On April 27, Colonel Reeves of the 353rd held a secret meeting with the company commanders.
“We’re going over soon; make your plans accordingly.”
On May 16th a copy of this War Department telegram reached Regimental Headquarters: Send troops now at your camp reported ready and equipped for over-sea service to Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, N. J.
As we saw earlier, the training schedule at Camp Funston intensified in April and May. Furloughs and passes were restricted.
Tension and excitement ran high. “What do we bring?” “When do we go?”
The exact date of embarkation was not revealed, but the regiment must make ready withing a few weeks. Supplies and equipment must be inventoried, packed, and labeled.
The men loaded “G.I. Cans” with whatever they could get away with – boots, food, forbidden items, etc. There was much confusion.
Rail cars by the dozens were being spotted on the switch above Camp Funston.
The movement of the 89th Division required about 60 trains!
Eight trains were allotted to the 353rd Infantry, approximately
one train for two companies. That’s about 500 men per train.
Loading began on May 25th. And on May 26, the trains departed Camp Funston for Hoboken, New Jersey.
Strictest secrecy was required. No one was to mention the name of his organization or camp. No letters were to be mailed.
In spite of all these warnings and precautions, crowds were at the stations to cheer the soldiers on. The route ran through Kansas City, St. Louis, Frankfort, Cleveland, and Buffalo to Hoboken, New Jersey.
This was the first trip across the country for many of the men.
The final leg of the rail journey was a trip down the Hudson from Hoboken to Long Island station and Camp Mills.
Here were the things all the men had heard about – the tallest building in the world, Brooklyn Bridge, war ships, etc. 24-hour passes to New York City were issued.
Meanwhile, final inspection revealed many articles still lacking. But there was no time to wait. Pay rolls had to be computed and passenger lists completed.
Embarkation for Europe
On June 3, embarkation began. The First and Second Battalions went aboard H. M. S. Karmala, so that was likely the ship Ben Teply was on.
Each man called his name as he walked past the Embarkation Officer up the gang plank.
The next morning, June 4, 1918, found the ships still at the piers. “Could it be that the submarines have us bottled up?” Nine ships had been reported sunk off the Jersey coast the day before.
“No, the firemen have gone on a strike.” Unless volunteer firemen could be secured from among the soldiers the transport fleet might be tied up indefinitely. Several railroad and Great Lakes firemen stepped out of the ranks and volunteered their services.
By 1:30 p. m. full steam was up and the voyage was begun.
Surrounded by torpedo boats and submarine chasers, and convoyed by dirigibles and airplanes, the convoy of fifteen ships steamed away from America for an (unknown to the men) port in Europe.
In a few minutes the Statue of Liberty was out of sight. As soon as the ship had cleared the harbor the men were allowed up on deck.
There were strict orders. No lights at night. No rubbish thrown overboard. No smoking on deck after dark. In addition to the regular guards there would be submarine guards, life boat, and raft crews.
The days were filled with abandon-ship drills as well as regular drills.
On the morning of June 14, seven British torpedo destroyers came out to convoy the fleet down through the Irish sea to Liverpool.
Here was Ireland on the right, Scotland and England on the left. Many men caught a glimpse of the land of their ancestors.
Sunday morning, June 16th, debarkation began. A short march brought the companies to waiting trains. Loading the trains was accomplished quickly; groups of thirty occupied the coaches.
The trains wound their way through Manchester, Sheffield, and Oxford to Winchester. Along the way women and children waved welcome to the soldiers.
It was still dark outside when the trains stopped. But the march to Camp Winnal-Down began. The camp was four miles away.
Everywhere were signs of the struggle that England was making. Hospitals overflowed with sick and wounded. Young Britishers were learning the mechanism of artillery drill. Airplanes circled overhead.
Passes to Winchester were for groups only, with an officer in charge of each group. No one was allowed to go to London.
On June 21, orders came to move to Southhampton. And around dusk that night, all went aboard ships for France. Submarine chasers were all around.
The passage across the Channel was rough, and many men were seasick. They could see streaks of light followed by thunderous booms.
Early morning brought the first glimpse of France, as the ship landed at Le Havre. Next to them, a large hospital ship was being loaded with allied wounded.
They marched to a Rest Camp five miles away. An overnight stay, and in the morning a march back to Le Havre and onto waiting French rail cars.
Reynel Training Area
No one knew the destination. For hours the train rolled on through Rouen, within sight of Eiffel Tower, through Troye, to the Reynel Training Area of the American Expeditionary Forces.
Early on the morning of June 25th, the train of pullmans arrived at the little station of Rimaucourt. This train carried the Third Battalion.
A month had been spent in making the trip. More than 5,000 miles had been covered.
The Reynel Training Area was centered on the town of Reynel, but spread out over surrounding villages.
The three battalions of the 353rd stayed in separate towns. The first battalion and regiment headquarters were at Manois, the second battalion at St. Blin, and third battalion at Rimaucourt. Ben’s Company M was with the third battalion, so he was at Rimaucourt.
Rimaucourt was the largest of the towns occupied by the 353rd. The supply rail head of the 89th Division was here, as was the headquarters of the 177th Brigade.
Every company of the battalion was quartered in Adrian Barracks, a pre-manufactured and portable building that could be assembled easily.
Ready For The Line
The final touches of intensive training were added during July. The men were anxious to get to the front.
- Much of the information – History of the 353rd Regiment, 89th Division, National Army, by Capt. Charles F. Dienst et al. – 1921
- Much of the information – Official Brief History of the 89th Division USA – 1917-1918-1919 – Maj. C.J. Masseck
- Photo of US Soldiers embarking to ship – http://www.kumc.edu/wwi/index-of-essays/american-military-operations-and-casualties.html
- Photo of Troop Train Soldiers – Photo by George L. Beam. (Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Dept.)
- All news articles are from The Hanover Democrat, The Hanover Herald, The Marysville Advocate, Washington Register. All are available on Newpapers.com and are free for Kansas residents – Kansas State Historical Society – https://www.kshs.org/ancestry/drivers/dlverify