In 1919, the 2nd Army published 13 issues of a magazine, ‘The Indian’. On this date 100 years ago, this article was published in the Indian. Some of the activities we read here have already been presented in previous blog posts but there is a lot of interesting information about what these guys were doing while they waited to go home.
The Best Cared For Army
The Indian Magazine
Volume 1, No. 5 — May 13, 1919
Never in the history of warfare have armies been as well cared for as the American forces overseas. Of these forces the divisions that form the Army of Occupation upon the Rhine are in a particularly favorable position.
To begin with the officers and men of the Army of Occupation are quartered in comfortable billets. Beds are being obtained for every man. They are located in towns that have been the mecca for tourists for years. And they are part of the best fed army in the world today.
In a general way, the days are divided into two parts. Mornings are devoted to drill, tactical exercises, and the care of equipment. Afternoons are devoted to athletics and play, and evenings to entertainment.
Of the mornings, nothing need be said. After all, this is an army in an enemy’s country, and soldiering is soldiering, the world over. Of the afternoons and evenings there is so much to be said that lack of space forbids anything but the barest mention of the hundred and one activities of the men.
Take the Rhine river excursions for instance. Every day in the week two big excursion steamers make the trip. One goes up the Rhine as far as the Lorelei rock, the other down the river as far as Bonn. The boats are crowded to capacity, and, by the way, everything is free. There is a brass band on each boat, a good hot lunch is served at noon, and a lecturer points out the various castles and objects of interest and explains the historical significance of everything. This is a trip tourists paid big money to take before the war, and spent the balance of their lives talking about.
“Leave centers” have been established at various towns. A leave center is a place where visiting soldiers from other towns find beds, food and entertainment galore during their short stay while on leave in the area. This is just by way of a change, and has nothing to do with the regular big leave that comes every four months as regularly as clockwork. At some of the leave centers are famous mineral baths where millionaires and kings tarried in other days. American soldiers splash about in the palatial tubs now.
Shows? There are soldier shows, shows from gay Paree, shows with real American girls in them, band concerts, musical comedies organized by soldiers with “a carload of special scenery,” singing leaders and lectures. Good shows seem to grow on trees. Movies most every night, and in the big towns every afternoon too. All free, of course.
There are clubs for officers, which are real clubs in every sense, and there are clubs being organized for the enlisted men. The Red Cross, Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army and Y. M. C. A. cooperate in the distribution of magazines and newspapers, and the maintenance of reading and writing rooms in the various towns.
Each division has its own big division sales commissary, where the men may buy at low prices candy, clothing, and foods of various description, if they wish to add a bit to their messes, and each separate regiment now has its own regimental sales commissary. The men dine in large mess halls that have been erected, and many of the companies have gathered together real plates, cups, knives, forks and spoons, and have the table set just like home, packing their old field mess-gear away.
Circulating libraries are being established, tennis tournaments are in full swing, and two big baseball leagues have been formed in the Second Division. Each company has its own team also, and competitions are so arranged in athletics that every man in the company has to do something himself, and does not spend all his time on the side lines, cheering for a few good players.
Chaplains and athletic officers cooperate in all these things, and amusement officers look after the shows.
Last, but not least, come the schools. An opportunity has been extended to each man of the Second Division to equip himself mentally and physically, so when the time comes for him to enter the peaceful pursuits of civil life, none need fear being handicapped in competition with those whose studies were not interrupted by the course of events over here.
An Educational Center has been established at Rengsdorf*, where spacious buildings have been secured with ample accomodations for 600 students and 40 instructors. Courses including agriculture, mathematics, history, English, business branches, economscience (general,) barbering, photography, lithography, mechanical drawing, sign painting, lettering and a variety of other trades. .
Five hours of recitations or supervised study constitute a day’s session, with one hour military instruction. In connection with the agricultural course are forestry and field work on Saturdays. It is under the personal supervision of Maj. W. E. Finzer, assisted by an able corps of trained instructors.
At other schools about the division are taught horseshoeing, blacksmithing, motorcycle and automobile repairing, maintenance and driving, and a general knowledge of carburetor, tire and magneto repairing.
One thing more deserves special mention. This is the “Comrades in Service” movement, under the guidics [sic], science (general,) barbering, photography, lithoance [sic] of Divisian [sic] Chaplain Oscar Lee Owens. This is an organization of the enlisted men within each company and separate detachment, whereby they elect officers, and manage their own debating societies, entertainments, and other morale-building activities.