Send the Alabamians
World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division
Publication Year: 2014
To mark the centenary of World War I, Send the Alabamians tells the remarkable story of a division of Alabama recruits whose service Douglas MacArthur observed had not “ been surpassed in military history.” The book borrows its title from a quip by American General Edward H. Plummer who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service. Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed:
In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in
time of peace, for Lord’ s sake, send them to somebody else!
The ferocity of the Alabamians, so apt to get them in trouble at home, proved invaluable in the field. At the climactic Battle of Croix Rouge, the hot-blooded 167th exhibited unflinching valor and, in the face of machine guns, artillery shells, and poison gas, sustained casualty rates over 50 percent to dislodge and repel the deeply entrenched and heavily armed enemy.
Relying on extensive primary sources such as journals, letters, and military reports, Frazer draws a vivid picture of the individual soldiers who served in this division, so often overlooked but critical to the war’ s success. After Gettysburg, the Battle of Croix Rouge is the most
significant military engagement to involve Alabama soldiers in the state’ s history. Families and geneologists will value the full roster of the 167th that accompanies the text.
Richly researched yet grippingly readable, Nimrod T. Frazer’ s Send the Alabamians will delight those interested in WWI, the World Wars, Alabama history, or southern military history in general. Historians of the war, regimental historians, military history aficionados, and those interested in previously unexplored facets of Alabama history will prize this unique volume as well.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Title Page, Copyright, Quote
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List of Maps
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William Johnson Frazer, my father, a native of Greenville, Alabama, served as an enlisted man in the 167th Infantry and its predecessor, the 4th Alabama Infantry, from 1916 to 1919. I knew about Will’s service before I could read. I carried his Purple Heart medal to my first grade class and considered his wartime helmet and kit my playthings...
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Edwin C. Bridges
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As time passes, memories fade. World-shattering catastrophes of one generation thin out into old stories for the children of the next generation. For later generations, they are merely the stuff of history. Thus nearly a century after their heroic service in World War I, the men of Alabama’s 167th Infantry Regiment—called “The Immortals” in their time—have been largely forgotten. In Send the Alabamians, Rod Frazer helps bring their story back to life. And it is a story that for many reasons deserves to be kept alive...
1. Mobilization of the Alabama National Guard, 1916
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On June 19, 1916, the Montgomery Advertiser reported the mobilization and federalization of the Alabama National Guard by the Militia Division of the War Department.1 The “call up” was a nationwide order for possible duty on the Mexican border. The Alabama regiments, having previously served at the state level, were to enter federal service.2 They were ordered to Montgomery’s Vandiver Park.3...
2. Pershing's Force on the Mexican Border
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Fall brought crisp, clear, and invigorating weather to Montgomery, where a chill marked the air.1 Vandiver Park opened to civilian visitors on October 22, 1916, and spectators flocked from around the state to see the troops off to the Mexican border.2...
3. Making an Infantry Division
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Given the War Department’s recent concern with the relationship between Regular Army officers and National Guard units, Lieutenant Colonel Screws seemed unlikely to receive a promotion. However, on August 14, 1917, not two weeks after Screws was threatened with the loss of his command, the War Department ordered the name of the 4th Alabama changed to the 167th United States Infantry.1...
4. The Rainbow in the Trenches
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On February 16, 1918, the regiment marched from Faverolles to the Rolampont railhead, where it boarded trains of “40 and 8” boxcars heading for Baccarat.1 These standard wooden boxcars for French troop trains took their names from their design, which accommodated forty men or eight horses. The cold, open cars had no toilets, and “As these troop trains sped through the French towns and countryside the undraped posterior of soldiers usually shone protruding from open doors with shirttails flapping in the breeze.”2...
5. Champagne-Marne, July 3-18, 1918
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Approximately three miles north of the village of Souain near Châlons-sur- Marne, a stone marker displays the description “Ici fut repoussé l’envahisseur” (Here the invader was pushed back).1 It stands across the road approximately five hundred yards from the final resting place of General Henri Gouraud, whose body is in a massive ossuary on the old farm of Navarin, where the worst fighting occurred in Germany’s July 1918 attempt to take Paris...
6. Aisne-Marne, Croix Rouge Farm, July 24-26, 1918
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Immediately after the Champagne, Foch scheduled the Rainbow Division for more battle, ordering it to join a Franco-American drive to the northeast. The mission was to break up the Château-Thierry salient, where the German battle line projected farthest into the French position.1 Foch knew the Allies had to capture the Marne Valley to close the road to Paris to the Germans...
7. The Ourcq and Brigadier General MacArthur
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When dawn broke on July 27, Screws of the 167th looked at the situation. In the distance at La Ventellette—the large woods approximately eight hundred yards east of the farmhouse—French horse cavalry waited with lances and several motorized armored cars.1 That was the regiment’s objective as called for in the attack order the day before. It was supposed to have swept by the Croix Rouge Farm advancing at the rate of two hundred meters in three minutes. That, of course, had not been possible...
8. From Sint-Mihiel to the Argonne, September 12-October 11, 1918
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The Rainbow men knew nothing about their next mission for a simple reason:
when they began marching to battle on August 28, the French and American
generals had not yet finished planning the battle or negotiating which military’s
officers would lead.
The 167th departed its bases at Colombey, Breuvannes, and Damblain, hiking at night and sleeping during the day to preserve secrecy from enemy aircraft. The weather was hot in the beginning, and the night moves were cooler as well as safer from aircraft observation...
9. The Côte de Châtillon in the Argonne, October 12-21, 1918
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The American Expeditionary Forces changed its command structure just as the Rainbow’s battle started at Côte de Châtillon. With a front of more than seventy miles, Pershing separated his army—a highly unorthodox move, but one required by army policy governing size of commands. He created the 1st US Army Group on October 12 to direct his original 1st US Army and the newly formed 2nd US Army...
10. Final Drive to the Rhine and into Germany
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After capturing the Côte de Châtillon the 42nd Division remained in Lieutenant General Hunter Liggett’s 1st US Army for the final drive to Sedan.1 Both Liggett and his V Corps commander, General Summerall, to whom the Rainbow reported, knew the division well...
11. Return of the Immortals, May 7-13, 1919
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Few family members met the returning heroes in New York, but two women from Greenville were there. Although D Company’s Sergeant Worth Lewis had been killed in the bayonet attack at Croix Rouge Farm on July 26, 1918, his mother and sister welcomed the debarking regiment on April 25, 1919.1 The two ladies had visited Camp Mills in 1917 to see the unit off to France, and this welcoming closed the circle. The Lewis family greeted D Company as family members, and the men loved them for it.2
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People remember the Great War mostly for having saved Europe from Imperial Germany. For some Americans who were involved, it offered tough schooling for a successful life in business, government, and the military. But that was not always the case. Many in the 167th could never escape the fear that accompanied their first patrols in the no-man’s-land of the Lorraine...
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Index of Military Units
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Page Count: 366
Illustrations: 25 illustrations
Publication Year: 2014