Chapter 1 — Preparation.
(April 6, 1917 to May 30, 1918)
|The Formation of the 2nd Regiment of Engineers.
2nd Regiment of Engineers was formed from the 2nd Battalion of
Engineers, the regiment first coming into existence on July 1,
1916, at Colonia Dublan, Mexico. It joined in the expedition
into Mexico after the raid on Columbus, New Mexico, by the Mexican
Bandit, Villa. When the American forces were withdrawn from Mexico
in February, 1917, the Regiment was ordered to Camp Baker, Texas,
near El Paso, where it was stationed when the United States declared
war against Germany. The state of war forced the United States
to at once increase the regular army to its full strength instead
of waiting several years for this authorized increase as was
originally contemplated. The 5th Regiment of Engineers was formed
from the 2nd Engineers, and the 2nd was promptly recruited by
voluntary enlistments to its full strength. Selected officers
were sent to it from the engineer training camps and selected
engineer non-commissioned officers were given commissions and
assigned to the regiment.
Colonel J. F. McIndoe was, the officer selected
to command the regiment. He arrived on June 1, 1917, and took
command. Colonel McIndoe was a star graduate of West Point of
the Class of 1891. He had served alternately with troops and
on river and harbor work, and his varied experiences were particularly
valuable to the regiment in the varied tasks which it encountered
in the American Expeditionary Forces.
On August 22, 1917, the regiment left Camp Baker,
Texas, by rail, arriving at Washington, D. C., August 28th. It
camped in the suburbs at the American University grounds, now Camp Leach, until September 9th, when it took trains for embarkation
at New York City. It left the United States on September 10,
1917, sailing on board the R.M.S. "CARPATHIA" from
New York, via Halifax, to Glasgow, proceeding thence by rail
to Southampton, England, by boat to Havre, France, and by rail
in France to stations at Colombey-les-Belles, Barisey-au-Plain,
Vaucouleurs and Uruffe.
Just before leaving Washington, the Regimental
Commander was notified of the increase of authorized strength
of companies to 250 men and 6 officers (as fixed by Tables of
Organizations, "Series A," August 8, 1917). A full
quota of officers was assigned before the regiment left the United
States, but owing to lack of time the companies remained temporarily
on the old basis of 164 men per company, the companies being
about full strength on that basis at date of sailing.
The Engineer Train was separated from the regiment
at Washington, D. C., and went to Newport News, there to embark
for France. At Newport News, it did duty for some time at the
Remount Station, then sailed direct to St. Nazaire, and was held
there doing various duties until December 23rd. It joined the
regiment on January 1st, 1918, just as the latter was going into
training as part of the 2nd Division.
The personnel of the regiment on embarkation was
unusually good. All of the men were volunteers who had experience
or inclination as engineers; the majority had both. Nearly everyone
of these men who survived, became a non-commissioned officer
and many of them became officers. The officer personnel was also
unusually good; so good in fact that many of them were soon detailed
to staff work and never returned to the regiment.
The First Problem of the American Expeditionary Forces.
problem of the American Expeditionary Forces was very simple at that
time, simple in decision but difficult in execution. Only 50,000
American Troops were then in France and 2,000,000 were to come; therefore,
these 50,000 had to prepare the way for the 2,000,000. Also, they
had to incidentally acquire training in trench warfare and in open
warfare. As the engineers were better trained in construction work,
it was inevitable that they would spend more time on construction
work and would acquire less training, in fact only as much or as
little training in warfare as could be acquired by seizing every
|ADRIAN BARRACKS BUILT BY SECOND ENGINEERS
Upon reaching its first stations, various
towns to the north of Neufchateau, Vosges, the regiment was put to
work building cantonments for American Troops. The work consisted
mainly of the erection of temporary collapsible wooden barracks,
of the type known as Adrian. While engaged on this work, the companies
operated independently, the regimental headquarters occupying itself
mainly with supply of equipment and administration of personnel.
Company "A" built a Camp Hospital and
several kilometers of roads, and established a water supply system,
with concrete reservoir, at Bourmont. Company "B" did
practically the same work at La Fouche. Company "C" built
hospitals at Barisey-au-Plain and Colombey-Ies-Belles, and assisted
in the construction of an aviation cantonment at Colombey-les-Belles. Companies "D," "E" 'and "F" were
engaged in the construction of cantonments, hospitals, roads
and water supply systems in Vaucouleurs, Uruffe, Neufchateau,
Trampot, Brechinville and Alainville.
