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 The Creation of the 37th “Buckeye” Division

By Cyrus Moore III, Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

May 2, 2018

Co C 135 MG Camp SheridanCompany C, 135th Machine-Gun Battalion, 37th Division. during Training at Camp Sheridan. Co. C was formed from the Machine-Gun Company of the 7th Infantry, Ohio National Guard. Photo courtesy of the Southeast Ohio History Center. 

Ohio was one of only a few states to have its National Guard form a complete division in the First World War. Because of its pre-war origins, the 37th Division became known in the military as the “Buckeye” Division, and it adopted the bullseye from the Ohio state flag as its insignia. However, its composition was like that of other divisions, and contained many men who had not been part of the pre-war Ohio National Guard (ONG). The Ohioans who formed the core of the division were fortunate to be able to preserve their state identity in the massive Federal Army created by the War Department.

Before the Ohio National Guard entered Federal service in 1917, it was organized by a regimental system, with each regiment and its individual companies coming from a certain geographical area. It consisted of nine infantry regiments, one independent African-American infantry battalion, two artillery regiments, engineer companies, a signal battalion, ammunition trains, military police, and headquarters troops. Despite the variety, the ONG bore a closer resemblance to the volunteer armies of 1861 than the massive armies waging war in Europe in 1917. The crucial difference was the ONG’s use of brigades as self-contained formations, which contained two to four regiments and a few thousand soldiers. Armies in Europe were fighting on a much larger scale. Divisions were the standard formation, which consisted of multiple brigades and with tens of thousands of soldiers. To fight effectively in Europe, the ONG, along with the rest of the US military, had to reorganize on a divisional system.

Ohio began mobilizing its National Guard in the Spring of 1917. Existing ONG companies recruited to full strength as new recruits full of patriotic fervor joined up while new companies and even a new regiment were formed. The pre-war ONG lacked the artillery necessary to form a division, so cavalry and some infantry companies were converted to artillery. Through the influx of additional soldiers, expanding the artillery, and Ohio Governor James Cox’s heavy lobbying, the War department allowed the Ohio National Guard to enter the federal army as its own division, one of only a few states to do so.

General Pershing created a division model for the American Expeditionary Force, known as a “Square Division” due to the four infantry regiments at the core. To compensate for the soldiers inexperience, Pershing and his staff made the regiments and divisions much larger than those of European armies. A typical US regiment would number over 3,000 men, while a division would be around 27,000.

In September and October of 1917, the Ohio National Guard began leaving its home state, bound for Camp Sheridan, Alabama. At Camp Sheridan the ONG entered the federal army and reorganized into a division. The Ohio National Guard became the 37th Division, known as the “Buckeye” division.

73rd Infantry Brigade

74th Infantry Brigade

145th Infantry Regiment

146th Infantry Regiment

135th Machine-Gun Battalion

147th Infantry Regiment

148th Infantry Regiment

136th Machine-Gun Battalion

62nd Field Artillery Brigade

Divisional Troops

134th Field Artillery Regiment, 75mm guns

135th Field Artillery Regiment, 75mm guns

136th Field Artillery Rgmt, 155mm howitzers

112th Trench Mortar Battery

134th Machine-Gun Battalion

112th Engineer Regiment

112th Signal Battalion

Headquarters Troop

Table 1: Order of Battle (component units) for the 37th Division

           

Significantly, the regiments and battalions of the new divisions lacked any state designations. They were numbered according to their position in the Federal Army. State origins remained but only in the nicknames, which soon became official. Though some state regiments were renumbered and stayed mostly together, often men from the various state regiments were scattered across the division to raise the new regiments to strength. To further augment division strength, soldiers from other states and draftees from across the country were added to the constituent regiments.

Ohio National Guard officers were scattered even more than their men. The War Department wanted experienced Regular Army officers in high ranking positions, but National Guard officers could not be dismissed without causing resentment. Guard officers were used to fill lower positions wherever needed, and were thus often sent far from their original outfits.

When compared to the pre-Federalized composition of the Ohio National Guard, the 37th Division is much more robust; it was better balanced in terms of infantry to other troop types, and contained equipment necessary for modern warfare, such as machine-guns and heavy mortars. Though heavily restructured, the division contained many Ohioans and preserved its state identity.

Bibliography

Cole, Ralph D. and W. C. Howells. The Thirty-Seventh Division in the World War, 1917-1919. 2   Vols. Columbus, OH: The Thirty-seventh Division Veterans Association. 1926.

Grotelueschen, Mark E. The AEF Way of War: The American Army and combat in World War I. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. 2007.

 

 

 

Ohio World War I Centennial Committee

Contact: Sara Fisher, Ohio History Connection: [email protected]

Committee Members:

Ron Chapman, American Legion Department of Ohio

Steve Ebersole, American Legion Department of Ohio

Shannon Kupfer, State Library of Ohio 

Paul LaRue, High School History Teacher (Ret.)

Dr. Paul Lockhart, Wright State University

Pete Lupiba, Ohio Department of Education

SFC Joshua Mann, Ohio Army National Guard

David Merkowitz, Ohio Humanities

Colonel Thomas Moe, United States Air Force (Ret.)

Cyrus Moore, Ohio History Connection

Toivo Motter, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens 

Becky Preiss Odom, Ohio History Connection

Kyle Yoho, The Castle Historic House Museum

 

 

 

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