A brief outline of North Carolinians in the Great War
92,000 North Carolinians in the khaki of the army and the blue of the
navy were in America's first line of defense against German aggression.
And what were the penalties exacted of these 92,000 North Carolinians
who served their country?
Six hundred and forty-eight were killed out-right on the field of battle.
Many others died of their wounds. Four thousand eight hundred and twelve
North Carolinians were killed or wounded in battle.
And in addition to that, 1,961 North Carolinians died from various causes
while in service--a total casualty list of 6,773 North Carolinians.
One out of every fifteen (15) North Carolinians who donned the khaki of
the army or the blue of the navy, came not home again or came broken in
body or mind. Truly, North Carolinians, in the few short months that
America was on the battle line must have been in the "focal and the
The official records bring out a pleasing fact about the North Carolinians
who volunteered or were called for service. Over 65% of the North Carolinians
examined were found physically fit for the strenuous and arduous duties
of active service. This was a higher percentage than any of our adjoining
states--South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee or Virginia. It shows a better
physical manhood than Pennsylvania, New York or any New England State. It
was only exceeded by Kentucky and some of the middle western states.
Most naturally people ask, in what organizations did the North Carolinians
serve? Until the World War, the United States always went into war by
states. The troops were composed of men from a state and were known and
designated as State Troops. Thus, in the Spanish-American War, the troops
who first entered Havana, Cuba, were North Carolinians who were known
and designated as the 1st North Carolina Infantry.
In the World War, this system was changed and for the first time in its
history the United States went to war as a nation. State lines were
disregarded and units were no longer designated as State Troops
There were three distinct sources which furnished the soldiers in the World
War--the regular army, the national guard, and the national army or men
chosen by lot or draft for service. The national guard units were taken
into service as a unit but their designation was changed and their ranks
filled with volunteers or men chosen by lot. Thus, the 3rd North Carolina
Infantry, with whom I had the honor to serve, was inducted into service
of the United States and was thereafter known as the 120th Infantry of
the 30th Division. The ranks of this unit were filled with men from
So we may say that there were no units or organizations in the World War
composed exclusively of North Carolinians, and very, very few, in which
North Carolinians formed a majority in the organization.
THE 30TH DIVISION "Old Hickory"
The bulk of the 30th Division was composed of National Guardsmen from
North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, many of whom had seen
service in 1916 on the Mexican border. They were trained at Camp Sevier,
near Greenville, S. C., and were sent to France in May, 1918.
Two of the four regiments of infantry, the 119th and 120th Infantry,
the 113th Field Artillery and the 105th Engineers, in this division,
were largely North Carolinians--in fact decidedly more than a majority
were North Carolinians.
Upon arrival in France, the artillery was detached and sent to the south
as part of the American Army and took part in the Meuse-Argonne battle.
It did not rejoin the division until after the Armistice. The rest of
the division became a part of the British Army. The 27th American Division,
from New York, was the only other American Division placed with the
The 30th Division first went into line near Ypres, Belgium--or Wipers,
as the British called it. Here the 30th had its first battle, capturing
the Belgian town of Voormezele, north of Mt. Kemmel, and pushing the
Germans back from Ypres.
Proudly now may North Carolina write on her banner, "29th September,
1918. The first to cross the Hindenburg Line. Bellicourt and San Quentin
During the war, the 30th Division advanced a total of about 20 miles over
German opposition, captured 3,848 prisoners and had 11,000 men killed or
wounded or many over one-third of its total.
Curious things during the War
There was one North Carolinian in the attack on the 29th of September who
had a mania for collecting souvenirs. As soon as the attack started he
threw away his rifle and away he went hunting for German helmets. Amid
the most terrific artillery and machine gun fire, with men falling all
around him, he dashed over the field picking up German helmets and German
Ludger pistols and other souvenirs. Can you imagine it? That night he
came staggering up to the company, completely exhausted, loaded down with
all kinds of souvenirs of the battle.
