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Ordnance Detachment,

57th Artillery C.A.C.


Captain Elmer F. Gebhart, O.D. Commanding the Ordnance Detachment, 57th Artillery, C.A.C.

Above are two photos of Captain Elmer F. Gebhart who commanded the Ordnance Detachment of the 57th Artillery, C.A.C. Captain Gebhart was in the Ordnance Branch of the Army as is evident by the Ordnance Department uniform collar button.

While researching Capt. Gebhart I found in a book that I have entitled "With the 57th in France" by Captain R. Ernest Dupy, Adjutant 57th Artillery, C.A.C., published in the "OUR ARMY" Magazine from July, 1929 to February, 1930, in the November, 1929 article of "With the 57th in France" there is a section that speaks about Capt. Gebhart. In this section of the story Capt Dupy, the author, is telling about how he was traveling around to different commissary and looking for "goodies" for his men. These were chocolates, cigars tobacco and the like. I quote from the book "It may seem silly to some to think that an officer would make such runs to provide "extras" for the men, but soldiers in action need such things to keep their morale up, and many a tough night of labor for the Headquarters Company detachments was lightened by the stuff brought back...While at our comfortable echelon, we started a regimental repair shop for motorcycles, bringing in all damaged machines and from the wreckage building new ones. This shop later was extended to all automotive work for the regiment, the two light ordnance repair shops with which we were equipped being consolidated under Capt. Gebhart, Lt. Parkins and Lt. Garvin, with the entire regimental ordnance detail." It is unclear to me yet what date this is but it seems to be during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. I will guess that this is sometime between September 26, and Oct 4, 1918 by the way the story reads. On September 25, 1918 the 57th Regiment was moved to Romange, taking positions on the Romagne-Sommerance road and about two miles from Romange. Headquarters and Supply Company were located in a old Aviation Camp on the main Verdun road. Here at the time that the offensive started (Sept 26th was the opening day of the Meuse-Argonne drive) were Major Sidney E. Clyne, with the personnel Adjutant, Capt. Leon G. Cutler, Capt, Elmer F. Gebhart, Ordnance Department, the Ordnance Officer, and several other officers of Headquarters Co. and Supply Co. From this I can conclude that Capt. Gebhart was in HQ Co. and was the Regimental Ordnance Officer. In the rosters of the Officers of the 57th Artillery Capt. Gebhart's name appears but it has an star next to his name. This is to denote that this man joined after the armistice, but he clearly or at least clearly to me, was part of the regiment before the armistice.

I also find this:
Headquarters 31st Heavy Artillery Brigade. General Order 35, December 9, 1918.

1.) It is the desire of the Commanding General to record in orders of the 31st Heavy Artillery Brigade a tribute to the services and extraordinary devotion to duty of certain members of the 57th Artillery, C.A.C. During the recent Argonne-Meuse Offensive;

By Command of Brig. Gen. Davis.

FOR DEVOTION TO DUTY AND EXCELLENT WORK. Capt. Elmer F. Gebhart, O.D. Ordnance Detachment.


A photo of Captain Elmer F. Gebhart taken at OCS (Officers Candidate School), Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. Capt. Gebhart is front row on the left end. He grew up on a farm near Stonington, Illinois and at age 31 enlisted into the Army and went to OCS at Ft. Sheridan and graduated from OCS as a Captain in the Ordnance Department.

The above photo post card shows a FWD type truck that was used by the US Army during WWI and they were made in Clintonville, Wisconsin. The writing at the top reads: "Uncle Sams Four Wheel Drive Army Field Truck. The car that's alive at both ends. Made at Clintonville, Wisconsin". These FWD trucks were used to haul everything from troops to ammunition and were used as mobile repair shops fitted with a special truck bed that contained a small shop that traveled along with the Artillery units at the front, reparing what they could.

Captain Gebhart was in Clintonville in December of 1917 on Army business of some sort. I would guess that after OCS school his first assignment was at the FWD plant in Clintonville. He spoke of this in a letter dated Dec. 16, 1917:

Clintonville, Wis.
Dec. 16, 1917
Miss Hazel Schick
Taylorville, Ill.

Dear Hazel,
I received the sweater you knitted for me and I am very thankful for it. I can't express my thanks and appreciation. It was a very appropriate gift as it was eighteen or twenty degrees below zero here and I put the sweater to immediate use. It fits nicely and is a very nice sweater. I am very proud of it.

