87th Division’s WWI History

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.)

—–o—–

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[1], 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[2];  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.
  • Trains.

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.[3], 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

RPL–egm


Notes

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.

Sources

Brief History of Divisions, U.S. Army, 1917-1918”, Historical Branch, War Plans Division, General Staff, United States Army, June 1921.

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About Byron

Widower, father, student, USA Retired. View all posts by Byron

55 responses to “87th Division’s WWI History

  • Dave King

    My grandfather Joseph C. Hickle was also a member of the 423rd Tel Bn, E Company. According to his discharge papers he left service on 18 Apr 1919 from Fort Dix. As I understand he was held for some time at Fort Dix in quarantine because he had contracted Spanish Influenza either in France or on the return transport ship.

  • MERCIER

    MERCIER Jean-Pierre -BORDEAUX Dans la 87th division il y avait le 347th infantery et le 348th infantery, il semblerait que le 347th infantery ait combattu en Lorraine, mais pas le 348th. On parle du quartier général à PONS (Charente-Inférieure) fin 1918 il n’y a presque pas de trace de militaires américains à PONS, C’était un lieu de passage pour la 87th division, il y a une photo avec des véhicules FORD et des Side Car, peut-être des véhicules de liaisons d’un point à un autre, par ailleurs, il semble que quelques unités du 348th infantery aient été envoyées sur Bordeaux Bassens pour repartir sur New York le 25 février 1919 bateau OHIOAN. Email : jan.mercier@yahoo.fr

  • Ken Robarge

    Here’s some information on my grand father
    Avery C Orton Pulaski, New York
    Inducted May 25, 1918
    Discharged March 20, 1919
    Served with Battery C 336th Field Artillery 87th Div
    Rank: Wagoner
    Trained at Ft Dix
    Arrived overseas on September 3rd 1918
    Traveled on (ship) Mauritania
    Returned on Martha Washington

  • Mark Dennis

    My granddaddy Robert Cooley, my mom’s father, was drafted from a Mississippi farm in 1917. He was assigned to Headquarters & Headquarters Company. He told me how bad the weather was in France & that they did a lot of manual labor & guard duty which is why his feet were so bad later. They finished that duty & received orders to move to the front for combat duty. His unit was enroute when the war ended.

  • Cerberus

    My uncle (my dad’s brother) was a sergeant in the machine gun company of the 348th Infantry. He died somewhere along the way in 1918, possibly in the Spanish flu outbreak. I have tried to find info on the 348th and when, where, and how my uncle died, but I haven’t had much success so far. He was brought home and buried here, and I make sure he has a flag on his grave every Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, but the Boy Scouts usually beat me to it. I wasn’t born until 41 years later in 1959, so of course I have no memory of him, but he is a near blood relative and I’d like to know more about him to help keep his memory alive. Anyone who has more detailed information on the 348th, please feel free to contact me at

    grant135b@gmail.com

    Thanks.

  • Norman Mjellem

    My Grandfather was assigned to the 87th, He was a young Officer serving with the 346th Infantry Machine Gun Company in France I think.
    On Sept 28, 1918 He was wounded in the head with shrapnel and received a Purple Heart
    He died when my Mother was young so I never met him
    Any idea where I can get more information?
    Everybody who might know anything have passed away?
    Thanks

  • Beth MacDonald

    Thank you for this information. I just found, today, my grandfather’s Headstone Application for Military Veterans. His actual headstone says “Pvt Btry B 336 Fld Arty WWI”. So a couple of years ago I tried looking it up. I couldn’t figure out why someone born in Massachusetts ended up down south where this company was. Now it makes sense. The headstone application also states the 87 Division. The company transfered to Camp Dix, NJ. I believe you are right about the date of Jun 1917 being wrong. His enlistment was Jun 26, 1918 and discharge was Mar 21, 1919. My mother told me that grandpa was a motorcycle carrier delivering messages between the troops and was injured doing so in the Argonne forest during WWI. A previous post to this stated that the relative was drafted from MA, I guess so was my grandfather. My grandmother must have had his service record when she applied for the headstone, but apparently it must be lost now because I haven’t found it in any of the family papers. I truly thank you for this information you found and to all the posters who have left comments, I now have new information.

  • Eric Kuenn

    My great-grandfather, Max Krahn, served in France with Co. G, 345th infantry regiment. His records indicate that he left for France in late August 1918 and returned home January 1919. Unfortunately, I have no idea what exactly he did there except that the 345th was assigned to SOS. I don’t know where he landed or where he was stationed. I would really love to know more. I’d truly appreciate any information anyone could offer. Thank you!

