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REPORT OF THE OPERATION OF THE REMOUNT SERVICE, A.E.F., FRANCE, WW1
Note: Maurice F. De Barneville, Former Lieutenant, Remount Service, A.E.F., American Embassy, Paris was one of the first assigned to organize the Remount Service, A.E.F., in France. This is an excellent article written by Lt. Barneville on the organizing and operation of the Remount Service A.E.F., in France during the World War. Through his article we gain a very important insight to its creation and is a must to read.
“The Remount Service organized in June 1917, at General Pershing’s first headquarters in Paris, with a total force of three men – one quartermaster major in-charge, a clerk-interpreter (the author of this article), and a veterinary officer attached – the Remount Service of the A.E.F., expanded from this modest nucleus into a powerful organization, which on the day of the Armistice had a personnel of 493 officers and 14,598 and operated 38 depots in France.”
THE CAVALRY JOURNAL
Volume XXX, April 1921, Number 123
THE REMOUNT SERVICE IN THE A.E.F.
By Maurice F. De Barneville
(Former Lieutenant, Remount Service, A.E.F., American Embassy, Paris)
The object of this article is to throw some light upon the work performed by an organization which was little known and somewhat despised at the beginning of the war and whose activities were revealed and appreciated mostly during the period of the offensive, July-November, 1918, when the call for animals was general throughout the A.E.F., and their supply became an imperative necessity to enable our combatant divisions to fulfill the task assigned to them by the Commander-in-Chief in order to keep up with the advance of our Allies.
At the time of our entry into the war our entire Remount Service in the United States consisted of three permanent remount depots (Front Royal, Fort Reno, and Fort Keogh) and a half dozen officers detailed from the line, not to mention the temporary remount corrals organized in Texas for Mexican border service. We had no central directing organization in the War Department (only one officer of the Quartermaster Corps vaguely “in charge” of remount matters); we had, therefore, no established policy, each depot commander using his our judgment in running his outfit along such lines as he thought best; we had no remount manual nor regulations, no remount troops, the personnel being mostly civilian, with a few enlisted men of the Quartermaster Corps attached; and, worst of all, we had no Tables of Organization, so that when war was declared in April 1917, and for a long time afterwards no one knew exactly of what the Remount Service should consist, nor how such an organization should function in time of war. This, it is true, was the case of many other new organizations that sprung up like mushrooms during the World War; but, while most of the new units or services were fully completed and equipped before leaving the United States, the Headquarters, Field, and Deport organization of the Remount Service was built overseas, from the ground up, with the exception of the remount squadrons which went over in 1918 as complete units.
First to organized in June 1917, at General Pershing’s first headquarters in Paris, with a total force of three men – one quartermaster major in-charge, a clerk-interpreter (the author of the article), and a veterinary officer attached – the Remount Service of the A.E.F., expanded from this modest nucleus into a powerful organization, which on the day of the Armistice had a personnel of 493 officers and 14,598 and operated 38 depots in France. During the two years of its existence abroad this organization received or bought 243,360 animals, purchasing 135,915 in France, 18,461 in Spain, 21,259 from the British Army, and receiving 67,725 from the United States. After being for many months left to struggle along as best it could and often lacking the whole hearted support of G.H.Q., it finally came to be recognized as one of the important factors of our success, one of the main supply departments of the Army, and it won the highest praise from the Commander-in-Chief for its untiring efforts, in the face of many handicaps, to keep up the mobility of our combat divisions, supplying them with animals to pull their guns and bring forward their ammunition and supplies.
The many problems which, faced the Remount Service in France may be summarized as follows and will be afterwards taken up individually in detail to show how they were solved:
1. Lack of personnel.
2. Lack of quarters.
3. Lack of a definite policy at the beginning of the war and for several months afterwards.
4. Shortage of animals for issue.
5. Shortage of forage.
6. Mange and influenza epidemics.
7. Inadequate rail transportation.
8. Lack of liaison between Remount Service Headquarters and Division, Corps, and Army Headquarters.
9. Disposal of animals after the Armistice.
10. Co-operation with the French Government and officials.
LACK OF PERSONNEL
This was one of the first and most urgent problems the Remount Service had to solve, the eventual use of special remount enlisted personnel to man our depots being as yet only a mere project and the detail of combatant troops for remount work being at first resorted to as a temporary and unavoidable expedient. It should, however, be said that for several months after the declaration of war no one, in either the War Department or at G.H.Q., knew the extent to which the United States would be engaged in helping our Allies. The French Government, through its High Commissioner in Washington, Mr. Tardieu, had made it known that it was in greatest need of American infantry and artillery troops as reserves for the French Army, and it was believed at first that our infantry and artillery units would be welded into and form part of the French Army. But later on, when General Pershing expressed the views of the American Government and the desire of the American people to see our forces in France organized as a separate command, under an American general, it became necessary to provide for all the services of supply that such an organization called for.
