World War I - 100 years ago

Secret move of the 77th Division from Long Island was not so secret in 1918

77th Division Trains with British  in World War 1

Courtesy Photo | Soldiers of the 77th Division's Company G, 2nd Battalion, 308th Infantry Regiment... read more



Story by Eric Durr 

New York National Guard  


YPAHANK, N.Y.--The move from Camp Upton, Long Island to France was supposed to be secret, but when the U.S. Army’s 77th Division left in March and April 1918, everybody in New York City-- the hometown for most of the 23,000 men-- seemed to know about it.

“Although the troops invariably left camp at night or very early in the morning, the racket the men made was quite indicative that a departure was in progress,” the New York Times reported in June of 1918, after the Army officially announced the division was in France.

“They made great fires of waste straw from mattresses and shouted and sang until they boarded the trains. The men had liberal furloughs just before they sailed and they were allowed to have their relatives visit them even on the days they were to leave,” the Times reported.

The division’s official history, published in 1919, also admitted that the operations security was not the best.

“Although the departure of the Division had been kept secret, New York seemed to know intuitively that her Division was on its way. The office buildings were alive with waving hand-kerchiefs, and thousands of whistles sounded their blatant greetings,” according to the “History of the Seventy Seventh Division, August 25th 1917, and November 11th 1918.”

The 77th Division was the New York City division. The New York National Guard’s 27th Division represented the whole state, with “apple knockers” from Albany and men from Utica and Syracuse and Buffalo making up the bulk of the division.

The National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment and 15th Infantry Regiment – better known as the 369th Harlem Hell Fighters—did come from New York City, but they were units of 3,500 men each and they had left earlier.

The 77th Division’s 23,000 Soldiers were recruited through the draft. The division was part of the “National Army,” which did not have roots in the Regular Army or the National Guard.

The 77th was the first National Army division to be sent to France, in the wake of Regular Army and National Guard divisions which had been arriving since the fall of 1917.

“The men who formed it were from all classes of life, from peddlers and laborers to professional men and sons of the rich,” according to the New York Times. “But within a short time the fifty nationalities represented were melted into a solid corps of American soldiers with racial distinction eliminated.”

The division’s Soldiers supposedly represented 50 nationalities and spoke 43 languages along with English.

From Camp Upton, divisional units moved to New York City, Boston, Brooklyn, Hoboken, New Jersey, and Portland, Maine to board troopships heading for France and Great Britain.

The first elements left March 27. The bulk of the division’s four infantry regiments moved out by April 16. Men put signs on their barracks announcing they were “for rent for the summer. Owner touring Europe,” the New York Times reported. 

Three Soldiers in the 305th Infantry Regiment got married at midnight just before the unit departed, according to the Times. A train carrying part of the 305th derailed on the way to the port and three men were killed and 30 injured.

The first wave of troop ships assembled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before heading to Liverpool, England in a massive troop convoy. The Soldiers landed there after two weeks at sea at the end of April and were then ferried from Dover to Calais.

The rest of the division—the artillery and support troops—sailed later and landed directly in the French ports of St. Nazaire and Brest in early May.
Most Soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force – the name for the U.S. Army in France—landed in St. Nazaire and trained with the French Army. The 77th was one of five American divisions which deployed behind the British Army in northern France.

The American Soldiers were shocked when they were told to turn in their American-made 1903 Springfield rifles for the British Lee- Enfield rifle and began eating British Army rations. 

That meant, according to the division history, “tea and jam for breakfast; jam, tea, and meat for dinner, and jam, tea and cheese for supper.”

The Americans, according to the history, went looking in French shops for additional food, and prices soared when French shop keepers learned Americans were paid $1.10 per day.

The 77th and four other divisions—including the New York National Guard’s 27th Division—trained with the British and deployed behind the British Army in order to take advantage of every vacant training area in France, Army officials said at the time. 

Another reason, according to the book “The AEF Way of War: The American Army and Combat in World War I” was a commitment to help the British Army, which had been hit hard by the German “Kaiser Offensive” in March 1918.

Worried about the arrival of one million American Soldiers on the battlefields of France, the Germans launched a last ditch attempt to defeat the British and French. The American Divisions were there in case they had to backstop the British.

But the German offensive ran out of steam and only two of these divisions—including the 27th—fought with the British.

But the New Yorkers learned the British way of trench warfare from soldiers of the British 39th Division. They learned British Army bayonet drill and how to use British machine guns instead of the French machines guns the rest of the AEF used.

Video on the National Archives Youtube channel –seen here at: -- records the Soldiers of the 77th Division training with the 39th Division. 

