THIRTY-SIXTH INFANTRY DIVISION
Although not an Oklahoma unit, the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division had a significant role in Oklahoma's military history. Oklahoma had a single National Guard regiment, the First Oklahoma Infantry, when the United States entered World War I. In August 1917 the First Oklahoma transferred from Fort Sill to Camp Bowie, Texas, where the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division was assembled from National Guard units. The Oklahomans combined with the Seventh Texas Infantry to become the 142d Regiment. The First and Second Texas infantries formed the 141st. These two regiments composed the Thirty-sixth Division's Seventy-first Brigade. The Thirty-sixth Division had more American Indians than any other unit. Most were assigned to the 142d's Company E, which was known as the "Indian Company." At Camp Bowie the division was reinforced with four thousand draftees.
The Thirty-sixth reached France in August 1918 and was inserted into the Meuse-Argonne front. Placed under the Twenty-first French Army Corps, the Thirty-sixth relieved the U.S. Second Division near St. Etienne. There, on October 8 the division engaged in its first battle, which culminated in victory on October 27 in the Ferme Forest. The division was then withdrawn and saw no further combat. It returned to Camp Bowie for demobilization during the spring of 1919. During the Ferme Forest battle Col. Alfred W. Bloor, the commander of the 142d, suspected that Germans were wiretapping communication lines. In response, several Choctaw from Company E were used to transmit messages in their native language. This led to their designation as "code talkers."
The division performed well, drawing praise from Allied commanders. There were significant losses, however, especially in the Seventy-first Brigade. Around St. Etienne the 141st Regiment suffered 711 casualties, and the 142d lost 681. In comparison, losses in the Ferme Forest totaled one officer and nine enlisted men. Division personnel received numerous awards and decorations. Included were two Congressional Medals of Honor, thirty-nine Distinguished Service Crosses, and one Distinguished Service Medal. Seven were honored with the Medaille Militaire, France's highest award for enlisted personnel. The French also conferred the Croix de Guerre on 415 division members.
Under the National Defense Act of 1920 the Oklahoma National Guard was reorganized into the 179th and the 180th Infantry regiments of the Ninetieth Brigade, Forty-fifth Infantry Division. The Thirty-sixth Infantry Division consisted of the Texas National Guard.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Charles H. Barnes, History of the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Division (Blackwell, Okla,: Blackwell Job Printing Co., 1922). Ben-Hur F. Chastaine, Story of the 36th: The Experiences of the 36th Division in the World War (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Harlow Publishing, 1920). Kenny A. Franks, Citizen Soldiers: Oklahoma's National Guard (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984). Joseph B. Thoburn and Muriel H. Wright, Oklahoma: A History of the State and Its People (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1929).
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