74th Artillery, C.A.C., WWI

74th Artillery


The 74th Artillery was organized in June of 1918 at Ft. Schuyler, New York. In September of that year they moved to Camp Upton, New York for final preparations before sailing orders. In September 1918 those orders to go to France came and the regiment moved from Camp Upton to the Port of Embarkation Hoboken, New Jersey. There the regiment boarded the transport USS President Grant. The voyage over was a costly one as 137 men died of the flu. The Regiment went to O&T Center No. 6 at Mailly and Haussimont, France. This was the training camp for the US Army's Railway Artillery. The 74th Artillery was one regiment of the 40th Artillery Brigade. The other two sister Regiments were the 73rd Artillery and the 75th Artillery.

The 74th Artillery was to be assigned to Railway Artillery and most likely would have had the 400mm or the 340mm railway guns. Their training had not yet finished when the armistice was signed. They did not see any action while in France. On the 14th of December, 1918 the 74th Artillery had orders to move out for the trip back home. That day they sailed from Brest, France aboard the transport USS Mongolia along with it sister regiment the 73rd Artillery. On December 22, 1918 they reached New York and on the 23 went ashore and went to Camp Mills, New York for a short stay and then moved to Ft. Totten, New York. In January of 1919 the 74th Artillery was demobilized and ceased to exist.

Pvt. 1cl Chamberlain, 1st Battalion, Battery A

Submitted by the daughter of Pvt. 1cl Chamberlain, Ann Chamberlain Terhune, Lexington, Kentucky. "I got interested in his WWI time when I started looking for information on the brass shell he brought back from France. It had been turned into a vase which I know is called trench art."

My father, Leo Martin Chamberlain, was a soldier with the 74th Railway Artillery Regiment, Battery A, C.A.C., 40th Brigade. I have several postcards he must have bought on the ship home form France. He was a Pvt. 1st class.

Pvt. 1cl Leo Martin Chamberlain in uniform back home after the war. He was from Chalmers, Indiana. He was born Dec. 27, 1896. After high school he went to Normal School which gave him a teaching certificate, He taught school before joining the Army. After the war he taught school for a while, then went to Indiana University where he got his Bachelors, Masters and PHD degrees. The rest of his working life was spent at the University of Kentucky where he became vice-president. He died in 1968. He was 44 when I (Ann Chamberlain Terhune) was born in 1941.
Pvt. 1cl Leo Martin Chamberlain. Ann Relates this of her father: "I remember him telling me that he was on one of the first ships back from France and the men received a heroes welcome. He said he always felt bad about this since the men who should have received this welcome were still in France. His group never got into the fight. He loved to tell about November 11th. His Battery was called out and everyone thought it was their turn to get into the fight when the Captain said five words they would never forget, "Gentlemen, the war is over." The Captain then told them they were going to take a little march. (To keep them out of trouble I'm sure.) They marched through all the little French towns nearby and were treated like heroes. Lots of hugging and kissing, food and wine. He was asked to go to Officers Candidate School but turned it down to ship out to France with his group."
Above is a Liberty Pass. It states that Pvt. Chamberlain of Battery A has permission to visit Brest, France between 9 am and 5:30 pm on December 5th, 1918. It has the official stamp of the 74th Artillery and is signed by the commander of Battery A, Robert A. Chamfelt. It was approved by Lt. Col. Cooper and 1st Lt. Cedric B. Smith Asst. Adjutant, 74th Artillery. At that time the Regiment was stationed at Camp Pontanszen in Brest, France. This was one of the largest Camps that the American army used both for embarking and debarking soldiers.
A view aboard the USS President Grant. You can see at least 16 wooden coffins containing some of the 137 men who died on the trip over. The other taller wooden crates visible in the background of this photo are actually wooden life rafts that would be thrown over in case of a sinking. Not much protection from the cruel sea but they did float.
A photo of a French Naval gun used by the American Army. This looks to be like that of the 400mm railway gun type. This photo was most likely taken at O&T Center (Operations and Training) No. 6 in Mailly and Haussimont, France.
This is a photo of the aft gun aboard the USS Mongolia. It was James Goodwin of Edenton, North Carolina a gunner's mate aboard the Mongolia who took the first official hostile action against Germany after the U.S. entered the war and was credited with sinking a German submarine.
December at sea in the cold Atlantic. This is a view of the troops aboard the Mongolia on the return trip from France. Again note the many wooden crates. These are box type life rafts that would be used to throw over and be lashed together for the men to climb on and hopefully save them from the cruel icy waters of the Atlantic.
Again another view of the return voyage on the Mongolia 14 December - 22 December 1918
The Mongolia in her war time dazzle paint. This was done to help confuse and camouflage the ship from the peering eyes of the German U-boats Commanders. It is unknown how many lives this may have saved.

