Fort Bragg, NC – On Thursday, 9 December, the 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion celebrated their 100-year anniversary of having been organized in the Army’s Organized Reserve while recognizing their early beginnings and honoring their first Reserve regimental commander.
The Selective Service Act of early 1917 established a framework for the Army’s structure prior to WW I - the Regular Army, the National Guard and the National Army. The 82nd Infantry Division, along with its subordinate units, including the 307th Engineer Regiment, drew soldiers from the Southeast U.S. and were organized in the National Army at Camp Gordon, GA in August 1917. Nine months later the division left for France. Following the War, the 82nd and its subordinate units were demobilized and soldiers sent home.
Following a two-year period of inactivity for those demobilized units, the National Defense Act of 1920 established an Army of three components, keeping the Regular Army and the National Guard but creating a new component, the Organized Reserve (OR). The OR would eventually become today’s United States Army Reserve. Units assigned to the OR would draw from the same geographic areas where the draft had stood them up in 1917 as National Army units. The 82nd Infantry with its subordinate units would be located in the Southeast U.S., the 82nd headquartered in Columbia, SC and the 307th in Jacksonville, FL. While unit capabilities and readiness were reduced by limited manning and minimal equipment, units would meet over the next 20 years on a semiregular basis, conducting drills and participating in training exercises, including summer camp.
With the 307th Engineers being organized in Jacksonville, their first commander, COL Clarence S. Coe would assume command in November 1921 and would remain in command over the next five years. A Civil Engineer graduate of the University of Minnesota in 1889, Coe was recognized early on as a master bridge builder and railroad civil engineer. He is best remembered for his engineering management in the construction of viaducts and bridges along the 128-mile overseas railroad of the Florida East Coast Railway connecting Miami, FL with Key West in the early 1900’s.
In 1917 Coe volunteered for service as an engineer and was commissioned Captain in the 17th Engineer Regiment (Railway), one of the early deploying units to France to rebuild its transportation infrastructure. In France, CPT Coe would be placed in charge of the Montoir railyard, the largest engineering project the Army attempted in France. Coe would rise from captain to colonel during the war and would be in command of the regiment upon its return home. Immediately after the war, COL Coe would lead a team of engineers assigned to the American Technical Mission for one year to war-ravaged Serbia to provide economic recovery support on the reconstruction of railway, road and river traffic systems.
Back in the United States, COL Coe would engage in a private engineering practice when not providing public service to the State of Florida over the next 18 years. Concurrent with his public service duties, Coe would command the 307th Engineer Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division, stationed in Jacksonville, from 1921 to 1926.
As a public servant, Coe would serve as the City Manager of Miami and later St. Augustine, FL; he would be the Duval County Engineer and subsequently district engineer for the newly formed Florida Inland Navigation District; and he would serve as the project manager for the Liberty Square project in Miami, the first public housing project for Black American families in the southern U.S. In his last position, Coe would serve as the Executive Director of the Miami Housing Authority.
COL Coe was an extraordinary engineer, patriot and public servant; he was recognized at the highest level for his military and public service; and he was a man of moral integrity and honor. Coe passed away on 5 March 1939 and was interred at the St. Augustine National Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL.
With the onset of WW II in 1942, Organized Reserve units would be ordered into active military service. The 82nd would be reorganized and redesignated in August 1942 as the 82nd Airborne Division but would remain in the OR, with its subordinate units, throughout the war until November 1948 when it would be allotted to the Regular Army.