The American Soldiers also visited the British front lines in small groups, where they were “most impressed by the vast amount of shelling” according to the “AEF Way of War.”

But while the AEF leadership appreciated the British bayonet training, they were not as impressed by the British trench warfare combat drills the 77th Division learned. 

The goal of the American leadership was to break out of the trenches and begin “open warfare” in order to defeat the German Army as soon as possible. The 77th Division would have to unlearn some of the British lessons in June 1918, when they were brought back home to the AEF in June 1918 and sent to the front, the first National Army division to see combat.

The New York City troops would find a welcome friend when the 77th Division entered combat. It replaced the National Guard’s 42nd Infantry “Rainbow” Division near Baccarat, France in June 1918 which included the New York City Irishmen of the 165th Infantry, the new name of the famous “Fighting 69th”.

But the American Army’s operational security was still shaky. As the 77th moved in, German observation balloons across no-man’s land displayed signs saying “Good-bye, 42nd Division- Hello, 77th Division."

On June 24th, 1918, the Germans started their real welcome for the New York City division by shelling the new troops with mustard and phosgene gas. The enemy fired approximately 3,000 rounds, resulting in 180 casualties, about 100 of which were severe.

The New Yorkers were now in the fight.

During the World War I centennial observance the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will be issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers based on information provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.

Korean/Vietnam War Exhibit

A display case from our recent "Vietnam Reconsidered" presentation a few weeks ago.  Planning, designing and procurement is well underway for  our upcoming Korean/Vietnam War exhibit.  We hope to start actual construction of this exhibit this summer, with unveiling late summer, early fall.   Stay tuned for further details in the coming weeks.

Can you identify these individuals?

Stan Dube's
World War Two Sketches

These sketches provided by Ira Dube of U.S. Army 27th Infantry Division soldiers were among more than a dozen done by his father, Stan Dube, during World War II. Ira Dube, found them stashed in the attic of his sister’s home. Now Ira Dube is hoping to identify the men, so he has donated 15 sketches to the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs.

The museum's web site address to view these sketches is:


If you can identify any of these men please contact:
Mark Koziol
(518) 581-5101
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Dube Sketch 1 Dube Sketch 2
Dube sketch 3 Dube sketch 4
Dube sketch 5 Dube sketch 6
Dube sketch 7 Dube sketch 8
Dube sketch 9 Dube sketch 10
Dube sketch 11 Dube sketch 12
Dube sketch 13 Dube sketch 14
Dube sketch 15




New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History 

In 1917, 42nd Division Guard Soldiers celebrated Christmas, then faced "Valley Forge Hike"

In this photograph from the book "the Story of the Rainbow Division" Missouri National Guard Soldiers of the 117th Field Signal Battalion of the 42nd Division make their way through the snowy French countryside during December 1917 in what became known as the "Valley Forge Hike". The troops marched 100 kilometers in the snow from the Vaucouleurs to Rolampont France.


In December of 1917 the National Guard Soldiers of the 42nd Division were all in France, waiting for training in the trench warfare that marked World War I in Europe.

The division's 27,000 troops had started moving from Camp Albert Mills on Long Island to France in October. The last elements of the 26-state division--the 168th Infantry Regiment from Iowa-- had reached France at the end of November.

The 42nd Division had been formed by taking National Guard units from 26 states and combining them into a division that stretched across the country "like a rainbow" in the words of the division chief of staff, Colonel Douglas MacArthur.

The largest elements were four regiments from Ohio, Iowa, Alabama and New York organized in two brigades of two regiments and supporting units. 

The New York National Guard's 69th Infantry, renowned as the "Fighting 69th" had been renamed the 165th Infantry.

By Christmas 1917 the division's elements were located in a number of villages northeast of the city of Chaumont, about 190 miles east of Paris. The men had hiked there from Vaucouleurs where they had originally been deposited by train.

The 165th Infantry celebrated Christmas 1917 in the village of Grand. Father Francis Duffy, the regiment's famous chaplain, celebrated a joint American-French mass on Christmas event.

According to Sgt. Joyce Kilmer, a poet, and editor, "the regimental colors were in the chancel, flanked by the tri-color. The 69th was present, and some French soldier-violinists. A choir of French woman sang hymns in their own language, the American Soldiers sang a few in English, and French and American joined in the universal Latin of "Venite, Adoremus Dominum."

On Christmas Day the men ate turkey, chicken, carrots, cranberries, mashed potatoes, bread pudding, nuts, figs and coffee. The Army, wrote Corporal Martin Hogan "was a first rate caterer."

