What is the correct category for this World War I military unit?

+6 votes

323rd Labor Battalion

I have some soldiers who served in the unit, and others like it, in the First World War.

On this page, http://www.20thengineers.com/ww1-hist.html I found:

Quartermaster Units engaged upon Fuelwood Project in Advance Section, either in conjunction with engineer forestry projects or under technical supervision of forestry organization.

Officers Men
309 Labor Battalion - Det 1 100
314 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 12 1002
320 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 17 1114
323 Labor Battalion - Hq. and Co.'s A, B, and C 13 904
324 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 13 1142
328 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 15 954
329 Labor Battalion - Hq. and Co.'s C and D 9 554
331 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 11 1092
332 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 15 1050
333 Labor Battalion - Hq. and Co.'s C and D 6 564
335 Labor Battalion - Hq. and 4 Co.'s 16 930
342 Labor Battalion - Hq. and Co.'s A, B, and C 12 803
Pack Trains 301, 305, 306, 307, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328 210
101st Wagon Co. 3 144
303rd Wagon Co. (Det.) 13
304th Wagon Co. 2 144
Motor Truck Co. No. 2 1 40
Total 146 10,700

Or are they part of the 20th Engineers? I saw categories for:

WikiTree profile: Arthur Clawson
in Policy and Style by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (504k points)

1 Answer

+3 votes
Hi Lucy,

I believe they should be under 20th Engineers.  Problem is in a quick look I find no record that the 20th was attached to the Army Quartermasters.  I need to check the Order of Battle for the US Army in WW I.

Though Engineer units are usually associated with the Quartermaster Corps, WW I was funny.  We were not prepared for a war of this scope and Army Unit organization can be tricky.

Also the category 304th Service Battalion for Friday is unsourced and actually may be the 304th Wagon Co. or a typo for the 504th Service Battalion. Can't find a record for a 304th Service Bn.  Need to check that out too. WW I unit designations are a jumble for those units not designated as combat units but as support units.  It can make you tear your hair out sometimes.  LOL

I need to go out right now, but will run through these this evening and get back to you tonight or tomorrow.
by LJ Russell G2G6 Pilot (171k points)
That's why I asked. I have already torn out my hair. Not really, but I did accidentally dye it green yesterday. According to the website I linked to, the quartermasters fell under the 20th Engineers as part of the forestry something or other. These labor battalions were used to clear forestry and earned high praise for doing so.

I wish this was about WW2, so many more records easily available.  Green huh?  Going punk or whatever they're called now?  LOL

OK, I am in the midst of the research and it is a bit of fun.  I have 4 windows open with 18 tabs across them trying to cross reference data.  The problem lies in the Army was just not that organized and during organization, a lot of units used the same numerical designation, but were a totally different unit and many times, under different commands.

The Quartermaster Corps and the Corps of Engineers are two separate organizations in the Army hierarchy, then as well as now.  However, some of the units under them had a shared purpose with slight differences. The Quartermaster Corps unit were also involved in forestry projects, but their duty was to basically supply the home front for materials needed to create various military supplies.  The Spruce Production Division is an example.  Whereas the Engineers were involved in supplying the finished wood needed by the Army itself to fight the war. Most of these Forestry Units of the Engineers went to France and operated sawmills as well as harvesting of wood there. Everything was wood back then, wood for barracks, trench supports, railroad ties, etc. So it is easy to get them crossed and a devil of a time to figure out who was what and was under whom?  LOL  

I believe I need to make a Corps of Engineers category under Category: United States Army, World War I and then add the 20th Engineer Regiment to that category as well as a sub category for Category: American Expeditionary Force (AEF), World War I.  I just need a little time to go through the records as I have to read chapters in books to make sure I am correct in my assumptions so far.  Sadly, no quick tables already made up for these units.

So give me a little while and I'll let you know when I've finished.  Probably tomorrow or Wed.

Now to Friday and his unit.  I did find mention of a 304th Service BN.unit as a blurb in one book with no a definition of who or what.  I did find a 304th Labor Battalion under the Service of Supply (AEF) and the 304th Quartermaster Labor Battalion  on the American Battle Monuments Commission website and those listed all appear to be from North and South Carolina.  As a note, most of these Service and Labor Battalions appear to be WW1 code for 'colored' troops.  Need more research on that.  Need to see how the S.O.S. (AEF) and Quartermasters Corps interacted.

