• Elements of the victorious American Expeditionary Force cross over the Moselle River from Luxemburg into Germany following the Armistice. November 30, 1918. (WW1 Signal Corps Collection, 1st Div. 28th Infantry).

    Crossing the Mossell

    Elements of the victorious American Expeditionary Force cross over the Moselle River from Luxemburg into Germany following the Armistice. November 30, 1918. (WW1 Signal Corps Collection, 1st Div. 28th Infantry).

  • Soldiers of the 28th Infantry, part of the American Expeditionary Force rest during a road movement near Soissons, France. July 16, 1918. (WW1 Signal Corps Collection, 1st Div.28th Inf).

    At Rest!

    Soldiers of the 28th Infantry, part of the American Expeditionary Force rest during a road movement near Soissons, France. July 16, 1918. (WW1 Signal Corps Collection, 1st Div.28th Inf).

  • General John J. Pershing and Major General Henry T. Allen speak to the commander of the 1st Division Composite Battalion after a review parade. Coblenz, Prussia, August 1, 1919. (WW1 Signal Corps Collection, 1st Div., Decorations #2).

    General Pershing

    General John J. Pershing and Major General Henry T. Allen speak to the commander of the 1st Division Composite Battalion after a review parade. Coblenz, Prussia, August 1, 1919. (WW1 Signal Corps Collection, 1st Div., Decorations #2).

  • The printed, photographic, and paper sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). Visit our online research catalog at "www.ahco.army.mil" for further research. The artifacts shown are among 50,000 such items in the Army Heritage Museum (AHM). Both MHI and AHM are directorates of the Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC), 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle Barracks, PA, 17013-5021. Visiting our website at www.carlisle.army.mil/ahec" provides more insight into the resources of the AHEC.

    U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center

    The printed, photographic, and paper sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). Visit our online research...

  • World War I era recruiting poster.

    Honored and Respected by All

    World War I era recruiting poster.

  • U. S. Army tunic from World War I with 42nd Division shoulder sleeve insignia and three overseas service chevrons  

The 42nd Division’s nickname “Rainbow Division” is attributed to Colonel Douglas MacArthur.  MacArthur is quoted as having said, “The 42nd Division stretches like a Rainbow from one end of America to the other” because it was formed from National Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia.  The insignia was approved by the AEF on 29th October 1918.    

This Army tunic was tailored in Germany during the occupation following World War I for 1st Lieutenant (later Captain) Carl Edward Erickson.  Erickson, the son of Swedish immigrants to the United States, enlisted on 12 May 1916 and received his officer’s training at the U. S. War Department Military Instruction Camp in Plattsburg, New York in 1916 and 1917.  In August of 1917, only three months after the U. S. declared war on Germany, Erickson embarked for France and for six months he attended the Military School of Artillery at Fontainebleau and the Cavalry and AEF Field Artillery School at Saumur, France.  Erickson then fought with Battery F, 150th Field Artillery Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, from 1 March 1918 until the Armistice on 11 November 1918.  He served with the Army of Occupation at Neuenahr, Germany and then returned to the United States.

    U. S. Army tunic from World War I...

    U. S. Army tunic from World War I with 42nd Division shoulder sleeve insignia and three overseas service chevrons The 42nd Division’s nickname “Rainbow Division” is attributed to Colonel Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur is quoted as having said...

Ninety years ago this week, General <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=44233" target="_blank">John J. Pershing </a>was selected to lead an <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=95561" target="_blank">American Expeditionary Force </a>to France to assist the Allies in their fight against the Central Powers of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Freshly recalled to Washington from the Mexican border where he was involved in the <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=86711" target="_blank">Punitive Expedition </a>chasing the bandit Pancho Villa, Pershing would have to create a force unlike any previous force in the history of the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Army entered the 20th Century still using the basic structure it used in the Civil War. During the <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=95162" target="_blank">Spanish-American War </a>, this was found to be unwieldy and slow to mobilize and move large numbers of men overseas. War Department studies, commissioned early in the century by Secretary of War <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=44251" target="_blank">Elihu Root </a>, and the National Defense Act of 1916 had begun to address this problem, yet serious challenges still faced Pershing. He would have to craft a plan to use the small Regular Army along with the mobilized <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=86765" target="_blank">National Guard </a>as well as the newly created National Army of draftees and form these into Divisions which would fight this new war.

Just as today's Army is undergoing a transformation to more mobile, lethal and self-contained units, the Army of the First World War became Pershing's vision of the force needed to fight for America's cause among the Great Powers of Europe. He began to build a 100 <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=95272" target="_blank">Division </a> force; the same divisions are still with us today, having seen service in all of America's wars since 1918. The American Expeditionary Force was crafted to address the new realities of modern war. The technological leaps forward in weapons gave rise to new formations in the <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=84492" target="_blank">Army Air Service </a>, the birth of the <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=84555" target="_blank">Tank Corps </a>, and the <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=84677" target="_blank">Chemical Corps </a>. Another field which evolved to meet new and horrendous aspects of this war was <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=86687" target="_blank">military medicine </a>, and an enormous logistic need arose to supply the millions of men in army bases and on the front lines overseas. Pershing realized that such a force would require a great deal of organization and leadership. In response to this, he created the concept of a <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=95169" target="_blank">General Staff </a>, complete with staff sections dealing with the various aspects of an army in the field.

Chosen as a proven leader, with a strong personality and known public persona from his service with the <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=73992" target="_blank">10th Cavalry </a>and most recently on the Mexican Border, "Black Jack" Pershing seemed the obvious choice to lead a fledgling force to France. Few could have foreseen his strenuous efforts to avoid sending American soldiers piecemeal to fill the ranks of the depleted British and French armies. Instead, he insisted on maintaining the integrity of American divisions, and he eventually formed them into the American <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=73564" target="_blank">First </a>, <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=73567" target="_blank">Second </a>, and <a href="http://ahecwebdds.carlisle.army.mil/awapps/pdfopener'smd=1&md=1&did=73571" target="_blank">Third </a> Armies. The structure which he created would be the template for the American Army as we know it. Just as it did in 1917-18, the Army is once again transforming itself to meet the challenges of warfare in the 21st Century. Pershing would be proud!

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16