VI Corps Maneuvers august19-sept 12,1941

The 26th Yankee Division recd orders from 1st Army HQ to participate in VI Corps maneuvers which were scheduled for 8/19-9/12/1941 at Fort Devens in Ayer Ma.


In the 181st Infantry Regiment, my Dad had just spent from June16th- Aug 15th in "Advanced Infantry Training" at Camp Edwards in Falmouth, Ma. This training involved the use of regimental combat teams with supporting antitank, artillery, and engineering units.

They were given a series of "problems" like repelling enemy landing attempts and "establishing a beachhead along Old Silver Beach (now I know why Dad always took us to old Silver & some of my favorite memories of him are there. I can still see him vividly, wearing maroon bathing trunks & Foster Grants. My brother & I would hang on his neck in the water & use him as a giant flotation device. He always seemed to be lost in thought & now I realize he must've been thinking back to 1941 & his Army pals).


The 26th Infantry Division historian wrote, "The individual soldier knew little of what was going on higher up, and generally felt the whole show was completely SNAFU."


In addition, they had poor equipment - using broomsticks for rifles and wooden machine guns. "Piper cubs posing as 'fighter bombers", would zoom in low & drop bags of flour to

simulate bombs".


It's mind boggling to think that just a few months before Pearl Harbor - we had so little equipment. Also, amazing to realize how fast we got up to speed with all that needed to be done.


Here are 2 photos that I think may be from the Carolina Maneuvers, but could also be

from Devens (67 yrs ago next month!).

Notice my father's WWI issue helmet and the 2nd photo of his buddies on a "tank" (check out the fellow who is either asleep or a "casualty").


On 8/19 units of the YD (about 6,000 troops) "entrucked" and headed to FT Devens for the VI Corps maneuvers, whose primary purpose was supposed to be coordination of mechanized attacks (including light & medium tanks, half tracks, and scout cars) with Infantry tactics.


From the Division & Company historians & individual accounts, here is some dsecription of the VI Corps maneuvers:


"Corps scheduled all 4 regiments to be in position at their assigned assembly areas no later than noon on the 20th. Upon arrival, orders called for commanders of each regiment to make reconnaisance of their respective areas, establish an MLR and reserve area, position artillery batteries & supporting fire, as well as post security elements.


Troops spent the overnight bivouac of 8/19 at the Upton State Forest with orders not to unroll packs & be ready to move out at a moments notice. The soldiers slept on the bare ground without cover. No sooner had the men bedded down when the clouds opened up with a deluge. It poured hard & steady throughout the night. The men were

drenched to the skin and 'sloshed around' on the wet ground all night. Above the sound of the unrelenting rain, one could hear the muttered curses of the angry & uncomfortable men as they tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep.


The following day was extremely hot and all the men "were wishing for cooler weather'.

They didn't have long to wait...That night was unseasonably cold. with temps dropping

below freezing. The next morning, the troops 'had to break the ice in the water containers in order to wash'.


A weary & bedraggled group arrived at Devens on 8/20. MPs directed the convoys to their assigned areas on the old artillery range, situated about 3 miles from the Fort, where the troops first set eyes on the pyramidal tent city, set up by the advanced detail.


The location of the site was very disheartening to everyone. One soldier described the bivouac area as 'a terribly dusty, hot place' and it was then dubbed 'the dust bowl'.

The 104th infantry historian wrote: "the troops lived ate & slept in dust'. Heavy troop & vehicle traffic pulverized the dry soil into a fine black powder that clung to the skin & clothing & seeped into the soldiers belongings. In addition to the dust, the soldiers battled hordes of flys & mosquitoes.


The water, heavily chlorinated & disguised with lemon juice, made the men wonder what it was they were drinking & most could not force it down.


Much to everyone's chagrin, the men discovered numerous unexploded artillery shells at various locations within the camp confines. Corps HQ had to call in a detail of demolition experts from the Engineers to defuse & dispose of them. 'The situation was ripe for a serious accident (YA THINK???). Eventually, Corps attached several explosive ordnance specialists to the Division to handle any 'problems'.


The VI Army Corps war games pitted the RedArmy against the Blue Army. The exercises consisted of 'Meeting Engagement', 'Pursuit & Withdrawal', Enveloping Armored Attack & Defense', 'Penetrating Armored Attack, Defense', and 'Reconnaisance, Attack, and Defense'.


During maneuvers a number of problems occurred - the most prevelant being units getting lost & roadways being clogged with vehicles during an advance, delaying or halting the exercises. The most annoying problem to the troops was that the kitchen truck kept getting 'captured' which meant the men had to go without hot meals for long stretches.


The Fort Devens maneuvers closed on Wed 9/10 at exactly 11am the division broke camp to the sound of the bugle & made ready to return to Camp Edwards the following day. That night, all officers & men slept in pup tents. At 8:30 am, the convoy began their 120 mile trek back to Cape Cod. No one was sorry to leave. In fact, a few of the guys were so happy to be back that, upon arrival, they 'kissed the barracks.'"


So ended the 1941 VI Corps Devens Maneuvers .


Another great post from you, as usual. Thanks so much for placing all that information here, along with the cool photos. I don't know about anyone else, but I sure enjoy reading all the history.


Many thanks,


Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Quote: "The 26th Infantry Division historian wrote, "The individual soldier knew little of what was going on higher up, and generally felt the whole show was completely SNAFU."

Truer words were never spoken. When sitting in the pouring rain we started a chant :: "Lets get these men out of the hot sun and into shade".




I don't think the rest of us can imagine what it's like to be plucked from your regular life

and find yourself at the mercy of the Army. No wonder you guys were chanting to get out of the rain. Geez!


After the YD draftees had completed their year of service, they were supposed to be released from the Army starting in October 41. Hitler invaded Russia in June 41 and Army Chief of Staff Gen George Marshall petitioned Congress to extend the draft & National Guard duty. Congress ok'd it - and Pres Roosevelt signed into law.


Military historian Christopher Gable says: "This did not sit well with those affected by the change. The men felt that they had fulfilled their commitment and wanted to go home and get on with their lives...some enlisted men regarded this as the latest of many injustices perpetrated by the Army."


From the 26th Infantry historian: "The discontent started as a low grumble of protest. During various exercises and events, shouts of 'OHIO', meaning 'over the hill in October' could be heard... Dissatisfaction with the situation began to grow and whenever a group of high ranking National Guard officials came with in hearing range, a chorus of disgruntled men would howl 'OHIOOOOOOHIOOOO'".


Little did those poor fellows know that they were gonna be in for YEARS not months.


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