Another North Carolinian, a sergeant and two men, got completely lost in
the mist. They cannot tell in which direction the attack is going, in
which direction the German lines are or in which direction the American
lines. As they are wandering around, they suddenly spy about seven Germans
in a trench. The Germans see them about the same time. Both are equally
surprised. The Germans threw their hands up in the air and commence yelling,
"Kamerad," "Kamerad." The sergeant goes over to them and accepts their
surrender. Then from nearby dugouts Germans pour out until 144 Germans
have surrendered to these three North Carolinians. The sergeant makes
the Germans guide him back to the American lines and proudly marches in
with his 144 prisoners of war.
THE 81ST DIVISION "Wildcats"
There was another American Division equally as gallant, the 81st or Wildcat
Division. This was a National Army Division recruited principally from
North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. A large percentage
of this division was, at all times, from North Carolina.
The 81st Division was trained at Camp Jackson, near Columbia, South Carolina.
While at Camp Jackson it was noted throughout the army for the smart
appearance of its men, its efficiency, its splendid drills and excellent
discipline. It was held up to other divisions as one of the model divisions.
It was sent to France in August, 1918, and after only a month's training
in France, it was placed in the front lines in the Vosges Mountains as part
of the 33rd French Corps. It held these trenches for a month, during which
time serious raids were attempted by the Germans, and each time gallantly
On the 19th of October this division was withdrawn from the trenches in
the Vosges and became a part of the American Army. It was moved towards
On the 6th of November it replaced the 35th American Division in the front
ENGINEER TRAIN OF THE 42ND DIVISION
The 42nd or Rainbow Division was one of the first divisions to be sent to
France. It was composed of National Guard Units from many different states
and was called the Rainbow Division on account of the many states from
which it was drawn. And in the opinion of many, was the best fighting body
of troops in the American Army. The State of North Carolina furnished the
Engineer Train of this division, which remained as a unit throughout their
entire service, and North Carolina can well be proud of their service.
Among the North Carolinians who won fame in the air might be mentioned:
Kiffin Rockwell; James McConnell, in whose honor a monument has been
erected at Carthage, N. C.; James Baughman, of Washington, N. C.; Arthur
Bluethenthal, of Wilmington, and Allan Blount, of Goldsboro.
Two Hospital Units furnished by North Carolina were especially noted for
their efficiency and for the services they rendered to their comrades--
Base Hospital No. 69, under the command of Dr. Lawrence, of Winston-Salem,
N. C., and Base Hospital No. 0, under the command of Dr. Brenizer, of
Charlotte, N. C.
THE WOMEN OF NORTH CAROLINA
As to the women of North Carolina, who joined the Canteen, the Red Cross and
other allied organizations, who cheered our soldiers at home and abroad,
and as to the women of North Carolina, who ministered to the sick, the
wounded and the dying, there can be no praise too high. Many sacrificed
their health and others their lives.
The Congress of the United States for acts of extraordinary bravery outside
of the line of duty grants by a special act of Congress, a medal called the
Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest honor an American soldier
can win. It may be compared to the Victoria Cross of the British.
A North Carolina farmer boy, from Person County, who was killed in action,
was awarded this Congressional Medal of Honor. His name was Robert L.
The next highest honor which can come to an American soldier is to be
awarded the Distinguished Service Cross--the D. S. C., as the soldiers
usually call it. Over 200 D. S. C.'s were awarded to North Carolinians.
And while their sons, brothers and fathers were worthily upholding the
traditions of their Tar Heel ancestors on the bloody fields of France
and Belgium, the people at home were also nobly doing their part.
The World War cost the United States over $1,000,000 for each and every
hour she was a participant. As the cost of warring began to mount, the
United States called on the citizens of the various states to buy Liberty
Bonds and War Savings Stamps to help finance the struggle.
The citizens of North Carolina were asked to buy $150,000,000 of Liberty
Bonds and War Savings Stamps. They responded by buying $160,000,000, or
$10,000,000 more than the Government asked them to buy.
Then the Government stated that food would win the war, and our North
Carolina men, women and children cheerfully observed every request to
save food and promptly obeyed all requests for heatless and meatless
Three North Carolinians were in important positions in the United States
Government during the war. Representing the United States at the Court
of St. James was Walter Page, Ambassador to Great Britain. As
Commander-in-Chief of the greatest navy which has ever flown the American
Flag was Josephus Daniels. And as Chairman of the War Finance Corporation
was Angus Wilton McLean, of Lumberton. They deserve well of their country
for the valuable services they rendered.
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