A short history of the 90th Division during its mobilization & training at Camp Travis. Camp Travis was a National Army Cantonment at Fort Sam Houston.
The 90th National Army Division was to be built around a cadre of Regular Army officers and a few Regular Army NCOs, supplemented by a crop of newly-minted company grade officers from the recently-established Officer Training Camps. On 15 May the First series Officer Training Camp was established in the Leon Springs Military Reservation at Camp Stanley. The first class of officer candidates consisted principally of volunteers from Texas. They were trained there in a course of instruction patterned after the Plattsburg concept developed by Major General Leonard Wood in 1915 to quickly turn civilians into junior officers. The course lasted about ninety days, hence the term "90-day wonders," for its graduates. The officers graduated and were commissioned on 15 August. The officers from each training company were kept together to form the cadres for units at Camp Travis. The bulk of the new officers reported in to Camp Travis on 29 August in time to prepare to receive the first increment of draftees.
Major General Henry T. Allen, a distinguished officer with experience in the Philippines, on the General Staff and as an attaché, assumed command of the 90th Division, Camp Travis and the 165th Depot Brigade on 25 August 1917.
The Division received its first 360 draftees on 5 September, from the initial Draft Call. More arrived on the 19th of September, and still another increment arrived on 3 October. Most of the men were from Texas and Oklahoma. As there were few NCOs in the cadre, the Division had to appoint and train most of its NCOs from within the ranks of the draftees. Really promising NCOs were difficult to retain as many NCOs were needed to form additional units and other NCOs were
sent to the Officer Training Camps. Basic training and advanced individual training, as we know them today, did not exist in 1917. It was up to the Division itself to train its soldiers, assisted by specialist instructors from Britain and France.
On 10 September, the 90th Division established a series of specialized schools in addition to its individual training program. These schools included subjects such as gas defense, signaling, physical exercise, French (Spanish had been superseded), hygiene and field sanitation. There were courses for stable sergeants, teamsters, saddlers, cobblers and horseshoers (indicating the division's reliance on horses for motive power), as well as for cooks, bakers, mess sergeants, bandsmen and buglers. Instruction in trench warfare was conducted east of the MKT railroad tracks beyond Salado Creek in a complex of trenches and fortifications constructed by the 315th Engineers. On the 14th of October, the division received its first shipment of 500 M-1917 "Enfield" rifles for training.
The training program continued when General Allen and his Chief of Staff, Colonel John J. Kingman departed Camp Travis in late November for the trip to France to observe operations on the Western Front. In Allen's absence, Brigadier General Joseph Gaston of the 165th Depot Brigade, then General William H. Johnston, 180th Infantry Brigade commander, assumed temporary command of the division.
During the second week of December, the 180th Infantry Brigade went to Leon Springs for small arms practice. There, the Division established a tent camp on leased acreage south and east of Camp Stanley (about 20 miles north of Fort Sam Houston). General Order #84 of 1917 of the 90th Division named this facility Camp Bullis. The 315th Engineers constructed a rifle range near the present-day range control building. This range, expanded several times since then, is still in use. The 180th Brigade remained in the field over Christmas and New Year's Day. Each infantry regiment used about 300,000 rounds of ammunition. The 179th Infantry Brigade moved to Camp Bullis January. It was followed by the field artillery brigade, the engineer regiment and then the machinegun units. After this, the division began a series of tactical exercises and maneuvers to prepare for deployment overseas.
General Allen returned to the division on 1 March 1918 and resumed command. As the division neared readiness for deployment, it was levied for fillers for other earlier deploying units. These included other Regular, National Guard and National Army divisions, corps troops and specialists for the Services of Supply. Practically every unit was stripped of all its personnel except for a cadre of officers and NCOs, its cooks and a few privates during the month of March. During the first and last weeks in April 1918, the recruits again flooded into the division and training was begun all over again. This time, however, the division benefited from the fact that the officers and NCOs were experienced in training troops. In May, the division was brought up to full strength by levies on other camps. Training continued at a feverish pace, day and night, seven days a week as the deployment date neared. On the 5th of June, units began to entrain for the move to the embarkation center at Camp Mills, New York. By 12 June, the 90th Division was gone from Camp Travis. In France, the Division would serve with distinction.
(There is information about Camp Bullis and Camp Travis on our Fort Sam Houston Museum website)
for photos, click here
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