Like most Army ROTC programs, the University of Maine conducts an annual staff ride for their senior class. This event offers a unique opportunity for historical research for the cadets and gives them a chance to take a deep dive into a historical campaign or subject. In the past, this likely meant spending a lot of time with dusty books, but not in 2021. Thanks to a connection on Twitter, the educational event opened an exchange between the university and 3rd Infantry Division, which is headquartered nearly 1,200 miles away.
This year, due to travel restrictions, a terrain walk and battle analysis of Gettysburg was held at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Bangor, Maine, with 13 Cadets in lieu of a traditional staff ride, said Maj. Nicolas Phillips, the assistant professor of military science for the University of Maine. “As part of this event, Captain Bratten set up a display of Civil War and WWI uniforms and equipment and discussed the advances in technology. Each cadet was assigned units which either directly related to their branch or home state.” Capt. Jonathan Bratten serves as the Maine Army National Guard command historian.
A WWI-era uniform bearing the famous 3rd ID patch on display during the terrain walk was of particular interest to Phillips as both of his parents are 3rd ID veterans. As a child growing up in Würzburg from 1990-1996, he was part of Marne Division community, as the unit was stationed there at the time. 3rd ID returned to the U.S. and was activated at Fort Stewart April 25, 1996.
The cadet public affairs officer thought it was interesting too and shared a photo of the uniform with 3rd ID on Twitter during the event. This led to a dialogue between both organizations.
"We started to use Twitter because it's one of the more popular platforms that our generation is using and it allows us to reach a wider audience. The staff ride is a beneficial way to look at our military's past, take those lessons and implement them into our current knowledge of military tactics," said Boston native 2nd Lt. Ryley Claire Fay.
The discussion centered around the Maine Soldier in the photo: 2nd Lt. Delmore Adams.
Although just a small piece of a big division, Adams’ story is reminiscent of so many other WWI-era Dogface Soldiers.
Adams served with division on the Marne River in 1918, where the unit earned its moniker Rock of the Marne. He was born November 28, 1898, in the mill town of Skowhegan, Maine. His father, Asa Adams, served as a sergeant in the infantry for the Maine National Guard from 1880-1882. The family were farmers in Somerset County at the time the United States entered World War I. Even though he previously earned a diploma from the Maine Central Institute, Delmore still worked the family farm.
On October 24, 1917, Adams enlisted into the regular Army and was eventually placed in Company A, 7th Machine Gun Battalion, 3rd Division.
The 3rd Infantry Division as we know it today formed in November of 1917 out of Army units from around the United States.
According to Bratten, Adams and his company had only been in France for a month and a half when a German offensive on May 27, 1918, overran French lines in front of Paris. The U.S. 2nd and 3rd Divisions were called to attempt to halt the German onslaught. Adams and the rest of the 7th Machine Gun Battalion, with their sixteen 8mm Hotchkiss machine guns per company, were driven into the town of Chateau-Thierry on May 31. These doughboys were supporting Senegalese soldiers of the French 10th Colonial Division; the fierce African fighters cheered as the American soldiers arrived and offloaded their heavy machine guns. The gunners were placed in houses and a sugar refinery overlooking the two bridges over the Marne River. One section of Company A was sent across the river to fight alongside the colonials and was in action that very afternoon.
Bratten explained that on June 1, the Germans broke into Chateau-Thierry itself. Fighting was house-to-house, roadblock-to-roadblock.
“Despite valiant efforts, the town was lost to the Germans,” Bratten said. “However, at every point where they attempted to cross the Marne, they ran into the American machine guns. After 48 hours when the 7th was finally relieved, German dead and wounded littered the bridges and far side of the Marne. Not a one had crossed. One month before the 38th Infantry of the 3rd Division would make its stand that would earn it the sobriquet “Rock of the Marne,” the 7th Machine Gun Battalion was showing why the 3rd Division would come out of the Great War with the moniker ‘the Marne Division.’”
Adams was twice awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his actions during these 48 hours.
“He acted as a runner to keep liaison between the American battalion and French headquarters in Chateau-Thierry,” Bratten continued. “Casualties were particularly high for battalion runners, who had to make their way across machine-gun swept open areas and shell-ridden alleys to get the messages through when the phone lines were cut.”
“It was through this scene of intense fighting that Adams picked his way along, delivering messages and ensuring that there was no break in the lines,” Bratten further explained. “For his calmness and gallantry under fire, he was also awarded the Silver Star. He was promoted to corporal on June 7, 1918, and then sergeant just two weeks later.”
Bratten explained that Adams would fight with Company A through the rest of the war, participating in all the 3rd Division’s major actions: the Champagne-Marne Defensive, the Aisne-Marne Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Adams received his commission as a second lieutenant of infantry on March 16, 1919, following his successful completion of the Army Candidates School in France on December 31, 1918. He was discharged July 14, 1919 at Camp Devens, Massachusetts.
Upon return home to Maine, the highly decorated Soldier went quietly back to work. Like many veterans of the Great War, he remained silent about his actions. According to Bratten, Adams never even told his children what he had done in France. He passed away on February 5, 1981 at the age of 82.
In 2019, Adams’ daughter, Doris Adams, provided the Maine Army National Guard with her father’s helmet, tunic, bayonet, accoutrements, and assorted papers.
“Since then, this gift has been used to teach high school students and ROTC cadets at the University of Maine about the service of ‘average’ Mainers during the Great War,” Bratten said.
University of Maine Army ROTC plans to continue teaching cadets about local Soldiers just like 21-year-old Dogface Soldier Adams on the Marne as an example of ordinary people who rose to extraordinary heights.