In March 1916, Tom Gallagher moved from Lamar, Missouri to Junction City, Kansas. He was the shoe department manager at Cole Brothers’ Dry Goods Store, replacing his brother Henry. Henry moved back to Lamar, becoming manager at Coles’ store there.
A nice life
Tom settled into his new life in “Junction.” He did well at work, participated in community affairs, and built a social circle of friends.
1916 had been a good year. On New Year’s Eve, 1916, Tom left for Lamar to visit his parents. He couldn’t have predicted what 1917 held in store for him.
War in Europe
The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.
America was totally unprepared for war.
The American army had about 120,000 active duty soldiers. While millions of soldiers had been fighting in Europe, the entire American army could fit into one modern-day football stadium.
America needed soldiers – lots of them.
A million man draft
In April, Congress began work on what would become The Selective Service Act of 1917. It would authorize the federal government to draft a one million man army.
The bill passed on May 18, requiring every male age 21 through 30 to register for the draft on Tuesday, June 5, 1917.
Officers urgently needed
OK, the draft would provide a million men, but who would train and lead them?
Officer training was by far the most urgent problem facing the War Department. The usual ratio of officers to enlisted men is one to twenty. If an army of one million were to be created in September, there would have to be 50,000 officers on hand.Learning to Live: Tactical Training for the AEF, 1917-1918
In April, before the Selective Service Act was even passed, urgent plans were drawn to recruit and train officers. Candidates were solicited and screened. By early May, lists were honed. Those selected as officer candidates were ordered to report.
Tom Gallagher was among the 2,000 men selected for officers’ training at Fort Riley. On Thursday, May 10, Tom was ordered to report to Fort Riley by the following Monday, May 14.
These were to be the first new U.S. officers trained in World War I.
They made their own beds
Tom reported to Fort Riley on Friday morning, May 11. He was early, as the first day of training was to begin on Monday, May 14.
First Officers’ Training Camp
On the fifteenth of May began the sixteen First Series Officers’ Training Camps, located at thirteen army posts. Approximately 38,000 candidates, of whom 8,000 were reserve officers, attended. Pressure on limited positions was immense: 160,000 applications for 30,000 vacanciesLearning to Live: Tactical Training for the AEF, 1917-1918
Training was intense. It began with strict daily routine; 5:30 reveille followed by a full day of military drill, calisthenics, inspection, classroom study, communications and weapons practice, followed by evening study.
Candidates were expected to master soldiering in one month, followed by infantry and artillery command in the next two months. It’s difficult to imagine the complexity of this training. Here’s a short description that reveals the complexity of what these officer candidates had to master.
Officer candidates memorized passages from the obsolete “Infantry Drill Regulations of 1911.” These were the doctrine of American infantry fighting tactics. The military command saw no need to change these tactics.
The core component was a soldier with a rifle and bayonet. The regulations prescribed that an enemy position could be neutralized by accurate rifle fire. But if the enemy had machine guns, that rifle fire could never get close enough to matter.
The doctrine preached that attack by rifle and bayonet was the recipe for victory, regardless of recent developments in machine guns, light cannon, trenches, grenades, or wire.
The rifle faced newer weapons of immense firepower and range.Learning to Live: Tactical Training for the AEF, 1917-1918
Advance against machine gun positions should be done with a narrow column of men, which made the assaulting team a poor target. But German machine gun positions arranged at various angles to the attackers could decimate the attacking column in short order.
The regulations argued against more machine guns, as they were heavy and consumed large amounts of ammunition.
These new officers were trained with these outdated tactics, and would soon train their enlisted recruits the same flawed methods. These obsolete tactics would cause horrible death and destruction for the first American troops to enter the line, and the Americans would have to re-learn what the British and French had already learned.
Artillery training being a much more technical matter than infantry, most effort was expended in a crash program to make cadets familiar with the basic mechanism and operation of guns, caissons, wagons, signal and range finding equipment, and projectiles. It was still necessary to learn how to train, care for and drive the horses which pulled field pieces.Learning to Live: Tactical Training for the AEF, 1917-1918
When the first camps ended on August 14, there were 28,000 new officers available to begin training the first 500,000 enlisted men two weeks later. These were the “90 day wonders.”Learning to Live: Tactical Training for the AEF, 1917-1918
One of those new officers was Thomas P. Gallagher, 2nd Lieutenant.
Tom was assigned to infantry section, officers’ reserve corps. Reserve officers would be assigned to their units on August 27.
While Tom was in officers’ training, every U.S. male age 18 to 21 registered for the draft on June 5, 1917.
Henry Gallagher registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, but wouldn’t get called to active duty until summer of 1918.
Jim Gallagher had registered for the draft, but also volunteered for the engineering corps. He was awaiting his call.
- Newspaper articles – The Junction City Daily Union – various dates – newspapers.com
- The Selective Service Act of 1917 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_Act_of_1917
- American Entry Into World War I – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_entry_into_World_War_I
- Uncle Sam and Military Registration photos – Wikipedia (above)
- Image – Roster of the 1st Company, 14th Provisional Training Regiment, Reserve Officers Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas – May 15-August 17, 1917 – Missouri Over There – James Kellogg Burnham Collection – https://missourioverthere.org/explore/collections/hockaday-james-kellogg-burnham-collection/roster-of-the-1st-company-14th-provisional-training-regiment-reserve-officers-training-camp-at-fort-riley-kansas-may-15-august-17-1917/
- Quotations – Learning to Live: Tactical Training for the AEF, 1917-1918 – John Albin Almstrom – https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/89041/RICE0076.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Music – America First March – John Philip Sousa – 1916 – THE COMPLETE MARCHES OF JOHN PHILIP SOUSA – United States Marine Corps – https://www.marineband.marines.mil/Audio-Resources/The-Complete-Marches-of-John-Philip-Sousa/America-First-March/