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OFFICIAL MEMORANDUM OF THE U.S. VETERINARY SERVICE DURING THE MEUSE-ARGONNE OFFENSIVE
(September 17 to November 26 1918)
Adapted from: Merillat, Louis A. & Delwin M. Campbell. VETERINARY MILITARY HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
The veterinary evacuation station established at Heippes to meet the needs of the V Army Corps during the St. Mihiel operation was continued for the Argonne-Meuse operation but an additional station was opened up at Autrecourt September 29.
The Autrecourt station was manned by the Remount Squadron No 314 (6 officers and 157 men) several days later this personnel was increased by the addition of Mobile Veterinary Section No 103 (1 officers and 21 men) Lieutenant R.S. Youman, commanding. The station was under the command of Captain R.J. Meskill, Quartermaster Corps, and was operated as a branch of the Heippes station, the two stations, being commanded by Captain J.V. Hunt. Mobile Veterinary Section No 103 was moved to Heippes, October 1, and a few days later under competent orders was sent to the V Army Corps to serve in the capacity of the Corps Mobile Veterinary Hospital, thus for the first time providing this army corps with an evacuating unit. The transfer occurred on October 5, 1918.
The Autrecourt station was installed in the open, animals being tied on picket lines on the hills overlooking the village to the southwest. The hills were selected because of the gravel soil, which was thought to be preferable for a standing for animals to the meadows in the valley near the watering stream. This was found to be a mistake as the crippled animals were too far away from the watering place. There being no means of transporting water to them it was found impossible to water some of them as prudently as sick animals should be. The station being in the open it soon became muddy and as the officers and personnel were not as yet experienced in handling evacuations, this station became notorious for ugly events. Many animals died and the shipments all landed in veterinary hospitals, with an appalling percentage of dead and dying animals. Several of the shipments were made the matter of official investigations. These investigations contributed to the final approval of the more comprehensive plan of evacuation, the installation of proper shelter, necessary accommodations and for the reception, care, classification, loading, and transportation of animals to the rear.
Following the advance of the army a new station was installed at Aubreville, a growing railhead, where many trainloads of supplies, materials and troops were being unloaded. The station was opened October 6, and was manned by Remount Squadron No 301 brought from Heippes, which station was now closed as it was to far away from the Army for further service.
A detachment from Remount Squadron No 314 from Autrecourt was sent to Heippes to attend and dispose of whatever straggling evaluations might subsequently arrive from organizations not knowing the station had been closed. This detachment cleaned up the barracks and stables before leaving.
Thus the station of Heippes was closed after operating from September 17 to October 10 1918, evacuating during this period 3,049 animals from the St. Mihiel operation and 277 from the Argonne-Meuse operation.
These animals were delivered to the following veterinary hospitals:
Bourbonne Les Bains: 104
Neuilly L’Eveque: 968 Claye Souilly: 785
For a total of: 3,049 animals
The station of Autrecourt was opened September 29, 1918 and closed October 16, 1918. During its existence 1,518 animals to the following veterinary hospitals:
Claye Souilly: 390
For a total of: 1,518 animals
A few animals which were brought to the station after it was closed for the reception of animals and during the days the squadron was moving to Baleicourt and were delivered overland to Aubreville for evacuation.
The Aubreville station was opened October 6, and manned by Remount Squadron No 301 and commanded by Captain J.V. Hunt, Q.M.C. This personnel was increased October 8, by the addition of Army Mobile Hospital No 1 (2 officers and 62 men) This station was continued until the day the Armistice and then remained in operation until November 26, to receive the post armistice evacuations. From October 6 to October 14, 1,468 animals were evacuated. On the latter date the evacuation stations were consolidated and given over to the command of Major M.E. Knowles, V.C.
The 1,468 animals were evacuated to the following veterinary hospitals:
Claye Souilly: 142
For a total of: 1,468 animals
October 14, a new station was installed at Baleicourt with a view to establishing two chains of advance station, one running along the Westside of the Meuse, north from Baleicourt and the other along the Argonne forest, north from Aubreville. These stations were operated under the name of Veterinary Evacuations (V.E.S.) of the First Army.
The following was the personnel:
Major M.E. Knowles, V.C. commanding officer Lt. V.J. Laing, Adjutant
Remount Squadron No 301 (6 officers and 157 men) Captain George B Sheldon Q.M.C. commanding
Remount Squadron No 314 (6 officers and 157 men) Captain R.J. Meskill, Q.M.C. commanding
100 casuals from the 1 st Depot Division attached to Remount Squadron No 301
100 casuals from the 1 st Depot Division attached to Remount Squadron No 314
Veterinary Hospital No 1 (2 officers and 68 men) Lt. Walter Jensen, V.C. commanding
Labor Company No 17 (2 officers and 122 colored men)
Labor Company No 18 (2 officers and 122 colored men)
In addition to this permanent personnel the Commander in Chief directed in a special order to corps commanders that additional men be sent to evacuation stations from the corps on demand from the commanding officers of the veterinary evacuation stations.