Captain Robert J. Van Buskirk, 3rd Battalion Commander

At the right is the identity card from WWI of Captain Van Buskirk. Below his identity card are the ribbons from his uniform he was awarded during his Army career. They are from the top row left side; Bronze Star Medal Ribbon, top center is the European-African-Middle Eastern Medal Ribbon with 3 stars signifying 3 campaigns; top right side is the WWII Victory Medal Ribbon. Bottom row from the left is American Campaign Medal Ribbon for service in the American Theatre from December 7, 1941-March 2, 1946; bottom center is the American Defense Medal Ribbon with 1 star and bottom right is the WWI Victory Medal Ribbon.

A Career Army Officer Robert Justin Van Buskirk was born August 30 of 1894 in Newburgh, New York. His parents were Justin (b. Sept 1861, Pennsylvania d. 1944) and Maud C. (b. March 1869, Pennsylvania, d. 1953) Van Buskirk.

The Justin Van Buskirk family had lived in the Elmira and Newburgh, New York areas where Justin worked as a clerk and later as a real estate broker to support his family. Together Justin and Maud started their family with the birth of their first child a son named Henry born in May of 1893. The birth of Robert J. in 1894, and son Allan C. born in 1902 and daughters Maud A. born about 1908 and another daughter named Thelma born about 1910 had completed the family. All 5 Buskirk children were born in New York. Later from at least 1912 Justin and his wife Maud had moved to Orlando, Florida where Robert, Allan, Maud A. and Thelma lived with them.

The second son Robert J. had ambitions to serve in the military and on July 10, 1912 was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from the state of Florida. Robert Van Buskirk graduated from the Naval Academy as a Midshipman on February 14, 1916. He served as an Ensign in the Naval Reserve from April 11, 1917 through June 16, 1917. He resigned his commission in the Navy on June 16, 1917 and that same day joined the United States Army as a 2nd Lt. serving in the Coast Artillery Corps of the Army. On June 28, 1917 his commission was accepted and then advanced to rank of 1st Lt. From November 29, 1917 to June 30, 1920 he served at the temporary rank of Captain in the Coast Artillery Corps.

During the First World War Capt. Van Buskirk was the 3rd Battalion Commander of the 74th Artillery, C.A.C. and his unit served in France from September 1918 to December 1918. The 74th Artillery did not see action on the front and their training in France had only just begun when the war ended. After his return from France Capt. Van Buskirk was stationed at Camp Eustis, Virginia. His rank of temporary Captain was made permanent on July 1, 1920. Captain Van Buskirk attended and graduated the Coast Artillery School, Battery Officers Course in 1922 and the Advanced Course School in 1933. On November 1, 1934 he was advanced to Major.

Sometime around the time Van Buskirk returned from France in 1918 he married, her name being Susie D. she was born about 1894 in New Jersey. During the time the then Captain Van Buskirk was serving at Camp Eustis, Virginia, he and his wife Susie had two daughters. Suzanne was born about 1921 and Justine born about 1922. Likely Suzanne was named in honor of her mother Susie and Justine’s name likely came from Roberts’ father’s name of Justin.

It is known from a notation on the 1930 Federal Census that during 1924 Captain Van Buskirk was serving in the Philippine Islands, as Susie and Capt. Van Buskirk’s third daughter, Nanette was born there sometime about 1924. By 1929 his duties had taken the family from the Philippine Islands to California. The Van Buskirk’s fourth and last daughter named Roberta in honor of her father was born sometime during 1929 in California.

