NEW MEXICANS SERVED IN WORLD WAR I WITH DISTINCTION
When the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, approximately 345,000 people lived in New Mexico. The United States had a population of 281 million compared to 325 million today. Just a month later, Congress passed the Selective Service Act which required all men in the U.S. between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for military service. By the end of World War I in November 1918, some 24 million men had registered for the draft. Of the almost 4.8 million Americans who eventually served in the war, some 2.8 million were drafted. 17,251 New Mexicans either enlisted in the various military services or were drafted. Of the 523 New Mexicans who died in the war, 93 are buried in cemeteries maintained by American Battle Monuments Commission, six in France, and one in England.
New Mexico’s 1st Infantry Regiment was released from federal service less than three weeks before being called up again and assigned to the 40th Infantry Division in France. Consequently, Soldiers were in a high state of readiness from their service on the Mexican border. They were reorganized into the 143rd and 144th Machine Gun Battalions as well as the 115th Military Police BN. Once the 40th arrived in the La Guerche, France, it was re-designated as the 6th Depot Division, responsible for training replacements for other divisions, guarding prisoners of war and providing ambulance services.
Roswell’s Battery A, 1st New Mexico Field Artillery would make a name for itself in France. Renamed Battery A, 146th Field Artillery Brigade of the 41st Infantry Division, the battery fought at Chateau-Thierry, St. Mihiel and the Argonne Forest. Battery A was commended personally by Gen John J. Pershing, commander of the AEF. The unit’s four guns each fired more than 14,000 founds in combat, surpassing all other U.S. heavy mobile artillery batteries combined. Their commander Lt. Col. Charles DeBremond, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal after he died from poison gas wounds.
Battery A was also the unit of Albert Sidney Mauldin, the father of William Henry “Bill” Mauldin, an american editorial cartoonist who won two Pulitzer Prizes and was most famous for his World War II cartoons depicting American Soldiers represented by characters Willie and Joe.
Campaigns New Mexicans saw action in included: 1918 – Defensive Sector – Chateau-Thierry; 1918 – Champagn-Marne; 1918 – Aisne-Marne; 1918 – Meuse-Argonne; 1918 – St. Mihiel; 1918 – Vesle; 1918-19 – Army of Occupation.
The Meuse-Argonne offensive between Sept. 26 and Nov. 11, 1918 became American’s deadliest combat ever. 26,277 US Troops (32 from New Mexico) were killed out of a fighting force of 1.2 million American Soldiers. They sacrificed their lives in the battle that forced Germany to pursue peace, thus ending the war. More than half of the AEF Troops killed at Meuse-Argonne – 14,246 – are interred at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial.
The second largest number of New Mexicans killed in France died at the Battle of Chateau-Thierry in July 1918. Many were originally from Roswell’s Battery A of the New Mexico National Guard. This massive AEF assault against German trenches represented the first major battlefield presence of U.S. Troops. It proved to be a stunning victory and validated General Pershing’s offensive maneuvers. The 28 New Mexicans killed in this battle are interred at the Aisne-Marne Ameican Cemetery and Memorial together with 2,261 AEF Soldiers.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WORLD WAR I EXHIBIT
Come sit on the pilot seat of the SE5 Biplane. The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5. was a British biplane fighter aircraft of the WWI flown by pilots of the U.S. Army Air Service and was one of the fastest aircraft of the war, being both stable and relatively maneuverable. According to aviation author Robert Jackson, the S.E.5. was “the nimble fighter that has since been describe as the ‘Spitfire of WWI.'” Together with the Sopwith Camel, the S.E.5 was instrumental in regained allied air superiority in mid-1917 and maintaining it for the rest of the war.
Man the UB6 Submarine’s machine gun turret. SM UB-6 was a German type UB 1 submarine or U-boat in the German Imperial Navy during WWI. UB-6 was a little more than 92 feet in length and displaced between 125 and 140 long tons, depending on whether surfaced or submerged. She carried two torpedoes for her two bow torpedo tubes and was armed with a deck-mounted machine gun.
Climb in a Fire Direction Center Bunker similar to Roswell’s Battery A. A bunker is a defensive military fortification dug into the ground and designed to protect people or valued materials from falling bombs or other attacks. Bunkers, mostly underground, were used extensively in WWI for weapons facilities, command and control centers, and storage facilities.
Visit the replica of AEF Meuse-Argonne Cemetery. The 130.5 acre WWI cemetery in Meuse, France, consists of eight sections behind a large central reflection pool. Beyond the grave sections is a chapel which is decorated with stained glass windows depicting American units’ insignias. Along the walls of the chapel area are the tablets of the missing who have no known grave.
SUPPORT OF THE WORLD WAR I EXHIBIT
The New Mexico Military Museum Foundation functions as the Museum’s fundraising arm, because military personnel and representatives of the federal and New Mexico state governments are prohibited by law from soliciting funds, goods or services. Your support will provide the Foundation with the necessary funds to complete and maintain the exhibit over the next two years and develop related educational programs.
WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT THE EXHIBIT
The World War I exhibit has been completed, but additional funds are needed to maintain the exhibit and create educational programs and lectures to inform the public of the role of New Mexicans in World War I. The Foundation is seeking additional donations through its “Friends” program to continue its efforts to educate people on the cost of freedom, and the great sacrifices made by New Mexicans in this U.S. victory.
RECOGNITION FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Sponsors and donors will be recognized throughout the year in our newsletter, as well as through out media partner, Bella Media, for the duration of the exhibit.
For additional information and details please contact the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org