Although the A.E.F., project of July 10, 1917, provided for 38 Remount Squadrons organized into two base depots, one line of communications depot, one Army and five corps depots, it must be noted that G.O. No. 39, G.H.Q., A.E.F., of September 18, 1917, which outlined a general organization of the Remount Service, indicated that Cavalry Squadrons would provisionally perform remount duty. A month later (October 1917) a priority schedule was established which called for four depot headquarters and 31 Remount Squadrons; but, owing to the fact that animals received from the United States or purchased in France were at that time being issue direct to combatant troops. G.H.Q., did not see any immediate need for cabling to Washington and asking for Remount troops, and it was not until May 12, 1918, that the first four Remount Squadrons landed in France.
When it was realized that, owing to the critical situation of the French and British Armies in the early spring of 1918, due to the collapse of Russia after the treaty of Brest-Litowsk, the United States would be called upon to exert a considerable effort and send abroad a much larger number of men than was at first expected, it became necessary for the Remount Service to provide horses and mules for these new incoming divisions.
After an agreement with the French Government, purchasing in the open market began in France. It was then expected that by August 1, 1918, we would have 18 divisions in France, with corresponding Services of Supply, and as the allowance in animals was when figured at about 6,700 animals per division, plus those needed in the S.O.S. (Services of Supply), it meant that by August 1, 1918, the A.E.F., should require 143,087 animals. Of this number, only about 40,000 were on hand by the end of April 1918. Through open-market purchases, the Remount Service in the spring of 1918 procured 37,038 animals, but as almost all of these were young horses, many of them unshod, it was necessary to send them first to depots to be conditioned. It was then realized that the Cavalry squadrons detailed at these depots would be wholly inadequate to take care of the large number of animals being received.
Until March 1918, only 12 troops of the 3rd Cavalry were performing remount work. Urgent requests sent to G.H.Q., by the Chief of Remount Service through the Chief Quartermaster caused the 2d and 15th Cavalry and the 116th Ammunition Train to be assigned to remount duty. But, even with this additional personnel (equivalent to about 33 Remount Squadrons), it was still difficult to handle the situation satisfactorily and a request for 43 remount squadrons was sent by Remount Headquarters to the Chief Quartermaster on May 11, 1918. On May 12, four remount squadrons arrived in France. On June 24, 1918, in response to a memorandum calling for an estimate of the remount personnel required, a report was sent to the Commanding General, S.O.S., asking for 89 Remount Squadrons in addition to the combatant troops then already assigned or for 122 remount squadrons in case this combatant personnel was relieved.
After several requests for personnel had been made by the Chief of Remount Service on May 11, June 24, July 14, and August 5, 1918, a cablegram was sent, on August 7, by G.H.Q., to Washington, asking priority for 113 remount squadrons. On November 11, 1918, when the Armistice was signed, we had only 36 remount squadrons in France, with 10 more on the way.
These figures show conclusively how the Remount Service was handicapped for lack of personnel during the entire year of 1918, and the fact that it achieved such satisfactory results is due mainly to the tireless energy and the splendid “esprit de corps” which animated this organization throughout the war, and also to the foresight and perseverance of its Chief and its Executive Officer, aided by the support they received from General H.L. Rogers, Chief Quartermaster of the A.E.F.
LACK OF QUARTERS, STABLES, AND BUILDING MATERIAL
From the very beginning of our operation in France, the officers in charge of the Remount Service realized that we would have to construct our own depots, as it was hopeless and most unsatisfactory to adopt the billeting system in use by the French Army, whereby animals would be scattered in dark, damp, unsanitary stables, barns and cow-sheds in French villages. Besides, on account of the extremely cold and rainy weather prevalent in the greater part of central and eastern France during the winter season, it was equally out of the question to have recourse to the corral system, such as used on the Mexican border.
