I’ve been browsing the Internet to find a more in-depth picture of what the 87th Division was doing during their time in France during the First World War. While there are a plethora of sites that recount the division’s Second World War history, in which they participated in various combat campaigns, there is little in the way of their First World War history, which saw the division used as laborers, something not quite as exciting or as historically significant as a battle. So, I was quite excited to come across this detailed account of the division’s First World War history written by the Historical Branch, War Plans Division, General Staff, United States Army.
THE EIGHTY-SEVENTH DIVISION
(National Army. Insignia: Brown acorn on a green circle.)
The Eighty-seventh Division was organized at Camp Pike, Arkansas, in August, 1917, from drafted men of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. After providing detachments for replacements abroad the division was reorganized with recruits from other camps, and upon transfer to Camp Dix, New Jersey, in June, 1917, approximately 20,000 drafted men from New York and New Jersey were assigned. The organization was as follows:
- 173d Infantry Brigade:
- 345th and 346th Infantry; 335th Machine Gun Battalion.
- 174th Infantry Brigade:
- 347th and 348th Infantry; 336th Machine Gun Bn.
- 162d Field Artillery Brigade:
- 334th and 335th (light), 336th (heavy) Field Artillery; 312th Trench Mortar Battery.
- 334th Machine Gun Battalion.
- 312th Engineers.
- 312th Field Signal Battalion.
The first element of the division arrived in France August 28, 1918; the last September 16, 1918.
The division was reported to the Commanding General, S.O.S., for duty the latter part of September. Headquarters were established at Pons (Charente Inférieure) on September 12th. The organizations were distributed through the base and intermediate sections, S.O.S., but the division did not lose its identity as a combat unit, and when the armistice was signed, it was under orders for service at the front and the headquarters and headquarters troops were actually in movement on November 11th.
Division headquarters sailed from St. Nazaire January 10, 1919, and arrived at New York January 22, 1919.
The division had three commanding generals as follows:
Maj. Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis (assigned), Aug. 26, 1917 – Nov. 18, 1918; Brig. Gen. Robert C. Van Vliet (temporary), Nov. 27, 1917 – March 10, 1918; Brig. Gen. W. F. Martin (temporary), Dec. 11, 1918 – January 9, 1919.
Revised to 3-16-21
1. This date appears to be a typo. The unit could not have transferred to Camp Dix in June 1917 before it was organized at Camp Pike in August 1917. A date of June 1918 is more likely for the move to Camp Dix, as this would’ve been directly before the division’s movement to France in August of that year.
2. My grand uncle William Thomas Graham served in Company F of the 348th Infantry.
3. Services of Supply.
“Brief History of Divisions, U.S. Army, 1917-1918”, Historical Branch, War Plans Division, General Staff, United States Army, June 1921.