After the Armistice, the 353rd ‘All Kansas’ Infantry Regiment, of the 89th ‘Rolling W’ Division, spent nearly five tiresome months on occupation duty along the Rhine River near Coblenz, Germany. In case you need to brush up on the story of the 353rd Infantry, you can start by clicking here.
Gen. Pershing selected his ‘go-to’ divisions for this assignment and the 89th was one of the two ‘draftee’ divisions that he included in the force. Eventually the 353rd got ‘antsy’ as they heard about their fellow Kansans in the 137th Infantry and 130th Artillery, 35th Division, who had arrived home on April 23rd, 1919.
Extracted from History of the 353rd Infantry regiment 89th Division, National Army September 1917 – June 1919, by Capt. Charles F. Dienst and associates, published by the 353rd Infantry Society in 1921.
By noon of May 13th, 2,533 enlisted men and 135 officers of the 353rd Infantry were aboard U. S. S. Leviathan, the biggest ship afloat. They were the first troops aboard. Colonel Reeves was promptly appointed, and remained throughout the entire voyage, Troop Commander. Many things had to be done at once: guard must be posted; mess must be arranged and police must be begun immediately. But officers and men were accustomed to dealing with new situations. Major Masseck was made ship’s chief of staff; Capt. C. S. Turner, the ship’s adjutant; Lieutenant-Colonel Peatross was placed in charge of the guard; Captain Dienst, police officer; Captain Keim, mess officer; Captain Eades took over the information bureau, and Lieutenant Underhill became the Army-Navy liaison officer. Each with his book of instructions began to “carry on.”
All went well until the “chow” line started. Through error or efforts for “seconds” it had gotten into an endless chain until a doughboy said to Captain Keim, “Will you tell me, sir, how to get out of this line? I have been around four times already and I can’t go any more.”
In the evening of May 13th, the 356th Infantry came aboard. Troops of the 33rd Division and other organizations, together with casuals, followed, and at 8 p. m., May 14th, 1919, the return voyage began with a grand total of 12,000 troops on board.
The sea was quiet and everybody felt safe and content. Just a year before the 353rd Infantry had set sail from Hoboken. At that time hostile submarines were active along the American coast. The regiment was moving toward the western front for action. Now the ocean was clear of submarines and the men were looking forward to peaceful pursuits in the homeland. To the satisfaction of a task well done, were added all the comforts of life on this big ship, formerly the Vaterland, the crown jewel of Imperial Germany. Moreover, it was with genuine pride and gratitude that officers and men read this final overseas order:
G. H. Q. AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES
FRANCE, Feb.28, 1919.
GENERAL ORDERS NO.38-A.
Now that your service with the American Expeditionary Forces is about to terminate, I cannot let you go without a personal word. At the call to arms, the patriotic young manhood of America eagerly responded and became the formidable army whose decisive victories testify to its efficiency and its valor. With the support of the nation firmly united to defend the cause of liberty, our army has executed the will of the people with resolute purpose. Our democracy has been tested, and the forces of autocracy have been defeated. To the glory of the citizen-soldier, our troops have faithfully fulfilled their trust, and in a succession of brilliant offensives have overcome the menace to our civilization.
As an individual, your part in the world war has been an important one in the sum total of our achievements. Whether keeping lonely vigil in the trenches, or gallantly storming the enemy’s stronghold; whether enduring monotonous drudgery at the rear, or sustaining the fighting line at the front, each has bravely and efficiently played his part. By willing sacrifice of personal rights; by cheerful endurance of hardship and privation; by vigor, strength and indomitable will, made effective by thorough organization and cordial co-operation, you inspired the war-worn allies with new life and turned the tide of threatened defeat into overwhelming victory.
With a consecrated devotion to duty and a will to conquer, you have loyally served your country. By your exemplary conduct a standard has been established and maintained never before attained by any army. With mind and body as clean and strong as the decisive blows you delivered against the foe, you are soon to return to the pursuits of peace. In leaving the scenes of your victories, may I ask that you carry home your high ideals and continue to live as you have served–an honor to the principles for which you have fought and to the fallen comrades you leave behind.
It is with pride in our success that I extend my sincere thanks for your splendid service to the army and to the nation.
JOHN S. PERSHING, Commander-in-Chief.
Official: ROBERT C. DAVIS, Adjutant-General.
The voyage itself was uneventful. Except for guard duty, police, and abandon ship drill, the men had little to do but read and play games and think it all over. The presence of some 1,400 wounded and disabled soldiers aboard reminded everyone, in spite of effort to forget, of the whole grim business in which he had been engaged. The sympathy of buddies went out to these men for whom the war would never end. And then, too, the joy of return was tempered by the thought of separation. Never before was it so apparent that these returning veterans who had left their homes as boys were now returning as men.
The days went speedily by. Information from the naval authorities assured schedule progress. In accordance with instructions, reports had been submitted, “showing the number of officers and men destined for each camp or cantonment, destination given in each case to be the camp or camp unit nearest the place to which individuals are entitled to travel pay. These lists to be used as a basis of separation of the unit upon arrival in United States.”
It seemed probable, therefore, that the voyage would conclude the existence of the 353rd Infantry as a military unit. In anticipation of this event Colonel Reeves issued his final order aboard ship:
U S. S. LEVIATHAN
May 22, 1919.
GENERAL ORDERS NO.11.
The 353rd Infantry Regiment lands in America today after an absence of one year, less twelve days. The mission of the regiment in the World War has been accomplished. Demobilization will begin at once, each man going to the camp nearest his home.
In taking farewell of the regiment the Regimental Commander finds it impossible to express the joy and pride that have been his in being so fortunate as to be the commanding officer of such an organization, and much less is he able to express his profound gratitude and appreciation of the loyalty, faithfulness and co-operation on the part of officers and men, without which nothing could have been done.
The regiment is less than two years old. It was organized September 5th, 1917, and left the United States for France on June 4th, 1918. The life of the regiment has been essentially one of activity. There have been no periods of unnecessary waiting in training camps nor of labor in rear areas. It has been from first to last a clean-cut fighting unit, organized, trained and equipped for that purpose, and right well has it fulfilled its mission. No words of the Regimental Commander can add to that reputation. The record of its deeds is written in the imperishable history of the country. It is a record that every man may well be proud of and proud to transmit to posterity.
We were of that great mass of “doughboys” whose fame is immortal as the one part of the army that functioned at any and all times, gave no excuses and made no explanations. Constant accomplishment was their part.
The regiment has been especially characterized by a spirit of comradeship that has made possible our achievements. The Regimental Commander points to this with more pride than to any other attainment, great as the others have been.
Vain-glorious boastings and invidious comparisons are alike–harmful and inconsistent with the spirit of the regiment. The Regimental Commander begs each and every one to avoid all such.
As a final word the Regimental Commander wishes every one happiness and success for the future and is confident that they will attain them if there be carried to civil life that noble spirit of self-sacrificing assistance which has always been exhibited in the military service.
Official: C. S. TURNER, Captain, 353rd
Distribution: To every officer and man in the regiment.
No returning soldiers ever received a finer welcome. Gaily decorated boats loaded with friends and relatives pulled up alongside. General Wood was there to greet men from his division. Bands and steam whistles helped to express the joy of the occasion. But almost to a man the doughboy gazed away, afraid to look into the eyes of his buddy lest he should reveal something of the emotion that filled his soul.