Therefore, as early as September 1917, the officer in charge of remount work requested G.H.Q., to obtain permission from the French Government to select one or more sites upon which we could erect permanent barracks and stables. However, due partly to the scarcity of building material, partly to the uncertainty of the future zone of American operations, all efforts made by the Remount Service along this line remained fruitless prior to the spring of 1918, G.H.Q., seeing no necessity for the immediate construction of depots.
Fortunately, we were able to obtain the immediate use of the three French receiving depots at St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, and Merignac (Bordeaux), which had been used by our Allies, up to our entry into the war, for the reception of animals from the Unites States and Canada. Had it not been that these three ready-made depots were turned over to us in 1917, we would have been greatly embarrassed in receiving our shipments of animals from overseas, inasmuch as lumber for construction work was almost unobtainable during the winter of 1917-18, as the Forestry engineers in charge of supplying same had barely started their operations and most of the lumber shipped from their sawmills was utilized primarily for hospital and warehouse construction.
In the spring of 1918 the Remount Service had received the authorization to purchase animals in the open market in France, and it was expected to procure about 50,000 head from the source. An urgent appeal was then made to G.H.Q. for stabling facilities to accommodate this large influx of animals. In March 1918, the French Remount Service turned over to us six small depots, or annexes, with the capacity of from 400 to 600 head each. This, of course, did not begin to fill our needs, and G.H.Q., was again applied to for permission to construct several depots in the base and intermediate sections. On May 7 this authority was finally received, and on May 11 a remount officer was appointed by the Chief of Remount Service to select sites and submit plans. On May 21 report was made to the Chief Quartermaster recommending the establishment of five depots with the following capacity:
Selles-sur-Cher – 2,000 head
Gievres - 5,000 head
Sougy – 4,000 head
Lux – 2,000 head
Gray – 2,000 head
Total – 15,000 head
Up to that time we had in operation the three base depots above mentioned, at St. Nazaire, La Rochelle, and Merignac, and the six small annexes turned over by the French, and the advance depot at Bourbonne-les-Bains, established in October 1917, by a squadron of the 3rd Cavalry, and where the billeting system had been used with very unsatisfactory results for several months, until some French portable stables were secured. During the winter of 1917-18 the corrals of that depot were from fetlock to knee-deep in mud, and almost 20,000 cubic yards of rock had to be hauled from a quarry one mile distant to make suitable standings and roads.
British Remount depots were visited in the spring of 1918 by officers of our Remount Service to obtain the benefit of our Allies’ three years experience in the field, and some of their methods and types of construction were adapted to our own requirements.
Later on the project to establish a depot at Gray was abandoned, but from time to time, as our requirements became greater, authority was obtained to establish additional depots (Montier-sur-Saulx, Carbon-Blanc, La Pallice, Bayonne, the latter for receiving and conditioning animals bought in Spain). The Remount Service also operated depots at the various artillery-training camps: Le Valdahon, Coetquidan, Souge, La Courtine. After the Armistice additional depots were established in French cavalry and artillery barracks at Besancon, Commercy, Verdun, and Nancy and three in the 3d Army area in Germany.
LACK OF A DEFINITE POLICY
Although the necessity for an organization for purchasing, receiving, conditioning, and supplying animals for the A.E.F. was evident from the day we entered the war, it was not until September 18, 1917, that a General Order (Number 39) was published by G.H.Q. organizing officially the Remount Service. Up to that time and since the arrival of our first troops in France, in July 1917, an officer of the Quartermaster Corps had been “nominally in charge” of remount work, which at that time consisted mostly of purchasing animals from the French Army and submitting reports of these purchases to G.H.Q., which cabled them to the War Department. It was not until November 12, 1917, that the designation of “Chief of the Remount Service” was officially given to that officer.
The policy of the Remount Service (if it may be said that any such policy then existed) was, in those days, supposed to be framed by G-1 at G.H.Q., but that office had too many important matters on its hands to be bothered with such a secondary branch of the Army as the Remount Service, which received at the time very little encouragement and scant consideration.
It was not until January 12, 1918, that Tables of Organization of the Remount Service were made up (Confidential Series- D, T. of O. No. 332), giving the Remount Service its legal charter and making of it a permanent and well defined branch of the Quartermaster Corps. Up to the time its general organization had been shaped solely by General Order No. 39, G.H.Q., A.E.F., above mentioned. Even then the functions of the Remount Service were not even clearly indicated, for, in addition to caring for the animal situation, the Remount Service was also in charge of the Veterinary Service, the procurement and issue of forage, of harness and horse-drawn wagons, water-carts, rolling kitchens, and ambulances. It even operated the “lost-baggage department” of the A.E.F. These various attributions made it an unwieldy and chaotic organization to handle; but gradually most of these heterogeneous functions were transferred to other departments of the Quartermaster Corps, where they properly belonged, while the Veterinary Service in August of 1918, became part of the Medical Corps.