Regimental Headquarters was first at Colombey-les-Belles,
but later was moved with Companies "C" and "'E," to
Longeau, Haute Marne, where more cantonments were erected.
All of this construction work was under direction
of the Advance Section, Lines of Communication (later called
the Advance Section, Services of Supply), Colonel McIndoe was
made Chief Engineer of this department, being temporarily detailed
from the regiment, and remained on this duty until February 22,
The Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, Major Fox, was at this
time Assistant Chief Engineer, Advanced Section, Lines of Communication,
and the Battalion was commanded by Major Snow. The 1st Battalion
was commanded by Captain Steiner, with station at La Fouche. Major
Brown soon went to the 1st Corps School; upon graduation, he returned
to the regiment and was in active command. Although such a shortage
of officers was not unusual in the American Expeditionary Forces
at that time, it was none the less a disadvantage to the regiment.
It had arrived in France with five field officers, 1 colonel and
4 majors. The colonel and two majors had been immediately put on
Detached Service, and the other two majors sent to school where they
took a five weeks Infantry Field Officer's Course. Upon relief from
school, one of these officers was placed on Detached Service, leaving
the regiment with but one field officer (Major Brown), and it remained
so until February 22nd. This lack of field officers was not much
felt while the companies were on construction work, but it was felt
after the regiment concentrated to train.
As stated before, the regiment came over with companies at a strength
of about 160 men. On December 20, 1917, 400 replacements
were received from the 116th
Engineers, then Engineer Replacement
Regiment for the 1st Corps. These men were sent to Longeau, Haute
Marne, which was at that time the station of Regimental Headquarters
and Companies "C" and "E." There
they were divided into three recruit companies and a lieutenant
with three non-commissioned officers and a cook were placed on
duty with each. About one third of these recruits had served in
the National Guard as Infantry (generally for only a short time),
and two-thirds were drafted men who, at the time of their joining
the regiment, had had about two and a half month's service. Many
of them had never fired a shot before reaching the regiment, and
unfortunately the opportunities were very poor for training in
rifle firing. Great efforts were made to give these men proper
training, but it was not at all as thorough as was desired.
During the latter portion of the time that the companies were
on construction work, one hour's drill per day—close order, if
possible—was prescribed in order to keep the men in hand. These
orders could not be carried out thoroughly in all companies, but
the results were good, where the orders were carried out.
The regiment continued on this construction
work until the companies were relieved on various dates from December
30, to January 14, 1918. By January 14, the entire regiment had
been assembled in the area about Bourmont, Haute Marne, (Division
Headquarters, 2nd Division) where it went into training as part
of the 2nd Division, the 1st Battalion was at Sauville, and the Engineer Train
was at Rozieres-sur-Mouzon.
Then followed the longest and almost the only real training which
was given to the 2nd Engineers which lasted, for the 1st Battalion
until February 26th and for regimental headquarters and the 2nd
Battalion until March 14th.
Upon assembly in the training area, drill was by company until
all of the companies had arrived, on January 14th. About that time,
a schedule was received from General Headquarters for our training.
This consisted mainly of Infantry training for about five weeks;
but Engineer training was increased as time went on, mainly bridging,
wiring, trench layout, and to a small extent trench construction.
Lack of materials and time prevented extensive engineer drill.
On February 27th, 1918, the 1st Battalion
was detached from the regiment and sent to the front north of Toul,
occupied by the 1st Division, to
supplement the 1st Engineers. They were engaged in work at the
Engineer Dump, sawmills, and in construction of shelters on lines
in rear. Their work was in such localities that they suffered no
First Battalion Headquarters remained at Boucq
during the entire period of its service in the TOUL sector, while
the Headquarters of Company "A" was located at Menil-la-Tour,
of Company "B," at Boucq, and of Company "C," at
The following engineer duties were performed:
Company "A": Operated Engineer Dumps
at Menil-la-Tour, Leonval and Corneville; operated American and
French sawmills at Menil-la-Tour; constructed Corps Headquarters
in quarry near Menil-la-Tour, and constructed roads at and near
Menil-la-Tour. During the construction of the Corps Headquarters,
the company manned and operated compressed air drills, electric
hoists, and other mechanical mining devices.
