1-099 Report to the Commanding General, A.E.F., August 1, 1917

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: August 1, 1917

Report to the Commanding General, A.E.F.

August 1, 1917 [Gondrecourt], France

Billeting and training facilities in vicinity of Neufchateau.

1. In compliance with the instructions contained in the letter from your headquarters to the Commanding General, 1st Division, A.E.F., dated July 17, 1917, the attached report on the billeting accommodations, water and training facilities for one division around Neufchateau, is subrnitted.1

This area will be ready for all the troops of the division by August 15th. Some of the mess, recreation, kitchen and stable buildings will not be completed by this date for the artillery and certain of the special units, but these are not essential to immediate occupancy.

2. On July 21st I proceeded to Mirecourt, the headquarters of the Eastern Armies, and met the Commandant d’Etapes in charge at Neufchateau. Since that date I have made as frequent trips to Neufchateau and the surrounding country as the opportunity of working with the above official occurred. On July 21st I found that work had been under way for about two weeks on the preparation of the area around Neufchateau.

3. Reports on other areas.-

Reports on the cantonment and training ground areas for the other two divisions will be submitted as soon as the French officials have prepared their data for billeting the troops. A commandant d’etapes for each of these cantonments has just been appointed and I will not be able to go over the ground thoroughly until they have had an opportunity to complete their preliminary plans.

It appears that the cantonment for the “second” division, located immediately south of the Neufchateau Area, with headquarters at Bourmont, should be ready for the troops by September 1st and possibly earlier. The area for the remaining division is located southeast of the Bourmont Area, and includes Vittel and Martigny.

4. General character of the country. _

The country covered by the areas above referred to consists of broad, fertile valleys bordered by high hills. It is well watered, not too heavily timbered for military training, devoted largely to hay and grain crops and dotted with villages above the average in general appearance. When the harvest is completed about August 20th, there will be excellent facilities for training troops_drill, target practice (infantry and artillery), special trench warfare and divisional maneuvers. In short, it appears to be healthful, is beautiful and seems to be admirably adapted to the training of troops as compared to other sections of France with which I am familiar.

5. Inhabitants. _

I have found the inhabitants of the region enthusiastic over the expected arrival of United States troops. While some of this enthusiasm may be due to expected financial profit, yet their attitude seems genuinely friendly to a greater degree than would ordinarily be expected. This should make the actual billeting of the troops more easily adjusted than it otherwise would be.

6. Neufchateau Area. _

I have found the Commandant d’Etapes at Neufchateau, Major Bluem, who is in charge of that area, a very obliging, effective and direct officer to deal with. His original plans, prepared before seeing me, contemplated much more in the way of special accommodations than has been provided for the 1st Division at Gondrecourt. Generous billeting assignments have been made, supplemented wherever necessary by a total of about sixty portable barracks, generally of the straight side type, twenty meters long.

After the crops are harvested practically the entire area can be utilized for maneuvering troops. The “camp” (training area within which trenches may be dug, etc.) is indicated on a map attached to the report of the Neufchateau Area. This “camp” is also to be used by the troops of the Bourmont Area. However, ordinary drills and maneuvers are not limited to the area of this “camp”_all the terrain, excepting scattered truck gardens and potato fields, being available.

7. Portable barracks. _

At a conference yesterday with the Commandant d’Etapes from General de Castelnau’s headquarters, General l’Etoile (?), I arranged for the erection of one barrack for each battalion to be used as an infirmary.

The following special buildings have been or will be erected in each area_these in addition to the sixty for quarters above referred to:

1 barrack per company for a mess hall.

1 barrack per battalion for a recreation room.

1 barrack per battalion for an infirmary.

1 kitchen building for each two to four companies.

(Kitchen buildings are generally not required for artillery units as their billeting accommodations are usually considerably in excess of their requirements owing to the necessity of spreading out the units sufficiently to secure billeting accommodations for animals.)

Such stables for animals as are required in addition to the available billets.

1 shower bath house for each village.

The barracks are ceiled and floored. Stoves were reported to be available for issue when the cold weather arrives. I saw a number in one village.

8. Liaison Officer. _

In order to facilitate materially and expedite the transaction of all business which involves any relations with the French officials, military or civil, I recommend the immediate detail of a liaison officer (one who can speak some French) for duty in the office of the Commandant d’Etapes at Neufchateau, Major Bluem, and the detail of similar officers for duty in the other two areas at least two weeks before the arrival of troops.

9. Town Majors. _

These officers, each accompanied by a non-commissioned officer, an interpreter and a motorcycle with a driver, should precede the troops to their billets by at least one week. Much confusion and many misunderstandings between the troops and the inhabitants will thus be avoided, and the existing good will of the inhabitants will be maintained. A brigade commander, the division quartermaster, some clerks, at least two automobiles and as many auto trucks as possible, should arrive at the headquarters of the area with the Town Majors. Transportation for all these officers is essential, for without it their efficiency is reduced at least fifty percent and the troops will ultimately suffer in consequence.

10. Individual instructions to soldiers. _

The conditions under which a soldier lives in billets are so different from what our men are accustomed to, wine is so cheap and much in evidence, amusements are so few and the rate of pay of our men is so high, that a brief pamphlet of information and advice might well be issued to each soldier before he reaches his first billet. It could describe the general character of a billet and the necessity for immediate hard work and ingenuity in cleaning and fixing it up; the necessity for considering the interest and feelings of the owner of the billet might be explained; cautions could be given against too free indulgence in wines and association with women who are generally diseased; advice to deposit or send home most of each month’s pay_explaining the low rate of pay received by the French soldier_would be appropriate; and the soldier could be counseled against needlessly incurring the enmity of the poorer classes of the French people by overpaying for services and supplies and thus raising the prices beyond what the inhabitants can afford to pay. . . .

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I) (RG 120), Records of the First Division, Historical File, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed report.

1. Marshall’s “Report on Cantonment for One Division in Neufchateau Area” is not printed, as it repeats much of the document printed here.

Recommended Citation: The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, ed. Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens (Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 1, “The Soldierly Spirit,” December 1880-June 1939 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 116-118.

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