Them Soldier Boys: A Texas Infantry Regiment in World War I
by Gregory W. Ball
University of North Texas Press, 2013
In his new book, They Called Them Soldier Boys: A Texas Infantry Regiment in World War I, Gregory W. Ball, a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer working as a historian with the Air Force, combines social and military history to give an interesting perspective on the soldiers of the 7th Texas Infantry Regiment of the Texas National Guard. Ball is interested in determining if there was such a thing as "the Texas military experience" in World War I. By using such sources as census records, draft registration records, and local newspapers, Ball presents a picture of the demographics of the regiment that later became the 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 36th Division. Although the regiment started out as a combination of Texas and Oklahoma National Guardsmen, it ended the war with men from other parts of the country. Ball, however, concentrates on the original cadre that formed the 7th Texas Infantry. It is important to note that, although the book may be considered a regimental history, it really focuses on the achievements and activities of the Texas men.
In the first two chapters, Ball puts the regiment, recruited largely from north, west, and northwest Texas, in the context of its physical and cultural milieu. By looking at the men's civilian professions, income, dependency status, and age, among other things, Ball gives us a good picture of the typical soldier of this regiment. Officers made concerted efforts to recruit in their assigned locales, and this served to strengthen the local flavor of the regiment, typical of National Guard regiments throughout the country. Ball reports on the reaction of various communities to the recruitment and departure of their local boys. The details of these first two chapters will be of interest primarily to students of Texas history and to those interested in the social aspects of military history.
|German Defenders Atop Blanc Mont|
Following this, the regiment moved north to the Aisne River in pursuit of the retreating Germans. On 27 October the 142nd and 141st Infantry Regiments successfully attacked and took Forest Farm. The assault battalion had ample time to observe and study the terrain and, with this adequate preparation, the attack went off "almost without a hitch" (p.134). This was the last major action of the war for the regiment.
Following his description of the regiment's time in France, Ball devotes the closing chapter to the 142nd's homecoming, including many descriptions of local picnics, parades, and parties held in the Doughboys' honor.
|St. Etienne, Fortified by the German Defenders|
In the end, Ball concludes, quite rightly, "Based on their experiences, it appears that those soldiers did not experience the war from a unique perspective because they were from Texas" (p. 187). What the author found, however, is the perception of a "Texas military experience" impacted the home front; the folks back home liked to think of their local boys as representing their communities and the state in the great world struggle for democracy.
|Rear Area During Operation at Forest Farm|
Peter L. Belmonte