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Too many WWI collectors become fixated on a handful of a US WWI units. Besides the 2nd, 3rd, or 82nd Divisions, there were a host of other units that left a trail of interesting — if not as valuable — artifacts behind. For example, this postcard is a “double winner.” It was written by a soldier in the 69th Infantry Regiment/10th Division (Camp Funston) to a relative in the 44th Infantry Regiment/13th Division (Camp Lewis) in August 1918.

Too many WWI collectors become fixated on a handful of a US WWI units. Besides the 2nd, 3rd, or 82nd Divisions, there were a host of other units that left a trail of interesting — if not as valuable — artifacts behind. For example, this postcard is a “double winner.” It was written by a soldier in the 69th Infantry Regiment/10th Division (Camp Funston) to a relative in the 44th Infantry Regiment/13th Division (Camp Lewis) in August 1918.

There are some basic rules about collecting militaria that we ignore at our own peril. First and foremost is always “Trust but verify” as the number of “enhanced” items and downright frauds appears to grow daily. Another rule of importance to consider is “What is rare is not always valuable, and what is valuable is not always rare.” This rule applies to our topic at hand.

But first we need to add some context.

US Response in WWI

After the US entered WWI, it became necessary to impose a logical numbering system on the emerging. Army divisions, brigades, and regiments. A surprisingly simple scheme was developed. The 1st through 25th divisions would be Regular Army divisions and be filled with volunteers. The 26th through 50th were to be National Guard divisions and manned by Guardsmen from the forty-eight states and the U.S. territories. The 51st through 75th were set aside for future use, and the National Army divisions would start at 76 and be filled with a small cadre of trained soldiers and the rest were men selected through the draft.

It was a good plan and worked fairly well. The 1st through 7th Divisions were deployed to France prior to the Armistice. Likewise, the 26th through 42nd Divisions, comprised originally of National Guardsmen, were deployed to Europe. For the draftee-based National Army Divisions, the 76th through 92nd also made the long voyage to France. The 93rd Division was an anomaly because it was made up of some “colored” National Guard units and some units comprised of drafted African Americans.

A gathering of some uniforms of the “lesser known” divisions: 10th Division (Camp Funston, Kansas); the 11th “Lafayette” Division (Camp Meade, Maryland); the 13th “Lucky Thirteenth” Division (Camp Lewis, Washington); and the 18th “Cactus” Division (Camp Travis, Texas).

A gathering of some uniforms of the “lesser known” divisions: 10th Division (Camp Funston, Kansas); the 11th “Lafayette” Division (Camp Meade, Maryland); the 13th “Lucky Thirteenth” Division (Camp Lewis, Washington); and the 18th “Cactus” Division (Camp Travis, Texas).

As these units completed training, left their camps and were deployed to France, new divisional units were organized at those camps in the U.S. All of these newer divisions were considered either Regular Army or National Army because the National Guard units had been deployed already. Therefore, the new divisions received numbers from 9 to 20 and 94 to 102.

After the Armistice, economics prevail

With the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918, the need disappeared for those divisions still in training in the States. In fact, the troops in these units needed to be demobilized quickly and sent home so the divisions serving in France could be brought home and also demobilized. Several of the divisions in training, including the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, had been making final preparations for going to France and even dispatched advance parties to Europe to prepare for their arrival. An army of 4 million men eats 12 million meals a day, so economics drove much of the need for quick demobilization.

Among the more readily available patched uniforms are the ones from the 12th “Plymouth” Division (Camp Devens, Massachusetts). Although they never faced the Germans in battle, the soldiers of the 12th suffered from an equally deadly foe when they were ravaged by the Spanish flu in September and October 1918.

Among the more readily available patched uniforms are the ones from the 12th “Plymouth” Division (Camp Devens, Massachusetts). Although they never faced the Germans in battle, the soldiers of the 12th suffered from an equally deadly foe when they were ravaged by the Spanish flu in September and October 1918.

Following the Army’s recent edicts for having distinctive unit shoulder patches, some of the new divisions in preparation for service in Europe had designed their patches. Therefore, it’s possible to find uniforms from these newer divisions with divisional patches, as seen in the accompanying photos.