The difficulty of securing cars for the transportation of animals to the rear remained unsatisfactory until this organization was completed. The regulating officer at St. Dizier continued up to this time to hold to the opinion that cars were not available for that purpose and that the loading of livestock interfered with the functioning of railheads. The same opposition was not raised by the officers in charge of the railheads. On the contrary every railhead man interviewed held to the opinion that the loading of cars returning empty was not only feasible and of little consequence as regards congesting traffic but was also a fundamentally sound policy of railroading. In short, trying to load cars both ways, we were informed, is a train dispatcher’s first duty.
On October 12, the situation having become critical on account of the large number of animals arriving at the stations, Lt. Colonel DeWitt, assistant chief of staff, G-4, in company with Major M.E. Knowles, commanding officer of the veterinary evacuation stations held a conference with the regulating officer at St. Dizier and came to a definite agreement which for a time brought our difficulties in this connection to a close.
Arrangements were made whereby sufficient cars would be spotted at Aubreville and Baleicourt on request to the local R.T.O. With this arrangement in force the movement of sick animals became an uninterrupted, continuous delivery which relieved the congestion of the evacuation stations and enabled the personnel to treat, nurse, groom, feed, load and convoy the animals to the rear in an orderly and extremely satisfactory manner. In short, the work of the stations became a mere routine.
On October 26, an order received through the chief remount officer forbade further shipments from Aubreville and set aside the gun emplacement spur at Clermont en Argonne as the future loading place. On October 27, Major M.E. Knowles, reported that this spur was not suitable for loading animals and not of sufficient track capacity for our purposes, and as the spur was constructed into a high bank that paralleled the main track it could not be made approachable for loading animals except by leading them over the two main tracks which ran over a high grade. There is no in this region and no place suitable for constructing buildings. When these facts were communicated to the staff, arrangements were made to load the animals on the gun spur at Parois, two miles east of Aubreville. This change seriously interfered with our operations as it necessitated the construction of ramps for loading and for temporary shelter of animals awaiting loading, and a lead of two miles off the main road from Aubreville to Parois. We were compelled to make the delivery of animals over the hills south of the river. This seriously taxed the personnel and was harmful to the sick and badly crippled animals. Later, by an agreement with the local railroad officer, we were permitted to load the badly crippled animals at Aubreville and this arrangement prevailed until the close of the operations, Parois being used only for the loading of the stronger animals.
The Aubreville station, at the close of the operations, had been developed into a splendid place for animals. The 301st Remount Squadron under Captain Sheldon constructed shelter for 500 animals with lumber, posts and galvanizing iron roofing obtained through the kindness of the First Army engineers at that station. The stable floors and roadways were paved with stone taken from the shell torn houses of Aubreville and a rock roadway was built into the riverbed to serve as a clean watering place. There was no pasturing done at Aubreville owning to the large number of shell holes and barb-wire entanglements on the hills and meadows.
Aubreville was opened October 26 and closed November 26, having been continued until all the animals of the First Army had been transferred from this sector. The station handled 7,325 animals during it existence.
During the operation an advance station was established at Varennes, November 6, and one at Marcq-Argonne, November 8, following closely the advance of the army. The Varennes station was located in the meadows northeast of the village adjacent to a stream suitable for watering animals. The animals were tied on picket lines which were ingeniously equipped with hay racks and feed troughs which were made from chicken wire, baled hay wire and burlap feed sacks, thus keeping all the feed from the ground. There was a picket line capacity for 400 animals. A shelter tent obtained from the quartermaster store at Fleury served to protect the forage stores and provisions. The personnel lived in dugouts constructed by them selves. A forage was installed in the open on floor made from planks abandoned at the adjacent ammunition dump. This station handled approximately 200 animals, which were carried on the records of the Aubreville station. It was closed November 21, 1918
The Marcq-Argonne station, opened November 8, was installed in shelter tents, picket lines and the half roofed sheds left by the retreating Germans. The enemy had abandoned here several hundred tons of peat moss, which was useful pending the reconstruction of the railroad to this advanced point. In this section of the Veterinary Evacuation Stations (the Argonne section) Marcq was called the advance station, Varennes the relay station and Aubreville the base or shipping station.
Baleicourt was opened October 14 as the headquarters of the veterinary evacuating stations. It was also the base or shipping station of the group of advance stations to be developed along the west side of the Meuse to meet the needs of the divisions operating in that direction and of those attached to the XVII Corps of the Second French Army oriented around Verdun and southeast toward the Second Army area.