One early feature of the Remount Service, which interfered with its success was that the personnel and the depots were placed under the direction of the commanding generals of the various sections – base, intermediate, and advance. This was changed on July 26, 1918, when the intermediate control of the depots and their personnel for administrative purposes was vested in the Chief of Remount Service, representing in this capacity the Chief Quartermaster of the A.E.F.
Another unsatisfactory anomaly in the early history of the A.E.F. was the co-existence of two chiefs of the Remount Service, one at G.H.Q., the other at Headquarters of the Line of Communications, with the inevitable result of duplicate reports and sometimes conflicting requests reaching G.H.Q. from these two heads of service. The abnormal state of affairs was abolished when, in March 1918, the headquarters’ office of the Remount Service at Chaumont moved to Tours and became merged into the former Line of Communications Remount Headquarters, or rather absorbed it, functioning thereafter directly under the Chief Quartermaster of the A.E.F.
One of the important needs of the Remount Service was filled when in May 1918, a set of regulations was compiled in pamphlet form and issued to the personnel by the Chief of Remount Service. Up to that time depot commanders had been acting mostly upon their own initiative and from personal experiences in schooling their personnel in the numerous duties connected with the care, feeding, shoeing, conditioning, and shipping of animals. The “Regulations” of May 1918, were superseded in October of that year by a much more complete “Manual” which covered every field of action of the remount work.
SHORTAGE OF ANIMALS FOR ISSUE
This, of course, formed the basis of much criticism, directed against the Remount Service, especially during the period of the major operations in the summer and fall of 1918; but, of course, these complaints were entirely unjustified, as the Remount Service could not supply what it did not have, nor could the depots issue sick or unfit stock. It is an open secret that the shortage of animals became so acute during the Argonne offensive that the efficacy of that operation was almost impaired by it, and had the war lasted a few weeks longer our First Army would have become immobilized for lack of animals. Cases have been cited where artilleryman had to haul their guns along the road after their teams had been killed or had fallen exhausted by the wayside. Every animal in the remount depots, barring the sick, had been shipped to the front and the French had turned over to us 13,000 horses in the midst of the final offensive. In spite of all of this, the total shortage of animals in the A.E.F., (including the S.O.S.) on November 11, 1918, was 163,382. The following copies of telegrams sent during that period give an idea of the situation:
HEADQUARTERS 1 ST ARMY, SEPT. 7, 1918
Commanding General, S.O.S.:
Number 29, G-4 – You are advised that the situation with reference to the First Army is critical. Desire to emphasize this fact. We were given assurance that animals would be forthcoming at rate of four hundred a day. They are not being received. There is no time for delay in this matter. If animals are available, request that they be shipped at once, and pressed by every means possible. Request this wire be acknowledged and assurance given that animals will be forwarded as stated.
G-4, G.H.Q. - HEADQUARTERS 1 ST ARMY, SEPT. 13, 1918
Number 77, G-4-R. – Following is an example of the wires being received in this office giving remount situation. This from Fourth Corps: 1-G, Number 84. Attention G-4. Horse situation most serious in this corps. All divisions badly in need of animals. Divisions are placed in the situation of not being able to properly evacuate animals in view of fact that no replacements are available; consequently the animals, which are only partially fit for duty are retained by organizations rather than evacuate them due to fact that the unit in question will be without proper facilities for movement. Can anything be done in this matter? Unquote. Cannot something be done to require French to deliver animals? With motor transportation short and animals transportation so reduced on account of shortage and unfit condition of animals, supply presents a grave problem where active operations are considered.
B-87-A, 242 O. B., 1 Ex Rush – H.A.E.F., Oct 8, 1918
Commanding General, S.O.S., Tours:
Number 3271, G-1 – The military situation demands that extreme measures be taken to supply the First Army immediately with addition animals, The Commander-in-Chief directs that you ship at once to First Army all horses in cavalry organizations and approximately 50 per cent of all other animals now in service of supply organizations or activities. Only animals suitable for combat service should be selected. Arrangements should be made to expedite delivery of every possible animal from hospitals to remount depots. All animals in remount depots, which, are in even fair condition for combat service should be shipped at once, without being held for training or for any other purpose. Animals should be shod locally before shipment whenever this will not involve unusual delay. All animals except those of the Reserve Supply Wagon Train now at Nevers will be turned in to the nearest remount depot for shipment. Animals of Reserve Supply Wagon Train will be shipped direct from Nevers under orders from Chief Remount Service. You are authorized to hire animals locally, with drivers when necessary, for the purpose of replacing animals shipped to First Army. Every possible measure should be taken to expedite shipment of greatest possible number of animals in the least possible time. Make arrangements for prompt forwarding animals and telegraph progress frequently to these headquarters.