The 168th Infantry, from the Iowa National Guard, hosted 400 French children at a Christmas celebration in the village of Rimaucourt. Two American Soldiers dressed like Santa Claus gave presents to the French children and a French band played the Star Spangled Banner. The kids received dolls, horns and balloons, recalled Lt. Hugh S. Thompson in his book "Trench Knives and Mustard Gas." 

The 168th didn't eat as well as the 165th on Christmas day, according to Thompson. "Scrawny turkeys and a few nuts were added to the usual rough menu" he recalled.

The 166th Infantry from the Ohio National Guard, was reviewed by General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force just before Christmas. On Christmas they enjoyed music from the regimental band and a good meal.

While Christmas 1917 was a good one for most Soldiers of the Rainbow Division the next week went down in the division's memory as "The Valley Forge Hike."

It was 30 to 40 miles from where the division's troops had celebrated Christmas to the town of Rolampont, where the U.S. Army's Seventh Training Area, had been established.   121917.

Today you can drive the route in an hour. In 1917 it took the Soldiers four days to get there.
The march was miserable, according to the 1919 book "The Story of the Rainbow Division."

The Soldiers had "scarcely any shoes except what they had on their feet, there was no surplus supply to speak of. Some of the men had no overcoats."

The Soldiers walked into a mountain snowstorm. In some places the snow was three to four feet deep. Soldier's shoes wore out. Some marched almost barefoot and there were bloody trails in the snow.

Lt. Thompson recalled that the men in his unit were issued hobnailed boot: the soles were held by heavy nails. The problem, he said, was that the nails got cold and the men's feet froze too.

"Bleak expanses of icey geography appeared and vanished in monotonous fields between villages," he recalled. "Legs ached, pack straps cut into shoulders, unmercifully men fell out, exhausted."

At night the men huddled in the barns and haylofts of the French villages to keep warm. 

The mule and horse drawn supply wagons got stuck on the icy roads and men had to move their best animals from wagon to wagon to get them unstuck, Father Duffy recalled. 

For three days the men in the 165th Infantry Regiment's Third battalion had no food, according to Kilmer, and when rations caught up to the men they got coffee and a bacon sandwich, or a raw potatoes and bread.

"The hike made Napoleon's retreat from Moscow look like a Fifth Avenue Parade," one New York officer remembered later.

"The men plowed over the hills and thru the snow, enduring hardships which are not pleasant to remember," wrote Reppy Alison, the author of a book about the 1st Battalion 166th Infantry.

Medics reported cases of mumps and pneumonia as the temperatures dropped below zero. Hundreds of men fell out-- 700 at least and 200 of the New Yorkers--but most made it to Rolampont.

As the 165th Infantry arrived, the regimental band struck up "In the Good old Summertime".

By New Year's Day the division's elements had arrived in Rolampont, and along with a new year they got a new commander. 

Major General William Mann, the former head of the Militia Bureau, the equivalent of today's Chief of the National Guard Bureau, had taken command of the division at Camp Mills. 

But Mann, who was 63 in 1917, couldn't meet the physical standards for officer laid down by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

He was replaced by 55-year old Brig. Gen. Charles T. Menoher.

As 1918 began Menoher and the Soldiers of the Rainbow division began gearing up to go to go into the trenches.   121917.

World War I and the New York National Guard

New York National Guard in World War I  - Centennial News

NEW YORK -- Before they walked down the gangplank onto French soil in April 1918; 25,000 New York National Guard Soldiers walked down Fifth Avenue in August 1917 so New York City could say goodbye.

On August 30, 1917, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers lined a five mile route from 110th Street to the Washington Square Arch as the 27th Infantry Division paraded down the street.

There were so many marching Soldiers, the New York Times reported, that it took five hours for the parade to pass by. After being federalized on July 15, 1917 New York Army National Guard members remained at their armories, being issued equipment, undergoing medical checks, shoeing mules, and beginning to train for war.

The units also continued final recruiting efforts to bring their companies and regiments up to full strength. Local men were urged to go to war with their friends and neighbors instead of waiting to be drafted or enlisting in the Regular Army.

In Saratoga Springs, for example, Louis Dominick decided to join the local National Guard company at the last minute instead of enlisting the "depot company" the Army had established for the county. Dominick's decision meant the regular Army recruiters were now one short of their goal of 50 Soldiers for the county, the "Saratogian" newspaper reported. While the Regular Army officers who were orchestrating mobilization wanted the Soldiers to move into field camps quickly, the New York National Guard argued that it made more sense to use its armories for the mobilization process instead.

