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The New Idea in Training Officers - 3rd OTC - 1918

Depection of Cadet to Commissioned Officer - Before (January 5, 1918) and After (April 19, 1918).

Depection of Cadet to Commissioned Officer - Before (January 5, 1918) and After (April 19, 1918). GGA Image ID # 13ae05f962

ALONG toward the middle of last summer the War Department must have been doing a little wondering and figuring and scratching of the head in regard to the problem of officering the new National Army—not the National Army as it then stood but as it was going to stand after increment upon increment of the draft had been added.

They had tried one experiment—the first Plattsburg camp and its contemporaries—and it had worked surprisingly well ; they were in process of trying the second ; and they were beginning to foresee the need of a third.

What that third training course for officers was to be nobody—certainly no civilian—at that time knew. Yet the War Department was sizing things up and watching the war—and thinking.

On September 22, 1917, the Secretary of War authorized the organization of the Third Officers Training Camps. They were to be held in the various divisional and departmental cantonments throughout the country from January 5, 1918, to April 5, 1918. This period was later extended by two weeks to April 19, 1918.

Up to this time the system which had been followed in the training of the great- number of new officers needed for the sudden expansion of our army, was to ask for applications from the public at large, to choose the most promising of these, and to mobilize the successful applicants in a few large training camps, such as Plattsburg, the Presidio in California, and so on.

In some cases as many as 5,000 were concentrated at one camp.
The new system is fundamentally different in two ways:—personnel and distribution—and may be explained in one simple statement: The drafted man has made good!

When the United States entered this great world conflict she realized to the fullest extent what it meant, how deadly serious it was, and the almost unbelievable expansion of man power that would he required of her if she was to bring victory to the side of the Allies in the field.

The answer to all this was the creation of the National Army, the ranks of which are filled by the great draft. This draft marks an epoch in the history of our democracy.

Such being the case there were many who sneered at its inception, predicted that it would be a failure, stated that to be a drafted man was a disgrace, and aired all manner of other equally unpatriotic and senseless opinions. In spite of this, however, the drafting of men went on, the men marched to camp and became soldiers—real soldiers.

They did it in an almost unbelievably short time. They knew they were in the thing because their country had called them, that the war might be won. They were facing their greatest adventure. They realized it. And they have “come through.”

On the National Army of the United States rests the hope of civilization today. We can say that the goods will be delivered, that these men whose value was questioned at first, are to be the makers of such history as the world has not known.

The National Army is the most democratic army ever created, and embodies in one vast organization thousands upon thousands of men from every walk and class of life. It is like a huge fraternity, founded upon a single ideal, and for membership in which there are only two fundamental requirements — American citizenship, and physical soundness.

In a gathering of this sort there are certain to be a large number of men of ability, not only along business lines, but along the lines of leadership also, and with the adaptability and intelligence necessary to grasp things quickly and to inspire confidence in others.

With these facts in mind the War Depart-ment decided that it was infinitely better to draw the material for future officers from the men already enlisted than from civilians chiefly, as had been done in former camps.

The advantages in this are immediately apparent, for, not only does it give a great incentive to the enlisted man to know that he has an opportunity to make good and to rise in his new profession; but also it will unquestionably make for more highly efficient officers.

The men have all been “through the. mill,” so to speak. They have lived the life of privates, and know how it feels and what are its joys and its sorrows. They have lifted themselves by their own efforts, in the majority of cases, from privates to corporals, from corporals to sergeants, and then to membership in this school with the resulting opportunity for a commission.

By this it is not meant that all students at the school are non-commissioned officers, for such is not the case, though it is true of the majority. Every man had a fair chance of being chosen whatever his former rank, and the only question to be decided was whether or not he would make “officer’s material.”

But whatever grade the man had upon en-trance at the school, he most certainly had one thing which many candidates at the first and second schools did not have — and that thing is experience.

He was a soldier in the real sense of the word, and he had had great opportunity to see the good points and the bad points of the officers with whom he came in contact, from the point of view of the enlisted man. His had been the bitter school of actual first hand experience, and than this there is no better teacher known to man.

All this is true of four-fifths of the personnel of this Third Officers Training School. The War Department decided that men who were attending certain colleges which had gone in for a thorough course of military training as part of their curriculum, were entitled to recognition also.

With this end in view each of these colleges was allowed to recommend a certain percentage of its men, whom they deemed best fitted to become officers ; and these men comprise one-fifth of the school.

Our Target - Turning Cadets In To Commissioned Officers - April 19, 1918.

Our Target - Turning Cadets In To Commissioned Officers - April 19, 1918. GGA Image ID # 13aeab9161

About 140 came to us here at Camp Devens, and were immediately enlisted with the grade of first-class privates, thus putting them on the same basis as the rest of the men in the school. And let it be said here, that a comparison between the work of these men and that of those who were drawn from the ranks, shows no difference that can be noticed.

With regard to distribution ; instead of having comparatively few camps throughout the country, with a large number of students at each, it was decided better to establish schools at each large cantonment and to have the men from each cantonment trained right where they then were.

