With Christmas and New Year’s holidays concluded, 1918 brought new rumors about when the 32nd Division would leave Camp MacArthur for the battlefields of France. Each rumor caused another cycle of anticipation and anxiousness.
“Had us right on our toes in expectancy of some sort of action right up to the last minute, and then left us – left us marking time – all dolled up and afraid the show would be over before we got there,” said Sgt. Maj. John Acker in his book “Thru the War with Our Outfit: Being a Historical Narrative of the 107th Ammunition Train.”
The 107th Ammunition Train consisted of seven companies formed from elements of the 4th, 5th and 6th Infantry Regiments of the Wisconsin National Guard. Most of these men hailed from Hartford, Black River Falls, Milwaukee, Platteville and Hayward. Commanded by Lt. Col. James McCully of Ashland, the 107th’s mission was keep the 32nd Division’s three artillery regiments well supplied with ammunition.
Months of training by the 107th yielded to preparations for departure. Final physicals culled those with “weak lungs” and other ailments. Replacements from other camps arrived to take their place. Soldiers mailed unnecessary items home and packed the rest. They also marked all baggage and division equipment with the distinctive insignia of the “Red Circle Division,” one of numerous nicknames the division tried out while trying to find its identity.“Our baggage was all marked up nicely with red discs six-inches in diameter encircling the figure 32, making a very nice and distinctive insignia with red, white and blue colors,” Acker noted.
Elements of the division commenced leaving right after the first of the year, the division’s support elements – including the 107th Ammunition Train – would leave on Jan. 11.
“There was excitement and hustle and bustle. Final trips to town were made for some articles for stocking up with the things we would need ‘over there’ and to send letters home,” wrote Acker.
The 11th arrived and unit that morning packed all of its baggage and equipment into boxcars, which then were moved to a railyard. First to depart was the 107th Engineer Train, followed by the 107th Signal Battalion and then the 107th Supply Train. Next to leave was the 107th Ammunition Train.Then it started to snow – the worst blizzard in Texas in fifty years – the temperature dropped to zero.“Everything froze up, Camp Mac froze up, our train froze up. When we awoke, we were covered with snow as we lay in our tents.
”For two days the unit shivered in the cold without hot food – its kitchen equipment packed. Each hour brought rumors of a new departure time. Finally, normal Texas temperatures returned and thawed the train.
“At 4 o’clock the morning of January 13 we left Camp MacArthur; left it for good,” Acker wrote.The train moved slowly, but “the trip was enjoyable, meals were good and sleeping berths fine.”The 107th traveled to Houston and crossed the Mississippi River via a ferry at Baton Rouge. The train ventured to New Orleans and Atlanta before turning north into the Carolinas and Virginia. Troops conducted marches at longer station stops in order to stretch their legs and receive a welcome by the city.
“No reveille, no taps, we did not care if the train was running behind schedule,” noted Acker.
After six long days and nights, the 107th reached Camp Merritt, New Jersey. Situated across the Hudson River from New York City, Camp Merritt was the 32nd Division’s final stop before boarding troop ships destined for the battlefields of Europe.