I like my work here, but I am very busy. I don't know where or when I will go; I don't expect to be here over ten days more. Then my orders may be to go to France. I am well and hope you are the same. I hope you are getting along nicely with your school.
Sincerely,

Elmer

Another of Capt. Gebhart's letters home:

Somewhere in France
June 28, 1918

Dear Folks at Home:

I just received a letter from Jennie today which was dated June 10. She said you had received no mail from me at that time, but I imagine you have heard from me by this time. I am well and very busy. My men are doing fine, my gun specialists took an examination Tuesday and made the best grades that have yet been made. I am very proud of them. It gets very warm here during the day, but the nights are chilly. The days are very long here, we can read outside at 9:30 in the evening. The people here do not use lamps now as they do not need them and besides, kerosene and gasoline are very expensive. I do not know whether the people are allowed to buy it or not.

Jennie said Trew would have to go soon. I was hoping that he would not have to go, and I was thinking he wasn’t going, as George and Celia said nothing about it in their letters. I was feeling very lonesome when I read the letter this morning, but somehow I feel much better tonight. No doubt you folks at home will be lonely, but you must not think of that, only look forward to the time when we will all be home again. It will be a great experience for Trew. I look for him to be sick most of the time, but it will be from laughing so much. He will enjoy every minute of his time. I look for him to be much stronger when he comes home from the Army. The exercises he will get will develop his lungs. I am sure he will never need to cross, judging from the way the Americans feel over here. The Italians are making great gains lately. The only thing that is worrying me is that you folks at home will work too hard and worry about the work. There is only one thing I want to see when I get home and that is to see everybody well.

I am learning French slowly as I don’t have time to study it much. I can understand it fairly well. I have only received two letters from home that have been addressed to me here.

Give Grandma and Grandpa my love and regards.

Goodnight, dear Father and Mother.

Elmer.

Another Letter back home from Capt. Gebhart

Somewhere in France
June 30, 1918

Dear Folks at Home:

I have some time before dinner this morning in which to write you a letter. Today is muster and I have just mustered my detachment; we have muster (roll call) every month just before the men are paid. This is always done on the last day of the month.

I looks very much like rain today and I hope it does as it is so dusty. What kind of weather are you having at home? I imagine it is getting hot by this time. I have an idea that you are busy in the wheatfields. I hope the wheat is good. How does the corn and oats look? We don’t see any wheat or corn around here, nothing but grapevines. This is a great wine country, and everybody drinks wine. The schoolchildren have it in their dinner baskets for school lunch. They have wine at every meal.

Last Sunday we dined at a French restaurant and had rabbit cooked in red wine. I would rather have it like Mama cooks it, with "grandma gravy". They grow Belgian rabbits here for food, chicken is very expensive. We have our American food and cooks. We also have coffee and water, but no wine. The French think it is strange that Americans drink water. Most of the water must be boiled for twenty minutes before using. The French use chicory for coffee and it is so strong that your throat burns for an hour afterward.

I have not been able to attend church at the Y.M.C.A. since I have been here. It is hard to have a real Sunday in the Army. I am expecting some letters from home this week. I must close now as I want to have something to write to George and Celia.

Please don’t work so hard.

With love,
Elmer

Capt. Elmer F. Gebhart
Ord. R.C 57th C.A.C.

This was printed in the Stonington Star Newspaper (Illinois)

Stonington Star (no date)

CAPT. GEBHART WRITES LETTER

Now Has Charge of Extensive U. S. War Materials in France. Doulevant, France Dec. 18, 1918


Dear Folks at Home,

I have been thinking of home very much today; wondering if you were all well and whether you have finished cornhusking. I am well, have a big appetite and nothing to do. All we can do is to wait for flat cars on which to load our guns. The regiment left Sunday for the States and left the Ordnance men behind to care for and ship the guns, tractors and other equipment. We have twenty-four guns, thirty-one tractors and thirty truckloads of gun material and other Ordnance property. I am now personally responsible for over $1,500,000 worth of government property. We hope to have transportation soon and then we can go home, too.

It was rather hard to say goodbye to the regiment and I felt sorry for my men, but we were glad, too, to see everyone else so happy. I am glad I was assigned to the 57th and could stay with them to the end. The men and officers were all so nice and kind. It always seemed to me that the officers were all one big family of brothers. They said some nice things about me; they said no other officer in the regiment worked as hard and put in as long hours as I did. The men gave me a nice tribute by giving three rousing cheers.

Well, there will be much to tell to you when I get home. I don't care to go thru a like experience, but it was a valuable one and I am glad I had a chance to have it. Our regiment arrived at the front in time to take part in the St. Mihiel (pronounced San Me-el) drive. This drive went so fast that there wasn't much to it. I had to drive through St. Mihiel after it was captured and on my way there I picked up a French colonel who was going to see what was left of his home after being occupied by the Germans for four years. It is useless to try to tell about the emotions of joy and sorrow this man experienced when he saw the town.