The installation of the Baleicourt station consisted of frame stables in a bad state of repair all of which, except two, were however, located on macadam paved ground. The selection of this place was due largely to this feature. There was also a convenient switch, adjacent to the stables, which was being used as a gun spur, good watering facilities consisting of a spring, watering trough and a pump run by a gasoline engine and also a running stream to which the stronger animals could be led. The personnel constructed about a mile of stone road and a loading platform to accommodate six cars, drained the entire area by a system of ditches and underground conduits, repaired all the buildings, and construction continuous hay racks and mangers complete. The material for this work was obtained largely from salvage. The stables when complete had a capacity of 500 stalls.
The number of animals handled at Baleicourt was 6,999 of which 820 were delivered from the advance station at Brieulles.
The Brieulles Station was opened November 13 and closed November 23, 1918. The animals were all delivered overland and were carried on the records of Baleicourt.
On November 13, a station was opened at Vilones to serve as a relay station between Brieulles and Baleicourt but as this station was turned over to the III Corps (Major Nelson) it was never operated separately by the Army.
October 29, a station was opened at Les Iselettes but was closed November 4, after receiving 40 animals, the location having proved inconvenient. This station during its existence was manned by Labor Company No 17.
Number of animals handled by evacuating stations
Heippes: Remount Squadron No 301 (St Mihiel), 3,049 animals, Sept 7,1918 to Oct 6, (Argonne), 277 animals.
Jeanne D’Arc Caserne: Sept 13,1918 to Oct 11, (St. Mihiel), 3,457 animals
Aubreville: Remount Squadron No 301, Oct 5, 1918 to Oct 15, 1918 (Argonne), 2,231 animals
Varennes: Remount Squadron No 301, Nov 6 1918 to Nov 21 1918
Nancy: Remount Squadron No 301, Nov 8 1918 to Nov 21 1918 (Argonne) 7,325 animals
Baleicourt: Remount Squadron No 314, Oct 14 1918 to Nov 21 1918 (Argonne) 6,179 animals
Brieulles: Nov 11 1918 to Nov 21 1918 (Argonne), 820 animals
Les Iselettes: Oct 29 1918 to Nov 4 1918 (Argonne), 40 animals
Total of animals evacuated: 23,378
Died: 541 animals
Returned to Duty: 15 animals
Evacuated to S.O.S. Veterinary Hospitals from Veterinary Evacuation Stations, 1st Army: 21,631
Remained at Jeanne D’Arc Caserne when the 2nd Army assumed control: 235
Transferred from evacuating station at Autrecourt to Evacuating Station at Baleicourt: 150
The animals classified at the evacuation stations as to mange, influenza, wounds, foot diseases and debilities and those reported to this office by divisions through corps veterinarians, show that most of the casualties were caused by privation, overwork, lack of care and poor shoeing, not from causes preventable by the veterinary service.
August 7, upon taking over the responsibility of developing a veterinary service in the First Army, it was found that the divisions not being under central control in this connection were not using their veterinary corps to the best advantage. The division veterinarians, not being taken into the confidence of the staff in regard to proposed activities, knew nothing about proposed marches and were therefore using the mobile veterinary sections as an infirmary instead of as an evacuating unit. It had become the custom in most divisions often to locate the mobile veterinary sections many miles behind the organization. As an example, on or about September 15, the mobile veterinary section of the 3rd Division, during an inspection to correct this evil, was found to be located sixty kilometers behind the division headquarters, caring for 97 animals that should have been evacuated to veterinary hospital. In this particular instance there were two veterinary hospitals within leading distance of this mobile veterinary section
I encountered some difficulty in convincing the division commanders that the proper place for the mobile veterinary section was advance of the headquarters, among the trains and in action just behind the artillery where the casualties were to be expected and where it could cooperate with the corps and army in making evacuations. It was also difficult to induce commanders to plan marches with the division veterinarians in order that they may prearrange for the collection of animals that became disabled en route. Although the operations ended in an improvement in this connection there is still much to be desired at this time. In short, the Veterinary Corps has not been utilized to the best advantage in conserving animals on the march nor in the matter of prompt evacuation while in the station or action.