The result of this was that each school contained 600 or 700 students, and was comparatively easy to handle and to organize. The enlisted men attending are all carried on the rolls of their original companies in the division, as on “detached service.”

They retain the rank which they held upon entrance at the school, and draw the pay of that grade throughout the entire course. Here the similarity ends, however, for once admitted to the school all rank is forgotten, and the private and the regimental sergeant-major are treated exactly on the same basis; in fact very few men even know—the former grade of the man who bunks next to them, and all are officially known as “Candidates,” first, last, and always.

In the preparation of the program of instruction for this Third Officers Training School, special ef-fort has been devoted to making it comprehensive enough to cover those fundamentals in which an officer should be thoroughly grounded, and, in addition, to permit of a primary schooling in the methods of modern warfare.

The courses have been based on the experience of foreign armies during the past three years, and have been designed to teach, as thoroughly as possible in the short time available, the duties of an officer:

First—Instructor:

By subjecting the candidates to the same drills and individual training which they in turn must give to their future commands, with the rigid discipline and attention to detail that they must exact when they become officers of an organization that is to be trained.

Second—Executive:

By subjecting them to the same mode of life that will obtain with respect to their future commands, supplementing this with instruction in the proper method of supplying, messing, administering, and disciplining organizations, and caring for health, welfare, comfort and sanitation.

Third—Leader:

By illustrating the tactical employment of troops, and by giving each man an opportunity for practice in tactical and personal leadership.

In order to secure uniform progress in all schools, a minimum number of hours per week for each subject to be taken up in detail was prescribed. Latitude was thus left to camp commanders for the best adjustment, in their schedules, of the prescribed hours to local conditions and areas.

These schedules were prepared on this basis, and every Saturday morning each candidate received a copy of that for the coming week, showing him exactly what was to be taken up and when, and mapping out each minute of his day from Reveille to Taps.

These schedules may have seemed exacting, and the lack of spare time more or less unpleasant; but they were prepared with the idea that a man who is too confident of his knowledge and experience to submit cheerfully to the detailed instruction and physical efforts required by the prescribed course is not temperamentally suited to the present emergency.

Not for one moment must the fact be lost sight of that the supreme effort is demanded today of every military man engaged in this war, and that only by the exertion of the utmost reserve power in the case of each man can it ever be brought to a decisively successful end.

Nor has this fact been lost sight of. Discipline, precise and exacting, has been the keynote of the school. The salute, bearing, demeanor, and address of instructors and candidates has been required to meet the highest standards of correctness at all times.

Competition has been of the keenest, and work of the highest standard has been justly required and honestly given. Each man has known from the beginning of the school, that at its close the candidates were to be rated numerically in the order of their ability as shown bv their own efforts during this course of training, and each man has given the best that was in him to prove that no mistake was made when he was selected from the division or from his college to attend the Third Officers Training Camp.

In a period of intensive training such as this, no one could expect that the same number of men who started it would be able to finish it, but in the case of this camp the percentage of losses has been extremely small, comparatively speaking.

The school opened on January 5, 1918, with a total membership of 716 candidates, about 140 of whom were from the various colleges, the remainder being enlisted men of the 76th Division. These were divided into four companies of infantry and one battery of field artillery, as follows :

each man has given the best that was in him to prove that no mistake was made when he was selected from the division or from his college to attend the Third Officers Training Camp.

In a period of intensive training such as this, no one could expect that the same number of men who started it would be able to finish it, but in the case of this camp the percentage of losses has been extremely small, comparatively speaking.

The school opened on January 5, 1918, with a total membership of 716 candidates, about 140 of whom were from the various colleges, the remainder being enlisted men of the 76th Division. These were divided into four companies of infantry and one battery of field artillery, as follows :

  • First Battery 124
  • First Company 133
  • Second Company 125
  • Third Company 126
  • Fourth Company 117
  • Total, March 27, 1918 625

A classification of those lost is as follows :

  • Commissioned 2nd Lieuts., Engineers 22
  • Commissioned 2nd Lieuts., U.S. Tank Service. 10
  • Dropped 1
  • Transferred to aviation 1
  • Transferred to ordnance 1
  • Resigned 56
  • Total losses, Jan. 15, 1918, to March 27, 1918 91

When considered from the point of view of the amount of ground covered and the high standard of work required, it will be seen that this record of losses is something of which we may be justly proud, rather than ashamed.

The men chosen as representative of the best in the 76th Division have made good. In the same length of time they have covered a harder and more detailed course of training than either of those given at Plattsburg. They have shown themselves able to lead others.

They have attained an average of marks as high as, if not higher, than that of the two former Officers Training Camps, in spite of the more exacting nature of the work required. In short, they have justified the confidence of their government, and have proved that the National Army can officer itself and that no longer need anyone anywhere, worry about what may or may not be its actual efficiency.

Seabury Stanton.

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Camp Devens : United States Army World War I Cantonment

Third Officers Training Camp - Camp Devens 1918

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The New Idea in Training Officers

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