Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

1918: U.S. Army 91st Division troops leave a French village where they had been billeted before heading to the front during the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: California soldiers with the 91st Division appear in captured a German dugout in Very, France, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. Shortly after this photo was taken, two men were killed nearby by shell fire. This photo was published in the Sept. 25, 1921, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: Members of the division welcome a respite during the Meuse-Argonne offensive near Very. Shells were falling constantly and German aircraft were flying low overhead.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: Soldiers advance to their positions in the line for the Meuse-Argonne offensive. This photo was published in the Sept. 25, 1921, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: Soldiers are in early-morning mess back near Verdun, France, after 12 days of fighting in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: Soldiers take advantage of community washing troughs in a village near Bar-le-Duc, France.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: Soldiers guard slightly wounded German prisoners captured near Cheppy, France, during the final offensive of World War l.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Harry A. Williams / Los Angeles Times

1918: A drawing shows Company D, 316th Engineers, bridging the south fork of the Scheldt River in France. This etching was published in the Sept. 25, 1921, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: E. Kufferath

1918: A drawing shows a dugout near Epinonville, France, used by the 91st Division from Sept. 28 till Oct. 3, 1918. This was published in the Sept. 25, 1921 Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: E. Kufferath

1918: A drawing shows captured a German antiaircraft gun near Andenarde (now Oudenaarde), Belguim. This was published in the Sept. 25, 1921, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: E. Kufferath

Sept. 25, 1921: Former members of the 362th Infantry regiment march during a parade at the 91st Infranty Division reunion in Los Angeles. This photo was published in the Sept. 26, 1921, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times

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The 91st ‘Wild West’ Division in World War l

The U.S. Army’s 91st Infantry Division, nicknamed “Wild West Division,” was made up of soldiers from California and many other Western states. In 1921, the division held a reunion in Los Angeles — covered in the Sept. 16 and Sept. 25, 1921, editions of the Los Angeles Times.

During World War l, former sports writer Harry A. Williams went to Europe as a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Much of his reporting was on the 91st Division. After the war, Williams returned to the Times sports section.

During the 1921 reunion, Williams contributed photos and a column published in the Sept. 25 edition. His column began:

Reassembling here of the Ninety-first Division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France will momentarily pluck several thousand men out of the rather drab and peace-time atmosphere and hurl their thoughts back into violent turmoil of three years ago – memories of stenchy camp, of odorous billets, of wearying night marches, of shrieking shells and venomously splitting bullets, of interminable rain and unspeakable cold, of miserable nights in murky trenches and flooded shell holes, of short rations and shattered nerves, of devilishly designed pitfalls into which lightless trucks plunged, the worse than human screams of shell-pieced horses, of barbed wire that gripped, and clung, and tore and clutched like devil hands in the dark — staggering, overwhelming, history-making realities which viewed back through the short vista of three workaday years become doubtful dreams, impossible, phantasmagoric.

Three years ago tonight, this division, a stranger to war, lay out in the damp terrain of the Argonne-Meuse sector, under what in scope and severity was the greatest bombardment of the war. They had been wondering what war was like. Now they knew, and next morning at the zero hour they went over the top. They may not have known much of war, but they knew how to fight.

Inside of three days these largely unskilled soldiers from farm and factory, from store and range, had defeated two Prussian divisions, pierced the presumable impregnable German defense to a depth of fifteen kilometers, and with other equally valiant American divisions, had set in motion the drive which ended in Sedan….

Out of the Argonne-Meuse sector with a brief rest, and the division was shunted to Flanders, where fighting with the French, British and Belgians under that group of armies commanded by King Albert, it participated in two phases of the Lys-Scheldt offensive, driving the Germans across the latter river, following the enemy in some cases on pontoon bridges hastily constructed from wine casks which the Germans had drained dry. The division was located on both banks of the Scheldt about sixty-five kilometers from Brussels when the armistice halted further advance.

The above photo gallery includes photos by Williams and etchings by E. Kufferath of Los Angeles who was a French interpreter with the division in World War I. The etchings were also published in the Sept. 25, 1921, Los Angeles Times.

In 1924, Williams was elected president of the baseball Pacific Coast League, which included the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Angels. When he passed away in 1953, his obituary was published on the front page of The  Times’ June 15, 1953, sports section.

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