Only at one time during the entire war did the A.E.F. have its requisite allowance of animals; that was October 1917, when we had only one division overseas (the First), which had been fully horsed through purchases made in France and shipments from the States. The principal cause of our shortage of animals was evidently lack of tonnage. It was reasonably considered more important to ship men and also supplies and ammunition, of which our French Allies were in the greatest need, than horses and mules, inasmuch as the French Government, as early as June 15, 1917, had cabled to its military attaché in Washington to make our War Department a concrete offer of enough animals to equip our First Division to go overseas (4,850 horses and 2,100 mules); and later, on July1, a further offer was made through the same channels to supply the A.E.F. with 7,000 animals per month.
This last offer caused our War Department to cancel its plans for shipping any more animals abroad, and no more ships were converted into horse transports. As a matter of fact, no shipments from the United States were received in France from July 4, 1917, to November 1917, the tonnage of the animal transports having been diverted to other purposes. Unfortunately it turned out, on August 23, 1917, that while the French Government agreed to live up to its first offer, it found itself unable to supply us a single animal beyond the number required for our First Division, already in France. It agreed, however, to “loan” us 4,000 draft horses for the Artillery Brigade of the 26th Division, then expected to arrive shortly. Beyond this it could not furnish anything, owing to the needs of the French Army.
Purchasing by our Remount Service, therefore, stopped in France, and by that time (November 1917) shipments from the States were resumed, but at such a slow rate that they could not keep up with growing requirements of the A.E.F., as division after division landed in France and requisitioned the Remount Service for its allowance of animals. On February 22, 1918, a cable was sent to the War Department indicating a shortage of 22,000 animals.
At a conference held on February 19, 1918, with the Chief of the French Remount Service, it was learned that the French expected to purchase in the open market, up to August, about 100,000 animals, 50 per cent of which they promised to turn over to the A.E.F. at purchase price plus 30 per cent. This brilliant prospect caused G.H.Q. to cable the War Department to ship thereafter only heavy draft horses at the rate of 2,000 per month. But once again our hopes were dashed, for our share of the yield from the open-market purchases was only 31,589 animals up to June 1918, and the War Department had once more stopped altogether all shipments of horses since April. The result was that the A.E.F. shortage in animals had made a tremendous leap, amounting to 125,934 by June 25, 1918.
It was then that the French Government, realizing the hopelessness of our situation and needing animals for its own armies, ordered the requisitioning of every available and suitable horse and mule in the hands of the civilian population. This operation began on June 20, lasting until August 15, and gave us 74,070 animals, or about 70 per cent of the total obtained in this manner.
At the same time G.H.Q. had granted the Remount Service authority to purchase animals in Spain, and in June 1918, several remount officers and veterinarians were sent to that country, where they contracted with local dealers for the delivery, subject to inspection, of a certain number of cavalry horses and mules. It had been hoped to secure about 30,000 head from this source, but operations were hindered by the ill will of the Spanish Government, which, in July 1918, declared an embargo on the exportation of horses and mules. This royal decree was due to German influence, which all-powerful in Spain, but diplomatic pressure was brought into play and the embargo was lifted, or rather permission was obtained to send 20,000 head to France. Of these 20,000 animals, 10,763 were exported before purchasing ceased in Spain, after the Armistice. Including the shipments made before the embargo went into effect, a total of 21,259 animals were received from Spain.
Mention should also be made here of the animals supplied by the British Expeditionary Forces to our ten divisions which received their training in the British areas. The total received was 18,883 head, while 2,376 were obtained from the B.E.F. subsequently and even after the Armistice.