Company "B": Constructed Division Headquarters
in hill east of Boucq; operated sawmills at Marbache and near
Commercy; assisted in construction of army dump at Leonval :
and repaired the road camouflage leading to the front.
Company "C": Constructed the greater
part of the Army dump at Leonval [sic Liouville] involving the construction of
wagon and truck roads, "soixante" and standard gauge
railway; constructed platforms and warehouses: built stables
at Sanzey, and did concrete work at Fort Gironville.
Through this period, each company incidentally
made necessary repairs and improvements of bridges and roads
throughout the sector.
On May 9th, 1918, the 1st Battalion moved by truck
to Heiltz-le-Maurupt, Marne, where it rejoined the 2nd Division
for duty. During its stay in this (Robert Espagne) sector near
Bar-le-Duc, it was engaged both in training and in constant railhead
and remount work for the 2nd Division.
On March 15th, 1918, Regimental Headquarters and
the 2nd Battalion left with the 2nd Division for a tour of duty
with the French in the Sommedieue sector, south of Verdun, where
it remained until May 12th, 1918. Here they were engaged mainly
in the construction of shelters, operating at first by company,
a French officer. This gave an excellent insight into French methods.
The control passed gradually into our own hands, in which it rested
entirely for the final few weeks. During this time, the battalion
used its own tools, but all materials were obtained from the French. The Battalion got its baptism of fire during this tour. Company "D" lost
three men, killed by artillery fire, the men being at the time
engaged in construction of a shelter for machine gun crew in the
support line of the first position. These were the Regiment's first
The following report of Major Brown shows the work
of Company "E" during the month of April, 1918, which
is fairly representative of the work of the 2nd Battalion for
REPORT ON WORK OF COMPANY "E," 2ND ENGINEERS
FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL, 1918.
1. The company worked throughout the month on four
main tasks, each of which was carried on by one platoon and was
directly in charge of the Lieutenant platoon commander. General
supervision was exercised by the battalion and company commanders.
For a part of the month the company had only five officers, but
about the 20th, additional attached officers arrived. The second
in command in the company then turned over his task to one of
these new officers and took up the work of the company office,
as, company Gas Officer, and, in general, as assistant to the
Company Commanding Officer. This is in. accordance with our plan
of employment of the six company officers.
2. Three of the four tasks referred to were in
construction of deep shelters of one kind or another, involving
both sloping and horizontal work. NO mechanical equipment was
in use, though all tasks were in rock; blasting was done with
cheddite. Both casings and frames, and sheeting were used, but
mainly the latter. That portion of the fourth task carried on
in April was a cut and cover affair, the timbering being frames
and sheeting. Mining operations to construct underground shelter,
in connection with this cut and cover were started at the end
of month. Two tasks were dry; the other two were wet, and required
much pumping with hand pumps.
3. Either two or three reliefs were employed on
all work. Hours of 1st relief were roughly, 4:00 A. M. to 12:00
M.; 2nd, 12:00 M. to 8:00 P. M.; 3rd, 8:00 P. M. to 4:00 A. M.
Thus the movement of the 2nd relief to the task and the 1st relief
from the task, were the only daylight movements. This was important,
as all tasks were on the first position, on or near the line
of "reduits" (the line of ultimate resistance). Reliefs
rotated weekly, each "gang" however, retaining its
own personnel. This arrangement of hours seems very satisfactory.
4. The plan was tried of "detailing" one
seventh of the men of each platoon to rest each day, with the
idea of keeping the work going continuously so that we might
make the most rapid progress possible on tasks where the number
of men who could be employed was limited, and also with the idea
of not clogging the limited bathing and washing facilities in
our camp on rest days. This plan, however, did not work very
well. Its main fault is the failure to provide an opportunity
for the Commanding Officer to get his entire company together
for inspections, for instruction, or even for drills which may
at times be necessary either to prevent rustiness on details
not covered by the tasks in progress, or to keep the company
well in hand. Consequently, it is now planned to stop work from
8:00 P. M. Saturday to 4:00 A. M. Monday each week, and to have
all effectives on the job on other days.
