1st Division, AEF 1918.

 

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The Doughboy: America enters the Great War 

Today I decided to photograph my 1st Division AEF impression. 2016 is the 100th Anniversary of the American entrance into the Great War. This depiction is of a typical Infantryman in the 16th Infantry Regiment during the spring / summer of 1918. Many Americans are unaware at the incredible losses and intense battles the WW1 veterans faced – overshadowed by their sons, the WWII generation.

 

The Doughboy. The term used to describe the countless American Infantryman in the muddy fields of France. Although there is no certain origin of the term, some think of the dust covered men marching behind horses, some think it was the well nourished and strong men that typified the AEF, others think it was the Doughnuts they were eating when a German trench raiding party happened upon them. We may never know the truth, but we do know their tenacious fighting legacy left behind.

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The 1st Division (and the Divisional system as a whole) came around during the Great War. Until that time the Regimental system had been enough and been used for some time – especially in the Civil War. With the world wide destruction that was taking place in Europe at the onset of 1914, The United States Army knew it would have to come up with a larger scale tactical unit for operations against the enemy. Since no organization existed at that time in the American army, it was created entirely from scratch. This new formation grouped together former regiments from all over. In this case the famed 16th Regiment, 18th Regiment 26th, and 28th Regiments were compiled for the “First U.S. Division American Expeditionary Force”. Soon it became just “The First Division, AEF”. The Big Red One had been born.

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The biggest departure from the usual peace time accoutremonts of the U.S. Army Infantryman. The steel helmet, also known to men as the ‘tin hat’ was generally the British issue Mk.1 Steel helmet or “Brodie”. A later extremely similar version was manufactured by U.S. Firms as the “Model 1917 Steel Helmet”. These items were issued as soon as the “doughboys” were received in France, along with the most ubiquitous piece of equipment iconic to the great war – The Gas mask.  The British Small Box Respirator (SBR) and later the “Corrected English Mask” (CEM) were issued out and worn nearly everywhere. By all accounts, it was extremely uncomfortable to wear for extended periods (hours upon hours by the 1st Division).

 

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Basic combat dress for the Doughboy. Ammunition belt, canteen, bayonet, gas mask.

During the war, the first use of Divisional shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) was born. However the large scale use of Shoulder patches were used immediantly postwar and subsequently adopted – still in use on modern U.S. Army uniforms.

 

Equipment and Uniforms of the Doughboy Infantryman

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The Doughboy upon entering France also received the British leg wraps, also known as Puttees. These pieces of long woolen cloth were worn in place of canvas gaiters or leggings due to the tendency to complete rot off – A sign of the dark times in the trenches to come. Many men led miserable existences in the trenches full of mud, cold, and rats. The boots were also new. Instead of typical leather bottom field shoes, they were now given the M1917 Trench boots. The boots feature metal hobnails on the bottom to prevent the wear out of the bottom of the shoes, and also featured a double leather sole to prevent them from falling apart. Based on the French style Brodequin boots.

 

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The doughboy was using and issued the first of the U.S. Army’s approach to a more “tactical” and modern Infantryman dressed in all camouflage based colors and patterns. All Olive Drab uniforms and either Pea Green of a shade of Khaki for equipment.

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The M1912 Service Coat and Breeches were first issued after 1912 with a few designs predating it. However the 1912 Coat was the most widespread version of the uniform worn by the AEF in France. The later models of this coat were the M1917 and M1918 Coats, respectively. A simple high collar uniform with 4 patch pockets and 1 internal pocket rounded it out as simple and effective. All black buttons were a deviation from the typical brass and gold uniform buttons worn during the initial conflict by the Allied and Central Powers. Many European nations learned that this mechanized savagery would change the face of warfare. No longer were men wearing flashy dress uniforms, it came down to strict combat dress. Snipers, Machine Guns, Outposts, mines, Barbed Wire, hand grenades were just some of the things that forced infantrymen everywhere to adapt to a more camouflage approach to warfighting. The only distinguishing markings worn on the Service coat were the Collar brass, round pieces of metal with branch insignia and sometimes unit markings (Infantry crossed rifles and regimental markings)

The Breeches were a calf length woolen trousers with a large seat and legs for extra movement and were a very popular style among European armies.

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The first introduction of the wool shirt, similar to what would be worn all the way into WWII. It was a Pullover style with elbow patches for reinforcement. In hot weather conditions in the summer, it was authorized to wear just the shirt

 

 

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Full battle dress. Here I have the M1910 Cartridge belt and M1910 Canteen cover. These are unique because they are the early “eagle snap” variation. These are seen on 1st Division men all the way into 1918. after 1916 they switch to the standard Lift the Dot fastener we are all accustomed to. The standard M1910 Haversack is worn with assault contents

1x Wool pullover M1916, metal “condiment” can (metal gas proof can to carry salts, etc), The Bacon tin (to carry fresh meats), Hard bread tins, Emergency Ration, Personal toiletries, gloves, scarf, M1905 Bayonet in the M1910 sheath, and a Poncho folded up under the flap.

 

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Here is the M1917 Overcoat. A simple overcoat that was shipped over to the First division because their initial voyage did not contain overcoats in their stores in great numbers.

 

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Men of the First Division, AEF – Original Photographs

15.-In-the-trenches-Ansauville-191820.-Diggin-in-Soissons-Jul-191822.-16-IN-St.-Mihiel29.-En-route-to-Sedan-Thelonne-7-Nov-191811863440_10207792456353207_6589624172407376276_n12002235_10207792454553162_6762096542295570931_n12003398_10207792450593063_2761816022621671120_n

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5 comments

  1. I was wondering, where you acquired your uniform and webbing from? I’m a huge history buff and I really enjoy seeing a full display like yours, it helps me break down all the components needed for a particular impression. Anyways, keep up the good work and hope to hear from you soon.

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    1. Hey Nick, I usually get it from online auction sites or local flea markets. Many great items still waiting to be found in dusty old corners of America. Good luck and thanks!

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      1. Thanks for getting back to me. I appreciate it. You have a very good impression and it’s great to see it so well thought out.

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  2. How different would the uniform be for units still in training in the States? I saw that the troops didn’t get puttees until in France – any other changes?

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    1. It varies on if they were the specifically raised “National Army” units, National Guard, or Regular Army units. naturally older equipment such as 1903 Cartridge belts would be in use, and older uniforms such as the 1903-1911 Wool service coats can spottily be seen. Early Russet Marching shoes would have been the norm in the states, as well as Campaign hats until reaching St. Nazaire.

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