We were next moved to another sector which was the Meuse-Argonne sector. (This is pronounced Mose Are-gone.) The big drive started on the morning of the 25th of Sept. at 2:30. This was an experience I shall never forget. Guns of all sizes had been assembling there for days, until it seemed impossible to place another gun in position along the roads or on the hills in that locality. Everyone was ready and waiting for the word. Finally it came and suddenly the sky was on fire and the earth trembled and shook. I might nearly describe it by comparing it to an approaching thunderstorm, except that I have never seen a storm equal to it. This lasted until 5:39, when it ended almost as suddenly as it started. Then for two days afterward the roads were filled with prisoners. They seemed very happy and no doubt they were after going through an experience like that.

One of the guns in Battery B went out of action at 3:00 o'clock. I was called to repair it. I took three Ordnance men with me and we will never forget our experience in trying to find the gun. The gun was located some distance from the road back of a hill. We knew the exact location of the gun but lost our bearings in the dark. We wandered around for some time among the guns going to the right and the left. On our right we would run into a small French three-inch gun, then we would turn to our left and perhaps run into an 8 or 9-inch howitzer. The flashes blinded us so we could hardly see and we were almost deafened. We came so near sometimes that we could feel the heat of the flashes in our faces. I can not tell how we ever got through without having our heads blown off. Nothing serious had happened to the gun and it was soon at work. The gun crew evidently had forgotten all they had learned about the gun, but it was the first time they or the gun had been in action and the crew could not be blamed.

The next big drive started on the morning of Nov.1st. It did not last as long nor was it as severe as the one on September 25th. I was in Stenay several times and crossed the Meuse river over the bridges the American Engineers built to replace those blown out by the Huns. The refugees, were returning to their homes and it was a pitiful sight to see them. Some were so old they could hardly walk; the children were tired and hungry, but everyone seemed happy. The few clothes or the bits of food they carried in small sacks over their backs. Or perhaps some women managed to keep a dishpan or kettle in which they carried all they had to begin housekeeping again. America has made many sacrifices, but it has cost her nothing compared to what Frauce has suffered.

We are about 150 miles S.W. of Metz and we will have to travel about that far with our guns by rail to dispose of them. Then we expect to start home. We will surely be home by June 1st. Address my letters in care of Ordnance Dept., A.E.F. But I doubt very much whether my letters reach me. If anything happens at home, cable to me with the same address.

With love to all,
Elmer


A typical card that the Army used to let the soldiers communicate with the folks back home. They were simple and contained very little information and this was done in order not to give out sensitive information. This card shows that on February 14, 1919, Captain Gebhart was stationed at the Ordnance Repair Shops at Mehun-sur-Yevre, France.

HEADQUARTERS, BASE SECTION NO. 2,
SERVICES OF SUPPLY, A.E.F.
MEHUN, FRANCE.
April 13, 1919.

SPECIAL ORDERS (No. 103)

E X T R A C T

X X X


Par. 8. The following named officer and enlisted men, Ordnance Dept., having reported at these Hq. in conformity with Par. 11, S.0. 190, Hq., Atelier de Mehun-sur-Yevre, A.P.0. 741, April 9th 1919, are hereby relieved from further duty with the American Expeditionary Forces and will proceed without delay to Bordeaux Embarkation Camp (Gironde), reporting upon arrival thereat to the Commanding Officer for first available Government transportation to the United States in connection with convoy of 27 cars of Engineering Collection material.

The Superintendent, A.T.S., Base Ordnance Officer, and Commanding Officer, Embarkation Camp, will arrange to embark this convoy on the same ship as the materials.

Captain Elmer F. Gebhart, Ord. Dept.

Upon arrival in the United States they will proceed to Aberdeen, Maryland, reporting upon arrival to the Commanding Officer, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, for temporary duty in connection with the delivery of the materials upon completion of which duty, Captain Elmer F. Gebhart will proceed to Washington, D.C., reporting in person to the Chief of Ordnance; the enlisted men will proceed to the nearest demobilization camp for honorable discharge.

Compliance with this order after arrival in the United States is subject to such delays as may be imposed by the authorities at the Port of Debarkation, in accordance with orders from the War Department relative to debarkation, disinfection, quarantine and demobilization.

The requirements of G.O. 188, GHQ, AEF, 1918, G.0.28, GHQ, AEF, 1919, and Par. 4. Sec. 6, Emb. Instr. 13, Hq. SOS, 1919 will be complied with. The Transportation Dept. will furnish the necessary transportation. The travel directed is necessary in the military service.