In the summer and fall of 1918, G.H.Q., realizing how critical the shortage of animals was becoming and fearing that our operations might become hampered thereby, cabled several times to Washington requesting urgently the shipment of animals to the A.E.F. On June 30 a cable was sent asking for 8,000 heavy draft horses per month. On July 12 another request was cabled, urging shipment of 25,000 animals of various classes per month. On the 21st the War Department replied that, owing to lack of tonnage, only 11,000 per month could be shipped prior to September 1, 1918. G.H.Q. then cabled back, asking that certain vessels be converted without delay into horse-boats. In the meantime changes were made in the Divisional Tables of Organization, reducing to a strict minimum the allowance of animals, and steps were taken to motorize a certain number of artillery brigades. In spite of all this, the situation became so serious that on September 14, G.H.Q. sent a further cable to the War Department asking for the shipment of 30,000 animals per month. Washington answered that it was impossible, under present conditions, to ship that many animals, and, as an instance of how badly our Animal Transport Service was crippled for want of boats, it may be stated that during the time of our greatest emergency only three horse-boats arrived in September 1918, and three in October, bringing a total of 4,409 animals instead of the 22,000, which should have been sent, according to the War Department’s cabled promise of July 21.
As stated under the heading of “Lack of Policy,” the Remount Service during its early history had to look after the procurement and issue of forage, which was a source of continual worry. The French Army relieved the situation partially in the winter of 1917-18 by supplying us with a certain amount of hay. It had been expected that the 1917 French oats and hay crops would enable us to purchase much forage locally, and accordingly the shipments from the United States were curtailed. However, the crops did not yield the quantities anticipated and a shortage of forage ensured; so that, in February 1918, all animals of the A.E.F. had to be placed on half rations; but subsequent shipments from America soon made it possible to re-establish the normal ration. By the end of March 1918, forage procurement and supply ceased to be a function of the Remount Service and was transferred to the Supply Division of the Chief Quartermaster’s Office, where it logically belonged.
MANGE AND INFLUENZA EPIDEMICS
Mange and influenza were at all times more or less prevalent among the animals of the Allied armies, and those of the A.E.F. did not escape the contagion, in spite of the combined efforts of the Remount Service and veterinary personnel. This was unavoidable when one realizes the climatic and sanitary conditions under which horses and mules had to live. Besides, many of the animals received were young and naturally susceptible to all the ills that are incident to shipment and exposure. Most of these young animals arrived at the depots already infected with shipping fever and influenza.
At many of the depots during the winter months, mud in the corrals was almost knee-deep, and the standings themselves could not be kept dry. Some depots were, of course, established in localities where conditions were far from ideal – overcrowding, lack of exercise and grooming due to shortage of remount personnel, improper isolation of sick animals, insufficient veterinary personnel, etc. This was the case at most of the artillery training camps where remount depots were established: at Camp de Souge 543 animals died in three months, mostly of influenza, while at Camp Coetquidan the mortality in four months, from May 1 to August 31, 1918, reached 1,151, with a percentage of sick animals running during the same period from 36 per cent in May to 90 per cent in June and 82 per cent in August, the majority of the cases being influenza and infectious pneumonia.
Fighting mange was an equally hard task, as a great number of our animals contracted this disease, which is the bane of large armies in the field. Dipping vats similar to those used by the British and sulphurous gas chambers adapted from the French were used at all remount depots to disinfect and fumigate the animals affected, and both methods gave very satisfactory results.
INADEQUATE RAIL TRANSPORTATION
Whoever has had the unpleasant experience of traveling in the French stock cars commonly designed as having a capacity of “40 Hommes – 8 Chevaux” realizes the problem that faced the Remount Service in shipping large numbers of animals. These cars, which hold only eight ordinary horses or ten mules apiece, besides being much too small, were without means of ventilation and generally much the worse for wear and tear during three years of rough usage before we came in the war. In addition to this, it was generally impossible to obtain any of this rolling stock when badly needed for shipments to the front. Appeals to the French railroad authorities invariably brought the reply that they were already doing all they could assist us, and that cars would be furnished as soon as available.
This shortage of rail transportation was felt especially during the latter part of the 1918 offensive, when all lines leading to the front were congested with long trainloads of ammunition and supplies, and it was then necessary for the Remount Service in many cases to send animals overland in convoys from the advance depots to the actual battle line, some 150 to 200 kilometers distant. Even after the Armistice, when the Allied armies advanced into Germany, it was almost impossible to obtain stock cars for shipments of animals, as all the rolling stock was utilized to convoy troops and materials towards the Rhine.
