Sunday, December 13, 2015

Background on the book From Vaquois Hill to Exermont

author W.L. Sanders, WWI
The 138th Regiment, 35th Division was formed by combining the 1st + 5th Missouri Nat. Guard Regiments.  Both were recruited, in the main, from the St. Louis, Mo. metropolitan area.  The 1st was an old established outfit.  The 5th was organized after the start of WWI.

Brother Tom enlisted in Company A, 1st Mo. Regiment in April 1917.  He was "Killed in Action" Sept. 28, 1918 at age 25.  Brother John enlisted in Co. K, 5th Reg. in late August, 1917 at age 19+.  Soon after his arrival overseas he was hospitalized in an English hospital with a form of Rheumatism (Note: In his  earlier teens he had suffered from this ailment). However, he participated in all the action in which his outfit was engaged.  After the Argonne battle, he was assigned to battalion intelligence.  At one time, he told me he was one of a detail assigned to cut the barbed wired in front of the lines before the Sept. 26 advance.  After the armistice, he was hospitalized and came home on the USS N. Carolina.  He was discharged as a total disability with a heart ailment that eventually caused his death at age 47.

From reading the book [From Vaquois Hill to Exermont, James E. Rieger, 1919], the chief of staff's report and from other reliable sources, it is evident that the 35th Division had excessive casualties.  It is also fairly clear that the Div. was definitely underofficered and suffered from poor leadership.  Any success achieved seems to have been the result of individual effort with little competent direction from on high.

It is also fairly evident that the Division was not adequately "battle hardened" for such a tough assignment as the Argonne drive.

From the evidence I have been able to come up with the Div. received this assignment because of their proximity to the site and because of the difficulty in getting nine Division into ["line" ?] + 3 Division into support on short notice following the St. Michel offense[ive].

The normal procedure was to ease the new Divisions along more gradually.

[signed "W.L. Sanders"]


The author is my Great-Uncle William "Bill" Sanders.  Uncle Bill served in both the First and Second World Wars.  He volunteered both times; for WWI he was an enlisted infantryman; in WWII he was a Lt. in the Navy, serving as a Seabee in the Pacific theater.  He was 42 years of age.  This little text was discovered in his copy of  From Vaquois Hill to Exermont.  I have reproduced it here, respecting his text to the letter as much as possible.


  1. Brave men and a nice photo. Where was the photo taken?

    1. I'm not sure, Luis. It may have been in Missouri.

  2. "It is also fairly clear that the Div. was definitely underofficered and suffered from poor leadership. Any success achieved seems to have been the result of individual effort with little competent direction from on high."

    Interesting to read this analysis from someone who served.

    Also, have to say that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. You seem to have inherited an interest in (and knack at) history, as well as a sympathy for the man in the trenches, Daurade.

    Thanks for sharing this personal history.

    1. I'd like to transcribe his WW2 service record as well. Not very exciting but interesting.

      As for falling apples, did I ever mention the great-aunt who published "Fog phantoms & other poems" in 1934? My great-grandfather was also an amateur poet.

      As I learned more about my genealogy, I found that so many of my ancestors were involved in the church or worked in education. Even my dad's generation includes a college professor and a Smithsonian librarian. So yeah, I've definitely got the Adkins family genes in that regard. Not that I'm in any way a churchgoer, but obviously, religion is on of my interests. My father's career in the military is really an exception, though I think an Adkins has been in every major US war back to and including the Revolution: Vietnam, Korea, WW2, WW1, Spanish American War, Civil War.....I would have been the Iraq generation. Did I ever tell you I took the tests to join the Army when my dad died so I could pay for my schooling, but as it turns out, insurance paid it and in any event, I couldn't pass the physical due to my history of asthma.....


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