161 – It’s War

In 1916, Ralph Jarvis had met Chleo Webb and started a relationship. At 16, Chleo was still in high school. Ralph, 22, was working as a lineman.

Their lives would be interrupted by The Great War.

161

The US declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

On that same day, Ralph Jarvis and Jim Webb and Cousin Ben Sooby enlisted in the Company F of the Kansas National Guard.

The National Guard would be the first troops deployed to join the active regular army. A draft would be enacted later but would take months to get up to speed.

So a National Guard enlistee could count on being sent to the front soon.

Larned Chronoscope – April 12, 1917
Ralph Jarvis – 1917

137th Infantry

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The 137th Infantry Regiment (First Kansas) traces its history back to the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Kansas Volunteer Militia on 17 May 1879.

Kansas Army National Guard

In 1885, this volunteer militia became the Kansas National Guard.

In 1898, the 1st Kansas was merged with the 20th Kansas and deployed to the Philippines in the war with Spain. A few years later, in 1916, the regiment was mustered into federal service for duty on the Mexican border.

On August 5, 1917, the 1st and 2nd Kansas Infantry regiments were drafted into federal service and joined the 35th Division. On October 1, the two regiments were merged into the 137th Infantry Regiment.

Activated

On August 5, 1917, the members of Company F in Larned reported for active duty.

Jim Webb – Mobilization Orders – August 5, 1917
Larned Chronoscope – August 23, 1917

A temporary camp was set up in Edwards Park in Larned, and the troops began drills and training while waiting to mobilize.

Although they were on active duty, they were encamped at Larned. They still interacted with family and friends. Ralph and Chleo still saw each other.

The Tiller and Toiler – September 13, 1917
Ralph Jarvis – c 1917
Jim Webb – c 1917

On September 29, the troops boarded a train for Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma.

The Tiller and Toiler – September 1917

Camp Doniphan

Camp Doniphan was built as a temporary training camp for recruits from Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Construction began on July 23, 1917. Most of the 1,200 structures were tents.

Two months later, on September 29, Company F from Larned arrived. Camp Doniphan was a huge tent camp, located adjacent to the permanent army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma – 1918

Training was rigorous and monotonous. Daily drills, trenches, riflery, and never-ending marching.

Bayonet training – Camp Doniphan – 1918

THE 50,000 MEN WHO TRAINED HERE WOULD REMEMBER WITH NOSTALGIA THE WIND, THE DUST, THE HEAT OF SUMMER, THE COLD OF WINTER IN CANVAS TENTS, THE STRENUOUS DRILLS AND MARCHES, AND THE ENDLESS DIGGING OF TRENCHES, DUGOUTS, AND ARTILLERY EMPLACEMENTS IN HARD-BAKED SOIL AND HARDER ROCK IN “NO MAN’S LAND” NEAR SIGNAL MOUNTAIN.

Camp Doniphan Part of Fort Sill

Christmas 1917 was spent in camp. No training that day, and a sumptuous Christmas dinner. I’ll bet most of the boys were homesick.

Christmas dinner – Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma – December 25, 1917
Larned Chronoscope – January 24, 1918

In January 1918, Jim Webb got a furlough to Larned for a week.

But back at Camp Doniphan, training continued. Ralph Jarvis had gotten transferred to Headquarters Company, and in the spring Jim Webb did too.

Ralph’s experience as a lineman and electrician got him appointed to the signal corps, running and maintaining wires for radio and telephone communication for the regiment.

Ralph Jarvis and Jim Webb – Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma – 1918
Typhoid Line – Camp Doniphan – 1918

On March 28, Ralph and Jim and Ben and the others readied their gear. They were embarking for France and the front lines.

Packing up – Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma – May 1918
Jim Webb and Ralph Jarvis – Camp Doniphan – 1918

To France

After six months rigorous training at Doniphan, the 137th took trains to Camp Mills, on Long Island, N.Y.

A History of the 137th Infantry, An All-Kansas Regiment

They sailed from New York on April 25, 1918.

Leaving for France 1918

Ralph Jarvis and Jim Webb were on the USS Baltic, a troop ship converted from a freighter.

USS Baltic – 1918
Manifest – Ralph Jarvis – USS Baltic – April 25, 1918

The regiment landed at Liverpool, England, May 6, and crossed the English Channel to Le Havre on May 9. It had been a year since they had enlisted. They were in France and would soon go “into the line.”


Sources

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