In May of 1918 the War Department issued orders for the formation of the Second Corps Artillery Park. This unit was officially organized at Camp Jackson, South Carolina, under the command of Lt. Colonel H. H. Rogers. The Artillery Park was comprised of a Headquarters Company, six Truck Companies (Company A-F) of 140 men each, and one company of 250 men that served as the Park Battery. The entire II Corps Artillery Park comprised of about 1,100 men.
The men that made up the II Corps Artillery Park came from several States, the largest block of men, about 280 from Knox County, Tennessee, another 100 from Louisville, Kentucky, and the remainder from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine.
Already at Camp Jackson was the I Corps Artillery Park that had been formed in January of 1918, and were now organized and trained, and by May of 1918 were moving out of Camp Jackson for duty overseas in France. As the I Corps Artillery Park was leaving the beginnings of the II Corps Artillery Park began to take its place.
On Monday May 27, 1918, the 280 men from Knox County, Tennessee arrived at Camp Jackson, and were the first men to form the body of the Artillery Park. The men from Knox County and the Men from Louisville, KY made up Truck Companies A, and B along with part of the Park Battery. The intended duty of the Artillery Parks was to follow along behind the front lines and repair and replace artillery guns quickly, and also to haul ammunition from ammunition depots to the regiments on the firing lines. The Truck companies had the responsibilities of the transportation from ammunition depots to the front lines and the Park Battery took care of the various ammunition Depots and loading of the trucks with the ammunition.
By July 1, 1918 it was now time for the II Corps Artillery Park to move overseas. The Artillery Park took a train to Camp Stuart near Newport News, Virginia where they boarded the SS Matsonia on July 10 and steamed north with four other troopships, escorted by two lowly sub-chasers. They were bound to join a larger convoy in New York, which consisted of six more troopships, and the combined ten troopships were then escorted across the Atlantic by one armored cruiser and two destroyers. The convoy left New York harbor on July 13, and by the morning hours of July 21 they saw the dim outlines of the port of Brest, France.
The II Corps Artillery Park was then encamped at Pontanazen Barracks at Brest, and the men endured 4-days in the infamous mud of Pontanazen. July 24 the II Corps Artillery Park boarded a train, which they all believed would take them to the front lines. But after a 22-hour journey they found to great disbelief that they had arrived once again in the mud of Pontanazen. During the 22-hour journey orders were changed detailing the Artillery Park to the lowly duty of stevedores on the docks of Brest, unloading incoming troops and supplies. For one week, the Artillery Park men labored along the docks and likely the men thought this was their lot in this war.
But on August 1, 1918, there was another change in orders. The truck company men went to Le Harve and Bordeaux to pick up their trucks, and the HQ and Park Battery men were sent inland, on August 9. After a 425-mile trip they reached Mont St. Pere, a destroyed village located 9-miles east of Chateau-Thierry. They waited there for the truck companies to meet up with them. Here the men saw first-hand what destruction this war was capable of and what the smell of death was like.
By August 14 the unit was whole and had orders to move out. By now there were 167 ammunition trucks in the unit and the Artillery Park was moved to a point 17-miles west of Chateau-Thierry for a brief stop. Then they started out again for the city of Toul, reaching there on August 24. There for three days the unit moved artillery pieces, transported French troops and other labor until they were ordered to move into a very dense forest, north of the city of Toul. This was only a short distance from the German lines and they could hear the booming of the guns for the first time.
For the next two-weeks, under fire from enemy artillery and dangers from enemy airplane attacks, the men of the II Corps Artillery Park, hauled ammunition. This was done at night to conceal the movements from the Germans, but doing so at night on muddy narrow roads, while being attacked by airplanes and dodging German artillery fire was about as risky as one could ever thought to do such a job. At any moment, a truck driver was risking his life from going off the road while driving at night without any lights, or the possibilities of a German shell landing on his truck, or any number of other crazy things one could think of.
It was on the afternoon of August 29, 1918, that what the men hoped would never happen, did happen. The Germans sent over a barrage of shells and two well placed shells hit one of the II Corps ammunition dumps, which was several acres in size. Two very large explosions rocked the ground of the dump and the sound of bursting shell and powder was heard for several hours. But luck was on the side of the II Corps Artillery Park, as somehow not a man was hurt.
