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The Personnel Department


HISTORY
of
THE 308th INFANTRY

By
L. Wardlaw Miles
1927
The Personal department


THE PERSONNEL DEPARTMENT

It was shortly after the departure of the Regiment for overseas service that the new office of Regimental Personnel Adjutant with the rank of Captain was created. At the same time an additional Regimental Sergeant-Major and two additional Sergeants were authorized, together with such other enlisted assistants as might be necessary for the work contemplated. Thus was created the Personnel Department of an Infantry

Regiment. One of the most important functions assigned to the Regimental Personnel Adjutant was the taking over of the responsibility for the preparation of the payrolls for each organization of the Regiment. This was decidedly an innovation, since the preparation of payrolls and the keeping of the proper records from which to prepare them had always been one of the most important and most onerous parts of Company administration.

The idea of making the payrolls in Regimental Headquarters under the supervision of the Personnel Adjutant seemed worthy of elaboration. Why not remove all regimental paper work from the scene of active operations and thus leave the minds of the Company Commanders entirely free, or almost so, for the conduct of purely military operations? It was the 308th Infantry, which at the direction of its Commanding Officer first put this new idea into actual and successful practice. Captain G. C. Graham was appointed Regimental Personnel Officer in June, 1918. The Company Clerks of all Companies were assembled at Regimental Headquarters together with all the Service Records, all correspondence files, all payrolls, typewriters, and even Company Fund records where the Company Commander so desired. From that time on, the administrative work imposed upon the Company Commanders was negligible. This was going further than existing orders required or prescribed, but it soon proved an excellent idea and was adopted, as will appear later, by higher authority.

The Personnel Department of the 3o8th Infantry was first assembled in accordance with the plan outlined above, while the Regiment was attached to a British Division in Flanders. This happened, however, so shortly before the whole Division moved to the Baccarat Sector that the department did not begin to function properly and entirely until the new sector was reached. The Company Commanders, it is true, had to submit daily a change report and had to maintain such clerical functions as were necessary to keep track of their men in lines. But outside of this minimum, everything else was done for the Companies by their Company Clerks in the Personnel Department.

The idea of centralizing the paper work spread. It was only one month or so after the organization of the Personnel Department of the 308th Infantry that most of its members and the bulk of its work was taken over by the Statistical Section, Headquarters, 77th Division. The clerks went with all of their service records to the Division Statistical Section where were assembled similar units of the other organizations of the Division, creating a sort of Divisional Personnel Department or Statistical Section, precisely on the principle on which the Regimental Personnel Department had been created.

Since the service records accompanied the clerks to the Division Statistical Section at Division Headquarters, the work was now divided between that higher department and the Regimental Personnel Department which still remained to function as an individual unit. The Personnel Department, greatly reduced in numbers, continued its work of relieving the company commanders as far as possible of paper work, forwarding for proper attention to the Division Statistical Section such matters as required the services of the company clerks on duty there. Naturally, the work of the Personnel Department could not be performed in the front line trenches; but neither was it performed in a suite of offices. It is recalled that on the Vesle sector not even a tent was available, and the only shelter was a piece of canvas rolled in the mud with studied carefulness to avoid attracting the attention of enemy aeroplane observers. But the rain beat in on every side and there was nothing to check the wind. One of the greatest problems in the midst of all the rush and hurry was to keep the papers from being blown away. The men did their work with their helmets on, and it was not because these head dresses were comfortable or ornamental. Where combat conditions made it difficult for company commanders to forward reports, a representative of the Personnel Department, as well as of the Division Statistical Department, was stationed day and night in the advance dressing stations, and in the " triage " from which all the wounded were evacuated to the hospitals in the rear, so that not a single casualty might escape unreported. The regimental chaplains Cooperated by turning in their reports. Members of the Personnel Department on occasion accompanied the burial parties.

It will require little imagination to appreciate the difficulty of keeping track of the twelve hundred new men who arrived before the Argonne offense. Unknown to their comrades and to their commanding officers, they were put into action where numerous casualties immediately resulted. To have kept track of these replacements and to have made the proper record of the casualties among them as the fighting of the Argonne Forest continued was an achievement in itself. One particular instance may be cited to illustrate the difficulty of the situation. Among these replacements there were three men of the name of "Hansen" and two of them, by some strange error, had identical army serial numbers. In the course of the fighting one of these two gave his life for the cause. Reams of correspondence passed between the Personnel Department and the Divisional Statistical Section definitely to identify the man who had been killed and to persuade higher authority that the whole report was not in error, This is one instance of the many that might be cited. Two other lots or replacements in almost equal numbers arrived subsequently and the same process had to be repeated. In the meanwhile also, there was a steady stream of former members returning to the organization from the hospitals, all of whom reported in the first instance at the Personnel Office and were there sent and assigned to their proper companies. In the meanwhile, also, other work was proceeding. Authority had to be granted in written orders to each wounded man for the wearing of a wound chevron and to each man who had seen six months service in France for the wearing of a war service chevron. Special orders were entered appointing and promoting non-commissioned officers who had proven their worth in the face of the enemy. Recommendations were prepared and forwarded for the awarding of Distinguished Service Crosses and Medals of Honor. The work of the Personnel Department in connection with the soldiers' mail was constant.

On February 1st, 1919, the Statistical Section at Division Headquarters was broken up and the company clerks who had been on duty there were returned to the regiment. The Personnel Department was reorganized in its original numbers and all the company records were kept and all the company paper work was once more done under the immediate supervision of the Regimental Personnel Adjutant. The work of preparing for embarkation for the United States was done in the same manner and required additional assistance. All the work was performed with a view to the preparation of the passenger lists which had to be done in thirteen copies. Certain prescribed forms and rules were to be followed, and any deviation was considered a grievous error. The work progressed rapidly. Word came by telephone from the Division Adjutant one evening at 6 p.m. that everything-passenger lists included-was to be finished within two days next succeeding. It was suggested that night-shifts might be necessary, and there were, in fact, long hours of work after midnight. But it was all performed by the same men who had worked all the day. The final test came when the embarkation center inspectors arrived for their final inspection. They were plainly astonished at the accuracy with which the work had been done, Their work was to find errors and to wait for their correction, and they had announced that they were prepared to stay up all night. But by 9 o'clock that evening the inspection was completely finished and the inspectors stated in all frankness that the 77th Division was easily the best they had ever inspected, and that the 3o8th Infantry made the best showing in the 77th Division. Upon arrival at the port of Brest for embarkation, all the records were checked against the service records. It was amusing to observe the blank look of astonishment with which one of the clerks who did the inspecting at the port of embarkation went through the passenger lists and records of one of the companies of this regiment without finding a single point for criticism. When the passenger lists were turned over to the Personnel Adjutant of the Port they bore the notation in large letters "No Errors." The Regiment embarked without the slightest difficulty of any kind with its records or passenger lists. The highest praise is due Captain Graham, Sergeant -Major Cohen, Sergeants de Dufour and Chapman and their hardworking associates Of the Personnel Department.
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