By command of Major General Thodes:

C. W. BARBER,
OFFICIAL: Chief of Staff.

T. M. HUNTER,
Base Adjutant,

A true copy:

In a Western Union Telegram dated May 11, 1919 to his father Henry Gebhart, Captain Gebhart states: "Am well and hope to be home soon wire all night letter and tell all news. Elmer" This telegram is after he had delivered his cargo of 27 cars of material he was to deliver to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

The information on Captain Gebhart was provided to me by two of his sons, Robert F. and John Gebhart


Mobile Ordnance Repair Shops

Out of the babble of tongues heard on the battlefields of the First World War was a language known and respected of all men, a language that needed no interpreter, a language in which friend and enemy alike help parlay day and night across "no man's land" it was the language of the guns.

History will record that it was in this language that America gave her answer to the Imperial German Government, and gave it in the form of 175,000 tons of hot steel and high explosives and 1 billion rounds of small arms ammunition. And there was never such a talking machine and as the American Army. "We shot away stuff so fast that our allies thought we were crazy," says a report of a campaign during the First World War. "The fighting energy of our troops at the front upset every calculation”, says in another military leader.

It fell to the Ordnance Department of the American Expeditionary Forces to keep this machine going. This meant the procurement, storage, distribution, maintenance and repair of 32,000 different classes of articles ranging all the way from the great lumbering Caterpillar tank to the well known mess kits, and including all offensive and defensive arms and ammunition, from the great guns and howitzers, hurling shells of nearly a ton in weight, down to the small but deadly trench or knuckle knife.
To sum up best the achievements of the Ordnance Department is to say that it has met the demands thus made upon it, though they were multiplied by hugely increase in schedules of troops sailing to France, by greatly accelerated programs of military offenses, and by expenditures of ammunition by the American forces enormously exceeding the estimates based upon French and British experiences.

Ordnance experts regard as the outstanding accomplishments of this department of the American Expeditionary Forces the motorization of our Artillery, the system of Mobile Repair Shops maintained with the Armies, and the arming of all airplanes for American squadrons.

The importance of keeping the guns at the front in first-class fighting trim can readily be realized. The motorized shops for that purpose that kept in the wake of the Armies and rendered first aid to all artillery and arms were a distinctive American contribution to the war. There were at the time of the Armistice a number of these Heavy Mobile Repair Shops and 25 Mobile Ordnance Repair Shops operating with the Armies. They could repair any kind of gun and get it back in commission unless it needed major repairs.

The 2nd Mobile Ordnance repair shop on the Soissons Front put into action against the retreating Germans 28 pieces of their own Artillery, ranging from 77 mm - 210 mm guns. The Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop attached to the 35th Division established the record of having no piece of artillery out of action over five minutes during the Argonne offensive.

These Repair Shops took care of all Ordnance material, and many other things besides, such as water carts, rolling kitchens, bicycles, typewriters, shower baths, watches, meat grinders, steam rollers, stone crushers, trench pumps and captured German material.

The most interesting project of the entire motor equipment work is probably the Heavy Mobile Artillery Repair Shop. This comprises a vast organization of Repair Shops, tool rooms, lathes, powered generators, air compressors, stock rooms, drill presses, welding equipment and all of the other various accessories of the complete repair and tool shop, all on wheels of great 5 and 10 ton trucks. Each repair shop is comprised of two identical units of 24 trucks each. Each is self-contained and it carries its own personnel, consisting of 51 officers and men, its own power, sleeping accommodations and provisions, and is perfectly independent of the other half.

The range of work done in the Shops is amazing. Theoretically there scope is the repair of light and heavy artillery, small arms, carriages, mounts and vehicles. Actually, everything from motor trucks to Victrolas, from bicycles and rolling kitchens to typewriters and broken eyeglasses is confidentially brought to the shop for mending.

Nine of the shops are required per Army, eight for the eight Heavy Artillery brigades and one for the tank corps. To their credit it should be said, in conclusion, that this program was carried through by a little band of 1,803 officers and 12,205 enlisted men, whose work was as hard as any in the Army and as hazardous, even if in the Services of Supply. The history of our Ordnance Department is the history of success in a race between handicap and American brains and energy, and therefore one in which we can all take pride.

Above is a Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop truck of the 57th Artillery. As you can see these trucks were special bodies fitted out with a mobile shop filled with lathes drill presses and other items that were needed. Note that these trucks had solid rubber wheels and the cab was not enclosed. These bodies covered with canvas were fitted onto a FWD Truck chassis. The sides of the bodies folded down to make a larger work area for the men. Both of these photos came from the papers of Captain Gebhart who commanded the Ordnance Detachment of the 57th Artillery.
This photo shows another view of a Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop Truck. This photo is from my personal collection and is not of the 57th Artillery. But it does show the type of equipment that these trucks carried. The soldier has in his hands a torch and directly behind him is a drill press to the right of that can be seen a lathe. Behind him and to the left can be seen an assortment of bar stock and other parts used for repairs.

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