5. Auxiliaries were obtained from the Infantry - French or American
- who were employed for the evacuation of excavated earth and bringing
up of materials, which were done at night. Our aim was to use our
men to the best advantage on the actual mining and placing of timbering,
while non-technical work was done by non-technical help given us.
Auxiliaries are not available from the day before a relief to the
day after; and, with our plan for no work on Sunday, will generally
not be needed on Sunday nights.
6. Various small tasks were undertaken in addition
to the four main ones mentioned. Upon assignment of, or request
to perform any work not thoroughly defined, an officer was sent
first to make reconnaissance. On the day of his detail, he would
gather together the necessary party, that night he would haul
his material, and the next morning the work would begin. Requests
were received from Infantry and Artillery Commanding Officers
to do certain work connected directly with their positions or
camps, and not with the special mission assigned to the Engineers.
In such cases an officer would be sent to make reconnaissance;
based upon this, we would send a few men - or an officer and
a few men as the additional officers were attached to the company
- to render "advice and technical assistance."
(Signed) CAREY H. BROWN,
Major, 2nd Engineers.
Just when the Regiment was leaving the Bourmont
training area for its tour in trench warfare, two officers and
several men of the Camouflage service were attached. Nearly all
of the officers of the Regiment had already been through the
course at the 1st Corps Schools, and there had received instructions
in camouflage, among other things. The principles learned were
put into effect on all our work at the Front, the Camouflage
Officers visiting all different tasks to give them expert advice
and assistance. The enlisted men of the camouflage service were
assigned to the tasks where especial technique was required.
Our Camouflage Detachment was also called on by the various units
of the Division, especially the Artillery. Our Engineer Officers,
however, were, according to the Camoufleurs, much more careful
and effective generally in their camouflage than were those of
any other branch of the service. This shows the advantage of
a general training of all Engineers in camouflage so that the
divisional Camouflage Section itself can be devoted to the more
highly technical features.
Intensive Training at Bar-le-Duc.
German drives of March and April caused conditions to become
quite serious, and the 2nd Division was needed near Paris. The
1st Division was preparing to win the battle of Cantigny on May
28, and it was decided that the 2nd Division could help in that
vicinity. Accordingly, the tour of the trenches was discontinued
and the whole 2nd Division was assembled May 10-12 for rest and
training in the vicinity of Bar-le-Duc. Here we spent about eight
days in cleaning up, equipping, drilling, rifle firing, etc.,
in a beautiful part of the country, with the idea that we were
bound for the Somme. We then moved by rail, with two or three
day's march at the end to the region of Chaumont-en-Vexin, northwest
of Paris. Here another week was spent in training. Orders were
received for the Regiment to move toward Montdidier with the
evident purpose of joining or relieving the 1st Division; but
in the afternoon of May 30th, these orders were changed and the
whole of the 2nd Division was diverted to the Chateau Thierry
front to stop the new German drive in that direction. How we
stopped them will be shown in the next chapter.
Up to the last day before going into battle, in fact
even after the battle, the 2nd Engineers was not satisfied in the
matter of equipment and supplies. In general, these difficulties
were unavoidable because the articles were not available; but in
some cases, the changed conditions of this war had not been fully
anticipated at home and consequently the necessary preparations had
not been made.
The necessity, or at least the general desirability,
of having truck transportation with the regiment, became apparent
early in our experience. The quick moves called for, and the
inability to accomplish them with wagons demonstrated this necessity.
The modern war cannot be fought with the old transportation;
and the more one sees of the modern war, the more one realizes
the great importance of the motor vehicle.
During our training and tour of service in trench
warfare the regiment had never been fully equipped with Engineer
property. It came over from the States with two Brown tool wagons
per company, and that was all the special tool wagons it ever
had. Some picks, shovels, axes, etc. - heavy tools - had been
obtained in addition to these which the two Browns per company
could carry, but these had to be left with the Engineer Train,
which was just at this time getting the last of its transportation.