Signed: L.A. Merillat, Major V.C., Chief Veterinarian, First Army
AMIMAL STATISTICAL REPORT OF DIVISION, CORPS, AND ARMY TROOPS
September 7 to November 15, 1918
1st Division: Evac 276., Died 79 , Destroyed 34, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 5,399 animals
2nd Division: Died 4, Destroyed 1, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 5,716
3rd Division: Evac. 487,Died 88, Destroyed 75, Killed 97, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 32, Average Strength: 4,317
4th Division: Evac.751, Died 296, Destroyed 225, Killed 201, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 4,175
5th Division: Evac. 292, Died 63, Destroyed 30, Killed 26, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 1,819
6th Division: Evac. 22, Died 1, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 30, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 995
26th Division: Evac. 941, Died 100, Destroyed 36, Killed 0, Disposed 4, Condemned 0, Missing 1, Average Strength: 5,422
28th Division: Evac. 225, Died 123, Destroyed 38, Killed 6, Disposed 0, Condemned 1, Missing 0, Average Strength: 5,235
29th Division: Evac. 22, Died 6, Destroyed 6, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 2,073
32nd Division: Evac. 739, Died 62, Destroyed 105, Killed 78, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 5, Average Strength: 3,914
33rd Division: Evac.497, Died 92, Destroyed 48, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 1, Average Strength: 3,916
35th Division: Evac. 955, Died 108, Destroyed 34, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 3,382 animals
36th Division: Evac. 45, Died 5, Destroyed 6, Killed 3, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 1,186
37th Division: Evac. 105, Died 108, Destroyed 61, Killed 0 , Disposed 0, Condemned 150, Missing 0, Average Strength: 3,450
42nd Division: Evac. 875, Died 54, Destroyed 12, Killed 29, Disposed 46, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 5,060
77th Division: Evac. 614, Died 105, Destroyed 64, Killed 86, Disposed 43, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 4,832
78th Division: Evac. 430, Died 62, Destroyed 42, Killed 38, Disposed 7, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 4,026
79th Division: Evac. 370, Died 60, Destroyed 29, Killed 58, Disposed 83, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 3,991 animals
80th Division: Evac. 578, Died 147, Destroyed 86, Killed 20, Disposed 3, Condemned 0, Missing 1, Average Strength: 3,466
81st Division: Evac. 44, Died 17, Destroyed 5, Killed 11, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 2,335
82nd Division: Evac. 901, Died 203, Destroyed 162, Killed 7, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 1, Average Strength: 4.927
89th Division: Evac. 312, Died 39, Destroyed 26, Killed 0, Disposed 356, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 3,890
90th Division: Evac. 1,125, Died 145, Destroyed 130, Killed 74, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 3,474
92nd Division: Evac. 110, Died 17, Destroyed 26, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 1,411 animals
111 Eng.: Evac. 7, Died 0, Destroyed 1, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 330
308th Eng.: Evac. 19, Died 6, Destroyed 6, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 419
2nd Cav.: Evac. 92, Died 10, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 442
302 R.S.: Evac. 200, Died 9, Destroyed 6, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 241 animals
303rd R.S.: Evac. 272, Died 11, Destroyed 36, Killed 0, Disposed 8, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 125
1st Bn. Trn. Art.: Evac. 7, Died 1, Destroyed 1, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 228
13th F.A.: Evac. 61, Died 5, Destroyed 3, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 579
16th F.A.: Evac. 14, Died 14, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 558
119th F.A.: Evac. 31, Died 0, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 7, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 404 animals
122nd F.A.: Evac. 75, Died 9, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 799
107th Amm. Tr.: Evac. 9, Died 0, Destroyed 1, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 264
16th Eng. Ry.: Evac. 0, Died 0, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 19
53rd Pion. Inf.: Evac. 0, Died 0, Destroyed 0, Killed 0, Disposed 0, Condemned 0, Missing 0, Average Strength: 213 animals
Otherwise disposed of: 587
It requires 200 men per corps acting as army troops in addition to division and corps mobile sections to properly handle the disabled animals under the conditions existing during these operations. The corps mobile section should be increased from 2 Officers and 35 men to 4 Officers and 100 men and the division veterinary mobile section should be increased from 1 Officer and 21 men to 2 Officers and 40 men.
The evacuation of disabled animals should be done by means of empty cars sent to the army zone with supplies. These should be made available for use of the Veterinary Corps at specially selected railheads.
Evacuation stations whether divisional, corps or Army should be placed at all hazards near a good watering place.
Shelter is essential but a good standing is absolutely indispensable to the successful functioning of a collecting station, especially during wet weather.
Cars containing sick animals should be handled with great care by railroads. On this account it is preferable to ship in full stock trains rather than in single carloads for the reason that cars are often roughly handled unconsciously by trainmen. We have found that a whole stock train was always handled more gently than trains of mixed freight.
Cars should be provisioned with sufficient forage to assure an ample supply for the whole trip with due allowance for delay. One man should accompany each car and remain constantly in attendance thereto.
The conducting party should be commanded by a commissioned officer.
Veterinary Hospitals should be established as near as possible and consistent to the Army zone and upon convenient railway in order to save manpower and assure delivery of the animals in better condition.
Tables of organization of the veterinary corps should be revised upon the recommendation of officers who have had experience with a large army in action.
A higher standard of training, basic, technical and military should be required of veterinary officers, and line officers should receive a better training in horsemanship, animal hygiene and the principles of sanitary science and police as applied to animals.
(Sign) Merillat, Chief Veterinarian of the First Army
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