  • Dave

    Hi, the only clear memory I have of my great-grandfather Walter G Waderich, was him telling me he was aboard a troopship that was torpedoed while crossing the channel in WW1. He was from eastern IA at the time of his SS registration and his dates of service were 25JUL18 to 19MAY19. I see that the 87th Division (of which the 17th Bge was part) did take draftees in from Camp Dodge IA, although I can’t be certain he was processed through Camp Dodge)

    The only troopship I find torpedoed was the SS Persic, with the HQ 174th Inf Bge and 1st/347th Inf Reg aboard.

    Supposedly the HQ 174th (according to US Army records) was demobilized 23MAY19 at Camp Dix, NJ…this would seem to place my ggfather in the HQ element of the 174th…but if anyone has a unit roster or whatnot that’d be great.

  • sgtmac67

    Lately I’ve gone through about everything I could find on Camp Pike, 162nd Depot Brigade, Signal Corps and the 87th Division. This includes Google Books, Army Center for Military History, and a host of other Army research sites. There is even a good read on the SOS Service of Supply, which most if not all replacement or depot troops ended up in. If anyone would like photos of Camp Pike or wants to follow my research, you can do so at http://www.macsmilitary67.com/

  • Sterling

    My grandfather was inducted into the military on 2-24-1918 in Conway
    ,AR from that time until March 20 1918 he was at Camp Pike in the 162 possibly training, and was sent over to France to be in Co D 312 Serv Bn until discharge.

  • Elizabeth Lawrence

    Elizabeth Lawrence – NSW – Australia
    I found out a few years ago that my grandfather Vincent Cafarella # 2954803 joined on June 27th 1918 he enlisted from Quincy, Mass. He was a Corporal and was assigned to the 347th Infantry 87th Division, left US August 24th 1918 and arrived back in the US on the 30th Dec 1918, from what I can read on his enlistment record he never fought, however he was Honourably discharged from Camp Dix NJ 5th Feb 1919, would love to read or know any more about this regiment.

    • Ann Clapham

      Elizabeth, I’m just learning about my great-grandfather and have found that he was also with the 347th Infantry 87th Division. He was from New Jersey. He was on board the SS Persic when a German U-boat struck it with a torpedo. All men survived. He died in 1923 from TB. Wonder if our relatives knew each other? My great-grandfather was Harold C. Robbins from Long Branch, NJ.

  • Michael Carnahan

    Included with family items from my mother I found a pin with 335 at the top, crossed cannons, and the letter C at the bottom. I assume this indicates Battery C, 335th (light) Field Artillery Battalion. It probably belonged to my Grandfather who was in France during WWI when he was mustard gassed, sent to a hospital, then sent home with chronic migraine headaches.

  • Vince

    From what I could find, the 336th Field Artillery, was in charge of 105mm Howitzers. As far as I can tell, the 87th, was used in a Supply role at Pons, France. It doesn’t look like they were involved in any action.

    • Vince

      87th Division was a National Army division allocated to Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
      Was activated at Camp Pike, Arkansas on 25 August 1917.
      Went overseas in September 1918, was utilized as a pool of laborers.
      Returned to the Continental US in January 1919 to Camp Dix, New Jersey, and was deactivated in February 1919.
      Was reassigned to the Organized Reserve program in 1921, and allocated to Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

  • Sharon Baird

    Hi
    Just received copies showing my grandfather served in Co F, 336 Infantry and was discharged on July 18, 1919. For years my mom had said he was in the Calvary, and had been a survivor of mustard gas. I am now beginning my research. Your site is the only one listing his unit. His name was Arthur F. Wright.

    • Vince

      Go to the National Archives at-http://www.archives.gov/veterans/-If available, you may be able to find his records. I did this for my grandfather, who was also in the 87th. Note that their was a fire at the Archives a long time ago and a lot of records were lost. That said, if they can’t locate his records, they can also do a search for partial records. Good luck ;)

    • sgtmac67

      I just read something the other day, that said the U.S. Calvary wasn’t needed, as the French had plenty of their own. As recall, former Calvary, were melded into the infantry.

      • sgtmac67

        This is the info I found, while scaning some Army documents:

        Conditions of
        European warfare made it necessary to reorganize the entire military
        establishment. General Pershing recommended a corps organization
        of six divisions (four combat and two replacement).
        His plan called for a division of about 28,000 men, to consist of
        three regiments of field artillery, four regiments of infantry composed
        of over 3,000 men each, and appropriate auxiliary troops;
        cavalry was eliminated.