By the time little Roberta had her first birthday the family was now living at Fort Amador, Balboa, Canal Zone. Fort Amador was one of the two forts protecting the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.

November 1, 1934 Van Buskirk receives his promotion to Major while serving at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was then ordered to duty in Portland, Maine for organized reserve duty. Before departing Ft. Monroe his men gave him a send off as the band played “Anchors Away” in remembrance of his “Navy” connection. Major Van Buskirk took 3-weeks leave and visited family in Florida where it was said that he ‘soaked up all the sunshine he could before going up to Portland, Maine during the winter.’ His next promotion to Lt. Colonel came on July 1, 1940. Major Van Buskirk was awarded an American Defense Medal with one service star signifying that he served on active duty before America’s entry into the Second World War but during the early years of the European conflict from September 8, 1939 through December 7, 1941.

During WWII on February 1, 1942 Van Buskirk was again advanced to his last and final rank that of full Colonel. He served in the European Theater during the war years and Col. Van Buskirk received 3 bronze stars on his European-African-Middle Eastern Medal signifying that he had participated in 3 campaigns. Also during WWII Colonel Van Buskirk was awarded an Army Bronze Star for distinguishing himself for meritorious achievement while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States. From June 10 through October 17 1943 Colonel Van Buskirk served on the General Staff Corps.

After Colonel Van Buskirk’s retirement from active service with the Army in 1947 he retired to the Tampa and St. Petersburg area of Florida. It is not known when Col. Van Buskirk’s wife Susie passed away but he may have lived as a widower in Florida for many years.

During his retirement years in the St. Petersburg area Col. Van Buskirk was involved in the theater, fine arts and musical life of that city. Also in his spare time he was a real estate broker.

He was an active member at the retired Officers Club in St. Petersburg. During the 1960’s his fellow retired officers had bestowed the title of “Sir, Robert the Lion Hearted” to Col. Van Buskirk on account of his outstanding service to the local Symphony Guild. Once in May of 1970, Col. Van Buskirk had attended the “Opera Week” in Atlanta, Georgia put on by the Metropolitan Opera. And a few days later had attended the performance of “The Leper” at the Florida State University in Tallahassee. It was said that the Colonel was a bit shocked by the patrons of the arts at Florida State, as in his words “They came charging in from all over the country with their long hair…” The Colonel being a military man all his life was ‘Spit and Polish’ to the core.

It was said that going to a Gulf Coast Symphony concert during the 70’s did not start with out Col. Van Buskirk mingling in the lobby greeting friends. His daughter Justine had given him a ruffled shirt and he wore it often to these events. At the end of his life Col. Van Buskirk lived at 221 Julia Circle N. in St. Petersburg Beach. At the age of 87 Col. Van Buskirk passed away in Tallahassee, Florida on October 2, 1981. His four daughters Suzanne Dancy, Justine V. Prince, Nanette Dover and Roberta Drake and two of his sisters Thelma Douglass and Maude Douglass; 13 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren survived him.

Luther George Hagerty, Pvt 1st Class, Battery B, Serial Number 604767 

Robert L. Hagerty remembers his grandfathers pride in his service with the 74th Artillery during WWI. Robert relates, "When I was a young boy he would tell me the stories of his adventures and the crossing of the Atlantic in the SS President Grant, the burying of the dead at sea due to spanish influenza of more than a hundred soldiers, the events on Armestice Night, the train ride from Haussimont (nicknamed "Hold Some More") to Brest, and the disbanding of the unit."

Luther Hagerty would tell his grandson that the guns of the battery were each named and that the gun he was assigned to in Battery B was named "Elsie Janis" after a popular entertainer of the time.  There is the story of how Pvt. Hagerty and several other soldiers smuggled a disassembled german machine gun onto the USS Mongolia with the intent to reassemble it back in the States.  However once they reached New York and disembarked, the parts were lost somehow on the trip across from France.  Luther Hagerty used ti tell how that the unit was made up of a mix of experienced railroad men and army and naval personnel.

This page is owned by Joe Hartwell, was created on 27 May, 2001 and last modified on 11/5/14

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