LACK OF LIAISON BETWEEN REMOUNT SERVICE HEADQUARTERS AND DIVISION, CORPS, AND ARMY HEADQUARTERS
For a long time there existed no direct connection between the Remount Service Headquarters and the division, corps, and army headquarters. Animal requirements of combat troops were unknown to the Remount Service until requisitions came through G.H.Q., A.E.F. Therefore, early statistics of animals on hand in the A.E.F. established by the Remount Service had to be more or less guesswork, as divisions did not report their losses or had the habit of transferring animals from one to another without reporting these changes to the proper authorities; there was no co-ordination possible between field troops and Remount Headquarters, since no instructions had been issued by G.H.Q. to division commanders to send periodical reports of animal status to the Remount Service.
It was only in May 1918, that all division commanders and commanding officers of organizations in the Services of Supply were ordered by G.H.Q. to report weekly to the Chief Quartermaster, A.E.F., for the information of the Remount Division, the number of animals, by classes, which they had on hand, as well as the animals losses during the preceding week. These reports were sent by telegraph or telephone and were of great value in estimating the animal requirements of the A.E.F., though at first many division commanders regarded these statistics as still another instance of army red tape and failed to impress upon their subordinates the importance of reporting correct figures.
Another fact which prompted the Remount Service to urge the assignment of remount liaison officers at division, corps, and army headquarters was that few men in the combat organizations knew how to care for animals, even in the Regular Army divisions, which were filled largely with recruits. Most of these men knew more about repairing a “Ford” than grooming or feeding a horse.
With the approval of G.H.Q., a remount officer was first assigned in July 1918, to Headquarters First Corps, then in action south of the Marne; this officer’s instructions were to look after the receiving, handling, and evacuation of animals, and he performed these duties so satisfactorily that G.H.Q. agreed to the plan proposed by the Remount Service to have remount liaison officers attached to all division, corps, and army headquarters. Other assignments of officer were made, until on November 11, 1918, all corps and army headquarters and most divisions had a remount officer attached to their staff. These officers submitted twice a month to the Chief of Remount Service a tabulated report of animals status in their respective organization, showing receipts, losses, transfers, and classification of animals on hand. These reports made it possible for the Remount Division at Tours to prepare estimates for replacements and submit consolidated reports of animal strength to G.H.Q.
The Divisional, Corps, and Army Remount officers were of great assistance to organization commanders as technical advisers in all questions of administration relating to the distribution, care, and feeding of animals; they also gave informal talks to regimental and battalion officers on similar subjects, as well as on stable management, grooming and shoeing, care of harness, etc; they inspected all incoming shipments and supervised the evacuation of sick and wounded animals to veterinary units. Finally, they reported to the division, corps, or army commander conditions that they could not correct themselves or which required disciplinary measures. Within a short time after these remount officers had taken over their duties a great improvement was noticeable in the appearance and condition of animals in the hands of the various organizations; it was possible thereafter for the Remount Service Headquarters to keep in close touch with the needs of every division in the A.E.F.
DISPOSAL OF ANIMALS AFTER THE ARMISTICE
When the Armistice was signed there were some 170,000 animals on hand in the A.E.F. Of this number 50,430 were assigned to the 10 divisions, corps, and army troops that formed the new Third Army, leaving a balance of about 120,000 to be disposed of by the Remount Service as fast as they were no longer required by organizations returning to the United States.
Shipments from America were stopped after the Armistice, but quite a number of horse-boats, which were either loading at Newport News or on the way on November 11 arrived in France until the latter part of December 1918, so that on January 1, 1919, there were 192,386 animals on hand in the A.E.F. and the Third Army. For the first time, in 1918, the Remount Service was able to fill all requisitions, at the same time holding a large surplus of animals in its depots. The prospect was then that this surplus would materially increase, as units released for return to the States would transfer their animals to the Remount Service. It was, therefore, a vital question to dispose of the horses and mules thus turned in, and the question of disposal was taken up with the French Government. The latter, at first, was most anxious to have the sales conducted under its auspices, and took over some 15,000 head from our depots after inspection by a military commission. The animals were sold at auction in various parts of France by French authorities, but the sales were most disadvantageous to the interests of the United States, as the French auctioneers sold the animals very much below their real market value and did not attempt to push the bidding beyond a very low figure. Many horses and mules were sacrificed at probably not over half of what we could have sold them for, and these animals, which the French Commission had selected were the best in our depots.
