Utah’s Wilson felt compelled to call into federal service

Utah’s Involvement in World War IAbigail Anderson It can be easy to focus on the total scope of World War I, given that it truly was a global war, but what about the contributions of those miles from the frontlines? What was their role and what impact, big or small, did they have on this global war? Utah and the Great War, written by Allan Kent Powell, aims to delve into the state of Utah’s contributions throughout World War I.  Utah’s involvement in the global war began even before the United States had declared war on Germany. Conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border in 1916 led to the mobilization of the National Guard, including Utah’s National Guard. While the result was not war with Mexico, this served as a period of preparation and experience for the United States’ eventual entry into World War I. President Woodrow Wilson felt compelled to call into federal service the entire National Guard, with Utah receiving a call to mobilize on June 8, 1916.  For many men throughout Utah, this was a thrilling chance to help serve the country. Some men even returned home to Utah from other states to serve.   Cities and local officials were quite supportive of this call for troops. Recruiting campaigns were set up throughout various cities and bolstered by the call for “real men”. “Even the business community backed the National Guard by promising to keep the men’s jobs open until they returned, and some even offered financial support to employees on military duty”.  All units sent from Utah ended up in Nogales, Arizona where they cleared the land and set up camp. Utah troops did not see much action with other than insignificant interactions with civilian Mexicans.  The enthusiasm of those recruited to serve did not outweigh the shortcomings acknowledged in official reports. “The chaos of mobilization, low levels of training, and lack of plans and equipment were frequent targets for criticism”.  Even with various criticism, the contributions of those Utah men were important. Reports show that the Utah units were well-behaved and efficient in their duty. It being a voluntary service meant that the men who signed up did it by their own motivation, with some wanting to carry on a tradition of service because of the Spanish-American War. By April 6, 1917 the United States of America had declared war on Germany, and “without question the border crisis of 1916 had given the National Guard experience and training that would be vital in the months ahead”. As preparation for war loomed over the United States, the federal government called for more volunteers to enlist in the National Guard. At first, the number of enlistees was lacking, with many men wanting to see front-line action, but fearing being stuck on border duty. Recruitment steadily increased with the help of patriotic marches and parades, as well as speaking campaign throughout the state. By October 13, 1917 the units sent from Utah arrived at Camp Kearny in California. The Utahns were joined by troops from California, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado. These states comprised the 40th division, better known as the “Sunshine Division”.  While at camp, the units drilled and prepared. With the German’s implementation of gas, learning how to properly use a gas mask became a necessity. The thought of dealing with gas warfare made many soldiers nervous, and rightfully so. Drilling also consisted of shooting and marching practice. “By March 1918 the Sunshine Division was declared 100 percent efficient and ready for battle in Europe, but the call did not come”.   Under the direction of General Pershing there were many division of the National Guard that were deemed “depot divisions”, meaning men were sent to the front lines on an individual replacement basis. This angered many men as they had to watch their units be broken up.  Utah soldier were part of the one million Americans who participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from September to November of 1918. This battle ended with the signing of an armistice that ended the war. The 91st Division had a number of Utah natives, who surely witnessed the carnage of war. The 36th Infantry Regiment consisted of mostly Utahns, many of whom lost their lives in one afternoon on the Meuse-Argonne Campaign.  With the end of the war, Utah soldiers prepared to return home, though many soldiers would never get that chance. “According to a state government report, a total of 535 Utah men dies in the war, and a good number of those surely met their end in the highly lethal Meuse-Argonne campaign”.  Many soldiers would return home with physical scars, but it was the emotional scars that were much harder to see. This was a time where there was no idea or understanding of what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the book, “It appears even those who seemed most prepared to reenter civilian life knew they were dealing with powerful demons. Once immersed in war, they would never be the same”. While women were not allowed to volunteer for military service, they served in a variety of ways to help the war effort. At the request of Utah’s Governor, women volunteers were registered, with close to twenty-four thousand women pledging their support in the war effort.  The efforts of these women including helping back in the states, and even near the front lines. Some women drove ambulances during the war, which led to an up-close view of the effects of war. These female ambulance drivers saw just how devastating war is to humankind. They also worked very long and strenuous shifts, with very little down time. In rare moments of free-time, these women socialized, often through means of dancing, talking, and sharing food.  Many Utah nurses also experienced the war up-close. Nationwide recruiting was led by the Red Cross, and in April 1918, there were thirty-six Utah nurses stationed within the war zone. Utah’s nurses not only helped on the battlefront, but “…set new standards for the profession, developed new concepts in health care and served their communities with distinction both before and after the war”.  The roles women played during World War I helped create and expand the involvement of women in wartime, and would impact the role women played in future conflicts. For the United States, the home front became a very important part of the war. The Utah Council of Defense was formed during the war to rally and use state resources for the good of the war effort. This was carried out in a series of ways, including: fundraising, food production, and various military affairs.