  • Ed Bachesta

    My great grandfather, August “Gussie” Szerzinski, from Missouri was a private in the 336 Field Arty., 87th Division according to his tombstone. He died in 1935 and I only know of his military service from his tombstone. I’d appreciate any information or direction that can be provided on the 336!

    • Vince

      The 87th Division was made up of National Army drafts from Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. It was organized at Camp Pike, Arkansas. The overseas movement began August 23, and the last units arrived in France Septamber 13, 1918.

      Upon arrival in France, the division was turned over to the Service of Supply and ordered to Pons (Charente-Inferieure), where it was broken up and units placed in the intermediate section. The commanding general of this division was Major General Samuel D. Sturgis. The division is popularly known as the “Acorn Division,” and the shoulder insignia is a brown acorn on a greeen circle.

      Read more: 87th Divsion – 346th Infantry – Historical Notes 1917 – 1919 http://www.gjenvick.com/Military/ArmyArchives/UnitHistory/346thInfantry/1917-1919/index.html#ixzz3U2FTdivT
      Follow us: @GjenvickGjonvik on Twitter | GjenvickArchives on Facebook

  • Vince

    My grandfather, Samuel Howard Hindman, was also in the 162nd Depot Brigade. He ended up in the 423rd Telegraph Battlion. We know he traveled on the SS Savannah to Ponta Del Gada Azores. The ship was a submarine tender and traveled to the Azores with 7 submarines of SUBDIV 8. What he was doing with submarines I have no idea.

    There is very little info on this battalion.

    I found this on the net-On 2 November, the tender USS Savannah (AS-8) and the recently-completed submarines O-3 through O-10 – constituting SUBDIV 8 – left Newport for Bantry Bay. They arrived in the Azores on 16 November, five days after the end of the war, and were quickly recalled.

    We know he was in France for two months before coming home.

    I found an old newspaper clipping dated Jan. 11, 1919, that said five more units were scheudled to return, including his.

    But how he got from the Azore to England, then to France is unknown. I also don’t know what he did over there, but suspect he was helping re-establish communication lines, between some of the villages. ( I do have several postcards, he mailed from France).

    I found an old newspaper clipping dated Jan. 11, 1919, that said five more units were scheudled to return, including his.

    • sgtmac67

      I also found information on the 162 Depot Brigade. Originally, it was part of the 87th Division, of the National Army. Sometime just before, or just after, the 87ths rotation to France, the 162nd, was completely seperated from the 87th, and became an independent unit, under the direct command of Camp Pike.

      The new brigade had two roles; One, to train replacements for the AEF, and also to receive new recruits from local draft boards.

      I have my granddads letters that he sent from Camp Pike and a few postcards from France. In August 1918 he was assigned to the 38th Company 10th TR-BN. (Training Battlion).

      Sept 1, 1918-Bit of War Talk.
      Sept 13 1918-Sent to Fort Leavonworth for Telegraph Wig-Wag and signal work.
      Sept. 21 1918-Rumors of heading to Camp Meade within two weeks.
      Oct. 4 1918-Transferred all lineman to Co. D. 423rd Telegraph Battlion.
      Oct. 16-17-Was supposed to head to France on Oct. 15, but halted because of flu epidemic.
      *We know he left on a submarne tender, which arrived in the Azores. The flotilla was sent back because of the Armistace. This had to be on the date of the Armistace, which was Nov 11, 1919.
      *Somehow he continued on to England then to France.
      Jan. 11, 1919- Ithaca Daily News-Announcement that five more units were designated for return to the states-12th Balloon Co., 429th and 423rd Telegrah Battlalions, 24th Oridance Casual Co., and 53rd Company of the Transportation Corps.
      Jan 14-17 1919-Postcard from Mouzillion, France-Landed here yesterday, 150 miles from Chitena (?)
      Jan. 23, 1919-Still in Mouzillion.

      I have no idea, how or why he left the states n a submarine tender, or where he left from. I also have no idea, where he landed back in the states, but assume he was discharged at Camp Dodge.

      I’m submitting all this material in the hopes, it may help someone else. I’ll add a few mmore bits, in another reply later.