Later on, in March 1919, a subsequent agreement with the French Government gave the Remount Service the necessary authorization to hold its own auction sales. We were able in this manner to dispose of a very large number of animals at prices far better than those obtained by the French officials; 600 auction sales were held by the Remount Service in every part of France – south, southwest, and east of Paris and in Paris itself. Private sales to farmers and dealers were held at the same time at all the remount depots; so that, through both auction and private sales, 113,098 animals were disposed of between March 1 and June 30, 1919.
The French Government had also purchased, on its own account, 33,045 of our animals to be distributed among the inhabitants of the devastated regions, and other governments (Belgium, Poland, Serbia, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia) became interested in purchasing some of our surplus stock of horses and mules, the Poles buying 5,500 horses from the Third Army and the Belgians 490 cavalry horses from the 6th Cavalry.
All these sales were conducted under the direction of the Remount Service, which had its officers and men detailed to convoy the animals to the selling point, conduct the sales, and deposit the proceeds with the nearest disbursing quartermaster. The reports of all these sales, showing number and classification of animals sold and average prices by classes, were compiled at Remount Service Headquarters and submitted to the U.S. Liquidation Commission. In order to complete this work, three remount officers and four enlisted clerks remained on duty in France until the end of October 1919, after all other remount personnel had returned to the United States. By that time the Third Army itself had been reduced to about one brigade’s strength and had disposal locally of all surplus animals, retaining only about 600 horses and mules.
CO-OPERATION WITH FRENCH GOVERNMENT AND OFFICIALS
A history of the Remount Service of the A.E.F. would not be complete if a few lines were not written on this subject, for the Remount Service was and had to be, more than any other branch of the service, in constant relation with the French authorities. Local purchases of animals, designation of sites for remount depots, transfers of horses from the French Army to the A.E.F., sale of surplus animals to the French Government and inhabitants – all these question brought us constantly in touch with French officials and army officers.
While on a few occasions and in specific cases unfortunate misunderstandings were caused by ignorance of the language on both sides, disregard of local customs, and lack of diplomacy on our part, it should be said that these few occurrences did not spoil the good relations we had with our Allies, who almost invariably acceded to our requests and showed us every courtesy; they were always glad to give us the benefit of their three years’ experience in the war and save us from making mistakes which had cost them dearly.
One of the few and earliest cases of friction in our dealings with French occurred in September 1917, when our remount officers in Besancon were inspecting horses shipped by French Army depots to our 1st Artillery Brigade, then commanded by General Peyton C. March. A French Army Major was attached to our purchasing board as representative of the Minister of War, and he became very indignant when the American officers turned down a number of horses that did not conform to our specifications, on account of blemishes, age, size, or color. After this French officer had vigorously protested, with out stretched arms, against this action, he finally declared that, inasmuch as such horses as we had turned down were used by the French Army at the front to good advantage, and as they had nothing better ot offer us, he would stop the inspection right there and then and refer the matter to the Minister of War. This unfortunate and unpleasant situation was ended a few days later upon receipt of orders from G.H.Q. to reject only animals that were absolutely unsound or unfit for work and to turn these down only after consultation with the French veterinarian on the board.
Several other misunderstandings happened the purchase and disposal of animals, but on the whole, our dealings with the French were of the most pleasant sort, and in finishing this article it is only fitting and just to address an expression of thanks to the several French officers assigned to the Remount Service, who on many occasions were of invaluable assistance to our own men in straightening out difficult questions and whose genial ways won for them many friendships in the Remount Service of the A.E.F.
I can only cite by name a few of these liaison officers with whom I came personally in contact:
Colonel Jean Caillault and Commandant de Brye, of the French Mission at Tours.
Captain de Marenches and Captain de La Ferronnays, of the French Mission at G.H.Q.
Captain Koenig and Lieutenant Dumas, of the French Commission with our Remount Purchasing Board at Besancon.
Captain Raoul-Duval, attached to our Advance Section Remount Office.
Captain de Reinach-Werth and Lieutenant de Fonlongue, attached to our Paris office.
Lieutenant de Vallombrosa, liaison officer at Merignac Remount Depot.
The Chief of the French Remount Service, General Forqueray, and his assistant, Colonel Tinel, were both always ready to co-operate with us and gave our officers every facility to visit French depots.
To all of these the American Remount Service is indebted for their friendly and full-hearted support and assistance in an hour of need, when we were learning the game. I think it can truly be said that we have profited by the lessons of the World War, as far as our Remount Service is concerned, and that we now have an organization to be proud of and upon which we may rely in future emergencies.
END OF REPORT
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