Dakota Datebook

Birth of the 164th

 

The Second Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard had been quickly assembled with volunteers having little or no military experience.  Most of the officers had not seen any extensive military service since receiving commissions during the Philippine Insurrection, so it was difficult to obtain approval from the Federal Government.  Many hurdles had to be overcome, but the “Smashing Second” as it was known, was eventually called to the colors to join the First Regiment at the end of September.

The US military was ill prepared for the huge influx of troops, and much reorganization was required, especially among the Guard units.  Because many of its members had recently served in the Mexican Border war, the First Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard remained intact upon arrival at Camp Greene, North Carolina.  Unfortunately, the Smashing Second became the Smashed Second.  Composed of raw recruits with only marginal training, they were not viewed as a viable fighting unit.  Its companies were scattered to other units and the officers were placed in limbo as to what their assignments would be.

Seeing a need to better organize the American Expeditionary Force, the US Command numbered Regular Army units 1 to 100. Units composed of National Guard soldiers were numbered 101 to 300, and units containing draftees were assigned numbers above 300.  The four infantry regiments that made up the 41st Division were the 161st, from Washington; the 162nd, from Oregon; the 163rd from Montana; and the 164th, drawn from the First Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard.  Unexpectedly, five hundred and eighty-two members of the Second Regiment were also attached to the 164th, and, on this date in 1917, approximately one thousand North Dakota draftees from Camp Dodge, Iowa were in route to bring the undermanned regiment to full strength.  But sadly, within two weeks of the birth of the 164th, it recorded its first death.  Ralph Early, an eighteen-year-old member of Company I from Wahpeton, and sick for only a few weeks, died on October 23rd, becoming its first causality.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune, October 11, 2017

The Grand Forks Herald, October 29, 1917

Ibid: October 20, 1917

Citizens as Soldiers, A History of the North Dakota National Guard, North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1986.

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