Cost versus availability

Now, to return to the discussion of “valuable versus rare.” As most WWI uniform collectors will attest, there is a value premium attached to the uniforms and other material of certain units. For instance, anything associated with the Marines of the 2nd Division, the 332nd Infantry Regiment soldiers serving in Italy, the Army Tank Corps, or the units in the two Russian campaigns will bring higher prices than a comparable item from the Big Red One, the 3rd Division, the 42nd Division, or the 82nd Division.

A nice formal portrait of an un-named soldier, serving in Co G, 63rd Infantry Regiment/11th Division at Camp Meade, Maryland. In this image the soldier appears to be wearing a commercially purchased service coat and trousers.

A nice formal portrait of an un-named soldier, serving in Co G, 63rd Infantry Regiment/11th Division at Camp Meade, Maryland. In this image the soldier appears to be wearing a commercially purchased service coat and trousers.

The sewing kit belonging to Thomas Godfrey who was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 72nd Infantry Regiment/11th Division at Camp Meade.

The sewing kit belonging to Thomas Godfrey who was assigned to Headquarters Company of the 72nd Infantry Regiment/11th Division at Camp Meade.

Under magnification, the collar disk shows this un-named soldier to be serving in Company G, 2nd Infantry Regiment/19th Division at Camp  Dodge, Iowa.

Under magnification, the collar disk shows this un-named soldier to be serving in Company G, 2nd Infantry Regiment/19th Division at Camp
Dodge, Iowa.

And this second group’s items will always cost more than similar items from the 7th Division, the 78th Division or the 91st Division. And so on.

During my collecting days, I had the privilege of examining, owning, buying, and selling several hundred U.S. Army and Marine Corps WWI uniforms. Yet, for all the really nice and very expensive 2nd Division Marine uniforms I dealt with, I only ever saw and owned one 10th Division uniform. Its asking price was well below any of the premium items mentioned above.

So what’s the point? Though much more plentiful than 10th Division uniforms, Marine uniforms, because of their association with the Marines’ exploits, are held by the collecting community to be more valuable. The result for collectors is that while many cannot afford to buy and own some of the really expensive items, it is still possible to find reasonably priced and relatively much rarer items from those “other” divisions and their subordinate regiments.

A truly unique document; the Honorable Discharge for PFC Domingo Paradis assigned to the 374th Infantry Regiment/94th Division at Camp Las Casas, Puerto Rico. The 94th was originally planned to be comprised of drafted men from Puerto Rico.

A truly unique document; the Honorable Discharge for PFC Domingo Paradis assigned to the 374th Infantry Regiment/94th Division at Camp Las Casas, Puerto Rico. The 94th was originally planned to be comprised of drafted men from Puerto Rico.

Two portraits of soldiers from Company H, 32nd Infantry Regiment/16th Division at Camp Kearny, California. Also of interest: They are wearing uniforms with the pre-war style “stand and fall” collars, and the soldier on the right has his collar disk sideways.

Two portraits of soldiers from Company H, 32nd Infantry Regiment/16th Division at Camp Kearny, California. Also of interest: They are wearing uniforms with the pre-war style “stand and fall” collars, and the soldier on the right has his collar disk sideways.

Though no shoulder patch is present, under magnification, the collar disk shows this soldier to be serving in Co I of the 1st Infantry Regiment; a unit that was transferred from Hawaii to become part of the 13th Division at Camp Lewis.

Though no shoulder patch is present, under magnification, the collar disk shows this soldier to be serving in Co I of the 1st Infantry Regiment; a unit that was transferred from Hawaii to become part of the 13th Division at Camp Lewis.

One last example: Compare the price difference between one of the many Marine portraits made in Germany during the occupation with a comparable portrait of a Camp Lewis soldier wearing clearly visible collar disks for the 1st Infantry Regiment (13th Division). Again which is more valuable and yet which is rarer?

I think we all appreciate that some units are more colorful and storied than others. Yet, by judiciously searching and purchasing from the “other” divisions, a collector can build a truly interesting and unique collection without taking a second mortgage on the house.

One final note of warning for interested collectors: Among the “other” divisions, there are some units which existed only for a very short period and therefore more difficult to find. But that’s what makes it fun, right?

Alexander F. Barnes is a former Marine and retired Army Warrant Officer. His most recent book, co-authored with Pete Belmonte, United States Army Depot Brigades in World War I was released in November 2021. He currently serves as the Virginia National Guard Command Historian. 

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