Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, September 7, 2020

Creating the 42nd Rainbow Division


The Rainbow Division's Colors Unfurled for the First Time in France

When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, it federalized National Guard divisions to quickly build up an Army. Sixteen National Guard divisions were planned for the AEF.  Large states like Pennsylvania and California had sufficient Guardsmen to man full divisions. Less populous states were pooled together with adjacent states to form a division, such as was the case with the 26th New England Division. 

42nd Division Troops Dealing with a Sniper

Here is a list of the states that contributed forces to the division:

In addition, Douglas MacArthur, then a major, suggested to William A. Mann, the head of the Militia Bureau, that he form another division from the non-divisional units of several states. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker approved the proposal and recalled Douglas MacArthur saying that such an organization would "stretch over the whole country like a rainbow." The division was created using units from 26 states and the District of Columbia. The name stuck, and MacArthur was promoted to colonel as the division chief of staff.

Sources: An American Soldier (George Browne) in World War I, Univ. of Nebraska Press: Wikipedia


  1. Looks like some states had manpower to spare, like NY and CA. MI and WI also contributed manpower to the 42nd, since the 32nd Div was composed largely of troops from MI and WI already.

  2. On May 12, 1919, after the return of the 117th Ammunition Train, the City of Rosedale, Kansas (which became part of Kansas City, Kansas in 1922) renamed Hudson Rd. to be thereafter Rainbow Blvd., which it remains today, and is well-known because the University of Kansas Medical Center is located there.