On September 12, the trucks of the II Corps Artillery Park were supplying the many Artillery pieces then firing on the opening day of the St. Mihiel front. In the following days, the truck of the Artillery Park hauled a steady stream of shells and powder behind the slowly advancing artillery guns as the American Artillery men sent hot steel into the retreating Germans. The roads in the St. Mihiel area had been blown to unrecognizable earth that had once been a road, but the trucks of II Corps Artillery Park kept the guns in supply of shell and powder. Finally, by September 15 the Americans reached a point southwest of Metz, and the trucks of II Corps returned to camp.
On September 17, the regiment broke camp moving to the village of Lavoye, which was 20 some miles southwest of Verdun. II Corps AP HQ Company moved to Fleury-sur-Aire, where they were stationed for the next 30-days. During this time the II Corps AP hauled shell and powder for the French Second Army then engaged in the Oise-Aisne Offensive. The truck companies hauled day and night to units stationed around the area of Verdun, and this was a month of extreme endurance to the men of II Corps AP. They were relieved by the Second French Army on October 17.
But quickly they were re-assigned to supply the 5th Army Corps, of the American First Army. The Muse-Argonne battles were then in full swing. As the American infantry and Artillery units slugged it out with the Germans the trucks of II Corps AP hauled shells day and night, with many trips lasted 60-72-hours under constant shell fire. The hardships were almost unbearable, and the shelling from the Germans was not the only difficulties, as rain fell nearly all the time. The trucks had no roofs and the men were always wet and miserable.
Now by November 4, American units had advanced so far that the II Corps AP camp was moved twice, once to the village or what was left of it at Very, and again to the village of Gesnes. This was nearly 35-miles northwest of Verdun and in the middle of the Argonne Forrest. It was here in these last few days that many drivers of the trucks drove through German shell fire in plain sight of the German gun crews. Once at the village of Beauclaire several trucks from II Corps AP, had drove past the American front lines and unloaded cases of shell and powder on the edge of the village, while it was still occupied by the Germans. On November 11, trucks of II Corps AP were advancing with the Artillery to the edge of the city of Sedan, only being stopped by the signing of the Armistice.
Finally, only then when the guns fell quiet, and stopped their infernal appetite for shell and powder did the men of II Corps AP have a moment to stop and think what they had just come through.
But this was only a short rest as the work of the men of the II Corps AP was about to begin again. For the next two-months they were detailed to haul all manner of war-time salvage from the battlefields in and around Verdun. After four-years of carnage this area held nothing that resembled life, there was nothing but churned earth, and things that were once alive now dead. It seemed that hauling hand grenades became the explicit duty of the men of II Corps AP, but one day a truck loaded full of grenades blew up, and that was the last they hauled any grenades, as another unit drew this dandy little duty.
It was on January 20, 1919 at the village of Dun-sur-Meuse that the men of II Corps AP loaded onto a train bound for Brest. They all knew of the mud of Pontanazen that awaited them, but it did not phase them much from what they had been used to. After a 68-hour trip in the boxcars of the train the men were back in Brest. Within two weeks the II Corps Artillery Park was broken up and only 76 remained as a skeleton crew. The rest of the men were assigned to Casual companies 239-243. These Casual Companies drew new duty as truck drivers, military police, stevedores, mechanics and anything else the army could think of.
During May of 1919 as transportation back to the States could be arranged the men of the former II Corps Artillery Park made their way back across the Atlantic to home, and the II Corps Artillery Park was demobilized and ceased to exist.
Emet R. Davison was born on October 30 of 1893 in Chester County, Tennessee. His home of record was 218 Tennessee Street in Bemis, Tennessee. He joined the Army on May 24, 1918 in Jackson, Tennessee and was part of the group of men from Tennessee that first formed the II Corps Artillery Park. Davison's Service No. was 425021 and served as a Private most of the time he was with the II Corps AP. He was advanced to Private First Class on November 28, 1918. First assigned to Truck Company C, he was later reassigned to Truck Company B, and remained there through the end of the war. PFC Davison returned to the States on July 5, 1919 and was hororably discharged on July 19, 1919.
Elmer R. Llewellyn was from Knoxville, Tennessee and was amont the first members from Tennessee to form the II Corps Artillery Park. He entered the Army on May 24, 1918 at Jackson, Tennessee like PFC Davison above. After the war Llewellyn worked for the Tennessee State Highway as a superintendent.
Elmer R. Llewellyn
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