So hope this helps a little and I will get back once I have it figured out how to set up the 20th Engineers and the subordinate units.

One last question, are going to change your Profile photo to one with green hair?  wink

Actually, Labor Battalions were not code for colored. It was just that color-less people didn't think colored soldiers were good enough or smart enough to trust in battle, so they put them in labor battalions or made them cooks. One source I read said there were 504 Labor Battalions just for whites - far more than the number of colored battalions.

My hair is WikiTree green and gold. Just like my soul.

I guess my note did imply all Service and Labor Battalions and or Companies were comprised of African Americans soldiers.  I did not mean that, what I meant was that as an African American serving the Army in WW I you had over a 80% chance of being in one of those units rather than the 2 combat Divisions comprised of African Americans, the 92nd and 93rd.  An interesting read on the African American experience in WW I is: FIGHTING FOR RESPECT: African-American Soldiers in WWI Sadly, racism was endemic in the American Armed Forces at that time.

Below is an excerpt from the American Negro in World War I by E. J. Scott Chapter 22.

The following are the Negro organizations, other than combat troops, that served overseas:

Butchery Companies, Nos. 322 and 363.
Stevedore Regiments, Nos. 301, 302 and 303.
Stevedore Battalions, Nos. 701, 702.
Engineer Service Battalions, Nos. 505 to 550, inclusive.
Labor Battalions, Nos. 304 to 315, inclusive; Nos. 317 to 327, inclusive; Nos. 329 to 348, inclusive, and No. 357.
Labor Companies, Nos. 301 to 324, inclusive.
Pioneer Infantry Battalions, Nos. 80l to 809, inclusive; No. 811 and Nos. 813 to 816, inclusive.

So other Service or Labor units would have been white in composition. I can see that the Stevedore units were under the SOS (AEF) as were some Service and Labor units.  But your 323rd Labor Battalion is an Army unit under the 20th Engineers. Just a little more checking on Corps of Engineers organizational hierarchy in WW I in conjunction with other Armed Forces service groups.

I lost power last night.  Not from the thunderstorm that passed through at that time, but from someone hitting a pole with a transformer on the hill near me.  Happens at least twice a year.  Why the power company has not moved that transformer from that pole to another is beyond me.  Happens so much I have it timed that I'll be without power for approximately 3 hours and fifteen minutes. So I'll get back to my research today.

OK Lucy, I created Category: 20th Engineers Regiment (Forestry), United States Army, World War I  under Corps of Engineers World War I. Upon adding them to American Forces serving in the AEF in World War I, I discovered one was already there, but not under the Corps of Engineers WW I category where it should have been as well.  So now I need to merge them and make the necessary category corrections.  There are two categories associated with American Armed Forces in WW I, United States Army, World War I and Category: United States of America, World War I and sometimes a category is created under one but not referenced in the other and confusion can occur.  Though technically the Engineers and Quartermasters should only be under the United States of America, World War I, these organizations are semi-autonomous entities under the Army and deal with civilians in a more interactive manner than regular Army units.This is what drives many folks nuts on Military Categories. LOL

Now the problem lies in the 323rd Labor Battalion, which after further research is a Quartermaster Corps unit.  I have seen such battalions interchangeably called Service, Labor and Quartermaster Battalions.  Most of the time it mostly Service or Labor as the main name for each unit. 

I want to contact Natalie in Categorization before creating a category for it.  They chould be named the way they are viewed on official records such as discharge papers, muster rolls, transportation documents: i.e. 323rd Labor Battalion, United States Army, World War I. And a sub category under Quartermasters Corps be created for them. Or should they be named at first as 323rd Service (Labor) Battalion, United States Army, World War I to help avoid confusion in the future?  As soon as I hear back from Natalie, I'll make up the proper category for the 323rd. Also this would include renaming the 304th mentioned above.

Till we meet again. smiley

And I found this as a source for the 323rd and 304th under Service (Labor) Battalions.

All done Lucy,  the category is:

[[Category: 323rd Labor Battalion, United States Army, World War I]]

It is now a sub-category of

United States Army Quartermaster Corps, World War I | American Expeditionary Force (AEF) Battalions, World War I | United States Army Battalions, World War I

That was fun, really.  Something different to do.

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