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WWI

March 09, 2011

Men who served March 25, 1917 for 8 months on the Mexican border, of the First Battalion, First Delaware Infantry Regiment , were called upon for service. The regiment, federal duty was to defend vital utility and communications points against possible German sabotage.

With the inevitable of being at war, Delaware immediately applied to the Department of the Army for reorganization of the third Battalion. The consolidation would aloud for the entire regiment to serve as a single unit, rather than as a separate battalion as in previous years. Permission was granted, and while the First Battalion continued its guard duty, the second group went to work recruiting. The four companies were assigned to handle different sector throughout the state. By July 25, there were enough men muster together to create a full regiment.

The new battalion was officially organized that day, restoring Sussex County to the rolls of the regiment after almost 20 years of military inactivity, and battalion already on active duty was joined by the rest of the regiment. An unusual change in order came from Washington-to Discharge all men from the State National Guard and draft them into federal service.

As far as the men were concern, it did not affect them, they were already in the Army, under Army command, and with their responsibilities to their governors temporarily this act was suspended.

But to the states, the move was of great concern for the war, Guardsmen would be returned directly to civilian life rather than to the National Guard to finish what remained of their state enlistments. It would be difficult without a core of experienced men still in state service around whom the Guard could be rebuilt upon.

Fortunately, the effort to abolish the Guard by law was rejected by Congress. Within a year the National Guard would furnish the Army with 17 divisions when the Active Army had only four or its own. All of them were to see overseas service and six were rated by the German High Command as among the eight most effective American Divisions.

In september, 1917, the First Delaware Regiment received orders to move from the state Rifle Range below New Castle to Camp McClellan Alabama. The regiment was broken up, with most of the men and some of the officers assigned to the 114th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. Even though the Army had assured Delaware that its regiment would be maintained the reality of the war situation took precedence.

Eventually the regiment of a new type-pioneer infantry, More men were assigned to it from the draft in Delaware, and it was finally rounded out to full strength. By the addition of required because the new-type regiment were considerable larger than the pre-war ones.

After a time, the regiment was finally told that its was engineer service,with infantry combat duty required. On February 27, it was officially designated the 59th Pioneer Infantry Regiment.

The 59th won high praise at camp Dix for its excellent training, and Company E, under Captain Jesse A. Mckay, was commended for its part in field testing the new model Army gas mask.

In August, orders were received and Governor Townsend visited the camp site for an official farewell to the Delaware troops.

Because of the urgent need for troops at the front, the units of the 59th were almost immediately assigned to duty at various points in the first Army's zone.

Companies A and F were engaged in road building and maintenance; Company B operated a concrete block factory; Company E and H did general construction; Company G was a camouflage unit.

Companies C,D,I and M worked on water supply, building and operating reservoirs, treatment plants and pipelines; Companies K and L built railroad.

The Third Battalion-Companies I.K.L. and M-did its work in the Argonne forest at the height of the battle, building their water and railway systems under almost continuous air raids and shell fire, including gas shells. This is commemorated on the colors of the present day Delaware National Guard descendants of the 59th-the 198th Signal Battalion-by rainbow-hued battle streamer for Meuse-Argonne.