On Greenville and Veterans Day
Veterans Day commemorates the sacrifices American servicemen and women have made in the defense of our freedom, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for our liberty. Veterans Day also coincides with the day that World War I ended, November 11. Although intuitively I believed that people in our community had a role in helping our country win World War I, I didn’t realize until recently how critical that role was.
When America entered World War I in 1917, it was not ready to fight a war. As Jim Garamone put it in his article entitled, “World War I: Building the American Military”
On April 6 (1917), the U.S. Army was a constabulary force of 127,151 soldiers. The National Guard had 181,620 members. Both the country and the Army were absolutely unprepared for what was going to happen. The United States had no process in place to build a mass army, supply it, transport it and fight it. . . .
The Government spent lots of money for the purpose of ramping up our military capabilities and some of this money was used to build 10 military bases in the South. One of them was Camp Sevier, which was located about six miles from downtown Greenville covering some 1,900 acres in what is now the Taylors area.
During 1917 and 1918, Camp Sevier was the training site for more than 100,000 soldiers from Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. The bulk of those young men became the 30th Division, which was dubbed “Old Hickory” in honor of President Andrew Jackson. He had lived in all three states from which the bulk of the soldiers who fought in the 30th hailed.
In May of 1918, the Old Hickory Division shipped out to Europe and the Western Front. In the face of tremendous resistance, the Old Hickory did what others thought was impossible: they broke the “impenetrable” Hindenburg Line during the Battle of St. Quentin Canal on September 29, 1918. The courage, the sacrifice, the sheer will these soldiers from our community drew on to achieve this victory ultimately contributed to the start of peace negotiations between the allies and Germany and to Germany’s surrender.
The success came at a high price. In only three months, from July through October of 1918, the 30th saw more than 3,000 officers and enlisted men killed in action with another 7,178 either injured or declared missing in action.
Thank God for the soldiers who made up Old Hickory, thank God for all of the men and women who serve in the American military, thank God for their families who sacrifice so much, and may God bless them and the United States of America.