"These measures could be taken in a much more efficient manner in the great armories of New York State than they could in open fields, while commands were endeavoring to make camp with ranks augmented by many recruits and without military property adequate for their strength," Major General John F. O'Ryan, the 27th Infantry Division commander, wrote after the war Initially, O'Ryan was told that his division-destined to be known as the 27th Division but still being called the 6th Division by the Army-would be training at Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, South Carolina and was slated to move in early August.

With this early August departure date in mind, New York City's movers and shakers began planning for a big farewell parade. Initially the parade was set for Thursday, August 9, 1917. But on August 6, the division learned that Camp Wadsworth wasn't ready yet. The big parade was put off.

"If we lined the sidewalks of New York with the relatives of the Soldiers –mothers, sisters and so forth, all crying and bidding goodbye to the boys-then the troops remained here for a week, maybe two weeks, the whole big impressive parade would become ridiculous," New York City Mayor John Mitchell, told the New York Times.

The delay in moving south was probably a good thing, the New York Times also reported, since the Soldiers of the 27th Division were still short of equipment and the units needed to be consolidated. The men of the 71st Infantry Regiment, for example, were spread out in small elements over 700 square miles of upstate New York, the Times reported. It would take 30 hours to concentrate the unit, the paper said.

On August 23, O'Ryan was informed that the division would move south beginning in early September and the big parade in New York City was back on again. Only now the festivities would include a dinner for 24,000 New York National Guardsmen as well.  Regiments from upstate New York were moved down to Van Cortland Park. Other regiments camped at Pelham Bay Park, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Three coastal defense regiments – Soldiers trained to man the forts that still protected New York City in 1917-were on duty there.

On August 28, Mayor Mitchell hosted a dinner at the Hotel Biltmore for O'Ryan, his division staff, and unit commanders. On August 29, a committee of 100 Prominent Women played hostess at the camps around the city as the rest of the New York National Guard troops enjoyed "farewell rallies around feast laden boards," in the words of a New York Times reporter.

"Only a town like the City of New York could seriously undertake a hospitality of such magnitude," O'Ryan wrote.

The big parade kicked off at 10 a.m. on August 30. Members of Soldiers families were given a special pass that allowed them access to the west side of Fifth Avenue from 110th Street south to 59th Street. Locations at the Plaza Hotel, the Pulitzer Memorial, and Madison Square were also reserved for Soldiers families. Each Soldier got four passes for his family members. The New York Police Department was geared up to handle an expected two million spectators with 4,000 officers under the command of nine inspectors stationed along the parade route. Chief Inspector James Dillon, the officer in charge of the parade, issued an order forbidding the public from using "boxes, barrels, chairs, campstools or settees of any kind" while watching the parade. The Police Department Band led the parade, which allowed all the regimental bands to march with their parent organization.

First in line was the 22nd Engineer Regiment. The regiment's A Company had already been ordered to Yaphank on Long Island to build a camp which would eventually be occupied by the newly formed 77th Infantry Division. Its D Company was already in South Carolina helping to finish Camp Wadsworth. The rest of the regiment was due to get on a train after the troops marched past the reviewing stand at the Union League Club, and head south to help finish up construction of the post.

At the reviewing stand Mayor Mitchell, former President Teddy Roosevelt, and other state and local dignitaries waved and greeted the troops.

The marching troops remembered cheering crowds, with people waving flags and shouting themselves horse, while "bombarding" the troops with "candy, chewing gum and all kinds of fruits, cigars and cigarettes."

Most of the troops in the parade finished their march and went back to camp to wait for their turn to go to Spartanburg. The men of the 102nd Ammunition Train, for example, finished up marching in late afternoon and then boarding an elevated train to head back to camp.

A New York Times writer called the parade: "A thrilling, stirring sight!" "File upon file, hour after hour, of well-set, clear-eyed, determined men, some young and yet to be hardened in training camps, others, and many of them, made fit already by experience to take up their final training in the fields and trenches behind the battle lines in France," the New York Times said. "We have never faced such a war as this, we have never had such an Army as we now have in the making," the Times added.

For the next couple of weeks, the big parade of August 30 was replicated several more times on a smaller scale as individual regiments left New York for Spartanburg. The 7th Regiment's march to the train station on Sept, 11, 2017, for example, even included a second march past the Union Club for a sendoff by New York City's great and good.

With the parade and send offs behind them, the Soldiers of the 27th Division adapted to their new home in South Carolina and began to learn the art of soldiering in the 20th Century. There would be much hard fighting in France ahead in 1918.

During the World War I centennial observance the Division of Military and Naval Affairs will issue press releases noting key dates which impacted New Yorkers based on information provided by the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. More than 400,000 New Yorkers served in the military during World War I, more than any other state.


Story by Eric Durr 
New York National Guard

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