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World War I

 

Between duty on the Mexican Border and service in World War 1, the Michigan National Guard was expanded by the War Department. The two cavalry troops were increased to a squadron of four troops. The engineer company became a battalion of three companies. The signal company was increased to a battalion of two companies, and a brigade headquarters company was added to the Infantry Brigade. The First Michigan Field Artillery was also increased to a battalion.

 

One company of engineers was called into federal service in May 1917, while the balance of the units were called on July 15,1917 and drafted August 5. The engineer company was included in this draft.

 

Mobilized at their home stations, the troops first went to Camp Grayling and than began moving to Camp McArthur, El Paso, Texas in early August. The 33rd Infantry was relieved from its guard duty and garrison duties and was also sent to Texas in late 1917. The only Michigan unit not sent to Camp McArthur was the First Michigan Ambulance Company, which was sent to Camp Mills, N.Y., where it was incorporated into the 42nd (Rainbow) Division as Michigan's representative.

 

32nd Infantry Division (Red Arrow)

 

32nd Infantry Division flag The Michigan Guard merged with members of the Wisconsin Guard to form the 32nd Infantry Division on July 18, 1917, with Michigan furnishing 8,000 troops of all arms. The 32nd was to write many glorious pages in American history in both world wars and become known world-wide as one of American's toughest fighting units.

 

The 63rd Infantry Brigade was formed of Michigan infantry. The 33rd Michigan Infantry, with the exception of one company, and five companies of the 31st formed the 125th Infantry. The entire 32nd and five companies of the 31st formed the 126th Infantry. The surplus companies of the Michigan Infantry Brigade formed the 120th Machine Gun Battalion, and the Headquarters and Supply Companies, 31st Michigan Infantry, went to the 119th Field Artillery.

 

The Michigan Artillery Battalion and Cavalry Squadron furnished most of the personnel for the 119th Field Artillery. The Michigan Engineer Battalion combined with the Wisconsin Engineer Battalion to form the 107th Engineers.

The First Michigan Field Signal Battalion and the First Wisconsin Field Signal Battalion formed the 107th Field Signal Battalion. Michigan Field Hospital No. 1 and Michigan Ambulance Company No. 2 formed part of the 107th Sanitary Train.

 

Thus, the designation of U.S. volunteer military units by their state names passed into history as they were never used again, except in ceremonial forms. For example, the 1225th Corps Support Battalion, successor of the 1st Battalion, 225th Infantry of Detroit, still uses the ceremonial name "The Detroit Light Guard."

 

"Over There"

 

The 32nd arrived in France in February 1918 and was the sixth division to join the Allied Expeditionary Force. Its units were the first American troops to set foot on German soil--in Alsace in May 1918. Advancing 19 kilometers in seven days, it captured Fismes in the Marne offensive. As the only American unit in General Mangin's famous 10th French Army, it fought in the Oise-Aisne offensive and helped break the German line which protected the Chemin de Dames.

 

Fighting continuously for 20-days and twice in the line in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the 32nd penetrated the Kriemhilde Stellung, crossed the Meuse and drove to the flank Metz.

 

National Guardsmen on the attack, France, 1918As the front line element of the Third U.S. Army, soldiers of the 32nd marched 300 kilometers to the Rhine and occupied the center sector in the Colbenz bridgehead for four months, holding 63 towns and 400 square kilometers of territory. From May to November 1918, they were under fire and were allowed only 10 days in rest areas.

 

In three major offensives, the 32nd fought on five fronts, participating in the Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne and Meuse-Argonne offensives. Meeting and defeating 23 German divisions from which 2,153 prisoners were taken, the 32nd gained 38 kilometers in four attacks and repulsed every enemy counterattack.

 

Since much of the fighting on the Western Front for years took place over the same 5-10 kilometers of ground, with neither side being able to break the line of the other, it was a remarkable feat for the young Americans. The division was still in action east of the Meuse when the Armistice was finally signed.

 

The 32nd paid heavily for its victories. It suffered 14,000 casualties from all causes and was third in the number of battle deaths of any division in the Army.

 

The shoulder insignia worn by its soldiers--a Red Arrow--signifies that the division shot through every line the enemy threw before it. The French, high in their praise of the 32nd's accomplishments, gave it the name of "Les Terribles." More than 800 officers and enlisted men were decorated by the American, French, and Belgian governments.

 

The colors of all four infantry regiments, three artillery regiments, and three machine gun battalions received the Croix de Guerre of the Republic of France, while every flag and standard in the division was authorized four American battle streamers.

 

During the war, Maj. Gen. William G. Haan commanded the 32nd. While serving with the Army of Occupation in Germany, the division was commanded by Maj. Gen. William Lassiter. It left Germany in April 1919 and was demobilized in May 1919, thus bringing to a close a glorious page in American and Michigan military history.