History of the Third Infantry Company - 3rd OTC - 1918
Cadets from the 3rd Officers Training Camp Learn the Fine Art of Grenade Throwing at Camp Devens. GGA Image ID #
The 3rd Infantry Company weighed in 1918 with about fifty percent pencil pushers, thirty percent road builders, indicating Depot Brigade origin, eleven percent threatening soldiers, four percent soldiers and sailors, four percent lawyers, and the historian.
THE TERRIBLE THIRD
OF two things one is certain, either you are going to read this or you are not. If you are it’s because your dog plays on the lawn of a man whose second cousin’s son is in this company or you have some other equally keen interest in its members. If you are not, it devolves upon the historian to entice you so to do.
Consequently we burst forth at once upon the subject of this history, the Terrible Third, one-fifth of the Officers’ Training Camp and to make the sentence sound still more unmathematical, one-fourth of the “Doughboy” Battalion.
In keeping with the esprit de corps of all ‘volunteers’ in the National Army, the members of the Third Company, from captain to cook, modestly and reluctantly admit that “they are the finest body of men New England has ever produced.”
The mere fact that every newspaper from Skowhegan to Tenafly has used the above expression almost daily indicates that it is not only proverbially trite but damned near true.
We have had stage-fright, measles, plural-pneumonia, blue-denim, over-confidence, demerits, rumoritis, patroleum, some food and intensive training, and, may it please the Court, with these accomplishments in our favor, who is there to deny us the olive drab umbrella?
The Third maneuvered for the first time on January 5th under command of Captain Sidorowicz on the coldest corner in camp at the foot of "Work-yer-hed-off" Hill.
The company weighed in at that time about fifty percent pencil pushers, thirty percent road builders, indicating Depot Brigade origin, eleven percent threatening soldiers, four percent soldiers and sailors, four percent lawyers and the historian.
For a time it was difficult to distinguish some of us from the permanent personnel and this compliment works both ways. But behold, under the expert tutelage of Captain Hunter and his able assistants the heterogeneous was fused into a homogeneous organization of gun totters that would make Napoleon’s crack guard look like a bunch of rooks in comparison.
The four tactical principals in our claim for excellence are as follows: Captain D. Gordon Hunter, snap and precision personified; First Lieutenant Pearl D. Hill, the man who made big problems of infantry look small; First Lieutenant Hazen B. Hinman, who can flex-step in his sleep ; Second Lieutenant Harold S. Tuck, supreme curator of the records, long-suffering and patient.
We marched well at times and at all other times fast and like H----. Early in our career, Capt. Hunter espied a distinct fleetness of foot which he cultivated to the nth power during our several months under his command.
It was no uncommon occurrence for the boys to attain such speed that they often marched several hundred yards past the barracks before they slowed down to quick time sufficiently to make it safe to call a halt. At times we kept step without a count and invariably we were perfection itself in marching past headquarters.
As marksmen, we were a noisy lot but the records are misleading. The manual emphasizes the necessity of a grazing fire in battle as well as an even fire distribution. Although the scores did not show it, examination of the parapet and adjacent country, including the town of Shirley, indicates that the boys learned their lessons well.
As a result of our varied training, all those fortunate enough to attend this camp (and live) will be fully qualified specialists as trench diggers, target operators, prosecuting attorneys, chamber maids, landscape artists, clerks and second lieutenants.
Although our drilling was confined for the most part to the Eighth Battalion drill field, we have tasted of the ice-clad fields of the Yukon, the windswept plains of Siberia and the mud-flats of Flanders, all on the same drill field, for nothing but a winter at Camp Devens could afford such varied weather.
Probably the most dangerous maneuver that was attempted during the entire course was a sudden halt on the ice of the drill field. From a rather neat appearing column of squads the command would usually array itself on telephone wires, snow-drifts and what few trees hold forth on the landscape when some embryonic company commander found himself in a tangle and suddenly called “Halt !”
Weekly inspections were a particular delight and called forth our very best efforts to please. Toward the end of the camp these were reduced to a basis of real military efficiency, a matter of ten minutes being given to preparation and an additional ten minutes for putting away equipment, after inspection; It was during this time that some of us learned how extremely perverse a button could be. Lieut. Hinman was usually the one to point out this peculiarity.
In bayonet work, the Third fully lived up to its adjective, Terrible. Under the guidance of “General” Staley, sometimes called Dr. Sloane, the men became exceedingly ugly and bloodthirsty in manipulating the tin persuaders.
The advice that a bayonet is the best trench insurance available was not wasted and the company went to it with such vim that it was not uncommon to have the snores, coughs and sneezes of a quiet night interrupted by some slumbering soldier commanding “Long Point,” and following it with blood-curdling growls, etc.
The Hebert exercises were a source of extreme comfort to all and soon became to their lives what soothing syrup, is to a teething infant. After a few weeks practise at this form of torturing, the trenches and their attendant discomforts could have no terrors for us.
The company history would fall short of its purpose if it failed to mention the Milk Dealers’ Association, an organization made up of those members who rise long before dawn, go quietly about their work, making no more noise than an industrious milkman washing his bottles and shoeing his horses.
The Association thrived during the entire camp, in fact business seemed to pick up as the winter waned. The members deserve honorable mention for their perseverance for they were cursed cordially and even threatened with physical violence, but all to no avail.
Our first few days in the trenches convinced the officers that we were really versatile. Clad in blue denims, the Terrible Third attacked the sectors assigned to it with such success that Capt. Hunter was moved to the declaration that we would make a good bunch of ‘wops’ as well as officers. It was here that we did our best soldiering.
Unfortunately, every time ‘Cadet’ Van Horn or Frank O'Neil kicked off for two minutes rest after an hour of back-breaking, an officer was there to comment on the slowness of the work in their particular sectors.
Another misfortune of the trench digging was the assign-? ment of platoons. The first and second platoons did all the digging when the trenches were shallow and after they had scarred the earth to a depth of six feet or more, the third platoon, composed of the ‘ponies’ or ‘Boy Scouts’ took up the task.
‘Billy’ O'Neil and ‘Hoover’ Hovas teamed up nicely on this work. The former filled the shovel and passed it up to the agile Hovas, standing on O'Neil's shoulders and by a mighty heave, the dirt was finally cast from the trench.
Of all formations, mess was the one that seemed most attractive.
‘Herb’ Mills, our only member who sported a service bar, ‘Art’ Landry and Rust Scott never once failed to fall in promptly at this formation. The remainder of the company was quickly in trace, however, and our most sumptuous repast seldom required more than seventeen minutes to tuck away.
Just as the company boasts of being wide-awake all day, so does it claim notice for sleeping ability at the proper time. For the first few weeks, there were the inevitable ‘after lights’ jokers but after the course stiffened up to its normal pace, the squad rooms were a riot of snores five minutes after lights were out.
The air was punctured by harmonious snorts and wheezes and ever and anon, some candidate would rehash the doings of the day only too often in language that is unprintable.
But the fun and the trials and tribulations of the camp will soon be nothing more than fond recollections to all of us and we shall then be forth upon the most serious mission of our lives.
That the men have realized that, their training has been for a serious purpose is not to be questioned and they stand as one in their hope that they may be able to emulate the splendid examples of their instructors and be worthy of the great care and diligence with which the officers labored in whipping into shape the members of the Third.
Harold A. Fitzsimmons