105th Engineers, 30th Division
|Above: "Plan for layout of small shelters," July 1918, Ypres Front, Belgium, 105th Engineers Regiment, 30th Division. Joseph H. Pratt Papers. Click on image for a larger view.|
The 105th Regiment of Engineers served in the 30th "Old Hickory" Division as a combat engineer regiment. Over 75 percent of the soldiers in the 105th claimed North Carolina as their home state. The regiment trained at Camp Sevier, South Carolina, for eight months before arriving in France in June 1918. The 105th constructed trenches, shell- and splinter-proof shelters, roads, bridges, buildings, forward water stations, and miles upon miles of barbed wire. The engineers often worked under artillery fire when constructing defensive structures on the East and West Poperighe Trench systems near Ypres, Belgium, near Mount Kemmel, Belgium, the canal sector along the Belgium and French border, and on the Hindenburg Line near Bellicourt, France.
The engineers' duties also included performing gas attacks, and the removal of explosive "booby" traps and mines.
The 105th Engineers launched several gas attacks against the Germans. On August 26, 1918, near Ypres, Belgium, fifty men from Company F and several men from the 120th Infantry, 30th Division, became victims of their own gas. Unfortunately for the soldiers of the 30th Division, the wind did not sufficiently carry the gas across the German lines and a gas "backlash" encroached upon the American soldiers. The soldiers had their gas masks ready, but the combination of fear, panic, barbed wire, and German machine-gun fire resulted in the death of three soldiers in the 105th and twenty casualties in the 120th Infantry Regiment. Read about the incident in the following primary documents below.
|Above: Col. Joseph Hyde Pratt, 105th Engineers, 30th Division.|
Removing booby traps and mines left behind by enemy troops proved to be one of the 105th Engineers' most dangerous responsibilities. Booby traps are explosive devices that are hidden or disguised bombs that detonate when activated by pressure or movement. These devices could be activated in various ways, such as stepping on a pressure trigger, or by moving a shovel, book, or helmet that soldiers wanted for souvenirs.
Colonel Pratt, 105th Engineers, 30th Division, wrote in his diary about the clever traps left by the Germans:
"We are constantly on the lookout for mines and Booby Traps. The Hun is very ingenious and nothing is too devilish for him. This past summer when he withdrew from a certain place, he left a pond that had all the appearance of having been used as a swimming place, even had a spring [diving] board in place. A party of Australians came to the pond and got ready to go swimming. The first two dove in but did not come up. Their companions went in after them and found they had been spiked. The Germans had placed upright spikes in the bottom of the swimming pool. A party of our men started to bury a German; as they lifted the body an explosion took place and two of our men were killed. They had used the body to make a "booby trap." We do not bury German dead except on the battlefield, and then only after testing them. The German apparently does everything that will make the rest of the world hate him and desire his destruction." -October 10, 1918. Diary of Col. Joseph Hyde Pratt, page 185.
On October 18, 1918, Colonel Pratt wrote in his diary about another booby trap:
"Today A Company, which was working on the mines and Booby traps, found what was thought to be a mine in the church at St. Martin Reviere. Captain Brooks, who was in charge of the work, took out 300 pounds of Perdite from the church steeple. It was afterwards discovered that this charge of explosive was connected by wires and explosive caps with the front part of the church, and so arranged that when anybody knelt at the altar the Perdite would be exploded. This is one of the most malicious Booby traps we have found." -Diary of Col. Joseph Hyde Pratt, page 193.
To learn what Colonel Pratt meant by "Hun" go to the Index.
To learn more about "Booby Traps" read the army intelligence reports below:
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