WWI Art – 20th Forestry Engineers Wartime Newsletter “The Railsplitter”


20th057

The 20th Engineers are one of those obscure service units that served overseas in WWI that I love researching.  They saw no combat and spent the entire war swinging axes and operating sawmills, but their labors provided the railties, barracks, firewood, and poles that kept the war running.  This wartime newsletter header makes reference to Abe Lincoln’s early life as a rail splitter and juxtaposes it with the wartime president(Wilson).

Here’s the full scan of the handbill dated May 23rd, 1918:

20th057 20th058

WWI 26th Division / 32nd Division Mystery Photo -103rd Infantry Regiment Officer


Today’s photo post is a real head-scratcher!  I purchased the image thinking it was a nice studio portrait of a 32nd Division officer, which is evident from the SSI patch of the red arrow with a line through it.  When the photo arrived I noticed instantly that the officer was wearing the collar insignia of the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division.  Causal readers of this blog will know that I actively seek out 26th Division photos due to my New Englander roots.

32nd Division or 26th?

Back Reads:

Selters Germany

12 January 1919

From Captain

Guy Swett (Hard to read writing)

Co. H 127th U.S Inf

32nd Div

“Army of Occupation”

Sent to a Miss Flora Murch

South Paris, ME USA

I am assuming the fellow was originally from the South Paris area in Maine, which would point towards a Yankee Division identification.  The 32nd Division was made up of guys from the Michigan area.  Looking at his other insignia also may point to his unit identity.  Is that a DSC ribbon on his chest?  It’s hard to tell, but it possibly may help in identifying the last name and original unit.

Any help from readers would be greatly appreciated!

Special thanks to our friends over at Soldier’s Mail for this wonderful interpretation!  Don’t forget to check out their website for a super collection of WWII related information. 

“After the end of hostilities with the signing of the Armistice, inducements were offered to encourage veteran combat troops to extend their enlistments and remain with the Army of Occupation in Europe rather than returning directly home on the Bridge of Ships. (Sam Avery speaks of these inducements in this letter: http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/sarrey-france-1131919/)

After the Armistice, the 26th Division was in such bad shape from combat losses that it was assigned to the rear rather than the Army of Occupation. However, a number of its members chose to extend their deployments and were reassigned to different units in other Divisions stationed in Germany.

The officer in this photo clearly originated with the 103rd Infantry as indicated by the Regimental device on his collar. However, he is also apparently a newly-minted Captain in the 32nd Division as indicated by his sporting of the double 1st Lt bars on his shoulder along with the 32nd Division shoulder patch. I believe he was originally a 1st Lt in the 103rd Infantry, and then accepted a promotion in rank to extend his service in Army of Occupation with the 32nd Division.

Based on the writing on the reverse of this photo card, the 127th was one of the four infantry regiments in the 32nd. This man’s rank as Captain also indicates he would have been appointed the Company commander.”

Thanks again to Soldier’s Mail!