      Sgt. Mac

      • sgtmac67

        I’m currently doing more research on the subjects at hand. I did find out that after the 162nd landed, they were deployed as laborers. This makes sense, as I’ve only been told one story, about his time there. Supposedly he and another soldier were desingaged from some sort of supply train. along a set of tracks. They had to sleep in a rail car that contained telegrpah supplies. After some further reading, I’ve discovered, that a lot of the Telegraph guys, were used to rebuild communications from one village to the next.

        I also just read, that some of the late units, were being shipped to the front, even after the Armistace had ended. I’m still reading.

      • Byron

        Thanks for the in-depth information, Sgt Mac! While it doesn’t pertain to my Graham family directly, like you said, it may be helpful to someone else. This one article is by far the most read and commented upon in my journal.

      • sgtmac67

        Your Welcome. I’ve been researching my grandfathers, service for over thirty years. As you know, a lot of the NARA records, were destroyed in the fire. It only makes sense, if someone has a bit of information, to see if it can help someone else.

        There were so many changes in the Army organization, prior to and during the war, that it’s become really hard to trace a family member, unless you have some kind of record.

        There was little info available when I started, other than geneology. Over the past 10 or 15 years, online information has exploded. It’s only since 2000, that I’ve been able to fill in the gaps.

        Sgt. Mac ;)

  • Jeanne Van Epps

    Just found out my great uncle PFC Maurice Brown from Rochester served in the 346th Infantry 153rd Deport Brigade Company I, enlisted May 26, 1918, discharged May 31, 1919, Camp Mills NY. What did Co. I do and did they get sent overseas?

  • Georgia Schaljo

    I found a post card with my husband’s grandfather’s picture on it with writing on the back that said Pvt Lous Bayer, CoF. 38th infantry, Camp Pike, Arkansas. We know nothing about him because the left his wife and 3 daughters when they were young and was never heard from or talked about again.

  • Logan

    MY great-grandfather whom I am named after served in the 87th, Co. F as a Sergeant. He enlisted in 1917 and was stationed at LeMans, Le Vallebone, and Beautvian over in France. He was an MP and the story goes he got the position due to his height, over 6 feet. The story goes after seeing his stature they took him to a gravel pit and had him shoot. After his shooting they promoted him. He was from Lengby, MN.

  • Frank Sims, Jr

    My father was in the 87th. He never spoke of battle in France; however, he did talk about the troop convoy being attacked by a U-Boat off the coast of France. One ship was hit and damaged. It was towed on to France. Planes flew out from France and attacked the U-Boat. I am interested in learning more about activities in France. My father was a cook.

  • Kevin Kinsey

    And thanks *much* for taking the time to write of the Acorn’s “early history” ….

  • Kevin Kinsey

    My grandfather, Thomas Yancey Kinsey, was part of Company 37 of the 10th Training Battalion at Camp Pike and later assigned, apparently, to the 162nd Depot Brigade (indicated on his tombstone).

    Does this mean he was shipped over as a potential replacement … and trained in artillery … or do you think that he was part of the division when it was broken up for laborers in September 1918?

    We have little information about him as he died long before I was born and didn’t really get along well with my father when dad was a child….

    • Byron

      Kevin, thank you for replying.

      I did a very brief search around the Internet for the 162nd Depot Brigade and found a reference to depot brigades being divisional elements used to train replacements for the American Expeditionary Forces and being receiving units for men sent to the basic training camps by draft boards. The 162nd Depot Brigade was based at Camp Pike, and would have been in charge of training the men of the 87th Division — the 162nd was not itself part of the 87th. It seems to me that if your grandfather was assigned to the 162nd, he was part of the training of replacements, not a replacement himself. But everything I just wrote is based on a five minute Internet search and could be inaccurate.

      • sgtmac67

        Just a slight correction. Initially the 162nd Depot Brigade, was part of the 87th Division. At some point, when the 87th was ordered to France, they split off the 162nd, as an independent unit, under direct command of Camp Pike. During that time, they were used as a reciving unit for new recruits, and also used for training replacement troops for the A.E.F.

  • Morgan Cottle

    While cleaning out my basement I found a WW I helmet, that has a country scene painted on it. On the front is painted “87th” with an acorn. The story I remember from my father is that it was his father’s, and he had a POW paint the scene for him, The scene includes a windmill and country setting. I have a photo of the helmet and would love to share it with anyone. The marks on the inside of the brim are ZE59.
    Morgan

    • sgtmac67

      Look again and see if the marking you say is ZE, could be a Swastika. The 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment, 2nd Army, AEF, used this symbol to denote their unit. Check this link-http://www.snyderstreasures.com/pages/wwihelmets.htm

      • sgtmac67

        Found some other info on two different sites. The WW I Helmets are known as “Brodies,” which were manufactured in Britain. “Z” denoted the helmet as American “E” was the steel supplier ,and the number was the steel batch number ;)

  • Carter

    My grandpa’s Legion marker says PFC Co B; 87th Infantry WWI. Vernie Carter from Nichols Ia. That’s all I know about his time in the service.

