MENU

Introduction


FROM UPTON TO THE MEUSE WITH THE 307th INFANTRY

by,
W. KERR RAINSFORD
1920


INTRODUCTION

Histories are too often builded upon the fallible memory of man, wherein the records of events are liable to be tinted with that exuberance which so often surrounds the fisherman's catch. In order that the splendid service which was rendered by the 307th Infantry, 77th Division of the National Army, in the great World War, might be perpetuated while the events were still fresh in memory, while official documents and pictures were available, and reconnaissance of battlefields could be made, this work was started in January, 1919, when the regiment was still in France and before the work could be influenced by that too easy divergence from facts which the narrator so soon weaves into his story in absolute credence.

After very careful consideration of the necessary qualities and personality for a historian whose work could be accepted without question, I selected Capt. W. K. Rainsford, then commanding Company L, 307th Infantry, for the task. All official documents in the 307th Infantry and the 77th Division were made available to him and leave was granted him for a reconnaissance of the terrain over which the regiment had fought.

Captain Rainsford was graduated from Harvard in 1904 and from the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, in 1911. During 1915-16 he served with the American Ambulance section attached to the French Army, and in this capacity participated with the French during the big German attack on Verdun in June, 1916. He attended the first Plattsburg Officers' Training Camp in 1917 and was commissioned a captain of infantry therefrom. In September, 1917, he was assigned to the 77th Division and placed in command of Company M, 307th Infantry. As commander of this company he went to France with his regiment and after training with the British Army took part in the defense of the Baccarat sector and the Oise-Aisne offensive, until wounded in front of Chateau Diable in August, 1918.

Returning from hospital in September be was placed in command of Company L, 307th Infantry, and was for the second time severely wounded in October, while leading his company in the first attempt to reach Major Charles W. Whittlesey's command, composed of parts of the 308th and 307th Infantry, which had been cut off and surrounded by the Germans in the Argonne Forest. In December Captain Rainsford was again returned from hospital to duty with his regiment.

This work is therefore commended to its readers as an official product from the pen, not of an onlooker but of a participant who endured every privation and hardship with the regiment; one who had watched the Great War from its beginning with the eye of a professional soldier, and who had served therein with the greatest valor and self-sacrifice from 1915 until the end.

Little can I express the great admiration, respect and affection I feel for every man of this splendid regiment, which I never commanded in battle but watched in every action, first while Chief of Staff of the 77th Division of the National Army to which it belonged, and then as commander of its companion regiment in the 154th Infantry Brigade, the 308th Infantry, during the last month of intense fighting in the Argonne.

The entire Division was drawn from what the military critics of the time assumed was the poorest fighting material in the United States, that greatest of all melting pots of humanity-New York City. Men unused to the sturdy activity of outdoor life; men who had had little chance for that physical development which enables them to endure great privation, fatigue and suffering; men who had no knowledge of woodcraft and the use of firearms, and in consequence were lacking in the principles of self-preservation and the confidence which comes from such knowledge. Yet these men, inducted into the service when their nation was in peril, after a brief period of training were thrown against the most perfectly trained and disciplined army the world has ever known. They fought their way to victory and never once gave ground to the enemy. Always enduring with perfect cheerfulness and courage every hardship and privation, responding at all times to their leaders, they accepted with equal tenacity of purpose and disregard of self the necessity for a frontal attack on the enemy's machine-gun nests or long sleepless nights and days, drenched to the skin and foodless, shivering with the cold, with no protection from the elements or the enemy's terrible weapons of destruction. A complaint was never heard, failure to obey was a thing unknown. Men who bad lived in the glare of electric lights and had never known darkness fought their way night and day through fifteen miles of the most impenetrable mass of dense forest and underbrush, wire entanglements and trenches, that mind can conceive, in the Foret d'Argonne.

No division suffered greater hardships, had greater losses during the time it was in line, nor was better disciplined and trained than this cosmopolitan division of New York City-the 77th, New York's Own.

If our nation is properly to protect its great wealth and future trade development, and more than all its homes and the lives of its people, no more forceful argument for the universal training of our young men can be presented than the history of this regiment and division. A brief period of intensive training made splendid officers from raw material, and nine months of similar training in service developed the army which whipped the Hun.

But let us not drift into the fallacy that there will always be buffer states between us and the enemy to protect us while this training is in progress. The deeds of this regiment exemplify what our splendid manhood can and will do for their country; what splendid patriotism comes from the crucible of American citizenship. Let us profit by past experience and in times of peace prepare for any eventuality, not by attempting to create a huge and expensive regular establishment but by training our young men in the use of arms, with that healthful, vigorous training which makes better men of them morally and physically, so that we will at all times be ready to safeguard our country against the encroachments and avarice of an enemy. When arbitration fails and we must throw down the gauntlet for the preservation of right, let us not send them forth incompletely trained and equipped, thus inviting an unnecessary waste of life, through a misconceived economy or that more charitable though equally fallacious belief of the pacifist, that wars are of the past. Preparedness is war's antitoxin. Had we been prepared in 1914 the Lusitania would never have been sunk.

J. R. R. HANNAY,
colonel U. S. Army
(Formerly COMMANDING 307th Infantry)
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2019 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.