Orders from the Chief Engineer, A. E. F. during the first part
of our tour, and for some time afterwards, were that all Engineer
Supplies should be obtained from the French depots. The Train
therefore had plenty of transportation, as it did not have to
carry the prescribed loads of materials. It acted at that time
to some extent as a miscellaneous depot for the regiment, which
was short of transportation. For example, in addition to the
tools mentioned above, the train carried our packs, during the
time that we had no pack mules.
The class of tool wagons which were to be issued
to the regiment was in doubt. Tool carts (6 per company) were
prescribed at one time, and later tool wagons of limber and caisson
type. Our experiences led us to the belief that if four tool
wagons per company were to be supplied, as provided by the latest
Tables of Organization (i.e. May 15, 1918) it would be well to
keep the two Browns with their special construction to hold various
articles, and to have in addition two escort wagons, which could
be used as necessity required for general hauling of materials,
and supplies. Steps were taken to complete our transportation
in this manner.
About this time, too, we were getting various ideas
as to how we should be equipped. The Unit Accountability Equipment
Manual had been made up from contemplation of our wars in Cuba,
the Phillipines, and Mexico, and other wars, while we were from
experience beginning to learn our actual needs. The Chief Engineer
also at this time told us not to go blindly by the Manual, but
to requisition what we needed. Even so, it is remarkable how
satisfactory and complete we found the unit equipment. The Company
photographic equipment was one thing we decided we could do without. Regimental Headquarters seemed able to look out for all photography. The reconnaissance equipment seemed unnecessarily large, as all
France had been so thoroughly mapped and maps were available;
so the companies were directed to requisition no more than enough
to keep each company supplied with two sketching sets complete.
Odometers and pocket sextants were dispensed with. Thus efforts
were made to lighten the loads and make the requisitions cause
no unnecessary difficulties.
The necessity for mobility also became more and
more apparent. The regiment was continually getting rid of articles
formerly deemed necessary. When it first arrived in France, each
company (a typical regular engineer company) needed, in
addition to its wagons, about three boxcars. By May 30, 1918, if
a company in addition to its two wheel ration cart had two escort
wagons for rations, baggage, etc., it had "lots of room."
|LOSSES AND REPLACEMENTS
DURING PERIOD APRIL 6, 1917 TO MAY 30, 1918.
| Morning Report of April 6, 1917
| Lost by transfer, evacuation, etc.
| Gain by transfer, replacements, etc.
| Morning Report of May 30, 1918
The prescribed equipment was excellent
for the purpose, and the few necessary changes were quickly made.
After every new campaign, many critics appeared with suggestions
for change, but the old equipment was retained, and the suggestions
were always different after the next campaign which was always
under different conditions. It was seen that our needs were different
in each campaign, but that our regular equipment was generally
suited for all campaigns.
The regiment had very little training, but it seemed
that it could not be increased, as it was necessary that
it do the construction work for which no other troops were suitable
and available, and for which laborers could not be obtained.
The prevalent opinion that sapper regiments acquire
training from construction and road work is all wrong. A sapper
regiment has certain duties in war time, and it is no more trained
in these war duties by construction and road work than an infantry
regiment would be trained in its war duties by construction and
road work. The 2nd Engineers was not a trained engineer regiment
when it went into battle at Chateau Thierry; far from it. All
through this history, it will be noticed that the regiment spent
a day here and a few days there in training while the other regiment
of the 2nd Division were resting during these pauses in the operations.
The regiment could never rest; it had not been given a fair chance
to train because military necessity required that it spend its
construction work, so it had to seize every opportunity
to improve. It was supposed to know certain things, and yet it
had never been taught these things. Before its first battle,
it had never laid out a quick fortification line; never built
a standard trestle bridge, foot bridge or ponton bridge; yet
during active operations of the next six months, it had to do
and did do these things, after previous drill in every case except
that of the ponton bridge. Even though it had so little training,
the 2nd Engineers went into its first battle against Germany
's best troops (and held its own against them) although its active
training for combat had lasted only some eleven weeks and its
training in trench warfare had lasted only ten weeks. Truly,
the remarkable personal qualities of its officers and men were
all that enabled it to perform its duty so efficiently.
|United States, and W. A. Mitchell. 1920.
The Official History Of The Second Regiment Of Engineers And Second Engineer Train, United States Army, In The World War.
[San Antonio]: [San Antonio printing Co.].