, and have the table set just like home, packing their old field mess-gear away.

Circulating libraries are being established, tennis tournaments are in full swing, and two big baseball leagues have been formed in the Second Division. Each company has its own team also, and competitions are so arranged in athletics that every man in the company has to do something himself, and does not spend all his time on the side lines, cheering for a few good players.

Chaplains and athletic officers cooperate in all these things, and amusement officers look after the shows.

Last, but not least, come the schools. An opportunity has been extended to each man of the Second Division to equip himself mentally and physically, so when the time comes for him to enter the peaceful pursuits of civil life, none need fear being handicapped in competition with those whose studies were not interrupted by the course of events over here.

An Educational Center has been established at Rengsdorf, where spacious buildings have been secured with ample accomodations for 600 students and 40 instructors. Courses including agriculture, mathematics, history, English, business branches, econom­science (general,) barbering, photography, lithography, mechanical drawing, sign painting, lettering and a variety of other trades.                                 .

Five hours of recitations or supervised study constitute a day's session, with one hour military instruction. In connection with the agricultural course are forestry and field work on Saturdays. It is under the personal supervision of Maj. W. E. Finzer, assisted by an able corps of trained instructors.

At other schools about the division are taught horse­shoeing, blacksmithing, motorcycle and automobile repairing, maintenance and driving, and a general knowledge of carburetor, tire and magneto repairing.

One thing more deserves special mention. This is the "Comrades in Service" movement, under the guidics [sic], science (general,) barbering, photography, lithoance [sic] of Divisian [sic] Chaplain Oscar Lee Owens. This is an organization of the enlisted men within each company and separate detachment, whereby they elect officers, and manage their own debating societies, entertainments, and other morale-building activities.

 
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