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Archie Henry Thomas

Submitted by: Gregory Neifeld {Great-Grandson}

Archie Henry ThomasArchie Henry Thomas born around 1885. Archie Thomas served in World War 1 with the United States Army. The enlistment was in 1909 and the service was completed in 1925.

Story of Service


Between April and September 1916, Archie was stationed on the Mexican border in California with the Oregon Third Infantry Regiment, Company I during the Mexican Border War. His regiment was activated into federal service after Pancho Villa’s raid in Columbus, New Mexico. While on the border, Archie was promoted to Corporal in July 1916 and he was promoted to Sergeant before his return to Oregon in September.

This was an era in which the U.S.-Mexico border was perceived as a potential location for a German-funded invasion by Mexico. Border service went into effect when this threat was exposed by the British interception of the Zimmerman Telegram. This message discussed Germany's alliance proposal for Mexico if the U.S. entered the European war against Germany.

The onset of American involvement in World War I prompted all National Guard regiments to reactivate under federal service. This activation included the Oregon Third Infantry Regiment in March 1917. In July 1917, the unit was mustered at Camp Withycombe, Oregon and transferred to Camp Greene, North Carolina for training.

In October, the unit was reorganized under the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, District of Columbia National Guard, composed of federalized National Guard troops from the Northwest and Midwest. This battalion was later reorganized into the Army’s 41st Division, 81st Infantry Brigade, 162nd Infantry Regiment. The 41st Division was nicknamed the Sunset Division and was mobilized at Camp Mills, New York. Its members were shipped overseas in support of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. The first divisional units departed the United States on November 26, 1917.

Archie Thomas was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant the next day. His unit departed for France from Hoboken, New Jersey on January 22, 1918.

A regiment in World War I consisted of nearly 5,000 soldiers, while a division was composed of 15,000. Members of the 41st Division were aboard the SS Tuscania when it was torpedoed by German U-boat (U-77) and sunk off the coast of Ireland. The SS Tuscania departed Hoboken with 384 crew members and 2,013 United States Army personnel aboard. On February 5, 1918, it turned south for the North Channel bound for Liverpool when it was attacked. French fishing boats were in the area and pulled survivors from the freezing waters. About 210 people were killed.

The last units of the 41st Division arrived in France on February 6, 1918. The unit’s soldier’s that awaited shipment to France were temporarily assigned to Camp Merritt until a vessel was readily available. The unit was the fifth United States Army division to arrive in France. By March, 250,000 American soldiers were stationed in France. This number increased to one million in July and two million by November, with two-thirds of the 29 divisions seeing action. The United States Selective Service documented 2,810,296 inducted soldiers during the war.

The 41st Division’s purpose was as the primary training unit for incoming troops for the entire American Expeditionary Force and was known as the Replacement Division, or the First Depot Division. It was assigned to St. Aignan (Noyers) in France where its members trained incoming American Expeditionary Forces in the use of French and English weapons and trench tactics. Many soldiers made a temporary stop in Liverpool, England prior to arriving at the depot for training in St. Aignan. After training was completed the troops were dispersed to the front-line combat divisions. Many of the 41st Division members were reassigned to combat divisions after General Pershing restructured the organization of the American Expeditionary Forces.

The Sunset Division’s members helped win the victories at Chateau-Thierry, Aisne-Marne, and St. Mihiel after the unit was dispersed into other units. Archie remained with the 162nd’s Headquarters when the companies were dispersed. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on April 10, 1919 and was also assigned to the 1st Replacement Band. The 41st Division served in Europe until the end of the war and was deactivated in June 1919. Archie returned to the United States on July 19, 1919. Upon returning to Silverton, Archie remained in the Oregon Army National Guard and served as a night policeman. His unit was temporarily designated as the 5th Infantry before returning to the original 162nd Regiment, Company I. As in France, he remained as the Company I First Lieutenant under Captain Grover Todd.

Captain Todd commanded the unit on the Mexican border, in France during the World War, and in the post-war years in Oregon between 1915 and 1922. He also served as the Silverton Police Chief. He resigned as police chief to accept a position as an official in the Portland custom house. Archie Thomas was promoted to Captain in 1922 and served as the Company I Commander and Silverton Chief of Police until 1924. He was appointed by Silverton Mayor Eastman as Chief of Police. Although he was considered a strong candidate by the local community Archie chose not to enter the race for the Marion County Sheriff position. Grover Todd was killed while trying to apprehend a person selling moonshine during the days of prohibition on alcohol.

Archie attended an infantry school at Camp Benning, Georgia during this time. He resigned his position as Company Commander after his unit was on 30-day probation for unsatisfactory drill attendance. Archie Thomas left the Army after 16 years of service in 1925. He was awarded the Mexican Border Service Medal, the World War I Victory Medal (with France Service clasp), and the U.S. Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin. The World War I Victory Medal was issued to over 2.5 million American soldiers. Five different service clasps denoted a soldier’s service in England, France, Italy, Russia, and Siberia. The United States was the only nation to add campaign/combat clasps to the medal to denote participation in specific engagements. Thirteen campaign clasps were authorized, plus a Defensive Sector clasp, and nineteen Navy clasps.

Archie Thomas married Edna Merl Jones from Sheridan, Oregon on October 28, 1919.

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