  • Jake Powers

    My Great Grandfather, Nicholas J Ligday served in the 346th. He was from Minnesota as were a number of the men. Fortunately he saved everything from the war and it is quite a wealth of information.

  • Thomas O'Neil

    My grand uncle, Henry James O’Neil was in the 312th Engineers, 87th Dividion in WWI. According to a headstone marker application he was a “horseshoer”. The family story is that he took care of the tack and horse for General Pershing.

  • dan stafford

    my grandfather served in 162 depot brigade,in june 5 1917,he was drafted and sent to camp pike in little rock.after his service he was honorable discharged in nov 11 1918,he could not work in the coal mines after coming home to Hackett ark.his health was.i just come back going bad.he married my grandma in 1919 sept,she passed away in 1926,he tried to take care of my father and 1 brother,2 sisters until he passed in 1934.my father at 10yrs old went a orphanage,others went to farms to work,they were older.he layed in a unmarked grave until a petition from a family member got a headstone from little rock in 1934.his name is charley L. Stafford hes buried in mount pleasant cemetery.i don’t know what he did in ww1.but he had to see things not to be able to breath right in his 30s.thank god and America for getting pride and his grave marked.i just got back from visitin his grave 7-15-13 from siloam sprgs.my father didn’t know anything about his father being in an orphanage.my fathers name was Charles L. Stafford they both served ther country in both world wars.i dan Stafford was a marine in 1969.im very proud both of them and America.

  • Joseph J Carter

    Just found War Dept Form 623 “Application for Headstone” for my grandfather, Edmund J. Logue. He registered in Newark NJ in first draft of Sept 1917, and served in Co D, 153rd Depot Bde, and then Co M, 348th Inf Rgt, 174th Inf Bde of the 87th Div from 27May18 to 22Mar19. My mother said that he buried the dead for his entire time in France. Died in Lyons VA hospital in 1936.

    • Byron

      Joseph, thank you for the story of your grandfather.

      • John Emerson

        My grandfather was with the 87th in WW 1, he was with the 334 FA and that all I know about his military service. His name was Leo F. Coleman. He died in 1955 when I was 7yrs old.. John Emerson…

    • Pamela

      My grandfather, Andrew Babinchak, was also in Co M, 348th Inf Rgt. He was a Bugler. He was 23, He was also deployed those dates. Do you know anything about their movement during those dates of deployment you mentioned?

      • Byron

        I know only what is in the document I quoted above.

      • Joseph J Carter

        Pamela,
        I only can relate what my mother told me about her father’s service. She said that he dug graves for the entire time that he was in France. This would have been in keeping with the assignment of the 87th Division to Service of Supply as a labor pool. A very good article about duties in Service of Supply is on-line at: http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/freidel.htm The entire division was scattered throughout France between the ports upto the rear eschelon, assigned to duties that kept the fighting units supplied with food, clothing, ammunition, medicine, etc. The only document that NARA could provide was a copy of the final (mustering out) pay statement of the company at Camp Dix NJ dated 22 March 1919. My copy only covers last names beginning with “G” to “L”. All men (privates) on the form were from New Jersey.

  • Marie Higgins Ippolito

    My great uncle, Bernard Higgins, was assigned to this unit at Fort Dix, NJ on July 20, 1918. He arrived in France on September 6, 1918 and was in a hospital in St. Loubes on October 24, 1918. He was assigned to Company C of the 312 Engineers 87th Division. He returned home to NJ on the Dakotan on June 5, 1919 in Philadelphia, PA. There are no military records to indicate how he was injured but he died with a metal plate in his head at a VA hospital in 1934.

    • Byron

      Marie,

      Thanks for sharing the story of your great uncle. Even though the official record said the 87th didn’t see combat, just being part of the whole war effort can be dangerous. I’d bet that as an engineer, your great uncle saw more than his fair share of accidents or other dangerous moments. Perhaps that how he was wounded himself. Alas, because of the 1973 fire at NARA, we may never know what really happened — 80% of the Army’s records from 1 November 1912 to 1 January 1960 were destroyed. It’s up to sites like yours and mine to keep the memories alive.

      Byron

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